#Weeknotes S02 E19

A REDISCOVERY OF SOUND
If you’re following me on Twitter, you’re probably sick of pictures of the new mixer setup. But I just had to show off this hack (cramming the mixer on a book stand so it stands up) that allows me to reclaim some desktop real estate.

I finally have it set up right so that the audio for my Zoom calls really is good. But I discovered an unintended benefit this week — pumping music from my laptop through the mixer and into a set of monitor headphones cranked up to an unwise volume actually took me back in time.

See, in the days before iPods or other devices connected to Bluetooth speakers, decent portable music depended on how big a boombox your arms could handle and how many tapes or CDs you were willing to cart around. The sound was as good as you could get (depending how much money you were willing you shelled out), but it was never as good as plugging into an actual stereo system. You know — those huge components connected to a turntable that your older relatives (or young, obnoxious hipster friends with turntables) have that play music when put together.

I spent a lot of time in my ‘tween and teen years with a set of headphones plugged into my dad’s stereo. For me, the joy wasn’t just in the so-called HiFi audio quality. It was hearing things you never heard on the radio — the things that used to creep into studio recordings that could make a studio performance real like chatter or odd reverbs. It was hearing every single instrument part being played. Studio chatter in between and sometimes underneath certain tracks. It really was a world I would regularly get lost in.

I’d gotten used to listening to “good enough” audio over the decades, same as everyone else. I’d basically quit bothering tweaking audio levels on the computers I’ve owned; maybe I could’ve been doing this all along. But stumbling back into the joys of audio — where even the shitty 192 kbps .mp3s I’ve accumulated but never re-ripped over the years sound good — actually put me back in touch with something deeper this week that I’d forgotten about.

FEEDING MY EARS
The latest episode of KCRW’s UNFICTIONAL breaks my heart.

When Fedelina Lugasan moved to the U.S. from the Philippines for work, she was comforted by the fact that she’d start her new life with a family she trusted. But her life and job were not what they told her it would be, and she was cut off from family back home. When an opportunity presented itself, she took her freedom into her own hands.

There, but for the lucky circumstances of me and my family, go I. Not that my mother ever experienced this, but Nanay’s voice in this piece (Lugasan and the woman doing the transalation) reminds me of Mom. And not just because this is the story of an older Filipina, but because the horrors in this story check off a lot of the boogeyman scenario boxes that my parents put into my head as a young kid about how Filipinos could be treated if we stepped out of line, but for the occasional intervention of other Filipinos, which justifies the “us vs. them” mentality that immigrants with the barest measure of privilege sometimes have.

On the brighter side, though, here’s a 10-minute discussion with a friend-slash-my favorite writer ever, M. Rickert, on THE COODE STREET PODCAST.

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
For any of you out there thinking about applying to Viable Paradise

There was more to my week, but not much more. So I’m gonna wrap it up and knock some more things off my to do lists. Stay safe, wash your hands, and don’t let anyone tell you not to wear a mask!

#Weeknotes S01 E01

Here it is: 2019 and my first official season of Weeknotes. I’m mixing up the usual format with thoughts about the whys and the wherefores of what I’m trying to accomplish with these. This is as much for me as it is for anyone. Welcome to season 1, episode 1!

WRITING PROGRESS. I’ve got a backlog of stories to finish writing, and got’dammit I’m going to finish them. This isn’t a New Year’s Resolution, i.e. not some big thing that just sets me up for failure. No, this is about going back to the grindstone, or back to the woodshed. It’s project management, really. So I’m going to be a little more public with my process, maybe throw in a stat or two now and then.

  • Longest Writing Chain This Week: 2 days
  • Short Story 01. I’ve been working on this since I rediscovered it in my backlog late last year, which technically makes it the first story I’m working on in 2019. Hence, “Short Story 01.” It suffers from the way my first drafts usually go: an interesting start, a few plot points along the way, but really unsure of where it needs to go.
  • Comic Script 01. Another thing I’ve been picking away at for the past few months. I’ve got a long-range outline, but it’s still just something I’m just getting down into a puke draft.

READING. I read a lot. Mostly, in a haphazard manner. It was a relatively light reading week. I pulled M. Rickert’s YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN HERE back out. I’ve read each of these stories before, except for “The Shipbuilder” which I just finished. Also, I’m picking through a flash fiction anthology, NEW MICRO which I happened to buy at a bookstore in Saratoga Springs where I once saw Mary read!

THERE’S A STORY IN HERE SOMEWHERE. Lots of people post a link roundup, but this link roundup will be of things that I feel might have a story in them (i.e. for me to eventually write) even if I have no idea what it might be, regardless of whether anything comes of it.

Not much of a roundup from the past week, but here’s something: I listened to the first episode of season three of the SERIAL podcast. I’m way late to this party, but this is one season taking a look at “A year inside a typical American courthouse” in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Or, as I know it, “The land of my birth.” According to what I’ve read, it’s not set in Cleveland because of the DOJ’s Consent Decree or anything like that. But “…because they let us record everywhere — courtrooms, back hallways, judges’ chambers, prosecutors’ offices.” They mean it, they recorded everywhere that wouldn’t be a violation of attorney/client privilege.

