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Wolfville, Nova Scotia


iPhone 6S

Chris Campbell

It feels smooth and solid in my hand and while it's a bit bigger than my second iPhone, a 5S, I have to say that I'm adjusting nicely to my new iPhone 6S. I was relatively late to the iPhone bandwagon in getting an iPhone 4 in 2010 and heartily embraced it and with the camera and connectivity, it dramatically changed how I did a lot of things. While the intention wasn't to get a new phone right away as my 5S is still working great with no problems, an offer from Eastlink with a discount on my home internet and cable bundle made me switch as getting a new phone and saving money was an offer I couldn't refuse.

With my phone backed up to iCloud it's fast and easy to switch phones with just needing to log in to iCloud to have everything come back. Even things like volume level, wallpaper, and other settings all come back which keeps your new phone set up like your old phone. Since Apple Music and is now part of my online life it means that I don't keep music on my phone, but I've got access to everything that is there, so it frees up a lot of space on the phone (which is 64 GB --- twice the size of my old iPhone).

The screen is bright and the glass is smooth and feels softer (which is kind of weird but it's probably from only needing to press lightly on the screen). It's not as natural-feeling in my hand as the 4 and 5S were, but the bigger screen is much easier to read. Again, as with the other phones it's much faster and smoother. Things just seem to appear. The Touch ID button is significantly faster at recognizing a fingerprint so the screen unlocks instantly. So fast that I'm having to change my behaviour with the menu button as if I want to view the lock screen I need to touch the power button instead as the lock screen is usually skipped with my thumb on the menu button.

iOS 9 is lovely and the new system font works well for me. Siri is faster and a lot more accurate and with "Hey Siri" I find that I'm recording reminders and responding to messages through dictation. It's faster to launch apps by just asking for them too. One of the useful embedded features of iOS 9 is the way contexts can be saved when you are looking at something by asking Siri to remind you about it. If you are on a web page reading something you say, "Remind me about this" and a reminder that includes the bookmark of the page gets created. It's even cooler in my podcast listening app Overcast as I can be listening to something while driving and ask Siri to remind me about it and then in the reminder it will open the podcast and jump within the episode to where I added the reminder. In Instapaper I can be part way through reading something and add a reminder and then pop back into where I left off. That's useful when you are researching something and don't want to go to stray too far in looking things up. It's a great way to jump back to something later if you have to switch to doing something else unexpectedly.

The new and different feature with the 6S is 3D Touch which is challenging to describe and takes a bit of getting used to. It's a fascinating combination of hardware and software that creates the feeling that the surface of the iPhone is a button. So if you press a bit harder on the glass it feels like it clicks and something happens. The most useful aspect of this is to get a quick preview of a link in Safari or a conversation in Messages. If you want to go to the page or conversation you just press a bit harder and it pops open. Or if you want to do something quickly you can just swipe up and then save or, in Messages, quickly send a reply like "on my way" or something like that. The prebuilt responses grow out of your conversations, so if you text back "cool" to people a lot, that will come up, or if "okey dokey" is more your style, that will appear.

It's interesting to see how developers are using 3D Touch and my favourite and long-time Twitter client Twitterrific intuitively uses the feature. I can press on a link and get a preview of the web page, look at a user profile, a hashtag, a discussion, or a quoted tweet without having to open it up. It's fast and intuitive and as other developers add these features it makes everything just a little bit easier and faster.

The set of apps that I'm using a lot has remained the same for a while with Messages, Twitterrific, 1Password, and OmniFocus in the home row as I use each of them all every day. Other frequently used apps are Reporter (for collecting quantified self data), Lifesum (for tracking food and calories), Next (for tracking spending), Drafts (for drafts of notes or tweets), 1Writer (for notes), Spark (for email), Weather Line (for weather), and Fantastical (for my calendar). All the apps seem a lot faster on the new phone and most of them have added 3D Touch integration is useful ways too.

At this point in the development of phones and computer technology there is little more needed, so now we're in the phase where things are faster and easier. That's how it is with the camera which has a higher resolution and better performance in low light. For video you can shoot better slow motion and shoot video in 4K which is pretty sharp. The other photo feature is Live Photos which captures some motion around the moment that you press the shutter. It's neat but not that useful, but it's a little flourish that is cute.

