Thanks

Here in the U.S. it’s a day to give thanks. I have a lot to be thankful for this year despite a rough patch or two. Wonderful family and friends, a somewhat stable job. Perhaps sweetest of all, I am back on track with my writing.  I’ll be using this holiday to tighten the screws on my latest novel, getting everything in place for a run at publication next year.  See you on the other side!

Whether it’s a holiday for you or not, celebrate. Enjoy your friends and family. Don’t camp out at midnight and stampede fellow shoppers for a discounted shiny. Those sales will still be rolling on for weeks, trust me. Enjoy what you have and allow those retail workers the same indulgence. Tomorrow we diet!  But not today.

Out with the old

OK, it was high time for a new site design.  Got tired of all the black, and all the tiny boxes everywhere, wanted something a bit more open, maybe a bit like a newspaper. So here it is, a brand spankin’ new look. Unless you’re viewing this through an RSS reader, in which case nothing much has changed visually. Carry on.

The other major change is that I’ve updated my domain from coreknell.com to christophercornell.com.  The former was an attempt to get around the fact that any “cornell” related domains have been swept up by the school or the rock star. But it’s a cheesy pun, and also an utter pain in the ass when trying to give someone my email address.   (“Wait, how do you spell that?”) The latter is a bit long, but hey it’s my real name. So my new email address is me at christophercornell dot com.

I’ve also given in and made public my Facebook and Google Plus accounts, both of which are available from the nifty icons in the site header. I’m still most active on Twitter, but I’ll begin adding reposts of the most salient stuff to the other social networks.  Maybe all the reposting and re-re-posting will create a vortex that will take ’em all down.

The old email and URLs should still work fine, as the CoreKnell domain is parked at the same website. So I’ll answer to either. But I’ve been wanting to change over for a while and figured I should do it while most of my site traffic is still webcrawlers and robots.  Now to publish this mofo and see if RSS subscriptions implode. Wish me luck! But then, if it didn’t work, you’re probably not reading this.  Carry on.

 

Infodump

Hey, long time no blog!  But that does not mean I’ve been spinning my wheels.  Quite the contrary!  Here’s a quick recap to get you up to speed.

I officiated my niece’s wedding!  Wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was a wonderful experience. Luckily no religious specificity was required.  A Native American blessing, a paraphrased passage from Walt Whitman, a couple of rings and we were off to the races. Congratulations from your crazy uncle. You’re a terrific couple of kids and I am honored to have been a part of your day. Now get off my lawn.

I completed a rough draft of my magnum opus!  It is indeed rough and quite drafty, but it’s the best thing I’ve written to date. Whether it’s actually good remains to be seen, but soon the world will know. And now come the edits.

I’m taking Mary Robinette Kowal’s short story writing class!  I’ll have more to report later, but suffice it to say I’m having fun and gaining valuable insight.

I’m in L.A., getting ready for the Southern California Writers’ Conference!  I’m participating in the NovelCram track and will surely have more to say once thing get underway tomorrow.

Tomorrow is my birthday!  And I’ll be spending it writing and meeting new industry folks. What could be better?

Voila, all caught up. We’ll chat again soon.

Two authors enter

I’ve been hard at work on a new draft of my latest long form project, incorporating feedback received at Paradise Lost.  Managed just under 20k words last week, which is not bad. I’m going to try and match or come close to that this week, although I do have some other housekeeping to attend to other than just banging out the prose. Research! Plotting! Reconstructive outline surgery!

In between paragraphs I did find time to enjoy examiner.com’s list of the Top 50 author-vs.-author putdowns. Shaw vs. Shakespeare! Bronte vs. Austen! Twain vs. well, just about everyone! For starters, he wishes he could ” hit [Jane Austen] over the skull with her own shin-bone.” I would preorder this version of Mortal Kombat.

I believe my favorite is actually from the comments section, with H.G. Wells taking on Henry James:

His vast paragraphs sweat and struggle . . .It is a magnificent but painful hippopotamus resolved at any cost, even at the cost of its dignity, upon picking up a pea which has got into a corner of its den.

