Samuel Pepys: Blogfather or patron saint?

Reading today’s Pepys diary entry, a thought occurs to me: is Pepys the patron saint of blogging? Is he the spiritual father? Or is he just my spiritual father?

A great while at my vial and voice, learning to sing “Fly boy, fly boy,” without book. So to my office, where little to do…and I to Mr. Wotton’s, and with him to an alehouse and drank while he told me a great many stories of comedies that he had formerly seen acted, and the names of the principal actors, and gave me a very good account of it.

Wintering—a novel (of/on/exploiting) Sylvia Plath

Kate Moses’s novel Wintering: A Life of Sylvia Plath uses Sylvia’s calendar, journal notes, and poems—especially poems—to novelize Sylvia’s life. According to the Salon interview.

How do I feel about this?

Let’s examine the last page of the excerpt published in Salon, specifically the last paragraph:

In the eye blink of a god, in a heartbeat, all that she clung to rises up with her like smoke, like ash, into the charged, dead air: The cakes of soap. Her wedding ring. His gold filling.

Hmm. Remind you of anything?

On the one hand, it’s really nice that someone is attempting to illuminate the interior chamber of Sylvia’s life. On the other hand, it’s a bit creepy, and more than a bit sad, that the best writing in the whole excerpt is a direct repurpose from her most strident poem. And that Moses had to work so hard to set up the “gold filling” part.

(On the other other hand, I think I need a “Books” category.)

Keiretsu check-in

Updates around my personal blogosphere:

Apophenia in our time

William Gibson’s book Pattern Recognition is still stirring my mind up. Perhaps in different ways than the author intended (warning: spoilers ahead). For instance, the book shows the recurrence of a theme in which the creator of art is profoundly disabled (cf. the pathologically mute Cornell box building artist-machine in Count Zero, and, if you stretch it, the AIs in Neuromancer who are really the only creative force in the book). Only the creator in PR doesn’t even finish her works; they’re completed, “rendered,” by prison labor after she lays out the initial strokes. This is almost certainly made necessary by the nature of the artist’s disability, but one wonders whether this reflects some sort of deepening cynicism of Gibson’s view of creativity: from the artist as black-box crazy robot to the artist as profoundly disabled savant who requires hordes of assistants to finish the task.

Okay, that was a little bleaker than I meant to make it, but I still wonder.

Anyway. For more speculation on PR’s themes, motifs, etc., check out the ‘PR’-otaku that Joe Clark (of Building Accessible Websites fame) is putting together. Also, be sure to keep checking Gibson’s own blog (and its attendant discussion forum, in which a listing of discussions of Gibson’s readings has sent me a bit of traffic recently).


  1. This was written earlier this morning but unpublished due to problems with my website’s back end.
  2. Apophenia means finding patterns that aren’t there.
  3. After writing this, I read the Gibson book discussion a little more deeply and found a thread in which someone made the same observation. If I’m seeing things that aren’t there, I’m not alone.

Always out of town when the cool stuff happens

Such an innocuous post from Evan Williams, founder of Pyra Labs, creators of Blogger:

Holy crap. Note to self: When you get off this panel, you should probably comment on this.

A little disingeneous, because Evan, I’m sure, knew quite well that his company was going to be bought by Google. But I guess he had to set it up for the attendees of the blogging panel. (Aside: with all the hoohah, no one has had much to say about the actual content of the panel.)

So. Google has bought Blogger. Now, as they say, it gets interesting. All of a sudden Google owns the pipes through which a lot of fresh, independently produced content flows. Google now has a community. (Not that it didn’t before, but this one lives on its servers.)

And Google now owns two of the major web service APIs for blogging. (For those counting at home, those would be the Google and Blogger APIs; so far, the Metaweblog API, the Ping API, and the Trackback Ping API remain in different hands.) What does this mean for the average non-Blogger blogger and customer of Google’s search services—like, say, me? If Evan’s discussion is anything to go by, it shouldn’t lock anybody out. But I would bet that this could spur a little bit of healthy creative tension between the blog side of Google, who want benefits to accrue to their customers, and the other services, who need to stay neutral across the whole web.

Finally, this is funny on a personal level. A friend of mine who’s in online business development has been predicting for a while that Google would become a portal, with the implementation of Google News and Froogle. The irony is, it just made a big content acquisition—and it’s all end-user produced content. Google so gets the Web.

Happy birthday, George

It’s George’s birthday today. Our mutual friend Charlie told me over IM (hyperlinks added by your editor, IM nicknames changed to protect Charlie from all his stalkers):

Charlie(8:06:04 AM): hey, it is george’s birthday if you didn’t know. we were going to go to the sunset tonight, but are postponing due to weather… apparently he was born on president’s day so his parents named him after a george that featured fairly prominantly in our country’s early days.
tj (8:07:42 AM): no i didn’t know that’s really cool!
tj (8:08:10 AM): well i already sent him his birthday scrapple
Charlie (8:08:21 AM): no worries. can you see george as an abe? i think his parents picked the right president.

Singing down Whistler

I had a blog entry written but lost it, so I’m reconstructing the weekend from memory. We had about a four-and-a-half hour drive up on Friday, including an hour in the line at the border and another hour in a five way merge going up to Vancouver. It turns out that 99, which I-5 turns into at the Canadian border, is not really a highway in the American sense. It turns into a regular old city street going up through the city of Richmond. I should have taken note, but at that point I was too tired. We also struck out for dinner, having failed to phone ahead for Valentine’s Day dinner reservations, and ate a quiet room service meal before collapsing at approximately 5. (Kidding. It was around 9:30.) (Oh, and it turns out that broadband doesn’t mean broadband in a hotel—at least not when five out of every eight packets get dropped.)

