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May 23, 2005

Open thread 41
Posted by Patrick at 04:35 PM *

“Always remember this: that magic belongs as much to the heart as to the head and everything which is done, should be done from love or joy or righteous anger.”

Comments on Open thread 41:
#1 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 05:02 PM:

I debated attempting to be the first to post in this thread, but decided that no one actually cares.

#2 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 05:13 PM:

At least you're not shouting "Frist!"

#3 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 05:16 PM:

These days, "Frist" is never enough -- it requires a lead-in of a couple of well broken in words with deep Anglo-Saxon roots.

#4 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 05:26 PM:

FIRST PO -- Oh, wrong weblog.

Apropos the topic on books for writers, while I'm recovering from this-here nose/throat bug I picked up on the flight home last week, I'm hors de combat from serious work ... but would folks be interested in seeing my first take on a Tough Guide to Singularity-land?

#5 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 05:41 PM:

I'll take "righteous anger" for $200, Alex.

#6 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 06:00 PM:

Charlie, and here I speak as a fangirl, I'll read anything you care to write.

#7 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 06:09 PM:

FWIW, I almost kicked off this open thread with "Green sky at night, hacker's delight."

#8 ::: Senseless ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 06:10 PM:

I was tempted to post 8 urls and see if it made it past the filter.

Just checking in.

#9 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 06:16 PM:

Charlie, yes!

#10 ::: Spiral ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 06:23 PM:

Remember the "which SF writer are you" thingy that y'all analysed to within an inch of its life? Well I did it and it said I'm Chip Delaney which I'm not (although I am like some of the other folks who got the same answer...). Anyway, instead of analysing the thing, I went back to put in my ideal-person answers and it told me that I was my favourite SF author. Which makes sense (if you give the quiz any credit at all). Something kept nagging away at me and I realised that it's this:

Why aren't any of my favourite SF author's favourite SF authors in my top ten favourite SF authors?

I enjoyed writing that sentence sooo much more than you're gonna enjoy reading it ;-)

And yes that's favourite author as in favourite read not favourite person. Ideas? Similar mystifying questions? Or am I on my own with this one?

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 06:38 PM:

Greg, I'm so surprised to hear that.

Charlie, yes. Definitely yes.

Spiral, I'm not fazed by your sentence, but your question is one of the deep mysteries. Sometimes it's because your favorite SF author is putting on airs, but often their choice of favorites is honestly inscrutable. FWIW, J. G. Ballard was a great admirer of A. E. Van Vogt, Heinlein was a fan of John Barth, and Henri Rousseau wanted to paint like Ingres.

#12 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 07:08 PM:

An clever borderline scam:

I recently learned that an idea I filed with Oracle's patent-farming office worked its way through the bureaucracy. Not from Oracle, or a patent attorney, or the patent office, but via an official-looking piece of junk mail. The congratulated me and offered me . . . a plaque. Or certificate, if I was feeling cheap.

I did some digging. The patent was issued 5/10; the mail postmarked 5/12. That's pretty fast. Especially considering that the patent office website page for the patent lists my address from three years ago.

The colorful pamplet features a proud geezer posing with his plaque.

#13 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 07:14 PM:

Boggling at Rousseau wanting to paint like Ingres. Who did Ingres want to paint like?

#14 ::: Spiral ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 07:37 PM:

I suppose that our individual responses to art are one of the deep mysteries of cognition, and the number of possible variables of style and content in a work of fiction must be almost unquantifiable, but I'm always in hopes of hearing Great Thoughts or adding to my store of inscrutable examples and intriguing questions.

If Rousseau wanted to paint like Ingres (quelle horreur!) and Ingres wanted to paint like... does artistic influence then become a sort of six degrees of Kevin Bacon game? And, if so, who is SF's Kevin Bacon?

#15 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 07:39 PM:

aw, Stef, I'll make you a certificate if you want one.

Will "invented a thingie" do or is there a term of art for this?

#16 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 07:41 PM:

FWIW, I almost kicked off this open thread with "Green sky at night, hacker's delight."
What, you're starting already with it?

#17 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 07:41 PM:

answer: He said democratic judges are worse than Al Qaeda, Nazi Germany or Civil War.

Pat Robertson, Bill Frist's Vice president for 2008.

Oooh, sorry, you didn't put in the form of a question.

#18 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 07:48 PM:

Thanks, but my current employer will buy me a plaque. They have co-ownership of the patent.

Also, the junk mail had a handsome sample certificate which I could put in a frame from the Dollar Store!

#19 ::: Jesurgislac ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 07:54 PM:

John Ruskin was an ardent fan of Kate Greenaway.

#20 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 08:19 PM:

I've been playing around with TiddlyWiki, and although there seem to be some weird bugs in my copy of it (never trust self-modifying Javascript!) I've got the first few entries hacked out at

Yes, I think the Medium Lobster may have something to say about this ...

#21 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 08:21 PM:

Ahem: make that very buggy.

To make the TiddlyWiki work (at least, in Firefox on a Mac) load the page, then select "close all" in the toolbar on the right, then click on "INtro" in the menu on the left.

#22 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 09:04 PM:

Interesting, Charlie, but why does everything come up with floater tags that say "your name here"?

#23 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 09:56 PM:

“Always remember this: that magic belongs as much to the heart as to the head and everything which is done, should be done from love or joy or righteous anger.”

Bah! It is humbug like this that has brought about the sorry state of magic in the blogosphere today. Mr. Strange's lyrical but nonsensical aphorisms, especially those references to the almost-certainly fictional Moveable Type King, have led many a comment thread poster dangerously if not fatally astray. I would urge the careful and thoughtful reader to refer to the work of Quinones*, most especially his analysis of the fifty-seven types of blogging magic.

* Arturo Quinones, A Preliminary Study of Blogging Habits, With Especial Respect to Emotional Approaches to Magic, 2002, Pew Center for Internet Life.

#24 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 10:01 PM:

One of the interesting things that comes with being a historian...

You see a great deal of human nature, but you don't know where the limits are. Because there is nothing, literally nothing, that our species will not do.

People rape children. Sell their country. Destroy beauty. Wreck stuff. Torture others to death.

And just when you've decided that they're all hopeless nutcases and our only hope is that Cthulhu rises soon and eats us all to spare us more pain, you run across the other side of the story.

People save children. They throw themselves into a river to rescue others. They willingly expose themselves to malaria to figure out how it works so they can find a treatment. They rescue orphans, people entirely unrelated and unknown to them. They write love poems on their 91st birthday.

They do things that are to virtue what the crimes of Nero are to vice.

There is, literally, nothing that humans will not do.

But somehow the scale runs higher on the side of virtue.

#25 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 10:05 PM:

speaking of magic, does pounding the wall until my knuckles bleed and the nuclear option reaches a compromise count? Or is that just magical thinking? I can't remember anymore.

#26 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 10:07 PM:

Zbaraschuk, hey man, thanks for that. Now I don't feel like the most cynical man on the planet anymore, just the second most cynical man.

And all the diodes on one side still ache.

#27 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 10:22 PM:

Charlie Stross, that roughguide is shaping up to be something special and very useful, as I've been puttering about with a Singularity for some time, and looking for a resource to help give it shape.

#28 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 10:23 PM:

> I'll take "righteous anger" for $200, Alex.
>>Greg, I'm so surprised to hear that.

sorry, don't mean to spew on your blog. sometimes I just gotta vent somewhere that someone else will understand.

#29 ::: corpuscle ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 10:58 PM:

In case anybody is interested, I swiped a copy of what purports to be the Nuclear Option agreement from the Free Republic site.

#30 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 11:16 PM:

I just noticed this update on Robert Sheckley's condition. Not as good as I'd hoped, not as bad as I'd feared.

#31 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 11:20 PM:

I think I need to bone up on my writing skills. That wasn't meant as an expression of cynicism, but of optimism.

#32 ::: RandallP ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 11:36 PM:

Hey, does anybody here own a Roomba? I'm dying to get one of those, but I'm scared. Literally. So, I need some opinions.

#33 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 11:47 PM:

Try it this way: for any given act (that is physically possible under the circumstances obtaining), there exists a population of human beings that will perform it.

I have tried and tried to put that sentence in a neater form, but failed. It has to be ass-backwards like that, or else it sounds like I'm saying that the same population will do all the possible acts.

#34 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 11:47 PM:

tony, the "rape" and "torture" bits pretty much threw me down a dark tunnel. The bit about "throwing themselves into a river" wasn't enough to bring me back to center, let alone to the side of optimism.

It could be, however, that I started so far down the cynical side that even Mary Poppins couldn't bring me back.

I have had a lot of days like that lately.


#35 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 11:49 PM:

I've added my thoughts on the lady who claims they ripped off her screenplay to make both the Terminator and Matrix trilogies here. The brief reply: what else have you written, o Master?

#36 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 11:59 PM:

In the tough guide, positioning the mouse over the ArtificialIntelligence topic produces a help tag that says "ArtificialIntelligence doesn't yet exist". I like that. It is so true. (By definition, if something exists, it can't be real AI.)

#37 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 12:05 AM:

Is anyone going to WisCon?

#38 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 12:28 AM:

SF's Kevin Bacon is probably either H. Beam Piper or James Schmitz; possibly Christopher Anvil. Good solid B-rank author, not followed by most folks but dearly loved by a core. I'm purposefully not including living folks in this list because some of them read here.

Fantasy: John Myers Myers, Mervyn Peake, or possibly Hope Mirilees or William Hope Hodgson. Fantasy's hard in this. It might be Clark Ashton Smith. Same comment on no living authors. I'd want to know that they interpreted being listed as a compliment before mentioning names.

Mystery: Fredric Brown. Possibly Craig Rice, but Brown is much more likely.

Someone else will have to take horror and romance.

#39 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 12:40 AM:


"SF's Kevin Bacon?" Isaac Asimov. See my month-obsolete LiveJournal, which Making Light points to. I'd say more, but that LiveJournal is all that prevented Teresa & Patrick's bandwidth from being devoured by my Social Network analysis, for which obsessive rudeness I apologize again.

I'm in Philadelphia at the moment, at a brother's house, preparing for the funeral of my father, the major editor [see Open Thread 40]. SFWA will soon put the same obit (hopefully correcting a couple of my typos) on their obit page, and will post (or already has). Then I have to do rewrites for MWA, WWA, the harvard journal and the New York Times.

Skipped the last day of my 33rd college reunion. Several Nobel laureates spoke at the official Pasadena unveiling of the already-released Richard Feynman postage stamp. Barbara McClintock, on the same sheet, was a postdoc at Caltech, so we actually scored 2 points. The von Neumann and Gibbs stamps are closer to first drafts, because they had no family to suggest graphic reworkings to somewhat unclutter the Feynman diagrams, and jumping-gene diagrams, respectively. But the von Neumann looks like a real guy wrote stuff on a real blackboard. Feynman's daughter and sister did not object that I made Richard P. Feynman the amateur sleuth in the forthcoming novel "Axiomatic Magic." Now I just have to finish the last 2 chapters and submit the manuscript somewhere. Pitch: Harry Potter meets A Beautiful Mind.

I'm eager to see Charlie's guide to the Singularity, but the big bucks will still be in The Dummy's Guide to the Singularity, and to the game spun off from it on massively mutiplayer networks of Sony Playstation 3s and XBox 360s. Those are teraflop boxen, folks!

#40 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 12:53 AM:


A couple of friends bought Roomba. Overall impression was something like "eh!"

* It's a sweeper, not a vacuum. It does touch-ups, not clean-ups.

* They die young.

