Category Archives: About

In conclusion: Thirty-four years old

January 18, 2015, New York: I can’t believe it’s over. I can’t believe I actually did it. 150 works consumed and blogged about: 10 TV shows, 56 albums, 43 books, 36 movies, and 4 games. Wow. I also can’t believe I never got tired of it. I’ve enjoyed this thing all the way through, was still looking forward to the upcoming works right up until the end.

This is something everyone should do in some form or another. A year-long monastic vow against new media? Perhaps not that extreme. But a thoughtful reconnection with one’s personal canon? Yes. We’ve spent so much of our lives defining ourselves by the media we consume, let’s relive those lives through it. That’s how it felt for me. I spent the bulk of this year thinking about moments in the past I would never normally think about. Re-touching emotions I’d long-buried. I’ve spent 33 years becoming the person I am today and I was able to condense that experience into a year-length highlight reel.

Actually 34 years, now. So what’s next? Well, in 33 years I plan to do this again. A 66 Project: To re-consume 75 works from this list and 75 new ones. This year’s 75— that’s the canon we were promising to re-asses. And here it is:

The Canon
Books: The Moviegoer, Lord of the Rings, X-Men, Dune, Immortality, The Master and Margarita, On the Road, Lolita, The Odyssey, Invisible Man, If on a winter’s night a traveler, Neuromancer, The Control of Nature, A Moveable Feast, Project for a Revolution in New York, The Invisibles, A People’s History of the United States, VALIS, Parting the Waters, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Europe Central

Shows: TVTV, Evangelion, Battlestar Galactica, The Wire, The West Wing

Albums: Randy Newman, John Prine, Jimi Hendrix, Notorious BIG, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco, Wu-Tang Clan, Jesus Christ Superstar, Van Morrison, Velvet Underground, Rachmaninoff, David Bowie, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jeff Buckley, Neil Young, Mos Def, Black Star, Miles Davis, Jay-Z, Belle and Sebastian, Kanye West, Mountain Goats, Donny Hathaway, The Faces, Ryan Adams, Dr. Dog, Shostakovich

Movies: Star Wars, Lawrence of Arabia, Independence Day, Usual Suspects, Goodfellas, Casablanca, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, The Killer, Hoop Dreams, Gimme Shelter, Wonder Boys, Akira, 8 ½, Sherman’s March, Battle of Algiers, The War Room, The Big Lebowski

Games: Civilization, Dragon Age

I’ve already begun the list of new things for the 66 Project. The Power Broker and Infinite Jest should have been on this year’s list but I pushed them off because of their length. Not next time. Breaking Bad will definitely be on the next one, but I’d just finished watching it at 32. Also, maybe change out a few things: The Iliad for The Odyssey; For Whom the Bell Tolls for The Sun Also Rises. But from here on our I will be keeping a list of contenders.

Also looking to the 66 Project, I learned a lot of valuable lessons about the technological hurdles in consuming your favorite media of yesteryear. There were things that were cut because they could not be obtained! So a goal for the coming months is to make a Media Ark. And to carefully maintain said ark into the future so that everything will be in appropriate, consumable formats come 2047. This is especially true of my own work, much of which I couldn’t even access this year.

I’ve also learned I want to be better about reconnecting with good books and movies. Not to wait 33 years, but to make time in my busy schedule of forward-looking media consumption. There were a handful of things I marked to reconsume, tangentially from items this year, that I plan to get to at some point in 2015.

But not now, damnit! Now I have SO MUCH 2014 MEDIA TO CONSUME. I have a whole list from True Detective to The Peripheral to Boyhood to Interstellar to a very long list of albums from Aaron Kyle. Oh wait. Did I make myself another aggressive list of media consumption? Great. Well at least I won’t need to blog about it all.

Thank you for reading along. This site will exist as an archive. I’m also planning on collecting the posts into a physical book (much more durable than a WordPress site in 2047, I fear) and I suspect I will do some more writing in the next couple of months about this process and what I’ve learned.

Also, I have a new favorite book now, if anyone is asking. It’s The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. I’ll try not to wait 33 years before I read that one again.

