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January 31, 2007
Farewell to a good one
Posted by Patrick at 08:29 PM * 30 comments

There are two kinds of humor. One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity—like what Garrison Keillor does. The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule—that’s what I do. Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel—it’s vulgar.
Molly Ivins, 1944-2007. Well said, well done.

UPDATE: More at the Texas Observer.

All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace
Posted by Patrick at 06:15 PM * 22 comments

Via Crooked Timber, I discover Psychic Whois—and thence, that MAISON TROPICALE S.A., P.O. Box 58, The Valley, British West Indies has registered “”

Digging around further, I also discover that something called COMPANA LLC, whose own “whois” server is evidently down, owns “”.

I’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason for this, and I for one welcome our automated domain-registering robot overlords. Did I say overlords? I mean protectors.

Brit Beheading Plot
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:40 PM * 95 comments

In more serious anti-Terror news:

Terror raids over ‘beheading plot’

BIRMINGHAM, England (CNN) — British police have arrested nine people who they say were planning an “Iraq-style” abduction inside Britain, a senior security source told CNN.

That source said the plot was to include the torture and beheading of a British Muslim soldier.

British security sources did not identify the soldier, but said he was back in Britain after having served in Afghanistan.

The alleged plot was thwarted after a series of early morning raids conducted by the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, the West Midlands Police and Metropolitan Police in what the Home Office called a “major counterterrorism operation.”

Here are my predictions about how all this will shake out:

  • The “plot” will turn out to have been a bunch of wankers talking big in an Internet chat room
  • At least one of whom was an agent provocateur
  • If a plot in fact existed, one of the “plotters” knew the soldier personally, and wanted to kill him over either a) a girl, b) money, or c) both, while making it look like ‘terrorism’
  • This will be used as a justification for taking away more privacy and more civil liberties
  • And as a reason to invade Iran
  • And as proof that “The Surge” will work
  • And that taxes for the rich should be cut
  • And social security should be taken away from the poor
  • And a cap put on awards to plaintiffs at civil trials.

Boston menaced by cartoon promo; traffic grinds to a halt
Posted by Teresa at 05:20 PM *

Hi, Boston, how’s your commute?

Major roads and highways around Boston, and everything along the Charles River, were shut down today after nine “suspicious devices” were spotted in various locations.

The Turner Network has now confirmed that the devices, which look mysterious and have blinky lights on them, were part of a promotion for the TV cartoon show Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

One detail which none of the print media are reporting, but which Kate Salter picked up from listening to WBZ 1030, is that apparently the promotional gadgets were thought to be Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). An odd detail that Reuters is reporting is that the Coast Guard has shut or closed the Charles River. They’re also saying that the Charles feeds from the Atlantic into the city. I don’t believe a word of it. I’ll bet they’ve just shut down traffic on the river, and that the water is flowing in its usual direction.

For the best collection of news stories about this subject, see the wonky but informative WBZ News Radio 1030 Boston website.

Newsbreak: Avram Grumer just wandered in and told me that the blinkylight devices are Mooninites, a sarcastic species of lunar aliens who look like something out of the old Space Invaders game. Avram contributes a link to a close-up photo of one of the threatening devices and a photo of one of them in operation.

WBZ 1030 also has a photo of one of the devices in the wild.

Jim Macdonald comments:

They consisted of magnetic signs with blinking lights in the shape of a cartoon character.

And everyone knows that bombs have blinking lights on ‘em. Every single movie bomb you’ve ever seen has a blinking light.

Triumph for Homeland Security, guys.

Update: the story gets dumber

This just in, from the Guardian:

Turner Broadcasting, parent company of Cartoon Network, said the devices, which consisted of magnetic, blinking lights, were part of a promotion for the TV show “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.”

“The packages in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger,” Turner said in a statement. It said the devices have been in place for two to three weeks in 10 cities: Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Ore., Austin, Texas, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

“We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger,” the company said.

Police said only that they were investigating where the device came from. The Department of Homeland Security said there are no credible reports of other devices being found elsewhere in the country.


1. The devices have been up for weeks in ten other cities, and no one’s panicked.

2. The devices have been up for weeks in ten other cities, and the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t know about it.


Mark Frauenfelder at BoingBoing says Josh Glenn says that despite what you may have heard, Make was not involved.

And one last update:

The AP reports that the Governor of Massachusetts, the Mayor of Boston, and a Homeland Security Department spokesman are busily scowling and harrumphing, calling the incident a deliberate hoax (I don’t see it), denying that there was anything funny about it, denying that they overreacted, and congratulating each other and the local authorities on their fast and efficient non-overreaction time in responding to this grave threat. AP also notes that at least one of the devices depicts a cartoon character giving the finger.

For further updates, opinions, and cheerful mockery, see the comment thread.

Now Can I Have My Flying Car?
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:17 PM *

And it’s about time. Popular Mechanics has been telling us about the Car of the Future since at least the 1950s.

Okay, maybe not as cool as a personal jet pack, but still … cool.

Why they call it an “establishment”
Posted by Patrick at 10:05 AM * 40 comments

One of the more embarrassing tics of the genre SF and fantasy world, professional and fannish alike, is our ignorance about the actual existing “literary establishment” that we love to rail against. Way too many of us are just like me: cranky autodidacts whose knowledge of the world beyond our ghetto is composed of as much prejudice as actual knowledge. A chronic indicator of this is our tendency, in reviews, essays, and polemics, to confuse the New York Times Book Review with the New York Review of Books.

Here’s what to remember: The New York Times Book Review is an organ of the received-wisdom prejudices of upper-middle-class Americans. The New York Review of Books is more typically confrontational and—unashamedly—intellectual. You can inhale entire issues of the New York Times Book Review without having a single preconception ruffled. This isn’t remotely true of the New York Review of Books.

Here’s the comparison that wraps it all up. Both publications recently ran reviews of Norman Mailer’s new novel, The Castle in the Forest.

To write their review, the New York Review of Books commissioned J. M. Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

To write theirs, on the other hand, the New York Times Book Review commissioned disgraced former New Republic blogger and sockpuppet wielder Lee Siegel, the man who had to be administered smelling salts after being exposed to the awful language of the bloggers in whom he’d discerned the novel new characteristic that he dubbed “blogofascism”.

Why is this guy still getting work, much less high-profile work like this? Answer: establishments take care of their own.

Posted by Patrick at 08:23 AM * 91 comments

You’ve probably heard about this by now:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29—President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries.

You know, there’s a word for that kind of political appointee, chosen for their loyalty to the party line, and dispatched to enforce it at every level of the system. Ah, there it is: commissar.

Avedon Carol had the most succint response:

If you thought Brownie did a heckuva job, just imagine every single agency being run by political appointees who are free to overrule any standard of professionalism, and probably will.
Of course, along with their constant efforts to punish civil servants who step out of line, the transformation of the civil service into a patronage machine has been a Bush administration priority since Day One. Plenty of you reading this were probably fine with this, since for you the words “civil servant” and “union” summon up images of lazy postal workers. You know what? You’ve been played.

January 30, 2007
“Socialism from above—from way, way above”
Posted by Patrick at 03:40 PM *

Writing in the Socialist Review, China Miéville supports space exploration while recalling Argentinian Trotskyist Juan Posadas, who looked forward to aliens arriving to “intervene…with the inhabitants of the earth to overcome misery.” As Miéville explains:

The rest of the left greeted this with baying derision. However, as not enough comrades are SF fans, they misunderstood why Posadas was wrong. The problem is not that he believed in aliens, nor that he thought them our superiors. The problem is that he drew the wrong political conclusions.

The American Marxist Hal Draper famously described the “two souls” of socialism as being the democratic tradition of socialism from below versus the elitist conception of socialism from above. As his quote shows, Posadas not only looked forward to visits from flying saucers—he demanded their intervention on behalf of earth’s oppressed masses. What is that but socialism from above? From way, way above?

Read the rest, if only in order to savor a piece of writing in which the phrase “the sofa cushions of social justice” makes perfect sense.

Not our “commander in chief”
Posted by Patrick at 03:29 PM *

Lots of people have blogged this over the last few days, most notably Glenn Greenwald, but I want to leave a pointer anyway to this past weekend’s Garry Wills op-ed reminding us that, unless you’re in the military, the president of the United States is not your “commander in chief.”

The president is not the commander in chief of civilians. He is not even commander in chief of National Guard troops unless and until they are federalized. The Constitution is clear on this: “The president shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.”

When Abraham Lincoln took actions based on military considerations, he gave himself the proper title, “commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.” That title is rarely—more like never—heard today. It is just “commander in chief,” or even “commander in chief of the United States.” This reflects the increasing militarization of our politics. The citizenry at large is now thought of as under military discipline.

Wills mentions something I hadn’t known: Dwight D. Eisenhower regarded it as “out of order” for Presidents to exchange military salutes. The custom of Presidents exchanging salutes with the Marines on boarding or disembarking from the presidential helicopter was begun by Ronald Reagan and continued by all his successors. A small thing, but emblematic of what we’re well on the way to.