#41 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 01:11 AM:

Asimov's way too big a name to be a Kevin Bacon. Too many folks would want his success without being able to write like him.

#42 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 01:44 AM:

Roomba comes from a fantasy world where socks always land in the hamper. Oh irony of ironies, I'm not tidy enough for an automatic vacuum cleaner.

#43 ::: antukin ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 01:57 AM:

*humbly* so sorry if I'm missing an obvious reference here, but may I ask where the lovely quote comes from? it sounds vaguely familiar but I can't place it. *humble and frustrated*

#44 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 02:01 AM:

I'm not tidy enough for an automatic vacuum cleaner

Filed in the same place I admit that on the rare occasion we hire some help cleaning this house I "pre-clean."

#45 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 02:05 AM:

What is: USPS scientists stamps

and what might have been: Friends of Tuva fantasy stamps

It's almost enough to make one want to believe in the many worlds hypothesis.

#46 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 02:25 AM:

Juli Thompson: I'm going to Wiscon. Yay!


#47 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 04:20 AM:

Now that we have another Electrolite open thread, I want to note the case of double vision I had recently.

I followed the link to "The Time Is Not Yet Right to Hate Islam Karimov." I noticed that it was posted by one Jonathan Schwarz...that "A Tiny Revolution" (which is on Patrick's blogroll) seemed to be his personal blog. I wondered to myself, "Is this that Jonathan Schwarz?"

So I looked at the "about" link. Lives in Chicago, work used on "Saturday Night Live", friend wrote a Harry Potter parody...yes, it turns out to be my Katie's brother. Sometimes the Internet is an oddly small place.

#49 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 06:16 AM:

Well, she may not be everybody's Kevin Bacon but she's mine: Isak Dinesen.

And about this: "John Ruskin was an ardent fan of Kate Greenaway." I think he considered himself more her eminence gris. (Or however that's spelled!) He wrote her dozens of letters critiquing her artwork and treated her like a child artist instead of an artist who drew children.


#51 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 07:39 AM:

Randall - I can highly recommend a Dyson. It's not automatic, but it is strong enough (and stays strong enough) to bring new meaning to the phrase "cat vacuuming."

#52 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 09:22 AM:

Stefan, are those the initials "PA" on your junk mail? Any relation to those other scam artists we know?

#53 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 09:40 AM:

But somehow the scale runs higher on the side of virtue.

It's always been hard for me to calibrate that scale. When, like Tony, I'm in the dark tunnel of cynicism, I tend to think there are a few individual acts of evil that pretty much cancel out any virtuous thing anybody has ever done, and put the whole human species into the "morally better not having existed" category.

There was some philosopher once who argued that the Nazi Holocaust removed humanity's collective right to exist. That, prior to that event, the extermination of the species would have been a worse horror than the sum of the evil done to all the individuals involved; but that afterward, this was no longer the case, and the evil would be equivalent to the sum of the individual acts of murder alone.

Speaking personally, the only way I can get out of this hole is to stop thinking about my own life's worth in terms of a universal collective Good/Evil Meter.

#54 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 09:45 AM:

Hey there, fellow readers! Do any of you have a good tip or two on how to get back to the same place in a thread on returning to it? I'd as soon not do it by leaving a meaningless post and then searching on my name, and I'm not looking for something the NHs would have to do for me; just the least-work way of finding my way back. Post-it notes don't help. T'anks!

#55 ::: Spiral ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 09:58 AM:

Thanks for the extensive Kevin Baclone suggestions Tom. I'll need to investigate some of those names. You're spot on with Mervyn Peake's influence on fiction but perhaps spec fic even more than fantasy. I understand about not naming living authors as I too deliberately avoided naming my favourite author and favourite author's favourite authors.

Jonathan you're too cryptic for me today. Sometimes my brain catches up after a few days.

Ruskin could be seen as a Baclone in his own right because of his, thankfully often hidden, influence on subsequent culture.

Perhaps one should begin any search for a Kevin Baclone of SF by defining parameters. I was thinking of the person who seems to be connected by a short chain of influence to everyone else.

Apropos of nothing my friends and I were playing six degrees of separation a coupla years ago when we had the bizarre revelation that all 19th & 20th century English culture is closely related in one way or another to Margaret Murray.

Beware the robothoover:

#56 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 10:01 AM:

Kip -- I guess one way would be to click on the permalink for the bottommost post you read in the thread -- then next time you come back you can scroll very quickly down -- the one you read will have its posting time colored different from the other ones. This is kludgy but I think useful.

#57 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 10:05 AM:

Hey there, fellow readers! Do any of you have a good tip or two on how to get back to the same place in a thread on returning to it?

When you go to read new comments in a thread, go there by clicking the newest comment entry on the left-hand side list of recent comments on the main page. Then scroll back to the last comment that you read, which will have a different color permalink (the date/time field).

On that note, can I request a stronger contrast between the colors of clicked and unclicked hrefs? Old Making Light had a very nice contrast, but the Electrolite color scheme uses blue and slightly lighter blue.

#58 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 10:19 AM:

There was some philosopher once who argued that the Nazi Holocaust removed humanity's collective right to exist.

Not to downplay the Holocaust at all, but it was hardly the world's first attempted genocide. Possibly not even the most successful attempted genocide.

Myself, I am cautiously optimistic about humanity. Yes, I know people do horrible things. I have been on the receiving end of some pretty awful behavior. But . . . what amazes me is that people still manage to keep a sense of right and wrong. Sometimes they get it totally backwards, but I do believe that people are usually trying to do the right thing.

#59 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 10:40 AM:

The NY Times reviews the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (weblog safe link).

#60 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 10:48 AM:

Slightly on-topic (with regards to optimism about humanity's future and all that) -- anyone know of blogs or groups that discuss partnership models vs dominator models and all that?

#61 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 11:03 AM:

Did you folks all know about this project by Zak Smith, about which I just found out? One illustration for each page of Gravity's Rainbow! Kicking myself for not having found out about it last year, when it was in the Whitney; now it's in Minnesota somewhere. But it's also on line so available for a long, leisurely perusal.

#62 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 11:06 AM:

As far as I know, Riane Eisler invented the concept of "partnership vs. dominator" societies.

She does not appear to have a blog, but this is her web site.

Googling on "riane eisler blog" produces a bunch of results - this one looks like the most relevant.

I am not linking to the blog post which featured black text on a dark brown background, because I don't believe in encouraging that sort of thing.

#63 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 11:20 AM:

Over at SLAC, they're shooting synchrotron-light X-rays at the Archimedes Palimpsest.

Seems they had a way to image tiny traces of iron in biological specimens. Four pages of the document are painted over with fake Byzantine icons; these were more difficult to penetrate than the other pages, but the X-ray method can reveal the Archimedes text.

Kind of a cool connection between modern physicists and their illustrious prececessor.

For some reason the trees want to put a stop to this.

#64 ::: Lenore Jean Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 11:22 AM:

Juli Thompson & Mary Kay: I'm going to Wiscon too. See you there!

#65 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 12:09 PM:

Antukin: the opening quote is the first line of a story called "The Ladies of Grace Adieu," published in 1996 (in my anthology Starlight 1) by a then-unknown writer named Susanna Clarke. Alex Cohen, that clever lad, spotted it right away.

On a different subject, Teresa misremembers slightly. It's Isaac Asimov who's extravagantly admired by J. G. Ballard, who claims to be emulating Asimov's brilliantly-nuanced prose style. (Mind you, Ballard may be indulging in that venerable British indoor sport, the straight-faced piss-take, but if so he's been remarkably consistent about it over the years.)

#66 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 12:11 PM:

Oh and, no Wiscon for us, alas. Say hi to my excellent assistant Liz Gorinsky.

#67 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 12:22 PM:

Thought I had posted this late last night, but, well, I guess it was later than I thought: Elise and I will be at WisCon, and as per usual, she'll be in the Dealer's Room.

#68 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 12:23 PM:

Hey there, fellow readers! Do any of you have a good tip or two on how to get back to the same place in a thread on returning to it?

Click on the permanent link for the comment (for example, May 24, 2005, 09:45 AM) and bookmark it.

In the browser/OS I'm using, I can click on the link and drag it to the desktop, and it creates a bookmark file. Double-clicking on the bookmark file, or dragging it onto a browser window, takes me back to that location in the web page. For me, this is a good approach for temporary bookmarks, because it's easy to delete them.

In the URL "" the "#82230" refers to the anchor tag for the comment within the page. Once you are on this page, you can go to the address bar in your browser, replace any "#whatever" at the end of the URL with "#82230", hit return, and it should scroll to that comment.

Currently there's some issue with going directly to an anchor tag in my browser. It loads the page but remains at the top. If I reload the page it goes to the right location.

#69 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 12:27 PM:

Kip W.: "Hey there, fellow readers! Do any of you have a good tip or two on how to get back to the same place in a thread on returning to it?"

I just bookmark the last message in any thread I'm following, and save the bookmarks in a folder called "comments."

#70 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 12:57 PM:

Working on the tough guide today. The version linked to at the URL above is now workable; another couple of hours and all the nodes should be in place for version 0.1.


NB: I'm using AD&D first edition rules for the monsters. (Channeling my inner fifteen-year-old.)

#71 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 01:15 PM:

Charlie Stross:

I like the SIngularity, but I can't seem to find any toughness. It's all rapture.

#72 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 01:22 PM:


Both Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein used to insist, straight-faced, that they had no "style" and never took a course on writing, or read a book on how to write. Each claimed to merely be using straightforward English prose as transparently as possible. They were both lying through their teeth, of course, as any number of critics have demonstrated. The style which appears stylelessness is one of the hardest to attain. Isaac told me that he wished he'd been more like his namesake, Isaac Newton. Horrifying thought, especially for folks like me who can't read Latin.

Heinlein's last novels seemed to be toying with Barth / Pynchon metafiction rather openly. Who knows where he wanted to go with that?

Arthur C. Clarke, in his collaboration on the Rama sequelae, was partly trying to emulate the depth of characterization that Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy had. Gave it up as hopeless, of course.

And does Benford really channel Faulkner?

#73 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 01:48 PM:

A colleague is off to a conference in Amsterdam, where he's going to present a paper called "All XML Databases Are Equal" (meaning they're not).

Presumably this conference will have attendees from all over Europe, as well as other countries. I don't know whether Orwell is read much outside English-speaking countries. Any idea how many of them are likely to understand the reference, anyone?

#74 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 02:43 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Haydent ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 09:04 PM:

I didn't realize the changes around here would be so drastic!

#75 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 02:50 PM:

Laura: What part of "if it wasn't for those meddling computer science professors I could still be writing about Pixie Dust" did you miss? :-/

(I'm channeling my inner 15-year-old, the one who used to write AD&D modules -- just like the kids who'll be writing GURPS SINGULARITY modules in another year or two, if they're not already doing so.)

#76 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 02:52 PM:

I did just leave a message in the last Open Thread, before recalling there's a new one (And probably for the better, considering I was perpetuating a topic that should be dropped), but I thought this message was better left here than there:

Jonathan Vos Post - My condolences on the loss of your father. You make him sound a fine human being.

#77 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 03:16 PM:

Charlie Stross asked: What part of "if it wasn't for those meddling computer science professors I could still be writing about Pixie Dust" did you miss?

Maybe my interpretation of that statement is wrong. To me it sounds like "If I could, I would ignore scientific plausibility altogether." I don't think that DWJ's original Tough Guide would include a statement like "if it wasn't for those meddling veterinarians I could still be writing about horses which can travel all day with no feeding."

Or are you referring to some kind of conversion experience, in which Pixie Dust suddenly stops being enough?