My own work: 24-32

As a part of the Creative Influences theme, I am also reviewing my own work. This will be in three phases: high school, college and a little bit after, and my adult life. Here’s the first one.

It all started with National Novel Writing Month in 2008. I’d been writing fiction again after a long hiatus, joined up with some other fellows in a writing group and shared some very rough drafts once every month or so. Then came the 2008 election. Working in news, the election was my life for months. It crowded out all other things, all other possibility of creative work. I decided that the month of November, the bulk of which sat after the election, I would try to write the first draft of a novel.

The Collective:
Remember, finishing written work was always my hardest challenge. So the simple goal of NaNoWriMo— to finish a novel of greater than 50,000 words— was a direct shot at my weakness. And so I wrote. I wrote on planes, on trains, in coffee shops, at my future in-laws’ kitchen table. And you know what? On November 30, I finished a rough draft of about 53,000 words. I was elated. So elated that I decided to really finish it, and kicked off an editing process that lasted a full year. That first draft was a mess.

This was my first book, The Collective. In a world where the hottest new accessories are “Squad glasses”, wearable computers powered by outsourced labor, or your “Squad”. It was an idea I’d brainstormed on October 31st, 2008 and finished November 30, 2008. I self-published it to get out in the world, but I’ve never thought it was the best representation of my work. I re-read it with hesitation.

The first paragraph was so embarrassing. But the book redeems itself. It moves fast, keeps your interest. I’ll admit it’s pretty heavy on the exposition, especially at the beginning, but I kept finding myself surprised by new little bits of detail. In the end I was pleased with the creativity of the premise and how it grows. The language could use some work. But it’s easy to make excuses— I wrote it in a month and it’s never seen the touch of a true editor.

Andrew vs. The Collective
This might be my favorite thing I’ve ever written. After publishing The Collective I did a Kickstarter to finance printing a bunch of copies and as a marketing technique. The Kickstarter was itself its own writing project. Yet another time-based challenge for myself: write six short stories in six respective weeks, using 100% of contributions (words, sentences, settings, characters) from my paying Kickstarter backers. It was tough!

But re-reading it, I loved it. Especially the first three stories (before I began to wear down and lose steam). The voice is so good, so full of personality in a way most of my narrative prose is not. I made myself laugh out loud multiple times. There is something for me about challenge writing (see: the 33 project, itself). There was a lot of creativity even outside of the submissions. The second story, about two lovers traveling in opposite directions in time, is something I am tempted to come back to and spend more time with.

“A March Story:
Chronologically, this is my most recent work, but is a direct descendant of Andrew vs. The Collective. It’s a good evolution from AVTC, building on the lesson I learned there. I mapped out a story in advance— a news reporter protagonist living in modern day New York but with one big difference, the city is encased in a giant Buckminster Fuller-designed dome. I really enjoyed re-reading this one. I thought the prose was some of my strongest and the concept really interesting. This work was also written with contributions, though they were details, not substance. And it was also driven by time, I was trying to write each story to be contemporaneous with the real world of that week— weaving the same news stories in.

Drain the Gulf!
And then there’s Drain the Gulf!. After The Collective I wanted to challenge myself to do it for real. The scariest thing I could think of was to wholly dedicate myself to writing a book, to an idea that I invested a lot of time building. No caveats, no excuses. I would try to write a really good book and then I would try to get it published. The result was Drain the Gulf!, a 130K+ word tome in which America tries to decide whether or not to drain the Gulf of Mexico. It’s sarcastic political satire with some really great Louisianan and Floridian color.

I had a lot of fun writing this book. I left my job at the time and dedicated myself to a rough draft for about four months. I was a full-time writer for a little while! I researched, I sketched characters, I wrote practice scenes, I invested in Scrivener. And right before I began my job at Twitter, I called it done. Wrapped it up in a PDF and emailed to an agent. It has since gone unpublished.

I don’t think I realized how much that was weighing on me when I started to re-read this book. This was the first time I’d opened the book in three years. Would I find that it was terrible? Absolutely unpublishable and a waste of all that time I spent writing it? I was paralyzed by the fear that it wasn’t good.

