a few new things

I know things have been quiet around here lately — life has been eating me, you know how it goes. Here are a few of the things I've been working on:

I have a new gig as a freelance tech blogger for PCWorld's GeekTech blog! This has been a ton of fun so far. I get to write stories like "Self-Stirring Pot Makes Instant Ramen Even Easier" and "Moss-Covered Table Powers Clock, Might One Day Power Your Laptop"! And they pay me! How is this my life? (Also I accidentally a professional writer? Yeah, I wasn't expecting that either.)

I'm still writing code, albeit less intensively. I soft-launched 750books.com, the site I teased in my previous post, a couple months ago. It exists to take the export files from the 750 Words daily writing site that I've been using for a bit and turn them into a beautiful PDF suitable for printing at a place like Lulu or Amazon CreateSpace. (The backend script that does this is up on Github; the service that wraps it isn't yet. I'm still learning how we deploy webapps in the 21st century.)

I wrote some LARPs! If this weirds you out, think disaster preparedness simulations. If this makes you think of people running around in the woods with foam swords, that's not wrong, but everything I was writing and most of what I play is more people in classrooms and hotel function space and less combat-focused. I also ran a seminar for people who want to write LARPs with a friend (running again at MIT the weekend of July 13! you should come!) and am organizing Pre-Convention, a day and a half of panels, talks, and workshops, for Intercon next year (you should come! you should bid something! it'll be great!). (My hobby: project management.)

As was perhaps inevitable, a couple weeks ago I decided to combine all of the above and launched Northeast LARP News, a blog to aggregate LARP event announcements in the Northeast US. (Okay, the code angle is a little weak, because I got smart and hosted on Blogspot. Shush, you.) So if you have things you want me to post, please send them over (instructions are on the site); if there are places I should advertise, please let me know, here or there; and please add it to your RSS readers/e-mail/LJ/Twitter/whatever. Questions, comments, concerns, etc. welcomed.

And that's a big piece of what I'm up to lately. Things are pretty good!

deconstruction and metafiction

The head of the MIT program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, Thomas Levenson, has a masterful takedown of a recent op-ed by Emily Ruppel claiming that poetry classes at MIT have been cut for budget reasons. Short version: they're not, and in fact another professor, who's here on a two-year fellowship, has been brought on to teach one of the poetry classes offered. The Advanced Poetry Workshop, which Ms. Ruppel wanted to take, isn't being offered this year, but two other advanced-level poetry classes are. (It looks like this term's advanced-level poetry class is Digital Poetry with Ed Barrett[0], which almost makes me wish I was an undergrad again, but which apparently Emily Ruppel doesn't consider "the remedy for our dumbness".)

The point of me mentioning this, though, is — I really love that, at MIT, the head of the staid and respectable Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies will say things like:

As an aside: I was troubled by the implication in this opinion piece that writing for digital media is somehow as a category less valuable than more traditional forms of expression. It seems to me that the exploration of the artistic possibilities that emerge from technological innovation cuts right to the heart of the mission for a writing program at MIT.


Digital Poetry may not be everyone's cup of tea, I'll grant, but its offering is not tantamount to the death of the arts at MIT, either. The world feels a little topsy-turvy when the department chair understands this fact and at least one of his students seems unclear on it, but I like this topsy-turvy world, and I'm happy to live here!

If you'll excuse me for a moment: Oh, poor baby, MIT doesn't offer the class you want, so you have to take classes at Harvard. Which MIT will happily let you do, at no extra cost. My, your problems are first-world. My heart bleeds for you. I mean, Harvard. Really. Such a slight program in the arts, don't you think? Nobody else will give you the time of day for having gone through it.

And, to be serious for a moment, let's be clear — the classes you want to take sound like interesting classes to me. I'm not trying to perpetuate the stupid engineering-vs-the-arts thing, because, as classes like "Digital Poetry" show, it's not an all-or-nothing thing, and pure forms of either art or engineering are awesome too. Would it be great if MIT offered more traditional arts classes to go with Digital Poetry? Sure! Is Digital Poetry a travesty? Heck no.

So MIT's humanities department has a different focus than you'd like. Point the first, you're here for graduate school — did you not research this and realize this going in? This should not be coming as a surprise to you. It's pretty evident from the web site and everything, seeing as there are all those classes with "Digital" in the name at which you turn up your nose. Point the second, oh no, Harvard is your backup plan. How terrible.

Unrelatedly, I found Cat Valente on the joy of deconstruction and metafiction amusing — nothing people who eat and breathe this stuff will find groundbreaking, but a sentiment I agree with expressed in an engaging fashion.

In part:

As a post-postmodern grrl, I dig it when everyone knows they're in a constructed narrative–because solid portions of life exist in constructed narratives and it's a tangled, broken wheel of: we read and view narratives from earliest memory and those narratives reflect real life but we also construct our lives to fit the narratives we ingested before we understood them so life reflects narrative and it all goes around and around and we are always living some story or other.


[0]: Ed Barrett was awesome when I had him for Interactive and Non-Linear Fiction. Any current MIT students reading this: if you're looking for a mad writing-meets-technology class to take, Ed's are awesome.[1]
[1]: Saying this of course shows my true colors here, which I have not been attempting to hide. But, in case it wasn't obvious: I'm a big, sloppy fan of MIT's humanities programs, I concentrated in literature (as MIT understands it) as an undergrad, and it was awesome, and I learned a lot, and I wouldn't have it any other way.