Today in Music.

In which I attempt to play the intro to Thunder Road on Harmonica (I do not yet play the harmonica), do a poor, shrill, and off-key impression of Bruce Springsteen, and snuggle quietly with the dog.
(Also, at the end, the song ends rather abrup

Notes to readers:

  • If you have a harmonica in the key of F, play along.

Notes to self:

  • Yes, I always knew I was going to be famous.
  • Yes, I posted these in part to inoculate myself against public mockery and to get comfortable with being emotionally authentic in public.

Jaywalking & You: A Guide

This is not a guide to jaywalking. It’s a humorous story; I lied.

Now that I’ve got your attention, please enjoy this anecdote. ‘Twas written by a dear friend of mine, Archibald Smittens*, who is a real person** who actually exists***.

*: Not his real name.

**: Not true.

***: Censors have attempted to verify this for years. None have, as yet, returned alive.

[Your Humble Editor also feels obligated to preface by saying that the low-fat version of cream cheese DOES NOT taste the same. He does not wish to spread such malicious lies. Anyway, without further ado…]

3 Perspectives on Jaywalking

Perspective 1:

The red hand. Just great.

9:27—three minutes left. The coffee shop’s only what? three, four blocks away? I can still make it…

The woman next to me just quickly skimmed the empty road and then jaywalked. More like a leisurely jay-stroll. What’s she thinking? Back home, no one would ever do that. Ma would’ve killed me. It was either jaysprint or jaysplat.

Still no cars, and that red hand’s still there.

Well, maybe it is time for a jaysprint.

But I’m in a suit; that’d look weird…right?

Middle-aged guy checks his watch, gulps down a half-chewed bite of bagel, and then rushes across the street. Didn’t even look both ways. Actually looked kinda cool doing it.

Well, until he dropped the bagel.

Maybe I should bolt across too. Like one of those guys from the movies.

Oof, curbside puddle. Just great.

Ah a dry patch. Perfect.

Wait.

Who am I kidding. I can’t.

My foot returns to the curb, defeated.

The empty road stares back.

Maybe… Just maybe…

My foot lifts off again.

Maybe just this once…

And the red hand turns into the white man.

Oh well. Right. Left. Empty road.

At least, Ma’d be proud.

Perspective 2:

Damn good bagel today. Think I’m gonna stick with this low fat stuff. Tastes pretty much the same as the regular cream cheese.

Countdown stops. But that stupid hand’s still there.

Chunks getting stuck in my teeth? Gotta check before I walk in the office.

Oh wow, now dumbass over here walks across the intersection. No hesitation. No urgency either. The hell’s wrong with her?

No cars out there, but seriously, lady? Can’t wait like two goddamn seconds for this light?

What’s the deal huh? Late or something? What’s the time anyways?

It’s only 9:28. Really? C’mon lady?

9:28!

Shit! Move people, move!

Yeesh. Took ya long enou—

Shit! No time to pick it up.

Perspective 3:

Red.

Right. Left. No cars.

Let’s go.

I’ve always wanted to be Ellen. (A Crowdsourced Poem.)

Poems should have hyperlinks. This poem does.

Poems should give their readers commenting access.

This poem does.

Go. Read. Comment. Be merry.

Get in on the ground floor

because baby, we changin’ literature.

#Digitalism. <-Our new literary movement.

A Step-By-Step Description of How I Edit for Flow

One of my clients was impressed by an edit. We then shared this delightful exchange:

Them: `How did you edit this section to make the article flow better?` 

Me: `I can use any information to prove any point.` 

Them: `That’s scary.` 

Me: `I know. That’s why I don’t work for Philip Morris.`

I then described my process. Here’s that walk-through:

You expressed curiosity about how how I solved the “disjointed” problem. I mused on my approach a bit and can better articulate it in writing here. It’s somewhat of an engineering approach… I think… (I have never done engineering outside of that one time I built a shelf):

