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August 25, 2012
Cheer up
Posted by Patrick at 06:57 PM * 77 comments

Tired? Discouraged? Convinced that the assholes are going to prevail in all things?

Yeah, me too. Fortunately, the Internet has the power to drive us both crazy and sane.

Start here, with this clip from MSNBC’s “Up w/Chris Hayes,” featuring Ta-Nehisi Coates discussing that essay I was telling you about, along with Melissa Harris-Perry, W. Kamau Bell, and the incomparable Jay Smooth. It’s like talking-heads TV from some better, smarter planet.

Then listen to this audio clip of (now-) President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, back in 2010, reducing some Tea Party radio hack to flinders on the guy’s own show. I’m reminded of the story told by the late, great Irish fanzine writer Walter A. Willis, about “a speech by an Irish MP in the late 19th Century. He was making an impassioned attack on Irish absentee landlords when someone shouted ‘Treason!’ Quick as a flash he retorted: ‘What is treason in England is reason in Ireland, because of the absentee.’” Moral: Really and truly, right-wing radio dudes, do not get into fights with Irish politicians.

Hurricanes Happen Every Year
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 02:24 PM * 5 comments

A year ago Hurricane Irene devastated big chunks of New England, particularly in Vermont.

Right now Tropical Storm Isaac has crossed Haiti, killing three, and is headed for Florida; the prediction is that it’ll become a hurricane before it hits the Sunshine State.

Hurricane season runs roughly from June through October every year. The time to prepare for a hurricane is before it’s a cloud on the horizon. has a decent hurricane-preparedness page.

Since forehandedness is a virtue, here is a list of some previous Making Light posts that deal with the issues. As always most of the value is in the comment threads.

The comment threads there are still open and years-old posts can be active here.

Stay safe, y’all.

August 24, 2012
Josepha Sherman
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 02:54 PM * 88 comments

I regret to inform you that long-time SF author and editor Josepha Sherman died last night.

I just got a call from her health care contact confirming this news.

Jo’s interment will be this coming Monday, 9:00 a.m. at the Hebrew Burial Association Cemetery, Brockett Place, East Haven, CT. GPS Coordinates: Latitude: 41.27542, Longitude: -72.88042

Arrangements are being handled by the Robert E. Shure Funeral Home.

UPDATE: Please note that the date of the interment has been changed since this post went up. It is now Wednesday, August 29, not Monday, August 27. Please note that this was misinformation. The interment is on Monday morning as originally announced. The following is, however, still true: Additionally, there will be a memorial gathering in New York City on Wednesday evening. Further information here.

Some reasons I read fanfic
Posted by Teresa at 11:00 AM * 207 comments

Spaceman Spiff and the Alien Conspiracy by Froggimus Rex (Calvin & Hobbes)

This was the worst summer. Calvin knew this to be a fact in much the same way that he knew that the sky was blue, that Susie Derkins was annoying and gross, and that Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs were part of a complete breakfast. Furthermore, not only was it the worst summer, but it was the worst summer in the entire history of summers, both past and future. He had a time machine. He’d checked.
Nerds of the Earth, Take Note! by Betty & Emeraldwoman (Avengers/Leverage)
The Avengers need a talented hacker. They kidnap one.
13 Ways of Looking at Rodney (Stargate Atlantis/Wallace Stevens) by Bironic
Also available in Latin translation.
The First Day of the Rest of Your Life (Supernatural, end of Season 3) by Malkingrey
Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.
(The times change, and we change in them.)

You come up out of the basement, and the house is full of the smell of fresh blood. You don’t like to think about that, how you’ve learned over the past few days to tell the difference between old blood and new, between recent death and the first taint of corruption. But your wife is still in the basement with your daughter—is it your daughter again; or was it never truly your daughter at all?—with your daughter weeping in her arms, and all you can think is, There is no amount of counseling in the world that is going to get us past this.