The battery life is great and with the new "Low Power Mode" it makes it even easier to squeeze more battery life out of the phone by easily reducing the amount of background activity and notifications. It does seem to charge a lot faster than my 5S which is nice. Just a few minutes connected to a battery or the wall charger gives a 20% boost in power, so it doesn't feel as scary when the battery level is getting a bit low.

I've surrounded my phone with the minimalist Peel case which is relatively cheap and solid. I didn't get a case at all for my 5S and didn't have a problem, so I probably don't need one, but it's nice to have a bit of extra security and the case makes the phone a bit easier to hold without adding much size at all. The phone feels solid and it's still feels a bit big and awkward at times, but I'm getting used to it. The bigger screen is nice which makes things easier to see and read.

While my 5S was working great and my initial plan was to keep it for another year, I'm happy to have upgraded early to the 6S. It's fast and powerful and has seamlessly become part of all the stuff I do quickly. The best technology disappears and reduces the friction in what you are doing and that's exactly what my phone does as I connect with people, share things, and find things with it. What did I do before I had this magical little computer with me all the time?

Remembering the Silver Wave Film Festival 2015

Chris Campbell

Being on the organizational committee for the Silver Wave Film Festival was a great experience. It gave me the chance to go back to the New Brunswick Filmmakers Co-operative to work for a few weeks and to spend a lot of time with some great friends. Tony and Cathie are some of my favourite people and to work with them over a few weeks was a joy. After 15 years the film festival is a compact, friendly, and smoothly running machine. It's not the biggest film festival, but they've simplified and worked things out to give everyone a warm and supportive experience. The strange thing about a festival is that the programming decisions happen months earlier, so for those behind the scenes we've seen the films and are anticipating how the audiences will enjoy them. Getting as many filmmakers as possible in is the secondary goal as it's important to have the creators there with the audience.

It was fun to be part of the mundane details of the festival such as helping to make up the passes or fold the programs for the Industry Series or help in reworking the sponsor reel that plays before the films. I'd introduced some of the programs in past festivals and did that again, but had a lot more insight into what was happening behind the scenes this time. The reaction to the films was positive and the whole atmosphere around the festival is one of happiness. The community around the NB Filmmakers Co-operative has long been positive and supportive and it's why I became involved with filmmaking and teaching. So in many ways you can trace my whole professional career back to the film coop in the early 1980s.

I was closely involved with the Canadian and International Shorts programs which had films from across Canada and around the world, but a lot of the films were from Nova Scotia and I knew many of the filmmakers. It's a privilege to showcase the work of people you admire and share it with an enthusiastic crowd. Going to a festival away from home is also a good way to see how people who don't know you will react to what you've made as well. Attendance was up at the screenings and for many us who live in Nova Scotia, the positive spirit and celebration of our work was a nice boost after a challenging year.

Seeing the screenings of the low-budget features Owl River Runners and Noon Gun for the first time at Silver Wave was a lot of fun too. I missed them when they played at the Atlantic Film Festival and was eager to see them on a big screen with an audience in Fredericton. When you know the people who make a film there is always a bit of nervousness when you see something as you hope that it turned out ok after hearing about it while it was in production. It's even better when you see the films and you enjoy them along with an audience. Owl River Runners is funny and local, telling a story about rural New Brunswick that feels recognizable. Noon Gun looks at a challenging issue with racism and history and community in North End Halifax and makes a powerful and moving statement.

Structurally the Silver Wave Film Festival happens mainly over a weekend with an opening film Thursday night, an Industry Series of panel discussions on Friday during the day with the rest of the weekend full of film screenings. Most of the panels have filmmakers who have films in the festival, so the participants get a good overview of the challenges that they've faced in making their films. The biggest day is Saturday with time in the morning to allow for a trip to the farmers market before the films begin. In the evening the main events are the New Brunswick Shorts Gala films followed by the Silver Wave Awards. Sunday is a lighter day with screenings starting in the afternoon and going into the evening.

The films are great to see with an audience and there is a lot of fun to be had after the films are over in the James Joyce Pub (with a wonderful range of New Brunswick and other craft beer and cider on tap) and in the Hospitality Suite after the bar closes. Thanks to the small size of the festival it's possible to meet just about everyone who is there and to talk about the films they've seen too. The most social day and night is Saturday with the party getting started later after the awards and photos of the winners. The bar and Hospitality Suite were packed into the wee hours filled with excited conversations about films and celebration by the winners of the awards. Sunday is more casual with the most people sitting down to talk more quietly in the bar as they reflect on the films and make plans for the future.

