today in voice input

So, I was going to work this morning, and I ended up stepping in an unexpected puddle. I hoped my socks would stay dry (I hate spending the day with wet socks — I’m sure this is not unusual).

Then I had a thought. I have a drawer at work, and I could leave a pair of dry socks there for emergencies. And I knew I needed to make a note or I’d never remember.

When I’m walking around, the easiest way to make quick notes is by using voice input on my phone. I say it and the phone writes it. So, I took out the phone and said, slowly and clearly, “Socks to work.”

Then I glanced at the screen and it said, “Sucks to work.”


I was tempted to say, “You’re a phone — how would you know?” But I was a little leery about what might happen next, so I didn’t.

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i blame steve jobs

Way back when, touch screen devices, like the various versions of the Palm, always had a stylus. I think even the Newton, Apple’s first attempt at a touch-screen PDA, had a stylus.

But Steve Jobs, when he returned to Apple, saw the stylus and he saw that it was not good, according to him. So, more recent devices, both those from Apple and others, mostly don’t have styluses (stylii?).

Recently, on an impulse, I bought a stylus for my tablet. Until then, I’d never had much luck with handwriting on the screen, or with swyping (swooshing my fingertip around the onscreen keyboard to form words).

But then, with the stylus, both suddenly became feasible — and more than feasible. So, now I had four different ways to input text into my tablet, including voice input which I’m using to write this sentence. (Which did not require any editing.)

I like having options.

Oh, and here’s a little more about David Bowie: ” David Bowie Bassist Gail Ann Dorsey: ‘He Altered the Course of My Life’

Or, you can just watch them here:

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snow was general all over ireland

I’ve had this post half-written for a while now, but the death of David Bowie brought it to the front of my thinking, because I’m listening to David Bowie’s final album Blackstar, which many people are now listening to anew since we now know that when he made it he was dying of cancer. Death is very present in the album.

Not every artist has a chance to deliberately make a “final work.” It’s a rare thing, really, and obviously some who could have created one probably had no interest in doing so.

But I was thinking about how some movie directors have gone at this.

1. The Dead

I’ve read that director John Huston had always planned to make The Dead as his last picture.

The source novella, the best thing James Joyce ever wrote (yeah, it is) is wonderful (go read it if you never have), and Huston does it justice, though he directed parts of it from a wheelchair and parts from a hospital bed, with his son Tony, who wrote the screenplay, acting as his surrogate on set.

I won’t describe it — no telling of the “plot” will explain what it’s like to see it — but I will say one thing that I like particularly about it.

In the original story, there’s a character named Freddy Malins. He’s a drunk, and there’s a good deal of conversation at the holiday party of whether he’ll be sober when he arrives (he apparently took the pledge a day or two before) or whether he’s fallen off the wagon (again) already.

Well he shows up drunk and remains so, and in the story that’s pretty much the end of it,

In the movie, though, he rallies in the end. He rebukes another guest who makes a rude comment in front of his (Freddy’s) mother, and when a novice cab driver doesn’t know where to go, it’s Freddy who gives him the directions.

I always feel that this is because The Dead was a young man’s story, written when Joyce was in his thirties, but this is an old man’s movie. A little more forgiving, a little more willing to see complexity in everybody.

(I stole the name “Malins” and used it — I lost the “s” somewhere — for my character Christy Malin, who’s also Irish, and an alcoholic, and many more things as well.)

2. A Prairie Home Companion

Robert Altman did not intend A Prairie Home Companion to be his last picture — but he must have known it might be. He’d had a heart transplant a decade earlier, and the only way he could get insured for this picture was to have another director on set at all times in case he couldn’t complete the picture.

(By the way, imagine, for a moment, the terrible torment of Paul Thomas Anderson, the backup director, forced to spend weeks watching his friend and mentor direct a film. Talk about a master class. Did he take notes or just watch and learn?)

One character in the movie is called “the Dangerous Woman” in the credits, but she’s actually the angel of death and there is a question throughout most of the movie about who she’s come for.

