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Fiction in a Flash at SmokeLong

A piece of Flash Fiction from some of my talented colleagues debuted yesterday on SmokeLong, a weekly and quarterly Flash Fiction anthology.

Stephen Gardner’s The Booking of La Gianconda is a noir-ish snapshot from a 1936 jail-house that could easily fit into the fictional universe of Chicago. It’s accompanied by an illustration by Throwaway Horse founding partner Josh Levitas.

Illustration by Josh Levitas - visit for the full version and accompanying fiction.

Here’s about 5% of the the total tale:

“Hey, Glass Eye,” Walters called over to me as I fiddled with the Kodak slide film. At the name, I gritted my teeth hard enough to chip an incisor. Walters never let me forget the war wound. Like I said I’m a camera guy when I’m not riding a bucket and a mop, not even a cop.

(Visit SmokeLong for the full story!)

Flash Fiction doesn’t have a formal definition, but it’s about brevity and efficiency. SmokeLong’s limit is 1,000 words. While other outlets have much shorter word-count requirements, the common element is that good FF should consist of lithe, streamlined language that puts every word to good use.

I asked Josh if his accompanying flash illustration included any self-imposed restrictions: his finished picture was done in a single sitting with limited tweaks or digital post-production – all completed in less than an hour! It’s worth viewing the larger version at SmokeLong to see some detail that’s lost at the smaller size.

Kudos to Stephen and Josh for being featured, and for their evocative 1,000 words and single-hour image!

breaking the painful cycle

I have mentioned my dermatological struggles in the past on the blog. While the potential disintegration of my epidermis seems to have been staved off at the moment, my skin-care needs are (ridiculously) one of the major worrying factors about my health care and costs.

Yesterday, one of my favorite Twitter friend, @JerseyShoreJen, mentioned she had booked another media appearance from her recent EdOp on Eczema. Being a fellow lifelong battler of it and its fiendish cohorts, I congratulated her and asked her to share her article from the NYT Health Section – “The Painful Cycle of Eczema.”

In the bathroom, I try not to dwell too long at the sight of myself in the mirror before patting my skin dry and slathering it with lotion. I wrap bandages over the raw and weeping patches in the crooks of my elbows — a stopgap, really, since the bandages will soak through in several hours. I take Benadryl to calm the itching, and ibuprofen to temper the swelling and pain, before heading to meetings in an antihistamine haze. I hope no one stares, but they do.

I wore long sleeves and pants to school, even on the hottest, most humid days. … When I passed through puberty and still had outbreaks, I viewed my eczema as a character flaw, something I brought on myself for not being perfect.

After I read her story, Jen and I got into rapid-fire exchange on Twitter, gushing over our challenges and successes with our conditions. Though my collection of problems do not manifest as violently as Jen’s, I see so much of myself in her story. I never once wore pants to gym. I’ve ruined pillowcases and sheets when my medications have bleached out their color. When I have an outbreak I worry that people will stare and judge in meetings.

There’s not an immediate happy ending here – Jen and I are both continuing our respective struggles and our treatments. However, the silver lining is the connection that Jen created, and the relief I felt in talking to someone who relates to what I’m going through.

Jen writes at Down The Shore With Jen.

Remainders, 11/10 Edition

Things my network of friends and blogs shared that made me think twice, at least.

Shared by James Gunn on FB.

(via @brimil. See the end of the post for the finished product. I think this is cooler, personally.)

The INFMETRY DIY Romantic Star Projector

I am totally buying this star projector as Arcati Crisis’s first official stage lighting equipment. Bonus points if I can figure out how to turn it on from my pedal board (via NotCot).

Seth Godin posted the only job interview questions that matter. Seth’s is a “every post is amazing” sort of blog.

An efficient post on how beginners and experts are the same. (via Karl Martino)

A solid and realistic plan for an indie, DIY band to begin promoting themselves via social media. A lot of familiar conversations and steps portrayed here. From How to Run a Band,  fantastic blog.

A brilliant kerning game made its way around our office recently; Kottke posted its sequel – a letter shaping game that simulates typed design.  Also via Kottke, we totally had this 1970s Chevy Nova  when I was a kid. Maybe this is why I am so obsessed with speedometers.

Shared by the artist, Leon Keer, I think it was cooler when they were invisible soldiers.

