Peter M Howard ::

Five Things

30Aug2010 [myth]

In which five things are on my mind: Location, The City, Sex & Death, Teams Edward & Jacob, Creative Whitespace

Over the last couple months, I've seen a number of "Five things" posts — simple wrap-ups of things on the mind, none of which may be developed enough to warrant a post of their own. Dan Hon has a number of them catalogued. Last week I put together a web-focussed entry for the Gruden blog; this week I have my own take.


I've recently abandoned Foursquare for a second time, lasting a little longer than the last, but still not able to make it work for me. I've been trying to figure out Why, and realised I'm not actually interested in the gaming aspects of it — collecting badges and fighting for mayorships. Nor are the social aspects that great, because it's really not giving me much that Twitter doesn't. But the location part is very almost there. WeePlaces goes some way to highlight what it is that works here. The service maps my Foursquare checkins against a map over time, giving a cool visualisation of where I've spent my time. But the limitations are glaring: it'll only show locations where I've actually pulled out my phone, found the place, and checked in. Frustratingly, I find it easier to do this when I'm in my routine, but not when I go outside of the daily patterns. So a map of my Foursquare checkins mostly just shows me my regular work/home routine.

I think, instead, I'm going to want to hack something up for my iPhone (or some other device?) designed specifically just to track my location, not to tie it to specific Places. It's not something I'd want as public as my Foursquare checkins, but it should give much more interesting data.

The City

I've been thinking about The City for a long time. I'm particularly interested in the idea of the City as an entity. Picturing it as a system that grows organically is straightforward enough. But when we consider the spiritual as well, layered over the physical space, it gets really interesting. Cultures the world over have developed the idea of sacred places, and of spirits who inhabit those places, often tied directly to a place's physical characteristics. Within this mythology, we can consider the development of physical cities also prompting the emergence of an associated spirit.

Sex & Death

And Immortality. It's cliché that youth are fascinated with sex and death. It's clearly evident in the pop cultural depiction of vampires — whether Twilight or True Blood, it's this diptych imagery of sex and death that makes the stories appeal. And I'm finding both themes coming up over and again in my reading and writing, informing myth, religion and politics.

Teams Edward & Jacob

The correct choice, of course, is neither. I've written before about what vampires and werewolves represent: the spiritual and animal aspects of humanity, respectively. In Twilight, Meyer's sympathies clearly lie with the spiritual: the vampires are dangerous, but only ever enough to make Edward an appealing bad boy — there's never any doubt about which way Bella will go. It's made clear to us that Jacob really is the dangerous choice: not only is he not white (and stereotypically "closer" to nature), but we're shown, in Sam's scarred fiancée, the physical risk that the wolves represent.

But what's particularly interesting about the two Teams isn't what they themselves represent (or which way people swing), but that they're the only options. The human males throughout the series are weak and indecisive, or (almost absurdly) effeminate. Charlie is allowed to grow into a great character, but in Bella's formative years he's an absent and uninteresting father. We're left with no logical reason for Bella not to abandon humanity.

Creative Whitespace

The idea of forced dis-connection to aid the creative process has come up in a few places. It ranges from taking time away from the digital, through taking a "creative pause" in the shower, to simply taking a walk. It's become obvious that the endless onslaught of digital updates isn't conducive to creative pursuits. Though I'm in two minds, because the web's also so amazingly a source of inspiration. The trick, as always, is balance, and working out a way to still create and not just consume.

All the things I'm thinking about are related, and there's one clear outcome from them all: I'm taking some time off to write. In Jan and Feb of next year, I'll be off to Paris and London, to live on the cheap in the middle of The City, and write a story of the Immortals. I want to disconnect but also hook right into those cities' spirits, then let out these characters that have been knocking about my head, and see what they get up to.

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