Drain the Gulf! happens in three parts. The first is admittedly the weakest. Which made the reading experience tough. There would be moments that would shine through, individual scenes that I knew just sung. In the second and third parts, though, the book starts to really move. It was still an anxious experience, but I had myself laughing out loud at myself a couple of times a night when I sat down to read. Overall I still think it’s a great book. It needs an editor. For the little stuff I winced at throughout, and for the smoothing out the big stuff, too. It was good to re-read this. To face what feels like failure. I found myself thinking again about the writing experience and wanting to write again. Not to give this up, but to keep working at it.

What’s missing
I worked a lot in this time period. Worked at work. And much of that was generating media. I chose not to include the video work here because much of my work in this period was guiding the work of others, not producing it end to end. I also wrote a fair amount of non-fiction, but no major work. A lot of blogs and one short tidbit in a book called New Liberal Arts. It was in this period that I really re-connected with fiction writing, until I turned 33 and decided to try my hand at memoir.

Okay, so there are actually places to send you here. If you want to read The Collective, you’re in luck because that’s available for sale on Amazon. If you want to read A March Story, that’s on Medium.

Surprisingly, someone is also offering Andrew vs The Collective for sale on Amazon. It “appears to be signed and inscribed by the author”.

And if you want to read Drain the Gulf!, email me and I’ll send you a PDF!

My own work: 18-23

As a part of the Creative Influences theme, I am also reviewing my own work. This will be in three phases: high school, college and a little bit after, and my adult life. Here’s the first one.

January 5, New York: I wrote a lot in college. I was more disciplined about volume then than I am now, but I still lacked the discipline to complete a work. There were pages upon digital pages of rough drafts laying in wait for me. Spelunking in the folders however I found a gift from Past Andrew: a pre-selected selection of the best stories from my college days.

Short Stories
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality I found in that best-of folder. Somewhere along the way someone gave me the feedback that I needed to write what I knew, and I did that with a fervor. It wasn’t always interesting, but at least it was honest. I imagined my writerly self from a quote I once heard from W. Somerset Maugham: paraphrased as something like ‘my work is all a mix of fiction and memoir and even I have forgotten which is which’. These stories were a blend along the spectrum from real stories with real names, to real stories with fictional elements, to fantasies starring a present day me.

There are a few stories meant to be stories in here. In one, at the farther end of the fictional spectrum, I call up a scene from the mangrove forests we used to play in as children and mixed some events that never happened with a few that did. I think, had I been in a creative writing class, this would have been a fine entry (and received a much better edit). In another also very fictional one, I fall in love with a dying girl in a hospital. This one was a bit more embarrassing. Many, many, many of these stories are about falling into or out of love with girls.

Mostly this work was catharsis— purging the bad humors. College was a tough time for me emotionally, compounded by my suddenly discovered love for the booze. I spent a lot of time at a keyboard processing those emotions. Of the more process-y work, the best was a haunting piece never intended for distribution called “The Haze”. The winter break of my junior year I was horribly depressed, playing an active role in a very dysfunctional relationship, drinking and smoking with a fierce determination. This was my catharsis for those weeks: a collection of vignettes and observations of myself with my family. I expected to skim this one and pass it by, but I found myself pulled in.

I also kept a journal of six weeks I spent in Europe and wrote nearly every day. This almost entirely autobiographical, and a positive counterpoint to “The Haze”, but it’s also pretty well-written. Crap, even the poetry is passable. The high point there (and the one I talked about for years as the high water mark of my writing) was a letter I wrote to my mother explaining that I wasn’t coming home because I’d fallen in love and moved in with a beautiful French girl. My friends never let me send the letter and the relationship ended after a week, but the letter was still beautiful.

Screenplays
I discovered in college that I really enjoyed writing screenplays. I’ve always liked dialogue, and here was a format built on it. I wrote a few short scripts for school— one decent one called “Messianic Blues” about a little blues-obsessed kid who has Leadbelly as an invisible friend. And when I left school I tried to write some longer works. The closest I ever came to finished was a two-thirds draft and a full outline of something called “Free the Way”, which imagines a Los Angeles with a car chase every single day. This one is something I might actually try to finish someday.