I thought The three biggest myths about women in tech was an interesting read, partially from a feminist perspective, but also because I have been alerted as recently as today that I rely too much on non-existent meritocracies to promote me and my creative work. (via

 The handy “Is It Old?” website helps you keep up a supply of freshly caught links by sussing out the dusty ones. I plugged in this week’s popular and it informed me: “Reall old. How did you miss this? DO NOT SEND. It has been tweeted 1981 times already, and the first time was 4 days ago.” (Via Meg’s Tumblr)

Monday Morning Remainders

I performed with Filmstar for the first time on Saturday, but you have to wait a day or two to hear about the results and if I’m still feeling conflicted about playing with the band.

First, here are your Monday Morning Remainders – eight blogs I’ve enjoyed or tweets I’ve flagged.

1. Philly (and the internet at large) got up in arms last week about a so-called “Philly Blogger Tax,” which was really just the city’s business privilege license being applied to Bloggers. My virtual friend JoeBeta sussed out a sensible explanation and critique of the policy, from Technically Philly co-founder Sean Blanda.

It’s certainly a horrible waste of resources to pursue blogs with revenue in the hundreds when some companies and individuals owe the city millions in back taxes, forcing the city to do things like offer a tax amnesty to the dead beats.

2. Rocking local blog Phrequency had a flash concert for TJ Kong on the freaking Broad Street Subway. I love TJ Kong and my old promo shots were from the Walnut Street station, so in my opinion this is approximately the best thing ever.

Do not hold your breath waiting for me to do one on the El, though.

3. A Vancouver realtor’s Facebok page gained over 4,000 fans in 12 days. Crazy pyramid scheme for iPads? Nope – good old fashioned content that people give a shit about. (via @morganb.)

4. I’ll just repeat what Torrez said:

Imagesoak is a fantastic application for finding things to read and look at based on the interesting photos and images that accompany them. Nevermind what I just said, just go there.

5. Matthew Leone, bass player for the Chicago based band Madina Lake, sustained life-threatening injuries while trying to defend a stranger from brutal domestic abuse. Sweet Relief, a fund that supports musicians in times of illness, is raising funds to pay for his treatment and rehabilitation. Matthew’s band member and brother has been blogging through the ordeal.

6. Leslie Hunt was one of my favorite recent American Idol Semi-Finalists – she had a real identity and real taste in music, but was quickly kicked to the curb for her quirk. blogs a video from her new project, District 97

7. Amanda Palmer’s life is so serendipitous. On break from her hectic schedule, she sees a random trio of teens whose photo she feels compelled to take. Almost after she’s gone, one realizes who she is, and catches her to tell her that he’s a big fan. One thing leads to another, and suddenly he’s playing a concert to thousands of internet viewers from her apartment.

8. Amanda’s fiancé is super-famous comic, fiction, and film writer Neil Gaiman. Neil has been in a legal struggle with Todd McFarlane since 2002 regarding unpayed royalties on creator-owned characters he developed for McFarlane’s Spawn. Neil blogs part of the judge’s new decision, which contains delicious text like:

Much as defendant tries to distinguish the two knight Hellspawn, he never explains why, of all the universe of possible Hellspawn incarnations, he introduced two knights from the same century. Not only does this break the Hellspawn “rule” that Malebolgia never returns a Hellspawns to Earth more than once every 400 years (or possibly every 100 years, as suggested in Spawn, No. 9, exh. #1, at 4)…

I hope your Monday is going well. More news (and video) on my weekend as a Filmstar coming up!

Monday Morning Remainders

A collection of some of the links that have captured my attention in the last few weeks:


Breaking yesterday, The Guardian reports an unprecedented leak of US military documents on the war in Afghanistan – 92,201 internal records from January 2004 and December 2009 exposing “hundreds of abuses.” You can see for yourself on


ReadWriteWeb goes behind the scenes of the recent viral Old Spice videos. You can force something to go viral but, as the article shows, you can certainly plan to make your content sticky (see also: Tipping Point).


This is actually from two months ago, but it continues to capture my attention: Caitlin Moran may have penned my new favorite piece of rock journalism, “Come Party with Lady Gaga,” in The Guardian.

