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Past, Present, and Speculation of the Future of Writing Technologies

Posted in blog, books, essay, technology, work, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2011 by tymora42

Writers Block by miss pupik

Standing outside for a breath before testing a writing program I am not familiar with recalls those writers who have come before with their limited technologies. I take a moment to daydream on the process of constructing novels, plays, screenplays, and even short stories in the time previous to the word processor. How easy it is for us in this new century? How easy will it become? It is no wonder why the once elite market has exploded in a variety of those dedicating their life to the craft of being a writer.

My first retrospective goes to the typewriter, the tapping out of solid words onto the page. The immediate editing process of Microsoft Word, simply hitting the delete key over the highlighted section and reconstructing the previous thought to closer perfection as the writer intends it, could not even be considered to such technology. Even when the liquid papering function was installed in the machine, it could only perform menially, a letter at a time, a punctuation mark, at most a whole word at a time, never a full sentence. Only years before this they would have to spool up the page, apply the whitener, and let it dry before they could continue the thought. Before this they would have to key the whole page over and over. Once the first draft of those thoughts were finally smashed onto paper, the real editing began. Sentences and sometimes whole paragraphs, cut and pasted into different locations of the document, are circled and arrowed with pen knowing that the entire piece must be retyped again and again until it is correct. Obsessive Compulsive editors like myself would never have made it without superior discipline. This is where the admiration of greats like Thomas Pynchon, where every word and placement has significance, must be recognized. And those like Stephen King creating volumes of work with such immensity. It is no wonder he hates the abridgment of them when every revision of a thousand page volume needs retyping after each editing. I can see the dry portion of those novels being the result of the editor self proclaiming pages as worthy for the sole reason of decreasing the workload. Did Steinbeck own a typewriter in the early years? Could he afford new ribbons and paper? This must be why Of Mice and Men is so short. What of Mellville? Jane Austen? Did they pen their works initially before consigning them to typed manuscripts? Were the walls of their rooms covered in index cards with brief character biographies, plot devices, scenery descriptions pinned into the drywall with threads of yarn connecting them to black and white photographs and illustrations like a detective movie?

Shakespeare did not have a typewriter. He jumps further backward in time to the days of quills on parchment. Notes of scratches and older versions of Midsummer Night Dream have yet to be recovered by English archaeologists. Like the zen quote about the river, one can never see the same play twice. It is constantly being rewritten as it is being performed. Lines drop. Actors ad lib. Blocking and scenery is constantly in flux to the whim of the players on stage. Surely their was a stable copy at the start and a final after the run. And I have to picture them learning their lines. Did Willie stand before them in the empty Globe Theatre running through his mix and garble of word from memory expecting them to regurgitate it after a single once over? I would like to have seen his one man show describing the first act with all of the characters and blocking and details of the scenery and pit it against the closing night for consistency. No, to construct a single line with a quill would take considerable thought before the ink every touched the surface. Taking in the scenario of a poet lingering over the page for hours on end before scribbling out a word or two gives credence to the thought that writers were lazy.

Before Email by vas0707

Now, the future is here and their will be more future tomorrow. We print one copy and xerox the rest of our novels in multiples for out writing groups to peruse. We edit. We print more. Ink is cheap and paper grows on trees. We post them on Trigger Street and The Red Room and Smashwords for user to (hopefully) read and comment. We post blogs. We podcast. We delete whole sentences at a time. We reorder paragraphs. The tacks have been removed from the walls of our study. The index cards are filed away in drawers where we can wonder what they were ever used for in the first place. Final Draft and Scrivener and Celtx organize the bodies onto virtual corkboards and sticky notes. Characters have tabs for their biographies with images and research encompassed in quick click of a button reference. We hardly even have to type anymore if we do not want. We can tell the story into a microphone and DragonNaturallySpeaking (dragonspeak) will convert the dialogue into text. Windows Journal and similar programs type out scanned handwritten documents for you.

The next great leap in writer evolution that will flood the market over the walls of the dam will be the invention of thought to text. From there it will be a short stroll into the conversion of dreams into movies. Pioneers will consume hallucinogenic drugs to record their experiences. A new Hunter Thompson will arise. Loving or being hated by a writer, if we can still call them writers, will have further consequences than they already have when they are hooked up to these experiential machines transcribing their emotions into novels.

Whole stories will be constructed in the blink of an eye, as fast as one can think them up. Is this what they thought about the video camera? We have come so far from the day when the Guttenberg Press made the scribe monk obsolete. From the days when the ancients chiseled letters into stones. Imagine the editing process of that form. We stepped over the home typesetting invention of the QWERTY keyboard, designed to be less functional than the Dvorak because the speedy keys kept sticking, to the digital manifestation of the word processor. We are now in the age of the work specific visual writing program. As much as the imaginative can prophesize, only the future can tell where we will go next. Who knows? Maybe there will be someone in the distance looking back at you for your contribution to the world and he will say, “And they had to actually write it all by hand.”

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The Whole Picture

Posted in computer, death, life, photography, technology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2010 by tymora42

Funny thing about working with digital media compared to tactile media (is that the name for it?) is the ability for it to be irretrievably lost to the binary gods as opposed to simply plucking it from the waste paper basket, smoothing out the crumples, and recopying the important bits with a physical reference right at your side. The delete option only goes so far as to send it into oblivion. It is like scratching it out, drawing a single line through a bit of text, or smudging the pencil lines around with a rubber eraser. There is enough of a remnant still there to bring it back whole or in part with the undo function. Even sending it to the trash is completely salvageable unless you are an anal recycler like myself. It is soooo easy, though. Too easy. Even easier once you learn all the quick keys instead of dragging and dropping like the predigitites.