My attempts to finish work
I mentioned “Free the Way”. It’s one of three projects I really tried to complete but ultimately abandoned. Another was a first 30 or so hand-written pages of a novel/novella called Wildcard Poker, inspired by and featuring a coffee machine that gave you a different playing card on the bottom of every cup. What if those were predictions like the tarot? Fun concept. After graduation there was an experimental novel with no title that takes place in an Alain Robbe-Grillet-styled city that is made of words. I always doubted that my prose was strong enough to deliver on that concept, but reading back through it, I like it. This is one I’ve always thought about coming back to.

I never fully finished any creative work in this period, only that work that was pushed by school deadlines. I feel like this period comes to a close when I complete my first novel. (Next post in this theme!)

My Philosophy thesis
I did finish some papers though! I was determined to maximize the scholarship I had in college and took full semesters every semester and signed up for a double major in Philosophy. (More about that here. “The Phaedo” by Plato) My final year I elected to write a Senior Honors Thesis— at ~40 pages, the longest paper I’d ever written. My topic was the philosophy of consciousness and my title was “Constructing the Automaton”.

This was a pretty great read! I’ve long-forgotten the bulk of the source material or even many of the arguments and I found this approachable and cogent. In it, collegiate Andrew argues against John Searle’s assertion that an automaton or computer program cannot be conscious because we have no objective path to determine consciousness. I draw out multiple thought experiments; I use the term “epistemic realms”(!); and I work in the phrase “But, lo, John Searle has been duped!” All around great work.

What’s missing?
Much of the screenplay work was nearly lost— it was all written in Final Draft— but I was able to read garbled versions in TextEdit. The video work, on the other hand, I was not able to dig out and screen. It’s still possible, we’re still within the technological bubble, but the process will be much more difficult than I’d anticipated. I was very disciplined in the early 2000s at making sure all of my masters were on DV tape. I should have, in the mid 2000s, made sure they were all digitized.

There is some good and bad work in video, by my recollection. A few student films I hated while I was making them. A few student films that I thought were amazing while I was making them that will probably be difficult to watch now. The important creative development here was discovering non-fiction video storytelling through a class called “Guerrilla Television”. More on that to come in later posts.

Nothing here is available to buy. But you could pick up W. Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, if you wanted to. One time as a kid I played Tyrone Power from the movie version in a community theater project.

My own work: 13-17

As a part of the Creative Influences theme, I am also reviewing my own work. This will be in three phases: high school, college and a little bit after, and my adult life.

January 1, New York: There’s nothing quite so mortifying as going back through your old work. I decided that if I was going to re-visit the media that influenced me, I should also look at the result of that influence. (I also apparently think I don’t already have enough work to complete just the 150 works, to add more to it.)

I went through the old folder, deep in my computer archives, where I collected everything from high school until just after college. My journal used to be typed and it’s all there in a single document. Lists of phone numbers, ideas, quotes, and media to consume (still haven’t read A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift). Documents with titles like “Songs to play at my own funeral” and “Presidential policy ideas”. Long-term planning, there. Amidst all that I tried to pick out the representative work: short stories, an essay, and one play. I couldn’t even bring myself to open the poetry.

A One-Act Play
Probably the most mature and complete work in here is a one act play I wrote called “The Son of the Son”. It takes places after the death of Jesus and posits that he, Jesus, fathered a child with Mary Magdalene. The child grows up to take on the mantle of his movement, make it about political power, and then accept the emperorship of Rome. The twist is that he chooses the name Nero for himself— that’s revealed at the end at his coronation. (Twist!) It’s not bad… the dialogue is a bit stilted (“the way they talked in the olden days”, I guess) and I wish I could have had the patience to actually triple-check the spelling before submitting it to competition. But the concept is strong and the characters relatively true. There is a ton here that needs to be better, but this is the one work from this period that captures a true, complex emotion and teases it out. At seventeen, I felt abandoned by a father who it seemed like was being lionized in his death. I would have denied it at the time, but it drips from these lines of dialogue.