Flawless Victory!  Though I do like “Turn of the Screw,” it’s hard to discount the points made.

Then there are attempted smackdowns of the fun but misguided variety, as delivered by George Meredith:

Not much of Dickens will live, because it has so little correspondence to life…If his novels are read at all in the future, people will wonder what we saw in them, save some possible element of fun meaningless to them.

Say what you like about Dickens but it’s pretty clear who won that dust-up, at least as far as “the future” is concerned.

So, have at thee.

Three tomatoes are walking down the street

Continued slippage!  I’m becoming more infrequent with my updates here, and I shall try to rectify that. At least it’s for a set of good reasons, the most important being preparation for Paradise Lost III this weekend.  Yes, it’s finally arrived. I’ll be in San Antonio tomorrow afternoon and commiserating with fellow VP alumni.  I’m looking forward to a good time with a group of talented writers.

Meanwhile, have a jumble of random musings that I should have been posting all week, served up stream-of-consciousness style!

What a terrible week for all media. First the dreadful news about Iain M. Banks. Sickness is upsetting in any circumstance, but I’m especially saddened that he won’t be serving as the Guest of Honor at LonCon3, which I am already planning to attend. My heart goes out to a giant in the field. Unfortunately that was merely the opening event: Roger Ebert and Carmine Infantino both passed away, leaving their own voids behind. Never one to be outdone, the Iron Lady herself rounded out the week of doom, though reactions to her passing are decidedly more mixed. Russell Brand, of all people, delivered perhaps the most fitting sendoff to Maggie in the Guardian. Hopefully we’re done with the bad news for this cycle.

Politicians keep insisting that corporations are people, too, so I’ll also throw in an obituary for LucasArts. A bit of a shame that The Mouse appears to have no stomach for adventure games, as the genre appears to be on the verge of a comeback thanks largely to indie developers. We’ll always have Steam!

In better news, Christina Blanch’s Gender Through Comic Books MOOC is into its second week (that’s Massive Open Online Course for the buzzword-challenged), and it’s off to a rousing start. Awesome stuff. I have no idea if it’s still open for registration, but if so you should definitely join. I plan to post more about it after the long weekend away.

See you in San Antonio!

Google pulls the plug

This afternoon my Twitter feed exploded following news that Google is shelving Reader on July 1st.  From my perspective, this sucks pretty voraciously. Judging by the vociferous reaction online, I’d say I’m not alone in that assessment.  This seems downright clueless on Google’s part; then, they’ve had their share of clueless moments lately.

The Chronicle went so far as to state that “…if Google couldn’t popularize it or turn it into a business, it’s probably time to call an end to RSS as a consumer phenomenon.” But I don’t think that’s a valid statement. Google has proven themselves strangely unable to popularize and/or monetize their own versions of popular internet services lots of times already: Orkut, Wave, Buzz, Answers, Google+, Google TV… all of which emulate apps and technologies that other companies have turned into successful products. So this certainly doesn’t signal the death of RSS (though certain pundits have been pronouncing it dead for years in epic-fail fashion.) There are already a number of decent alternatives: Feedly, Bloglines and Pinboard to name a few.

Personally, I think the “sunsetting” (w00t! corporate-speak ftw!) of Reader says more about Google than it does about RSS. They spent money acquiring technology, released their app for free, then decided to close it down when it didn’t make money. I’m still an avid user of both Chrome and Android, but the slashing and burning of Google apps does make me wary about depending on their software in the future. As comments on the #GoogleReader hashtag pointed out, the real message here is to beware of future reliance on free Google software.

 

Unexpected quietude


park01While the dog and I walked out along the shore this afternoon, we made an unexpected discovery out in the brush: a small clearing converted to a meditation shrine.  Sandwiched in between the North Bay and the less-than-picturesque 80 Freeway.

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Equal parts zen garden, pet cemetary and Blair Witch Project.

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The dog approved. Then again, he was off-leash and out of the yard. Where’s the objection?

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Anti-social

Fair warning: this is one of those posts. I’m about to rant and rave about social media like a septuagenarian exhorting those youngsters to get off my virtual lawn. If this doesn’t interest you, feel free to close the window and go back to your streams and timelines.

