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My occasional history with film

I’m still thinking about film a lot, maybe too much. I’ve ended up buying two 35mm cameras on eBay this week, a Canonet QL17 rangefinder and an Olympus Trip 35 point/shoot.  I ran the first roll of film through the Trip (see attached picture) and I love it.  I need to take more pictures, figure out a good workflow for developing, scanning, and posting things, and determine what I’m really doing with photography. Mostly, I need to learn, and I feel like there’s a deep rabbit-hole of things out there to master. And the whole thing has me falling down a deep nostalgia hole, thinking about previous experiences with analog film.

A couple of years ago, I bought a photo book by the parents of Christopher McCandless, the guy that died in Alaska, described in the book and movie Into the Wild. His parents self-pubbed Back Into the Wild, which contained his journals, letters, and snapshots.  The book had a strong impact on me, not because I particularly admire his story and plight, but because it was a strong link to a nostalgic period of the recent past.

All of the guy’s photos were taken with cheap 35mm cameras, the point-and-shoot variety now largely forgotten.  The book also included copies of post cards and envelopes, with old stamps and cancellation/postmarkings that also reminded me of the early 90s.  I did so much mail for the zine around that time, and the look of those old 22-cent stamps and the cancellations, with their little public-service messages (“end breast cancer!” or whatever) draw me back instantly.  I still have old paper mail in storage, pieces in their well-creased envelopes, and it all reminds me of that period so much.

But the film, the cameras – they mentioned a few of the makes and models, and I googled these, wanting to see what gear he brought along on his adventures.  In the 80s and 90s, there were so many junk cameras, so many different brands.  it was like that with any electronics, too. Today, if you wanted a CD player, you’d have a choice of maybe three or four brands (Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, and some no-name Chinese thing) and maybe three or four models for each brand, and each one would be very similar to the other, aside from a differentiating feature like Surround Sound or digital output.  But back in the 80s, if you wanted, say, a VCR, there were dozens of brands, all of these different major Asian players shelling out radically different versions, competing with a dozen different American firms, with factories in San Jose or Dallas, plus all of the no-name Korean brands imported and given an American label, like the JC Penney brands or Sears versions.  And they were all so completely different, not identical in any way.

I remember I used to go through a lot of jam box tape players, because for a long period, I didn’t have a good car stereo, and would instead go to a pawn shop and buy a $50 jam box and then wire a 12-volt adapter in the car and use that until it got stolen a few months later.  And at the pawn shop, that $50 would buy so many different types, with removable speakers, various space-age plastic chrome finishes and grilles, fabric-covered woofers, and mystical buttons that offered hi-fi settings or switched on LCD power meters that measured nothing from a scientific standpoint, but would light and rise and fall with the volume of the music.  And they all had different EQ types and tone knobs or “boost” switches and different tape counters and ejection mechanisms, and the feel of the mechanical buttons was always different.

Cameras were the same way.  There were the high-end SLRs, which were all too expensive for my blood, but I had a friend or two, usually working for the yearbook club, who would learn how to work a good Canon or Nikon, and maybe borrow one from the school. SLRs all looked similar, but had weird differences, and there were the usual Pepsi/Coke religious wars about which one was best, although it was a ten-front war back then, not just Nikon/Canon.  There were also the low-end things, the Kodak 110s and disc cameras, and cheap Polaroid one-shots with no controls at all, just a dust cover, a trigger button, and a place to plug in the flip-flash with the exploding bulbs that would cost a fortune and smell of burning plastic after they ignited.  My parents liked these cameras, the ones with no settings, the Brownie or the 126, with nothing but maybe a film advance lever to manually crank through the roll after each shot.  And there were also a wide variety of cameras between the two, with some advanced features, some things missing, and some fully automated.

When I was a kid, I won one of the cheap-o cameras at the company picnic for my dad’s job.  It was a Kodak 110 kit, a little rectangle with the lid that pivoted open and worked as a sort of handle, hanging off to one side.  It was as thick as one of the plastic film cartridges, and had a little eyehole to look through, to frame shots.  This model had a “zoom” lens, a glass piece that slid back and forth on a track, so you could snap it into place and increase the range by a small factor.  Everything else was manual, with no focus, no aperture setting, just a film advance lever and a shutter button.  It would take me a year to take a dozen shots, carefully framing them, snapping a picture, and then not knowing for months if it turned out or not.  As a ten-year-old, I never had money for a flash, and would shoot everything in daylight with fingers crossed.  When done, the exposed film got thrown in a junk drawer, with pens and checkbooks and broken calculators and instruction books to appliances.  If we were lucky, a third of the film I shot as a kid was developed.  It always looked bad, with faded colors, grainy prints, and half of the shots underexposed or dark.  Everyone had red eyes, and all of the macro photography I attempted with Star Wars models never looked anything like the films.  It was disappointing, and not a hobby for me to get into, so I didn’t.

In high school, on a lark, I bought another 110 camera.  This was a small “spy” camera, a tiny piece of plastic that clipped over a 110 cartridge, leaving most of the film case exposed on the outside, not much more than a lens and advancing mechanism that clipped over the film cart.  I don’t remember if it had a flash, but I do remember it had no viewfinder, just a small plastic rectangle that clicked up on the top.  I bought this in October of my senior year, right before visiting Canada for the first time.  I took a few rolls of shots with this, and paid to develop them myself, since the $3.45/hour wages at my job afforded me this luxury.  The quality wasn’t much better, but there was more immediacy, and I took a lot of pictures of things.  I knew I’d leave town in a year, and want to remember old friends and my old car and my old house, so I captured it all to film.  And that Canada trip yielded a few good shots, too.  The film quality was still bad, lots of reds to the color mix, and the plastic-lens camera was total garbage.  But the small size, the novelty, and the budget to actually develop photos made it a decent experience.

In my freshman year of college, I had a few bucks of christmas money to blow on the after-holiday sales, and bought a 35mm camera at an Osco drug store.  It was some semi-known name, like Vivitar, but was a low-end, all-manual affair, similar to the ones McCandless used.  This was my first foray into a middle ground that existed, with the pro film format (35mm) but the cheap and easy to use camera that offered no settings or adjustments.  It did have a cheap built-in flash, and it maybe had an aperture setting (a little lever with an icon of the sun and another of a cloud).  And it may have had a similar focus (picture of a mountain, picture of a person’s head.)  But it had no zoom, no focus ring, no tripod mount, none of that.  It also had a manual film advance, and you had to load the film by hand, stretching the first flap out of the film canister across a set of sprockets before closing the back door.

