Thursday, June 30, 2011

he did not forgive, because he loved

Someone said that about Joel Rosenberg at his memorial. I could quibble endlessly about the relationship between love and forgiveness, but it's a mighty nice way to be remembered.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

commie news: Why is European broadband faster and cheaper? Blame the government

http://www.engadget.com/2011/06/28/why-is-european-broadband-faster-and-cheaper-blame-the-governme/

Defensive capitalists will say this isn't about socialism; it's about competition. The card they're palming: competition can only come when the people, through control of the government, impose competition. The goal of capitalism is monopoly.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Your boss, your master

"Boss" comes from a similar-sounding Dutch word for "master." It seems to have caught on in the US as a way to obscure the master-slave relationship of boss and worker. See http://workingclassstudies.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/jerk-in-charge/#entry

where there's wealth, there can be no meritocracy

"...in elite schools in New York City, wealthy parents anxious about grades and college admissions  are investing tens of thousands of dollars in  private tutors  to sustain their children's competitive edge.  One parent concedes that her children's tutoring bill climbed to six figures in a recent year." from http://www.classism.org/moving-bar

Saturday, June 25, 2011

the hardest panel for an f&sf convention

The class and f&sf panel. I'm feeling more sympathy for Wiscon now. Folks who I trust have told me that their attempts to do class panels have been disasters. Fourth Street Fantasy's attempt was a mess. Maybe it was a necessary mess--after all, if it was easy to talk about class, we would already be doing that. Conventions have been doing panels about gender and race for at least thirty years. Class continues to be the great taboo in a genre that, to a great extent, is created by and for the middle and upper class.

But I think it was a great learning experience, at least for the Brust and me. We'll take a different tack next time.

writing panel ideas

Point Of View solves all of your writing problems.

Structure solves all of your writing problems.

Kinds of prologues: the teaser, the backstory, and ?

Natural and contrived story structure

Thursday, June 23, 2011

technology is my frenemy

I don't like most new words, but in this case, "frenemy" is perfect. My computer is being odd. Smashwords is being odd. Kindle Publishing has been being odd, though oddly, in the most recent case, it wasn't odd when Smashwords was, which was odd.

Oh, my frenemies.

Off to 4th Street Fantasy Con now. Y'all stay fantastic!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality?

Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality? – CNN Belief Blog: "In short, Paul objects to two things as unnatural: one is male-male sex and the other is long hair on men and short hair on women. The community opposed to gay marriage takes one condemnation as timeless and universal and the other as culturally relative."

a novelist's response to antiracist book-burners

What Lawrence Hill tells Dutch group planning to burn his book - thestar.com

Stop Blaming Teachers

Myles Hoenig: Stop Blaming Teachers for Poor Student Performance: "The state with the highest state test scores, Massachusetts, is the most unionized state for teachers. Conversely, South Carolina, the most anti-union state in the country, shows the worst performance among its students but nary a peep from the 'reformers.' Yet it is somehow the unions' fault that students aren't performing well?"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Beat Procrastination More Easily by Treating It Like an Involuntary Bad Habit

Beat Procrastination More Easily by Treating It Like an Involuntary Bad Habit: "We see procrastination as a choice we make when we want to do (basically) nothing instead of what we need to do. In reality, according to Dr. Pychyl, procrastination is just our involuntary behavior and we're choosing not to override it. While making the choice to not procrastinate is easier said than done, looking at it this way turns it more into a bad habit than a poor choice—and we have plenty of ways to break those."

quote of the day

"We are not responsible for the crisis, but they are making us pay."

From Mass protests against government cuts in Spain

Saturday, June 18, 2011

the USA's first popular integrated bands

YouTube - Teddy Wilson - Benny Goodman Trio:



Krupa went on to form his own band, the Gene Krupa Orchestra. Here's "Let Me Off Uptown" with Anita O'Day and Roy Eldridge:



Bonus, mostly for the swing dancing that starts around 2:35, but also because of the menage a trois subtext:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Someone needs this on the back of a motorcycle jacket



via Golden Age Comic Book Stories

a lesson I keep forgetting

Monotask. When I multitask, I do many things badly, or I become so daunted that I do little or nothing. Choose what's most important now and do it.