I don’t hate social media. Hell, I run this blog, I tweet, I’m on Facebook (although I check in about once every other month, to the chagrin of my “friends.”)  What I loathe is this idea that every activity throughout the day needs to become part of this single, unwieldy meta-narrative about myself that gets disseminated throughout the world. It’s not that I’m trying to hide anything; I just don’t see the benefit — to me — of dumping every possible scrap of data about myself into someone else’s virtual landfill. (This is not about privacy concerns, though as it turns out, they are legion.)

Oh, I see the benefit to Google and Apple and Facebook readily enough. Targeted advertising alone is worth more than most countries’ GNPs combined, and that merely scratches the surface. What I take issue with is that these companies are insisting that it’s all for my benefit, not theirs. Look how fulfilling my life will be once everything I say or do is connected online!  And the latest of the latest? Now all the social networks insist that things will be so much better if you use your real name for everything.  Follow on, Interweb lemmings!

I scan through image search on Google a fair amount while doing research for my work. Recently they’ve taken to popping up these annoying modal windows at random, framing their marketing chores as questions.  Do I know that I can share what I’ve found with my online pals? Do I want to?  No?  Well, how about converting all my accounts to use my real name? No? Am I sure?  Here, they’ll  show me what my real name would look like in print. Still not convinced?  (All with no close button, of course. If I’m lucky a condescending button that amounts to: “No thanks, I’m a wet blanket. Give me a few sessions before you hound me again.”)

Sony’s recent PS4 presser insisted that we should all get excited about how their next console will scrape all your social networks and connect all your gaming experiences to everyone you know. Even better, it uses your real name rather than all those pesky, outdated internet handles.  Am I pumped yet?  Yeah, not so much.

Here’s the thing. I have a large family. I have many friends and acquaintances worldwide, some of whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in years. I have a day job. And I’m also cultivating a presence as a neo-professional writer. Do I really benefit by sending my tech co-workers updates on my niece’s drunken bachelorette party? (Theoretical, mind you!)  Do people who enjoy my writing and want to find out about my recent projects need to weed out vacation photos and company milestones?   And whose life is enriched by seeing that I just watched an episode of Jersey Shore online? (I didn’t!  Honest!)  Again, this is not about hiding anything. No doubt it’s all out there if someone truly wants to find any of it. But why would I connect all those dots for them, just to ease their algorithm crunching? And at what benefit to myself?

I have many lives. We all do. And the idea that only one of them is the true me is BS.  I don’t begrudge the latest social start-up their revenue stream; what irks me is the dishonesty of the claim that this is all for the benefit of the individual. These companies are building valuable, marketable databases of information. And more power to them. All the same, I’d like to manage my own presence online. But thanks.

 

Art and armor

First, good news!  But I can’t share yet. I won’t jinx it until something is actually signed.  Shouldn’t bring it up then, you say? Tough noogies, this is my blog and I had to tell someone. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here’s a fun video from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s an exploration of the Arms and Armor gallery from 1924, shot with input from D. W. Griffith and John Barrymore. The Met!  Silent cinema! Plate armor! Swords! Just a perfect intersection of so many things I love. Enjoy.

 

 

It Came from the Public Domain

Earlier this month the Public Domain Review issued the Class of 2013, a list of authors with works that are scheduled to enter the public domain in 2013. I’d be even more interested in a list of works that would have entered the public domain this year, if not for the endless chain of copyright extensions that keep getting pushed through Congress.  (Yes, that Congress.  The one that can’t seem to pass anything without a supermajority, and only then with mass bloodletting.)

Hey, I’m all for artists and publishers receiving compensation for their work. But the obligation to society is no less vital.  Thomas Jefferson, as head of the first patent commission in the US, recognized that  intellectual property is not created in a vacuum:

“If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”

Not content to merely diminish the public domain over time, SCOTUS has ruled that works can be removed from the public domain and re-copyrighted. So perhaps we are meant to be grateful for the small list of works that have recently become available. Get ’em before they’re reenlisted!