(My old fav was a Courtney Love article in RS where she gives herself accupuncture, but my Google-Fu is failing me at the moment. Speaking of Ms. Love, ExploreMusic conducts a multi-part interview with a sharp-tongued Courtney, who sounds more coherent than she has in years.)


(Man, I guess I need to subscribe to The Guardian, eh?)


I delight in seeing @SmallBizLady Melinda Emerson speak – her mission in life is to make sure no small business ever fails again. I’ve never visited her blog before, but it dispenses great advice like How to Turn a Hobby Into a Small Business and 7 Questions Hobbyists Should Consider When Starting a Small Business. Something to consider if you’ve contemplated turning your fun into freelance.


Tynt is a small piece of script that helps you track who is copying and pasting text from your blog.


IP addresses are 340 days from running dry, because governing protocal IPv4’s four billion unique IPs are about to run dry. We’ll be rationing IPs unless the entire industry adopts IPv6, and that includes both ISPs and hardware/software manufacturers. A great quote about IPV4:

It seemed to be a reasonable attempt at providing enough addresses, bearing in mind that at that point personal computers didn’t really exist. The idea that mobile phones might want an IP address hadn’t occurred to anybody because mobile phones hadn’t been invented [and] the idea that airconditioners and refrigerators might want them was utterly ludicrous.


A disturbing collection of images from the BP spill zone – more photos like these need to find their way to the public to keep the outrage and support alive. (this and the IPv4 article via @valerieeev)


Audobon Magazine goes behind the scenes to explain how many nature photos are staged. (via @themartorana)


The elephant in the middle of the Glee club is a glance at the hidden copyright issues behind the fiction of Glee. The article goes a bit over-the-top – plenty of college acappella groups do mashups with few legal reprecussions.  (via @Level3Media)

Wednesday Morning Remainders

I could write a post about each of these links, but in ten years would that be interesting to read? Maybe they need the context of each other to create a narrative beyond their end destinations.

Here we go.


1. Ever fantasized about being a globe-trotting musician headlining your own tour? Amanda Palmer does just that, and her no-holds-barred look at managing the business of her music while on tour via email will either thrill or terrify you.

2. On the way back from our aborted-by-clouds skydiving attempt Wes played a hilarious NPR show/podcast called Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, an hour-long quiz show that’s part Daily Show part Whose Line Is It Anyway. As I’ve recently mentioned, I can be a humorless curmudgeon, but the show’s mix of news, puns, and grammatical humor struck a chord with me. Derek Powazek discusses how the Wait, Wait formula is crowd-sourcing done right.

3. Skydiving was my present to Wes for graduating from Temple Law. HuffPost interviewed Nikki Johnson-Huston, who went from homeless to college-dropout to award-winning graduate of Temple Law. (via JoeBeta)

4. My friend and fellow sky-diving companion Chris is the glassblowing apprentice at Old City’s Hudson Beach Glass, where they are having a design-your-own-pint-glasses special through this Sunday to commemorate Philly Beer Week. I’ve been remiss in not dropping by for one of their open-studio days – an issue to be amended soon. (via UWishUNu)

5. Reminiscent of my blog-buddy Unsolicited Analysis, You Are Not So Smart tackles common misconceptions with detailed take-downs. Their recent “Misinformation Effect” addresses a recurring theme of CK, the persistence and reliability of memory. (via Kottke; on a related note, see his post on “mesofacts”)

6. Also in the UnAnal vein, Flowing Data blogs data visualizations, like heat-mapping tourist routes based on the volume of photographs by location.

7. Are you a worry-wart about things like burglaries, shark attacks, and plane crashes? Meg’s Tumblr provides a handy graphic to divert your fears to identity thefts, dog bites, and automobile accidents. The greater, more probable danger is often in plainer sight than the more fearsome, relatively exotic danger.

8. Do you wield your iPhone or iPad outdoors and while mosquitoes enjoy your pale, savory flesh? Grab an anti-mosquito iApp that broadcasts high frequency noise that’s a total buzz-kill for the pests. (via MightyGirl)

9. Speaking of iPad, imagine if every seat at your longest meeting had one. Seth Godin did just that. Would meetings really become more efficient? Seems like it would apply favorably to political processes as well (and I know some congressional or parliamentary bodies use a similar system).

