Josh Mack blogging at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts, and occasionally on; bicycles, politics, Brooklyn, parenting, crafts, and good reading. Currently helping to build a new NYC neighborhood news site - nearsay.com, that celebrates the voices that make our city. Subscribe to the daily newsletter it gives you what you need to know.
Two weeks ago, Grewal took part in Wheat Ridge Cyclery’s Crooked Roubaix, his first competitive event since his retirement. Despite riding a mountain bike, flat pedals and hiking boots, Grewal finished the 90-mile gran fondo-style high-altitude event on dirt and paved roads in the leading group, crossing the line in fourth place out of a field of some 125 starters.
Reading in the NYT about Thomas Muster's planned comeback in tennis made me think of this story from a few weeks ago. The fact that Grewal was riding a mountain bike with flat pedals and wearing hiking boots is just wild.
We've progressed a great deal since those early days, and food and materials for survival are much easier to come by, but we all still harbor a little voice in our heads that wants us to hold on to stuff "because we might need it."
Always a good idea to revisit Apartment Therapy's cure and philosophy of decluttering. Our problem is that we fill an out box and then since we've forgotten where it is we start another leading to a clutter of out boxes which we need to declutter.
Recently the NY Times ran an article about lower sales of children's picture books as parents worried about their children's performance on tests pushed them to read chapter books at an earlier age. Naturally this has caused heated conversation in our household and also among our friends here in Park Slope, the breeder capital of New York City. Because we want Willa to be as prepared as possible we've decided to skip chapter books and have her start reading catalogs to better understand merchandising, product presentation, and outfit matching, so she can outperform her peers in what is sure to be stiff competition for sales associate and retail concierge service jobs. Recently she has been concentrating on learning the names and likes of the models in the Boden catalog, and we have friends whose slightly older child is reading the descriptions and watching product videos on the B&H site to get ahead with electronic retailing. But even this type of reading requires the same kind of dedication that young Laurence Gignac's mother showed when she said, “He would still read picture books now if we let him, because he doesn’t want to work to read," so when Willa starts making up tales about young Jana and Isadora we steer her right back to the item descriptions, material lists, and prices. By the way if anyone has any catalogs in Mandarin to spare think of us.
Instead, an internal memo said the print edition will rely more on individuals who are “experts in their individual fields as opposed to reporters who track down experts and put the expert’s story into the writer’s words.”
It looks like Amazon is extending its e-reading platform to include short works and digital pamphlets. Today, Amazon is launching Kindle Singles, which are Kindle books that are in the company’s words, “twice the length of a New Yorker feature or as much as a few chapters of a typical book.” Generally, Amazon characterized Kindle Singles as 10,000 to 30,000 words (roughly 30 to 90 pages).
Chapbooks and pamphlets have a long and glorious history. For example, Thomas Paine's Common Sense which helped to convince the founders of our country to revolt, sold 500,000 copies in its first year. The promotion of chapbooks by Amazon is exciting. A few years ago I thought Seth Godin's ChangeThis.com was a great idea with its downloadable paid pdfs but this is even more exciting as it is a broader distribution platform and opens up a whole new category and revenue stream. It can be used to bring back serials (like the Neil Stephenson one I wrote about a week ago), short form biographies, and essays on things you need to know. The TED videos equivalent of a written lecture.
It is the kind of thing I want to publish and promote. I'm trying to convince some of my friends who write on popular but niche subjects to work with me on, I would help them package and promote them. Things that couldn't be books but that could bring them income by giving their fans information and letting them sell a thousand or more copies. I'm excited by this.
Lucky coolhunters. I love the Scottish Highlands and also the fine liquid that gets made there. I haven't had a drink since late June when I went on the IV antibiotics and as that is about to come to an end have already decided that it will be a draught of Laphroig. These pictures of Highland Cattle and the Macallan distillery are a nice warm up.
I'm not sure what I think of the term augmented reality but as readers know I do love things that let you add other views of things by peeling back or overlaying layers. This looks great. Now I either have to upgrade my iPhone or move to android. Anyone use this?
Breakups are hard but I think I've arrived at a point in my relationship with General Tso where he and I need to spend some time apart. Lately our visits have been more out of habit than desire. He would not be wrong to think it is random and undeserved, after all I could do the same thing with wine, coffee, toast, and eggs, with whom I equally carry on affairs of convenience, and one day I may, but it is his turn. It is less a breakup than a weaning. I have no doubt that there will be visits but I think our weekly sessions need to stop. It is just time.