The key to a film festival is figuring out what you want it to be about and then balancing the films with the audience, the filmmakers, and the space between all those things to allow for interaction. I'm happy with how it went this year at Silver Wave and look forward to helping with it more and being on the lookout for other films and filmmakers to follow over the coming year. The films themselves are the smallest and shortest part of the entire process and the true joy is having the opportunity to connect with people who love creating and sharing stories.

What makes a film festival special for you and what do you love about a festival?

Silver Wave Film Festival 2015

Chris Campbell

Silver Wave 2015 Launch

Silver Wave 2015 Launch

For me filmmaking is inextricably linked with the New Brunswick Filmmakers' Co-operative. It's where I first found out how to make a film and saw and handled celluloid. The Film Co-op began in 1979 and I first walked in when my friend Kevin Holden told me I should stop in. It was neat to see the tools of filmmaking there –-- the flatbed Steenbeck film editor and the rolls of film on it. The Eclair NPR camera and lenses and lights and the Nagra tape recorder seemed like exotic and special tools that I would grow to love. I remember the first big screening we organized where we showed all the films made by the coop and the whole program was just over a half hour.

It was slower making films then as we only shot on film which went to the NFB lab in Montreal to be developed and printed. Then the sound and picture were synchronized and the mag stock and work print were sent off to have rubber numbers printed on it before editing could begin. The whole process was much more elaborate and involved and all through the process you would handle the film as it took shape. Then the sound mix and colour timing would need to happen in another city which involved travel and money. Now the whole process for postproduction can happen all within a laptop or even a phone, so it's faster to make films.

There were years where there was only one film finished at the coop, but now there are films at various stages of production with work happening every week. So while we had to wait a few years to get enough films together for a screening, now every year for the past 15 years, the Silver Wave Film Festival has been able to highlight the best of the films from New Brunswick in November. I've been to Silver Wave almost every year and seeing the development of new talent from the little film coop where I first started making film always is an inspiration.

For me (and many others) Tony Merzetti and Cathie Leblanc are the key organizers at the heart of the coop. Tony and I got involved at the coop around the same time and it's wonderful that he's still there. As Tony and Cat will point out, the coop is powered by many volunteers and one of the most encouraging things is to see how many new people get involved every year. The exciting thing this year is that I've been able to help with the festival in becoming part of the team to help with programming. There are a lot of other people involved and spending time at the coop this year gave me a deeper glimpse into the festival that has evolved over the past 15 years.

While there are over 100 films in the program this year, the whole festival is condensed into four days, so it's a concentrated dose of films and filmmakers. With a few features and a lot of shorts, there are films for every interest and age from drama to documentary. Things get started on Thursday, November 5 with the New Brunswick comedy Owl River Runners playing at Tilley Hall at UNB at 7pm with the opening party following at the James Joyce Pub at 10pm. It's the first of three Atlantic micro-budget features playing with the Nova Scotia feature Noon Gun screening Sunday, November 8 at 2pm at Tilley Hall and the closing feature from Prince Edward Island, Kooperman, Sunday at 7pm.

Friday is a packed day with the Industry Series at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre which is free (but you need to sign up). There are five panels with a range of filmmakers talking about their films, the industry, and themselves. It's a chance to meet people, find out more about the films, and the state of the industry in the region. The Industry Series wraps up with a reception before the films start showing in the evening throughout the city.

The documentary Guilda: elle est bien dans ma peau plays at 7pm at Conserver House as part of the Cinema Politica Showcase. At 8pm at Wilser's Room in the Capital Complex you can see a diverse range of music videos in the East Coast Music Video Showcase. The CLiFF (Canadian Labour International Film Festival) feature film is the animated documentary Little Girl with Iron Fist with a reception beginning at 8:30 at the Kinsella Auditorium at St. Thomas University and the film beginning at 9:30. The Coast to Coast Shorts show starts in Tilley Hall at 9:30 pm with films from across Canada (with heavy New Brunswick representation). The final event for Friday is the much-anticipated and chaotic Midnight Madness with a theme of "Murder, Ghosts & Time Travel" at Tilley Hall beginning at Midnight.