This camera only lasted a few weeks, before the film spool broke, the cheap plastic splitting apart, in an unrepairable way that instantly let in the light, making the $25 gadget useless.  But I got two rolls of film through it; one while I was still home, and one at school.  The school roll had some great shots on it.  I walked a loop of the campus during the day, and the January sun and blue sky made for some great shots of the old limestone buildings, a perfect capture of the 1990 glory of Indiana University.  The home set of snaps had a couple of good pictures of Tom Sample at New Year’s, and the only picture of first college girlfriend Angie I still have.  (A horrible picture of her in my mom’s car.)

I did not have another camera until the middle of 1993, when I was home for the summer  I don’t know what compelled me to dip back into photography, but I think it was from working on the zine, the idea that I would take pictures at shows.  I spent close to $100 on another 35mm camera, once again one of those fixed-focus things.  This one was closer to a DSLR in its general shape, and it did have a motorized zoom lens, along with a better flash, and a motorized auto-load, the kind where you would put in a can of film and it would quickly suck up the end after you closed the back door.  And then at the end of the roll, it would suck the film back into the canister for you, instead of spending minutes cranking on a small dial or lever manually.

I got really into the idea of becoming “a photographer” even though it was a cheap and cheesy all-plastic camera.  I’d buy expensive film, like 1600 ISO Fujifilm or Kodachrome, and keep it in the fridge and get it developed at the one-hour place, always asking for matte prints.  I went to a lot of shows that summer for the zine, getting in for free by talking to record labels, and I’d always ask for a “photo pass” to try and get better access.  I never got any good pictures at shows, just blurry, poorly-lit snaps of Glen Benton or Cannibal Corpse, completely unusable stuff. I took some decent snapshots though, artsy pictures of Goshen College, some pictures of friends, along with a roll or two of the Milwaukee Metalfest, although none that were actually of the bands, just the booths and the drive there and back.  I also got the last few shots of the Mitchell House before I moved out, the only pictures I have of that place.

The camera went into “occasional mode” after that, only getting pulled out on a whim here and there, for parties or trips.  I wish I would have taken far more photos back then, many more shots of people and places, images capturing the Bloomington of 1994 and 1995.  I never knew the importance of these things, that I’d want to write about them, and I got a few good shots, but not enough.  I did a little more later, but I’ve taken more digital pictures in the last three months than the grand total of every frame I ran through that cheap 35mm.

That camera followed me to Seattle, chronicling that voyage.  I didn’t travel much when I was living in Jet City, but it made a few trips down to California. And then after K and I broke up, there was a period where I wanted to be a “photographer” again and went around taking pictures of cemeteries and airplanes and lakes.  It also went with on my long trip from Seattle to New York in 99. Once I got to NY, maybe a roll or two went through it, shots of my apartment, or maybe Times Square.  I’d switched to video for the most part by then, which is bad because the quality is so low, and the camcorder was bulky enough, I didn’t shoot as much.    By the time I started to take vacations, like my first trips to Vegas, it was 2000, and I had my first digital camera, so the film went away forever.

Anyway, the McCandless book reminded me of this, because he took these shots of the desert, the wide open spaces of Alaska, the plains states, and everywhere else off the beaten path of the early 1990s America.  And his pictures, the feel of film going through the low-end optics of a cheap import camera, I could feel the places he visited, much more so than if he’d just snapped some Instagram pics with his iPhone.  That particular type of shot, the lenses or the grain of the film or whatever else, just screamed 1990, the same way my dad’s old slide film 135 shots from when he was in the service are easily IDed as being from the late 1960s.  They just had a certain feel to them.

I made that journey across the desert in 1999, driving through New Mexico and Arizona and Nevada and Texas, on some of the same roads as him, and pulled over many times to walk across the flats and look at dry riverbeds and take a few shots with my cheap camera.  And his pictures remind me of my pictures.  And my pictures remind me of standing there alone, feeling the nature and lack of mankind around me, in a way that a hundred snaps from a camphone would not.  That era is so close to us now, only a few years ago, but it seems like a lifetime away.  And when I pick up a film print I took from them, or look at the copies of his, it makes me jump from my life back to that one.

Anyway, enough rambling.  More film will be shot.  And I have a huge project I dread, involving scans and restoration of these giant tupperware storage bins of negatives and prints, before they all rot into rancid chemicals and fade into nothing.  I should get on that.

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Why I love analog

Real film. Not an instagram filter.

After shooting some 25,000 digital photos in the last decade and a half, I finally did something I never thought I would: I started shooting film again.

In a fit of boredom, I bought a Lomography Diana F+ camera. It’s a 40-buck plastic toy camera that shoots 120 roll film, with manual everything and a plastic lens that takes hipster-esque Instagram-y pictures. I took it out and ran three rolls through it, just to see what it would be like. It was tough, clunky, and awkward, but I loved it.

I haven’t shot film since 2000.  I got my first digital camera, a 1-MP Olympus point/shoot, at J&R Electronics in New York at the very end of that year.  I remember this well, because I had to take a bunch of use-it-or-lose-it vacation and essentially split work very early in the month of December for the rest of the year, and I got really sick on the first day off. I spent the whole vacation in a NyQuil daze, sleeping for 30 hours, waking up in the middle of the night to order hot and sour soup by the gallon from the crap Chinese place down the street, then going back to bed.  I eventually got ambulatory enough on the day after Christmas to brave a snowstorm that dumped a few feet of fluffy white snow over the island. I took the N train down to the City Hall stop to go into the electronics superstore that stood near the foot of the mighty twin towers of the World Trade Center.  I bought the camera, stumbled home, and took a bunch of shots of my kitchen and bathroom, amazed at how they instantly showed up in the tiny LCD screen.

Digital changed my life.  I didn’t have to go to labs, didn’t have to wait to see if a shot worked, and didn’t have the nagging self-censorship that a flunkie working the film counter at Osco’s would be looking at my prints. I took a ton of pictures with that little junk camera, and then moved on to a series of better point/shoots through the 00s before graduating to a DSLR in 2010.  I love shooting with the big Canon, but I still take more pictures with my iPhone. Both are fast, easy, and cheap.

