Hypocrite Idler 2014
January 5, 2015
To idle is to work on meaningful and varied projects — and also to take it easy. (Like Nas, “I used to hustle/Now all I do is relax and strive.”) If you’re interested in my 2014 projects, please keep reading; otherwise, don’t! The title of this series of posts refers to this self-proclaimed idler’s inability to take it easy.
HILOBROW is a noncommercial blog. None of the below should be construed as an advertisement for SEMIOVOX, UNBORED, or one of my other semi-profitable projects. This series is merely intended to keep HILOBROW’s readers updated on the editor’s doings and undoings.
I am deeply grateful to the many talented and generous folks with whom I’ve collaborated during this past year.
SAVE THE ADVENTURE
TAKING IT EASY
In October 2014, Bloomsbury published the family activities guide UNBORED Games: Serious Fun for Everyone. Like our acclaimed 2012 book UNBORED: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun, I coauthored UNBORED Games with Elizabeth Foy Larsen; and it was designed and art directed by Tony Leone. We collaborated with the same illustrators again: Heather Kasunick, Mister Reusch, and Chris Piascik.
In its 176 (full-color, richly illustrated) pages, UNBORED Games includes the rules to dozens of indoor, outdoor, online and offline games, including: back of the classroom games, bike rodeo games, jump rope games, alternate reality games, clapping games, apps and videogames, secret-rules games, drawing games, rock-paper-scissors games, card and dice games, backyard games, guerrilla kindness games, stress-relieving games, and geo-games.
Plus: Expert essays by gamers Chris Dahlen, Catherine Newman, Stephen Duncombe, and Richela Fabian Morgan; Best Ever lists (including Apps to Play with a Grownup and Cooperative Boardgames); DIY game-building projects (Beanbag Toss, Rocket Racing Game, Duct Tape Boardgame); Secret History Comics by Joe Alterio and Heather Kasunick; Q&As with Apps for Kids podcasters Mark and Jane Frauenfelder, Anomia inventor Andrew Innes, and others; Train Your Grownup features (including Dance-Off and Gamify Your Favorite Causes); classic literature excerpts; and brain-teasing Mindgames by Patrick Cates.
Elizabeth and Tony and I are very grateful for all the kind reviews. Here are a few excerpts: “From creating ‘exquisite corpse’ drawings to larping, there’s more than enough to entice kids of all interests and abilities.” — Publishers Weekly. “A delightful and engaging compilation of games galore, from the indoors to the outdoors, from the computer to the traditional board game.” — Library Journal. “Chock-full of smart, totally not-lame ideas to amuse and give the brain a workout.” — Minneapolis Star-Tribune. More reviews posted to our Facebook page.
ALSO: During 2014, Elizabeth and I wrote and edited another book: UNBORED Adventure. Like UNBORED Games, the second UNBORED spinoff is 176 (full-color, richly illustrated) pages. In addition to scores of adventurous family activities, the book features expert essays, Best Ever lists, DIY projects, Secret History comics, Q&As with adventurers, Train Your Grownup features, and classic lit excerpts. Tony and his team are currently hard at work designing and illustrating UNBORED Adventure; Bloomsbury is scheduled to publish it in Fall 2015.
THERE’S MORE: Working with one of our favorite educational toy companies, thanks to the entrepreneurial efforts of my colleague Elizabeth Foy Larsen, in 2014 the UNBORED team developed not one but two UNBORED activity kits. In December, we sent the pack designs and instruction manuals to press; the kits will be available in 2015. We’re extremely excited about this. Stay tuned.
In April 2014 I co-launched Semiovox LLC, a global semiotic culture and brand analysis agency. My business partner in this endeavor is Ron Rentel, who is also founder and head honcho of the 25-year-old brand and innovation agency Consumer Eyes… so he brings a unique perspective, research tools and process, and a full creative department to the table.
Semiotic analysis is being used by many companies and organizations to optimize brand communication, develop breakthrough package designs, and renovate brands by increasing relevance and innovating. I’ve worked in the field since the late 1990s, mostly through British agencies. Since forming Semiovox in April, we’ve worked closely with Kraft Foods, Unilever, Toyota, PepsiCo, MillerCoors, and other world-class companies on complex, fascinating research and analysis projects. It’s been fun!
