Bad Storytellers

A brief rant, about a person who is terrible at telling stories and does it anyway:

I think the thing that bugs me so much about listening to her telling stories is that there’s this affected (or aped?) tone of informativeness that totally clashes with the complete lack of insightful content. She’s trying to sound like she’s telling you something, but she’s really not telling you much of anything at all. It doesn’t feel like some blowhard trying to sound impressive by dressing up the story a bit more than he should, though; and it’s not even like she’s telling a legitimate story that happens to be boring (something we all do sometimes). No:

It’s like she’s just sort of trying to do that Telling Stories thing that she sees other people do, but she isn’t any good at it—just fundamentally doesn’t get it. She’s relating the things she saw, or the things she heard other people say they saw in some previous conversation on the subject; but she’s just blindly regurgitating facts and observations. No skill, no nuance, no greater narrative thread, no evidence that she’s got any idea whether anything she says at any point actually adds to the meaning of her complete utterance. It’s not a story, it’s just a bunch of clauses strung together with conjunctions. Like watching a kid try to cuss. It’s boggling to me that an otherwise functional adult person could be so tremendously bad at something so basic.

And the nervous (or, more cruelly, senseless?) laughter after every goddam statement does not help. I know that laugh. I had that laugh, when I was eleven and hopelessly socially crippled in middle school and afraid (justified by experience) that my witticisms would earn me small acts of personal violence. And so I would say something potentially clever, but then I would laugh defensively. Perhaps utter a little instinctive “no…” as well, as if to say, “no, I’m just kidding, please don’t take offense, I’m just goofing.” I grew out of it. It took some effort, and it took some growth as a person, but, well, there you go, perhaps: does she not have anyone who pushes back, conversationally? No one to encourage her to collect her ideas, and then to assert them with confidence when she chooses to speak?

And that, above, is perhaps the telling thing—I cannot stand this behavior that I recognize as being a part of my own past. I’ll acknowledge it; it’s a kind of snobbery. I react because I have an emotional investment in the idea that good stories are worth the effort. I like good conversation. I like a good back-and-forth. I like to challenge and to be challenged when I’m talking to people. I like, essentially, to be able to throw out a pass with the expectation that the other person will catch it, or at least make a game effort to catch it, or at the very least realize that it was a football and that what I was doing was throwing a pass. What I do not like is having the other person blink, and blurt, “your arm just moved fast!”, and laugh nervously.

Microsoft Makes My Day

Windows Media Player just produced a wonderfully cryptic and nerdy error message:

operation attempted in an invalid graph state

For on thing, this is not the sort of error message you want to expose to an end-user — it’s the sort of debugging message that could only make sense to someone dealing with the program’s source code. I can make an educated guess about what it might be referring to, in general—something to do with a state machine and/or dynamic playlist management, perhaps— but for one thing I’ve got a degree, for quite another even that doesn’t help me use the program in any way.

It’s a non-fatal error; in fact, I wouldn’t know it existed if Media Player hadn’t highlighted in orange the track apparently affected by the error, prompting me to mouse over the track to see what, exactly, that was all about. (I say “apparently” because the track played just fine, in fact. So much the better: a cryptic, not-for-users debugging message that reports an unobserved problem.)

In Microsoft’s defense, there are worse problems a program could have than tossing out the occasional baffling-but-unobtrusive developer message. (As counterpoint, of course, those worse problems have themselves been evidenced on more than one occasion by Microsoft’s software.) Further, I expect I produced this odd error by essentially grinding my machine to a halt doing a work-related search. So it feels like an edgecase — it may be that no one at Microsoft has ever seen this thing in the wild.

For troubled times: The Aural Times

I just annihilated several paragraphs with an errant, un-recoverable miskey. I am so angry I can’t even be bothered to check my spelling of ‘annihilated’. Damn it.

In sum: The Aural Times is now officially launched. Launching has occurred.

And I’m trying to ease off the amount of obsessive energy I’ve been putting into it over the last week and a half. (It is a little shocking to me to realize that it has only been since last weekend that this project even existed as a notion.) But of course, I’ve got to deal with the semi-daily requirement to get some work done in providing content for the site. I think it will go well if I just don’t think about that too hard. Never was one to follow through on a whim.

And I may adopt some of the code for that site to the creation and presentation of this site; at the very least, I can pull over my comments code and let all three of you say hello now and then.

I had better stop before I destroy the entire post again.

The Aural Times

New project! New site! New music!

I’m running up to a proper launch of my latest endeavor, The Aural Times. The concept: news headlines rendered as musical recordings, thrice weekly. We sing the news so you don’t have to.

It’s in beta as of this writing, but the domain is live, and some test content is up, including a full-fledged first entry discussing Dick Cheney’s recent gun mishap. (“Gun mishap” is what you call it when you don’t want to say “shooting of his hunting pal in the face.”)

I’m hoping to get a couple more full entries up, and finish working out some of the site underpinnings, this weekend — I need a functional archives section, even if I don’t have much to archive yet, and there’s a few design elements I’d like to tack on, including some below-the-fold editorializing, site news, and a comments section of some sort. But it’s looking pretty good, and I’m starting to feel pretty proud of the design work I’ve done on it, modest as it may be.