History is a machine for the generation of irony
Posted by Patrick at 02:54 PM * 11 comments

Today is Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 125th birthday. Presumably in commemoration, Blood and Treasure links to FDR’s message to the Maghreb in October 1942, as American troops arrived to reinforce the battle against Hitler’s Afrika Korps:

Praise be unto the only God. In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. O ye Moslems. O ye beloved sons of the Maghreb. May the blessing of God be upon you.

This is a great day for you and us, for all the sons of Adam who love freedom. Our numbers are as the leaves on the forest tress and as the grains of sand in the sea.

Behold. We the American Holy Warriors have arrived. We have come here to fight the great Jihad of Freedom.

From late January 2007, this reads like a bit from a Ken MacLeod novel, only in the past.

January 28, 2007
Apache disco cheese
Posted by Teresa at 12:27 AM *

From Sean Sakamoto comes what he says is the cheesiest music video in the history of humankind:

I’m begging you to enjoy the awesomeness of this disco video. Behold the mustache on the keyboard player, thrill to his bizarre evil laugh.
Too true. It’s a disco-era cover of “Apache”, and from the very start it’s terrible beyond human reckoning. After that, it steadily gets worse.

I can’t account for it. If a disco-era Westwood Warriorette had gone to the Wrong Party and been given a glass of Very Wrong Punch, she might have dreamed this video while trying to sleep it off.

(I’m sorry to have to tell you that I couldn’t find a photo of the Warriorettes from the right era, when they wore abbreviated blue-and-orange Indian Babe costumes, and sweatband headdresses with one feather sticking straight up in back. I’m surprised that no embittered American girl has put up a website reproducing thousands of yearbook photos of cheerleading squads and pom lines, indexed by year, participant, name of school, name of team, and the school colors.)

Anyway, have a look at that video. If the War on Drugs people had a lick of sense, they’d buy up the rights and reissue it with THIS IS WHAT A PERMISSIVE DRUG CULTURE WILL DO TO YOU neatly lettered at the top of the screen.

UPDATE by Patrick: Commenter A. Nakama provides a link to this post on music blog Soul-Sides, which contains an impressive collection of versions of “Apache” plus a lengthy and fascinating history of the song. I’m most struck by the fact that the above-linked soul-searing disco version by Tommy Seebach wasn’t even the first time “Apache” was a hit for a Danish artist. Danes are mysterious.

January 25, 2007
Haifa Street
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 06:47 PM * 115 comments

Nearly four years on, we still don’t have Baghdad. If we have any city at all in the entire country, it should be Baghdad, the capital. How many times did Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and their parrots tell us that Baghdad has been secured? How many new operations have there been to secure the already secured city?

Yesterday a US helicopter operated by mercenaries from Blackwater was shot down in central Baghdad.

Four of the five men on board survived the crash. Someone—either civilians, or insurgents in civiilian clothing (and how do you tell the difference?)—took the survivors, lined them up, and shot them in the backs of their heads. Either the insurgents knew where the helicopter would come down, the insurgents are everywhere, or the locals really, really don’t like Blackwater.

Meanwhile (via The Agonist):

Here’s what TV isn’t showing you.

“This is day twelve of the battle between Iraqi forces and Sunni gunmen at war in Haifa Street in the center of Baghdad. It’s only a mile and a half away from the heavily fortified Green Zone….”

A mile and a half from the Green Zone. You’d think that we could take and hold one street. Provide security for the residents. Allow them to go about their peaceful business.

As reported at Media Channel Dot Org:

There has been much heated debate over the past few years over media coverage of the Iraq War. The Bush administration has repeatedly attacked the ‘liberal bias’ of the mainstream news industry, claiming that it doesn’t report enough of the “good news” from Iraq, and focuses instead on the sensational and violent.

Those critical of the war and the occupation say just the opposite; that the mainstream news media has ignored much of the ‘bad news’ coming out of Iraq, leaving Americans with an impression of the war based more on a desire to follow the official White House narrative than facts on the ground. MediaChannel has long been in the latter camp, sponsoring (for example) last year’s ‘Show Us the War’ project, which published video pieces showing an Iraq overrun with violence and chaos—and an administration that seemed more intent on faith and ’spin’ than reality. We at MediaChannel believe that an informed citizenry is necessary to keep our democracy viable, and we have been strong advocates of the call for all news outlets—mainstream or independent—to produce and distribute accurate stories on the situation in Iraq.

Laura Logan, a CBS chief foreign correspondent, embedded with US troops, made a report. CBS hasn’t aired it. At least they didn’t totally spike it, but they buried it on their website.

The segment in question—”Battle for Haifa Street”—is a piece of first-rate journalism but one that only appears on the CBS News website—and has never been broadcast. It is a gritty, realistic look at life on the very mean streets of Baghdad, and includes interviews with civilians who complain that the US military presence is only making their lives worse and the situation more deadly.

“They told us they would bring democracy, they promised life would be better than it was under Saddam,” one told Logan. “But they brought us nothing but death and killing. They brought mass destruction to Baghdad.”

Several bodies are shown in the two-minute segment—”some with obvious signs of torture,” as Logan points out. She also notes that her crew had to flee for their lives when they we were warned of an impending attack. While fleeing, another civilian was killed before their eyes.

Help get the video—and the word—out. Ms. Logan has asked the bloggers of the world for aid in getting this shown on TV.

Nearly four years on, is it too much to ask that we have one street in Baghdad?

The video itself.

January 24, 2007
Spoken to the air, punctuated by idle whistling
Posted by Patrick at 02:56 PM *

Sometimes I think we need to make more of a point of explaining that, you know, we really have nothing against self-publication, small presses, fanzines, magazines that pay in copies, and all the other varieties of non-commercial literary culture. Hello, this is the Nielsen Haydens, who spent over a decade publishing thousands of pages of mimeographed science fiction fanzines; who worked as editors on the nonpaying “little magazine” The Little Magazine*; and who have run and helped run a miscellany of “small press” projects up and down the years. As Teresa says, “What is this, National Forget How to Google Month?” And what is Making Light, if not a variety of fanzine-like, small-press-like self-publication?

Then, other times, I remember that even if we recited that every other day of the week, the kind of people who are determined to be nitwits about these issues would find equally effective ways to succeed at their chosen task.

Right now, what I want to know is, what sort of person is it who, offended by something Teresa said in a Making Light post, decides the right thing to do is…email me, and not her, to complain about it? What is this, Patriarchy Pretend Hour? Take it up with Teresa. Let us know how that works out for you.

Health Insurance Misdirection
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:48 AM *

I’ve mentioned before that people who don’t have health insurance don’t get health care. I’ve seen people die from it.

What’s The Decider going to do about it? He wants to give folks a tax deduction for private health insurance.

Nearly half of the people who don’t have health insurance are getting all of their withheld tax back already, because they make that little money to start with. This may help perhaps three million out of the forty-six million who don’t have health insurance.

Making yachts 100% tax-deductible won’t give everyone a yacht.

January 23, 2007
Well done, Second Life
Posted by Patrick at 03:12 PM *

Blogger Darren Barefoot created a parody of massive multiplayer immersive sorta-VR thingy Second Life.

Second Life’s lawyers responded. In his comment section.

As you must be aware, the Copyright Act (Title 17, U.S. Code) contains provisions regarding the doctrine of “fair use” of copyrighted materials (Section 107 of the Act). Although lesser known and lesser recognized by trademark owners, the Lanham Act (Title 15, Chapter 22, U.S. Code) protecting trademarks is also limited by a judicial doctrine of fair use of trademarks. Determining whether or not a particular use constitutes fair use typically involves a multi-factor analysis that is often highly complex and frustratingly indeterminate; however, a use constituting parody can be a somewhat simpler analysis, even where such parody involves a fairly extensive use of the original work.

We do not believe that reasonable people would argue as to whether the website located at constitutes parody—it clearly does. Linden Lab is well known among its customers and in the general business community as a company with enlightened and well-informed views regarding intellectual property rights, including the fair use doctrine, open source licensing, and other principles that support creativity and self-expression. We know parody when we see it.

Moreover, Linden Lab objects to any implication that it would employ lawyers incapable of distinguishing such obvious parody. Indeed, any competent attorney is well aware that the outcome of sending a cease-and-desist letter regarding a parody is only to draw more attention to such parody, and to invite public scorn and ridicule of the humor-impaired legal counsel. Linden Lab is well-known for having strict hiring standards, including a requirement for having a sense of humor, from which our lawyers receive no exception.

In conclusion, your invitation to submit a cease-and-desist letter is hereby rejected.

I’ve been desultorily following the story of Second Life, including criticisms of the hype surrounding it, but I have to say, this kind of response buys them a metric truckload of slack from me. Well done.

(Via EFF DeepLinks.)

January 22, 2007
The Pitch Bitch: I’m not buying it
Posted by Teresa at 07:45 PM *

There’s a new publishing-oriented weblog called The Pitch Bitch, which aims for the style of Miss Snark and Pub Rant but doesn’t hit the target. Supposedly it’s being written by An Editor on the Inside. That’s how the author styles herself, at any rate, when she spams sites like Absolute Write with advertisements for the blog. Two specimens of this activity:

Sledding Down The Slush

Oh yeah, the slush exists—just like dive bars and VFW wedding receptions exist.

