A Brief Theory of (De-cluttering) Everything

Getting rid of things that just don’t matter goes a long way toward making room for things that do.

Yesterday, I posted about the millions and millions of search results out there for minimalism.  Today, the WordPress Daily Prompt happens to be simplify. (More on that here:  Daily Prompt: Simplify).

I’ve never done the Daily Prompt, but today seemed like a good day to start.  Minimalism has been on my mind as I go about the business of updating various parts of my house.  No big renovations, just some minor improvements, all of which I can handle myself with absolutely no training (which is exactly the amount of training I have).

One of the most important things I’m doing is getting rid of stuff. If I don’t actually use it, need it, or like it, it’s going.  It’s amazing how many things we hang on to just because we feel like we should.  I don’t mean sentimental things, I mean things that somehow found their way into the accretion disk swirling around my life’s event horizon.

Last year, I started putting some of the minimalist philosophy into practice.  Black t-shirts and blue jeans became my daily decent-weather look.  It’s slimming, it always matches, and it’s one less thing to worry about.  I have one go-to thermal hoodie for when it gets cold, and a black corduroy sport-coat style jacket when necessary.  I’ve had my boots for a year-and-half and just changed the laces.  I’m good for another 3000 miles at least.

This has been very freeing, and so I’ve started applying it to the way I (try to) organize my house.

One of the tenets of Apple-Store style minimalism is that open space is beautiful.  As a writer, I was trained to fill in blanks.  Yesterday, I put a shelf bathroom to keep the counter empty.  It turns out, open space is beautiful.  I feel kind of like a Jedi.

The little trash can on a track beneath my kitchen sink?  I don’t use it.  Gone.  The wine glasses on the top shelf of the cabinet?  When am I ever having wine with that many people?  I’ll fill them each with M&Ms and donate to the church’s raffle.  Exactly how many Tupperware lids with no corresponding vessels does one home need?  You know what time it is.

Excising the stuff from my life means making more room for better uses of my time and money.  It honestly feels like the physical practice of downsizing is helping me think better, like the brainstorm mess of everything I could keep around is giving way to just a few important points.  A thesis, if you will.  I’m eating healthier, drinking more water, and exercising more.  Getting rid of things that just don’t matter goes a long way toward making room for things that do.



When Clark Kent Quit The Daily Planet

“I was taught to believe you could use words to change the course of rivers — that even the darkest secrets would fall under the harsh light of the sun…But facts have been replaced by opinions. Information has been replaced by entertainment. Reporters have become stenographers. I can’t be the only one who’s sick of what passes for the news today.”

Clark Kent, upon quitting The Daily Planet in 2012.  Everyone expected him to start a blog.

I wonder what the 2012 Kent would think of the current state of…things.

Bromances and Non-toxic Masculinity

In 2011, I did a bunch of Valentines for guys to share with their best friends. A year later, that post was still the number one Google search result for “Valentine for bromance.”

It started because Bobby Valentine is a person and went from there.

All these years later, the original post is no longer the number one result on Google, but it is still on the first page. That’s not bad considering that I’ve taken occasional breaks from this blog, and that one of my biggest referrers in those days, StumbleUpon, isn’t interfacing as easily with WordPress.

It’s also worth noting just how much the conversations around masculinity have changed in the last 6 or 7 years, not to mention the conversations around gender, relationships, marriage equality, and other things I might not have been thinking about then, in my early 30s, the way I am now.  I don’t think there’s anything offensive about those older posts, nor am I contending that the “guy” things they reference can/should only be enjoyed by men. That I feel I need to say that says something, though I haven’t decided what.

To be honest, there are many things I’d probably like to say on the need for positive masculinity, and on the problems with seeing masculinity as fundamentally toxic. I’m not sure how to say them, so I’ll probably write a poem instead. Which is only ironic if you’re being toxic, but also in some ways still feels like a failure (of what, I’m not sure).


Steal This Blog (Or At Least Write On It)

I used to blog on The Huffington Post, back when it was called The Huffington Post.  Back when it was The Huffington Post.

Maybe you did, too.

Last month, HuffPost (as it’s now officially called) shut down the unpaid blogging platform without much of a head’s up.  A lot of people were upset, citing the fact that so much of what helped the platform grow was the work of bloggers investing their thoughts, time, and social influence.  That work produced traffic, and that traffic produced monetary value.  Those bloggers have never really been recognized (there was a class action lawsuit when AOL was sold to Verizon), and have now been told their free services no longer have a home.

It’s a business decision, and it’s a savvy if not fair one.

The operation on the blog you’re currently reading is not a very big one, but it does seem to be growing.  If you’d like to blog here about technology, literature, film, music, television, social justice or other things, get in touch with me.   Leave a comment on this post with a way for me to get in touch with you, and a link to your log or some of your writing.

Is Google Rebranding or De-branding?

Google+ didn’t really pan out. But we were already getting bored with Facebook in 2011, long before concerns about fake news and Russian bots.

rad infinitum

Resolved: People, for whatever reason, tend to view Google as less of a brand and more of a utility.