At the end, several of the characters are so sitting in a diner, and they see Asphodel, the dangerous woman, come in and slowly approach the table. Who is she coming for this time? We never find out — appropriately, because in real life you don’t know.

Lola Johnson: This isn’t really going to be your last show, is it?

Garrison Keillor: Every show is your last show. That’s my philosophy.

Rhonda Johnson: Thank you, Plato.

3. Family Plot

Hitchcock was not planning for Family Plot to be his last film, but apparently he knew he was slowing down and couldn’t do a lot of things he’d done before.

But, intentionally or not, he ended his final movie perfectly.

[Mild spoiler]

A fake psychic and con artist goes into a “trance” and convinces her accomplice that she’s had a real revelation for the first time, and then, as he scurries off to retrieve the treasure she has just “located,” she turns to face the camera, smiles, and winks.



A great film? No, not even close. Definitely not in the top ten Hitchcock films. But a perfect ending, and there’s one other great moment, too.

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i never outline. except when i do.

I’ve always been anti outlining. Fine for other people, of course, if they’re into that sort of thing, but not for me.

But I think writers, or artists in general, should never get too tied down with where they create, or when, or how.

I’ve been going over the notes about the story I’m picking up again after a hiatus, and I’m suddenly aware that my notes are confused about the sequence of places the characters visit (there’s only two, but in which order?), exactly why they’re going to one of the two places at all, and exactly who is going (well, mostly that’s clear, but half of my notes seem to assume that one particular character is going, and the rest don’t mention him at all — plus, if he does go, how are they going to fit in one car?).

So, yeah, maybe time for an outline.

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an old rock and roll alien angel in a perfect grey suit

I have only seen a tiny sliver of a fraction of the various reactions people have had to the death of David Bowie (which is fine), but there have been a few which have really caught my attention

St. Vincent gave the perfect tweet:


From an A.V. Club commenter:

He kept a lot of weird kids alive through a lot of shitty years.

From Lorde, who met Bowie when she was 16:

“I realized everything I’d ever done, or would do from then on, would be done like maybe he was watching,” she wrote. “I realized I was proud of my spiky strangeness because he had been proud of his. And I know I’m never going to stop learning dances, brand new dances. It’s not going to change, how we feel about him. For the rest of our lives, we’ll always be crashing in that same car. Thank you, David Bowie.”

From The Guardian:

“Almost from the start, Bowie’s career raised questions to which a definitive answer seemed elusive. If he was, as he loudly claimed in 1971, gay, then what was the deal with the very visible wife and the son he’d just written a touching little song about? If he was, as he dramatically announced from the stage of the Hammersmith Odeon in July 1973, retiring – either from music, or from live performance, or from the character of Ziggy Stardust – then what was he doing back onstage in London three months later, belting out The Jean Genie in full Ziggy drag? How does anyone in the state Bowie was, by all accounts, in by 1975 – ravaged by cocaine to the point where he seemed to have genuinely gone insane; paranoid and hallucinating – make an album like Station to Station: not a messily compelling document of a mind unravelling, like the solo albums of his great idol Syd Barrett, but a work of precision and focus and exquisitely controlled power that’s arguably his best? In a world of cameraphones and social media, how could anyone as famous as Bowie disappear from public view as completely as he seemed to between 2008 and 2013: moreover, how could anyone as famous as Bowie record a comeback album in the middle of Manhattan without anyone noticing or leaking details to the media? How does anyone stage-manage their own death as dramatically as Bowie appears to have done: releasing their most acclaimed album in decades, filled with strange, enigmatic songs whose meaning suddenly became apparent when their author dies two days later?”

And from Slate:

‘Under Pressure’ Is a Reminder That David Bowie Could Also Be Wonderfully, Powerfully Human

There’s a lot of snark around these days, but, just so we don’t forget, this is how you write about great music.

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David Bowie (1947-2016)

I remember a few days after 9/11, I read something he wrote (he lived in New York, and was here when it happened) that was just so caring and thoughtful and appropriate. I haven’t been able to find it since, but it was one of the first things I heard that actually made sense at that time. 


Thanks, David. My deepest condolences to Iman, Duncan, and Alexandria Zahra.

Oh, and this:

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