Cartoon Gravity 20

News on Lovecraft Investigations; some new Pleasant Green content; Tana and ontological note apps.

At the end of last week, I finally stumbled to the end of the last script of the fourth season of Lovecraft Investigations. There have been a few drafts now of the earlier episodes, but the back half of the season is still at first draft stage, so I'm spending this week editing and polishing so that the cast can see script this coming weekend.

Production, though, now has a complete story, so we have our recording location booked - we've found a house in the countryside that can pretty much cover all the bases in terms of sound environments and, fun fact, this will be the first time we've recorded in a location that is actually referenced in the script.

Right now, Sarah, our producer, is putting the schedule together and approaching guest actors. We record in the last week of June.

In other Pleasant Green news, last night the first instalment of "Saltmarsh" went up on the Pleasant Green blog. This is a prose fiction experiment, and the first non-audio longform thing I have tried in this universe. Saltmarsh is a completely new Kennedy Fisher storyline that takes place between Season 3 and Season 4 of the audio show. I don't know how long it will run for or how often instalments will appear, but I am not QUITE making it up as I go along; I am, unusually, at least thinking a couple of moves ahead.

Saltmarsh is also, unfortunately, going behind the site's paywall. I thought long and hard about this, and I know the economic environment is really not conducive to taking out another monthly subscription, but it takes a fair chunk of time to create this stuff (and the site itself is not free to hose) so it's a lot easier to timetable and prioritise it if I know it's not just free work.

I am not a completely heartless capitalist pig, though, so if you're a Cartoon Gravity subscriber who really wants to follow this story but genuinely can't spare the subscription rate, sign up for the free membership and then drop me an email (replying to this one will get it to the right place) and I'll comp you for a year, no questions asked.

"Tools for thought" is a phrase that seems to be cropping up more and more in the productivity-verse (oh now THAT would be a dreary setting for a movie). TFT, as it is abbreviated to, is a form of PKM (Personal Knowledge Management). I have very little time for articles full of these acronyms, and increasingly even less time for all these people who insist on making notes on every fucking thing they read. The internet (Medium especially) seems to be chock-full of people making Zettelkasten notes on every single block of words that passes in front of their eyes and then finding more and more complex ways to categorise this "personal knowledge". To what end? I mean, great if you're a student, but they are by no means all students. There seems to be a fair chunk of middle-aged white guys who are spending their time building personal knowledge bases with no particular aim in mind. I mean, educate yourself by all means, love that. And it doesn't have to be for any reason other than self-improvement. But I suspect that these notes are not really being used in the most part. I don't think education is happening, I think this is a bizarre form of obsessive information hoarding.

Also, while I'm at it, stop using phrases like Tools for Thought and Personal Knowledge Management and Second Brain when all you're really doing is being pretentious about the digital equivalent of a notebook ("Oh that's a good idea for a story," said Dickens, "Let me note it down in my Personal Knowledge Management System")

I am nonetheless interested in these tools because I have always found that collecting original thoughts and ideas (as opposed to automated Kindle highlights FFS) is really conducive to my creative process. Having all my ideas, however slight, in one place and being able to smash them into each other to create something new has led me to a lot of good stuff (the Lovecraft Investigations comes very much from this process).

And so I always try out a new thing. For the most part, I have stayed with Obsidian on and off for years. It uses plain-text files, is remarkably simple if you ignore all the plugins, and does the job really well.

Recently, though, a whole new method of thinking has entered this space, and it's one that I find quite challenging and therefore really interesting.

Obsidian, for all the ground it broke when it was first released is still, in essence, based around a files-and-folder hierarchy. It doesn't have to be, you can have your notes all in one big clump and use various of Obsidian's tools to sift through them, but it actually makes the most sense being laid out like everything else on your computer.

Files and folders is how we have arranged things pretty much since the written word became a thing. But it might not actually be the best methodology in the digital age. Newer apps, mainly Tana and Capacities, have a different way of doing things.

The big buzzword here is ontology; arranging things by what they are. So in Tana and Capacities, everything is essentially classified as an object; an idea, a person, a weblink, a project, a trip abroad etc. So you write your note and you tag it as one of these objects. Rather than dig around in files, you can therefore just ask the apps to show you particular types of object, or filter within that object type.

By way of example, I am writing this post from within Tana. The post itself is tagged as "content" (ugh, I know, but it's a useful catch-all for blog posts and newsletters) and it relates to another object called "newsletters" and within that it is classified as "Cartoon Gravity".

This all sounds much more complicated than I wanted it to, because this way of thinking is hard (for me at least) to articulate. What it means in practical terms is that it doesn't matter where I store a piece of information. I could write this post within my daily note, or in the inbox, or in my document library, or accidentally at the bottom of a file called "travel plans". It doesn't matter where it goes and it never needs to be tidied, because the tagging system means that it will always be referenced wherever I need it. So I know that I can click the button I have set up marked "Cartoon Gravity" and this post will appear in the list, regardless of where it was left.

I'm interested in this stuff precisely because it challenges my brain. The urge to order things manually is powerful and yet Tana becomes incredibly confusing if you try to use it like that. But used properly, it much more accurately replicates human memory; things are recalled in relation to other things. This allows for a lot more serendipity, as well as a very efficient way to store and retrieve information.

It's early days for me and Tana, and I do keep looking sideways at Capacities, which works on a similar principle but looks a LOT nicer. The reason Tana edges it for me at the moment is that it works WAY better as an outliner (it replaced Workflowy for me on day one) and it seems to have much less friction. Capacities' nicer design immediately meant that I was spending more time making stuff look pretty than doing actual work.

If you're interested, there's a really good video intro to Tana HERE.

Also, a Tana devotee called Maggie Appleton maintains an interesting website looking at the philosophy of these kinds of systems. She's also a big proponent of the digital garden idea, which I am toying with as a model of what Cartoon Gravity could be moving forward. You can find that at

And so to a round-up of recent links posted to the Cartoon Gravity site:

A composer’s time capsule 1930s home is for sale in Somerset - The Spaces

Clarke Gable’s Jaguar XK120 and cache of unseen Ferraris headline Lake Como auction - The Spaces

A historic facade hides modern living spaces at this Lisbon townhouse - The Spaces

The Long Forgotten Love Story of the Titanic’s Interracial Couple

Weston Wei’s imaginative illustrations explore the relationships between bodies and diseases

Brendon Burton Captures Moments of Nostalgia and Wonder in North America’s Most Isolated Places — Co...

Why Conscious AI Is a Bad, Bad Idea

The Race to Colonize Mars Perpetuates a Dangerous Religion

The Case for Cosmic Pantheism

Fuck it, send.