Short Stories
I really thought of myself as a strong writer at this time. I was cocky about it. I unsuccessfully submitted my work to be published everywhere I could find. I wish now that I’d held that back. This was a painful collection to re-peruse. Mostly, I either wrote vignettes of men ten years my senior experiencing emotions I’d never experienced (the death of a wife, for instance) or I wrote vaguely fable-like sarcastic stories. This latter wasn’t half bad, if immature. There was a story in there about the serpent in the Garden of Eden that seemed like a paler imitation of Mark Twain, but not entirely condemnable. Not like the rest. The only other story with a tiny bit of merit is also funny, something I wrote in a single night as a joke with my best friend Chris about a girl who liked him. It is totally unfair to the girl, but it’s the only one with anything near the truth. This is the only story about being a teenager.

Essays
I only re-read one of my old high school essays— about Immortality, the book that began the 33 Project. In it, I explored the idea that Kundera and Agnes are the nuclei of two bonded atoms— his in the real world and hers, the fictional. It’s not perfect (I also strayed into mathematics and physics) but I see here the yearnings to write better non-fiction. To explore with essays instead of stick to formula.

What’s missing
Truth is, this is where I am finally butting up against format availability. On all 150 works I’ve been able to find some way to get to them, even though sometimes difficult. With my own, not everything was preserved with forward compatibility in mind. The written work is in a version of Microsoft Word no longer recognized by Microsoft Word. We were able to come to an agreement in TextEdit. But what’s missing here is my earliest video work: four short movies we produced for my high school video production class. I co-wrote and starred in all four, and they all won the competition for which they were made. Retrieving these (I know who has them on DVD) will be a project for the future. Archiving all of my own work will have to be a project to tackle with an eye toward the 66 Project.

Nothing to buy here.

“The Toynbee Convector” by Ray Bradbury

This post is the first in the theme Influences on my own Creative Work.

December 25, Westford, MA: I’ve always loved to spin stories. When we lived on the sailboat, my mother would keep me up late with her on night-crossings and tell me to tell her tales. Just the two of us, in the pitch black ocean twilight, my little mind spinning out fantastic kid-fictions to keep my mother awake. I began to write stories as soon as I could write— starting with attempts to write my own Hardy Boys books.

Throughout my life I’ve written continuously. Bad things, good things, very few of that latter, very much of the first. A thousand disposable works have passed through these typing fingers, it feels like. Mostly half-finished. Finishing has always been my greatest nemesis.

Throughout high school and into college I lacked writerly discipline of any kind. I would throw myself mentally into the excitement of an idea, write as hard and fast as I could and the idea would blossom and explode around me, spiraling out to the size of an epic (always that size, never modest) and when I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore I would lay down on the bed and toss and turn and continue to build the story (and imagine its wild success). The next morning, most times, I would wake up and hate the story. Convince myself it was garbage. Never work on it again. That was my process for years.This was mostly a problem because I always wanted to write things that would take me longer than a single night. I could never be satisfied with a short story— only a novel (or a trilogy!), because that was all I read.

Well this here was the first time I read a short story that really astounded me. The incredible thing about “The Toynbee Convector” is that it is an epic world but contained within a very short story. This is something I thought impossible before I read this. In it, a time traveler has shown the world a beautiful future and the world has rushed to meet it. It’s a beautiful utopian picture with a hell of a twist. And in a few short pages, you dip in, you see the wonders, you soar out.

Buy a whole bunch of Bradbury in the book of short stories that carries the story with this name.

Progress Report: October 2014

October 19, New York: Now that was three months of media consumption! The first half of this year, I had finished less than a quarter of my list and was really struggling to make up lost ground. I made it my goal in this three months to get two-thirds of the way through and I completely surpassed that mark. 73 percent! It was quite the summer.

I completed two entire themes of Thirty-Three Project writing: A long waltz through nerddom and Constructing an identity through media, that last one just today.

In Long Waltz, I:

With the conclusion of that Long Waltz, I jumped right into the theme of Constructing an identity through media— all of the albums, books, movies that I publicly cultivated an affinity for:

I also launched a newsletter, to let readers keep up in their inboxes instead of just on this site.