#78 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 03:21 PM:

Right. I meant to say to JVP: I'm sorry for your loss. And thanks for writing that stuff about your father. It's clear he was an interesting and substantial person, and very important to you.

#79 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 03:21 PM:


Years and years ago . . . whenever WorldCon was in New Orleans . . . Steve Jackson told me his idea for simulating the Singularity in a RPG. It involved introducing new rules more and more frequently, having the players fill out new character sheets, introducing increasingly boggling new in-game technologies, and other things to disorient the players.

Finally, the GM would collect all of the character sheets and hand out quartz crystals, and before they have a chance to wonder what the hell is going on announce: "Game over. You won."

#80 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 03:24 PM:

By the way, it's probably occurred to Charlie Stross already, but lots of people following his wiki link are probably sitting there looking at a seemingly blank page and wondering if this is some kind of Zen put-on. I was for quite a while, until I finally figured out I needed to click on "timeline" or "all".

#81 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 04:13 PM:

You need to go back to the two column layout. The center is so squeezed it goes way down past the stuff on the left, not to mention past the stuff on the right.

Put particles first, then the right stuff, then the left stuff as all one col, then the text in another. Please!

#82 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 04:16 PM:

Patrick: there are instructions (or should be!) in the Intro paragraphs that display automatically when it loads.

(Pause to test it in another browser ...)

Yup, slap-bang in the middle of the screen, called out by a side-bar.

I guess this is the problem with using an unfamiliar medium (in this case, Real hypertext, like Wot Ted Nelson invented) rather than old-fashioned HTML.

#83 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 04:18 PM:

Stefan Jones: sounds a little like a game I used to play at University, which was called Mao. It's a card game in which none of the rules are explained to the players before they begin playing, and new rules are introduced frequently throughout the game. Generally speaking, without any explanation.

An intriguing idea, although I prefer Penultima, which is a variant of chess in which the players don't know the rules of how the pieces move when they start playing; only a set of adjudicators who watch the match know the rules (typically for just one piece each) and tell the players when they've made an illegal move (at which point the player loses their turn). And potentially make side effects happen after a move has been made.

It can be very surreal.

#84 ::: Bryan Alexander ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 04:19 PM:

I'm delurking with this comment, on the advice of friends. I've been reading and enjoying here for a while.

What's good and relatively recent sf that deals with a familiar combination: space explortion, describing aliens, and developing unusual human social developments? I've been looking at my bookshelf and thinking of books from the past decade, even back twenty years. Bruce Sterling's Shaper/Mechanist stories, Linda Nagata's Deception Well and Vast, Vinge's recent Deepness in the Sky. Charlie Stross, Singularity Sky. Greg Egan's finest novels, like Diaspora and Distress. Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars. CJ Cherryh's Faded Sun and Downbelow novels. Ken Macleod's Fall Revolution quartet. Iain Banks, the Culture novels. Greg Bear, Eon, or Haldeman, Forever Peace (and the older Mindbridge).

These are stories where humans explore parts of space, like new planets or objects. These are also often tales about aliens, which are as close to alien as we can get. At the same time these are stories about humans in unusual cultural configurations, based partly on the conditions making space exploration and alien contact possible, as well as on other advances in technology (not regressions, like post-apocalypse). I'm not looking for action thrillers, but mysteries which explore ideas.

I don't have a label for what I'm trying to outline here. Posthuman or transhuman stuff covers some of this ground, as does space opera, but neither would automatically count. Some military sf could work, but not necessarily.

On my list of titles and people to explore so far: Wil McCarthy. The Charlie Stross I haven't read yet. Some Melissa Scott - would Dreamships or Burning Bright be a good one for this query? (I've loved her cyberpunk, like Trouble).

Many thanks for any responses, and apologies for bursting out of the lurkosphere so abruptly -

#85 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 04:21 PM:

I'll be at WisCon as well, and if you folks want to volunteer a couple of hours to help your fellow members in the computer area, contact me. I still need people to help Saturday morning, Sunday afternoon, and Monday.

If you're blogging about WisCon, link back to Technorati in your post so that people can find all the convention related posts on one page:

<a href="" rel="tag">wiscon</a>

Trip reports, restaurant reviews, plugs for your panels, reports from panels, party reports, complaints, praise, etc. are all fair game for tagging.

#86 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 04:23 PM:

The TiddlyWiki is a Good Thing.

Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

#87 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 04:24 PM:

Charlie: Looking at your Wiki now. Is there any particular reason why most of the entries have two initial capitals in their title?

#88 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 04:34 PM:

Relating back to the discussion on people-eating aliens, digestive issues, prions, and the like: perhaps those aliens just need to switch to Hufu!

#89 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 04:51 PM:

Jules: multiple capitals in a single "word" is a common way to get a Wiki to recognize a word as a TopicTitle.

#90 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 04:57 PM:

I'm not up for doing all the work, but it strikes me that there's a perfectly good Master's thesis in exploring the influences of Kipling on Heinlein and Robert E. Howard. CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS is an absolutely classic Heinlein juvenile in form, and the influence of KIM on CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY is very clear. Similar to Kipling's is Howard's use of doggerel, and sense of rhythmic word use.

#91 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 04:58 PM:

JVP writes:

Isaac told me that he wished he'd been more like his namesake, Isaac Newton. Horrifying thought, especially for folks like me who can't read Latin.

The elder Isaac wrote his Opticks in English, not Latin, as a favor to you.

#92 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 05:39 PM:

Charlie says: "Patrick: there are instructions (or should be!) in the Intro paragraphs that display automatically when it loads."

Here on the latest Firefox on WinXP at work, nothing displays automatically except for the somewhat cryptic sidebar. To the untrained eye it looks like nothing so much as an incompletely-loaded web page.

Scorpio says: "You need to go back to the two column layout. The center is so squeezed it goes way down past the stuff on the left, not to mention past the stuff on the right."

I'm afraid I'm don't quite understand what you're describing. Perhaps you could try again? Or email me a screenshot, along with which browser you're using on what kind of OS.

#93 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 06:00 PM:

Elanor wonders:

". . . are those the initials "PA" on your junk mail?"

They are, but in this case PA stands for "Patent Awards." (

They are legitimate, in that they sell what they say the sell.

What boggled me is the speed with which they got in touch, and the lack of a disclaimer that they are *not* the patent office.

#94 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 06:08 PM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden: By the way, it's probably occurred to Charlie Stross already, but lots of people following his wiki link are probably sitting there looking at a seemingly blank page...

Patrick, Charlie probably knows what you're talking about, but I just followed Charlie's homepage link link from his Making Light post, and it has a TOughGuide link that starts out with the ToughGuideIntro tiddler displayed, with enough navigation clues to get started. Does the wiki link you mention link elsewhere, or are you having trouble with the places I found? Or should I just butt out and let you work it out with Charlie?

But this tiddly stuff is a little differently organized. Like how do you get a permalink? I try "copy link location" in Firefox, and I get a URL that would be <a href="javascript:;">stuff</a> if I dared to put it in a real link.

#95 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 06:21 PM:

Jules:... Is there any particular reason why most of the entries have two initial capitals in their title?
Christopher Davis:Jules: multiple capitals in a single "word" is a common way to get a Wiki to recognize a word as a TopicTitle

I don't know if I'm revealing my age or flaunting my geezerhood, but I was thinking someone had reinvented StuDlycAps.

#96 ::: michelle db ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 06:31 PM:

Bryan Alexander:

If you haven't, read the second and third books in Robinson's Mars trilogy: Green Mars and Blue Mars.

I'm just finishing Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon The Deep and A Deepness in the Sky. Not new, but certainly not to be missed.

#97 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 06:38 PM:

Dan, if you mouse over the title of one of the Tiddlers, a menu should fade in to the right, containing entries like "close, edit, permalink, references". There's point help popups to tell you what these do, but "permalink" is the thing you need. ("edit" only works if you've jumped through the hoops to save a copy of the TiddlyWiki application on your local system -- your browser "Save As..." function doesn't work properly because we're not just dealing with JavaScript here, but self-modifying JavaScript. The horror, the horror ...!)

#98 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 06:42 PM:

Bryan Alexander: one less well-known book I've enjoyed along those lines recently is Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen's Wheelers. Particularly the aliens' names. I continued enjoying those for quite a while after I finished the book.

#99 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 06:45 PM:

Self modifying javascript is, of course, the first step to a self-aware Internet. All it then needs is some kind of negative feedback mechanism and a browser security bug and it can take over the world.

#100 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 06:46 PM:

As an aside, I wrote this in TiddlyWiki (a) as a learning exercise, (b) because TiddlyWiki is a Neat Toy, and (c) because it generates self-contained HTML/JScript pages that execute their code in the browser.

I'm about to do something that will almost certainly result in my server being repeatedly slashdotted and generate outrageous numbers of downloads, I want to delegate all the processing I can to the users. Static content is a lot lighter on the server than running Wiki software fronting a relational database, and TiddlyWiki is static (from the server's point of view).

#101 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 06:54 PM:

Next week I will be in NYC and in planning my days, have come to the shocking conclusion that despite several years working in bookstores in the city, I have retained little knowledge. Is there a good SF bookstore in the city? Any borough is fine, so long as I can get there by subway.

Also, is the Planetarium as cool as it looks, or am I better off hanging out in the Egypt wing of the Met?

#102 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 09:01 PM:

nerdycellist - Depending on how much time you have, I'd suggest supplementing your vist to the Met's Egyptian wing with a trip to the Brooklyn Museum's Egyptian collection. Take the 7th Ave IRT, #2 or 3 to Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn Museum. If you go, walk down to Grand Army Plaza and check out the Brooklyn Public Library's amazing facade.

I'd also balance visiting the remodeled MoMA with the cost ($20) and the crowding. The museum itself is very nice, if a bit generic, and a great deal of the collection is on display. But, when I went a couple of weeks ago, the crowding was so severe that I really couldn't enjoy the art. I nearly lost it with the tourists standing in front of Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon snapping digital self-portriats with their cameras held out in front of them. Grrr.

Unfortunately, I don't know anything about SF bookshops in the city. Forbidden Planet used to be OK, but it's been years and years since I've been there. I'm sure someone else can help you with that, though.

Have a great trip!

#103 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 09:18 PM:

What Larry Brennan said. The Brooklyn Museum is lovely and quite worth the side trip.

Sadly, there are no great SF specialty bookshops in New York City.

#104 ::: Feòrag ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 09:29 PM:

I just noticed that the link to the Prattle in the left-hand sidebar (under Globally useful:
Friends And Relations) is to the old URL. It is now

#106 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 09:39 PM:

nerdycellist -- also if you are going to be here on a weekday (so the crowd is bearable) you ought to consider going to the American Museum of Natural History to wander through the new dinosaur exhibit -- it sounds to be quite spectacular -- I have not gone yet because I can only do it on weekends, so am waiting a bit first. I believe you have to buy separate tickets for the exhibit but don't know how much they cost.

#107 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 10:03 PM:

What?I The entire opening weekend over and no Making/Incorporating/Light posting about the general reactions to Star Wars: ROTS?!

: D

#108 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 10:43 PM:

Strangely enough, we haven't seen it yet. Joss Whedon is our master now.

#109 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 03:14 AM:

I just got my brother the Firefly DVD set for a birthday present. He's got three kids under four; I figure he might welcome something he can watch in 40-minute bites when the kids are in bed and he actually has some free time.

He's a total non-sf-fan, a complete mundane. I put on the card: "This is something you wouldn't have gotten for yourself. You probably think you won't like it. But I think you will. And if you don't, you can always re-gift it."

#110 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 03:59 AM:

Oh, dear, requests for NYC tourist advice.