Saturday we got up early in the morning and drove up to Whistler. Slowly. It was supposed to be about sixty miles up 99, which I assumed would be pretty straightforward. But remember that note about 99 not being a highway? It holds true going north out of Vancouver as well. And it winds around a cliffside overlooking the water before it heads up the mountain—one lane either way. Suffice it to say it was a slow trip up. We got there too late for a morning ski lesson, but managed to get our gear (naturally, no lockers left for our shoes. If Vancouver is serious about this Olympic bid, they better put in some extra lockers for the skiiers. Tromping back to the car, four lots away, in ski boots to return our shoes to the car isn’t my idea of fun) and got up the mountain for our first ski.

Did I say mountain? I meant mountain. My God. Words fail me… Suffice it to say that an Olympic class mountain is really really different from Snoqualmie, or “Snow-crummy” as someone on the mountain who was familiar with the resort knew it. (Note: It’s still better than my first experience skiing in Virginia.) After an initial trip down the mountain, without a map or guide, we got our afternoon lesson. Excellent instructor. By 3 pm, I was making parallel turns. It seems a lot of skiing is about physics—the edge of the ski vs. the flat of the ski—and learning to shift the weight to take the skis where you want to go. And I wasn’t quite as sore as the last time.

Which was good, because it was another two hours down from the mountain back to the hotel. But we had reservations, at Le Crocodile. Which lived up to its reputation. Tomato and gin soup followed by duck breast with fois gras for Lisa, cream of wild mushroom soup with trufffle oil and pan-seared sweetbreads in a Calvados and tarragon sauce for me. A little rich, perhaps, but that was kind of the point, to get the heck out of town and have a nice quiet evening. And it worked really really well. We’ll be returning to Whistler, I think.


I always hate to predict that I’ll be off the air because I invariably end up blogging anyway. But Lisa and I are heading up to Vancouver to do some skiing and see the city, and I think the chances of my being near a web browser are slim. A good weekend to all…

Random bad virus karma

Earlier this week, after Clay Shirky published Power Logs, Weblogs, and Inequality, I subscribed to his mailing list at I got a confirmation email from the list and nothing else so far. Until tonight, when I got an email from that address and what looked like a virus in the message body. (Fortunately I was reading mail with a client that wasn’t susceptible to email viruses.) The headers included all the usual mailing list headers. All possibly forged, of course, but the address to which the mail was sent is one that’s not on the web anywhere, but is subscribed to the list.

If someone’s hijacked Clay’s mailing list administration system to send a virus, that’s seriously uncool. I’ve emailed Clay to let him know what’s up.

Return of the Tin Man

After a year’s hiatus, the Tin Man is back with guns blazing. I missed his return on Tuesday (I saw a referral from him, but since his blogroll was the only thing on his page for so long I assumed it was a random click. Ooops), but today he blogs about his customer review being edited by some folks at Amazon for using the word gay:

Here are’s General Review Writing Guidelines. I’m trying to figure out where the word “gay” fits in. Maybe someone thought it counted as “profanity, obscenities, or spiteful remarks.”

I love you,, but this is for you:

Gay gay gay gay gay.

So there.

Welcome back, Tin Man. You’ve been missed.

The Critiquees

So BlogCritics is doing its first critics’ poll for the best music of 2002, and as a registered BlogCritic I’ve submitted my ballot. (It was harder than I thought, mostly because there’s no authoritative list of which I’m aware for what music was actually released in 2002.) Anyway, for the curious, here’s my list (five nominees, tops, in each category):

album of the year

  • Sea Change, Beck
  • (), Sigur Ros
  • Murray Street, Sonic Youth
  • Blacklisted, Neko Case
  • Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco

song of the year

  • 45, Elvis Costello
  • Deep Red Bells, Neko Case
  • Disconnection Notice, Sonic Youth
  • All We Have is Now, Flaming Lips
  • Fell in Love With a Girl, White Stripes

songwriter of the year

  • Beck
  • Tom Waits
  • Neko Case
  • John Vanderslice

rock album

  • One Beat, Sleater-Kinney
  • When I Was Cruel, Elvis Costello
  • White Blood Cells, White Stripes
  • Blood Money, Tom Waits
  • Life and Death of an American Four-Tracker, John Vanderslice

country/Americana album

  • American IV, Johnny Cash
  • Blacklisted, Neko Case
  • Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco
  • Jerusalem, Steve Earle

r&b album

  • Don’t Give Up on Me, Solomon Burke
  • Higher Ground, Blind Boys of Alabama
  • Power in Numbers, Jurassic 5

jazz album

  • Footsteps of Our Fathers, Branford Marsalis

electronic album

  • 18, Moby
  • Kinda Kinky, Ursula 1000

soundtrack album

  • About a Boy, Badly Drawn Boy
  • Long Walk Home (Music from the Rabbit Proof Fence), Peter Gabriel

best re-issue or compilation [box sets, re-mastered, or bonuses]

  • Nirvana, Nirvana
  • Best of 1990-2000, U2

best new artist

  • Interpol

I’m a strange, despotic, unpredictable madman, too

The Onion: N. Korea Wondering What It Has to Do to Attract U.S. Military Attention. I’m wondering this myself, but this summed it up beautifully for me:

“Bush says his number one priority is eliminating weapons of mass destruction, but he sure doesn’t act that way,” Kim said. “Iraq may have weapons of mass destruction and may be developing more. The DPRK, on the other hand, does have weapons of mass destruction and isn’t about to stop making them any time soon.”

“Can I be any more clear?” Kim continued. “We have nuclear bombs and delivery methods. Kablooey! There goes Anchorage! But does Bush care? Nope—he just goes on about how we’re ‘a diplomatic issue, not a military one.’ If he even mentions us at all, that is.”

“It’s like I don’t even exist,” Kim added.