But, there’s a disconnect. I average a few hundred shots a month, although it’s in fits and spurts; I will take out the DSLR for vacation or a baseball game and run a few thousand shots, but then it goes back to the shelf; the iPhone grabs a funny picture or something interesting maybe a few times a week, mostly snapshots of the cats or stupid products in stores. Sometimes these go to flickr, endless galleries of vacation shots that nobody looks at. Hell, I don’t look at them half the time.  I enjoy going back to remember something from ten years ago, but my least favorite part about vacation is trimming a thousand pictures down to a hundred and trying to caption them.  I wish there was a program that would do it automatically, as I’ve said before, but that’s a ways off.

I think that disconnect between us and what we capture, the intermediary of the digital screen and the promise of quick/easy/cheap causes us to produce things we don’t care about.  I don’t give a shit about most of those 25,000 shots I have in Aperture. Maybe 100 are really good works of art, and maybe 1000 of them are things I want to remember. And everyone is that way. Everyone with a digital camera has a million shots and nowhere to put them.  And nobody likes looking at them, except people you don’t want prying into them, like stalkers and annoying relatives. Nobody creates with a camera anymore; we capture, hoping it will help us remember what we quickly forget in our fast-paced world, but we never go back to look at it, and none of it matters. It’s something we feel we should do, like when people take a thousand pictures an hour when they have kids, but nobody’s going to cherish those pictures. They’re probably going to be gone in a dozen years, from a dead hard drive or some new change to formats that will make them all obsolete.

So the first reaction from anyone I told about this new camera is “why the hell are you shooting film?  Don’t you have an iPhone?”  And the answer is that the lack of immediacy, the fact that I need to think because each shot is costing me a buck and I won’t see it for two weeks, makes me more cognizant of what I’m doing. It gives me more of a relationship with what I’m creating. I mean, my iPhone is still taking better pictures, but there’s something about the process of going to the photo shop and talking to the clerk and being handed that envelope of prints and negatives, and then the surprise of opening it and going through to see what worked and what didn’t. I enjoy the process, even if it takes longer.

It reminds me of the days of going to a real record store, talking to the people there about what’s new and what’s cool, flipping through the stacks, looking at the artwork, smelling the vinyl in the air and seeing the other people there.  The whole ritual of going there is something I painfully miss, and buying albums made me more aware of them.  It’s damn convenient to go to iTunes, listen to a few samples, and click the buy button to instantly have it on your computer. But I buy stuff and don’t even listen to it, forget about it, and have to force myself to use playlists and rate things to find them and get into them.  I’m not aware of the music I have anymore.

It’s also the same with books.  Everyone is into the Kindle, and I sell more ebooks than paper these days.  But I download Kindle books that go free, or things I see online, and I never, ever read them.  I have hundreds of Kindle books I will never in a million years open. I read 100% of everything on paper, and I love collecting books. I cherish the print copies of things I really dig, and nothing beats the hypnotic experience of holding a dead tree in your hands and flipping through the pages.  Yes, it’s easier to search through a tech manual or textbook and find what you need on a Kindle or in a PDF. But the relationship between the reader and the work is much more solid on paper.  Will the Kindle disrupt publishing?  Sure.  The CD disrupted the production of vinyl. But people who love music are back to buying it.  Books are the same thing.

Anyway, the first film came out okay.  It’s going to take some practice to get into it, and I probably need a cheaper 35mm to do some learning. Here are the first shots. It’s a fun distraction, so I’m going to keep at it. I’m still shooting as much or even more digital, but there’s just something about analog I can’t shake.

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Why I Write

So the next book, which is titled Thunderbird, is done and moving through the steps in publishing.  The cover is ironed out, the interior is done, and the kindle version is being tested and tweaked.  It’s entering the phases of waiting on robots and meatgrinders to finish churning on what I gave them so I can approve the output and push it live, or make changes and wait another 12-296 hours for things to get stuck in a queue.  But, all of that’s good, and aside from all of the publicity stuff on the horizon I don’t want to deal with, this lets me shift my mind back to writing, and to the next book.

The next book – that’s always a tough one.  Each time I finish the current book, I do a post-mortem and try to figure out what went right and what went wrong, so I can figure out what should be next.  I don’t write genre fiction, so it’s not a matter of saying “what crazy adventure or sinister villain is Dirk Johnson, Vampire Gunslinger going to get into next time?” And I’ve given up on the modernist semi-autobiography stuff, so I’m not looking at a specific era of my life to strip-mine for ideas.  It’s usually a matter of thinking about form, and what container will be used to pour my ideas into to shape them into the linear thing we call a book.  And that’s always hard.

I don’t like traditional story structure.  I know you’re supposed to use it, and every self-publishing site talks about how it’s *required* for you to follow some plot arc of rising and falling action and blah blah blah.  If I was trying to write the next Wool, I would pay attention to that stuff.  But I’m not.  And you shouldn’t.  If you want to make white bread because being in Kroger is important to you, then by all means, make white bread.  But that’s not why I write.

I recently finished reading the JG Ballard Conversations book by the fine folks over at Re/Search, and there was an answer JGB gave during a Q/A for a book tour that really grabbed me.  It’s this:

“I’ve always assumed that for the imaginative writer, the exercise of the imagination is a sort of necessary part of the way the central nervous system functions.  This separates the imaginative writer from the realistic, naturalistic writer in a very important sense. […] It seems as if the imaginative writer’s nervous system needs to run a continuous series of updates on the perception of reality.  And just sort of living isn’t enough — one feels one needs to remake reality in order for it to be meaningful.

This.  This. This. This.

I started writing in 1993.  I mean, I always wrote, but that’s the point where I got a notebook and a pen and decided I was going to stop trying to play bass guitar and stop trying to write video games and stop trying to… whatever the hell I was trying to do twenty years ago, and really try to dedicate myself to getting the thoughts out of my fucked up head and onto paper.  I was chronically depressed, didn’t know who I was or what I was doing, but had this idea that I needed to process what was going on in my mind, and going to group therapy or trying to date the right person or take the right meds was not going to do it.  I didn’t know if I was going to write science fiction or romance or journalism or kid’s books; I didn’t think about money or career or the publishing game or becoming famous or rich or any of that.  I just knew I needed to write.