HOW I’M WORKING. I do tweak how I work. The thing is, I can be stubborn about clinging to old ways, but I’m trying to be better. So, whenever I have a thought or idea about my process and how it’s working or not working, I’m going to talk about it.

I talked about how I worked to move my writing workflow wholly into the Google ecosystem from Dropbox. Basically, using Keep and Docs allows me to use almost any device I own or have access to with internet access. It took a bit of thought to mimic my old workflow which was just about as software/OS agnostic as it could be. Using Google takes me a step away from that, but with a little bit of thought and some setting up, I’m probably as close to “ultraportable” as I can get. If I don’t feel like carting around my ThinkPad X1C, my 8.4″ tablet with a foldable Bluetooth keyboard will serve just fine. Either way, I generate content exactly as I always have–brainstorms, ideas, lists are spat out into Keep and get copied and pasted into something. It’s how I wrote the first couple of drafts of this entry.

Docs has its formatting limitations (it’s not MS Word or my tool of choice, LibreOffice Writer). For short stories or comic scripts, a little creativity is needed but I can produce almost the same MS-formatted output as I could with LibreOffice. There’s a rule of thumb about switching off Widow/Orphan protection, which I can’t seem to do with Docs. But given how a lot of venues accept submissions these days–some of whom don’t like MS format or want you submit as plain text, or whatever–it might not matter much. And when it does, I’ve still got LibreOffice.

My submission format of choice, right after Whatever the submissions editor wants, is straight-up MS format in an .rtf. I might need to do a little more tweaking, because exporting a Docs file into .rtf makes the headers look funny. I do not appear to have this problem when exporting to .docx or .odt files. Maybe my preference for .rtf files is something else I need to let go of. (I don’t necessarily have to though–converting a downloaded .odt file and converting to .rtf with LibreOffice seems to work. I told you I was stubborn.)

IN THE WILD. I’m fascinated by the ingenuity of local reuse stores. This reminds me that while I’m trying–again–to do things I’ve tried to do before, life still has to go on and there’s no reason not to make the best use of what you already have.

#Weeknotes S00 E03

Third week in a row, so I guess it’s a habit now! I’m wrapping up a year that I’d like to be done with now. Maybe not as badly as I wanted 2016 and 2017 done, but pretty close. Changes are afoot–I hope. Welcome to season 0, episode 3!

WORKFLOWS. This has been my third week modifying the way I use my personal devices to write and conduct my text- and tech-related business. Basically, Google Keep and Docs has allowed me to do my non-dayjob related stuff almost exclusively on my tablet while I’m moving on the fly. As light as my ThinkPad X1C is, my dayjob life flies too fast and leaves me so exhausted lately, enough to make it kind of useless to carry it around every second of every day. But for those moments where I, f’rinstance, have a little time while sitting in a cafe to to edit a draft or polish off a blog entry, this setup works just fine.

PROJECTS. Everything writing-related has stalled this week. No excuses but many reasons, including illness and exhaustion.

READING. I finished Cal Newport’s SO GOOD THEY CAN’T IGNORE YOU a month and some change ago, and have been reflecting on it in the context of changes I need to make in my writing life and, more urgently, my dayjob life. I’m about find out if I’ve accumulated enough career capital to start making those changes.

I got to M. Rickert’s story “True Crime” in Issue 72 of NIGHTMARE MAGAZINE. I’m too biased at this point to be objective about her work after all the years I’ve been reading it!

This article’s a year old but somehow came across my transom recently: “From Machen to VanderMeer: The Weird Landscape as the Avatar of Evil”. It’s a nice overview that includes Margaret St. Clair, one of those writers I (re-) discovered before it was cool. I became acquainted with her work about 7 or 8 years ago when I sought out and read some of the Weird short stories that were adapted into episodes of ROD SERLING’S NIGHT GALLERY, namely St. Clair’s “Brenda.” Of course, this led me to pull out my old copy of her best of anthology and re-read “Child of Void.”

WATCHING. I’ve lost track of the things I’ve been mindlessly watching, but as I play catch-up with Series 11 of DOCTOR WHO, I finally have some thoughts. But I’m deliberately taking my time letting those thoughts fully cook before I share them. Like every series since 2005, it has its strengths and weaknesses. I just want to make sure I’m making my comments are as unfiltered by any of my graying middle-aged cismale biases as much as possible.

Who else is watching Hasan Minhaj’s PATRIOT ACT on Netflix? The title sequence itself is worth the price of admission, just for the look that Minhaj has on his face at the end of it. I can relate, my brown brother. I can relate.

IN THE WILD. Somehow, the idea of trying to dress up some underdeveloped bushes with holiday lights during a dreary upstate New York winter resonates with me…