Fifteen Short Stories about Teamwork (Thor, Avengers) by Black Eyed Girl

Jayne Eyre by Meltha

Additional tags: Crack, Victorian crack, deeply insanely AU, Bronte is rolling in her grave, no that’s not a typo, inexplicable crossdressing
Rise (He Buys Cigarettes) (BtVS) by Octopedingenue
He buys cigarettes maybe twice a week, sliding the carton across the counter beside the copy of Soap Opera Digest that he used to try to camouflage inside a more macho Rolling Stone. These days he doesn’t seem to care who sees or what they think; he just pushes the crumpled bills into the cashier’s hand and saunters off for the butcher’s shop. Spike never was the vamp for making small talk or giving explanations, and he hasn’t started now, whatever’s happened to him.
Next: Marcus Rowland’s distinctive form is the linked sequence of short episodes or stories. There are two here and two three more in the Moar List.

The Right Technology (post-Chosen BtVS meets Wallace and Gromit) by Marcus Rowland

…A few miles away a fleet of crude chicken-sized rafts bobbed, abandoned, under the cover of a willow tree. Faint tracks led across country into the woods, where a vast flock of chickens, bearing their eggs and chicks on improvised travoises, were labouring to put as much distance as possible between themselves and their former home. Night fell, and eventually, on the island, the moon rose on a row of chicken-sized graves. Faintly, in the distance, something howled, and an owl screeched in reply. There was a faint whisper, an odd muffled scrabbling sound. Then, with a shower of earth and pebbles, a razor-sharp beak stabbed up into the air…
BtVS/DC Comics crossover, by Marcus Rowland
Voices, an engine, straps binding him, something over his eyes. He lies, groggy, feigns unconsciousness.
“He’s human.” A woman, Californian.
“You sure?” Another woman, same accent.
“All tests negative.”
“Twenty bucks, B.” Woman again, Boston.
“What now?”
“Release him.”
“What about the mask?”
“We agreed, no peeking if he’s human.”
“Aren’t you curious?”
“Nope. So not our problem.”
“Where we gonna leave him?”
“Somewhere safe … that car park.”
“Works for me.”
The van stops. He’s lifted out, it roars away. When he’s free of the stretcher they’re gone. He gathers evidence, then heads back to the Batmobile.
This isn’t over.
Genius Loci (Sherlock, BBC) by Silverpard

A Gentleman of Taste: Five trials that the Honourable Frederick Standen endured with sang-froid and savoir-faire, or would have if he’d spoken a word of French (Cotillion, Georgette Heyer) by athousandwinds

Next: Barb Cummings is the author of a vast Buffy the Vampire Slayer epic — two and a half novels (and counting), plus an Oort Cloud of associated short stories — that goes AU at the start of Season Six. It’s the trail of breadcrumbs Doyle used to lead me into the tangled thickets of fanfic. She did it by saying “This writer handles raising Buffy from the dead better than Joss Whedon did.” Which is true. It’s a less traumatic process, Buffy doesn’t have that terminal case of PTSD, and she and Spike don’t tear each other to shreds. All the other problems? Still there.

The novels — A Raising in the Sun, Necessary Evils, and A Parliament of Monsters — are in Moar List. The following short story takes place a year and a half after the AU divergence point. Spike is living at 1630 Revello Drive. Dawn narrates.

My Baby Is a Centerfold (BtVS) by Barb C

Relatives and Relativity (Doctor Who/Sense and Sensibility) and The Yankee’s Loot (Doctor Who/Gone With the Wind) by Yahtzee

My Kind of Freedom (book-length Firefly/Serenity fanfic) by Steve Brust

In addition to being the economic base of the region, Ginseng is the name of the biggest town, with a population of almost nine thousand, if you include the nearby rooters. The town has an effective sewage system, clean water, several paved roads, dozens of permanent buildings, and, temporarily, just past the smokehouse, it had a Firefly-class transport, hunkered down in a clear field like something that pounces waiting to pounce.

Inside the vessel, even as her landing gear settled onto the rich dirt and plumes of smoke were blown away from the side-thrusters on the outside, a voice came over the intercom: “We’re down. We have landed safely. Yes, through a hailstorm of fire, once more, we have achieved landfall in spite of all the obstacles of the heavens. We are delivered. We must kiss the ground. Yes, I say, the ground, the holy ground we must, uh, kiss.”