Adventures in Screenprinting

Adventures in Screenprinting

This last weekend, Angela got me a Valentine’s Day gift (we tend to observe holidays loosely, insofar as the exchanging of gifts is concerned): a screenprinting kit. Woo! I’ve fiddled with home-made t-shirts before, sharpee markers and iron-ons and so forth, so more than anything this experiment is an attempt to, in Legasi-esque fashion, take it up a notch.

And so, yes: a five-minute stencil job with a pencil, a ruler, and an x-acto knife, and I had this kickin’ design good to go. We fumbled about at first, trying to figure the best way to go about applying the ink (and how much to apply), but after a couple of trial prints on paper and a failed attempt on a black t-shirt, we had success!

It’s not a great picture — Angela snapped it last night, so the lighting was hell — but that’s the nice thing about a decent logo: it stands out. And what better image to slap across your chest than that dollar-billin’ conspiracy-frontin’ emblem of hidden power and mystery, the All Seeing Eye?

George Romero, We Salute You!

George Romero, We Salute You!

Braaaaiinnnsss! Or so I presume he is saying (or at least slurring, or making a game effort to do so (insofar as the undead have any capacity toward anything as traditionally human and willful as a “game effort” — perhaps I should simply say an attempt)) as he lumbers awkwardly toward some screaming, nubile victim.

O zombie!

Either way, he’s part of an experiment in home screen-printing. I hope he works out.

It occurs to me that I should rename this section “art”, of which photography can easily remain the most prominent sub-genre.

On the Importance of Being Spam

I have a love hate relationship with spam: I hate it with every fiber of my being, but I love many of the superficial variations that I have seen in it the construction of spam missives. (Or, given the presumed scale of these mailings, massives?)

And so this: an (I will grant you, unsolicted) exhortation quite apart from the typical request to b$y chE4p v.1.a.g.R.a, in both typographical regularity and charming formality:

Rely on this marvelous dispensary for economical curatives.

For a certainty, good sir or madam! I shall make a commercial inquiry forthwith!

Pan-Transitive Literature

I’m going to make millions with this. If you’re not sitting down, please do so now. And if you are sitting down, please stand up and then sit down, because you should really sit down for this.

Go ahead. I’ll wait. No, it’s no trouble.

I’ve invented a new mode of outsider literature. I’m about to grab the stuffy, conservative college of literature by its hairy and wrinkled ears and rock it’s freakin’ face off. The folks at the New York Times Book Review had better hope they brought an extra pair of underwear to work.

Okay. You’re sitting down, right? If you’re not sitting down, I’m not liable for any injuries incurred. I won’t be held responsible. Let’s just leave it at that.

Right. Okay. Yes. Here it is. Yes:


Whoa, are you okay there? Should I call an ambu–no? Good. That’s a sport. Walk it off. Okay. I wish you’d just sat down, but–right. Okay. It was your decision. I respect that. But maybe I should just stop for now.

No? You’re sure? Okay. Grab onto something, then, because I’m gonna say it again:

Pan-Transitive Literature. I see the questions in your eyes, the mad rush of excitement; I’ll explain.

The traditional (did I say traditional? Oops. I meant obsolete!) method of deploying verbs has been tied up in a short-sighted, pedantastic notion of transitivity — roughly, the idea that this verb takes a direct object, while that verb doesn’t, this one takes an oblique object via a preposition, that one can’t take that kind of preposition…

You see where I’m going with this: there are rules, rules, rules, and we’d better not break ’em if we know what’s good for us.

Gee. Thanks. Dad.

Pan-Transitive Lit is all about breaking the rules. It’s about creativity. Pan-Transitive Lit looks The Man square in the face, and says, “hey, man, whatever!”

Let me give you an example. The verb breathe. It’s a good verb. We all do it. Everybody likes to breathe. Breathing is awesome, right? But there are plenty of old fuddie-duddies who will tell you that there’s something wrong with “breathe” — it can’t take a non-mass noun as a direct object. Sure, it can take mass nouns (“John breathed the air”), and it can take no object (“John breathed”), but that’s it. Right?

Wrong! In PTL, we don’t know the word can’t. We’re throwing out the old rules! In fact, the only rule we need is this: can’t ain’t a word! Check this out:

“John breathed Tammy.”

Exciting, huh? That’s the power of PTL. That’s the excitement of pure, unbridled pan-transitivity. Can you smell that? That’s the odor of the future, baby. Take in the ozone! Sniff this short but lightning-hot passage of Pan-Transitive Lit in action:

John Powerton opened the door and said. The room grew silent of talking. Looked back at him and threw a knife him. John caught at it.

“You’re olding, McSith. You’ve rustied your skills.”

McSith scowled John. “I think of that you should just shut, Powerton.”

John laughed it and looked onto the knife he was holding on of. He twisted him and let it fly in McSith, pinning to the wall. McSith got coughing, and had a death. Turned away of the corpse and left, whispering behind his breath:

“No, McSith. I do think on you are the one who shoulding shut.”

What can I say. Welcome to the new. Welcome to Pan-Transitive Literature. Buckle up: the world is about to start bettering.