Saturday begins at noon with the Canadian & International Shorts I with some of the best short films (drama, comedy, and experimental) from Canada and the world showing at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre. The popular Youth Shorts are showing at noon at the Centre Communautaire Sainte-Anne as well with the next generation of filmmakers well-represented by the short films on display. At 2pm the more dramatic Canadian & International Shorts II program screens at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre. The CLiFF Shorts play at 2pm at Chickadee Hall in the Fredericton Public Library with a mix of documentary and dramatic shorts built around workers and the Labour movement. The short documentary showcase Short Docs I (People and Places) screens at 4pm at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre with Canadian documentaries with a range of approaches to their subject matter (and featuring the great animated musical documentary The Singing Lumberjack about Charlie Chamberlain).

The warm heart of the festival is the NB Shorts Gala beginning at the Centre Communautaire Sainte-Anne at 7pm with the best local shorts from the past year. The 18 shorts preceded the Silver Wave Awards at 10pm and the Gala Party at the James Joyce Pub at 11:30pm with things continuing in the Hospitality Suite early into the next morning as filmmakers and fans talk about what they've seen, what they've made, and what they're going to make over the next year.

Sunday is the final day of Silver Wave and Short Docs II start the day off at 2pm with diverse documentaries from the Atlantic and Quebec at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre. The Nova Scotia feature drama Noon Gun is playing at 2pm in Tilley Hall with filmmaker Caley MacLennan present for the film and a Q&A afterwards. At 4pm the New Brunswick Documentary The Utrecht Seals (featuring Algonquin Métis rapper Samian) shows at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre for a different perspective on history and the Utrecht Treaty. The final film of the festival is the bromance Kooperman which plays at 7pm at Tilley Hall on the UNB Campus before the closing party at the James Joyce Pub at 10pm.

I'm excited to dive back in to Silver Wave this year to see films, share stories, and spend time with friends as we celebrate the creativity and ingenuity of inspirational filmmakers again.

The Time and Space of Chantal Akerman

Chris Campbell

Chantal Akerman in Je Tu Il Elle

Chantal Akerman in Je Tu Il Elle

For me cinema is time and space. – Chantal Akerman

A filmmaker who put herself deeply into her films and changed what was possible cinematically, Chantal Akerman redefined how time and space are depicted on screen. The distance and formality of her approach to her films resonated with me as I explored her work over the years. Always uncompromising and bold and feminist, she followed her own path and cinematic interests. Her influence on other filmmakers is profound with elements showing up in the work of filmmakers such as Gus Van Sant, Sophia Coppola, Bèla Tarr, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

I had an intuition that if I was going to only write, I will stay in one room all the time and never go out. I felt that if I was going to make movies, I would have to communicate with people and it would be good for me. – Chantal Akerman



The first film by Chantal Akerman I watched was Captive (2000)which I remember as being strange and unnerving. But with Akerman the central film and will always be Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975). She was 25 when she made the film with a largely female crew. Bold and remarkable in approach and style, it's an influential film and singular achievement. The ambiguity of parts of the film keep it interesting to me after multiple viewings and I keep noticing new things every time I watch it. It's an experience that carefully establishes routines as it deliberately progresses with small glimpses into the emotional life or Jeanne delivered obliquely. Building a world through small, ordinary details.

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

I remember saying to myself, how can I make a better film? But it was also exactly the film I had to make then. It says something about a woman, about a way of living a life, about life after the war. It was the first thing I had to pour out of myself. – Chantal Akerman

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

While Jeanne Dielman is her crowning achievement, there are many other fascinating and innovative films that Akerman made in both fictional and non-fictional forms. It's a challenge to find some of them with the complexities of film distribution, but luckily there are the Criterion releases of Jeanne Dielman and the box set of Chantal Akerman in the 70s which gives an important glimpse into her development as a filmmaker. Combining an intellectual approach with strong, stylized approaches, she explores ideas with a passion and dedication that is rare and resulted in some film that worked incredibly well and others that don't work as well, but commit to the ideas that inform them.

We were just going to the movies to kiss and eat ice cream and eventually look at the movie. But I didn’t care. I was much more interested in literature; I wanted to be a writer. Then I saw Godard’s film, Pierrot Le Fou, and I had the feeling it was art, and that you could express yourself. – > Chantal Akerman

La Chambre

La Chambre

With La Chambre (1972), an early experimental short, the camera slowly pans around an apartment, revealing Akerman in bed, looking at the camera. The pattern is established and it continues to rotate around as she does various things as the camera comes back to her and then reverses direction. It's strange and unnerving.