You want to know why we’re the Untouchables in the increasing boutique world of publishing? Same reason you didn’t go up to Nick the Jock at the cafeteria in 9th grade where he was holding court among his cheerleading courtiers. Listen kittens, there are ways to bypass the slush pile.

Take it from an Editor on the Inside

(The above piece of spam moved ace scamhunter Victoria Strauss to heights of language one seldom sees from her.)
Simultaneous Subs: “Should You Be Exclusive?”

Hey Fun People,

Re: publishers and agents

“To be monogomous or not to be”—that is the question. How many publishers and agents have asked you to be exclusive to THEM, yet have not returned your call in months!

You want some advice on how to approach this sticky dilemma? Take it from An Editor on the Inside:

It’s a bad combination. This supposed Editor on the Inside is an expert on the fine points of magazine submissions, and on trade book publishers’ slushpiles? Name me an editor in the commercial end of the industry who handles both those things in any quantity

Reading through the blog entries convinced me that TPB is not a commercial editor. Look at this post. (Its subtitle, A No-Excuses Truth to Understanding The Publishing Industry, is almost enough on its own.) The piece links approvingly to a worthless article by Nina Diamond that’s a variation on the “an elite cabal runs publishing, and that’s why no one wants to buy or promote your book, even though it’s, like, a whole lot better than all those trashy bestsellers” theory so popular with unsuccessful authors. An editor ought not be agreeing with an article like that; and if for some reason they do, they ought to have more to say about the subject than “Me too.”

After poking around on the site for a while, I noticed the obvious, and clicked on the About link at the top of the main page. The About page says:

Listen. There are many Lit Blogs Out There written by authors, editors and agents.
And then there’s TPB, whose author is none of those things.
Think of The Pitch Bitch (who has an M.A. in Writing and Publishing from Emerson College
More and more schools are offering courses in publishing. They’re popular, they don’t require expensive equipment, and nobody can tell whether the lecturers know what they’re talking about.
& has been an arts and entertainment writer and guerrilla marketer since 1998
“Guerrilla marketer” = “spammer”. In this context, “arts and entertainment writer” = “no publication credits worth mentioning.”
& is the Associate Editor for Del Sol Review
The Del Sol Review is an online literary magazine—what would have been called a little magazine, back in the offset days, though I prefer Mythago’s description of them as “literary fanzines.” Nowhere in DSR’s changeable masthead can I find a listing for an “Associate Editor”, but if you assume it’s one of the people with “Associate” in their title, it’s either Diane Adams, Aylin An, Jane Sandor, or Allyson Shaw. [Update: All wrong. It’s Kaley Noonan. See below.] The pertinent point is that this is a non-paying market for lit’rary short work and poetry. It’s got bugger-all to do with commercial publishing.
& teaches short fiction workshops online)
None of the Associates are on Web Del Sol’s list of teachers for their online workshops.
as your Cyrano de Bergerac–and the Agent as your Roxanne. The Pitch Bitch is here to help you with your magic words to get into Roxanne’s pants.
“Write a really good book” is the usual strategy. I find myself wondering whether TPB has an agent.

I don’t understand this person. If you’re going to fib about being a publishing expert, why put up a set of credentials that undercuts your claims? Perhaps, like Todd James Pierce, she thinks that getting a degree in writing and publishing guarantees that you know what you’re talking about. If I were they, I’d ask for my money back.

The moral, not for the first time, is that any random doofus can claim to be an authority on writing and publishing—and some days, I’m ready to believe that three-quarters of the random doofuses in the world are doing exactly that. Before you take anyone’s advice, check out their credentials—and if possible, get third-party confirmation of same.


The ears and the tail are hereby awarded to Mary Dell: see these three comments. Mary has identified TPB as Kaley Noonan, who does teach online workshops associated with Web Del Sol. Here’s her bio from their list of instructors:

Kaley Noonan is a professional arts and entertainment writer who holds an M.A. in Writing and Publishing from Emerson College. Several of her short stories have appeared in 3AM MAGAZINE and DUCTS MAGAZINE and her first novel, THE GHOST TRAP, is currently being reviewed by literary agents.* A veteran of several Algonkian workshops, she works closely with Michael Neff as an online editor for the e-workshops. She resides in Maine where she hosts “Fiction Nuggets,” zine-inspired mini-fiction slams.
Have a look at Mary Dell’s comments. They’re interesting.

A further addendum:

Begad. It’s coming back to me. I’m remembering where I first heard of Web Del Sol and their Algonkian Workshops. It was when I was researching Todd James Pierce. Look at the first two links in this paragraph, and lo! There he is in the midst of them.

Here’s the instructor bio for Michael Neff, the God-Emperor of Del Sol:

Michael Neff is Editor-in-Chief of DEL SOL REVIEW, the founder and director of WEBDELSOL.COM (#10 in the Writer’s Digest Fiction Top 50 and the largest publisher of periodical contemporary literature in the U.S.) and the founder and chief editor of ALGONKIAN WORKSHOPS. He is publisher of several national literary magazines at WEBDELSOL including IN POSSE REVIEW, DIAGRAM, LA PETITE ZINE, 5_TROPE, and DEL SOL REVIEW. His own work has appeared in THE LITERARY REVIEW, NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW, MUDLARK, QUARTERLY WEST, PITTSBURGH QUARTERLY, CONJUNCTIONS, AND AMERICAN WAY MAGAZINE. In 2001, he served as the Writer’s Digest Finalist Fiction Judge.
That is, he’s only been published in venues where material is accepted for publication, rather than bought (as is the vulgar custom in our own circles). He’s also not the only Algonkian instructor of whom that can be said.

Finally, The Ghost Trap isn’t Kaley Noonan’s first novel. As explained in the author bio that accompanied this story (which was published in 3:AM in 2001):

Kaley Noonan lives in Maine and ekes out a miserable living as a waitress and a writer. Her last novel, Backwoods East Jesus—a story of twisted Christian values in a cornbelt town—was published online by Mighty Words last year. She is currently working on a new novel about a lobsterman and his retarded girlfriend. Kaley Noonan’s “Happy Corn Belt” and “The Someday Cafe” are in our fiction archive.
MightyWords! That takes me back. I haven’t thought about them in years.

January 19, 2007
Hit and Run, Redux
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:16 AM * 51 comments

You’ll recall this same accident discussed earlier in Making Light.

Now, from today’s The News and Sentinel:

Police Still Investigating November 16 Hit & Run

State police continue to seek the public’s help locating the driver of a vehicle that struck a pedestrian on Route 3 in Columbia on the evening of November 16, 2006. Paul Corriveau, 68, of Berlin, was very seriously injured, said Sgt. Bret Beausoleil, and police are still working to find members of his family.

Suspected in the accident is a 1993-98 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which would be missing a driver’s side mirror and have damage to the driver’s side front bumper. So close to the Vermont border, police are not positive that the vehicle involved was registered in New Hampshire, but they did confirm that 200 Jeep Cherokees were registered in Coös County.

“We’ve tried to actually take a look at the ones we’ve been able to locate,” Sgt. Beausoleil said, “But we haven’t had the luck we need yet.” Mr. Corriveau is conscious but unable to communicate, Sgt. Beausoleil said, and police are still looking for his next of kin. Although a woman was found to have lived with Mr. Corriveau for a time, she was unable to help police in their efforts. She did mention a son who may be living in the Concord area, Sgt. Beausoleil said, but she did not know his name.

Anyone with any information in this case is asked to notify state police at 603-846-3333.

January 17, 2007
Hamsters for Canada
Posted by Teresa at 02:10 PM *

I was just interviewed by the CBC about my hamster post. It was a quickie, less than ten minutes long. They ended by exhorting the CBC to not let themselves be outdone in hamster coverage.

If they tell me when it’s going to air, I’ll tell you.

And Jen Moss said:

Thanks very much Teresa - the hosts really enjoyed the interview. We’ll open our show with it on Monday - you can tune in to Freestyle on It airs between 2 and 4 in all timezones.
ANNOUNCEMENT: The segment may be broadcast tomorrow (Friday), rather than Monday. This is Jennifer Moss again:
So they keep moving your interview around on me!We may air it tomorrow at the start of our show - but this depends on another guest … so if not I will advise you of when it will air next week …
I’ll keep you posted.

Open Thread 79
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:06 PM *

I drink so much coffee, ‘til I grind it in my sleep
I drink so much coffee, I grind it in my sleep
And when it get like that, you know it can’t be beat.

January 16, 2007
“Why are British Sex Scandals So Much Better than Ours?”
Posted by Patrick at 12:51 PM * 158 comments

An historical overview from James Wolcott, beginning with Keeler and Profumo, as one does.

I particularly liked the News of the World headline on the exposure of the Currie/Major affair: “Yes, Yes, Yes, Prime Minister.” But are there really human beings with names like “Petronella Wyatt”?

January 15, 2007
Wingnut Spam
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:49 PM * 281 comments

Must be Bush is in trouble. Once more the mailbox is filling up with send-this-to-everyone-in-your-addressbook rightwing spam.

What do we have this time?

