Sent from my wireless device.

I've recently found myself typing "Sent from my wireless device" at the end of an email sent from my desktop. It's shorthand for "You know this is just email, right?"

Some people react to perceived tone in email, a medium in which we compose in a hurry, usually while distracted. Emails that are written for the optimal distribution of information can seem terse, almost dismissive; and can provoke emotional reactions that get in the way of actual work.

We all need to remind one another that emails are not letters. The best email writers are careful and reread before hitting 'send' – but if you're spending hours composing emails, with sensitivity for tone instead of clarity, selecting synonyms to avoid every possibility of slight, then you're probably doing it wrong. Instead, try this: include some cues that, hey, this is email: don't read too much into it. The occasionally spelling or grammatical error, provided that it does not obscure meaning, serves the same function.

Posted from my wireless device.

#Homeshelf2014

A pretty simple concept (obviously based on #homescreen2014). One Billy shelf* (that's 30 inches of space) – what will you put on it?

homeshelf2014.jpg

Here's the full list, in rough sequence of when-I-read-them, from left to right:

  • Love in Vain: A Vision of Robert Johnson by Alan Greenberg
  • Light in August by William Faulkner
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • The Essential Hemingway (mostly for The Sun Also Rises; but also the vignettes in In Our Time) by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • Selected Poems by Ezra Pound (really only for Cathay; I will someone would publish this in a lovely little pocket edition)
  • Howl by Alan Ginsberg (honestly, it's in there)
  • Neon Vernacular by Yusef Komunyakaa
  • The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  • 'Exterminate All the Brutes' by Sven Lindqvist
  • Beyond a Boundary by C. L. R. James
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje
  • The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje
  • Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
  • Seven Nights by Jorge Luis Borges
  • The Lover by Marguerite Duras
  • The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins
  • On Photography by Susan Sontag
  • Chekhov's Short Stories by Anton Chekhov
  • Collected Stories by Isaac Babel (really only for Odessa Tales)
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
  • Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion
  • There's No Such Thing as Free Speech by Stanley Fish
  • The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand
  • Achieving Our Country by Richard Rorty
  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
  • Ecology of Fear by Mike Davis
  • Holy Land by D. J. Waldie
  • The Control of Nature by John McPhee
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
  • All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford by Ron Hansen
  • Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
  • Crime / Guilt by Ferdinand von Schirach

I'm assuming this is a repeat-every-five-years type of exercise, rather than an annual event. With that in mind, these are the books that fell off the shelf, through realistically most of them could easily make a comeback next time around.

  • From Hell by Alan Moore
  • The Palm at the End of the Mind by Wallace Stevens
  • The Beat Reader
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  • The White Album by Joan Didion
  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones
  • Live at the Apollo by Douglas Wolk
  • A slightly thicker edition of Huck Finn

* Why a Billy shelf, rather than say 24 titles (i.e. the same severe limit that an iPhone screen has on the number of apps)? I feel like a shelf is the basic unit of measure for books, instead of a screen; but I think we should allow an e-reader screen or reading app screen. I do read in both formats, but interestingly – and worryingly – nothing I had read digitally seemed to make the grade this time around. I'm sure some audiobooks might have made the cut if I'd been more diligent about this exercise.

33 1/3 Call for Proposals

In obviously awesome news, Bloomsbury have posted an open call for proposals for the spectacular 33 1/3 series. My own modest contribution to the series finds itself in ever-more intimidating company every time a new volume comes out, and the recent slate of releases has been very, very good. I'll certainly be picking up the forthcoming books on Sigur Ros, Danger Mouse, Michael Jackson, Aphex Twin (by Marc Weidenbaum, whose blog Disquiet I've loved for years), and J Dilla's Donuts (by fellow Torontonian Jordan Ferguson).

Speaking of which: if anyone is interested in pitching for the series, you should read Jordan's take on the topic. (I've posted some thoughts on my experience and my original proposal before, but YMMV: Bloomsbury's requirements have changed somewhat since then… and certainly I can't claim to have been the poster child for length or timeliness.)

I can't wait to see what the next 18 months brings in the series. I'm really hoping that someone gets a great Arular or Mezzanine pitch through the door this time.

Twitter Needs Trial Follows

I wish social media services had a trial function at the user level. I'd like to be able to follow someone on a 'try it and see' basis. Ideally that would be the default behaviour. After a week or a month I'd be prompted – "have you enjoyed following this person?" – and given a choice about whether to continue to follow them. That way I wouldn't have ended up following 400 people on Twitter and finding my stream boring and overwhelming. My stream would consist of the core group of people who I enjoy following. Same idea with Tumblr, Instagram, etc.

I think this would be good for everyone. Particularly for businesses and artists – people looking to use social media to grow their audience – since they wouldn't simply be looking to acquire new followers but to actively keep them. Everyone would need to be more entertaining, insightful, and interesting.