There always seems to be a tension in the films of Chantal Akerman between confined spaces and the outside world. More than any other filmmaker for me, she explores spaces with a startling intensity and confidence so the most ordinary objects take on greater significance. While a filmmaker like Wes Anderson has elaborately art-directed rooms, Akerman fills her rooms with ordinary, everyday objects. With a focus on the interstitial spaces between where dramas traditionally focus, she shows us hidden worlds and strips out melodrama leaving the reality of our own lives staring back at us.

Hotel Monterey

Hotel Monterey

She takes a similar static approach with her silent film Hotel Monterey (1972) with a largely static camera in various positions around a cheap hotel in New York City. The spaces are fascinating as we watch them and see people move through them not knowing who they are or what they are doing. Some of the scenes feel strange and later David Lynch would have shots in many of his films that echo the sense of unease that a lamp in a room can evoke.

Blow Up My Town

Blow Up My Town

In her first film Blow Up My Town (1968) she's confined to one room. It's Akerman in a kitchen and she's trapped in the room and wants to escape her life and eventually blows herself up. Experimental and terrifying, this early film by her starts the pattern and tension between spaces and people and their lives. The long takes increase the tension as we watch, unable to help, or change or influence what we see. We are voyeurs witnessing something horrible, powerless to do anything other than witness.

Je Tu Il Elle

Je Tu Il Elle

The filmmaker is present again in Je Tu Il Elle (1976) as we're again inside with Akerman in a room. It's painfully voyeuristic at times as we watch her in her apartment after a breakup, rearranging furniture, painting the room, and eating sugar. Her voiceover giving a glimpse inside what she is thinking and feeling. She can't seem to leave the room, but when she runs out of sugar she leaves to visit her ex-lover by getting a drive with a truck driver who asks for sex and tells her about his family and his sex life. The camera is handheld and jittery contrasting with the fixed framing inside the apartment. She eventually gets to her ex-lover and she's hungry and eats and spends the night and has sex with her explicitly on screen. Startling to watch, but shot with a distance that shows an emotional disconnection that is within Akerman's films.

News From Home

News From Home

While most of her films have rooms and small spaces, there are also stunning long takes outside exploring the larger world. In News from Home (1977) Akerman reads letters from her mother as we glimpses of New York in the 1970s. Shots from outside of vehicle windows as they drive through streets moving and moving, showing us incredible detail of the city as personal details emerge from the letters. It's a blending of her earlier films with the silence of Hotel Monterey along with the personal aspects of Je Tu Il Elle. An inner emotional space blended with the city of New York. The long tracking shots of the city stick with me and echo in later films. I think of Steve McQueen's Shame with the long scene of Michael Fassbender running through the darkened streets as a quintessential example.

Les rendez-vous d'Anna

Les rendez-vous d'Anna

In Les rendez-vous d'Anna (1978) the personal aspect is lightly disguised, but it's about a filmmaker who is on a tour of Europe to promote her latest film. The placement of the camera is always key to the work of Akerman and the filmmaker played by Aurore Clement looks at the camera at times while strangely separated from everything surrounding her. While Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles confines the protagonist to a rigidly defined space and routines in her apartment and a few locations outside, Les rendez-vous d'Anna has the same carefully composed frames, but Anna is always going from one location to another. We're in the interstitial spaces in her life with the major events cut out. We see her before and after what you'd traditionally make a journal entry about, or a scene in a film. Seeing the times we don't usually see are the elements that make the film so compelling.

Les rendez-vous d'Anna

Les rendez-vous d'Anna

Her interactions with people in Les rendez-vous d'Anna are odd with a stylized dialogue and flat delivery that reflect her emotional disconnection. The frames are deliberately composed at right angles and centered with jump cuts within a scene changing the angle by 90 degrees. A slightly more emotional interaction occurs with a man she almost sleeps with, but then talks with before deciding to attend his daughter's birthday party. We see her arrive at the house where the party is happening, but we only see Anna and him outside talking (where he has a long monologue about how his wife left him, how he is unhappy, and a short summary of 50 years of German history) and then he says, "Let's go inside, they're waiting for us." We never see the party and we cut to them outside later as she leaves where they talk about what happened inside.