Marjane Satrapi: How to film a graphic novel | Film | The Guardian

How to film a graphic novel | Film | The Guardian

art quote of the day

'A movie, I think, is really only four or five moments between two people; the rest of it exists to give those moments their impact and resonance. The script exists for that. Everything does.' - Robert Towne

the Obama/Pelosi Doctrine

Politically, Joel's to the right and I'm to the left, but we're each far enough that on some things, we agree. Like here: CUUMBAYA: The Obama/Pelosi Doctrine. The only thing I have to add is that Obama has been busily proving the difference between neocons and neolibs really isn't that great.

Hmm. I used to agree with people who said the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats was the difference between Coke and Pepsi. But I think the choice is between Coke and root beer. If that's all that's there, I'll take a root beer, unless there's something wrong with it. But I'd really rather have lemonade or tea or Guinness or milk or coffee or wine or water.

Neuroscience of Bullying

MIND Reviews: Neuroscience of Bullying: Scientific American

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gender Politics - Sweden vs. Assange

Gender Politics - Sweden vs. Assange

The Truth About the Economy in 2 Minutes and 15 Seconds

YouTube - The Truth About the Economy: ""

Bessie Stringfield, the Motorcycle Queen

AMA Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame | Bessie Stringfield: "In the 1940s, 'The Motorcycle Queen of Miami' broke down barriers for women and African American motorcyclists.
Completed eight solo cross-country tours and served as a U.S. Army motorcycle dispatch rider."

Aquawoman?

Very cool pics, though I wonder if she truly can hold her breath for ten minutes.

Naked female scientist tries to tame beluga whales in the arctic | Mail Online

a Target update

Target Anti-Union Video Used Union Actors - Gawker

H.G. Wells' literary masterpiece

Revisiting H.G. Wells' literary masterpiece - Fiction - Salon.com: "Wells himself famously disagreed with Henry James about the nature of fiction. While the Master argued that exacting control, a consistent point of view, and close attention to form were essential to true literary artistry, Wells was convinced that we shouldn't allow the novel to be so straitjacketed or constrained. 'Tristram Shandy' -- a loose and baggy masterpiece in which almost anything goes -- was, significantly, Wells' choice for the greatest English novel."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On: Big Maybelle, Ozark Jubilee Boys

Big Maybelle covered this before Jerry Lee Lewis:



I couldn't find a version by the people who're usually credited with writing it, "Native American (Crow) / African American Kentuckian singer/songwriter Dave "Curlee" Williams, and white pianist, bandleader and songwriter James Faye "Roy" Hall", but looking for it, I came across this:

Big Mama Thornton ft. Buddy Guy - Hound Dog

YouTube - Big Mama Thornton ft. Buddy Guy - Hound Dog: ""

how irrelevant is the comic book industry?

Totally. See ICv2 - Top 300 Comics Actual Sales--May 2011. Only 50 comics are selling more than 50,000 copies; none, not even the #1 issue of DC's latest over-hyped effort to revitalize the market, are selling more than 96,000. Marvel and DC both have titles that sold fewer than 5000 copies.

how evil is Target?

Here's the Cheesy Anti-Union Video All Target Employees Must Endure - Gawker

a bit more on David Reich's The Antiracism Trainings

I realized that in yesterday's hasty comment on The Antiracism Trainings, I left out a few things:

The book is set in the 1990s. Antiracism theory and the UU church have changed greatly since then. Most antiracism theorists have dropped the "all whites are racist and only whites are racist" arguments for a slightly more nuanced take on the nature of power—but I must say that while they now make token acknowledgment of other factors under the rubric of "intersectionality", they continue to be race reductionists, as their name indicates.

Pondering The Antiracism Trainings, I've seen something that now seems obvious: "training" in a theory is only indoctrination. I don't know what modern antiracism training is like, but in the 90s, it clearly was little different from "training" in EST or Scientology: trainees were isolated, then drilled by people who belittled them for deviance and praised them for conformance. If I was writing an essay about the ways cults create members, I'd be sure to mention Stockholm Syndrome.