The Forbidden Planet in New York is no longer a bookstore. (Yeah, I know, that's like saying that Peter Luger's has gone vegan.) I don't think there -is- a specialty SF shop in Manhattan any longer.

There is, of course, still the Strand, though it isn't a place you can just walk into and out of, at least, not if you are the sort of person who hangs out here. If you are interested in Japanese material, there's Kinokuniya in Rockefeller Center; the English-language books are in one corner of the downstairs.

As far as museums that might not otherwise come to mind, I would speak highly of the Frick Collection, which is about a ten-block walk down Fifth from the Metropolitan. And the Cloisters, though it's a long way from anywhere else you're likely to be. There's currently an exhibit on "Extreme Textiles" at the Cooper-Hewitt, which is unfortunately not about wuxia knitting but "engineered" high-tech fabrics -- the C-H is small and a bit out of the way, but you do get in free if you're a Smithsonian member.

We will stop now, precisely because we could go on.

#111 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 06:36 AM:

I see that Charlie's Singularity wiki is now the 14th most linked-to site from Hope the servers are up to the load.

#112 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 06:38 AM:

I hear The Nomadic Museum is a marvelous thing to see in NYC, through June 6. On Pier 54, west side of midtown.

#113 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 06:41 AM:

Pier 54, er sorry, not midtown. I guess it's at 13th Street. That would be yer Greenwich Village, of course.

#114 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 08:00 AM:

Nerdycellist, we're short on good independent bookstores, and have lost all our specialty SF bookstores.

If you're any sort of gardener and you contemplate visiting the Brooklyn Museum (which is well worth the visit), you'll be right next to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, just in time for the first explosions going off in their spectacular rose garden.

I second Mike's opinion of the Frick: not a huge museum, but it's entirely made up of the stuff you'd particularly rejoice at having seen after visiting a much larger museum, and your feet won't hurt as much afterward.

The Egyptian wing at the Met and the Rose Planetarium are both darn swell. One way to plan your visit there is to get an advance ticket for the Rose for right around the time your feet will be giving out. Don't miss the Studiolo. And the cheap refreshments are sold from vendors' carts out front.

The Museum of Natural History is way, way cool. The dinosaurs are great, but IMO the Pleistocene megafauna are equally good. They're all on the top floor. Take the elevator up, see them first, then work your way down. Some personal favorites: the dioramas in Peoples of Asia. The African and European animal exhibits, which qualify as art in their own right. The gems and minerals, which are simply fab. And the basement cafeteria, which is alway Rugrat Central, sells Chicken McNugget-style tidbits shaped like dinosaurs.

The Museum of American Immigration on Ellis Island is fascinating, dense with story, and more substantial than you might imagine.

I hear the Tenement Museum is well worth a visit, but every time I've been down there, there's been a significant wait to get in, which I suppose speaks for itself.

#115 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 08:24 AM:

Jules: multiple capitals in a single "word" is a common way to get a Wiki to recognize a word as a TopicTitle.

It's also remarkably annoying. Probably because it's one of my most common failure modes as a typist, and the DOuble CApital makes my fingers itch to correct the mistake.

#116 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 09:26 AM:

Isn't Books of Wonder still around? Not an SF specialty store, but kids' books, and seriously worth the visit if one is interested in one of the liveliest aspects of SF and fantasy (as evinced by PNH being a co-editor on a teen SF/fantasy Best of the Year anthology).

#117 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 10:15 AM:

I have a theory that one of the main reasons Wikipedia took off was that its wiki software abandoned the intercaps-to-make-a-link convention.

Some people seem to be interpreting Charlie's Tough Guide as far more contemptuous of the subgenre than I thought it was.

#118 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 11:15 AM:

Nerdycellist (I love that name, BTW):

What to do in NYC? Here's another vote for Books of Wonder, on 18th St., just west of 5th - - but not solely for its intrinsic qualities. One of its key attractions is that it's next door to Academy Records, one of this planet's best sources for cheap CDs.

Academy is a worthwhile destination just for their classical section - - AND their stock is used and review copies (many still shrink-wrapped), so their prices are typically less than half of retail. (Armloads of stuff in the $2-$7 range, occasional like-new major label releases running up to $9-11.)

(I presume from your name that you'd be interested.)

Both stores are a short walk from the Strand, which of course is not to be missed. (It's a noticeably longer walk once you have a few shopping bags of books and CDs, though.)

Have a fun trip.

#119 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 12:50 PM:

Thanks everyone for your advice! Every one of these places are exactly what I'm interested in.

I lived in NYC for about 4 years (UWS and Washington Heights) in the mid-to-late '90s, so I'm not totally at a loss for what to do when in town; quite the opposite. For once my time budget is tighter than my money budget.

The Cloisters was one of my favorite places to just *be* - beautiful, tranquil and educational. It was there that after giggling about the various implements whose only purpose was to remove the Host in case it was dropped/vomited, I really came to understand how Catholics experienced Holy Communion.

The AMNH is probably my favorite museum ever (the breathtaking armor exhibit at the Met keeps me from being completely certain). I am especially fond of the arcane animal dioramas, which may be completely incorrect and are sometimes gruesome. It's like a zoo, only dead! The highlight of the museum for this grown up girl who used to spend hours trying to find trilobites in the rockpile is definitely the dinosaur wing. I instantly reverted to a nine-year-old when I found they had an Actual Dinosaur Bone you could TOUCH!!!

I left before the Rose Planetarium was open, and I am a total dork for star shows - not those fancy-pants IMAX dealies, but the ones with the Zeiss JX-528 or whatever, where you lean back in your chair and you feel like the room is spinning when they move the starfield. I may spend the day at the Rose and console myself with a dessicated puffer fish, or trilobite from Mandible & Maxilla afterward.

A trip to the Strand is already on the agenda (and I have budgeted for shipping, so I won't need a second suitcase for books) and I will be sure to check out Academy Records. I live a couple of blocks from Amoeba Records, which has a very good new classical selection, but not a whole lot of cheap used stuff. If I can find it cheaper, there are chances I might take on composers/ensembles I'm not sure of.

I had always wanted to visit the Brooklyn Museum, but I'm afraid my ticket to a matinee of Spamalot wipes out a good portion of an entire day. I assume it will still be there next time I visit.

#120 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 01:05 PM:

Oh, and my review of Star Wars:

60% brilliant - someone give Ian McDiarmid a cookie!

40% the crappiest crap that ever crapped - George, you can't write realistic relationships, and Natalie Portman, you can't act.

If anyone knows of a fanfic equivalent of "The Phantom Edit" for the first two films, please point me in that direction. Otherwise I will have to take it upon myself to rescue the themes of redemption, corruption, loyalty and betrayal from the "Hey lookit teh kewl droid army! I can CG awesome ships and aliens!!!" with my own pedestrian prose.


#121 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 01:07 PM:

my ticket to a matinee of Spamalot

Nice drive-by gloat (as they say on the Woodworking lists).

#122 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 01:43 PM:

Heh, you caught that gloat!

This is why I don't mind travelling alone; I don't know if I would have been able to get two tickets.

But for all Firefly fans who are also Python fans (why do I think there's a significant crossover?) please note that at the end of the year, Hank Azaria will be replaced with...
...Alan Tudyk!!!

Yay, Wash!

#123 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 02:05 PM:

It's towel day!

#124 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 02:23 PM:

I used to love the Vanderbilt Planetarium when I was a kid, 12 or 13 years old. I'd bicycle up there with my friends. It was a fairly long bike-ride for a kid, up a steep, narrow, dangerous road with cars whizzing by at 50 miles an hour millimeters from your elbow. It'd usually be hot and muggy and summer when we made the ride.

Then, into Vanderbilt Planetarium in the lovely cool and dark. Quick trip over to the museum to say howdy to the mummies, and then back home, downhill, holding off on touching our brakes until we were overcome by fear.

I really worry about Overscheduled Kids These Days. When I was a kid, on a nice summer day, our mothers told us in the morning, "Get out of the house. I don't want to see you until supper." We learned to make our own entertianment.

#125 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 02:55 PM:

We learned to make our own entert[ai]nment.

Exciting interactive explanations of the social and economic advantages of Centrifugal Bumblepuppy are now available as streaming video, Cable on Demand, and for all major gaming consoles (check out the Nintendo DS touchscreen "Caress 'n' Consume" version!)

#126 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 02:57 PM:

Oh, and Nerdycellist, John M. Ford:

Be warned that they've refurbished (and cleaned up) the Strand. It comes as something of a shock now that the deeper you plunge into the Strand, the cleaner and nicer it gets. It's downright disorienting.

I always used to expect to turn a corner down into the basement and find myself in the bookstore equilavent of Finney's The Third Level. No longer.

#127 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 03:00 PM:

I always expect to turn a corner in the Strand and find a sort of shelvish fish-trap, full of dead and dying bookies who squeezed their way in and couldn't wriggle out.

I think I ruined the Strand for my father. An hour wandering around in Powell's and you are never the same...

#128 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 03:19 PM:

Some people seem to be interpreting Charlie's Tough Guide as far more contemptuous of the subgenre than I thought it was.

I'm surprised anybody would interpret it as contemptuous. The basic idea behind the entire "tough guide to " meme (as I see it) is to expose the cliches of a genre in a humourous fashion in order to give fans of the genre a good laugh and help writers avoid relying on those cliches too much. As such they can only really be written by someone who is both a fan of and a writer in the genre.

#129 ::: Elese ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 03:21 PM:

Could somebody help me? I saw the advert for Random Magic for Sasha Soren but it doesn't seem to exist on amazon or google (except her home page but that doesn't give any information about it being published). Am I missing something or being stupid?

#130 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 03:22 PM:

The previous post was supposed to contain the text "<fictional subject>" between "to" and the closing quote in my second sentence. I forgot that MT eats unrecognised HTML, rather than turning it into text, which is the approach I favour.

#131 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 03:40 PM:

I was just reading the "unfamiliar with the genre" particle. Very amusing -- I've read other interviews with Ms. Stewart before, but I think perhaps the writers of those wanted to be a little more subtle than this one.

>She scoffs at the idea that the Wachowskis, two white men, would have created those black
>characters. “What would they have to do with a black oracle and black super hero? They’re not
>activists,” she laughs.

So, presumably, George Lucas must be an activist, because he cast Samuel L Jackson as a leading Jedi Knight, a role that combines elements of both of these characters...?

>“‘I’ll be back’ is a direct quote from my book,” says Stewart citing the line made famous the world
>over by current California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in "The Terminator."

Apprently the line in the script was "I'll come back", but Schwarzenegger said it differently during filming and it stuck. Not to mention, of course, that The Terminator *can't* be plagiarised from Stewart's work. It's already been admitted that it was plagiarised from Harlan Ellison's...

#132 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 05:59 PM:

According to something I read long ago in the genre-movie press (probably CFQ), "Terminator" was originally a working title for a not-very-well-defined action movie set on the Moon, but the budget for that was unworkable. Apparently all that survived was the title.

And here's where it gets weird; before even that, back around 1980, I was working on a -Traveller- adventure with the same title, a conspiracy whodunit that started off with a body being found in the railgunned ore stream from a lunar (not Lunar) mine. So I have double secret dibs on everybody, and I want a million gazillion dollars -- no, Euros -- and a new XBox 3-whatever-it-is and for -Terminator 3- to never have happened, and for George Lucas to find a job that suits him, whatever that might be.