And what happened is that I became addicted to writing.  I did it every day, at first forcing myself, but then turning to it as a way to process my feelings, and exercise my imagination.  I didn’t do it as a form of work or craft, but as a method of therapy, and expression.  I did write some of that modernist creative nonfiction stuff about my life, with mixed success, but it wasn’t until I started exploring the fringes of experimentalism, when I started reading guys like Mark Leyner and Raymond Federman, that I found ways to transfer my subconscious onto a page in a way that worked.  And when I successfully do that, I think it not only produces a product that’s different than other stuff out there, but it makes me feel more complete as a human being, probably in the same way that building a boat out of raw lumber helps someone find themselves.  It’s very much a “journey not the destination” thing, but completing these projects and moving on to the next one helps me benchmark my progress.

On the days I can belt out a solid thousand or two words that works, I feel great.  On days when stupid appointments and unplanned emergencies eat up my time and prevent me from getting to the computer, I feel like total shit.  I’ve tried taking time off between books, time to go wander the town or just play bass and fuck off with video games, and I can’t do it.  I know it’s supposed to be helpful with writer’s block, and I do get crippling writer’s block, especially right after projects, but taking time away like that is like when you are forced to wake up every hour or so, and you never enter REM sleep and give your brain that time to heal or regenerate or process or whatever the hell REM sleep is supposed to do.  I feel like something in my subconscious is lethally gone, and I can’t sit still.  Even if I have no idea what I am going to write, I have to write.  Even if nothing is going on in life except 8 hours of work, 8 hours of sleep, a couple hours of dumb TV, and a few hours of showering, shitting, shaving, and cleaning up cat puke or whatever, I still need to find something to write about.

I don’t write to sell books.  I don’t write to further my literary career or hob-nob to a bigger publisher or better bragging rights or a more prestigious magazine to pick up my stories.  I hope some of you do check out my writing and maybe it entertains you.  But if this was a Twilight Zone episode where I was asleep in a bank vault during a nuclear war and the only one alive, the first thing I’d do (after breaking into a LensCrafters and making 20 backup pairs of glasses) would be to find a pen and a notebook and keep writing.  I don’t write to sell.  I don’t write to feed a publishing machine.  I write because I write.

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I do not give a god damn about the book industry

I often get dragged into discussions about the book industry, mostly because people are too stupid to know the difference between Jon and Joe and blindly throw a @jkonrath into a tweet about how publishing is dying or some dumb company is fleecing even dumber authors who did the equivalent of paying $10,000 cash for head shots.

(Side note: It’s somewhat ironic that the term for this kind of shit is “joe job” given the name of the other person involved here.)

This is annoying on many levels, mostly because it distracts me from what I’m really trying to do.  But more than that, all of this talking head parroting sometimes makes me wonder why I don’t keep up with what’s going on in the publishing world.  I don’t read trades or spend time on publishing news sites, throwing down my opinion on whatever catastrophe is currently making the rounds.  I don’t take sides on publishers versus “indies” or who signed with who or who decided to leave their publisher and self-pub or what the guy who wrote Wool ate for lunch or any of that.  I don’t care.

I do not give a fuck about the book industry.  I mean, I like to read books, and I publish the final output of my work so you can see if you want to read it.  But I am a writer.  I’m not a shameless self-promoter, and I’m not an industry insider.  And I don’t want to be.  I don’t write books for maximum profits.  I write books because they’re trapped in my soul and need to be excised like the pus from a wound.  I know it sounds pretentious to pull the “I’m an artist” card, but I’m definitely not a businessman, and I do not care about any of it.

I recently read a book called Post-Digital Print, which was one of the most inspiring books I’ve read in a long time.  It outlines every “publishing is dying” screed that has happened since 1894, and I guarantee you that about a dozen of them are things you’ve never heard about.  Almost every one was invented by a company that wanted you to buy their shit instead.  Did you know that people thought radio would replace printed books?  At the turn of the century (or a couple of decades later, I guess) part of the population thought books were turning everyone blind.  It probably had some causal relationship to the rise in optometry technology at the time, and everyone was getting glasses, whereas before that only rich people got monocles, and everyone else squinted.  Anyway, some industry geniuses said that radio would replace “the burden of reading” and save everyone’s eyesight.  And we know how that turned out.

I’m not saying print isn’t suffering.  But it’s not going away, either.  There’s going to be a whole generation of artisanal printing, letterpress chapbooks and boxed sets of limited edition prints with high-end art book covers and over-designed interiors in esoteric fonts that makes Helvetica look like Comic Sans.  Look at what happened with vinyl records.  The 8-track was supposed to kill them, then the cassette, then the CD.  There are now vinyl-only stores, limited-edition LPs with extra tracks and slick printed gatefold sleeves encasing art books and 45-remastered dual discs on 200-gram virgin vinyl.  Yes, the airport reader is going to gobble down murder mysteries on their kindle, but book collectors aren’t going to be forced to shred everything and go to e-format.

What I am saying is that these talking head industry-mongers are not authors – they are inflating their own egos for their own industry, which is fear-mongering and hand-wringing. It doesn’t help your writing.  They’re the people selling the ten dollar loaves of bread to the people who showed up late to the gold rush.  It’s all bullshit.  It’s all inconsequential.

Speaking of, gotta get writing – trying to finish the next book.  I’ll end with a quote from my buddy George Carlin that pretty much sums it all up.

I figured out years ago that the human species is totally fucked and has been for a long time. I also know that the sick, media-consumer culture in America continues to make this so-called problem worse. But the trick, folks, is not to give a fuck. Like me. I really don’t care. I stopped worrying about all this temporal bullshit a long time ago. It’s meaningless.

-George Carlin

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Contests I Have Won

I have won a number of contests in my life, both games of skill or knowledge and the plain dumb-luck sort. Here is a partial list:

  1. As a very young child, I vaguely remember winning a plastic model car from a contest at a radio station. It wasn’t at the radio station; it was on Cassopolis Street in Elkhart, probably a remote location thing at a used car lot. I don’t remember actually being at the event, and I don’t remember the model car at all (it probably required glue, and I wasn’t even at the level of snap-together models if this happened so long ago I don’t remember it) but every time I drive past that location (which is probably now either a Mexican grocery, a cash-for-gold place, or a meth lab) I remember winning that car. (This could be a planted memory though, like when kids “remember” they were involved in Satanic sexual abuse and their babysitter had a pit of corpses of other little kids, and it turns out you just think this happened because an episode of Geraldo back in the 80s talked about it. I don’t know if Geraldo did any specials about used car lots giving away model cars, though.)
  2. I won a Huffy BMX bike from Honeycomb cereal. Many people my age remember Honeycomb cereal giving out these tiny metal replica license plates (no way they’d do that now; some kid would try to swallow one and every ambulance-chaser lawyer within fifty miles would jizz themselves) and if you got a special plate, that said “winner” (or maybe “bandit” or something like that) you would get a free bike. I did not win this contest, though; when I won, they had a book of various puzzles, maybe the sort that you scratch off with a coin like a lottery ticket, and the penultimate puzzle revealed if you won the bike or not, and I did. My mom did not believe me, and went over the entire puzzle book and read all of the fine print, trying to verify if I indeed won a bike, or simply “won” the 1 in 726,934,834 chance of winning a bike after mailing in the puzzle. But I did win, and we sent the thing via registered mail to where ever the Post Cereal corporation is (Battle Creek?) and a matter of time later (Weeks? Months?) a cardboard box showed up via UPS, and it contained this unassembled red and gold bike. I remember this was on a rainy Saturday, and I assembled the bike and rode it in the rain, and when I came home, the bottom parts of the bike were covered with fresh earthworms, which were out of the ground and all over the roads of my subdivision. Anyway, this was a huge stroke of luck, because I had a crappy non-BMX bike, the kind with a banana seat, and BMX bikes were huge — we’re talking Justin Bieber huge — and this made me a brief blip on the collective radar of the kids at my school. It was significantly less cool when I was still riding the same 20-inch BMX bike in my freshman year of high school, so I guess these things balance out.
  3. I won a $50 gift certificate to the Concord Mall. I think I wrote a short story about this, or a chapter within a book that will never see the light of day.  It was at some Saturday activity organized by our scared-straight Jesus freak vice principal, which Ray somehow talked me into going to, probably because he thought he had a long shot of getting his dick touched by some girl that talked to him in his social studies class, and of course nothing happened, but I did get the $50, and I spent it on a new walkman, the first Metallica album, and the first Queensryche album.
  4. I won a college scholarship from my dad’s work, based on my ACT test score. It paid $2000 a year for four years. I did not get the last semester of it because I fucked up so much academically, something which I think I discussed in my first book Summer Rain. (Actually, I think it happened a semester after that, but maybe I allude to it; I’m too lazy to go look.)
  5. My wife recently won a raffle prize of two round-trip tickets on Amtrak from Oakland to Reno, and we planned on using them to go to visit her uncle over Thanksgiving, but after we made all of the plans, we found out that Thanksgiving is a blackout holiday, so we drove and I think we gave away the tickets.  I think Amtrak tickets cost like ten dollars, so this was not that big of a deal.
  6. Here’s a stupid one. I was at that casino way south of the strip with Bill Perry and a couple of other people (I forget who – Marc? Tom?) and we were waiting to see Kathleen Hannigan and playing blackjack. I was watching a playoff game and not paying attention at all, and hit on a hard twenty. I still managed to win.

That’s the extent of my good luck. Everything else has been bad.

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The perks of being a blocked writer

Okay, in my last post, I alluded to being stuck between two places writing-wise, and I didn’t get into that.  So, now I will.  But of course, I’ll go off on another tangent first.

I saw the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower this weekend, mostly because I heard Cloud Atlas was a disaster.  I wasn’t entirely sure I would like the movie, partly because I thought it was completely out of my demographic, and partly because I’ve read the book at least twice and don’t remember a damn thing about it.  But I went, and I actually liked the movie a lot.  I liked it so much, I came home at ten at night, picked up the book, and plowed through the whole thing before I went to bed.  And then, as I went to bed and after I got up in the morning, I felt… I don’t know.  Maybe a mix of depression, nostalgia, enthusiasm, and dread, the emotional equivalent to when you get a fountain beverage and randomly fill it with a mix of every flavor, a Pepsi-Mountain Dew-rootbeer-orange-Sierra Mist-tea.  And it’s hard to describe it, because there were a few different things going on, and I’d have to explain every one of them to cover this.

First off, Perks had the typical high school coming-of-age tropes in it, opposites-attract, she’s-out-of-my-league, grass-is-greener, self-medication with drugs, rock-will-save-us-all, early-90s-are-the-new-80s, and about 17 more.  It’s all weaved together well, and maybe I feel bad for liking such commercial dreck.  It did contain enough emotional context that linked to my own teen experience, though, that it made me really enjoy and envy it.  The envy part is the big problem.  The reason I avoid reading these kinds of books now is that when they’re good, I want to write them.  And I’ve proven to myself that I can’t, and I shouldn’t.  But should I?

My last three books have all been a sort of mix of lowercase-b bizarro and absurdist humor.  I think they’re pretty damn close to my voice, and I think any of you who have read these books and have known me in person would agree.  Throw Rumored at the front end of that trio, and you’ve plotted a glide slope that pretty much defines who I am or who I will be as a writer.  It’s a solid 750 pages or so of work that very much describes what’s going on in my mind and sets the pace for what my next books should be.  After I finished Sleep Has No Master a few months ago, the plan was to write a Rumored 2 of sorts, maybe a different structure or gimmick, but a full-sized, nonlinear hunk of absurdity that did what Rumored did ten years ago.  I’ve even got a publisher that’s basically waiting for me to write the next book, so they can put it out.

But then, I sort of locked up.  Part of that is the reception of the last book, which has been piss-poor at best.  I think it’s a damn good book, but it’s been sort of lost in the mix.  Maybe the title and cover make no sense, or it’s the fact that it just doesn’t easily plug into a genre.  But it hasn’t sold, and it’s always hard to get working on something new when the last thing didn’t entirely work out.  There’s also the fact that I essentially put together three books in a period of just over a year, and the well is kinda dry.  I really wanted to push and get another book done by the end of the year, but I’m finding myself stumbling on ideas.

The other issue is that I don’t entirely know where I fit in.  I said lowercase-b bizarro because the more I read from the Bizarro movement, the more I think I don’t slot into it very well.  Most Bizarro is this sort of Troma film horror-comedy stuff, and I don’t really do that.  But I also don’t fit into the experimental or absurdist worlds, either, which seem to be the PhD-dominated academic community.  And forget the mainstream scifi community.  I probably spend too much time thinking about community and where I fit in and all of that shit, and I guess I’ve always worried about that, even before I was a writer.  But I can’t shut it off, and I don’t have easy answers, and it can become enough of a distraction to block me.