>>Subject: A petition

>>Mom was a homemaker and Dad worked all his life and paid into SS.
>>Dad has passed away and now Mom can barely make ends meet. While the
>>possible “illegal” alien in front of her at the grocery store buys the
>>name brands, Mom goes for the generic brands, and day old breads. She
>>doesn’t have out of state calling on her phone, because she can’t afford
>>it and shops at the thrift shops and dollar stores. She considers having
>>a pizza delivered once a week “eating out”. She grew up during the
>>depression, watched her husband go overseas to fight in WW II a year after
>>their marriage, and then they went on to raise, feed and clothe 5 children,
>>struggling to pay tuition for parochial schools.
>>The Senate voted this week to allow “illegal” aliens access to Social
>>Security benefits. I’m sorry, but how can the Senate justify this slap
>>in the face to born and bred, or naturalized citizens.
>>It is already impossible to live on Social Security alone. If they
>>give benefits to “illegal” aliens who have never contributed, where does
>>that leave us that have paid into Social Security all our working lives?
>>Attached is an opportunity to sign a petition that requires citizenship
>>for eligibility to receive Social services. If you do not wish to sign the
>>petition yourself, please forward on to anyone you think might be interested.
>>PETITION FOR: President Bush Mr. President: The petition below is a protest
>>against the recent vote of the senate which was to allow illegal aliens
>>access to our social security! We demand that you and all congressional
>>representatives require citizenship for anyone to be eligible for social
>>services in the United States.

[List of gullible morons who signed this “petition” snipped]

Wow. That’s something. What’s a “possible illegal alien”? Someone with brown skin? Someone who speaks Spanish? Someone whose family may have been citizens of the United States when Mom’s family was still digging praties in Erin’s Green Emerald Isle? This is the right-wing boogieman, and here he is in his full xenophobic Welfare Queen fairytale glory.

Leave aside the fact that internet petitions aren’t worth the pixels they’re printed on.

Leave aside the fact that Mr. Bush has done everything in his power to take away Social Security for everyone. (His rich pals don’t need it, and if he and his rich pals can terrify the workers with the prospect of a future spent without prescription drugs and eating cat food, hey, that’s a win for them!)

Let’s leave aside for the moment the fact that Bush and his astroturfers bring out the Illegal Immigrant Menace any time things go badly in Iraq—and they’re going very badly indeed right now as Bush tries to push a “surge” plan that doesn’t pass the laugh test.

Let’s also leave out the fact that illegal immigrants and their employers pay about seven billion dollars a year into social security, money that they will never personally see.

The plain fact is that this supposed vote to give Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants just plain never happened. Current US law forbids illegal immigrants from receiving social security. What did happen was that a totalization agreement was signed with Mexico. The United States has the same sort of agreement with twenty-one other countries. What it says is that a legal worker who worked in both countries is eligible for retirement benefits in either country based on their total wages over their working lives. No one says that worker has to retire in the US, either. That worker could retire in Mexico, too, and draw Mexican retirement benefits based on their entire life work history.

Please notice that this agreement only applies to people who are working legally, and, when stated plainly, sounds fair. That’s because it is fair.

Don’t you get tired of the right-wing noise machine trying to distract us?

Mike Ford memorial benefit auction
Posted by Patrick at 03:42 PM * 59 comments

Our friends in NESFA asked us to pass this on:

In [John M. Ford’s] memory, the New England Science Fiction Association is delighted to announce the Mike Ford Memorial Auction & Extravaganza, to be held at Boskone 44, a regional science fiction convention in Boston, on Friday night, February 16, 2007.

We are soliciting donations of items to sell during this auction to help keep Mike’s memory fresh and meaningful. Books, manuscripts, memorabilia, Tuckerizations, artwork, and other items of interest to science fiction fans will be particularly welcome.

As part of the auction, Boskone 44 will feature snippets and vignettes from Mike’s contributions to Boskone and to SF&F, including some of the songs from the two musical cabarets he wrote and we produced: Boskone 34’s “Another Part of the Trilogy” and Boskone 43’s “Grim’s Fairy Cabaret.”

All proceeds of the auction will be donated to the John M. Ford Memorial Book Endowment, a special fund of the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library.

More information here. Needless to say, we’ll be there; I believe we’re slated to deliver some of the “snippets and vignettes”.

January 14, 2007
SFF Net Down Hard
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:44 PM *

Ice storms and power outages in Texas have taken down SFF Net. Time of repair is unknown.

Sff Net hosts the SFWA sites; if you were looking for them (including texts of Nebula-nominated stories) and couldn’t find them … that’s why.

More when I know more.

[UPDATE] Back up. SFF Net was down from 1900-2130 local (Dallas) time. But more ice storms are always a possibility.

The ‘Net treats censorship as damage and routes around it. The Web treats damage as damage, and makes parts inaccessible.

January 13, 2007
Sock yarn outrage!
Posted by Teresa at 09:57 PM * 204 comments

I got a note in the mail from Laura Mixon, breathlessly asking whether I’d seen this story in Majikthise:

The Yarn Harlot has opened my eyes to a great injustice: Blue Moon Fiber Arts woman-owned small business of great renown in the among the knitting cognoscenti has been retroactively refused credit card order processing for its Rockin’ Socks Club. (It’s like the fruit of the month club for people who crave enough hand-painted yarn to knit a pair socks.)
I’m not a sock knitter myself, but I know that someday I will be. It’s inevitable—a sort of virus all knitters catch, only I haven’t caught it yet.

Here’s the deal with the yarn: Sock knitters passionately adore what’s called self-striping or self-patterning sock yarn. It changes color frequently, so that they don’t have to. What’s even yummier is hand-painted sock yarn. You can make your own, which is tough but interesting, or you can buy someone else’s. It isn’t cheap, and sock knitters buy a lot of it. Blue Moon Fibers’ hand-painted sock yarn is good stuff, and highly esteemed.

Want to check the solidity of the Sock Club business plan? Go here and scroll down the post until you get to the pictures, then start reading. When you put out an “emergency stash” keychain that’s a miniature skein of your yarn, and your customers not only grok this, but think it’s too cute for words, you’re doing real business.

Back to Majikthise:

That means Blue Moon’s (erstwhile) bank not only refused to process new credit card orders, but also unilaterally refunded the money of the last several hundred Sock Club customers—because a Sock Club must be some kind of scam.

The Yarn Harlot [Stephanie Pearl-McPhee] explains:

What has happened, and I confirmed all of this in a phone call with Tina [of Blue Moon], is unbelievable. Blue Moon needs a bank to accept their credit card orders. (Be warned that when I run the world, banks will be in charge of far less…but I digress.) When Blue Moon started accepting orders for the Sock Club recently, the bank flinched.

They contacted the Blue Moon and questioned the possibility of this being an actual business thing. Blue Moon explained to them the concept of a sock club, and the bank held a meeting.

What the bank did not do: type “sock yarn” into Google. I can only conclude that they’re too stupid to breathe without a cheat sheet.
Now, I was not a fly on the wall at that meeting, but oh, how I wish I had been. Over the course of said meeting, the bank decided, with the business information of Blue Moon in front of them and the concept (and CASH) of a “Sock Club” laid out, that … and here is the incredible thing … (Perhaps you should take a deep breath or sit down or put down your cup of tea.)

They decided that it was not possible that this many people could be this interested in sock yarn (I know…I know) and that therefore, considering the complete impossibility of this being a legitimate business concept (can’t you hear them? “This many people just can’t want sock yarn!”) that Blue Moon must be running a SCAM, and (holy moths I can scarcely type it) Shut. It. Down.

They rescinded Blue Moon’s ability to take credit card money (that’s right, a bank turned down money…) and (breath deeply) REFUNDED to customers all of the money that they had received for the Sock Club.

You ok?

A necessary question. Yarn Harlot’s readers all know very well what happens if you type “sock yarn” into Google, and they have serious emotional relationships with the search results.
I will assume, since I know that you are not stupid, my lovely readers, that I do not have to spell out for you what the emotional and financial consequences of a bank deciding to refund money to your last several hundred customers would mean to a business. Let’s just have a moment of respect for the fact that Blue Moon is still coherent at all.

… [M]y sister Erin, owner of a small business and the lucky recipient of several inexplicable bank decisions herself, would like to take this opportunity to ask you if a bank would have done this to a group of men?

For the record, Stephanie, Erin, Lindsey: No. I don’t think they’d have done it to a group of men. Imagine, ludicrously, a bunch of female bankers deciding to cancel the credit card charges and refund the money of hundreds of men who’d subscribed to the Fishing Lure of the Month Club, on the grounds that there can’t possibly be that many people out fishing on a regular basis. Personally, I can’t imagine it at all. Why not? Because stupid women don’t wind up running banks! You have to be male and have the right social background to be entrusted with a job like that when you’re too stupid to pour piss out of a boot that has the instructions printed on the bottom.

But back to Yarn Harlot, who reports that the ladies at Blue Moon Fiber Arts have matters in hand. They have a new bank. They’ve sent out a letter to all their customers (and are asking bloggers to help spread the word: lo me), saying that they should make sure they got their refund from the old bank, and come to their site to sign up again for the Sock Club:

Here are the details. Within the next ten days, all of you who signed up for the Sock Club by paying either $210.00 (domestic) or $240.00 (international) between December 31 and January 5, will be getting a credit back onto your Mastercard or Visa. It is the Sock Club only, all other yarn orders placed will go through and you will be receiving your yarn soon.