#133 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 10:20 PM:

Plus ça spare change:

"By diligent application, Morty worked his way up to a partnership in the Music Writers Mutual Publishing Company. The partners made good use of their company's name. They advertised in pulp magazines, offering to write music for lyrics, or lyrics for music, to guarantee publication, and to send back to the aspiring song writer a hundred free copies of his work, all for one hundred dollars. The Music Writers Mutual agreed to pay him the customary royalties on all copies sold. There never were any royalties, because Morty and his partner had only the author's hundred copies printed. They had a piano in their office and hired a professional musician for thirty-five dollars a week to set music to lyrics. Morty himself occasionally wrote lyrics to the tunes clients sent in, and had a lot of fun doing it. At times the music business went so well that the partners were tempted to give up bootlegging."

-- A. J. Liebling, in The Telephone Booth Indian, a collection of his New Yorker essays on the . . . other sorts of daily business in New York.

#134 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 11:10 PM:

The annual KPFA celebration of Bob Dylan's birthday is starting up right now, and runs until midnight PDT. Listen here. First song up is the 1966 Manchester Dylan/Hawks version of "Like a Rolling Stone" (commonly and mistakenly believed to have been performed at the Royal Albert Hall).

I'm just sayin', in case any other Dylan afficianados happen to scroll by. (If you don't feel like listening in real time, the MP3 archive will be up at for about a week.)

#135 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2005, 11:46 PM:

So I have double secret dibs on everybody, and I want a million gazillion dollars -- no, Euros -- and a new XBox 3-whatever-it-is and for -Terminator 3- to never have happened, and for George Lucas to find a job that suits him, whatever that might be.

It would be enough if they just paid you to finish shooting your lunar mining movie. It seems like a perfectly good concept, and they probably could make a lot of money on it. I'd be happy to help. Of course, I'd have to be paid, but scale is okay, plus transportation to and from the set, basic accommodations, meals, oxygen, the usual.

#136 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 12:58 AM:

Matinee Spamalot tickets aren't \that/ hard to come by; we got ours ~3 weeks ahead. Very strange -- dropping into and out of the original, just like the Hitchhiker movie, with similarly violent transitions. Having most of the balcony filled with school kids added a certain something, but at least they clearly knew what they were seeing -- somebody had been bringing them up right.

#137 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 01:31 AM:

The music writing/publishing scam got a lot more entertaining when it switched from sheet music to records. (Alas, the mp3 page is broken, but I have one of the CDs and it's quite something.)

#138 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 01:48 AM:

A propos de rien, again -- the (quite wonderful, IMO) Oysterband 25th Anniversary Concert DVD includes their 1989 video of "New York Girls", shot in a single day in NY. Watch them play on the streets of NY, and on the Staten Island Ferry. On my copy the "Behind the Scenes" extra was not properly synched, being between one and two seconds off -- seriously annoying! Ah, but the concert is wonderful. I have no commercial interest in this.

#139 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 04:22 AM:

Nerdycellist: Natalie Portman can too act, but she would have had to be Meryl Streep, Patrick Stewart, and Lawrence Olivier rolled into one to do anything with the utter crud she was given.

I agree with you touching Ian McDiarmid, but I think that Ewan McGregor deserves some props too -- for successfully selling that final speech if nothing else.

#140 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 09:09 AM:

I think being able to say Padme's lines without the slightest trace of irony is immediate and good evidence of Natalie Portman's ability to act.

Ewan McGregor's props I think include a successful portrayal of humility and quite startling amounts of menace.

Heck, the CGI team and Frank Oz between them did a fine job of Yoda's facial expressions.

It's a real shame that the script had the script equivalent of foetal alcohol syndrome.

#141 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 09:13 AM:

I want a million gazillion dollars -- no, Euros -- and a new XBox 3-whatever-it-is and for -Terminator 3- to never have happened, and for George Lucas to find a job that suits him, whatever that might be. ... <ahem> and a pony? <ducks & covers>

#142 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 09:28 AM:

George Lucas might make a good pony, I suppose. He could walk slowly around the seaside for the entertainment of children.

It was a good movie in parts. Fractured parts.

#143 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 12:22 PM:


Perhaps I am being harsh on Ms. Portman. If you take away the crap dialogue and direction, there's not much more for her to work with. Still, I never once in the three prequels thought she had any gravity. Carrie Fisher couldn't have been much older than NP in the original movie, but she came off very much as an adult. I think the fault should be shared between Lucas and whoever did the casting. I love Clive Owen and think he's a great actor, but his Arthur was terrible, for exactly the same reasons as Amidala. (at least he didn't have to suffer through pearl strands on a nightgown.)

I don't even want to go into the absolute destruction of Amidala's character, which I drop entirely in the lap of Mr. Lucas.

Hayden Christiansen did a much better job in this than AOTC, as evidenced by the fact that I didn't giggle once during his non-love scenes, but I'm still re-running it in my head with a different Anakin (current favorite is Ioan Gruffud.)

David and Graydon - you're right about Ewan. He was perfectly cast, and had the least amount of idiotic lines. Unfortunately, George felt we needed to see endless shots of Ewan riding a giant CG iguana rather than any character development.

OK, sweartogawd this is my last rant, but why did 90% of the dialogue scenes have perfectly clear backgrounds filled with hundreds of CG ships and buildings? It's too visually busy, dammit! While it might be a welcome distraction from the dialogue, it also distracts from the story. The scenes with people in stark, sterile hallways were so much more effective. That goes double for space battles - we can all imagine the underside of the star destroyer creeping slowly across the screen. Paradoxically, eleventy billion ships (I may be exaggerating)and countless laser blasts are much less menacing.

I still recommended the film to my parents. In the words of somebody... "I think there is still good left in it."

#144 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 12:33 PM:

"Paradoxically, eleventy billion ships (I may be exaggerating)and countless laser blasts are much less menacing."


After reading review after review praising the "mother of all space battles" I wondered if I was the only one who found it a confusing mess. (And: Blasters have shell casings that flop on the floor after they're fired?)

Something else that has been driving me batty the last week:

"But you don't understand, in the novelization it's clear that . . ."


"There's a deleted scene that . . ."


"In the Expanded Universe, we learn that . . ."


Sorry fanboys, you judge a movie by what is on the screen. Not what is on the cutting room floor, or in a novel written ten years ago, or a line in a early draft of the script.

#145 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 02:07 PM:

I haven't confirmed this independently, but I got a notice on a local mailing list that there will be a free preview of Howl's Moving Castle at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, MA, on Wednesday, June 1. I thought the Boston-area Making Lighters might be interested (I, alas, cannot go.) Apologies for the cut-and-paste. Details:

Weds, June 1 - HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE Weds, June 1 @ 7:00 HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE FREE sneak preview with coffee & dessert reception immediately following the film RSVP by Tuesday, May 31st via email at or phone 617.425.8960 Brimming with a blend of imagination, humor, action, and romance, HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE recently played to great acclaim at the 2004Venice Film Festival, and has become one of the biggest blockbustersof all time in Japan – earning more than $200 million at the boxoffice and still counting. A distinguished cast of actors, under the direction of Pixar's PeteDocter (MONSTERS, INC), lend their vocal talents to this English-language version of the film. Sophie (voiced by Emily Mortimer), an average teenage girl working in a hat shop, finds herlife thrown into turmoil when she is literally swept off her feet by ahandsome-but-mysterious wizard named Howl (voiced by Christian Bale),and is subsequently turned into a 90-year old woman (voiced by screenlegend and two-time Oscar nominee Jean Simmons) by the vain andconniving Wicked Witch of the Waste (voiced by screen legend and Oscarnominee Lauren Bacall). Embarking on an incredible odyssey to lift thecurse, she finds refuge in Howl's magical moving castle where shebecomes acquainted with Markl, Howl's apprentice, and a hot-headedfire demon named Calcifer (voiced by Billy Crystal). Sophie's love andsupport comes to have a major impact on Howl, who flies in the face oforders from the palace to become a pawn of war and instead risks hislife to help bring peace to the kingdom. Extraordinary characters,inventive imagery, and stunning artistry make this latest masterpiecefrom the visionary Miyazaki an unforgettable filmgoing experience. The important legal stuff: Seating is limited and will be on a first-come, first-served basis.This invitation does not guarantee a seat. No one will be admittedafter the film begins. No cameras will be allowed inside the theatre. NO RECORDING: This screening will be monitored for unauthorized recording. By attending, you agree not to bring any recording deviceinto the theatre and you consent to physical search of your belongings and person for recording devices. If you attempt to enter with a recording device, you will be denied admission. If you attempt to use a recording device, you consent to your immediate removal from thetheatre and forfeiture of the device and its contents. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability.

#146 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 02:58 PM:

Excuse the silence; my post-flight chest bug's gotten worse and I have the IQ of a potato right now.

I logged about 8000 downloads of the tough guide in the past two days -- unless it's being mirrored somewhere or my web server's flaking, that's all a boingboing and hit get you. The server didn't even break a sweat, which is as it should be because the wiki is about 100kb of static content. This is all good practice for next month when it may have to start serving up 1Mb chunks of static content at a similar frequency.

#147 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 03:46 PM:

free preview of Howl's Moving Castle at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, MA

Squee! Although I don't know how to get there.

#148 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 03:50 PM:

Squee! Although I don't know how to get there.

Take the Green C line to the Coolidge Corner stop. Walk half a block up Harvard St.

#149 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 03:53 PM:

Alex: I was hoping it was close to the T. Thanks!

#150 ::: MaryRoot ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 04:40 PM:

Coolidge Corner is also an actual silver screen. The theater was built in 1933 and still has a silver coated screen. This means Technicolor films are super gorgeous and they can show real 3D films.

#151 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 05:18 PM:
[19] The title of this paper is inspired by the song-title Making Your Mind Up, which was the winning song in 1981 for Bucks Fizz of UK. However, to help reassure readers that this paper is not written with a pro-UK bias, we note that its authors include a citizen of a country which has never appeared in the Eurovision Song Contest, a UK citizen of Irish descent, a UK citizen who had not even been born when Bucks Fizz won in 1981, and an ABBA fan.

Stunning. Simply stunning.

#152 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 05:53 PM:

Some criminal broke into my house several months ago and installed a copy of Howl's Moving Castle on one of my computers, complete with English subtitles obviously cobbled together by fans. I was so stunned by this flagrant violation of the law that I accidentally watched a large part of the movie. It's pretty good.

#153 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 06:37 PM:

Just noticed that, in the LiveJournal syndication, the line that says which of you posted an article is missing. This is annoying now that you're both posting to the same journal!

#154 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 06:56 PM:

NYC transit question:

*Realistically*, how long does it take to get from JFK to Penn Station via (Air link train to) LIRR or subway?

This would be on a Saturday morning.

Yes, there are schedules, but

(I'm taking advantage of the new Jet Blue service from Portland. Astonishingly cheap, but I haven't used JFK in years and never had to deal with its mass transit options.)

(I am utterly spoiled by Portland's plane train, which costs $1.70, requires a 1/4 mile walk from my apartment, and is comfy enough to attract coyotes.)

#155 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 07:55 PM:

Children Develop Cynicism At An Early Age

"By the time children are in second grade, they know to take what people say with a grain of salt, particularly when the statement supports the speaker's self-interest, according to a published study by Yale researchers...."

Yeah, right!

#156 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 08:03 AM:

Stefan -- the couple of times I've taken the air train there was no problem with the wait -- IIRC these were mostly on weekdays though. I don't really know whether it's better to go to Howard Beach (on the A line) or to Jamaica Center (E/J/Z lines); I think it depends mostly on where you are coming from. Getting from the subway station to the airport only takes about 10 min. plus however long you have to wait for the air train; this wait has never been more than about 10 min. for me.