And… sorry, another tangent… okay, I read this biography of David Foster Wallace, and it talks about how he thought Mark Leyner was the antichrist because his satiric writing wasn’t sincere, or something like that.  And when I read that, it sort of pissed me off, because I love Leyner’s writing, and it made DFW sound like a blowhard.  But with all of this stuff in my head, it started to make sense.  I love writing the stuff that I have written in the last couple of years, but if I had to capture and dump the emotions I felt during this film and book, I think it would be completely out of scope of this absurdist humor thing.  I mean, I could start to throw down a coming-of-age tale, but it would be about a kid who goes to high school to learn how to anally insert DMT into zoo animals from his teacher, Lyndon LaRouche.  (Wait, gotta write that down in the idea book…)

I’ve tried this kind of sincere, modernist, realist writing.  I’ve had some success at it in short stories; if you’ve read my story “Burial Ground,” I think that’s pretty spot-on of what I can do.  And some of you (okay, three of you) may have read Summer Rain.   I have two other books up on blocks in the yard like the trailer park Trans Am with no motor or wheels, one about high school, and another about college.  Summer Rain was the best of the three; the other two, there’s about 150,000 words of nothing.  Every now and again, I think about going back and trying to duct tape enough crap onto either of those manuscripts to get them out there, but Summer Rain itself isn’t selling.  I think I’ve learned a lot more about plot and character since I tried writing these other two books, and when I see them, I do see what’s wrong with them, and think about how I could restructure or rewrite them so they would fit.  But part of me thinks this would be a huge step backwards.  And it’s a tough wall to beat against.  It’s also depressing to think that even if I did manage to turn out a stellar coming-of-age book about growing up in the 80s in Indiana, I would have a tough road ahead of me in the marketing and sale of the thing.

So, caught between two worlds.  And this is why practicing bass instead of writing has been very helpful lately.  I have 40,000 some words written of this Rumored 2 project, and it makes absolutely no sense right now.  I know I will have to eventually knock back into it and come up with a structure and get the thing done, but it’s tough.  Playing major scales against a metronome until my fingertips look like ground hamburger is much easier.

 

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The Recognitions by Steve Urkel

The Recognitions, published in 1955, is American author William Gaddis’s first novel. The novel was poorly received initially, but Gaddis’s reputation grew, twenty years later, with the publication of his second novel J R (which won a National Book Award), and The Recognitions received belated fame as a masterpiece of American literature.

Steve is the epitome of a geek/nerd, with large, thick eyeglasses, “high-water” or “flood” pants held up by suspenders, multi-colored cardigan sweaters, and a high-pitched voice.[6] He professes unrequited love for neighbor Laura Winslow, perpetually annoys her father, Carl, and tried to befriend her brother, Eddie. Amongst the rest of the family, Harriette, Rachel, and “Mother” Estelle Winslow are more accepting and caring of Urkel.

The story loosely follows the life of Wyatt Gwyon, a Calvinist minister’s son from rural New England. He initially plans to follow his father into the ministry, however, he is inspired to become a painter by The Seven Deadly Sins, Bosch’s painting in his father’s possession. He leaves and travels to Europe to study painting. Discouraged by a corrupt critic and frustrated with his career he moves to New York. He meets Recktall Brown, a capitalistic collector and dealer of art, who makes a Faustian deal with him. Wyatt creates paintings in the style of Flemish and Dutch masters (such as Hieronymous Bosch, Hugo van der Goes, and Hans Memling), forges their signature, and Brown will sell them as newly discovered antique originals. Soon Wyatt is discouraged, goes home only to find his father converted to Mithraism and losing his mind. Back in New York, he tries to expose his forgeries, then travels to Spain where he visits the monastery where his mother was buried, restores old paintings, and tries to find himself in his search for authenticity. At the end, he moves on to live his life “deliberately”.

Throughout the series’ run, Steve is central to many of its recurring gags, primarily gratuitous property damage and/or personal injury as a result of his inventions going awry or his outright clumsiness.[7] He becomes known for several catchphrases uttered after some humorous misfortune occurred, including “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” after he accidentally got drunk in one episode and fell off the edge of a building, “Did I do that?” (previously used by Curly in the 1934 Three Stooges short Punch Drunks), “Whoa, Mama!” and “Look what you did” (if, rarely, someone else caused the damage). Additionally, he frequently insinuates “You love me, don’t you?” to Laura Winslow, the usual object of his affection.

Interwoven are the stories of many other characters, among them Otto, a struggling writer, Esme, a muse, and Stanley, a musician. The epilogue follows their stories further. In the final scene Stanley achieves his goal by playing his work at the organ of the church of Fenestrula “pulling all the stops”. The church collapses, killing him, yet “most of his work was recovered …, and is still spoken of, when it is noted, with high regard, though seldom played.”

Steve Urkel first appeared on the twelfth episode of the first season, “Laura’s First Date”, as a nerdy young boy who took the character of Laura Winslow out on a date, where he appeared as being madly in love with her, but in an example of unrequited love, Laura did not return these feelings because of Steve’s nerdy, infuriating personality. Although intended to only appear once, White’s portrayal was very popular for his humorous, geeky antics. After appearing on other episodes, he joined the main cast.[8] All throughout the course of the series, Steve maintains his extreme infatuation with Laura and regularly invites himself over for unwanted visits to her house, much to the annoyance of the Winslows. Among Steve’s other famed character traits include his exceptional scientific skills, crafting devices that would be impossible to construct in reality, his absurdly destructive clumsiness, and his kind heart.

Gaddis spent seven years writing The Recognitions. The novel began as a much shorter work and as an explicit parody of Goethe’s Faust. During the period in which Gaddis was writing the novel, he travelled to Mexico, Central America and Europe. It was in Spain in 1948 that Gaddis read James Frazer’s The Golden Bough. Gaddis found the title for the novel in The Golden Bough as Frazer noted how Goethe’s Faust originally came from the Clementine Recognitions, a third-century theological tract (See Clementine literature). It was from this point on that Gaddis began to expand the novel. The novel was completed in 1949.[3]

Steve is commonly known and respected by other characters for his kindness to others, his never-ending love and loyalty for those he holds dear, and, alongside with Harriette, his position as a voice of reason and source of wisdom for the often bickering members of the Winslow family, all of which are the redeeming qualities for his generally unwelcome or tolerated presence. He always cares for and means well for other people, but is often the misunderstood victim of the Winslows’ anger and rejection, especially of Carl, Eddie and Laura, who all struggle to see through his clumsiness and annoying behavior and to understand and appreciate him for his positive traits.