Do not panic!

Everyone affected by this incredible situation is guaranteed their spot through the end of January, including those on the wait list. (Emphases mine.)

Note how much they’re getting paid per person. Elsewhere, they remind their regulars that there are a lot of people in the Sock Club, so please expect some processing time. And now, they casually mention that the club is oversubscribed to the point where it has a waiting list.

Nah, a business plan like that couldn’t possibly be real.

Blue Moon ends their letter by addressing their customers as “Knitting comrades”, and saying:

[T]he Rockin’ Sock Club 2007 will prevail! We will have a blast and knit awesome socks that will be the envy of all nonbelievers!
They will, too. And that’s all very well for them; but Yarn Harlot and I are dissatisfied with one aspect of this imbroglio:
The ladies at Blue Moon also (and this demonstrates to me the depths of their class) have declined my offer to provide each and every one of you with the address of the bank and the Bank managers email address, so that you (ALL of you) could provide him with an expansive email detailing your feelings about sock yarn, his behaviour and the relationship between the two.

I would not have had that amount of class.

I wouldn’t have it either; and I wouldn’t call it class. Not in that sense, at any rate.

I want to know those bankers’ names. I need to know their names. I need to heap mockery and abuse on their own personal heads. I also need to never, ever trust them with a single penny of my money, and spread the word to other people so they won’t make that mistake either.

(Is anyone else here wondering about the annual salaries of the people who made this decision? Shouldn’t their masters be asking them to refund the money they’ve already received? Because paying these buffoons to run a bank is far more obviously a scam than anything you can do with sock yarn.)

If you’re reading this, and you’re one of the knitters whose credit card charges were refunded, do please have a look at your statement, or perhaps call your credit card company, and see whether you can find out the name of the bank that did this. If you can, I’ll either promise to refrain from mentioning your name, or promise to give you full credit and glory for revealing the information. I’m good either way, just as long as these guys are held up to public scorn: Speak the truth, and shame the devil.

January 12, 2007
Nazi Raccoons on the March in Europe
Posted by Teresa at 04:05 PM * 292 comments


Here’s the story:

[It] begins in 1934, when a breeder asked the Reich Forestry Office, then led by future top Hitler aide Hermann Göring, for permission to release the masked-faced mammals to “enrich the local fauna” outside Kassel, a small city north of Frankfurt.

“Raccoon pelts were a popular trophy for hunters back then,” biologist Ulf Hohmann said. “They were also raised for their fur at special farms” after they were imported from North America early last century.

Seventy years on, the furry critters are now as populous in some areas of Germany as in the major urban centers of North America—a whopping one per hectare (2.5 acres), Hohmann said.

Somewhere between 100,000 and one million raccoons are estimated to live in Germany, making them prime targets for hunters. Some 20,000 were shot during the last season, according to official statistics. But unfortunately for the denizens of a growing number of European capitals, they like cities.

Furry blitzkrieg?

Hundreds of thousands have fanned out to Belgium, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and France. The news caught the ire of Britain’s Sun tabloid, which warned its readers that “Nazi raccoons” were “just across the Channel” and “on the warpath … in a furry blitzkrieg”.

Snipped: an account of the raccoons’ antics in the city of Kassel, which have mostly consisted of denning in attics and refusing to be driven out—common stuff for anyone who lives in a raccoon-rich environment. More noteworthy are their depredations in the Brandenburg winemaking area, where last year they ate up the whole grape harvest. See also: Nazi Raccoons Wipe Out Vineyards in Germany.


Since their introduction during the Third Reich, raccoons can trace their gradual conquest of Europe back to two other moments in history.

As Allied bombs rained over Berlin at the end of World War II, one struck a fur breeding farm, giving the raccoons there the opportunity to escape into the wild. They never looked back. And in the 1960s, NATO soldiers freed the raccoons they used as mascots after leaving their base in France, setting off a baby boom.

Hohmann says that in the coming years, raccoons are expected to spread to even more European cities.

“Kassel is just the beginning,” he said.

As usual: You can’t make this stuff up.

Addendum: as pointed out by AlyxL, and hailed with glee by Julia at Sisyphus Shrugged:


And what happens when the Nazi raccoons meet the Stalinist giant crabs? Easy call: they eat each other. And may the best omnivore win.

BBC hamsters
Posted by Teresa at 08:05 AM * 156 comments

I can tell you right now that there’s one area of journalism where the BBC News has it all over us. I’m talking about new stories about hamsters. They’re not quite up into bus plunge range, but they’re a definite staple:

1998: 4
25 August 1998: BBC, Levi’s Jeans assure public that Kevin the Hamster is not dead. :: 06 September 1998: “A Hamster Ate My Granny” cited as example of sensationalist headline. :: 30 September 1998: Record number of complaints received over ad showing hamster’s death. :: 11 November 1998: Study finds hamsters navigate by dead reckoning; have excellent sense of direction.

1999: 8
27 April 1999: Drunken soldier demoted, jailed, for ironing hamster. :: 25 June 1999: ”______ ate my hamster” cited as example of sensationalist headline. :: 08 December 1999 - 27 December 1999: Sir Cliff Richard versus the singing hamsters.

2000: 4
21 January 2000: Apparently deceased hamster revives; gnaws hole in coffin, tunnels out of grave, and finds its way home. :: 20 April 2000: Male Djungarian hamsters make excellent midwives. :: 01 August 2000: Missing snake found stuck in hamster cage after eating neighbor’s hamster. :: 23 August 2000: Scientists develop see-through hamster skin.

2001: 3
12 February 2001: Germany faces reprimand for failure to protect natural habitat of endangered black-bellied hamster. :: 17 September 2001: Hamster in plastic exercise ball found rolling along the M6 motorway at Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham. (The Birmingham RSPCA named him “Roly”. See also 24 September 2005; 04 July 2012.) :: 28 February 2001: Six-foot fiberglass hamster from Millennium Dome fetches £3000 at auction.

2002: 4
13 May 2002: New mobile phones allows text messages to be read out loud by talking hamster. :: 18 June 2002: “My hamster died” cited as example of poor excuse for missing school. :: 23 August 2002: Bus company apologizes for charging hamster 10p for ride; issues lifetime bus pass. :: 30 December 2002: RSPCA rescues hamster left out for rubbish pickup.

2003: 5
29 April 2003: Runaway hamster eludes would-be rescuers. :: 14 May 2003: Escaped hamster starts house fire by chewing electrical cable. :: 4 October 2003: Church holds pet blessing. :: 29 October 2003: West Yorkshire hamster breeder may have world’s smallest hamster. :: 03 December 2003: Oldest hamster food cache found. (Miocene, 17 million years old.)

2004: 12
08 January 2004: Siberian hamsters used to study obesity. :: 01 March 2004: New hamster escapes in car, runs up £370 repair bill by gnawing ignition cables. :: 01 March 2004: SSPCA calls for boycott of shop selling hamster-fur coats. :: 05 March 2004: Shop removes hamster-fur coats; issues press release. :: 10 March 2004: Family fights council pet eviction order. :: 12 May 2004: Bristol couple banned from pet ownership for two years after leaving gerbil, hamster to starve. :: 13 May 2004: Bob the Hamster rescued from inside the dashboard of new owners’ car. :: 20 May 2004: Scientists use citrus peels to lower hamster cholesterol. :: 24 May 2004: Fat Hamster Cheats Vacuum Death. (The best headline of the lot.) :: 20 August 2004: Callous thief uses “lost hamster” scam. :: 27 August 2004: Shop sneaks hamster-fur coats back onto sales rack. :: (27 August 2004: The Telegraph also disapproves of the sale of hamster-fur coats.) :: 19 December 2004: Five hamsters perish in burning home.

2005: 14
08 January 2005: “Bitten by hamster” cited as example of inappropriate calls to NHS help lines. :: 12 April 2005: Passing police constable rescues hamster from cat; owner sought. :: 25 May 2005: Hamster virus kills three people. :: 27 May 2005: Hamster survives rat poison feast. :: 24 June 2005: Cambridge postman rescues hamster mailed in unprotected envelope. (See 17 January 2006) :: 23 July 2005: Firemen rescue two each hamsters and parrots from blazing house. :: 27 July 2005: Girl, 7, finds hamsters torched. :: 23 August 2005: Pet shop rents out hamster by the week. :: 25 August 2005: Teenage inventor builds hamster-powered phone recharger. :: 20 September 2005: Fluorescent green hamster sperm used to study human fertility. :: 24 September 2005: Hamster in exercise ball rescued from busy street in Somerset. :: 8 October 2005: Pet rodents ‘a salmonella risk’. :: 24 November 2005: Man jailed for 60 days after drop-kicking ex-girlfriend’s hamster. :: 02 December 2005: Youths strap hamster to firework.