#157 ::: DM SHERWOOD ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 09:25 AM:

"By the time children are in second grade, they know to take what people say with a grain of salt, particularly when the statement supports the speaker's self-interest, according to a published study by Yale researchers...."


#158 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 10:18 AM:

Re: NYC Transit Question.

I was first tempted to quote from "Only the Dead Know Brooklyn."
THOMAS (Clayton) WOLFE [1900-1938]
Only the Dead Know Brooklyn, (ss) New Yorker 1935
O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1935, ed. Harry Hansen, Doubleday, Doran 1935
50 Best American Short Stories 1915-1939, ed. Edward J. O’Brien, Houghton Mifflin 1939
Short Stories from The New Yorker, ed. Anon., Simon & Schuster 1940.

Then I got my boroughs straight. My brother gave me a small gift before the wake and funeral, that Teresa and Patrick might enjoy.

Street Chronicle: A Pedestrian View. The colorful plasticized pocket-program folded thingie is great for a walking tour of the architectural wonders of Brooklyn Heights, and includes a nice photo of the house in which I grew up (62 Montague Street). You too can stand where Charles Dickens stood, at Plymouth Church, when he was on his book tour, or where Walt Whitman self-promoted (I should know).

Grasping Metaphors: UC San Diego Research Ties Brain Area To Figures Of Speech

"What does it take to fathom a proverb -- catch the figurative meaning of 'an apple doesn't fall far from the tree'?"

"According to research led by V. S. Ramachandran, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, a region of the brain known as the angular gyrus is probably at least partly responsible for the human ability to understand metaphor...."

#159 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 11:55 AM:

Could one of you kind and well-informed people* please email me an explanation** of the end of The Urth of the New Sun? I was right there with him until the last paragraph, when I went "buh?" And then there's the appendix. I like to think I'm as thoughtful as the next reader, but the answer that occurred to me feels like cheating.

*There are adjectives there. I'm hoping that makes it not count as a "you-people."
**I say "email" because it's possible that I'm not the last person in the world to read that book, and I'd hate to spoil it for those with a clue.

#160 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 12:43 PM:

Stefan, I'd give it 60 to 90 minutes, and I'd go by way of Howard Beach and the A line.

DDB: I think the LJ syndication author credit should be fixed now.

#162 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 02:12 PM:

I've played that about a half-dozen times this week, Alex. A very catchy tune.

The site has a bunch of hilarious animated stuff. England's future queen, iffy petting zoos, etc.

#163 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 06:59 PM:

Anthony Lane nicely trashed the latest/last SW movie in a recent New Yorker, and SFGate (San Francisco Chronicle) columnist Mark Morford went after the whole phenomenon here:

(Sorry, I tried 3 times to get the links formula to work with this, but just got the a href etc. along with what's above, not a proper link.)

#164 ::: Bryan Alexander ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 11:26 PM:

Thanks for the recommendations, Jules and Michelle

Mitch, I also have fond memories of the Vanderbilt Planetarium. Too far away to bike, but we drove there from Huntington often enough, circa 1972-1979.

#165 ::: Lois Aleta Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2005, 03:29 AM:

And now for something completely different.

I use my LiveJournal "friends" page as an RSS aggregator, among other things, so I have many links for blogs. A while back someone created a LiveJournal syndication feed for the Particles section of Making Light. Long before that, of course, I'd already "friended" the feed for the blog itself, and for Electrolite too.

For some reason it did not occur to me until very recently to look for a feed for the Sidelights from Electrolite. I think the merger of the two blogs was what made me wonder.

Tonight I finally looked for it. Nope, no LJ syndication of "Sidelights" that I could find.

So I made one. I called it "electroside" because that "name" is used as part of the XML feed URL, and it's available at

should any other LJ users want to "friend" it.

#166 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2005, 07:23 PM:

Pop vs. Soda vs. Coke vs. Other: The Maps

Do I even need to say how cool this is?

#167 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 08:23 AM:

I just watched Bravo's "Top 20 Superheros." Something is definitely wrong when the list includes the likes of Austin Powers and The Mask but does not include Buffy, Xena, or Wonder Woman. The only female superheros they included were members of groups (The Incredibles, The Fantastic Four, X-Men, etc.)

They also have a "Super Vixens" show, where (judging the show by its title) presumably the women are lauded for their sexiness first and super-powers second.

May I just say, "bleah"? I shall now return to my basic rule "Shows that rank things in 'Top-n' style generally suck."

#168 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 04:14 AM:

I'm just going to note here that the Alibris "particle" link on the front page had me in stitches.

#169 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 04:09 PM:

just read "the emptying of the great plains" link in the sidebar. The site says "federal policies have pushed people out of the Great Plains." I think this grossly oversimplifies reality. John Deere and their diesel powered combines that allows one man to harvest a thousand acres is what pushed people out of farm country. It's more a function of technology replacing manual labor than of politics messing up the local economies.

#170 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 04:28 PM:

At the margin federal policies have either reduced population or failed to subsidize families for staying. There are good sources on the web for who gets what subsidy where.

The sidebar link does not mention the rise of the suitcase farmer whose family lives at a distance - sometimes on another farm sometimes in a better school district - while the farmer commutes for relatively few days a year.

#171 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 05:04 PM:

For some excellent coverage of the Great Plains outmigration, read National Geographic's cover story of about a year ago. And, of course, it has many striking photos. (This somewhat contradicts the sidelight link article's contention that the story is being ignored, for some value of ignored.)

Also see the Buffalo Commons.

For my two cents, I think you're both right. The outmigration is driven by some fairly fundamental demographic and technological choices. And, the US agricultural subsidies program was designed either by an idiot, or by a very smart person interested solely in the concentration of wealth.

#172 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 06:30 PM:

This almost makes me want to acquire "The Sims": The Simarillion.

#173 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 07:47 PM:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the big wave of migration to the Great Plains was ecologically unsustainable over the long term. The technological changes enable farming to continue in that environment, just as much as they allow people to leave.

#174 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 07:57 PM:

Julie L. - funny you should mention The Sims today. Something Positive is talking about them, too.

#175 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 08:00 PM:

Re: the Great Plains outmigration, I've been reading Jared Diamond's new book, Collapse, in which he reminds us that the northern Great Plains are agriculturally marginal to begin with.

#176 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 08:53 PM:

Same here, though (as usual) we're a generation behind you. We're going through the same depopulation of agricultural areas that were never more than marginal, and the angst that goes with it. Only Australia's marginal land is really marginal. Ten inches of rain per annum was considered viable. The problem with this is Australian rain cycles are, in these areas at least, very variable and decades long. At the moment, we have large areas of Queensland and NSW that have had no significant rain at all for four or five years.

Depopulation is the only answer, in the long term. The fact that it's the only answer doesn't make it less painful. Either that, or bulldoze the Great Dividing Range. Or flood the Lake Eyre Basin by connecting it to the sea. That might work.

#177 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 10:10 PM:

What you really want is volcanism. More tall pointy mountains to poke holes in the clouds and let the rain out. Also, the lava and ash deposits do wonders to renew soil fertility.

#178 ::: Sharon M ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 10:54 PM:

For the knitters in the crowd, I saw recycled silk yarn, on sale even, at Gear That Gives. Unfortunately, the site won't let me link directly to an individual product. Search (upper left) for recycled yarn.

I don't knit, but I do read, so I offer this link in trade for the many and varied book recommendations I've found here.

And thanks for the excellent blog(s) - and for letting me talk your ears off at ConDFW. Very nice meeting you both!

#179 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2005, 04:57 PM:

Long time, no post, but I thought this little tidbit was right up the (newly consolidated (like the new layout/scheme, BTW)) Making Light groove:

The Conservative Human Events Online's "10 Most Harmful Books" of the last two centuries should make any thinking, rational individual alternately say "duh" and seethe. Just the thing to rouse a little bit of post-holiday ire.

On the yarn-craft front, my experience at Burning Flipside this weekend leads me to believe that the single best way to get a bunch of long-haired freaky people to ask "Where did you get that, and how can I get one?" is to wear a crocheted beanie with panda ears. You heard it here first. Or frist. You know, whatever.

#180 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2005, 06:49 PM:

Skwid - OK, IMWTK. Where did you get a beanie with panda ears, and is there photographic evidence available?

#181 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2005, 11:17 PM:

Skwid -- the place to go for ridicule and vituperation of the Human Events Online folks, is this post on Brad Delong's blog.

OT -- I just saw (on "The Daily Show") a tape of a dinner in honor of Tom Delay, which ended with a performance of "If I Had a Hammer" (because Delay's nickname is "The Hammer") -- Jon Stewart noted, "The interesting thing is that if Delay had a hammer, he'd bash Pete Seeger's head in."

#182 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2005, 11:30 PM:

> should make any thinking, rational individual
> alternately say "duh" and seethe.

the top few made me say "sure". A lot of the rest made me say "what?" and seethe. wonder what a progressive institute would list as the 10 most dangerous books.

#183 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 01:04 AM:

Greg London:
"wonder what a progressive institute would list as the 10 most dangerous books."

You've touched on a key difference between conservatives and progressives: progressives don't think that books are dangerous.

No progressive institute would be capable of a list like that: books are part of the conversation. It's theoretically possible for their readers to become dangerous, but books themselves aren't.

#184 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 02:31 AM:

Bob Oldendorf says:

You've touched on a key difference between conservatives and progressives: progressives don't think that books are dangerous.

Bob, have you ever had a big stack of heavy books--biology textbooks, maybe, all gravid with of evolution--fall on you? I tell you, a conservative is just a liberal who got his head whomped with a freshman zoology text.

#185 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 08:20 AM:

Greg London:
wonder what a progressive institute would list as the 10 most dangerous books.


#186 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 10:00 AM:

Larry, you can acquire them from this lovely young lady, and there is photographic evidence...just none that's convenient at the moment. I'll try to get a pic up this evening.

#187 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 10:10 AM:

'wonder what a progressive institute would list as the 10 most dangerous books'
I have a bunch of really big books and I think carrying them around is dangerous on my back. if these books had been banned by a governmental agency then I could have been spared the various discomfitures of their existence.

#188 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 10:51 AM:

> progressives don't think that
> books are dangerous.
> readers (can) become dangerous,
> but books themselves aren't.

Then I think that's a bit niave on the part of progressives. It seems to me that it grossly underestimates the power of framing. Not that I would advocate censorship or whatever, but at the very least I would acknowledge that some books have taken a great deal of the population back into more medieval thinking.

So, the book isn't "dangerous" in and of itself, but the effect of the book on the population caused a lot of people to regress.

One example I can think of would be any book that argues creationism should be taught in school, using whatever cover language to hide the fact that they're talking about a literal interpretation of Genesis. The book by itself is not dangerous, but the effects on schools and students are real.

#189 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 11:00 AM:

Well, yes, certainly, there are pernicious ideas; but (if I can speak for all progressives...) the progressive mind-set doesn't frame the matter as making lists of "harmful books". That's the conservative response.

The progressive response is that the answer to bad ideas is MORE ideas, not a cordoning off of certain "harmful" texts.

#190 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 12:45 PM:

And typically for theocons, they couldn't even get the title of Darwin's The Origin of Species right (Honorable Mention). All of nature isn't about YOU, homo saps. Get over it!

#191 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 01:25 PM:

Again: Dangerous Books?

More Dangerous Books: Barista, on January 03, 2004 -- paper/death/sound Connects last year's story about ""a man ... rescued after being trapped for two days under a mountain of reading material in his [New York] apartment" with the "strange death of Charles Valentin Alkan"

Another biographical link:

Charles-Valentin Alkan (November 30, 1813–March 29, 1888) was a French composer and one of the greatest virtuoso pianists of his day. His compositions for solo piano are among the most difficult ever written and are relatively rarely performed.