Though I've quibbled about Reich's book, I'm very glad he wrote it.

nerd moment: the Onion on Green Lantern


"Green Lantern" A Superhero We All Know And Love, Says Studio

US wealth distribution 2011

LENIN'S TOMB: US wealth distribution 2011

ETA: 15 Mind-Blowing Facts About Wealth And Inequality in America

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

David Reich's The Antiracism Trainings

The tl;dr: Five stars of five if you're interested in the history of Unitarian Universalism and antiracism theory, four if you're interested in antiracism theory and institutional power ploys, three otherwise.

The longer take: If I had not had my own encounters with Critical Race Theorists, I wouldn't have read this in a rush. Reich has the clean style you would expect of an experienced journalist, and he has a good sense of pacing, but his sense of humor isn't mine, the book feels a bit long, and this just isn't a novel. It's a thinly disguised—make that, very thinly disguised—memoir. Calling UUs "Yoonies" and changing, for example, the Rev. Thandeka to the Rev. Malika simply distracted me.

I also wish he'd told the story chronologically. Reich says he shuffled the chronology to focus on one character, but I think that was as mistaken as George Lucas's decision to focus on Darth Vader. What's interesting isn't the arc of one character. It's the broader story of an institution dealing with people whose goals are admirable and whose tactics are not.

The book is set in the 1990s. Antiracism theory and the UU church have changed greatly since then. Most antiracism theorists have dropped the "all whites are racist and only whites are racist" arguments for a slightly more nuanced take on the nature of power—but while they now make token acknowledgment of other factors under the rubric of "intersectionality", they continue to be race reductionists, as their name indicates.

Pondering The Antiracism Trainings, I've seen something that now seems obvious: "training" in a theory is only indoctrination. I don't know what modern antiracism training is like, but in the 90s, it clearly was little different from "training" in EST or Scientology: trainees were isolated, then drilled by people who belittled them for deviance and praised them for conformance. If I was writing an essay about the ways cults create members, I'd be sure to mention Stockholm Syndrome.

Though I've quibbled about Reich's book, I'm very glad he wrote it.

Bits from reviews that struck me:

uuworld.org : book review of 'the antiracism trainings': "Reich’s novel does offer an informed critique of recent UUA history. That, and not its literary merit, is what it will be remembered for."

Mutizwa: The Antiracism Trainings by David Reich: "Instead of these hard-to-take-seriously antiracism trainings, an authentically progressive and productive liberal institution would hold something closer to anti-dogma trainings—sessions that pay more homage to open-ended arcs of thinking and respectful articulations of dissent."

About David Reich's The Antiracism Trainings

The tl;dr: Five stars of five if you're interested in the history of Unitarian Universalism and antiracism theory, four stars if you're interested in antiracism theory and institutional power ploys, three stars otherwise.

The longer take: If I had not had my own encounters with Antiracism Theorists, I wouldn't have read this in a rush. It has objective virtues: Reich has the clean style you would expect of an experienced journalist, and he has a good sense of pacing. On the other hand, his sense of humor isn't mine, the book feels a bit long, and this just isn't a novel. It's a thinly disguised—make that, very thinly disguised—memoir. Calling UUs "Yoonies" and changing, for example, the Rev. Thandeka to the Rev. Malika, simply distracted me.

I also wish he'd told the story chronologically. If you're tempted to read it, don't be put off by the opening section. Reich says he shuffled the chronology in order to focus on one character, but I think that was as mistaken as George Lucas's decision to focus on Darth Vader. What's interesting isn't the arc of one character. It's the broader story of an institution trying to deal with people whose goals are admirable and whose tactics are not.

Bits from two reviews that struck me:

uuworld.org : book review of 'the antiracism trainings': "Readers will disagree about how much this mirror distorts history, but Reich’s novel does offer an informed critique of recent UUA history. That, and not its literary merit, is what it will be remembered for."