Les rendez-vous d'Anna

Les rendez-vous d'Anna

The tracking of characters and the omission of traditionally dramatic scenes is something explored up by other filmmakers and cinematic movements later. Fellow Belgians Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne use similar strategies with their films as we follow their characters. The emotional distance and careful framing in the films of Sophia Coppola draw upon Akerman as well. We see characters unguarded in intimate takes that run longer than traditional filmmaking rules would suggest. Routines and patterns emerge and when small things change it takes on greater power. It pushes cinema into new directions, away from melodrama and into new emotional spaces.

The voiceover of Je Tu Il Elle is absent in both Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles and Les rendez-vous d'Anna, leaving the audience to construct the inner emotional world of the central character. We need watch their movements and their faces for clues to how they are feeling and what they are thinking. The smallest details take on greater significance. We see Jeanne forget to button a button it creates a sense of unease. We see Anna smile when she sees her mother and don't hear their initial exchange as they embrace. The emotional details are provided by us and paradoxically these omissions create a rare intimacy as we fill the gaps in from our own experiences and expectations.

In her later films Akerman tried many different things, switching genres and shooting styles always with a thoughtful approach and a fierce dedication to combining the personal with the cinematic. She was always present in her films either on screen or in the ways she explored the space and time of the people and places she looked at. We have lost a thoughtful, generous, and innovative filmmaker who left a rich body of work that will continue to inspire filmmakers and viewers for generations.

From Complex to Simple: Lessons from 13 Years of Blogging

Chris Campbell

It started with text, it's always text. Words are important, words are the building blocks of my blog and the closer I am to them, the better.

Memory is fallible and by writing it helps to paint a more comprehensive picture of what is going on at a certain time. In preparing for my session at BlogJam 2015 I realized this as I used my own blog posts to piece together my history of blogging over two decades with this blog running for a lucky 13 years. Anything that you do for a long time starts to become routine and with my blog it's gone from a more hand-crafted, close-to-the-metal how-do-you-set-up-mySQL blog to the site now that lets the fine folks at Squarespace handle everything in the background. I have my own set of quirky routines for writing, but my writing toolkit is more complicated than it needs to be. Now I just have to drop the text into the system and I'll have a blog post.

Context is all. – Margaret Atwood, > The Handmaid's Tale

Being geeky and putting the elements together to share writing was the way you had to be back in the 90s when I started using the web and blogging. The first blog that I had (now lost) was on an Antarctic research web site around 1994. They had extra space on their server and if you emailed them they'd let you set up a web page. You would edit the HTML save it. The first blog post I wrote was a rant about the film "Disclosure". This blog started in 2002 after I registered the domain, paid for some server space, and started thinking about how to have my own site. in 2002 in 2002

In the beginning I did a lot of coding. The first version of my blog used a system from Rael Dornfest called Blosxom (pronounced "blog-some") that used a Perl script to transform text files and folders into a web site. Within the text files you'd use HTML for links or any other formatting, so it was a bit geeky. But it worked great and was fast and easy to use.

What you say should be separate from how you present it. That's why I use text editors for writing and worry about how it will look later. With a text file you don't have to worry about it being out of date. It's easy to take it and transform it and rework it and edit it. Text is powerful.


Tell me the story of us.



Frances Ha, written by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach

A lot of times I rehearse what I want to write. I roll it around and hone it in my mind. I keep repeating and rearranging things. It's like doing multiple takes. It's like performance. After you do it a lot you stop thinking about it. This is what I've rolled around in my heard and rehearsed as the lessons learned after 13 years of blogging here.

Write every day

"The only space I need to write is enough room for my laptop, and the perfect time to write is always now, especially if it’s only five minutes. Inspiration is not somewhere else. It’s right here." – Emily Drevets – Sit Down, Shut Up, Write, Don't Stop

Write whether you want to or not. Get your fingers moving and assemble those words. They don't have to be good, you just need to write. Practice, practice, practice. Filling the page or the screen is the important thing. Writing is work and it's probably not fun, but the only way to get better at anything is to do it a lot. Waiting for inspiration is just fancy procrastination.

I am a happy user of 750 Words which gives me a morning prompt to write every day with a challenge to write every day. Sometimes it's just journaling, but it can be a review of a film to post on Letterboxd, the beginning of a blog post, or the outline of a presentation. After getting things written at 750 Words I'll copy and paste it to Byword for editing (using Marked 2 to check the spelling, grammar, reading level, and links) and then add it to my blog.