On the outside, the cargo door swung down. On the inside, a large, square-jawed man wearing loose pants and a green tee-shirt said, “Need to break that intercom.” He put a finger into his ear and shook it as the pressure finished equalizing.

Next: The Girls Next Door is a webcomic by Pika-la-Cynique. Basic setup is that Christine from Phantom of the Opera and Sarah from Labyrinth are university students who share an apartment. Their relatively harmless but annoying stalkers, the Goblin King and Eric the Phantom, have an apartment downstairs. Friends and neighbors include bishounen Azazel and Crowley (nominally Supernatural), Nanny Ogg (Discworld), Legolas, James (Pirates of the Caribbean), Javert (Les Miserables), Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett, Sarah’s little brother Toby, and whoever else wanders through.

Monster Hunters

Let the Right One In
Who You Gonna Call?
The Monster Hunter Files — Interview #01
The Monster Hunter Files — Not-Quite-Interview #02
The Monster Hunter Files — Not-Quite-Interview #03
Monster Hunters, Part V — Dead Ringer
Monster Hunters, Part VI — Van Helverine
Monster Hunters, Part VII: Girls Will Be GIrls
Monster Hunters, Fin: Relocation

The Moar List

Bring Me the Head of Harry Potter (Harry Potter/BtVs/Highlander/The Sopranos) by Marcus Rowland

BtVS/West Wing Crossover by Marcus Rowland: Intervention, Last Rites, Security Problem, Pulling Strings, In Other News…, Fundraiser, Group Dynamics, Pardon, Conspiracy Theory, Displacement Activity, Victory, Crusade, Requiem.

Deeds of Maidenly Unkindness (BtVS/Public school to be named later) by Marcus Rowland

Nocturne of the Brooklyn Bridge (China Mountain Zhang) by Kel

Five Interventions the Avengers Held for Each Other and One They Held for Loki by Silverfoxflower

Five Things Lydia Bennet Never Told Her Sisters (Pride and Prejudice) by Dafna

Five Archives Bobby Singer Has Used (Supernatural) by Cofax

Heads or Tails (Supernatural) by Vanillafluffy

The Hamster Supremacy (Stargate Atlantis) by ExplodedPen

One Morning in Sunnydale (BtVS) by A. E. Berry

Average Avengers Local Chapter 7 of New York City (Avengers/Captain America/Iron Man) by Hetrez

A Raising in the Sun, Necessary Evils, and A Parliament of Monsters (unfinished), all BtVS, by Barb Cummings.

“Google, the stupidity amplifier”
Posted by Patrick at 06:34 AM *

SF writer Greg Egan has been trying, since August 10, to point out to Google that, alongside a biographical squib about him, they’re serving a photograph of a different Gregory Egan altogether.

As of August 14 he managed to attract the attention of an actual human at Google, who fixed the problem.

As of August 24, the problem is unfixed. See for yourself.

The fact that Google’s algorithms make mistakes doesn’t bother me. The fact that it takes those of us outside Google so long and so much effort to get something like this fixed—and that the problem can then recur at random—should concern everyone. If Google wants to be accorded special status for its supposed mission to “organize the world’s information,” it needs to start demonstrating a sense of accountability to the rest of the human race. And by “some” I mean “an amount detectable with a microscope or Geiger counter,” because even that would be an improvement on the current state of affairs.

August 23, 2012
Romney lies about tithing
Posted by Teresa at 09:05 PM *

The latest of Mitt Romney’s many excuses for not releasing more of his tax returns, aside from the two years he’s released to date:

Mitt Romney told Parade Magazine that part of the reason he does not want to release more of this tax returns is that he believes his tithing to the Mormon Church is a private matter, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

“Our church doesn’t publish how much people have given,” Romney is reportedly quoted as saying in the forthcoming edition of Parade. “This is done entirely privately. One of the downsides of releasing one’s financial information is that this is now all public, but we had never intended our contributions to be known. It’s a very personal thing between ourselves and our commitment to our God and to our church.”