2006: 11
11 January 2006: Firefighters rescue hamster with head stuck in cage. :: 17-18 January 2006: Drunken Cambridge students who mailed a hamster (See 24 June 2005) receive heavy fines; are banned from owning animals for ten years. :: 19 January 2006: Rodent-eating snake befriends snack-hamster. :: 27 February 2006: Steroids cause mad hamster aggression. :: 14 March 2006: Nanotech helps blind hamsters see. :: 13 April 2006: Mistreated snakes, lizards, fish, rats, and hamsters found living in makeshift containers. :: 05 May 2006: RSPCA appeals for information on five baby hamsters abandoned outside pet shop in Cornwall. :: 25 May 2006: The Sun says: Freddie Starr ate my hamster. (See also.) :: 02 June 2006: Hamster survives trip through giant industrial metal shredder at recycling plant. :: 06 July 2006: Scientists successfully detect asymptomatic Mad Cow Disease in hamsters.” :: 26 September 2006: Fudge, a hamster with serious escape-fu: (1.) escaped from his cage in Devon; (2.) turned up in his owner’s golf bag while his owner was on a golfing holiday in Scotland; (3.) accompanied his owner around several major golf courses; (4.) was left for safekeeping in a cardboard box in his owner’s rented car; (5.) escaped, could not be found, and was assumed lost for good; (6.) remained lost while his owner flew home; and (7.) reappeared inside the car when the next person rented it. The nice lady who rented the car is adopting Fudge permanently, with his previous owner’s blessing.

2007: 16
09 January 2007: Hamster escapes from cage in trunk of car; car stops working; hamster found by auto mechanic. Bill for gnawed wiring: £1000. :: 05 February 2007: Hamsters thrown out with rubbish. :: 16 February 2007: Hamster survives cooker fire. :: 14 March 2007: Trapped hamster saved by vacuum. :: 14 March 2007: BBC Radio Lancashire thrown into chaos by escaped hamster. :: 12 April 2007: Boy is treated with hamster cells. :: 28 April 2007: 477 animals (including hamsters) hurt, 70 killed, in parked unventilated pet shop delivery truck. (Judging from the photos, the guinea pigs got the worst of it.) :: 22 May 2007: Argentine scientists find Viagra reduces hamster jetlag recovery time by 50%. (See 04 October 2007.) :: 30 May 2007: Hamster bite puts man in hospital. :: 03 July 2007: Obese hamsters invited to participate in charity pet-slimming initiative. :: 26 July 2007: Hamster rescued from rubbish dump. :: 23 August 2007: “Hamster trapped behind wardrobe” cited as example of inappropriate 999 call. :: 25 September 2007: Hamster rescued from suspicious blaze in block of flats (along with five adults, four children, two dogs, a rabbit, and a rat). :: 4 October 2007: ‘Gay bomb’ scoops Ig Nobel award; other winners include work on treating hamster jet lag. (See 22 May 2007.) :: 23 November 2007: Hollywood actors set to play guinea pigs, hamster, and mole in animated film. :: 05 December 2007: Harrogate boy guilty of putting sister’s hamster in freezer, washing machine, tumble dryer.

2008: 19
03 January 2008: Man denies hamster-hurling charge. :: 10 January 2008: Devon animal shelter reports tough holiday season for abandoned pets (including hamsters). :: 14 January 2008: Jury hears hamster-hurling claims. :: 15 January 2008: Hamster-hurling Dumfries man found guilty. :: 29 January 2008: Hamster-throwing man given 12-month sentence. :: 31 January 2008: Man who tied hamster to firework (see 02 December 2005) found guilty of animal cruelty. :: 12 February 2008: Hamster prices triple in China. :: 05 March 2008: Hamster firework youth sentenced . (See 31 January 2008; 02 December 2005) :: 07 March 2008: Pet hamsters banned in Vietnam. :: 16 May 2008: Study shows fruit juice reduces risk of atherosclerosis in hamsters. :: 11 June 2008: Runaway rodent collared by police: Hamster was taken into custody after walking into Cheltenham police station. :: 22 August 2008: Hamster rescue was start of East Sussex Rodent Rescue operation. :: 22 October 2008: Fire crews hunt escaped hamster in East Lothian :: 23 October 2008: On-the-run hamster pops back up. :: 04 November 2008: Smoke detector saves lives of Launceston family, three parrots, one dog, but not hamster. :: 24 November 2008: Thieves steal homeless family’s caravan, Christmas savings, pet hamster. :: 02 December 2008: Meet the Radio Humberside Saturday Breakfast show team: Rag. :: 02 December 2008: Hamster included in list of unemployed members of Glasgow household. :: 18 December 2008: Two hamsters, 50 African snails, die in Newport Pagnell house fire.

2009: 19
15 January 2009: BBC keeps straight face while reporting five-day-old story about theft of one-eyed hamster (also game console, half bottle of milk) as breaking news. :: 16 January 2009 & thereafter: UK news organizations which fail to get joke, and run stories deprecating BBC report of theft of one-eyed hamster (plus game console and half bottle of milk) as breaking news, include the Sun, Telegraph, and Daily Mail. :: 26 January 2009: Monday’s quote of the day: “After they exhumed Mr Itch they were very apologetic.” :: 02 February 2009: REVEALED: Sid Vicious named after one of John Lydon’s hamsters. :: 06 March 2009: Hamster rescued from suspicious house fire in Little Canfield, Essex. :: 11 March 2009: Hamster juice saved my life. :: 11 March 2009: Secrets and Lies: Jamie Peacock tells how she killed her family’s pet hamster. :: 19 April 2009: Fancy that: Peter and Christine Logsdail on operating a hamstery. :: 25 April 2009: Derbyshire fire crew rescue hamster trapped behind bath panel. :: 19 June 2009: Stoke-on-Trent animal hoarders plead guilty to harming nearly 60 animals (including hamsters). :: 29 June 2009: James Campbell and the dead hamster sketch. :: 03 July 2009: Hamster owner who rang 999 for help with hamster stuck under floorboards cited as example of misuse of emergency lines. :: 29 July 2009: Tory Leader David Cameron reveals plan to deny his children’s request for hamster. :: 29 July 2009: Charity calls for more care for school pets over the holidays. :: 05 September 2009: Bath animal home blames recession for high levels of pet abandonment (including hamsters). :: 10 November 2009: Hamsters Go Going off the shelves. :: 07 December 2010: Manufacturer insists Go Go Hamster toy Mr Squiggles is safe for children. :: 10 December 2009: New exotic animal veterinary training center will teach care of hamsters, chinchillas, lizards, and snakes. :: 21 December 2009: Bicycle and hamster only childhood Christmas presents remembered by Gemma Godivala of Leighton Buzzard.

2010: 9
07 January 2010: Footless hamster found abandoned in Grangemouth, Scotland. :: 26 January 2010: Hamster lifecycle cited as poor model for macroeconomic growth. :: 05 February 2010: Northamptonshire teenager’s hamster-microwaving sentence adjourned. :: 07 April 2010: Wolf escapes from Scottish wildlife park; park’s animal collections manager claims pet hamsters are a greater threat to the general public. (See 08 September 2010.) :: 23 May 2010: Stuart Kettell runs Coventry half-marathon dressed as a hamster. :: 28 May 2010: Compost heap sets Buckinghamshire house ablaze; hamster rescued. :: 11 June 2010: Northamptonshire boy sentenced to four months in youth detention unit for microwaving brother’s hamster. :: 08 September 2010: Princess Anne opens newly reinforced wolf enclosure in Scottish wildlife park; BBC repeats claim by park’s animal collections manager that hamsters are a greater danger to the public. (See 07 April 2010.) :: 22 September 2010: Hartlepoole man jailed for killing hamster in microwave oven.

2011: 6
21 January 2011: EU court threatens France with fines for failure to protect native population of the Great Hamster of Alsace. :: 06 April 2011: Kitten and hamster rescued, homes evacuated, after chip pan fire in St. Saviour, Jersey. :: 08 April 2011: Photo of hamster “Splodge” chosen as cover image for Workers Playtime EP. :: 27 April 2011: Eight people and one pet hamster taken to safety after a fire in a flat above a bookmakers in Milford Haven. :: 07 September 2011: Guernsey hamster owners warned over speedy breeding. :: 09 September 2011: Hamster abandoned at Arthur’s seat.

2012: 9
10 February 2012: Hamster found dumped by bins in the cold. :: 12 April 2012: Smurf the hamster gets stuck to cage with magnet. (See also.) :: 01 May 2012: Escapee hamster Houdini causes £1,000 car damage. (See also.) :: 04 July 2012: Hamster rescued from ball after Kidderminster midnight dash. :: 11 July 2012: Frightened hamster found in Northallerton bin. :: 03 August 2012: Young boy opens up ‘hamster hotel’ to earn pocket money. :: 17 August 2012: NHS Wales sees summer rise in ‘inappropriate’ 999 calls (including a woman whose hamster bit her finger). :: 30 July 2012: Hamster rescued after window fall and cat chase. :: 06 September 2012: York student accused of cooking live hamster.

