Pride and Prejudice 1

I thought it might be interesting to take a fresh look at some of the many ways to take notes in Tinderbox. I spent a couple of days with Pride and Prejudice, keeping track of all the characters — there are at least 46 — and how Austen introduces them.

One point I want to make at the outset: simply deciding to take notes can help you read with focus and attention.

Here, solid links connect characters who are introduced in direct dialogue, and dotted lines connect characters mentioned by other characters or (rarely) by the narrator. It’s striking, for instance, how useful the silly Mrs. Bennet is to the novelist: she talks about everyone, all the time. Though this is (I think) my fourth reading of the novel, I had never noticed how strategic that is.

Jan 24 28 2024

The Russian Web

Russia is shutting down the World Wide Web and creating its own closed internet.

I’m wildly short of time these days. I’ve got Thinking With Tinderbox to finish, I’ve got a ton of Tinderbox features to design and fixes to fix, and there’s a paper for Hypertext 2024 in Poznan that’s not going to write itself. (I’m still hoping to get to Kharkiv after the conference, though even from Poznan it’s a mighty long way.)

Yet, I sense that it’s time for new blogging — a time to take back the Web from enshittification and MAGA. Dave Winer’s been doing some fine work. So has Michael Tsai. Plenty more.

We’re going to have a Tinderbox Meetup on weblogs on Saturday, Feb. 24 with Jack Baty and Dave Rogers. You should come, too.

Two cans of beer a day, and that’s your bleeding lot.

And now we’ve got an extra one because they stopped the tot.

But we’ll put on our civvie clothes and find a pub ashore

A sailor’s just a sailor, just like he was before.

by John McPhee

A young McPhee somehow convinced William Shawn to send him to profile the Swiss Army. It turns out that the Swiss Army is fascinating — and very good. We end up high on a mountain, eating fondue and reporting on a nuclear weapon of size petite.

The dynastic adventure of the battle between Clan Korval and the sinister Department Of The Interior reaches a pinnacle of excitement, as everyone heads first for an obscure, desolate wilderness world and then for the Liaden capital. An excellent Western in space.

by Brandon Taylor

A strange, sprawling Iowa Writing Program novel about a group of Iowa graduate students. Some are poets, some writers, some dance. One dancer’s tendons gave out, and now he’s finishing an MBA to his own, and his friends’, consternation. The New Yorker loved it. The Times Literary Supplement loved it. I didn’t: reading this, I found myself recalling Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life and recalling that some of the circle of friends in that story were likable, and in that story things happened.

Not much happens here. Perhaps that is the point. Everyone has sex but no one has romance, perhaps because no one really expects this world to last. Art may be eternal, but eternity isn’t what it used to be.

by Francis Ford Coppola

When he first considered directing The Godfather, Coppola took a copy of the Mario Puzo novel and pasted each page onto a 8½×11 page. On nearly each sheet, he made copious notes about casting and directing the film. Between chapters, he added fascinating memoranda discussing ways he could establish period detail, atmosphere, and ways he could wreck the movie by doing that scene badly. Coppola’s notes are direct and insightful: for example, as soon as the undertaker Bonasera appears, Coppola reminds himself that this small part must be played by a superlative actor. A fascinating record, especially for people who study note-taking.

Jan 24 3 2024


by Robin Sloan

An absolutely adorable novel, by the author of the wonderful Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookshop. Lois Clary is a young software engineer who has recently moved from Michigan to San Francisco, where she works at a growing robotics startup. Like most of her colleagues, she is completely dependent on takeout and mail-order meals, especially a nutritional Slurry® that makes normal food redundant. Lois thinks it’s dystopian but efficient. What Lois really enjoys is the Double Spicy combo from a neighborhood popup kitchen: spicy soup and spicy bread. When the mysterious proprietors have to decamp, one step ahead of Immigration, they leave Lois a crock of their Secret Sourdough Starter, and a CD of music to which the starter likes to listen.