Be astonished: he’s lying again. Financial data about Mormon tithing is not a secret. Like members of every other denomination that tithes, Mormons list their tithing as a religious/charitable contribution on their tax returns, school financial aid forms, mortgage applications, and other documents where you itemize your income and what you do with it.

Want to see?

eHow: How to Write Off Tithes on a Tax Return. An article for members of all tithing denominations.

eHow: How to Look Up How Much LDS Tithing I Paid.

1. Call your bishopric and ask the ward executive secretary for a copy of your tithing statement. He should have the dates you paid and the exact amount, along with your yearly total, on file. Pick up a copy at your meetinghouse or ask the ward secretary to mail it to you.
(That brings back memories. Our ward clerk used to issue everyone a little annual statement of their total tithing and other donations for the year just ended. I got my first one when I was eight. I figured out what they were for when I started filing tax returns.)

Tithing and Tax Deduction: a query and three replies at, a very orthodox site. The question is from a churchmember who (the respondents agree) is being overscrupulous about declaring his tithing on his tax return—i.e., he hasn’t been taking a deduction for it.

Two threads, How does tithing work with taxes and Is tithing tax deductible, from the also very orthodox Forums.

So you’ve glanced at those links. Notice how there’s not a lot of anxiety or implied secrecy there about declaring your tithing on your tax return? That’s because it’s not an issue and never has been. Romney made that up. People’s tax returns are their own business unless they run for president, but the amount a Mormon pays in tithing isn’t a bigger secret than the other info in his or her return.

The aspect of tithing that is personal and private is how you arrived at the figure you paid. The commandment in question says tithing is 10% of your increase. Whether that’s calculated on gross or net, total income or income after taxes, is between you and God. Romney has relocated the secrecy that properly applies to a transaction between him and God, to the deductions he took for tithing on his tax return, which is between him and Caesar.

This man will lie about anything and he is bad at it. He is a stupid, stupid liar.

But let’s go back to the business of Mormons and tithing. The “let your conscience be your guide” approach to calculating tithing works out pretty well for God, since Mormons overall tend not to nickle-and-dime Him. If it’s income, they pay tithing on it. That means they tithe on payouts from retirement accounts, even though they tithed on the money they invested in it. If their Mormon parents gift them $100 out of the parents’ already-tithed funds, the recipient tithes $10 in turn.

Some of you will have already spotted the kicker: Mormon tithing practices don’t recognize clever loopholes and offshore schemes for hiding income. If it’s increase, you tithe. Romney’s religious excuse for not wanting to reveal his tithing is hogwash, but I can think of a more worldly reason he might flinch at it: if his declared income is out of synch with the amount of tithing he paid.

That could get interesting. It could also go either way. I assume Romney pays proportionally less than a retired Mormon schoolteacher because he thinks in terms like whether that money has already had tithing paid on it, whereas the schoolteacher just sees her retirement income as income. That attitude could look bad to other Mormons. The other possibility is that his tithing in some years has significantly exceeded 10% of his acknowledged income, which would look bad to just about everyone.


For a good summary of the presidential candidate tax-return thrashes of this and previous election years, try this CBS overview: Outrage over tax returns a replay of past campaigns. If you just want the current baseball scores. See below. “Ongoing” is because sitting presidents will have been releasing their tax returns annually.

Obama 2012: ongoing
M. Romney 2012: 2010 returns plus an estimate for 2011
Gingrich 2012: 1 year
Obama 2008: 7 years
H. Clinton 2008: 7 years
McCain 2008: 2 years
G.W. Bush 2004: ongoing
Kerry 2004: 20 years: 5 years for presidential run, 15 from prior senate campaigns
Edwards 2004: 10 years
G.W. Bush 2000: 9 years
Gore 2000: 8 years
Dole 1996: 29 years
Forbes 1996: no returns released
B. Clinton 1996: ongoing
G. Bush 1992: ongoing
B. Clinton, 1992: 12 years
Perot 1992: no returns released
Dukakis 1988: 6 years
Reagan 1980: 1 year
Carter 1980: 8 years
George Romney 1968: 12 years

Feel free to suggest corrections. I haven’t yet found an online source that reliably differentiates total years of returns released while a candidate and returns released while holding high office. In the meantime, here’s the Tax History Project.