2013: 4
14 January 2013: Weymouth hamster rescue fire woman criticised. :: 07 March 2013: Animal ban for student who fried flatmate’s hamster. :: 20 March 2013: Hamster found during blizzard on Edinburgh street. :: 11 April 2013: Sick leave, Bras, Hamsters (podcast). :: 28 April 2013: Brooklyn blogger blames UK journalistic kerfluffle of 16 January 2009 for subsequent steep downturn in total annual BBC hamster-related news stories. ::


And the moral of the story is: (1.) Hamsters have mighty escape-fu. (2.) Never leave a hamster in a cardboard box inside a car. (3.) Since there’s now a hamster-directed Roomba, I suppose it’s only a matter of time before one turns up on a British motorway.

January 07, 2007
The American Street
Posted by Teresa at 11:58 PM * 13 comments

Kevin Hayden (no relation) could use a kind word. He’s burned out. If you’re interested, he’s looking for someone to take over his blog, The American Street, which has a certain amount of googlejuice attached to it.

‘Barstard.’ hissed Nancy in an annoyed voice.
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:40 AM * 123 comments

America’s favorite Main Street Publisher has offered a publishing contract to yet another sting manuscript. This one is called Crack of Death by Sharla Tann, and (like the infamous Atlanta Nights) is available for your reading pleasure via

This exciting erotic thriller fiction novel is the story of the beautiful hairdresser Nancy whose life spirals out of control when she meets the exotic Roberto. Little does Audrey know that Roberto is in fact a dangerous Colombian Mafia Drug Lord. Can she escape the clutches of Cucaracha, Espadrillo and their Boss, the wicked La Madre? From the seething underbelly of Colombian drugs to the evil web of intrigue in London, Nancy is swept up in an adventure that will change her life forever, right up to the cliffhanger ending where the kindly Scotland Yard detective Garry Lamont vies with intrepid FBI agent Duane Malaysia for her favours. But is it too late?

The answer is, yes, it’s way too late.

The whole sordid tale is recounted here. Originally this was to have been a sting to see if PublishBritannica would take any word-hash that someone sent in. When PublishBritannica folded (shortly after Encyclopedia Britannica sued PublishAmerica for trademark infringement), the authors were in despair, until they found an American beard to submit the thrilling work. Had PublishAmerica learned its lesson after the Atlanta Nights debacle? Nope. They still offer contracts to books without bothering to read them first.

I confess now that I did write one of the chapters, but it isn’t my favorite. My favorite begins:

Nancy spent all night starring at the cold gray cell walls covered in graffiti and thinking about Roberto. Where was he, she thought? Roberto where are you? Her heart ached for him, his shiny dark hair and firm taut muscles, his Calian accent, she imagined herself warm and safe in his arms, she imagined them making passionate love and him tenderly kissing the out line of her butterfly tattoo on her smooth buttocks the way he used to on those hot feverish nights in his penthouse sweet near the new Tescos in south Clapham.

All of a sudden she heard a key turn slowly in the lock. ‘Whose there!’ she shouted sharply. No one replied. Then the cell door opened slowly and creakily. She could see the out line of two tall men. ‘what’ she said.

‘Are you Nancy?’ Said a smooth commanding voice.

‘Might be.’

The two out lines stepped slowly into the cell and she could see they were two men, one white and black.

Buy one. Better still, buy a dozen. They make excellent gifts for people who don’t read the books you give them. And at just $10.50 it costs half of what PublishAmerica would have charged for the same text had they been allowed to print it.

[UPDATE] Sharla Tann has a webpage.

January 06, 2007
Corrected definitions
Posted by Teresa at 03:00 PM * 87 comments

I heard from Bart Patton that Paperback Writer has been serializing a Devil’s Dictionary for the publishing industry. Her version (which you should read before reading mine) is, as the proverb says, not half bad. Her entries only need a few small corrections.

Important note: bear in mind that these are definitions written in response to S. L. Viehl’s Devil’s Dictionary. They aren’t necessarily the opinions I’d have from scratch.

The Devil’s Publishing Dictionary Part I: A through M:

Advance: Short for “Advance against Hoped-for Royalties.” A sum paid by the publisher to the author in satisfaction of a debt, consisting of royalty payments, which has not yet and may never be incurred. If at some point in the far future this debt in royalties is actually incurred in full, the author will complain that the advance (which they’ve long since spent) was disgracefully stingy for such a successful book.

Advance Reading Copies: A prepublication edition of the book that is distinguishable from regular editions by having no price on the cover, and by costing the publisher more per copy than the reviewers will ever realize by selling them at the Strand or on eBay.

Agents: Even the best authors will eventually write themselves out and fall from favor. Even the best editors will lose their jobs to corporate mergers. But successful agents go on forever, and the really successful ones have lovely summer homes. Try to impress this on your children’s minds when they’re planning their future careers.

Backlist: (1.) If the author’s own works, a collection of unjustly overlooked masterpieces just waiting to be put back into print, where they will dazzle all that behold them. (2.) If written by persons other than the author, a moldering substratum of boring old titles the author has never read, will never read, and can see no reason for any publisher to unearth and artificially revive into a second, shambling, short-term zombie-like existence.

Celebrity: The only kind of non-mega-bestselling author the mass media thinks worthy of notice. Non-celebrity authors, observing this media attention, immediately conclude that publishing is all about celebrity books, and spin extravagant fantasies about the treatment they receive.

Copy Editor: If good, an angel who can second-guess an author about their own book and get it right. If bad, the literary equivalent of root canal performed without anesthesia on the healthy tooth next to the one that needed work.

Copyright: During the author’s lifetime, the author’s nearly inalienable legal right to ownership of his or her own work. Thanks to the new extended terms of copyright (brought into law via means that would make a sausage-maker turn pale), the legal right of the author’s second ex-wife’s grandchildren by her third marriage to display their ignorance, exercise their greed, and gratify their egos to such an extent that they make the author’s work impossible to publish, adapt for theatrical performance, or excerpt in works of literary criticism, thus guaranteeing its permanent posthumous obscurity.

Cover Art; Book Jacket: A small poster advertising the book to potential readers. Authors who have failed to take into account the fact that it has been bound to the outside of the book, rather than printed on an interior page, will often come to the mistaken conclusion that it is meant to illustrate the story, and be distressed by its inaccuracy.

Earn Out: To the author, proof that the publisher didn’t pay enough for the book.

E-book (electronic book): The publishing format that has the highest ratio of “time spent discussing it in meetings” to “copies sold.”* Authors fondly believe that tens of thousands of readers who’ve passed up the opportunity to buy attractive, inexpensive hardcopy editions of their works will nevertheless go to great effort to illegally download wonky, badly formatted e-texts of the same books in order to read them in Courier on their computer screens.

Managing Editor: In trade book publishing, the person in charge of production. Normally, there are multiple layers of insulation between the author’s behavior and the Managing Editor’s production decisions. That’s a good thing.

Mass Market: A smaller, cheaper edition of a hardcover novel that is nevertheless more difficult, expensive, and uncertain to publish.

Mid-list: What other authors are who sell as well as you do, but don’t have your inherent talent or obvious commercial promise.

The Devil’s Publishing Dictionary Part II: N through Z:

Out of Print: When a book of yours is inarguably and permanently out of print at its current publisher, but you can’t get the rights back just by asking for them, that’s nature’s way of telling you to dump your agent, and look for a new publisher while you’re at it.

Packager: (1.) A person or firm which contracts with publishers to deliver finished (often camera-ready) books of high quality and great commercial appeal by a specified date. This is not to say—this is emphatically not to say—that the works they deliver meet any of those specifications. (2.) The class enemy of production departments, which get to clean up (badly, on a rush basis) the packager’s grossly incompetent mishandling of tasks the production department would far rather have taken care of themselves.

Prequel: A book cobbled together out of the worldbuilding and backstory notes that the author once upon a time had the sense to leave out of the series.

Print Run: The projected print run is what you hope for. The real print run is the number of copies you calculate will be needed based on the actual orders that are coming in.

Pub Date: The date naive authors start haunting the bookstores, hoping to see their book on the shelves.

Remainders: Proof that your publisher generously paid to print and distribute enough copies for them to be made available to every reader who might conceivably find them attractive; which, necessarily, means that there will be copies left over. As an alternative to being pulped, these are sometimes offered at reduced prices to readers who, if they enjoy the book, will be primed to buy your next one at normal retail prices.

Reviewer: A person who by virtue of their position must either disappoint their readers, or the authors they review. The ones who satisfy their readers keep their jobs.

Royalties: Percentage of the sales price earned by the author on sold copies. Most of this money is received by the authors years before their books earn it. If a book earns out and the author starts earning additional royalty payments, they will complain bitterly about how long it takes to receive them.

Self-publishing: How authors who are slow learners find out about marketing and distribution.

Small Press: A publishing house that’s only as good as the people running it. (This applies to publishing houses of any size.)

Trade Paperback: (1.) Cheaper than a hardcover; stays on the shelves longer and earns more per unit than a mass-market paperback. (2.) Technically, a softcover edition of any trim size that is whole-copy returnable, rather than being stripped for credit like a mass-market paperback.

Trade Publisher: A publisher of books that are sold via bookstores.

Vanity Press: A way of getting published that anyone can see is folly, unless the book in question is their own.

Writer: It’s not an occupation; it’s a compulsion.

