Cartoon Gravity 21

I've been crazy busy for a few weeks, so my online presence has been a little muted. To make up for it, I've been uploading some stuff this weekend.

For paid subscribers to the Pleasant Green blog, the second instalment of the Saltmarsh storyline is now available - Saltmarsh 2. I've also instituted a DISCOUNT - click this link before the end of July and you get 40% off an annual subscription.

Over on Substack, a long conversation between me and author Michael Marshall Smith, which we have been conducting over the past few weeks, went up yesterday - In conversation with Michael Marshall Smith.

Lovecraft Investigations 4 (The Haunter of the Dark) has now been recorded and is in the edit. The experience was, as always, amazing, and you'll be able to hear the results in October.

In brand new news, another season of Aldrich Kemp has indeed been requested by Radio 4. It's not going to air until Autumn of 2024, so there's a bit of a wait, but that is mainly for reasons of cast availability. I have big plans for the new season and can't wait to get started.

What I'm going to be boring you with today, is my current app stack. "App stack" is a phrase I keep seeing on Medium (why am I still there?) and it refers to the apps one is currently using on a regular basis. This kind of nerdy nonsense is baked into the DNA of this newsletter, and yet I haven't really talked about this stuff for a while now, so buckle up...

Consolidation has been my watch-word for the past few months - my computer is full of apps that I either don't use or use very rarely, and so I've been trying to identify those apps that can do the heavy lifting across a variety of tasks. There are always going to be specific and rare use cases for some apps, so I'm not necessarily getting rid of anything, but I am trying to limit the spread of what I use on a daily basis.


The biggest revelation of the year so far, as regular readers will know, is Tana. This is a relatively new app, from Scandinavia, and it is still a little rough around the edges. There's no mobile version yet, although there is a mobile capture app, which is incredibly good.

Tana has become my pretty-much-everything app; lists, outlines, journals, ideas library, random notes and reminders, movies I want to see, books I want to read. I treat Tana like one giant notebook for everything. It's incredibly easy to use (once you get the hang of it), and everything you put in there can be tagged so that it resurfaces at exactly the moment you need it.

Tana doesn't use files or folders or any kind of traditional hierarchical filing system. Everything is equal, just as it would be in a paper notebook or, indeed, in your brain. That means that you don't have t consciously put anything anywhere. You just write it down and tag it, and then Tana can find it whenever it's needed.

Tana's super-power is something called "supertags", which basically just means that you can assign properties to a tag. So, for instance, if I tag something as a "document", I can then assign it to a project, set due dates, progress etc - whatever I want to attach to it. Having been thus tagged, I can then call up a list of all documents and see the same information fields for all of them.

I appreciate that, to the casual reader, this can hardly sound like a lot of fun. But using Tana over the past few months, I have been amazed at how the friction of it has just slipped away. The whole thing is just second nature now, and I really don't know how I ever did without it.

As of this date, (as an addendum to the last newsletter) Tana has now replaced Workflowy, Obsidian (except in very specific use cases), Notion, Capacities and Drafts for me. It's even threatening my beloved MyMind as a receptacle of things I want to remember.

Remarkable 2

I've also been putting my Remarkable tablet through its paces of late. Previously, this was a really great e-ink tablet that was nice to write on and portable and was convenient because it meant I didn't have to haul around different notebooks for different projects. It was also great to read and edit scripts on. Then Remarkable brought out their keyboard, which turned the thing into a beautifully executed distraction-free typewriter. Then they made a series of great upgrades to their syncing software and their desktop and mobile apps. So now anything that I write or type on the tablet is instantly available elsewhere.

This also means that all sorts of information/PDFs/etc that were generated on other apps can now be synced to the Remarkable. So now I can have a project notebook that includes the research I have done, notes and outlines I have made etc.

I'm now using the Remarkable as a kind of hub for my work; any and all notes, scripts, research materials etc go into the Remarkable. I can then add notes, type outlines, whatever, and at the end of the project I can output the entire notebook as a PDF which can then be indexed and archived.

This is a new way of working for me, and I can see massive benefits to it.

For those of you thinking, as I once did, that all of this can be done on an iPad, you would be right. BUT the iPad is a distraction engine - it has the internet, social media, news, games... It's easy to NOT work on an iPad. It's impossible to do anything other than work on the Remarkable. Also, the iPad doesn't have a 2 week battery life!

The rest...

My foray into novel writing continues, although it has been slower over the past few weeks. I'm using Ulysses for that, because I like the flow and clarity of it, and because I can write on any app anywhere. Every now and then, I will type out some passages on the Remarkable and drop the text into Ulysses, and that works very well too.

Recently I stumbled across an app called Lattics, which seems similar to Ulysses but adds some interesting features. I haven't properly dug into it yet, but some of the workflow seems a little obtuse at first glance.

For my organisation and project management, I have forsaken the combination of Notion and Akiflow/Sunsama that I was using and have gone all-in on ClickUp. I once wrote quite a scathing piece on how ClickUp feels like corporate software. And it does. But it's REALLY good at what it does. I use dependencies a lot, and I really like how ClickUp manages these - if I bump a task off to tomorrow or next week, ClickUp will automatically reschedule all dependent tasks in line with that. At a glance, I can give people up-to-date delivery projections and see what stage any given project is at. Once ClickUp is set up, it is pretty frictionless. I'm not using all of its capabilities by any means, but I just let it sit in the background, quietly telling me what I'm supposed to be working on.

As for the rest of the writing software, nothing much has changed; Highland 2 is where I write most scripts, occasionally jumping back into Arc Studio when the mood takes me. Scrivener is the home for episodic stuff like Lovecraft Investigations and Aldrich Kemp. Obsidian still has a use case for blog pieces and newsletters because it's easy to work in, portable, and it handles links very well. But Obsidian is no longer the repository of all things that it once was because Tana is on the scene now.

Time for some recommendations...

Mobili Fiver is the Italian IKEA. I recently overhauled my study in a big way and found a great bookcase and TV stand from these guys. It's not expensive by furniture standards, it's easy to put together, and I really like their designs. I do wish they would use less polystyrene in their packaging, though, it seems really unnecessary.

I stumbled across this 45 minute conversation about method acting, featuring Ethan Hawke and Vincent D'Onofrio on the Criterion Channel's feed. It's a really great discussion and well worth your time. Intro to Method Acting with Vincent D’Onofrio, Ethan Hawke, and Isaac Butler - The Criterion Channel

That doc led me into the 6-part documentary series "The Last Movie Stars" about Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, directed by Ethan Hawke. It's an extraordinary show, mixing transcripts of interviews that Newman had conducted for his never-published memoir, read by the likes of George Clooney, Karen Allen and Laura Linney, with archive footage and tons of movie clips. The show was made by HBO and it's available on Sky/NowTV in the UK. Hard recommend for this.

If I haven't recommended it before, "In Ascension" by Martin MacInnes is a great book. And the movie "Beckett" on Netflix is well worth your time.

I'm off to Vienna next week, so now I have to go figure out what the hell I'm going to pack for 33 degree heat...

Fuck it. Send.