Fear of a Black President
Posted by Patrick at 12:41 PM *

By Ta-Nehisi Coates. An illuminating, moving, astonishing piece of political writing.

I’m not going to quote even a sentence. You should read it in its entirety. It is all of a piece.

Whisperado, tonight
Posted by Patrick at 10:31 AM * 1 comments

8 PM, at Kenny’s Castaways—our last gig ever at this venerable Village joint which is closing at the end of September, alas. Life goes on. We’ll be joined by sax player Brad Baker, which should be good fun. 157 Bleecker Street, between Sullivan and Thompson.

August 20, 2012
Back In The Broom Closet
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:44 AM * 76 comments

First, the video story at CNN: Get Real! eBay bans supernatural sales

Intended to stop the sale of snake oil, I suppose.

But, unintended consequences, y’know. This affects pagans. Take Foinah Jameson, a practicing Pagan who lives in Portland, Oregon, who makes and sells Rune sets. When she saw the story on the news, she called the Ebay customer service rep for some clarification.

She posts:

I wanted to make everyone aware of a new policy at Ebay that goes into effect on August 30, 2012.

All “supernatural” items will be banned from the site. You may ask yourself, Why does this concern me, the writer?

Suppose you have written a spell book, a kitchen witch cook book, or something else along those lines, have self published and have put this item up for sale on Ebay. After August 30th, your item would be considered prohibited.

When I learned of this policy (this morning while watching the news), I immediately called Ebay customer service. I questioned the new policy and this is what I was told:

The rep very specifically said the ban was for potions, hexes, charms or any item that promotes occultism, witchcraft, metaphysics, wizardry, black magic or anything supernatural. (Verbatim.)

This smacks of discrimination.

I asked specifically about crucifixes or holy water, Saint medallions or holy candles, and he said that those items would still be available under the religious section.

I understand that Ebay is a private company and has the right to mandate the content of their site. My only redress was to register my opposition to this sweeping ban of all things not conforming to main stream religion and ask that they review and change this policy. I will also no longer do business with Ebay.

I understand Ebay has instituted this policy to protect consumers from less-than-ethical peddlers of snake oil and skullduggery, but the policy basically pushes the rest of us pagan retailers and consumers back into the broom closet.

She expanded this a bit later:

The way the new policy is written, all supernatural items will be banned. In my initial post I left out one descriptor: “anything for conjuring” should have been listed as well. In all fairness the Ebay rep was taken aback by this ban and agreed that it was discriminatory. In fact, the ban information had not yet even been disseminated to the customer service department, and the rep had to put me on hold twice while he dug for information.

The rep (I feel like an idiot for not writing down his name) said he’d bring this up at the policy meeting this week.

How far the ban will actually be applied is yet-to-be-determined.

As it stands I will not be able to sell any of my wares on Ebay, not at all, because they cater to the supernatural.

Presumably Harry Potter wands will still be available, and Halloween items won’t be touched.

In correspondence, Foinah tells me:

I’ve been doing some more digging and Ebay appears to be talking out both sides of their mouth. One side says only readings will be banned…and also services like curses. But then the customer service rep says ALL items that are supernatural are prohibited. He read me the internal memo.

Ebay has also stated that items such as tarot cards, crystals, etc. will still be available, in most cases.

So what does that mean?

I cannot for the life of me remember the rep’s name, but I made the call this morning at 10:30 am. [Sunday, 19AUG12] The man was very apologetic about the policy, stated that he agreed that it was rather discriminatory that only pagan and metaphysical items were being targeted, and promised to look into it further.

I appreciate you blogging about it. Hopefully Ebay will make clear the policy before the August 30th deadline. I can understand a services ban, but the way the policy was explained it rather appears to be a ban on all occult materials.

(All quotes are by permission—JDM)

August 19, 2012
Moose Festival Time
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:51 PM * 17 comments

Tired of the heat? Tired of the crowds? Time to gear up for Moose Festival!