All told, I really cranked through the media these last three months. For many weeks, I kept myself to an average of seven posts per week. (Seven!) Let’s see how that affected the old numbers?
TV shows: 6 of 10 | 60 percent
Albums: 47 of 56 | 84 percent
Books: 31 of 43 | 72 percent
Movies: 22 of 36 | 61 percent
Games: 3 of 4 | 75 percent
Total 110 of 150 | 73 percent

Just shy of 75%! I still have a fair amount left to consume and there are some big time commitments in there (I’m working my way through Dragon Age: Origins right now, which is easily 25+ hours of gameplay). I have left a chunk of miscellaneous posts and also one remaining theme: “My creative work and influences”. I’ll do that last. That will actually come with a little more material added to the list, as I’ve decided to review not just the influences, but my own creative work as well. We’ll see how that stands up in the cold light of the present.

January’s just around the corner!

Progress Report: July 2014

July 26, New York: Well, it’s been another good three months of media consumption. I re-read The Lord of the Rings, re-watched Independence Day, re-listened to all of Led Zeppelin, I even re-played Oregon Trail— twice! I began and completed my first theme of the Thirty-Three Project and I launched a second.

The first theme, My Aquatic Childhood and my Father the Pirate, was a wellspring of sentimental reminiscence and dusty old feelings. I found many forgotten emotions lurking in familiar titles. It included such highlights as:

Let’s see how we’re doing by the numbers:
TV shows: 4 of 12 | 33 percent
Albums: 12 of 55 | 22 percent
Books: 11 of 41 | 27 percent
Movies: 10 of 38 | 26 percent
Games: 1 of 4 | 25 percent
Total 38 of 150 | 25 percent

Much better than last quarter’s “11 percent”, but still a bit off the mark. I need to get caught up! I will make my goal for the next quarter to reach 66 percent. It’ll be an awful lot of reading, watching, and listening between now and October. But even then I’m a bit worried about getting through this whole list. In the last three months, I did tackle some of the meatier titles— The West Wing and The Lord of the Rings, though many more lurk out there— The Wire, Battlestar Galactica, and more. So though I do have a handful of new additions (as I did last quarter), I want to also pare the list down a bit. My total above reads 150, but that’s no longer true— we’re up to 159 now. I am going to amend that and keep the list locked at 150 total titles.

This month we welcome Die Hard and Goodfellas and Apocalypse Now and Akira, but we say farewell to Contempt, to Salesman, to My So Called Life and to the Mallrats soundtrack (among others).

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

This post is the first in the theme of A Long Waltz Through Nerddom.

July 20, New York: In retrospect, I didn’t have much choice but to become a nerd. As a child, I only fraternized with adults and my only friends were books. I thought much of my own intelligence and spent hours lost in imaginary worlds. It was just a matter of time before I donned the full cloak of nerddom, and when I did, I did so with gusto.

The first I heard of role-playing games was in a Hardy Boys book, perhaps predictably. In each installment Chet had a new hobby, and in this one it was playing some fictional role-playing game with dragons and, er, caves. Intrigued, I convinced some friends to construct a game with me. As pre-teen boys, this game was a Risk derivative that primarily involved destroying one another’s imaginary countries with weapons of increasing complexity. In the end, we’d blown up the planet with nukes mounted on drills and were all arguing about whether any of us had launched a space base from the earth in time. It was a fun afternoon, but a terrible game mechanic. Then I discovered Dungeons & Dragons, and lo! some wise old nerds had already made us a perfect game!

That’s just where it begins, but as a full-bore nerd I’ve:
- Played hours of Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and even goth-themed role-playing games
- Read dozens (hundreds?) of pulp fantasy novels
- Watched a ton of anime
- Owned whole collections of comic books and multi-sided die
- Fancied myself a computer hacker
- Rollerbladed

So we launch a new theme of the Thirty-Three Project: A Long Waltz Through Nerddom. In this theme, we will explore the lofty heights of nerd material. (Or, imagine yourself exploring a dungeon, and I will be your Dungeon Master, leading you to treasure chests of film and prose.) We begin with the true pinnacle of fantasy fiction.

