A Boring Post About The Apps On My Phone

May 5th, 2013 | paper and process

Because, if you’re a regular reader, you know I’m shit at keeping track of things.  So this is one of those posts that’s mostly for my own benefit.  That I’m burying on a Saturday night.


I have Skype and WhatsApp.  Hilariously, almost nobody has my Skype and WhatsApp IDs.

The first two screens of my phone are always the most-used apps, and the apps I kind of feel like I should be using more.  If I’d shot this yesterday, Days would have been on there, but I tried that app today, and it didn’t seem to be in the mood to let me use it, so. 

Downcast is a pretty good podcast app.  A damn sight better than having to manage them through iTunes or Apple’s appalling Podcast app that I’ve railed about before.

You may, if you haven’t passed out already, have noticed there’s not a writing app in the first two screens.  There are a couple in the back screens.  But I don’t want a writing app staring at me on the phone, demanding I write something in it.  (The WordPress app, on the other hand, is there specifically to taunt me.  I am way out of practise with this blogging shit.)  The phone is, first and foremost, a thing that gathers information.  And I live on this goddamn phone.  I can and have written on it, using a foldaway Bluetooth keyboard, and it works fine.  But I find – and here is the proof, horribly, now I look at it –- that, as much as I talk about devices needing to be equipped as communication and creation tools, it’s become a consumption device.

Which is kind of an interesting thing that I didn’t realise until I put this up here.

EDC: What I Carry Every Day

April 27th, 2013 | paper and process

This is a Maxpedition Mini EDC Pocket Organiser.  It fits neatly in my coat pocket.  I’ve always been one of those people who just stuffs their coat pockets with the stuff they might need thirty seconds before I head out of the door.  This means, in practise, that I either overstuff said pockets or that I can’t find one thing I need to stick in there.  Obviously, the older and more senile I get, the more this will become one of those idiot problems that wastes more time and mental energy than it should.  I’m going to need that mental energy for things like remembering where I live.  Also, if I’m just shooting into London for something, I like to avoid carrying a bag if I can.  Not least because a bag tempts me to carry more stuff than I need, “just in case.”

(I like Maxpedition bags.  I also have the Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack Shoulder Bag for overnight travel and, for travelling more than one night, the slightly absurdly named Maxpedition Aggressor Attache Tactical Briefcase.  They’re strong, clever and compact bags that take a beating.)

So I have this.  I don’t like the colour, but it was the only one in stock that week.  Doesn’t matter.  It’s not like anyone will see it, because it lives in my coat.  For scale, the black Field Notes notebook on the far right is five inches tall.  That’s a Pilot Frixion pen next to it: they’re erasable pens, and are nice to write with.

The shiny thing reflecting my iPhone 4S (which is always at hand) is an Anker Astro2 battery pack, which will charge the phone and everything else in the pack.  At left of that is my Sony mp3 player, which has been running strong since, what, 2009?  I choose mp3 players very carefully.  It’s the NWZX-1060, 32GB.  Monster Turbine earbuds.

The thing with the white blob above the mp3 player is, if you’re my daughter, my “douchebag ear-thing,” otherwise known as a Bose bluetooth earpiece.  Which mostly gets used to listen to spoken-word podcasts while I’m on the move, and to allow me to take long phone calls from my agents while drinking and smoking heavily.  Not that they cause me to drink and smoke heavily.  Often.  (They are the only people who ever phone me.)

Never, ever, ever be without a notebook and something to write with.  Phones are great for lots of things, but nothing beats paper and pen for complex thoughts, notes and sketches.  I wrote an entire issue of PLANETARY in a notebook on a long three-leg train journey once.  The phone is for everything else, and the mp3 player is for when everything else needs to go away.

Faintly ridiculous, all lined up like this, isn’t it?  There’s a tiny little penknife that also goes in there, but it’s, um, currently missing.  (See?)  Thing is, the business of writing doesn’t stop just because I’m travelling.  So this simple little bag stays in my coat.  For me, this is actually streamlined.

Cities As Very Slow Time Machines

April 25th, 2013 | paper and process, thinking

Was going through an old notebook, and found these notes for a talk I did at the AA – the first Thrilling Wonder Stories event, I guess.  See if you can decipher my handwriting while I attempt to write a new story for Thrilling Wonder Stories’ organiser Liam Young, as an element of the ongoing Under Tomorrow’s Sky project to imagine new iterations of the city.  You can learn more about Under Tomorrow’s Sky here, where there are lots of pictures and videos.

Notes On The Future Of The City/The City Of The Future

July 2nd, 2012 | notebook, paper and process, researchmaterial

Copying these from the notebook before I lose it.  I want to come back to a bunch of these: one of them led to a long Twitter conversation between Deb Chachra, Eleanor Saitta and myself that I need to return to soon.  So, anyway.  Jottings for the outboard memory.

Notes I worked from:

What is the legal status of the weather?

*  Are we in fact tending to imagine a city-state?  A city that borders on a closed and self-sufficient (resilient) energy state?  Singapore rather than Brussels?

*  Sonic architecture – footfall energy harvest – road energy harvest

*  Repurposed ambient urban drones

*  The ethics of machine reportage

*  The lessons of archaeo-acoustics – can cities be designed for sound?

*  acoustic mirrors in architecture

*  Buildings that breathe

Notes from things Simon, Rachel and Bruce said:

*  Futurism as radical reductionism

*  Capital as simplification – human life happens in the friction

*  To be an ecological human means understanding our bacterial nature

*  Dematerialised Urbanism

*  Predator Lidar

*  Cities as habitats that domesticate the human

*  Architecture forces solutions on materials

*  It costs $1000 to grow three inches’ worth of tissue culture


[top image cropped from a bad iPhone shot of one of Rachel’s slides]

What A Comics Script Is For

January 16th, 2012 | paper and process

This may seem obvious, but give me a minute. I think it’s often misunderstood.

A script is a set of instructions to the artist(s), letterer, editor, colourist if applicable, and designer if applicable. This set of instructions is intended to present the mechanics of your story with the greatest possible clarity. Adhering to a precise format, as in screenwriting, is not necessary. Presenting a script whose operation is clear to everybody is the requirement.

This set of instructions must surround your story to the extent that you feel necessary and comfortable. Some writers produce reams of panel description because they require fine control of the artist, letterer and colourist to meet their vision of the story. Some writers boil their description down to a telegram because they require only that the most basic requirements of the panel be met in order to achieve their goals.

Both methods, however, and everything in between, are about manipulation of the artist. That sounds grim, doesn’t it?

Even if you and the artist have previously agreed on content and scenes and set-pieces, clear and specific notation of the mechanics of the comic is down to you. You are telling the artist what to do. The trick is to get the artist to like it.

When you’re starting out, you may well find yourself writing “blind”: not knowing who the artist will be. This is why people like Alan Moore evolved that hyper-descriptive style — so he could get the end result he was looking for regardless of who was drawing it. You may prefer to do that. I would prefer that you took some art classes, and talk to some illustrators (this may involve sign language and grunting sounds).  Investigate art, even if your drawing hand, like mine, behaves more like a flipper. Understanding what is joyful about illustration is important. It’s important to create a thing that will delight an artist. (And even a letterer, although that’s going to be harder as many of them have the demeanour of a demented gravedigger.)

You are, in many ways, writing a love letter intended to woo the artist into giving their best possible work to the job. A bored or unengaged artist will show up on the page like a fibrous stool in the toilet bowl, and that’s not their fault — it’s yours.

(Unless the artist is crazy. Which they all are. But you take my point, yes?)