Yes, it’s that time again. This coming Friday (24 August) the 21st Annual Moose Festival commences in downtown Colebrook (sprawling all over the North Country to Stewartstown, Pittburg, and Caanan, VT).

New this year, we’ll have tours of the Tillotson Center on Carriage Way.

Since this is an election year and New Hampshire is a swing state it’s more than likely that we’ll have politicians, even national level politicians, roaming around downtown. Don’t bring your baby if you don’t want it kissed.

Events include a classic auto show, downtown street fair, history displays, quilt show, food vendors, art exhibits, live music, kids’ entertainment, photo contest, huge craft fair, moose stew cookoff, helicopter rides, moose-calling contest, and a day at the farm.

Get the full schedule here.

See also:

(and the associated comment threads) right here at Making Light.
[UPDATE 24 AUG 12]

The first day of Moose Festival has finished. As befits an election year there was a whole row of political booths. Here’s the Democrats’ tent on Main Street.

August 14, 2012
Mangling the history of fanfic
Posted by Patrick at 05:56 PM * 320 comments

There’s a lot that’s sensible about Ewan Morrison’s much-linked-to Guardian piece about the history of fanfic. It’s nice to see people being reminded that fanfic isn’t some dark perversion that began with the Internet—that activities recognizable as “fanfic” have been happening since the eighteenth century, if not before. (Yes oh yes even before that, Grail folklore, Shakespeare/Holinshead, etc etc yes yes.) But the section on fanfic in early SF fandom is full of nonsense, so much so as to call the rest of the article into question. Morrison’s assertion that “from the 1930s to 50s fanfic existed almost exclusively within the sci-fi communities, in clubs such as the Futurians (1937-1945)” is entirely indefensible: what, the Sherlockians and other non-SF hobby groups simply stopped committing fanfic from 1930 to 1960? Even more to the point, most of what got called “fanfic” in early SF fanzines was simply straightforward amateur SF, not amateur fiction written with-or-in some professionally-published author’s characters or universe. Morrison also says that “many fans from such groups, such as Isaac Asimov, went on to become published authors, blurring the distinction between amateur fan and professional writer,” which makes as much sense as claiming that when a carpenter learns to play the violin, it blurs the distinction between carpenters and violinists. Then we have this:

In 1952, the world’s first book of fanfic about fans appeared. The Enchanted Duplicator by Walt Willis and Bob Shaw was a metafiction based on Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, but which described a world populated with sci-fi fans. It chronicles the adventures of hero Jophan in “the land of Mundane”. All of the characters in the book are renamed versions of real fans from the London SF circle of the 50s and the book was created entirely for their pleasure.
Where Morrison got this last bit I certainly don’t know, but it’s nonsense. Some of the characters in The Enchanted Duplicator are clearly based on real people—Willis said on more than one occasion, including to me, that “Profan” was substantially based on Eric Frank Russell—but they aren’t limited to members of the London Circle. In fact Willis and Shaw both lived in Belfast and, while they’d visited London fandom, they had as many (or more) connections with fandom in the US as with fans in Britain. There is no basis at all for claiming that “all of the characters in the book are renamed versions of real fans,” and the work was certainly not created “entirely for [the] pleasure” of London Circle fans. Finally, as about five seconds with the Google could have informed Morrison, Willis and Shaw disclaimed the connection to Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, which neither of them had read at the time; Willis wrote in 1965 that it “arose out of a conversation…about a radio play by Louis MacNeice based on the quotation ‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.’” This kind of complete garbling of well-documented history—at a rate of roughly one error per sentence—suggests that the rest of Morrison’s article should be taken, at the very least, with a big grain of salt.