The Lord of the Rings is an absolutely singular work. I read it young, shortly after The Hobbit. My first experience of The Hobbit was a cartoon or an illustrated version that colored my mental images of the actual book as very cartoonish. Reading along the natural progression into The Fellowship of the Ring, I suddenly found myself in a very, very different world. From the moment the first black riders appear on the road outside of Hobbiton, the cartoon images are gone. Here was a world of darkness and near infinite complexity (hell, it ended with appendices!) rendered in exquisite detail and lovely prose. It blew me away. I tore through these books and then immediately tried (and failed) to read The Silmarillion.

Re-reading these books was a complete treat. Exactly the sort of privilege the Thirty-Three Project is meant to offer. When else in my life would I re-consume 1000 pages of Tolkien? I suspect I appreciated the detail quite a lot more in this reading— how impressive is it that Tolkien created *languages*! Though the one thing that was very different in this reading was that I couldn’t help but imagine the characters as the actors from the movie. They are indelibly tied together in my mind’s eye now. How did I imagine them before when I read as a child? That’s the one thing I wish I could recapture.

You should own this book, presented as a trilogy, but argued by Tolkien to be a single book. Buy it from the Amazon.

Progress Report: April 2014

April 20, Los Angeles: I have now passed one quarter of my year spent in review. It’s been good so far! I’ve re-read some absolutely wonderful books, reconnected with some old, lost emotions and written about it along the way. It’s been hard to not read new things (Teju Cole’s new book sits on my desk at work and murmurs to me throughout the day) but I’ve created an email folder for 2015 recommendations and I’ll share that at the end.

How have we done so far? How about a mathematical accounting?

So far I’ve re-consumed and reviewed 16 works!
TV shows: 1
Albums: 4
Books: 6
Movies: 5

That number comes with fewer exclamation points when you look at the expectation.
TV shows: 1 of 12 | 8 percent
Albums: 4 of 55 | 7 percent
Books: 6 of 41 | 15 percent
Movies: 5 of 38 | 14 percent
Games: 0 of 4 | 0 percent
Total 16 of 150 | 11 percent

If time in the year is twenty-five percent consumed, I’m a bit off my pace.

A few things have been hard to keep up with. First is that my writing is slipping far behind my consumption. I watched Do the Right Thing on the plane back from London and it took me three weeks to write it up. Second is that my plan for tackling music was entirely off. I’ve always listened to music in the background— a soundtrack to whatever was happening in my life at that time. Usually one album, on repeat, for multiple days or weeks. So I assumed that each week I would choose a different selection and let it play on in the background. This was not the case. I found I needed to focus at work and work is the place I consume the most music and the music I would have been consuming would have shattered that focus. Imagine Boyz II Men’s II all day, all week? I’d selected fifty-five pieces of music, roughly one for each week, but now I most often listen to an album once through and then walk away.

One other thing that does not seem to be working is that the writing does not flow into a story. There is no real throughline unless you are quite the connoisseur of Andrews Fitzgerald (a big fan of this guy, for example) and have an unending well of patience. I cannot imagine keeping up as a reader of this project. So I am going to try to organize the next 75% into a few themes. Themes such as:

  • My Aquatic Childhood and My Dad the Pirate
  • Concocting a Persona through Media Consumption
  • Kicking through the Darkness to Become a Stable, Productive Adult
  • Influences on My Own Creative Work, And the Inevitable Results
  • A Long Waltz Through Nerddom

While these themes will not capture all of the works remaining to be consumed, they should offer some structure to the rest of this year. And hopefully some structure to the reader or follower of this project. I’ll tackle one theme at a time, and work through that theme chronologically, telling that story along the way. I’ve got one book to finish and then I’ll kick off the first.

The inevitable question, when making a long list: What has been left out? A lot, of course. But even with an editor’s eye, there are still a handful of books and movies and albums that I must add. Who could not re-read The Gunslinger or re-listen to Jesus Christ Superstar? There are a few new additions, but I won’t make a big fuss out of them. And also that second to last theme raises another point: What about the things I *made*, not just consumed? While this material might not be canonically good, has certainly left its impact upon me. I’ll need to weave that in, too.

Some highlights so far:

I also made a page of all the post in chronological order.