The character of Esme was inspired by Sheri Martinelli and Otto has been described as a self-deprecating portrait of the author.[6] “Dick,” a minister, is a reference to Richard Nixon.

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Advice from Raymond Federman

I don’t remember when I got into Raymond Federman, but it was probably during the process of trying to look up every influence Mark Leyner mentioned in interviews.  If you haven’t read him, both Take it or Leave it and Double or Nothing are genius, and demonstrate his mastery of experimental narrative.  Both of those books influenced me greatly, and made me keep pushing to get Rumored to Exist done.

I found Federman’s email back in 1999, and dropped him a line, letting him know how much I appreciated his work.  I didn’t expect a reply, and was surprised when he sent this.  It’s probably the best advice I’ve ever been given, and I should probably print it out in 500-point type and paste it to the wall above my monitor.

From: Moinous@aol.com
To: jkonrath@rumored.com
Subject: Re: noodles
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 12:20:36 EDT

dear jon

in l966 in paris I was having lunch with the great samuel beckett and I told
him that I had started a novel [it was double or nothing] and he said to me:

raymond if you write for money do something else

and after a moment of silence [very comfortable silence with sam] he added

and never compromise your work

I hope I have respected his advice

I now give it to you

write write and write some more and thensuddenly the writing will tell you if
it’s finished — di not revise – jsut write between the words above the words
under the words between the lines —

most important key on your computer – delete

tell the people a random house that federman has a great new novel jsut
finished but he does not ocmpromise his work therefore he is not sending it
to them

thanks for your good words about my work — what read the other novels too —

where did you arrive from – which planet – and what do you do to survive —

writing is like jogging – it must become an addiction – do it everyday same
place same time – except when you don;t do it

be aware that publishers are no logner interested in good writing —

more soon

federman

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Wonder Bread Gorging and the Ceiling Toaster Distraction

I want to mount a toaster on the ceiling.  It’s a really tall ceiling, seventeen feet or some shit like that, and there’s a thin pipe with a metal box on one end, one of those electrical boxes with four plugs on it, just staring down at me when I sit on the couch.  There’s a ceiling fan installed on the same piece of conduit, this ever-spinning thing that’s supposed to look old or antique or industrial, but it really cost something like $800 when I bought the place, which means it cost the builder 27 cents, and it’s going to cost me $14,000 by the time I make my last payment 30 years from now, except the fucking thing will be 22 years dead by then, rotting in a landfill while I make some fucker at CitiBank that much richer every month.

I stare up at this junction box, and wonder what the fuck it’s used for.  I mean, I guess if I didn’t have the ceiling fan, I’d get a big a-frame ladder and plug in one of those chain lights, the dangling ball with a bulb in it that hangs from a chain or a stay or a pull or whatever the fucking word is.  But I have this fan up there, so I can’t do that.  The cord from the light would get shredded the first time I turned on the fan, unless I creatively duct taped it and ran it down a wall.

I thought about a toaster.  I could sit on the couch and throw bread up at the ceiling.  Eventually, some of it would catch.  Then it would bake, or toast, or roast, whatever the fucking word is, and then I would put a plate under it and it would shoot a piece of toast down seventeen feet onto my plate.  I’d need to keep a catcher’s glove handy, and trap the toast so it wouldn’t ricochet away.  All of this involves a toaster with some kind of positive retention system, and careful aim, of which I have neither.

I don’t even eat toast anymore.  I used to eat it fairly often; we’d go through at least a loaf a bread a week, minus those two end pieces, “heels”, which we’d never touch, except my mom would throw the usual fit, “YOU GUYS NEED TO EAT THAT GOD DAMNED END PIECE, WHAT THE SHIT, IT’S PERFECTLY GOOD BREAD.”  Except it wasn’t.  I don’t know if I was pro-crust or anti-crust at the time, but I probably fucking hated crust when I was seven, and when you think about it, the heel of a loaf of bread is an entire side of crust.

Aside: we once visited the Wonder Bread factory, in the first grade.  It was when I lived in Edwardsburg, and I think we drove to Elkhart, although it’s possible we drove to Niles, because that’s the time of my life when I didn’t know left from right and north from south, and I assumed any drive anywhere was a drive to Elkhart, unless it was a drive to Florida or Kosovo.  Anyway, we went to the Wonder bread factory, and I now know that there are a thousand Wonder bread factories all over the country, and every different store also has its own brands, and there are regional brands, and some stores only have four kinds of bread, and others have like fifty.  But I didn’t know shit about regional brands or franchises or anything; I think I assumed that every single town had a Kroger store, and every single Kroger store contained the same damn stuff, so if you went to a Kroger in New York City, you could buy Big K cola, when of course there are no Kroger stores in Manhattan, and an Albertson’s or a Safeway or what have you is going to have different shit.  I also think I assumed that the one bakery we visited was the one place that made all of the Wonder bread in the entire country, because I had no knowledge of industrial operational scale or how hard it is to transport and ship perishables cross-country.  I just saw the big robot machines stamping out loaves of white bread, and stared in awe.

And at the end of the tour, the plant foreman or supervisor or whatever the fuck gave each of us a loaf of white bread to take home.  And I started eating that goddamn loaf of bread on the bus ride home, and it was so fresh, it tasted almost as good as eating a fresh slab of angel food cake.  (It’s also possible I was on the brink of starvation from not eating our shit school lunch.)  I must have eaten four or five slices of bread before that yellow Bluebird bus got me back to my mom’s house.  And maybe she was pissed off that I ate all of this damn bread, or maybe not, I don’t remember.  In retrospect, I think she was pissed off at everything.  Or maybe nothing.

I also remember some exercise where we all had breakfast in the first grade, like in the afternoon.  Maybe it was to teach us how important breakfast was, or it was because this was Michigan, and Kellogg’s is in Michigan, so they had an upstart cereal indoctrination program that programmed young kids into thinking they had to buy five damn boxes of cereal a week, and the same evil executives knew they’d eventually jack up the prices to seven or eight bucks a box and gradually make the boxes thinner and smaller and more full of air until eventually that $7 box of Life cereal only actually contained like twelve of those little cereal squares.  (And yes, we all believed that kid Mikey died of coke and pop rocks, or maybe it was cocaine.  We didn’t have Snopes back then.)