And a couple of more places where his music is discussed and played
All About Alkan (Fred Flaxman)-- also an alternative All About Alkan, with musical examples.
You say you've never heard of Charles Valentin Morhange? OK, I admit he was better known as Alkan. If that still draws a blank ... you would never pass the O.C.T.s -- the Obscure Composers Test.
Alkan had nothing to do with the proposed merger of Alaska and Kansas. Nor is Alkan the new name for the Aluminum Can Company, although it should be. No, Alkan was a French pianist and composer (1813-1888). He is known by musical scholars and CD maniacs alike for his highly original, kooky compositions, his sense of humor, and the way he died -- or didn't die -- depending on what you read.

Ten years after this recital was recorded, this is still some of the most hair-raising piano playing committed to disc and perhaps the best thing pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin has done to date.. Alkan was one of the certified wackos of classical music. A contemporary of Franz Liszt who could supposedly outplay him any day of the week, he became a recluse in Paris after a short but highly successful concert career, keeping a virtual menagerie of exotic pets in his apartment until his sudden death.

#192 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 02:05 PM:

Thanks Patrick for the link to the Great Plains article. I grew up in the southern part of the GP and while it isn't, perhaps, happening as fast there, it is happening. The town I grew up in is noticeably smaller than when I grew up there.
And that first picture is so lovely and evocative. I love that landscape.

#193 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 03:47 PM:

This is not the gardening thread, but I just wanted to say:

It seems to be iris week where I live. There are irises coming into bloom everywhere. I don't think I have ever met an iris that was displeasing to the eye.

#194 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 04:02 PM:

I saw the first iris come out in our garden yesterday.

#195 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 04:24 PM:

Since we've enjoyed the topic here in the past, I thought y'all might appreciate some more recent Times-screwing-up-photos news: Anil Dash managed to get his photo in the Times WITH A FREAKIN' GOATSE SHIRT ON!.

He is now officially my hero-for-the-day.

(P.S.: I tried to post this to the Archived version of the "Timed" thread, but it threw an error that a template needed to be defined...)

#196 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 06:00 PM:

We've got deep blue irises next to my great-grandmother's yellow tea roses. Beautiful combination.

#197 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 07:25 PM:

...And, as promised: Crocheted Panda Hats.

The mesh is loose enough, BTW, that they don't get too hot, which is important in Texas in late May; I would wear mine all day and forget it was on, it was so comfortable.

#198 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 08:08 PM:

Arg! My local independent book seller, who claims to have book sense (well, Booksense anyway), is hosting their second signing in as many months for a local Publish America author.

This is a bookstore that doesn't have room for a single Neil Gaiman book...but they're pushing this?

#199 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 09:23 PM:

SF lit talkshow alert:

The public radio show Odyssey, from Chicago, is covering Science Fiction and Literature tomorrow, Friday, June 3.

The description of the show isn't promising: "The latest novels by critical darlings Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro are science fiction tales. Why the literary interest in this low-brow genre? Friday on Odyssey, host Gretchen Helfrich and guests discuss literature and science fiction."

but Gretchen does a pretty good job anyway. It'll probably be interesting. She usually has some academics on.

The show is on 12pm-1pm Central time. You can listen live via RealAudio, and the show will be archived within 24 hours, for listening on demand.

Odyssey's at

#200 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 11:07 PM:

Skwid - Those are some excellent beanies!

#201 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2005, 10:34 AM:

Joint Genome Institute Sequences DNA Of Prehistoric Cave Bears

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. -- The genomic DNA sequencing of an extinct Pleistocene cave bear species -- the kind of stuff once reserved for science fiction -- has been logged into scientific literature thanks to investigators from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI). The study, published in the June 2 online edition of the journal Science, has set the research community's sights on traveling back in time through the vehicle of DNA sequencing to reveal the story of other extinct species -- including our nearest relatives, the Neandertals....

#202 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2005, 10:51 AM:

I'm not sure where to put this, Patrick, but you had a thread which included a discussion on what the Class System is in the USA. Here the Gray Lady ofd pre-blogular journalism is taken to task on that matter:

All classed up and nowhere to go
The New York Times goes slumming: How the paper’s allegiance to the ruling elite distorts its look at class in America

"... For most people on the receiving end of class prerogatives in this country — unskilled service workers who find it all but illegal to form unions, say, or poor black voters in Ohio and Florida — there’s no 'influences' about it: class is destiny in America, delimiting access to basic social benefits like health care, education, job training, and affordable housing. Yet for all sorts of painfully self-evident institutional reasons, the New York Times can’t afford to approach a subject this potent in a straightforward fashion...."

"... Meritocracy is an especially obtrusive and unstable term here, since neither Scott nor Leonhardt — nor scarcely any uncritical champion of meritocracy in our time — pauses to note the original meaning of the term. The concept of meritocracy first surfaced in a 1958 satirical political novel, The Rise of the Meritocracy, by old-line British socialist Michael Young. Young’s coinage was not intended to describe a system of impartial upward advancement, but rather the diametric opposite: a dystopian social order wherein bureaucratic rank outstripped wealth and title as the measure of human advancement...."

"... When Times scribes are reduced to sentence fragments, you know their patrician forbearance is running dangerously low...."

"[Subsequent series] installments perform the same reassuring alchemy, transmuting the raw stuff of material deprivation into judiciously arm’s-length cultural perplexity...."

"... There you have it: a watershed moment in modern democratic revolution worded in the style of an America Idol ballot...."

#203 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2005, 12:54 PM:

Review copies of this draft are available by email, upon request, as I can always use good input from those who love fiction in these genres.

"Beyond the Frontier: Science Fiction and the Western"
Jonathan Vos Post
Emerald City Publishing
[snailmail address deleted here]
Written for presentation [Thursday, 23 June 2005, 3-5 PM in the Koko Room] at the Annual Conference of the Science Fiction Research Association, Imperial Palace Hotel
and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, 23-26 June 2005

Draft 2.0, approximately 14,100 words,
of 2 June 2005


Numerous complex interactions exist between the literary genres of the Western (sometimes derided as “Horse Opera” with sixguns) and of Science Fiction (sometimes defamed as mere “Space Opera” with rayguns). The most important concept shared by the cores of both genres is that of the FRONTIER. The Frontier is dominated by a Culture of Honor, in the face of a hostile environment, and sometimes by hostile indigenes. One source of frontier stories is the brave resourceful hero. Clearly, “we need heroes.”

As David Moden aptly writes: “Essentially science fiction has adopted new techniques to validate frontier myths. Where the Western presents a vanished frontier whose reality is documented as convincingly as possible, science fiction projects the frontier into the future and documents its reality by means of scientific extrapolation. In either case the 'frontier' is made up of factual data shaped to form a vision of the nature and significance of the American Dream.”

This paper examines this parallel in some detail, and sketches other aspects of the inter-genre interaction with respect to technology (high and low), authorship, professional organizations, and history. The author most cited is Robert Anson Heinlein, Dean of American Science Fiction, who openly compared the genres of Westerns and Science Fiction.

The paper begins with a thematic introduction of the frontier, definitions (and references to further definition), plunges into an analysis of certain key quotations on the inter-genre interaction, summarizes the History of Technology in the genres, both in print and in visual media, from Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage (1912) to Philip Jose Farmer’s Riders of the Purple Wage (1967), and concludes with open questions for further research.

#204 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2005, 04:05 PM:

My Dutch iris are already through and the bearded iris were just beginning when we had a huge storm. It was raining so hard I couldn't tell if it was rain drops or hail stones and then I realized it was both. They look pretty pitiful now.

MKK--so ready for some warm weather...

#205 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2005, 11:05 PM:

JvP: The Boston Phoenix is in no position to slam the New York Times, and shows it from the beginning of the article in whining about the "Vows" section. Some papers try to cover a wide range of interests; BP doesn't.

#206 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2005, 02:00 AM:

Word search: What it is called when a scanning eye moves in jerks from logical/visual point to point, as when reading text. The word fragment in my head sounds like staccato or reccata, or something like that. Anyone?

#207 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2005, 02:45 AM:


I'd rather not be in the middle of a fight between two entities who each buy ink by the barrel.

Added to my revised paper:

An appendix lists 57 authors each known for books in both Western and Speculative Fiction genres, of whom the most important are Leigh Brackett, Edgar Rice Burroughs, James Fenimore Cooper, Robert E. Howard, L. Ron Hubbard, John Jakes, Robert Jordan, Joe R. Lansdale, Jack London, Bill Pronzini, John Shirley, Andrew H. Vachss, and Dr. William Wu.

#208 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2005, 05:52 AM:

Not Chad Oliver and Lee Hoffman? I'd argue each of them as more important than Lansdale or Wu -- I believe both are western award winners. And Sturgeon won awards in both camps IIRC.

#209 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2005, 05:54 AM:

Skwid - the movement is a saccade, adjective form saccadic. From "A rapid intermittent eye movement, as that which occurs when the eyes fix on one point after another in the visual field."

(I'll admit that I had to go search for the term - learned it once, but my need for that field of study has diminished....)

#210 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2005, 10:50 AM:

Using your Open thread to interrupt with a somewhat quizzical language query. Someone has pointed out what to him & me seems to be a distinctly unfortunately-named young lady in an online yearbook photo page.
> 5th row, 5th column.
Is this another example of "peoples separated by a common language"? I'd appreciate feedback from different English-speaking areas to see what parts of the world find something unusual. Perhaps I should head over to some of the language blogs to check too :)

#211 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2005, 11:15 AM:

Teresa: thanks for the link to the Irish sculptor. I particularly liked Wilde as motorcyclist.


#212 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2005, 11:25 AM:

Mez: I see nothing, unless it's Ginger Minge, whose name is just dysphonious (too many zhs). And some of these names make me think this yearbook must be from Utah.

#213 ::: dave ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2005, 12:02 PM:

Mez, Xopher: "Ginger Minge" is British English for "bright red pubic hair".

#214 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2005, 12:03 PM:

Oh. The word 'minge' isn't used here. And 'ginger' isn't used that way, though I suppose a lot of people understand it.

#215 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2005, 01:03 PM:

Yes, I'd assumed that most probably it wasn't recognised in the USA, I was wondering where else would recognise it. That's why I particularly didn't elucidate the unfortunateness involved. You can check this at, for instance the truly extraordinary reference page at Wikipedia: Body parts slang (love mitten? mutt??) - see the pertinent page

#216 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2005, 01:10 PM:

Tom Whitmore:

Chad Oliver, yes! Lee Hoffman, yes!
Sturgeon, definitely!

This proves that I can't find what I'm looking for ON MY OWN WEB DOMAIN as I've written plenty about each of these three. Now you get cited in my paper, and I thank you first, here. To be sure, "important" is a subjective term, and the paper is already 15,000 words long so I don't want to get sidetracked into trying to define it. To find similarities and differences between the "important" folks on the list is mentioned in the section of the paper as a topic for further research. You know, such as "What the H? Lee Hoffman, Robert E. Howard, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Hermeneutics of Speculation in the Mythos of the American West."


The following 60 authors are each known for authoring (or, in the case of Greenburg, editing) books in both Western and Speculative Fiction genres, of whom the most important in both are marked by asterisks.