Take notes

"The first thing you do when you take a piece of paper is always put the date on it, the month, the day, and where it is. Because every idea that you put on paper is useful to you. By putting the date on it as a habit, when you look for what you wrote down in your notes, you will be desperate to know that it happened in April in 1972 and it was in Paris and already it begins to be useful. One of the most important tools that a filmmaker has are his/her notes." – Francis Ford Coppola

It's hard to remember everything. Keeping track of what you've seen and heard is important. A notebook can record things in an old-timey way. For work I have a Moleskine notebook and for non-work stuff I've got another one. I've been using keyboards and screens to record things so much over the past few decades that my handwriting isn't as good as it used to be (I won an award for best writing in grade 3, but now I probably wouldn't be in the top 10).

The things I love to capture are great sentences, so when I am watching a film (which happens a lot during a film festival) I will write down a great line to remember later (which is a challenge in the dark). On my iPhone I use an app called Drafts which lets me quickly capture anything. Then usually send it to an app called 1Writer that synchronizes all my notes so I can look at them anywhere. On my MacBook Pro I use an app called nvALT that allows me to quickly write and find notes. That's where I usually create little snippets of text that I am thinking of. Ideally I'd transcribe my notebooks into digital text, but that doesn't always happen.

I use Pinboard for bookmarking things that I'm reading and it's tied in with Instapaper, so everything I save to read later is also saved as a bookmark. Pinboard also archives my tweets and every link posted in a tweet and saves a copy of every bookmarked web page, so if a site disappears there is a version saved that I can look at. This leaves a trail of what I've read, so I can go back and find out something that was interesting to me.

Another thing that can help a lot is to use quantified self devices and apps. I am currently tracking my music and films and food so I can look that up. I also use an app called Reporter that randomly asks me for updates during the day and I record where I am, what I'm doing, what I've eaten, and who I'm with. The other place where I keep track of things is with the Day One diary app. I add pictures and run a script that creates an entry that assembles information I've recorded about a day into an entry.

Take pictures

Pictures are great to help you remember things, and they're also great to go with blog posts. Nobody else has the pictures you take, so it's great to be able to have a library of them to choose from. With a phone you also record the date and time and location so that can help you remember other details. I've been using Flickr for years with my photos and now everything goes there automatically, so it's a great backup (and iCloud Photos has been working great for me too). As I write this I have over 17,000 photos which is a great library of images to choose from when I create a blog post.

Have a place of your own


"—a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction" Virginia Woolf, October 1928

Get your own domain. It's cheap and unique and you can take it wherever you go and change systems without things disappearing from the web. Most blogging systems allow you to use your own domain and being able to move as your needs change is important. Companies change and services end, sometimes without warning. in 2011 in 2011

You need to hold on to your stuff. Having a backup of what you've written is important as services go away. Hopefully things won't change quickly or fail dramatically, but if you don't have a copy of your stuff, you are taking a big chance. I wrote a lot on the 43 Things web site and one day the site shut down. Luckily I was able to export everything out of the site (hundreds of entries) but a sister site, All Consuming, had gone down earlier and I couldn't recover a lot of that. I cross-posted a lot of my film reviews to Blogger, so with that and's Wayback Machine I was able to recover what I've written. But with other sites like Vox) I lost many posts that I made.

For five years I used Blosxom on a server that I configured myself. For the next five years I used a self-hosted WordPress installation that I also configured and tweaked. Importing everything worked with some images not working and I manually went through and added categories and tags to the posts (it took several months of casual updating). Then I decided to stop configuring the server and plugins and moved over to Squarespace. The import was easy and now I focus more on the writing and rarely on the configuration.

Tools ≠ Talent – The Audio Anarchist Manifesto

With Wordpress and Medium and Squarespace you can export your blog. That is a good thing to do as it gives you a backup in case something goes away. This is important if you have things written on a server that you don't own (or even if you do since hard drives all fail eventually). As I write this I have about 750 blog posts here and knowing that I have them backed up and can move somewhere else is a good feeling (but I'm content with Squarespace).

Share your excitement and wonder


The most important lesson is to share what you love. If you are enthusiastic about something and share that excitement it translates to your blog posts. Finding out about new adventures or food or places or films or tools is why I love reading blogs. If it is interesting to you, it is probably interesting to someone else. Hopefully that's what you get from this and what you give to others when you write and share.