So everyone in the class had to vote on what cereal they wanted, and there were maybe a dozen choices, and everyone chose frankenberry or fruity pebbles or one of those cereals that’s 100% sugar and is basically a candy you’d eat at a movie theater, except you added milk and ate it with a spoon.  Nobody chose cheerios, because cheerios are basically inedible unless you added fourteen tablespoons of sugar and turned the milk into a sugary mud, which is what I had to do on a regular basis, because my mom always bought cheerios.  But on that day, I voted for frosted mini wheats.  I don’t know why.  But I think six people voted for it, including the teacher, who was some ancient woman, although ancient probably meant 24.  She seemed to agree with my choice though, saying “these are good.”

Some people had to settle for other cereals, because they lost the vote.  This one kid, I think his name was Skip, wanted some cereal we didn’t even vote on, like count chocula.  I think he did it as a write-in, and it got one vote, so no count chocula.  But on the day of the big breakfast, as the teacher poured out bowls of cereal, there was no count chocula, and Skip threw a fit, cried and bawled until tears and snot ran down his red face, screaming “I want count chocula!  I have count choclula!  I voted for count chocula!”  And the teacher tried to appease him with some boo-berry or fruity pebbles, but he wasn’t having it.  The whole thing reminded me of when someone votes for Ross Perot or some fringe libertarian.  Well, maybe not.  But I bet Skip ended up voting for Ron Paul or Ralph Nader or something.

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Curators Versus Creators

I haven’t read Mashable in a while, and for whatever reason, decided to re-add it to my RSS reader.  Within about five articles, I suddenly remembered why I stopped.

First, half of the articles were link-bait about various {Apple_Product}-killers.  Like there was an article about how damn neat HP’s new “answer to the iMac” was, despite the fact that the last iteration of the iMac came out in 2009.  But the tipping point was this article about how “curators” are the new creators, which makes no sense, but it makes total sense because in about ten seconds, everyone’s going to be trying to get rich quick fucking around on Pinterest.

So I unsubscribed, and then a day later, The Awl published this great article: http://www.theawl.com/2012/06/you-are-not-a-curator-you-are-actually-just-a-blogger which sums it up exactly.  This.  Times a million.

I started using the web in 1991, when it consisted of nothing but the office hours and phone numbers of everyone in our computer science department.  By 1993 or 1994, there were a few thousand web sites, but something like one percent of them were actual dot-coms, because you couldn’t buy anything online, and putting up a web page for your company wasn’t a requirement.  The ISP floodgates hadn’t been opened, so for the most part, all of the content of the web was academic, either universities or people who went to universities.

I remember though, in the summer of 1994, being amazed that some high percentage of web pages out there were nothing but lists of links to other web pages.  This was before blogs, and most home pages were nothing but a big list of what was cool on the web.  This frustrated me, because I was just starting as a writer, and I wanted to do something different.  I wanted to actually create content, but I didn’t know what.  I was obsessed with Coca-Cola and created this Coke web page, wrote a FAQ and a timeline of the company.  I guess this is when I discovered I’d rather create things, but it also made me aware that there was a huge industry in people who would simply list the things they liked.

And this became a big business when a couple of guys at Stanford decided to publish their own web directory and turn it into a company.  There weren’t search engines yet, just these lists of links, maybe organized into categories or some other taxonomy.  These guys named their company Yahoo! and suddenly this hobby of making lists of links became the industry of Web Portals.  In the mid-90s, sites like Lycos and Excite came online, and this concept of writing content that wasn’t content became Serious Business.

There was content creation at that time; all of the news organizations were trying to figure out how to dump stories from dead trees to something that would drive traffic.  And then online ads started, and online shopping, and then pictures and video and you know the rest of the story.  But at that time, from maybe 1995 until the bubble burst, Web Portals became huge.  If you had the right kind of tie and haircut, you could walk into a venture cap firm and tell them you were creating a Web Portal, and they would hand you a seven-figure check.  All of the ISPs came into being: AOL, Prodigy, CompuServe, Netcom, and all of them wanted some kind of portal to hang in front of their users.  Back then, you paid by the minute to use the internet, and they wanted to you fall into a deep hole of news articles and bulletin boards and online recipe books and whatever the hell else would cause you to turn off the TV and get locked into “CyberSpace”.

So I’m at the bottom of the food chain at one of these ISPs, and that cycle I saw a few years before of content versus linkers was huge.  I chipped away at my own web pages, but I also saw a world of Grade-A douche nozzles who went to the right Ivy League school who were suddenly “Changing The World” by “Building The Information Superhighway”.  They weren’t creating anything; they were shaking the right hands and wearing the right suits.  They were creating nothing but houses of cards, and every person and their brother suddenly thought, “hey, I can’t create shit, but I can cash in on this.”  And when everyone tried, they all pulled out a card from the bottom of that house and it collapsed.

These cycles repeat themselves.  Blogging was “invented” in the early 00s, and there were a chosen few who actually created things, wrote stuff, but the bulk of people didn’t create; their blog entries were just links to other blogs.  Twitter started, and then a huge plurality of Twitter traffic became nothing but people retweeting what they saw that was clever.  Same with Tumblr.  Same with Pinterest.  The line between creating and curating got blurred, until the curators thought they were the creators.

It always reminds me of when I worked at software places where the marketers said they “created” a product, when I knew they didn’t write line one of code.  They may have helped define what went in the product, but it was like going to McDonald’s, ordering a #2 with no pickles and a Coke, and saying you “created” the meal.  Curators get the credit.  And they get the money – when a site like, say, BoingBoing reposts a bunch of stuff they find on the internet and run ads at the bottom, they aren’t slicing up that ad revenue and giving it back to their sources.  Yes, they have to power the servers and pay the web developers and ad sales people and it takes work to find the stuff to post.  But I’d guess that the curator is making the lion’s share of the profit.

A lot of this may sound like sour grapes, and I guess it is.  I became a creator because I had a certain personality, a certain temperament.  Maybe I had the creativity too, but it was mostly because I didn’t have the extroverted personality that made people pay attention to me in some Don Draper-esque way.  I was the opposite of that, which is why I kept to myself and created.  And I guess if I was the opposite of me, I’d have the skill-set to sell ice cream to Eskimos, or sell a web log filled with things people should read to a bunch of people who have 8.6 billion things to read a click away from them.

At least I’m not an actual Curator, a person who went to school for twenty years to learn how to run a museum, who suddenly had every idiot out there looking at wedding dresses online saying they were a “curator”.  Right?

Okay, time to go post some cat pictures on Facebook.