10. Last month Danny Brown presented a post of his 17 top WordPress plugins, many of which I’ve added to CK in the intervening weeks. Now that I see them in action, it turns out they’re as ubiquitous as they are ingenious, and thanks to them my quality of blogging-life has greatly increased – thanks Danny! I’ll add the suggestion ofAfter the Deadline – a proofreading plugin for both WP and your favorite browser.

11. Design blog NotCot presents a detailed look at the farcical Pre-Handshake Handshake Device from artist Dominc Wilcox. I need Dominic to design a body-suit in a similar style for me to wear on the El…

12. … and/or, when I am all hot post-hypothetical-triathlon, I can buying some Matrix-style gear from Ego-Assassin. (via Warren Ellis; I’ve been reading his Planetary)


Wow, they really did end up as a narrative … for me, anyway.

Why I #blamedrewscancer, pt. 4

(This is the last part of my story. You should read Parts 1, 2, and 3.)

It is a Saturday afternoon, and I am staring out into pure blue, 14,000 feet above the ground, through the open hatch in the side of our tiny plane.

On the ground my partner ran through it with me. Twice. Duckwalk to door. Head leaned back on shouder. One two three go. Or is it one two go-on-three? Tip back and forward, arch your body. Arms out. Keep your mouth closed if you feel like you can’t breathe.


Staring out the open side of the plane, his instructions dissolve. Did it matter how I arched my back? Niceties, to placate a nervous jumper.

No matter what, we would fall – flying downward, into the embrace of gravity.




Here is #blamedrewscancer, as it’s root: we are talking about cancer.

Yes, it is inane. Yes, it is about Drew – for now. The point is, Drew gave us that – he gave us his struggle to make as silly or as serious as we need it to be.

Drew doesn’t really care if we say his name or what we blame. He just cares that we are talking about cancer. He wants to harness that conversation to raise awareness, hope, and donations. He wants to bring cancer into our daily dialog so we can work together to erase it rather than willfully ignore it until it touches our lives.

His plan is working. People are talking to Drew about his chemo treatments. I am talking to my friends about my grandmother. My co-workers are talking to each other about someone we lost, and how we can honor the fight that she won.

Blaming Drew’s cancer is inspiring us to live stronger, to be frank and hopeful about fighting cancer, and to show the love and support we may be feeling but afraid to say.

Inspiring us to win our battles.

Inspiring us to leap out of planes.


I have dreamt for years that I can fly, so much that I halfway believe it. It’s not an occasional foray – I can fly in every one. The rush of air past my ears and my body, weightless and free. The feeling is familiar, tucked safely under my skin.

I’ve tried to capture it outside of my dreams on playground swings and amusement park rides. I’ve looked down from trade centers, massive arches, and wrought-iron towers. I’ve ridden on airplanes and have been towed behind a boat, limbs caught up in the wind.

The closest I’ve ever come was riding my bike. It was October 12, 1998, and I was three blocks north of here in Jefferson Square park. Biking home from Anastasia’s house, I sped up until the pedals offered no more resistance. Closed my eyes and held out my arms. It only lasted for a second, but that was my first waking flight – a feeling I already knew intimately.

On my list of five things to do before I die, “fly” was first. Fly for more than those fleeting seconds of eleven years ago. Fly like my dreams.

When Drew and Chris asked if I wanted to skydive with the team, it seemed insane. I met these people online. On Twitter. Was I really going to live my dream with a bunch of strangers from the internet?

It was not insane. It was kismet. It was Drew’s whole point. Live Strong. You want to fly? What’s stopping you? Jump out of a damned plane. You want to be a singer? Don’t make an excuse. Use your voice with confidence.

You want to beat cancer? Blame it and battle it and beat the hell out of it every day with all of the power and positive energy you can muster from yourself and from everyone you’ve ever met until you defeat it.

You have cancer, but cancer does not have you.



FreefallingWe lean back and pitch forward, falling from plane. I arch. For a second it feels like nothing – the velocity of our bodies moving at the speed of the plane and the pull of gravity countermanding each other

Then, acceleration. Real flight, but towards the ground instead of up, up, and away like Superman or Neo.

In my mind I shrug off the man strapped to my back and the photographer waving in my face – unconsciously throwing him rock signs as he gestures towards his camera.