I think it is quite possible that I've had over 1,500 portions of General Tso's Chicken in my life to date though it could easily be more. I took off some for college years but there were definitely weeks growing up where we ordered it in more than once a week so it is neither here nor there. That would mean that the General and I have shared his chicken for longer than my daughter has been alive, for almost as long as I have known my wife. While less expensive a habit than smoking or a Starbucks latte a day it adds up to a decent car, a semester of kindergarten at my alma mater, or a real contribution to a nicer house.
I've been with the General so long but I really know nothing about him. On the one hand this is to be expected since he was too busy to meet with everyone on the West Side of Manhattan on Sunday night and would instead send intermediaries who would bring his chicken to our house. But I also suspect that some of this intentional, that the sauce and fried chicken were a smoke-screen blocking not only my arteries but any real attempt to get to know him as he hid behind different speed-dial numbers. Was he just an invention who came into my life as an odd circumstance of my birthplace. If I had grown up somewhere else he and I might never had met and formed the bond we did and I would be healthier for it. The planet would be healthier too and this has something to do with the breakup. His switch to plastic containers destined for landfill has saddened me. I think if the General and I had shared meals on the battlefield after plundering yet another chicken coop I might feel differently but he is now fighting a modern war and the plastic takeout is just another reflection of his impersonal ways. So goodbye General, we will meet again I'm sure but let's not make it too soon.
Fantastic project. I only hope that I can be as cool a dad to Willa when she gets older. I'm with the comments on Gothamist and would buy a Brooklyn Space Program t-shirt or contribute on Kickstarter for their next project.
Best-selling authors Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear are looking back to the future. This month, they launched a story —The Mongoliad— using a 175-year-old publishing model. Their novel-as-app (or app-as-novel) is coming out in weekly, serial segments, complete with cliffhanger endings and a cheap subscription rate.
Literary luminaries such as Charles Dickens (The Pickwick Papers), Alexandre Dumas (The Count of Monte Cristo) and Leo Tolstoy (Anna Karenina) published some of their most popular works in the serial format in the 19th century.
Today, instead of reading serialized stories in magazines, readers will pay $5.99 at mongoliad.com for a six-month app that gets them a chapter a week zapped to their smart phone, iPad or computer. The creators hope to have the book available at the iTunes store in the near future.
Stephenson and Bear, along with a group of other writers, illustrators and martial artists, have embarked on a historical tale, set in 1241, about a roving band of misfits that ends up helping to beat back the Mongol hordes intent on taking Europe. The story, up to four chapters in its first month, promises to be swashbuckling enough to keep a reader's interest but intricate enough to satisfy the duo's usual readers of their historic and science fiction. It's planned to last for one year, at which point a second "volume" will begin and — gasp — the first one may even be published as a print book.
The business model is akin to the "just in time" idea behind inventory. "We're aiming for a more agile, real-time product, in which we cheaply produce small amounts of material and make it available at a very reasonable price and avoid having to take the big risks," Stephenson says.
Extras add value: A mini-encyclopedia provides links throughout the story to research and background on the period, the characters and medieval sword fighting techniques. There are even videos of fight scenes choreographed by martial artists.
About 15 people are involved in the project, including an animator, seven writers, some researchers, a videographer and a fight choreographer for the sword fights. "They'll all be paid if it starts making money," Bear says.
This is awesome, great writers trying something interesting, tying in multimedia when needed. Given the length of Anatham and the Baroque Cycle who knows when this will actually end. The idea of "extras" on a serialized venture is also very interesting. One to watch and subscribe to if the adventures of the last stand of warriors battling against the Mongolian Hordes and the efforts of some really smart people interest you. Since it was partly due to Diamond Age, that I'm in this field, I'm subscribing.
But what is the point of this time-consuming procedure? Is any kind of communal wisdom glimpsed? Is there even a useful index so you can find, say, portraits of nude lions eating fruit? Actually, the tags are almost anticuratorial: they filter out any hope of wisdom. They are elementary, limited, the kind of associations encouraged in middle-school art classes. Monet’s “Church at Vernon,” we learn, is tagged “blue,” “dreamy,” “hazy.”
The various votes for “likes” in the museum are equally unilluminating. The result is a kind of scarcely literate cybergraffiti that does nothing to help reach a deeper understanding of the works or reveal their artistic traditions or cultural significance. The museum becomes a smorgasbord of objects, their importance a mystery.