Category Archives: Observations

So delicious

Hey! I’ve created a Commonplace Cartography Delicious account as another means to share interesting links, etc with you.

Even better, you can use the inbox features of Delicious to send me links you think I might like.

As you can probably tell, I’m also monkeying around with using Postalicious to automagically post links from the Delicious feed here. Honestly, that specific part of the equation may not stick. I tend to get annoyed by blogs that post nothing but “Links for x day” posts, and I don’t really want Commonplace Cartography to turn into one of those.

If you have any thoughts on this whole mess, please let me know in the comments.

When I realized I was a grown-up

I realized I was a grown-up when we brought my daughter home from the hospital. I walked upstairs and found my wife clipping the baby’s fingernails.

I remember thinking, “holy shit, that little thing can’t even clip her own fingernails” and realizing just how responsible we would have to be.

I had a similar realization when having some beers with old friends, having a blast, and realized we were talking about recent appliance purchases.

Why my hip-hop posse would include nothing but badass chefs

For some reason, I like the idea of my hip-hop posse consisting entirely of chefs. Perhaps because I’d like my own hip-hop name to be Foo-Dee.

Anthony Bourdain
because he’s a badass and I’d really like him to guide me around the globe, smoking and drinking along the way.

Mark Bittman
because he’s the one I’d like to actually prepare my food

Tom Colicchio
because he knows Padma.

Seven Things

The seven things meme, as rendered by yours truly (@mikemorrow). Not really all that interesting—this is definitely harder than I thought, but I also didn’t want to spend too much time agonizing over what to say.

Stick around here long enough and you’ll get to know me better, I’m sure.

Not that I was asking for it (thanks @frageelay).

1. I have absolutely no fear of speaking in front of groups or crowds, but one-on-one conversations tend to paralyze me with anyone but my closest friends. Hence my fondness for Twitter.

2. I’m a Deadhead. As in, I used to go to shows and even still listen to the music Deadhead. As in, I just paid waaay too much money for tickets to the new Spring Tour Deadhead. Actually, I love improvisational music of all kinds.

3. At the same time I hold a deep love for really rigidly orchestrated, almost mathematical music. During the same peiod I was going to Dead shows, I also saw Rush in three cities in the same week. Rush! Pretty much the antithetical live experience to the Dead. I guess I love it all.

4. I am a direct descendent of Jeremiah Morrow, 9th Governor of Ohio, Ohio’s first member of the House of Representatives, and namesake of Morrow County. That’s where any connection to fame ends, though I did once have a conversation with Allen Ginsberg.

5. I turned down a job in 1996 from a start-up search engine that wanted to become a “human index” of the web. They were going to pay me to surf the web (such as it was then) and categorize the pages I found. Did I mention I TURNED THIS JOB DOWN? Although looking back it seems like the ideal dream job, that refusal started me on the direct path toward the job where I met my wife. I think the company was called C-Box? A quick Google turns up squat.

6. Speaking of The Mrs, my wife and I dated secretly for a year-and-a-half. We worked together at a tiny little consulting firm that required nearly every ounce of our being, and to keep things real we did everything we could to keep our relationship apart from that weird, weird place. I have a lot more to tell you about that job someday.

7. When I was an adolescent, my grandmother predicted that I would marry a woman named Jennifer—a fact which I completely forgot about until after I proposed to my wife, Jennifer.

And so it goes.

The Green Light

In the middle of a cul de sac in the town where we used to live is a little island of grass and a single, nondescript street lamp that holds the stature of myth in our family.

I speak of The Green Light.

The Green Light, so named and mythologized by my daughter at two years of age, cast a peculiar green shade from its vantage point at the end of our street. I’m sure that with a little while of dedicated Googling I could determine the reason this light cast such a verdant hue, though as you’ll see I’m not so interested in the light itself as what it represents and how it came to embed itself in the young imagination of a family just getting its feet underneath itself.

My daughter discovered it. Of course, it was always there, flicking on automatically at dusk and shutting itself off at dawn. But neither my wife nor I ever paid it any attention until it had captured our daughter’s imagination a way that very little else had before it.

My daughter G was captivated by it, and how different it was from the more pedestrian (ahem) light in front of our own home. She noticed it, in the way that a two-year-old notices things: with the realization that something out of the ordinary can transport us into a different world altogether.

“It’s The Green Light!” G would exclaim as we drove home, or left the front door, each time like a bolt of recognition that a long-lost friend had made the visit from far away.

We would drive past our house and drive ’round the cul de sac to visit it, sometimes multiple times, to satisfy G’s desire to see it. If the weather cooperated, when I got home from work we would walk together to pay it a visit. On more than one occasion, G would hug the stone lamppost. And on every occasion we would flirt with a tantrum at the prospect of being forced to leave its presence. The light had a personality, a life beyond our visits, and was the topic of toddler conversations and imaginings.

Who cares?