  1. What are our aims? What are our problems?
    1. The two sections feel disjointed. We want them to feel connected smoothly.
    2. The comment _______ made has interesting info–let’s find a way to include it. 
  2. Implicit step: What are our requirements? What are our constraints?
    1. We’re constrained by our medium, so “published on the web” (Writing, web formatting (especially headings & subheadings), hyperlinking, bulletpoints, and pics/drawings are the big ones.)
      1. Meta: I don’t think about this so much consciously any more. Not for this medium, at least (for other media, yes!). There was a time, however, when I thought obsessively about “what are the constraints of the written-for-web medium?”, which was super formative in becoming facile with the tools. (The biggest one that people mess up in this medium is headings and subheadings. It’s like a table of contents to guide you while reading! Who doesn’t appreciate an easy-to-use map?)
  3. Structure the content to achieve the goal.
    1. ________’s comment had very interesting info, albeit some of it was framed off-topic-ly. However, everything can be on-topic in one sentence or less. 
      1. This is kinda a cool idea. I think of it as “bridging” because that’s how I was taught: you find a relevant trait of topic A, highlight that piece, bridge to a similar nugget in topic B, and then go to point B. This parallels the way our brains process language: we fire neurons in clusters around each word. So, to go from “Sheep” to “cloud”, one could use “white” or “fluffy”. These are trivial examples, but the concept stays the same: From my dog to Trump could be The Adorable Smidgen -> Chihuahua -> Mexican wall -> Trump. You get better at it over time, finding the shorter (and in the case of logic/business, actually relevant) paths. (That said, in persuasion, you don’t even need relevance! Crazy concept that’s super scary when you think about it…)
    2. In this case, we had a starting point (the paragraph before) and an end to get to (the next section). We also had the content of the middle bit (which I got by breaking ________’s points into their constituent pieces). Now use the technique “bridging” and the thing structures itself! It naturally lends itself to an order… the one that links most logically!
  4. Make the new text as short as possible while still being easily readable.
    1. Good writing is short. Good nonfiction, especially. For me, this comes from a concatenation of “aims” and “medium constraints”–we want to give the reader the most value for their effort/time. It also aligns with standard writer wisdom that “shorter is better” (and, I suppose, the simple economic notion that wasting resources is bad).
    2. The easier an article is to digest, the more readers will value it (i.e. there will be more economic surplus since it took them less time). 

I don’t always think about these pieces consciously. Some are now gut instinct (like “eliminate the maximum number of words”). Others are more well-defined and intentional, like the order in which I do each step in my writing process.

^I hope this is interesting! You expressed curiosity; thought you might find it cool! Feel free to poke if anything interests you. (I’m always a sucker for writing about my process. For some wonderful reason, it’s one way I improve… 🙂

Independently Dependent

Hello Loyal Readers! 

I come to you with an exciting creation. It’s written by my friend Jocelyn Simms, who wished to remain anonymous. Let me know your thoughts – either through the comments here or by shooting me an email. 

Cheers,

Julian 

P.s. If you want to publish something on my blog (either under your own name or under Jocelyn’s), reach out: Julian.w.wise@gmail.com . I have dozens of loyal readers and the coveted #1 page-rank on Google for people who search “Julian Wise comedy cooking humor punctuation grammar blog”. What a reach! 

Independently Dependent

It’s not easy to admit that I’m waiting for love. It sounds like the stupidest, corniest thing to say. But it’s true. I want to be in love. I want to feel the way I do when I listen to Ben Folds’ The Luckiest. I want to feel swept off my feet, full of butterflies and fireworks. I want to feel the ease and comfort of knowing I have a person who is in it for the long haul. I wouldn’t say I want to be a wife. I would say I want to be a partner. 

When I was younger, I didn’t concern myself with love. “Falling in love” and “meeting the one” were rites of passage. They would happen when I was older. 

When I hit high school, I wanted a taste. Just a taste. I knew my relationships wouldn’t last forever, but I thought being young and in love was a rite of passage too. Everyone gets to experience it. It’s tragic if you don’t. It’s like you did something wrong, held yourself back, or failed to make some sort of effort. I can’t think of a single highschool movie without a love story. But it doesn’t work that way for most of us. At least it didn’t work that way for me. 

Some of the happiest times in my life have come from convincing myself I was finally part of a partnership. Freshman year with ______ was easy. Junior spring with ______ felt magical. My favorite parts of college were when I filled this gap in my soul with a guy and a creative project. _____ and I got his band on national television. ______ and I revolutionized undergraduate art. _____ and I produced a film viewed by thousands. I loved those guys, I loved those projects, and I loved those teams with everything I had. They may not have been romantic, but these were fucking partnerships. We were in it to win it, together, to the very end. And those endings were always tough for me. I cried when ______ moved. I fought for a closer friendship with _____ so I wouldn’t feel the emptiness between projects. I held hands with _____ and cried outside his dorm when we graduated. I knew it’d never be the same.

For most of my life I’ve followed my mom’s advice. Focus on school; you don’t have time for boys. That will be later. My innocent highschool relationships and creative teams gave me enough to hold me over. But I long for that intimacy. That trust. That depth. That sense of belonging with another person. I know it won’t be easy. I know there will be rises and falls. But I feel like I was made to be a partner. Half of a dynamic duo. Maybe it’s just my clock ticking, but as I get older that gap seems to widen and deepen and it feels more and more impossible to fill. And as that happens I become even more desperate to fill it.