August 08, 2012
Open Thread 176
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:53 AM *

Andy’s Tips for Strong Magic

  1. Make sure your sleights are well performed.
  2. Try never to flash.
  3. Have good presentations based on your own personality.
  4. Always be nice and friendly.
  5. Try to use cards that are in good condition.
  6. Practice, practice and practice.
  7. If something goes wrong then just laugh it off and carry on. Never mention it again.
  8. Be entertaining.
  9. Learn your patter for each trick.
  10. When performing do not answer people if they keep interupting your trick. If you do you will both lose point of the trick.
  11. Strive to be really good.
  12. If you get a heckler then ignore him. Pretend you’re deaf and cannot hear him.
  13. Practicing on your family is not the best way to improve. Use strangers.
  14. Always leave your audience wanting more.
  15. Try not to keep saying “Um” or “Er” when you perform.
  16. Try not to keep rocking from one foot to the other when you are performing. Try not to fidget.
  17. If your favourite trick is not entertaining people then it is time to remove your favourite trick.
  18. Do not let people touch your props unless you ask them to.
  19. Always look clean, tidy and handsome!
  20. Look after your hands and nails. Make sure they are clean or painted.

Continued from Open Thread 175. Continued in Open thread 177.

Playing for Change redux
Posted by Teresa at 10:40 AM * 11 comments

Yes, we’ve blogged the Playing for Change project before, with their collaborative recordings by musicians around the world. Pretty much everyone’s blogged them. But they’ve made new recordings since then, and they continue to be remarkable.

(The PFC’s website needs maintenance. Here are some of their missing liner notes.)

Stand by Me. The recording that first got everyone’s attention. As of this moment it’s racked up 43,641,776 views on YouTube. Clarence Bekker is way fun to watch.

Don’t Worry, written by Pierre Minetti, the French musician who leads off. Django “Bambolino” Degen should win something for playing the triangle while dancing in the surf while balancing a giant tray of doughnuts on his head.

One Love. PFC’s first demonstration of the universality of Bob Marley. Rajhesh Vaidhya rocks out on the veena.

War/No More Trouble. Catch violinist Radwin Nazar tucking a bit of “Poor Wayfaring Stranger” in between the verses.

Chanda Mama is a Telugu folksong from Chennai, and a serious earworm. The lyrics are allegedly translated here, but I can’t make much sense of them.

Gimme Shelter, which demonstrates the universality of delta blues.

Redemption Song, starting with Hiromitsu Agatsuma rocking out on (I think) a shamisen. More Bob Marley. Also, Stephen Marley.

Higher Ground. One of my favorites. It’s all good.

Three Little Birds, anchored by a group of musicians in Mali. Nice, if kind of ambient.

United. This one probably has the most diverse mix of musicians and locations, including a Chinese pipa player, Dina Elwedidi in Cairo, and the Mendelssohn Chamber Players of Budapest.

Satchita. Latino-Indian: verses in Portuguese, chorus in Sanskrit, and the majority of the musicians are from Brazil. Lyrics? No idea. It’s got a good beat. You can dance to it.

La Tierra de Olvido is a song about Colombia, performed by a great many Colombian musicians. They’re really good. I love these videos.

That’s not a complete list, but you can explore the Playing for Change site, and YouTube is very good about recommending related videos. Have fun. Feel better.

August 07, 2012
The longest distance between two places
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:41 PM * 113 comments

Lately, I’ve been reading Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I’m still only about halfway through, but it’s a fascinating and complicated set of essays. I can see why it won the Pulitzer Prize.

It’s set in the mountains, and though they’re different mountains than the ones where I spent some important parts of my childhood, I feel very much at home in the landscape. One reason is Dillard’s relationship with water. In the same way that her essays center around Tinker Creek, so many of my early memories involve Cavanaugh Creek. That was where we built dams, set off fireworks, and got drinking water. I was standing on its shore when the rattlesnake crawled over my bare foot. The bucket-and-pulley system with which my parents used to send lunch down the hill from the cabin is mostly rust now, nearly as orange as the Tang it used to carry. That creek (and I unthinkingly pronounce it crick: my last remaining ruralism) was the one true watercourse for me as a child. Everything else existed in comparison to it.

Reading the book makes me realize, once again, how far I’ve come from those days and those mountains. And I realize consciously what I’d noticed unconsciously: how different water is here in the Netherlands. I mean ordinary water—I haven’t been here for extraordinary water (yet). Water here is powerful, but it’s placid. Its color changes with the sky, but it rarely splashes or sprays. It doesn’t add to the soundscape, either. I’m sitting 50 meters from a canal right now, but I can’t hear it.