Mutizwa: The Antiracism Trainings by David Reich: "Instead of these hard-to-take-seriously antiracism trainings, an authentically progressive and productive liberal institution would hold something closer to anti-dogma trainings—sessions that pay more homage to open-ended arcs of thinking and respectful articulations of dissent."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

a US Civil War observation for Antiracists

Historian James M. McPherson and the cause of intellectual integrity:
Professor McPherson forthrightly rejects the method that looks at history through the prism of race. Even while commenting very favorably on Joseph T. Glatthaar's Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers (1990), McPherson scolds the author for succumbing “to the fashionable practice of condemning all whites as racists.” Glatthaar had written that “Prior to the war virtually all of them [white officers in black regiments] held powerful racial prejudices.” McPherson responds: “Powerful racial prejudices? That was not true of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, or Norwood P. Hallowell, or George T. Garrison, or many other abolitionists and sons of abolitionists who became officers in black regiments.”

McPherson continues: “Indeed, the contrary was true; they had spent much of their lives fighting the race prejudice endemic in American society, sometimes at the risk of their careers and even their lives.... Perhaps by modern absolutist standards of racial egalitarianism (which few could meet today), these men harbored some mildly racist or paternalistic feelings. But to call these ‘powerful racial prejudices' is to indulge in what William Manchester has called ‘generational chauvinism—judging past eras by the standard of the present.'”

revisiting Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin and Huckleberry Finn should be taught together. Finn is the better book, but Cabin has great moments. It's important for anyone interested in US literature, race, and feminism, and it has a far more nuanced understanding of human relationships than its detractors are able to comprehend—they seem to want a blaxpoitation adventure about defying slavers at every turn, while Stowe's greatness is that she wrote a novel about people, drawn in broad strokes, but still people.

Thomas Jefferson's socialist leaning

I usually find it odd when socialists cite Jefferson. The man was a wealthy slaver and rapist who generally promoted a liberal, not socialist, future. But compared to today's right-of-center Democrats, he was a screaming red. Case in point, this quote:
Another means of silently lessening inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise. Whenever there is in any county, uncultivated land and unemployed poor, it is clear that the natural laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labour and live on. If, for the encouragement of industry we allow it to be appropriated, we must take care that other employment be furnished to those excluded from the appropriation. If we do not the fundamental right to labour the earth returns to the unemployed. It is too soon yet in our country to say that every man who cannot find employment but who can find uncultivated land, shall be at liberty to cultivate it, paying a moderate rent. But it is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as few as possible shall be without a little portion of land.
— Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1785
Emphasis mine. Quote via The Town Scryer: Jefferson On Taxes And Unemployment

Friday, June 10, 2011

how socialists understand oppression

How can we end oppression? "Emma Davis looks at how socialists understand oppression"

Though the piece may seem a bit simplistic, I suspect people who have fallen for identity politics need a simple, gentle explanation of the primacy of class in oppression.

via Douglas Lain

A Trillion Dollars - ‪wunnies's Channel‬‏

YouTube - ‪wunnies's Channel‬‏: ""

literary rant of the day

Ruth Fowler: The Orange Prize Has Let Us Down: "The Creative Writing MFA is the singularly most devastating occurrence to hit literature in the 20th century, churning out writers of utterly indistinguishable competence."

I can't talk about her examples, but I generally agree with her principles.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

how learning to publish ebooks is driving me insane #3: Smashwords

Smashwords ought to have an option to let you upload an epub. Alas, they don't; they insist on getting a doc file that is run through their "meat grinder" to create many forms of files, including mobi and epub. In theory, it's brilliant. In practice, you will be happy to sell them your mother for an easier way to get your books to Apple, Sony, Kobo, and the other sites that Smashwords serves.

Mind you, I do sympathize with Smashwords, and I think they provide a great service for a very fair cut of the action.

But their meat grinder can grind and grind before you'll get a decent result. When you succeed in getting one file through satisfactorily, you may get smug and think you've mastered the meat grinder.

But you are the meat grinder's bitch. It will laugh at your next efforts and dare you to try again.

