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Doomscrolling and doomsurfing are new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 without the ability to stop or step back.
These have been needed and welcome distractions but they’ve also been productive procrastinations from the big project I’ve been avoiding: The New Book.
I plan to spend the next 100 days chasing a first draft. I’m saying this out loud for accountability, so I’ll stick to it, and also because it means things might get a little quiet around here and on social media. (Or, a little choppier, a little more fragmented. More bits and bobs and snapshots. I don’t know yet. I’ve been reading Yoshida Kinkō’s Essays in Idleness, which may become an inspiration.)
As always, thanks for reading. I’ll still be sending out my weekly newsletter no matter what, so if you haven’t already, I encourage you to subscribe.
A bomb exploded in my neighborhood last night on a sidewalk I walk every morning with my wife and two sons. We’re all okay. The boys are oblivious, thankfully, but my wife and I are a little shook. I wanted to get down a couple thoughts:
1. Breaking news is not only borderline useless, it can be downright harmful in a crisis situation like this. Any useful, reliable information we got last night was from the official Twitter feeds of the Austin Police Department and Austin-Travis County EMS.
At one point, I watched a Facebook livestream by local news station KXAN, which was literally just a camera pointed at lights and sirens while a reporter asked witnesses for personal information offscreen. The people in the chat were sharing the phone numbers they heard, joking about calling the witness themselves to get the lowdown. Later, KXAN reported that the neighborhood was going to be evacuated, which was inaccurate and caused unnecessary alarm.
We’ve received text alerts and phone calls on our landline over the past 12+ hours to stay home indoors. Nothing other than those official alerts has been crucial for keeping our family calm or safe.
In the future, if I’m in a situation like this, I plan on making sure my crew is safe, then tuning into official sources until things calm down.
2. Our neighborhood NextDoor has proven to have all the good and bad features of any social media site. The main thread in which neighbors are sharing information was posted by a neighbor immediately after she went outside and was told to get back in the house because there was a bomb. Other threads have popped up, but the software gives you no way to combine threads, so things have gotten chaotic. Posts there have cycled between being helpful (“An FBI agent came to the door and told me…”) to selfish (“When can I leave for work?”) to alarmist (“My guns are loaded!”) to agenda-pushing (“It’s time to go back to a gated community!”) Regardless of the spirit in which they were posted, I’m not sure I could call any of the posts there absolutely essential, save for the official messages. Reading most of the posts, if anything, just made me more anxious and confused. It’s so tempting to seek out and share more information, but more information doesn’t necessarily help.
3. Nature doesn’t care. It’s such a beautiful day outside right now. The neighborhood is still officially locked down, so we missed our morning walk. I walked the perimeter of our house, checked our cars and every corner, and then we went into the backyard and my youngest and I sat in the hammock with the sun on our faces while my wife did a little gardening. The police chopper circled around and around, and at one point, the hawk that flies through the neighborhood seemed to chase it. Life goes on and we’ll go on.
Four years ago today I made my first newspaper blackout poem, and to celebrate the anniversary, I’m giving away a signed, limited-edition print of “Overheard On The Titanic,” hand silkscreened by my friend, painter and printmaker Curtis Miller:
There were only 18 of these babies made: one is hanging on the wall in my library, sixteen are in a flat file waiting to be sold in the distant future, and one could belong to you.
All you have to do is leave a nice comment below, or tweet with the hashtag #newspaperblackout some time in the next week before next Monday, Oct. 26th, Midnight CT. I’ll pick the winner at random.
The giveaway is now closed. Congrats to the winner, Matt Wilson, and thanks to everyone who entered! More contests to come.
Thanks so much to everyone for reading! Y’all rock.
Here’s the description:
Ever since Leonardo put pen to paper, visual note-taking has been a route to improve the quality of your thinking, make information more memorable, and make your ideas easier to share with others. Learn practical techniques and “tricks of the trade” from modern visual note-taking masters: how to write, sketch, and diagram ideas live, in real time, as you hear them.
The lineup isn’t finalized yet, but I’m hoping that Sunni Brown, Dave Gray, and Mike Rohde will all be able to sit on it. Read about our previous work together on the topic.
Thanks so much to everyone who voted!
In addition to staying up til 1AM getting these 20×200 prints going, I’m guest-blogging this week for one of my favorite blogs: Joe Sullivan’s The Book Design Review (@theBDR). I
‘ve made two posts so far I made three posts:
All of the posts got me thinking about how to best present books online and make it easy to spread them around the internet. It was really fun: Joe has some really smart readers, so be sure to check the comments.
I’ll update this post with links as I go along. Next up is the design of John Porcellino’s King-Cat mini-comics and its successful transition to the book collections.
PS. This is how my second post on the Blogger’s Kit began (with doodles, of course):
After a summer of promising y’all prints, I’m really happy to announce that Jen Bekman and the folks at 20×200 are releasing two editions of newspaper blackout poem prints next week on Tuesday, September 29th!
If you’re not familiar with 20×200, here’s the formula:
(limited editions x low prices) + the internet = art for everyone
Blackout poems for everyone! Prints as cheap as $20. Recession friendly. I hope y’all will buy one or two.
I’ll post images of the poems on Tuesday, but until then, you can subscribe to their really great mailing list to get advance notice of when they become available.
More on Tuesday!
A lot of good entries this month, but the winner was Erica Westcott of Virginia Beach, VA, for her poem, “Enigma.”
I love the restraint Erica showed in this poem and the top-heavy black space. Here’s what she had to say about the making of it:
I am a mild mannered histology technician by day, and in my spare time I enjoy skydiving, knitting, and reading. After stumbling across your blog and admiring all the blackout poems, I thought I’d try my hand at one. They looked pretty easy, something to pass my lunch hour at work: just pick out a few words and string them together somehow, sort of like refrigerator magnet poetry. Wrong! I struggled for several days before coming up with something that sounded and looked just right. (Rarely is the structural appearance of what I write as important as the words themselves.) The subject matter of the original newspaper article was an amusing distraction, too. I never imagined the travails of a hostess — who knew! — mixed with a snippet of a second article could all be pared down and curiously transformed into poetry at the end.
Congratulations, Erica, Sarah, Brandon, and Amy! Y’all will get your free books next September.
You can see all the winners of the contest in the Newspaper Blackout Poems Flickr Pool, and add your own to the mix!
A big thank-you to everyone who entered the four contests. Y’all were great.
Posting around here for the next month or so might be pretty slow, as I’m in the home stretch of finishing up the book manuscript. If you’re dying for more blackout action, check out this interview I did via e-mail with Mitch Knox, a journalism student from Australia, where we discuss the contest, the book, and Garfield Minus Garfield, amongst other things.
And stay tuned for fun stuff planned for January! I’m thinking about having an international contest, where y’all can send me whatever you want (as long as it’s in English and I can read it). I’ll pick a winner, or winners, and send them a signed copy out of my own personal stash. So keep practicing!
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