Tomorrow and yesterday
Posted by Patrick at 02:09 PM * 17 comments

The Village Voice, now merged into the New Times chain, has dropped Tom Tomorrow from their print edition. There’s an online petition asking them to change their minds.

I don’t think I’ve remarked on this blog just how hard it is for me to wrap my mind around the fact that the New Times is now a national media corporation that buys up “alternative” newspapers and turns them into bland entertainment giveaways. Back in 1974, when it ran out of a two-room office upstairs from a liquor store on Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona, the original New Times was the first publication to actually pay me cash money for prose—$10 for a review of Barry Malzberg’s Herovit’s World. I was fifteen. I understand the owl was also once the baker’s daughter.

Who’s marginal?
Posted by Patrick at 01:32 PM *

Atrios quotes a recent Media Matters column by Jamison Foser, addressing New York Times nitwit Anne Kornblut’s persistent claim that Democrats must beware of letting themselves be accused of wanting to “cut and run”:

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: This isn’t 2004 any more. This isn’t 2002.

People. Don’t. Like. This. War.

How hard is that to comprehend? It’s been the truth for a long time. A very long time. President Bush and John McCain are pushing an Iraq policy—escalation—that has the support of only about 11 percent of Americans. Eleven percent! That’s in “would you like to be kicked in the head” range. People overwhelmingly oppose this war; they want to end it; and leading Republicans are talking about escalating it.

Surveying these facts, pundits declare that Democrats better watch out, lest they be branded “cut-and-run[ners].” And these people get paid to utter this nonsense!

I made a similar point the other day, in the comment section following an unsigned Guardian thumbsucker (“The Democrats get their turn”), in which it was asserted that “Feelings on the left of the party are running high over Iraq and there is much pressure for immediate action”:
Are you nuts? Feelings on the left, center-left, center, and center-right are running high over Iraq. In poll after poll it ranks as the most urgent question on the national agenda. Approval for Bush’s Iraq policies is down to 23%.

The notion that only the “left” urgently wants to put brakes on Bush’s Iraq adventure is a profound misreading of the national mood. Most of the country wants this, save for the last-ditch, hard-core war fans who would vote for George W. Bush even if he ate a live baby on national TV.

At this point, I think it’s urgently important to correct the media every time they say—or imply—that opposition to this war is in any way “marginal” or confined to the “left.” It’s not. It’s the position of the solid majority of the American people. An even larger majority is opposed to sending more troops, and no politician who advocates that should be regarded as anything but a marginal, extremist loser.

January 03, 2007
The unsleeping eye
Posted by Teresa at 08:32 AM *

As mumblingly reported by the NYTimes, and more sharply observed by The Talking Dog, Bush has claimed that he was asleep at nine in the evening, Crawford time, when Saddam Hussein underwent his botched execution.

That’s a big change from Bush crowing on national TV three years ago about Saddam being captured. This was supposed to be the Big Bad, Mr. “He tried to kill my Daddy.” You’d think Bush could stay up past an eight-year-old’s bedtime to observe the occasion of him getting offed. Not so, according to the NYTimes: “Before the hanging was carried out in Baghdad, Mr. Bush went to sleep here at his ranch and was not roused when the news came.”

I don’t see any reason why I should believe that.

I think reports and footage of the event were rushed to Bush in Crawford. What he learned at that point was that he’d lost control of the way Saddam Hussein’s death was going to be presented to the world. Someone had sneaked a cellphone into the execution and recorded the whole thing live. It didn’t match the preferred version.

An execution has to be stage-managed if it’s going to send the right message. There needs to be an appearance of impartial professionalism and control to give it that air of inevitability, and make the executioner seem like the business end of law and order, not just some guy who’s about to kill some other guy. If everything goes smoothly, the stunned and depersonalized prisoner will have only one role available to him, that of a man crushed under the weight of the law, in a ceremony which engages only with the termination of his physical life. Our sympathies, if any, will be strictly abstract.

Needless to say, Saddam Hussein’s execution didn’t meet those standards.

They tried. The official video was silent, and the initial reports described Saddam Hussein as a broken, terrified man who went quietly to the gallows. The cellphone version blows that apart. It’s raucous. You can hear the executioners and their claquers jeering at Saddam, and chanting partisan political slogans. He’s not crushed, he’s Saddam Hussein, and he exploits the opening they give him. Not only does he maintain his dignity and composure—he refused to have his eyes covered—but he definitely gets off all the best lines. Of course, it’s not that hard to come off like a martyr when your executioners sound like a lynch mob.

That’s got to have chapped Bush’s ass. He’s into breaking people who’ve opposed him. But that’s not the cellphone video’s most disastrous feature. Here’s Glenn Greenwald’s description:

It really is striking, and a potent sign of just how absurd is our ongoing occupation, that the “Iraqi Government” which we are fighting to empower could not even conduct this execution with a pretense of legality or concern for civilized norms—the executioners were not wearing uniforms but leather jackets and murderers’ masks, conducting themselves not as disciplined law enforcement officers but as what they are (death squad members and sectarian street thugs).

And the most revealing, and most disturbing, detail is that Saddam’s executioners—in between playground insults spat at a tied-up Saddam—chanted their religious-like allegiance to Moktada Al Sadr, the Shiite militia leader whom we are told is the Great Enemy of the U.S., the One We Now Must Kill. This noble and just event for which we are responsible was carried out by a brutal, murderous, lawless militia.

And there’s the problem. Bush must have been furious. Killing Saddam Hussein would have been one last photo op, one more chance to claim some degree of success in Iraq. Instead, he got a rushed, illegal execution, timed to be an affront to Sunnis, that’s given a boost to the insurgents, exacerbated sectarian conflicts, and made us look bad. Again. (Nobody’s buying the line that this was the Iraqi government’s blunder. Everyone figures we had essential control of the situation. They’re right.)

This is happening just as Bush is getting ready to announce his firmed-up plans for his latest project: blowing off the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations in favor of massively escalating the war:

The BBC was told by a senior administration source that the speech setting out changes in Mr Bush’s Iraq policy is likely to come in the middle of next week.

Its central theme will be sacrifice.

The speech, the BBC has been told, involves increasing troop numbers.

Since I have an extraordinarily long memory, stretching back for weeks, I remember that when he first came up with this proposal, the idea was that we’d be using these additional troops to make one more big push. After that, the idea was that they’d be used to stabilize our hold on Baghdad. Now their purpose is going to change from training Iraqi forces (I must have missed that one), to providing security for beleaguered Iraqi civilians.

This is classic Bushwah: he wants something, so we get treated to one reason after another for why we should give it to him, with never an apology or explanation for the changes. All we can tell for sure is that he wants to dump 30,000 more troops into Iraq, and he’s lying to us about why he wants to do it.

(As I’ve said elsewhere, I believe his actual reasoning is that if we keep piling on more people and resources in Iraq, there’s some slight chance that he’ll get what he wants, which is to win a war, or at least displace its loss past the end of his administration; whereas if we get our guys out before the place goes up in flames, he won’t. So what if this longshot gamble costs hundreds or thousands more lives? None of them are his.)

This plan isn’t prospering. For one thing, the Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously think it’s a lousy idea. For another, he isn’t getting support from Republican legislators, many of whom have noticed that (1.) the war is a fiasco; (2.) their constituents don’t support it; (3.) the number of our dead just hit 3,000; and (4.) a lot of Republicans took a fall in the 2006 elections.

And now, just as Saddam was taking the long drop—a natural moment to argue that we should finish the job by sending in a bunch more troops to take out al-Sadr, the other Big Bad who’s oppressing the Iraqi people—all these supposed officials of the government we’ve been propping up are chanting “Muqtada al-Sadr.” Bush can kiss that argument goodbye. And if we withdraw from Iraq instead of mounting Bush’s massive escalation, he won’t be able to avoid being credited with the loss.

That’s why I think this one finally got to him. Unlike any of our previous fiascos in Iraq, Saddam’s execution actually cost Bush something personally. I figure he told his staff that if anyone phoned, they should tell them he’d already gone to bed.

January 01, 2007
All glory
Posted by Patrick at 02:19 PM * 234 comments

Pause with us now for an

Felicitously in conjunction with the New Year,
and through the VOLUNTEER EFFORTS of longtime commenter and known Australian

our comment-section “VIEW ALL BY” functionality IS RESTORED!

[Cheering, stamping of feet, throwing of hats in the air. Under the direction of Miss Beaulah Gibbs the Okefenokee Glee & Perloo Choir performs “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby.” Fireworks, fried chicken, fresh garlands for the Dori Smith Monument. Small children, cute puppies, and a Parade.]
Apotheosis of Programmer
Fig. 1: The management of Making Light hails the Programmer

UPDATE: Commenter Abi declaims:

The Fluorosphere, its multicoloured light
Projecting over information-scapes,
Auroral in the year’s initial night,
Is dazzled by the glow Steve Taylor makes.
The choirs, both those who like their Tallis neat
And those who want a dash of Williams in
Together sing his praises, voices sweet
As fruitcake (with no weasels added in).
The poets cast their laurel and their oak
About his feet, and over his head raise
The highest crown, revered by all these folk:
A laudatory sonnet. Let us praise!
In comment boxes take we up the cry:
Hurray for Steve, who brought back View All By!

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