It is what I know beneath my skin, and more. There is no plane above or ground below. There is the rush of air past my ears and my body, weightless and free. There is limitless blue in every direction – I can’t see the ground. Gravity is for the weak-willed and falling is flying, hurtling, easy like love.

Wind blasts my limbs, buffeting my torso like a cascade of water. I feel strangely supported by the air, as if I could stand delicately on it, like snow.

That lasts for about a minute, or for the eternity of every dream I’ve ever had, depending on how I measure.

A whisper in my ear isn’t the wind, it’s my partner, long-since forgotten. I cross my arms, clenching my harness in my fists, and he pulls the cord. The parachute rides up above us, catching the wind. The harness bucks hard, and gravity is countermanded again. My stomach suspends itself.

This is a different kind of flying. Floating, perfectly controlled. Now I see the ground, and it is minuscule below us. Philadelphia rises in the distance, and i feel like we could just tip forward and head that way.

BDC Skydiving I break the silence.

“I should tell you something.”


We are having a conversation, circa 7,000 feet.

“I dream that I can fly. Not just some of the time. Like, every dream. It’s just something I can do.”


“Yeah. And it’s just like this.”

We hang in the restored silence, falling slowly. As the ground becomes nearer I scream my trademark soprano wail and listen as it fades away with nothing to reflect against.

Eventually there is a field and a landing strip, and we have a shadow, and it grows larger and larger until our bodies meet it, wrapped once again in gravity’s close embrace and a puddle of mud.


Tonight at midnight Drew’s Blame-a-Thon begins – the reason I wound up sitting across the table from him at an Applebee’s two months ago.

In two months I have seen people and businesses do amazing things to encourage Drew and to support LiveStrong, all culminating in tomorrow’s event.

It’s about awareness and fundraising, but to me it feels halfway like faith-healing. Like, maybe if we all focus we can blame the cancer away.

Probably not. Not in one day, at least. But blaming cancer can change lives. It’s a chance to reassign the pain and bullshit in your life to something that really deserves it so you can stop making excuses and just live strong.

Blame cancer and change your life. Blame cancer and change someone else’s.

I blame Drew’s cancer for any second that I’m not living my ideal life as a stronger, faster, fiercer me.

And I am thankful for every moment that I am.

Monday Evening Remainders

My ass was firmly planted on the lazy-train this weekend. I watched a lot of movies and listened to a lot of music in my collection that I’ve been inexplicably neglecting (notably Andrew Bird; how in god’s name did I ignore that one?).

Anywho, all of which is to say that I wasn’t ready with links this morning. Boo-freaking-hoo.

Graphic Design Blog‘s list of 45 Creative Blog Designs will make your head spin (although I note that a lot of those huge headers would push the content below the fold on my laptop). Moradito, Kulturbanause, and Matt Bernstein are favs.

A look at the present realm of reader revenue from the charmingly named “Newspaper Deathwatch.”(via @journalistics)

I wouldn’t have assumed my journalism degree would be obsolete quite so soon. At least I’ll always have my hard-won college lap dancing skills to fall back on.

(Don’t knock them, that’s what convinced E to marry me.)

I really enjoyed this list of web ways to learn through play, via Philly blogger Akkam’s Razor.

Here’s a list of the top 42 “Content Marketing” blogs. It’s not definitive by any means, as exemplified by alternate sources provided in the comments – notably, the Ad Age 150 and AllTop’s Content Marketing Page. (via @ritubpant)

The echo chamber of marketing blogs can make me a little nauseous when they’re all trying to reinvent writing with every post when posts are barely 500 words long. I chatted a little more about what I refer to as the “epiphany epidemic” in a comment on Danny Brown’s post “Why Mediocre Blogging Can Still Be Great.”

For posts that go beyond sound-bite to actually make you think, check out the killer “What Twitter & Facebook Can Learn from Phish at Mashable, a social media workflow at the consistently smart P Morgan Brown, performing a social media audit from regular read Overcommunicated, and the two-part The Future of Influence post at Colorado Business Mag. (PMorgan via @kimwood; CBM via @TobyDiva/@ThomasFrey)

Want to break out of the echo chamber? PodCamp Philly is an unconference on social and emerging media, or, in their words, “for anyone interested in podcasting, blogging, video-casting and social media.” Which, um, hello, that’s me. Everyone I’ve ever spoken to who has attended has amazing things to say about it. It’s on October 3 and 4 for just $20.