Suggested reasons: Google is, in fact, utilitarian. It’s under-branded to the extreme, and even its logo is generic.  Before anyone had Google accounts or Gmail, we were already using “google” as a verb.  The lack of flash, the absolute dearth of iconography…the lame font and funny multi-colored name, these things are disarming almost to the point of making you forget that Google wants each and every bit of your personal information even more (perhaps) than Facebook.

Facebook is nothing if not a brand.  Rightly or wrongly, we think we get what Mark Zuckerberg is all about, and that necessarily flavors our understanding of his company’s ethics, ambition, and culture.

I said last week that when I’m using Google+, I don’t feel like I’m in some proprietary fishbowl circa 1990s AOL.  Google…

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Rejection Letters for Your Short Stories, Poems, and Other Bits of Brilliance: A Guide

If you’ve spent any time trying to place creative work for publication, you’ve probably experienced what seems like more than your fair share of rejection.  Your stuff is good, after all.  The thing is, thousands of people have good stuff.

It’s the piece you got into your MFA program with?  Great.  That just meant it has promise.  It workshopped well?  That’s another step, I guess.  Your professor, a well-respected, accomplished writer, really, really believes in it in its current form?  Then keep submitting.

Until the acceptance letter comes, you’ll get lots and lots of gentle letdowns and maybe a few unintentionally terse rejections.  Get them out of the way.  Don’t take them personally.  Editors, like writers, are highly subjective and idiosyncratic.  They have to be.  If you’ve written a something you know is ready, something that has been revised and re-written and imploded and rebuilt and exists now in the best of all possible worlds, you’re ready to submit, and you’re ready to be rejected.  But remember, it’s not you being rejected.  It’s not even your talent.  It’s the proposition that the piece you have submitted, even with its clear merits, is the right fit for a given publication.

I’ve listed below three typical rejection-letter formats.  If you’re new to the process (or new to rejection), you might find it helpful.  Behold, the highly abridged and not-so-secret hierarchy of literary rejection letters:

1: The standard form letter like the one seen here*.  Not very gratifying, but don’t take it personally.  You’re busy, they’re busy, and that’s just how it goes.  That said, I don’t submit to markets that don’t allow simultaneous submissions. In my opinion, publishers have no right to tell you not to submit elsewhere, especially with the proliferation of people writing publishable material.
2: The form letter with your name and the title of your piece.  Pretty standard practice.  I think most writers get more rejections with this level of personalization than without.
3: The personalized rejection letter with a personal note telling you how much they liked your story, even though it’s not for them, and encouraging you to send them more. In the super-competitive and completely subjective literary world, this can feel almost as good as an acceptance when you’re moving along this spectrum.  When you’re at this point with a specific piece or a specific market, you know that the editors really looked hard at your piece, thought about it, and saw enough promise (or whatever they look for) to personally encourage you as a writer.  No one owes you that, so when you get it, it’s a good thing.  Follow up with a thank you.

*This particular form letter, which I received some years ago, is perfect in a very important way:  it starts with the word “unfortunately.”  While not the most encouraging way to start correspondence (this is a rejection letter after all), there’s considerable courtesy in this approach.  Most importantly, is lets you know right away that the rest of the email is not about your Pushcart nomination.  It’s my conviction that after the salutation, the very first word of the very first sentence of every rejection letter should always be unfortunately.  This saves writers from having to scan the rest of the text for the word, the emotional equivalent of tearing the bandage off quickly.  But you still need to read the rest of the email, because their may be specific comments or requests for more work.

Keep writing. Keep revising. Keep workshopping.  Keep reading.  Keep rebuilding.

Keep going.

Welcome to the Jungle: Facebook and Alphabet Slip, Amazon Posts Record Profits

We’re tired of social, but we still love search and shopping.

We noted last week that Facebook might be in some trouble.

Yesterday, some numbers came out that help fill in the picture.

Facebook’s earnings outpaced predictions, but shares fell yesterday anyway as investors worry that less time spent on the platform will continue to drive value down.  2017’s fourth quarter was Facebook’s worst ever in terms of new users.

Alphabet, the parent of Google, saw its stocks slip yesterday on missed earnings numbers, though its revenue is fine thanks to the continued strength of ad sales.

It was nothing but good news for Amazon, though, which just posted its largest profits ever.  The news about productivity-tracking wrist bands on workers in its warehouses don’t seem to bother investors, nor does the application of sorting-line management models to Whole Foods.

People are getting tired of Facebook.  It’s just a fact.  I don’t know how much of that has to do with fake news (its leadership thinks that’s a big part of it), but my hunch is that we’re tired of the stupid fights on one hand and the echo-chamber dynamic on the other.  For all of the good it certain can do for drawing attention to marginalized concerns, social media has also made us sick of each other.

We may give up on social.  We may cede less of our wealth and time to Google.  But we’ll never stop buying actual things, and Amazon will never stop selling them to us.  They will quantify every quantifiable thing in their pursuit of profit, including the people keep their company going.

One hundred and twelve years ago, Upton Sinclair called the newly industrialized world “the jungle.”  Soon, we may simply call it “Amazon.”