* Leigh Brackett
Sigmund Bronwer
Thomas Burke
* Edgar Rice Burroughs
David Case
Robert J. Conley
* James Fenimore Cooper
Bruce Coville
James F. David
Kathryn Davis
Andrew Dequasie
Kristina O. Donnelly
Kathleen Duey
Randy Lee Eickhoff
Carol Emshwiller
Percival Everett
Michael W. Gear
John Goff
Ed Gorman
* Martin H. Greenberg (editor)
Douglas Hirt
* Lee Hoffman
* Robert E. Howard
* L. Ron Hubbard
* John Jakes
Alexander Jodorowski
William H. Johnstone
Kirby Jonas
* Robert Jordan
Charles King
Harold Lamb
* Joe R. Lansdale
* Jack London
Gilbert Morris
* Chad Oliver
Dan Parkinson
Richard Perry
Tom Piccirilli
* Bill Pronzini
Robert J. Randisi
David Robbins
Kennth Robeson
Charles Ryan
Jory Sherman
* John Shirley
William Sloane
Lester Smith
Zilpha Kaetley Snyder
* Theodore Sturgeon
Greg Tobin
James Toombs
John A. Truett
* Andrew H. Vachss
Charles G. West
Richard S. Wheeler
Daoma Winston
* Dr. William Wu
Norman Zollinger

And there are so many people that I want to thank, so I apologize if I've missed anyone. I'd like to thank my parents, grandparents, greatgrandparents, my coach, my body double, and all the little people. You know, the hobbits. And my makeup artists, and, oh, you really love me!, and the other contenders, each so much more talented than I. Just to be nominated is an honor...

#217 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2005, 03:28 PM:

JVP, perhaps you could hire a person to pay attention to you.

#218 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2005, 04:02 PM:


Ouch. That violates the Oath of the Author, the one on which way money is supposed to flow. But if I've been posting too much here for your taste, I apologize, and will slack off somewhat. Several Making Light regulars have responded to the Westerns/SF stuff with very useful emails to me, and shall be acknowledged in the paper. But it is not the proper use for Teresa and Patrick's bandwidth; I admit to being somehat selfish; and I have obviously miscalibrated the general interest in genre literature.

#219 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2005, 09:52 PM:

Oh dear. Someone has come up with an implementation of "Frog a la Peche", for values of "Peche" that mean webserver.

#220 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2005, 11:54 PM:

JvP: Normally I'd enjoy ink-barrels-at-forty-paces (from a safe distance). But I've known the Phoenix for 34 years -- enough time to become underimpressed with its preference for attitude over substance.

#221 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2005, 01:36 AM:


Robert Vardeman (lots of Westerns, under a number of housenames and pseudonyms)

Alan Dean Foster has written at least several fantasy stories set in the Old West, if that counts for your list.

#222 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2005, 09:50 AM:

Hey, I missed it when it went by hereabouts a few days ago, but I wanted to register the opinion that of course some books are dangerous.

Whether this means we should ban the ones we think are dangerous is a different matter. That'd be a "no" from me.

But of course books are dangerous. The Bible is dangerous. The Origin of Species is dangerous. The Turner Diaries is dangerous. How to Suppress Women's Writing is dangerous. None of which is to exculpate people from the choices they make, or to claim that books are tantamount to orbital mind-control lasers. But it's perfectly obvious that many books are dangerous. So are potholes, good sex, air bags, prayer, and tuna. Life isn't safe.

#223 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2005, 10:48 AM:

Hammer of Witches (can't spell Latin, more euphonious version) definitely helped cause a lot of havoc, but that's not 19th or 20th century.

#224 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2005, 12:03 PM:

That would be Malleus Maleficarum, and the first English translation was done in the 1920s, Epacris.

#225 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2005, 01:10 PM:

Speaking of irises, I saw some Magellan Gin in the store last night and couldn't resist the urge to check it out. I can only assume that somebody once bought Bombay Sapphire, felt gypped that only the bottle was blue, and said to himself, "I shall not rest until I have created a truly blue gin."

What does this have to do with irises? They make it blue by infusing it with iris flowers.

I made a martini with it last night, and it was gorgeous. (I used a lemon twist rather than an olive, for obvious color-balance reasons.) Magellan is slightly sweet, with a noticeable licorice overtone; I don't like it as much as Junipero, or even Sapphire, but it's certainly a commendable gin. And hey, it's blue!

#226 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2005, 03:13 PM:

to unpack the concept of "dangerous books" a bit - -

yes, of course, books can be "dangerous" in the sense you cite, the sense of "subversive to established order"; but I don't think progressives should be using that to mean a bad (or a "dangerous" ) thing. Conservatives apparently do. It comes down to the meaning inferred by their use of the term "dangerous".

I'm having trouble with their premise that "getting people to see a problem in a new way" = "dangerous". I guess that at root is a philosophical attitude about whether "dangerous" means "good" or "bad", which is fairly telling.

And even the original (conservative) list doesn't go so far as to call for banning. I got the sense that they just wanted a new list of ideas to deplore.

It was interesting that they didn't use their list of "dangerous books" to talk about ways in which those ideas are wrong ; they mostly just used it as a way to attack the various authors for not being conservatives.

#227 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 12:31 AM:

It could be all the medication I'm taking right now (a wicked virus just in time for summer. Woot!), but a thought occurred to me, and it occurred simultaneously as a very good thought and very bad thought. And that thought is this:

The assertion:
> readers (can) become dangerous,
> but books themselves aren't.

is almost identical but completely
opposite of the assertion:

> guns don't kill people
> people kill people.

Anyway, the room is spinning again.
going to lay/lie down now.

#228 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 12:37 AM:

Related to nothing in this thread, here's The Adventures of Action Item.

Of course this only looks fictional -- i recall something like this happening on several projects. The only thing the strip leaves out is the fat check for the consultant in the cape.

#229 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 12:58 AM:

And hey, it's blue!

Blue Curaçao sales continued their downward arc today as more of what the spirits industry calls Visually Centered Rapid Alcohol Swillers (VisCeRAlS) explored other methods of mixing weirdly colored drinks.

Also in response to this move is the new product Windex Reference Blue(tm), a 10cc ampoule of the popular cleaner intended for color-matching by nonprofessional bartenders. Not to be overtaken, Pantone and United Distillers announced a joint effort . . .

#230 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 11:16 AM:

According to babelfish, the infernocrusher site says:

The excavators can only much limit upward gradients or pleasure straining to drive on.
When (exactly) did I stop being able to say "simply makes you feel very strange" without a lewd chuckle?

Is it getting unseasonably hot in here?

#231 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 11:21 AM:

And if you inject Windex into someone, it kills them, but it causes the brain to die last.

#232 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 03:48 PM:

> guns don't kill people
> people kill people.

"Guns don't kill people. People don't kill people.
Bullets kill people.
But you can't have the National Bullet Association--the letters are already taken."

#233 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 05:20 PM:

Dangerous books? The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. In 1983 I went to look up a word and dropped the dictionary on my toe. I went to the ER to see if the toe was broken, and eventually got the bill charged to Worker's Compensation. That got the bean-counters involved, so my boss got an accident form to fill out, and he assigned that task to me. Simple justice.

The last line on that form gave me the most trouble. "Remedial action taken to prevent future accidents of this nature." I finally settled on "Employee was told to be careful with books." I've still got that dictionary, and I'm always careful with it.

#234 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 05:25 PM:

Guns, bullets . . . merely instrumentalities. Hydrostatic shock kills people.

#235 ::: Anton P. Nym (aka Steve) ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 06:33 PM:


Objects don't kill people, energy kills people. Kinetic, electric, thermal, stored excess chemical potential (fat), whatever... it's energy that kills.

The obvious course is to ban all forms of energy. This has the added benefit of saving people from dangerous books too, as the manufacture and consumption of dangerous books require, you guessed it, energy.

I now make myself available to the Nobel Committee at my usual address.

#236 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 06:40 PM:

Anton P. Nym: "The obvious course is to ban all forms of energy."

Including, of course, matter. All the books I've ever held have been made of matter, rather than antimatter, or I wouldn't be here to post this.

#237 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 05:12 PM:

> [M]any books are dangerous. So are potholes, good sex, air bags, prayer, and tuna.

Particularly if you have them all at once. And the tuna's still alive.

> I now make myself available to the Nobel Committee at my usual address.

Anyone else spot the irony that Nobel's greatest achievement was to make available large quantities of energy for rapid discharge applications?

#238 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 05:35 PM:

"[M]any books are dangerous. So are potholes, good sex, air bags, prayer, and tuna."

Henceforth, for your protection, Homeland Security shall prosecute FFSWES (Faith-based Front-seat Sex While Eating Sushi). To play it safe, we recommend against throwing rice at the departing bride and groom, in case they might cook it, wrap it in seaweed, stuff it with raw tuna, and practice Unsafe At Any Speed.

#239 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 06:20 PM:

Just browsing through the latest particles additions -- I think Google Ads is developing an ironic sense of humour.

#240 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 02:46 AM:

Okay, I'm squicked. There are sites out there that are promoting anorexia and bulemia as reasonable lifestyle choices. The NYTimes reports on them.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Web Sites Promote a Deadly Thinness

However sincerely intended, the warnings, posted on one of a growing number of Web sites that promote eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, may serve more as a lure, especially for curious teenagers. And a recent study by researchers from the Stanford School of Medicine has found that the Web sites are commonly visited by adolescents who have eating disorders.

Such sites are the public face of a movement that goes beyond the denial that often accompanies addictive behaviors like alcoholism and gambling, into something more like defiance.

Many of the sites dispute that anorexia and bulimia are diseases, portraying them instead as philosophies of life. They offer tips on how to lose weight - by purging, among other methods - and how to hide eating disorders from family members or friends.

In the new study, presented at a meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, the researchers said it was unclear whether the Web sites played a role in drawing people into eating disorders or in making recovery more difficult, in part because the study sample was fairly small. A larger study is planned.

But the researchers found that adolescents who reported visiting so-called pro-ana, for anorexia nervosa, or pro-mia, for bulimia nervosa, Web sites spent more time in hospitals and less time on school work than those who said they did not visit the sites. For reasons that are unclear, the study also found that even when adolescents visited pro-eating-disorder and pro-recovery sites, they still fared worse than those who visited neither kind of site.

Pro-eating-disorder Web sites can be very attractive, experts say. Many are well designed and well written, and they appeal to an adolescent sense of rebellion.

#241 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 11:23 AM:

On-line at the London Review of Books website, book review by James Davidson lectures at Warwick. He is currently working on a book to be called The Greeks and Greek Love for Weidenfeld and a translation of selected Attic speeches for Penguin Classics.

Mr and Mr and Mrs and Mrs
James Davidson
The Friend by Alan Bray [ Buy from the London Review Bookshop ] · Chicago, 380 pp, £28.00

In 1913, Turkish workmen restoring the Mosque of the Arabs in Istanbul uncovered the floor of a Dominican church. Among the gravestones was a particularly striking one in grey-white marble with pink and blue veins. Two helmets with slits for eyes faced each other, like a pair of beaky dolphins about, clangingly, to kiss: ‘Tomb Slab of an English Couple’, the label in Istanbul’s Archaeological Museum says.

The couple were illustrious knights of the royal chamber of Richard II, Sir William Neville and Sir John Clanvowe, ‘the Castor and Pollux of the Lollard movement’, as the medieval historian Bruce McFarlane called them...

...I have changed my mind about Boswell’s thesis, and that it is Bray’s subtlety that converted me...

#242 ::: Anton P. Nym detects comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2005, 12:31 PM:

No mortgage to refinance here, but thanks anyway. (Maybe you should talk to my building's property management firm, though.)

#243 ::: Graydon observes comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2005, 12:32 PM:

It's a bad sign for the housing market when you've got comment spammers posting home loan advertisements, I must say.

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