The problem is that the meat grinder is very finicky about what it'll process. Doc files can retain all kinds of invisible code that won't show up when you choose "show invisibles" because they're just that evil.

Smashwords' recommendation in these cases is to save your file as text in order to eliminate all code. Including your carefully chosen italics and bolds. And then you start all over again, reformatting everything.

Fortunately, there is a better solution. Stay tuned for my next post on epubbing.

some news the US media neglects

Mark Weisbrot: Game Change in Peru: Humala's Big Win

William Blum: Why is the US Waging Perpetual War on Cuba's Health Care System?

your fanboy moment

YouTube - X-Men Born This Way (Acoustic Parody): ""

Socialists next door — a Wisconsin story

John Nichols: Socialists next door — a Wisconsin story

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

whiteness and superheroes

Here's a great essay: Fanboy by Alexander Chee - The Morning News. He discusses the growing emphasis on whiteness in mainstream comics. I quit following mainstream comics closely around 1990, so I can't quibble with his conclusions about the current state of the field.

But I must note two things:

1. He concludes, "The X-Men going from multiracial to white to needing a white Messiah is the weight of the culture." But whose culture? When he discusses the multicultural values of the comics I loved in the '70s and '80s, he's talking about a time when comics sold millions of copies. Today, a best-selling comic might sell 100,000 copies; a typical Marvel or DC comic sells thirty thousand or less.

2. He suggests the culture is responsible for the entertainment that's offered. But entertainment has always been controlled by the rich. If comics are becoming increasingly white, it's only a comment on the people who are producing comics.

Digression: The general observation applies to the current X-Men movie and the upcoming Avengers movie as well. If I was making an Avengers movie, it would be about Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man teaming up with Luke Cage and Monica Rambeau, the black female Captain Marvel. Or I would make the Pyms black. Or I'd make Hawkeye black. Really, Hollywood, most people like diversity. When you tell stories about characters created in the 1960s, you don't have to tell them as if the civil rights movement never happened.

ETA: Gender and superheroes is another post. But, yes, the gender mix of superhero teams should represent the world's mix. So, my Avengers movie line-up: Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Luke Cage, Monica Rambeau, the Wasp, Sif or Valkyrie, and Hellcat or the Scarlet Witch.

Monday, June 6, 2011

a short bio of Grant Morrison's dad, a man I would've liked to have known

Morrison, Walter, 1924-2004 | libcom.org

(Thanks, RAB!)

the most remarkable statistic

from Too Much:
Total world wealth as the Boston Consulting Group defines it — that’s cash deposits, money market funds, stocks and bonds, among other onshore and offshore assets — has now jumped $10 trillion over the 2007 pre-Great Recession wealth level, the previous all-time record.

We have, in other words, never been as wealthy as a human race as we are now. Yet governments the world over are pleading poverty and imposing austerity on their people. No mystery in that paradox. Just beaucoup heaps of inequality.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

"chav" and identity politics in Britain

Debates about the word chav are irrelevant to the working-class experience | Suzanne Moore | Comment is free | The Guardian: "While we argue about which words are the right ones, we do the job of the right."

today's reading for antiracists

The old-time religion of Cornel West's marxism | Mukoma Wa Ngugi | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk:
The American intellectual left, lost in the old paradigm of static classes and monolithic races, has started sounding very much like the American right. With the Obama presidency heralding a world where both positive and negative changes are occurring at the speed of light, it can no longer be enough to beat political analysis into ideology. Any critique offered has to be cognizant of changing racial dynamics and class structures after globalisation. When the most powerful office in the United States is held by a biracial man elected by a broad cross-section of the population, it simply will not to do to carry on as if we were still in the Bush era, or before.

Friday, June 3, 2011

quick takes on Marvel's latest movies, plus a bit of egoboo

Thor: Though I now have to add Natalie Portman to the list of actors who make completely unconvincing scientists, I enjoyed this heaps, maybe because I didn't expect much. Nerdboy surprised himself by how much he grooved on the Kirbyesque Asgard. Loki was grand. Only Odin's wife got slighted; her bit of defending her man should've been a full fight scene in itself. Trying to be objective, I give it a B+, but for me, it was an A-.