You might also like to check out the CODE-X series that I’ve started publishing at HILOBROW, this year. Each installment in the series identifies and briefly limns a single code — e.g., Spirograph Futurism, Clarified Reality, Game Face. For an explanation of how I do what I do, read the CODE-X series introduction.
In October, RWConnect, the magazine for “marketing intelligence & decision making,” solicited an essay from me: “Personality Crisis! How Semiotics Can Heal Your Brand.” RWConnect is published by ESOMAR, an international organization dedicated to advancing market research techniques.
Between Semiovox work, publishing UNBORED Games and writing/editing UNBORED Adventure, and working with Elizabeth and Tony on the two forthcoming UNBORED activity kits, 2014 was a bit hectic. However, I tried to keep HILOBROW’s engine ticking over, too.
To get a proper overview of what we published this past year, please take a look at the post HILOBROW’s 2014. Here, I’ll just mention two series that I solicited and edited.
In August, I edited HILOBROW’s fourth annual ENTHUSIASM series of 25 posts, by 25 contributors, analyzing and celebrating particular examples of cultural phenomena. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM took a close look at 25 typefaces that we love, hate, and love to hate. The series was a great success, if I do say so myself. Nine of its installments made HILOBROW’s 10 Most Visited 2014 Posts list; this is partly due to the fact that several installments were republished (with permission) by Slate.
I’ve been editing the HILO HEROES series for five years now; this year, we published some 260 new installments. I am extremely grateful to the series’ talented and generous contributors: Tor Aarestad, Deb Chachra, Mark Kingwell, Lynn Peril, Franklin Bruno, Brian Berger, Gary Panter, Tucker Cummings, Astra Taylor, David Smay, William Nericcio, Jerrold Freitag, Chris Lanier, Devin McKinney, Karinne Keithley Syers, Kio Stark, Erik Davis, Jen Collins, Mimi Lipson, Mike Fleisch, Alix Lambert, Elina Shatkin, Anthony Miller, Adrienne Crew, Luc Sante, Annie Nocenti, Suzanne Fischer, Joe Alterio, Adam McGovern, Robert Wringham, Jacob Mikanowski, Tom Nealon, Marilyn Snell, Amanda French, Katie Hennessey, and Peggy Nelson.
Posts I contributed to HiLobrow in 2014 include:
- HiLo Hero items on Oscar Wilde, Friedrich Nietzsche, John Lennon, John Buchan, Hugo Gernsback, Erskine Childers, and Irving Howe. Early in the year, I also wrote a new installment in HILOBROW’s annual RONDEL FOR HILO HEROES acrostic doggerel series.
- Top Ten lists of my favorite 1964 novels for older kids, favorite 1964 adventure novels, and 1965 adventure novels. The latter list, which commemorates the forthcoming 50th anniversaries of these titles, was republished by Boing Boing.
- In addition to the CODE-X series mentioned above, I started an ongoing HiLobrow series titled RADIUM AGE: CONTEXT. It’s a show-and-tell of artifacts offering insights into the social and cultural context within which Radium Age science fiction (1904–33; it was I who gave this era its moniker) was produced and received. Also, in a desultory fashion, I added posts to ongoing HiLobrow series like FILE-X, PLUPERFECT PDA, and LATF HIPSTER.
In late 2013 I helped the Brooklyn-based bookstore Singularity & Co. raise startup funding via Kickstarter for a new digital book club: SAVE THE ADVENTURE. The club, which is owned and operated by Singularity & Co., aims to digitize adventure novels — both in and out of public domain — that have thus far never been digitized.
It took quite a long while for the club to get up and running. Here’s Singularity & Co.’s Save the Adventure Book Club homepage. If you backed Save the Adventure via Kickstarter but never received club membership info, go here.