It reminds me of Minecraft, where flowing water is a different substance than still. But I digress.

One of the more powerful and interesting images in the book so far is that of Tinker Creek as an expression of time:

I look up the creek and here it comes, the future, being borne aloft as on a winding succession of laden trays. You may wake and look from the window and breathe the real air, and say, with satisfaction or with longing, “This is it.” But if you look up the creek in any weather, your spirit fills, and you are saying with an exulting rise of the lungs, “Here it comes!”

I’ve been thinking about that image a lot, as I cycle beside our tranquil canals and take the ferry across the broad, flat IJ. Because water here in the Netherlands is time too, but in another way.

I’m going to digress again. I’m coming to the conclusion that digression is contagious, and I’ve caught a fever of it from Dillard.

In classical Greek, there are two ideas of time. There are in English, too, but they’re both called time, so it’s hard to tease them apart. Χρόνος is “a definite time”. We measure it with watches and calendars. What χρόνος does the train leave? But καιρός can also be translated “time”, in the sense of “the right time”. It’s καιρός to leave. When Paul Simon sings that someone was “born at the instant the church bells chime”, he’s describing καιρός.

Dillard’s creek may be time, passing us by from the future (“Here it comes!”), through the elusive instant of the present, and thence to the long outflowing of the past. By comparison, the IJ is a broad, smooth present, a sufficiency of now for whatever we choose to do with it. It’s the time that there will be, and there will be, to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; to murder and create, and for all the works and days of hands that lift and drop a question on your plate.

But more than one thing can be true at once. Καιρός exists within χρόνος. And Tinker Creek contains the IJ: somewhere in the rushing flow of the future to the past, we can find a vast expanse of the present, a microsecond of eternity upon which all our actions can sail.

August 06, 2012
The chances of anything coming from Earth are a million to one, he said.
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:52 AM *

No one would have believed in the last orden of the jeddak of O-Daj that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences who would then drop a dune buggy on our heads.

I was asleep, but I followed it time-delayed on my Twitter stream. Pretty damn awesome.

August 01, 2012
Do you use Dropbox?
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 04:32 PM *

Time for a password change.

  • Use strong passwords.
  • Treat your passwords like you treat your toothbrushes. Never share them with anyone and change them every three months.
  • One site per password. That way losing a password/username combination at a site with poor securitywon’t compromise your password/username combination at a site with high security.
  • It’s okay to write down your passwords/usernames in a notebook at home. If the bad guys have physical access to your room you’re in a whole different ballgame than just on-line security.

[UPDATE TO ADD] Daniel Martin posts below:
Jim, this is irresponsible.

Granted, not very irresponsible because even the megaphone of Making Light pales in comparison to Business Insider, but still the natural inference from the post is that DropBox’s password database was compromised.

And that’s not true. Not at all true.

What event triggered the Business Insider story, and therefore this ML post? DropBox informed some of its users that they, the users, had apparently been careless and re-used their DropBox password on other sites. (which had been hacked)

You know what? DropBox didn’t have to tell its users that - everyone knows that the way a service with login and password knows that you are who you claim to be is with the login and password, and DropBox is going above and beyond by detecting activity that seems suspicious despite the use of the correct login and password.

In other words, the reward for DropBox implementing better-than-average security practices is the implication that they’ve been hacked.

People who implement poor security practices should be called out for doing so. Actual hacks should be publicized, and an article that advised one to change the email address one uses with DropBox - or being aware that that email could soon be hit with lots of spam - that was written based on the DropBox employee’s account compromise would be fair game.

But the remainder of the underlying facts show DropBox being good and upfront about security, and getting attacked for it. It’s as though a reporter wrote about a police district’s horrible crime wave when the facts on the ground were that the new police chief had stopped the earlier practice of fudging the official stats. (Except it’s even a more clear-cut case of reporter malpractice here)

I expect Business Insider to commit this kind of error; more precisely, I don’t respect them enough to care when they do.

Making Light, though, I respect, so this kind of carelessness cuts deep.

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