X-men: First Class: I would cut a couple of lines of dialogue where the theme is made too explicit, and they didn't think enough about the problem of the Token Black Guy, and their vision of the '60s slides all over the decade, but their take on the Cuba Missile Crisis was actually more accurate than I expected (the US did threaten the USSR first by putting missiles in Turkey), and all the performances are fine, and Magneto was grand (yes, who doesn't love a villain with a little complexity?). I give it an A.

Note: Neither of these movies transcend their genre. If you don't like the metaphor of super-powered folks who reluctantly use violence to solve problems, deduct at least one grade level.

Some egoboo from The New Trend In Faeries | ThinkProgress: "If people are looking for works to adapt, they might consider the Borderlands series, which I’ve always found interesting for reasons of process as well as content. The series is written collaboratively by a bunch of different authors, usually in short story collections, and they deal with what it would be like if you had a rough-and-tumble, Old-West-but-steampunk-and-magic city at the dividing line between the human and faery realms. The answer, apparently, is that you get fantastic bookstores and pizza, as well as a lot of class conflict. I’m especially fond of Will Shetterly’s two novels, Elsewhere and Nevernever, which deal beautifully with everything from suicide, to disability, to drug addiction, to the challenges of losing your virginity after a vengeful faerie turns you into a werewolf (turns out you get to sing in a band called Sargent Furry and His Howling Commandos, though, so there are compensations)."

how learning to publish ebooks is driving me insane #2: Pubit!

In theory, Pubit! should be infinitely easier to work with than Amazon. Barnes and Noble sells epubs, so what you upload should be what you sell.

And this may well be the case.

But I won't find out until another issue is resolved: Pubit! claims they publish within 72 hours. I gave them a week after uploading a couple of books because a holiday weekend fell during that time. Then I went to my Pubit! account and saw a notice claiming there was a problem with my application, and that I should've gotten an email about that.

I'm about 99.5% sure I didn't get an email. I check Gmail's spam filter regularly for misfiltered email.

Solution: Check your Pubit! account every day while you're waiting for ebooks to be epublished.

When I called Pubit!, they said my social security number and name had been rejected by their automatic checker. If I was sure my number and name were correct, they would submit it again for a human review, because sometimes their auto checker screwed up.

I think I passed, because the warning notice on my Pubit! account has disappeared. The books, however, are still "Processing." So I'll post an update soon.

how learning to publish ebooks is driving me insane #1: Amazon

The Kindle Direct Publishing site is filled with semi-contradictory and buried information. Two examples:

1. Apple's Pages program makes gorgeous epub files, which are the industry default. The Kindle uses azw files, Amazon's proprietary format for the Kindle, but they say you can upload epubs to be converted to azw. Elsewhere, they say that html and doc files work best, which is more true than you might imagine. They should simply say, "Sure, you could upload epubs—if you want your Kindle book to look like shite."

The solution: If you're not comfortable hand-coding html, submit Kindle books as docs.

2. When you upload a corrected file to KDP, you have to wait about 24 hours for it to be published. When you download it to see if it converted okay, you'll find it looks exactly like the previous fubar version. You will curse the gods and frighten your cats. And then, when you dig deeply within the KDP info dump, you'll find this:
At this time, it’s not possible for publishers to receive the updated file without contacting KDP Support for help. We’re working to automate this feature and appreciate your understanding with our existing solution to manually send the updated content to your device. 

We request your explicit permission, and will do the same for any customers who contact us to receive the updated content, prior to sending the revised file because the new version will not have previously saved Highlights, Last Page Read, Bookmarks, and the location of notes may not match. If this is acceptable, please email kdp-support@amazon.com confirming your permission and which title/s you’d like to have re-sent. Thank you.

Note: Customers who purchased the old content can also contact our Customer Service department to have the new file delivered.
The fast solution: Download the Kindle program for your computer, create a new Amazon account, and buy your books again.