I think that’s enough remainding for the time being. I’m off to a #blamedrewscancer meeting in NoLib.

Tuesday Morning Tech Links

I flag a lot of techie links, as if I’m going to go and use 39 how-tos or 87 productivity tools right there on the spot. That’s not how it works. You tuck that information away for when you need to look back on it. And a scattering of bookmarks across my five different computers is not a good tucking method.

Hell, even cloud bookmarking doesn’t really do it – for me a bookmark is for a page (in a book or on the web) I know I will come back to at a specific time. This sort of thing is more open-ended.

Luckily, I have the ultimate in permanent memory technology – a nearly decade-old blog.

Elise has been doing a lot of CSS work lately, which is an area of web design where I’ve fallen behind. Thus, I love this Getting Started with CSS guide, which is packed with 20 starter tools. (via @mayhemstudios)

Handy list of the 22 most useful free apps for your PC. At the beginning I was like – um, duh – but as it continues it will surely slip you a surprise or two. (via @robangeles)

In a similar vein, 30 open source apps for web designers is a litany of code- and image- editors and FTP apps that I’ve never even heard of before. (via @bkmacdaddy)

I sometimes have a blank moment where I’m futzing with my server can’t remember exactly what I’m supposed to be doing with my .htaccess file, and the next time I have that moment I’m going to re-read 16 Useful htaccess tricks.

If you are several dozen levels of “Internets Wizard” higher than that, perhaps you’d be intrigued by the Ultimate Round-Up of Fireworks Tutorials. I have Fireworks now, but what I haven’t had is time to level up my skills in it.

If you or someone you know is still Twitter-averse or a Twitter-virgin, they should refer to the mammoth Ultimate Guide for Everything Twitter, which covers just about any question you could conceive of. (via @Sharonhayes)

Alternately, for the power-user, how about a guide to how to use twitter when you follow several-thousand people? Around 300 I felt hopelessly lost, and started searching for an external app to sort people into groups. This article takes a more organic approach. (via @danavan)

Finally, not really a tech link, but it appeals to this same crowd: What to include in your design contracts.

Monday Morning Remainders

Some links I’ve been meaning to share for a while that don’t quite merit their own posts, but work well traveling as a pack.

Last week Ad Age ran a great article on Social Media taking cues from indie music. They highlight four artists taking the lead in connecting to their fans on the web, and the #1 example is my personal fav Amanda Palmer, about whom they gush, “[She is] more sophisticated than almost anyone on the internet — musician, brand or otherwise — when it comes to gathering her audience around her and keeping the conversation going.”

In a not-dissimilar topic, NYT ran an article highlighting how bands are increasingly eschewing labels in favor of self-releasing or seeking alternate funding. Fluffy on content, but features Metric, whose self-released Fantasies is killer. Metric is my Garbage replacement while Shirl and the boys chill out. Metric’s manager just detailed the funding behind the record in an open letter; dense, but a fascinating peek into the Canandian indie industry.

Nerd Boyfriend is a photo blog that posts modern and vintage photos of well-dressed nerds you’d probably like to date, and offers suggestions of how to match their look. Their Scott Walker post is one of my recent favorites, both for fashion and photography.

How to decide if you have a good job” is a fantastic post about start-ups, stress, and loving your life. It also give a bit of background inside into, a novel start-up that regularly delivers all of your household necessities to your home at a discount over big box stores.

On the flipside, big box corporations are co-opting the “buy local” movement, the same way they’ve all undertaken “green-washing” their businesses. Disappointing on the surface, but there is certain a local element to chains with e-tailing encouraging people to continue to hit their brick and mortar locations or customizing their sales to a regional audience. Neither are bad things.

Um, the melting arctic has released a torrent of “biological goo” on the Alaskan coast and we are not alarmed why? Sounds like the beginning of a terrifying episode of X-Files to me. (via Cecily of Uppercase Woman).

September is a month dedicated to raising awareness of cancer in children. I’ll be busy planning Blame-a-Thon, followed by my corporate charity campaign. If your month isn’t so insane, you could host your own Alex’s Lemonade stand. If you don’t know much about Alex’s history, check out how Alex’s little stand can teach big marketing lessons.

That should be enough to keep you occupied on your lunch break.