Because of the long delay in getting the club started, I was forced to move on to other projects. My role in the SAVE THE ADVENTURE book club has ended up being a modest one. I’ve pointed the Singularity & Co. folks in the direction of several dozen un-digitized adventure novels that I love. Also, I’ve helped line edit several of the initial books they’ve offered to club members. (The scanning process introduces innumerable errors; I compare each line of scanned text to the text in the original book, and make changes as necessary; same thing I do for HiLoBooks titles.) Morley Roberts’s 1900 hunted-man adventure The Fugitives and William Haggard’s 1963 espionage adventure The High Wire are among the titles that I’ve suggested and line-edited for the Save the Adventure Book Club, thus far.
In 2014, in my role as editor and publisher of HiLoBooks, I serialized the following adventure and Radium Age science fiction novels, here at HILOBROW.
- Helen MacInnes’s 1944 novel The Unconquerable, an espionage adventure that pits an innocent English woman against both Nazis and resistance fighters in occupied Poland.
- The 1926 satirical sf novel King Goshawk and the Birds, by Irish playwright and novelist Eimar O’Duffy.
- Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince, a 1915 Ruritanian-style thriller in which two adolescent boys play a proto-Alternate Reality Game about a far-off revolution… or is it a game?
- Morley Roberts’s 1900 novel The Fugitives, a hunted-man adventure set against the backdrop of the Second Boer War.
- William Haggard’s 1963 novel The High Wire, the fifth title in his acclaimed Col. Charles Russell espionage adventure series.
- Huntingtower, a 1922 adventure by John Buchan, in which a retired Scottish grocer attempts to rescue a Russian noblewoman from Bolsheviks.
For more information about HiLoBooks, and the 10 Radium Age science fiction novels we’ve reissued in gorgeous paperback format, visit our homepage.
You might also enjoy perusing the following list of what I consider the 200 Greatest Adventure Novels of All Time; it was the #1 most popular feature on HiLobrow in 2014.
Sorry, but I’m not allowed to discuss this secretive online community of exactly 100 members. I can reveal, however, that I founded the community seven years ago, and that I continue to moderate it. More info here.
A few other 2014 events worth mentioning:
- In the spring, I helped my son Max paint a set of LOTR-themed beanbog toss tables (which he’d built with his Uncle Matt and Aunt Megan, as a project for the UNBORED Games book). In 2014, Max and his friend Jon, along with other kids we know, helped me do a bunch of activities and projects for the forthcoming UNBORED Adventure book, too.
- In April, I gave a talk on “X” Books at DebCon One. (I’m at almost-bottom right.)
- In June, Tony and I bought all new tables for our office. And (spoiler alert) in January, our friend and colleague Rick Pinchera will move into the space with us.
- In July, I took my son Sam to get his driver’s permit.
- In August, the University of Iowa Libraries finished cataloging the Joshua Glenn Zine Collection — which takes up 15 linear feet of space in their archives — and they’ve published an online finder’s guide. HERE IT IS. For more info about this collection, see Regression Toward the Zine.
- My family and friends and I went car camping in Truro, Mass., this summer.
- In October, I delivered a few remarks on the topic of “British-ness” coding in US culture to an audience of British brand marketers, at NY’s British expat club, the Norwood Club. The day before that, I moderated a discussion, at the Boston Book Festival, between book futurists Matthew Battles and Jeffrey Schnapp. In December, Tony Leone and I gave a Google Talk — at Google’s Cambridge, Mass., office — about UNBORED Games, and also about our creative process… which begins with design and semiotics research.
- In November and December, Elizabeth and Tony and I presented UNBORED Games, and taught children how to play games from the book, at bookstores in New York, Minnesota, and Massachusetts. We were joined at some of these venues by the book’s illustrators, Mister Reusch, Heather Kasunick, and Chris Piascik; by contributor Catherine Newman; and by my mother, who taught attendees how to play the parlor game Coffeepot — which she’d learned from her mother, and which she’d taught me.
- Throughout the year, I lost nearly 100 games of Words With Friends. I lost to: Patrick Cates, Tom Nealon, David Warner, John Cradock, my mother Lee Glenn, my sons Sam and Max, and many others. I am very good at losing this game.
- I spent quality time — never enough! — with my wife Susan, my sons Sam and Max, my six brothers and sisters and their spouses and significant others, my wife’s brothers and their wives, my five nieces and two nephews (the oldest of whom is pictured here), my parents, and even a few friends. I love you mugs.