A laptop is like a portable desk hence, the name “desktop.” File folders are like the drawers with little subfolders inside of each. A computer is a well oiled machine in the department of organization. So, I was cleaning out my drawers the other day. they had become cluttered as they tend to do. I was going to clear the surfaces and give the silver mahogany surface of my Mac Powerbook a good shine. Somewhere along the way I would have probably found a new placemat backdrop for the screen from my photo albums. With 30 gig worth of photoshops and vacations and walking around town with my Christmas special Olympus Toughshots and whatnot from the last two or three years, I figured they were the first drawer to start the weeding out process. My music drawer was done at the end of spring after a hundred gig trade with a buddy down the street. My documents are regular enough given the tiny size needed for storing predominately text based items. The website content was not really anything I wished to tackle at that particular moment. The iPhoto library it was to be.

First, I scanned the contents and felt assured that a portion of those files were already stored in the closet. After plugging in my photo/music closet (external hard drive) I briefly looked at the shelves of years past, taking mental note what was and was not included among them. Remembering a mishap that always occurs during severe cleaning, all of my photos were duplicated and triplicated from the initial transfer to the external because of that rascally “import to iPhoto” command. Of course I hit “import the whole damn friggin library” and it took it as literal as computers will, importing everything from “originals” to “modified” to the thumbnail data. I was not about to do that all over again. I learned how to control+select and “open package contents” and pick and choose what should stay and what should go. Then it is all a matter of option+deleting from the iPhoto window.

In my finder window under the Pictures drawer I had a series of years from 2000-2007 above the iPhoto Library icon. They were of Disneyland, The Alice in Wonderland Frye’s in CA, the trip Zombie Spiderman took to Universal Studios, all stuff I had brought copies out of the closet and worked on previously, but never removed. One by one I previewed and compared to those stored in the closet. All there. All accounted for. All the same version. Option+Delete. Option+Delete. Straight to the trash. Well, I option+deleted one too many times. I might have even used the select then shift+select to grab a whole bunch to option+delete in one big go. Whatever it was I did not notice until holding the select button over the trashcan in my dock until the command window popped up and telling it to empty, which is the same as recycling to all of you PC users.

The little box that tells you what’s going on started configuring. It said 124, then 256, then 592, which is about where I thought it should have stopped but it didn’t. It doubled. I figured these were the thumbnails. It tripled. The modified versions. When it hit 10, 000 I started to get really worried. It was too late.

After realizing my mistake I did what any 21st century man would do. I shouted a string of obscenities, threw around no-tech objects that could take a good pummeling, beat my sticks and clubs against the cave wall, slept on it, played a violent video game, then posted my woes on Facebook and Twitter. The responses for recovery programs flooded in from friends and spammers. I decided to check a few of them out. Maybe there was a chance. Not having another computer hooked online nor a hundred bucks to spend after the free trial, this process for free software ate away at the memory used to store these recycled documents in digital limbo. When I found what I was looking for it took two or three trial runs with it to come up with more useless crap to further disintegrate the photos into uselessness.

Finally, I was on my way. It took a day and a half for the program to sift through my garbage and find every .jpg and .psd still available among the coffee grinds and tomatoe sauce. Yes, I think someone made spaghetti, ate only a bite, and threw the rest away on top of my Hawaii trip. The most successful recoveries were from Moab, which Blake 182 had all of on his Borg Drive, and the two years I spent in Massachusetts from 2005 – 2007, all of which were already saved in their current form in the closet.

I wiped away the noodles from everything else for the next two days, which in the digital sense means getting rid of every website image visited, countless profile pictures stored for easy reference, and trace particle from a disc your buddy might have burned for you that you downloaded. It also means being satisfied with 300×500 pixilation. Only the iPhone camera gave me 1,000. Again though, all of those were already stored on an alternate device. Calling Robert was no help. He had lost the camera containing our adventures. I said my goodbyes to the bulk of Guadalupe, to Galveston, to Engineer mountain, to Boulder Creek Festival, to Zombie Jesus Day, to Christmas in Durango, to Copper Mountain were the South and the East collided, to Glass Beach on Kauai, and whatever else I committed to photographic memory and so consequently forgot. I would name them, but they are already gone like a dream from one wakes and has already had their coffee.

One Step Over the Line

Posted in beer, blog, computer, life, technology with tags , , , , , , , on July 26, 2009 by tymora42

I talked about bringing a book to the bar. That was okay. Enjoyable, even. Non threatening. Antisocial? Yes. But not over the top. Now, I am sitting in Bayfield’s Steamworks Brewery with a computer. Too much? Yes. Why? Because there are no coffee shops open after 2pm on a Saturday and this is where I came instead of Durango. A couple friends are driving up from Houston with my canoe. I came into town early to meet up with them and bring them the rest of the way home. What was I supposed to do while waiting? Well, I figured, I will just bring my computer to finish tapping out the 3rd part  to the Daudi Travels series. They have a really nice place in town called the Mill Street Brew, coffee brew not beer. They serve beer also, but it is safe for the electronics because they serve a nice hot cup of java too. Not today, though. They close early on the weekends. They close early every night except Thursday and Tuesday.

The good news is that it is pouring down rain. That will fill up the rivers.