Sometimes I wonder about the received wisdom that everyone has a soul mate… it’s just that some soul mates have already left Earth. Maybe their life was tragically cut short. Maybe they’re still around but life threw them off course. Or maybe some people end up alone, never finding a partner, because that wisdom is wrong and their partner never existed. 

Being part of a team is the one thing I can’t do by myself. That scares me. And learning how to live alone feels like I’m giving up. It feels like living a shadow of my life. And the older I get, the more I feel like I’m running out of time. I worry that jetting off on a romantic weekend getaway just won’t be the same in my 30s. People won’t be as forgiving of us making out in the rain in the middle of the street or trespassing on the beach in the middle of the night. We should know better. There are still so many things I want to do while I’m young and dumb and in love.

Isn’t it sad? Isn’t it pathetic? That I so desperately want to fall in love. And all of the incredible friendships I have. The loving family I’m part of. The incredible education I have and expansive career possibilities. They just aren’t enough. Isn’t that selfish? Disrespectful? Immature? 

As much as we pretend we can get rid of these feelings, they still linger for some of us. And that’s okay. It’s possible to live full and happy lives on our own. But it’s also okay to want to be in love. I’m coming to terms with it. It doesn’t make me weak. It doesn’t make me less independent. It just makes me human. We all have wants, needs, and desires. We all feel a sense of purpose driving us to become who we want to be. Among many other things, I want to be a partner. I hope that it can be a reality. I really want it to happen soon. 

John Prine

John Prine died today. He was my first concert. He wrote every song I love that I don’t remember who wrote. He wrote this poem, too, but he wrote it through me. I’ll miss him. One day I’d like to see him again.

I had a feeling I could be someone.

You’ll only feel by listening 

to the same song

fifty versions

but none better than the downtown boy

with hair like Dylan

accepted to Yale when I was

but dropped out 

and now plays to a Farmers’ market audience–

an empty picnic blanket and me. 

At 24 years old,

he looks more like twelve

and sings folk like a wizened bluesman.

Will he go anywhere

or stay in Fairfax forever,

wearing the same uncool shoes

as the classmate I bullied in 4th grade. 

If America’s misfits come to San Francisco

and SF’s go to Oakland,

where do Oakland’s go?

We’re only fifteen miles north of The City,

but you can believe in the stars having a plan for you

and we’ll still believe in you.  

If you move too quick,

you hit the speed of loneliness

like a too-fast car,

breaking the sound barrier,

collapsing into yourself,

emptying out.

We all feel that way. 

Some of us become. 

We all pass away. 

Musings on the future of work (or, why you should be excited–not concerned–that I’m currently nocturnal)

Individuals (and small teams) have always been the ones acting, but now they’re more movable (you could imagine the Google phone team basically “stealing” the Apple phone team by wooing them over. This seems unlikely 20-100 years ago). The game for corporations, therefore, becomes more along the lines of “make an environment that’s attractive to the right sort of individuals/teams”. Now, this is probably obvious for anyone who asks the question “why does every startup have pingpong tables and free lunch?” but let’s take it a step further:

The top performers have always been eccentrics. Weirdos. I live in a van and drive around the country. (Not that I’m necessarily a top performer, but I’m certainly working with more successful people than most people who have the job title “writer”.) These are people who will form their own unique strategy for working (I’ve been nocturnal for the last week because it seems to help my novel writing).

This is mainly interesting to me because it creates opportunities for people to create highly-specialized products/services that assist very specific (i.e. unusual) people with very specific needs.

If an individual is such a great, high, top performer, they often have an assistant. I bet the assistants for top performers in many fields have similar jobs, though, and there wasn’t previously enough value created by these oddballs to warrant tools to help them.

Now, we’re recognizing that (a) no number of Walmart greeters could equate to one Sam Walton (just as no number of gazelles would ever hunt a lion [it’s a bad analogy but you get the point]), and (b) we can see how much value Sam Walton created (he built Walmart!) as compared to your average joe, so we’re able to create tools that will help, say, the 10 Sam Waltons in the world be 1% better, which is huge value but would previously be uncapturable. (Or, more accurately, provide tools to make the 1000 people in the world who are 2 orders of magnitude lower than Sam Walton be 5% more effective.)

I guess, what I’m saying is: could someone please make me a business-casual onesie that I could wear in public?