Housekeeping

Hey kids.  Some quick updates, for anyone who’s interested:

  1. Blogging has obviously not been a priority for me this week.  I’ve been in a completely reactive work mode, plus getting ready for vacation.  I hate to go more than a couple of days without content for you, so sorry about that.
  2. I’m leaving for vacation tomorrow – a well-earned week at the Jersey Shore as a last hurrah for summer.  Though considering I can’t sit still for ten minutes without a pen or a mouse in my hand, it will likely be a working vacation to some extent.  I’ll blog if anything interesting comes up, and of course I’ll be Tweeting.  Probably from my iPhone at the beach.  A daily Twitpic of my toes in the sand is likely, just to rub it in for all of you wage slaves.  I won’t be regularly reading email, but I will be checking my “super secret” address often if you already have it.
  3. Most of the week will be spent getting the first chapter of Mr. Abernathy ready for the 10/1 publication date.  I’m really excited about this project, and I hope that you all will read it and help me pimp it out to as large an audience as possible.
  4. I’ll also be thinking about Project Evidence this week – another work in progress in tandem with a brilliant writer and artist that I’m thrilled to be collaborating with.  More to follow on that.
  5. In the meantime, if you’re bored and want something to read or look at, you can sift through my pretty pictures at Flickr, or go read one of my favorite blogs.

Have a great week, and be nice to one another.

posted 8/29/08 at 11:07am to Me me me, Site stuff · 0 replies · permalink

Light rail for WNY

With the fiasco of the Fast Ferry and the looming failure that is Renaissance Square, it’s likely not the best time to be talking about new money-pit projects for western New York.

But one issue that has always mystified me is why there has not been a more intense, or at least more vocal, push for extended light rail and commuter rail in the area.  I’ve talked to many local and state legislators about it over the past few years, and the answers given have been hollow and unsatisfying.

The Buffalo-Rochester-Syracuse-Albany corridor is stuck in a death-spiral of economic stagnation, yet connecting them via a robust commuter system would let businesses tap into a regional workforce rather than merely local ones.  And that’s not even mentioning the additional boost that connecting such a system to the NYC/Hudson region would bring.  Add in connections to Canadian rail via Toronto and Montreal, and the BUF-ROC-SYR-ALB corridor could thrive.

I’ll admit I’m not up on the economics of the situation, or the administration of such a system (private vs. public), but in my mind the largest obstacle is the running joke that is NYS government.  On a local level, I think getting Bob Duffy1 and Byron Brown together to talk about such a system would be a good start.  Add a couple of business leaders like Tom Golisano and Bob Davis to the conversation, and something might come of it.

I can only imagine that there are hundreds if not thousands of workers and jobs that are separated in cities only 60 minutes from one another upstate.  So we have the fuel.  How can we not want to build an infrastructure to get that economic engine running at full throttle?

  1. Who is my neighbor, BTW; I think I’ll actually mention this to him next time he’s walking his dog by my house. :-)
posted 8/23/08 at 10:35am to Local, Politics · 2 replies · permalink

Inactive Ingredients

The Mind Hacks blog discusses new research in how the placebo effect works, via a recent BBC4 radio program.

However, recent work by psychologist Amir Raz has suggesting [sic] that both hypnosis and placebo may both work through the manipulation of attention, essentially influencing the focus of processing within the brain to alter how it regulates the body and mind.

Part of the discussion is whether hypnotic suggestibility is part of the placebo phenomenon itself or merely an indicator; i.e. are suggestion and placebo the same thing at work.

I’ve always believed in the efficacy of placebo, even when I’m knowingly trying to remedy myself with something that I know doesn’t have any basis in physiology.  I think part of this is a learned comfort response – when you’re young and sick, and your mom gives you soup and hugs, you “feel better” even though she hasn’t cured your cold.  We carry this response with us into adulthood, trying to use our own personal remedies and comfort routines to cure aches and pains and such, in a sort of medicinal cargo cult way.

When I’m sick in wintertime, I’ll take cold medicine and whatnot.  But I also drink lemoncello, because it reminds me of Sorrento and Capri and warm sun on my skin.  And though I know that alcohol and lemon rinds do absolutely nothing to relieve sinuses plugged with unspeakable goo, I’m happy to take the placebo effect that it gives me.

(via Seed)

posted 8/21/08 at 10:05am to Science! · 0 replies · permalink

Commentary

Yesterday a friend asked why I haven’t left a comment on his blog in a while.  I apologized, and said I’ve been leaving fewer comments on most blogs I read lately.  One reason is that a lot of the content I’ve been reading has been so sharp and well written that I haven’t had anything worthwhile to add that would make it any more meaningful.  Another excuse is that I’m just really fucking busy.