It was the first instance we witnessed of my daughter noticing something in the outside world and internalizing it into her vision of the universe. It was different, and so was special, and had nothing to do with her parents.

I desperately wished I had thought to document some of the tales that G told us about The Green Light; the specifics of the stories are lost. But if you ask G today, she still remembers it (as “part of the Old House").

It has worked its way back into my consciousness—in part because my son is now approaching that magical age of discovery, and in part because I’ve spent a great deal of time lately thinking about where we anchor our creative energies.

This lamppost in a far north Chicago suburb became a totem for a little imagination, the source of focus for a mind teeming with ideas and hungry for explanations.

A mind not all that different from the more grown-up ones that you and I try daily to “manage” or “control” or “organize.”

We each tend to cluster our creative energies on something, and usually the brightest or shiniest or most immediately appealing.

We need a beacon.

For my daughter, it used to be The Green Light (and is now replaced by her various “kids” and fairies and art projects). For you or I, it might be our Work, or a Blog, or a Person. It may be a healthy focus, or it may not be so positive right now. But I think there must be value in recognizing It for what It is and looking deeper into how it informs your worldview.

And of course we can’t miss the symbolism of a Green Light meaning “GO,” can we?

So what’s your Green Light, and where is it telling you to go?

Basking in Fabulosity

Colleen Wainwright (aka the Communicatrix) is rocking the Internet these days. Or maybe she’s always rocked the Internet and I just figured it out. At any rate, she’s on one of her patented “21 Day Salutes,” which you should definitely check out if you have any interest in changing something about yourself in the new year. And, of course, you do. So go.

And I absolutely love her newsletter, which you should also sign up for. It will make you smile and it will make you think, which is ultimately, in my opinion, the entire purpose of the Internet.

But my point is that I think Colleen is a shining example of someone just Taking Control of Her Shit and Living Full Volume Online.

So rather than trying to give you an exegesis on how wonderful her online work is, please just go check out her site, and dig deeply (there’s a lot there). She’s also on the twitter.

And maybe, just maybe, some of Colleen’s Fabulosity will rub off and inspire you to rock the Internet too. It’s working for me.

My Future Author Award

Future Author Award

What you’re looking at here is one of the most important artifacts of my life. I have had it with me as long as I’ve lived on my own, and even while it languished in a box in my parents’ basement it was never forgotten.

It’s a classic scenario, probably as common today as it was thirtyish years ago—at the end of the school year the teacher handed out awards to every student. Mrs. G gave out the usual awards—class clown, best smile, most helpful—but she also made some bold predictions.

And in mine, she changed my life.

I received the “Future Author Award” that Spring day, and from that day forward whenever anyone asked me the perennial and horrid question “what do you want to be when you grow up,” I answered without hesitation: “author.”

(Astronaut remained a very popular answer, but I knew deep inside I would write stories long before I would ever leave Earth.)

I’m sure my parents had impressed the idea upon me at some point early on. They still talk about the “amazing” stories I would tell them while I took my bath (apparently a family tradition; my own daughter delivers some pretty wonderful narratives during her own bath times), and we lived in a house full of books. Sure, it would have happened in any case.

But the Future Author Award made it real.

Of course I would write books (or ads, or marketing brochures, or essays, or a blog). I had a blue ribbon that made it so.

I wish I could remember why Mrs. G had such confidence in my literary future; the reason for her prophecy is lost to my memory. But I’ve never forgotten the gesture. There’s a part of me that wants to do everything I can to make sure I don’t let that faith be misplaced, and to fulfill the destiny that was given me in a partitioned classroom on the last day of school.

I wonder if anyone else from that class has kept theirs, or if it means as much to them as mine does to me.

Media predictions for 2009

We don’t really need experts to tell us that the media landscape is changing, do we?

Just the same, I found these two articles interesting, both as a participant in the media industry and as an observer of how the interwebs are reformatting notions of normalcy.

The map rather than the destination (or, “What’s all this, then?”)

I tend to be more interested in the process of making meaning than in meanings themselves, but let’s start with a few definitions, since I think they’ll make it pretty obvious what I’m attempting here. The following are from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, originally looked up on my iPhone (American Heritage® Dictionary - Fourth Edition) and linked for you here to

n. The art or technique of making maps or charts.

adj. Having no remarkable features, characteristics, or traits; ordinary.
n. A trite or obvious remark; a platitude
n. A passage marked for reference or entered into a commonplace book. (archaic)

Commonplace book
n. A personal journal in which quotable passages, literary excerpts, and comments are written.

My academic background presses me to assert that Commonplace Cartography is an attempt to map meaning to things that otherwise might get lost in the frenetic comings and goings of our digital lives.

But it’s really much less high-minded than all that.

While there may be some cartography happening from time to time, you’re much more likely to encounter the common, filtered through the lens of some guy on the Internet named Mike.

It’s just a blog. (but it’s mine)

I hope you’ll subscribe, and join me along the way.