But the larger reason is that every time I click to add a comment, I’m confronted with some variation of this dialog:

To leave a comment, please enter your OpenID, ClaimID, Blogger, WordPress, or Google user info. We also accept TypeKey, Yahoo ID, or just your email address and URL. You can try logging in with Disqus, but good luck with the spam you’re going to get. LiveJournal users can suck it. Your avatar/Gravatar/bassguitar image may or may not show, for no particular reason. You may also see an image of yourself that you’ve never even used on the web. Maybe that embarrassing headshot of you in your Cub Scout uniform from 1977. If you’ve never commented here before, it may be held for moderation and mockery by the site author.

The process of commenting is becoming more of a hassle than security at JFK.  So, I tend to just stay out of the conversation.  Most sites can’t tell the difference between the info that I enter anyway, so it usually defaults to a Blogger ID, which I didn’t even know I had, and can’t seem to get rid of.  Oy.  Once I get my “ID” problem sorted out, I’ll get back into the mix.

posted 8/21/08 at 7:35am to Snark · 1 reply · permalink

“Avatardentity”: thoughts on the authentic online self

A few semi-related blog posts about writing and identity have been churning around in my head lately, and I’ve meant to respond with one of my own.  But honestly I haven’t had time to put all my thoughts together about them in anything approaching an intelligent essay, so I’ll just throw the links out there with some random first thoughts, and perhaps start a larger discussion while I sort it all out in my overstuffed brain.

Diana Kimball’s In The Absence of Fiction is a great piece of personal reflection on “self-writing” and how the way we see things through the looking glass of Twitter and blogs can distort the meanings we assign to them.

K. Holden Helena tweeted this shortly after I read Diana’s piece.  I swear she also wrote a blog post on a similar topic, but for the life of me I cannot find it1.

Shortly thereafter, Diana published a knockout follow-up piece called Algorithms and Avatars in which she further explores the nature of “who we are” online, and how we cultivate and shape our identities.

It’s my general belief that the person we “put ourselves out there” as online is, phenomenonally speaking, no different than the person we would have put ourselves out there as 20, 30, or even 50 years ago.  Yes, the tools are there to handcraft a virtual personality for ourselves, but I don’t see how it’s all that different than what people have always done to make the same impressions; the effort to craft an impression of “us” has simply shifted to a different kind of community and in-crowd.  Today we are no more the sum of the things we choose to put on Flickr, Twitter, blogs, etc. than we were the sum of our shiny DeSoto and Cape Cod house and electric range and picket fence in 1954.  Same rules, same desires to “be” a certain person, different means of projecting an image.  So despite our newfound ability to shape our online self—our “avatardentity”, if you will—we’ve always been shaping ourselves.

The methods we use to judge the authenticity of a person online versus in person do get a bit more involved, I’ll admit; the line between truth and fiction is much less pronounced.  It’s more difficult to engage with people and participate in communities of interest when we’re always uncertain who is being “authentic” and who is simply playing a role.  But I’m confident that most people sophisticated enough to participate and be accepted into many of those communities have pretty good instincts, and don’t tend to misread the boundaries of sarcasm, personal truth, and outright fiction.  I also believe the next generation of people to have spent the entirety of their lives cultivating an online persona will be even better equipped to function in that space; kids today have the best bullshit detectors of all.  They have to.

As far as the integration of voice and storytelling into the truths we put out there about ourselves (which is the main point of my interest in the posts mentioned above), I can only speak for myself.  Holden’s point about wanting to hear stories in Twitter is a salient one, and for me, every tweet I see from people I follow is a story.  And collectively, they tell even larger stories.  The jokes and one-liner humor are a lot of fun, but every once in a while even the most jaded and anonymous Twitterer will let their guard down and tweet something unexpectedly genuine.  Bang – there’s your drama.  There’s your story.  And in 140 characters.  I love when that happens.

I can state for the record that every piece of me “out there” with my name attached to it in any way is a genuine piece of me.  The tone and syntax of my Tweets are often different from that of my blog, which in turn differs a bit from the way I write blog comments to other people, which is slightly different than how I speak in person, which is very different from my screenwriting voice, which varies in many ways from my fiction prose style, which in the end is very different than the way I write for freelance assignments.  Each piece may sound quite different, but a thread of continuity runs through every single word of it in my distinct voice.  None of it is any less of me, yet it’s all written for varying audiences and media.  Most of my fiction has parts of me and my genuine life in it (how can it not?), and some of my nonfiction has elements of hyperbole and poetic license.  I think it’s that way for all of us, and for those of us who write (and otherwise create), trying to find some clean dividing line can cause paralysis of effort and a loss of focus on who we’re actually writing for.

Thoughts?

  1. Holden – if you know which one I’m referring to, care to point me to it?
posted 8/18/08 at 12:43pm to Writing · 3 replies · permalink