Here's what you can do

sense of wonder, SF
In the wake of the Isla Vista shooting, a lot of people have been asking "What can I do about this sort of thing?" To those people - really to anyone - I recommendvixyish's post "So What Am I Supposed To Do About It? #YesAllWomen."  Please read it, share it, live it.

You can comment here on LJ, or you can leave a comment on the Dreamwidth version of this entry. The current comment count is comment count unavailable.

On the anniversary of Heinlein's death

sense of wonder, SF
This was a comment I made tomrissa's excellent post on the occasion of Heinlein's death, answering the people who say "Heinlein couldn't win a Hugo today."  I was kind of fond of it, so I'm giving it a life of its own:

On this day in 1988, I was 14. The only Heinlein I had read was Friday (which probably accounts for some of my continued outsized affection for that particular one of his books). I was stunned when I read of Heinlein's death (in the newspaper!) and realized that he was 7 years older than my grandfather. He was, I would say, an interesting combination of "of his time" and "ahead of his time."

What the "Heinlein couldn't win a Hugo today" crowd seem to overlook is that Heinlein changed over the course of his life. Instead, they seem to mentally freeze him in time as he was when he wrote Starship Troopers and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (1960 and 1965, respectively - roughly his late 50s). The Heinlein who wrote Friday 20 years later was a different man, and were he still alive today, the Heinlein of 30 years after Friday would be more different still - at this point he'd be further removed in time from the publication of Starship Troopers than Starship Troopers was from his birth.

You can comment here on LJ, or you can leave a comment on the Dreamwidth version of this entry. The current comment count is comment count unavailable.

New comic book day, 24 October 2012

sense of wonder, SF
  • Adventure Time #9 (for L.) - Based on the cover, it looks like Finn and Jake have been messing around with time machines again.
  • Betty and Veronica #262 - The conclusion of the "Betty the Vampire Slayer versus Vampironica" storyline
  • Bravest Warriors #1 (for L.) - A new mini-series by Pendleton Ward (the creator of "Adventure Time"
  • Lord of the Jungle #8
  • Wonder Woman #8 (back issue)

Comic review: Green Arrow #11 and 12

sense of wonder, SF
Last night I finally read the last 2 issues of Green Arrow that I bought before taking the title off my pull list.  They confirmed to me that I was right to drop the title, but they also pissed me off because I can see glimpes of how this title could be great again.  

Before I even touch on the story, let's deal with the art.  The art is adequate.  Which is to say it's totally insufficient.  A first rank title like Green Arrow deserves art that's better than just "adequate."  While everyone's anatomically correct, the characters are vague and indistinct, sketchy, as if the artists were afraid to put a strong line on the paper.  You can get art of this quality from the artist's alley of any random comic convention; a major title needs something better.

The story, on the other hand, doesn't even rise up to the level of adequate.  The first half of #11 gets off to a promising start, introducing the Dark Arrows, a duo of Green Arrow copycats who are robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.  It was a promising beginning to a good story, a classic issues-oriented Green Arrow storyline.  Then halfway through the story changes.  Queentech is in trouble, and Ollie has to make a sudden trip to China to try to save the company.  With a new backup person who's sprung on us out of nowhere.  And after the trip (in a stealth jet that just happened to have been lying around one of the warehouses), Ollie summarily cuts off negotiations and attacks the Chinese business magnate's henchmen.  And #11 ends.

Then #12 begins with the fight scene.  Ollie manages to get away, having stolen the Chinese businessman's cellphone.  Ollie's backup guy goes to try to use the contents of the cell phone to bargain with a Chinese superheroine (for what, exactly?), while Ollie wanders off aimlessly (having somehow been transformed into a clueless oaf between issues 10 and 11), gets himself captured, then stages a jailbreak and escapes.  And then the issue ends with Gratuitous! Chinese! Zombies!

At this point, as much as I love Green Arrow, I'd rather they just cancel the series.  It's that bad.  Cancel the series, purge everything that's happened since the reboot, and start up again later with a writer who understands the character and an artist who's qualified to work on a top-tier title.

Awesome Hobbit-themed Moleskine notebooks

sense of wonder, SF
Not available yet, but they look amazing!  I can't wait to get them!  

Pardon me, your privilege is showing

sense of wonder, SF
I get the CNN headlines newsletter every morning, and for the last couple of days I've been following the news of the prostitution case in Kennebunk, Maine.  For those of you who haven't heard of this case, a fitness instructor is alleged to have had sex for hire with around 150 men in her Zumba* studio.  Now the police are releasing her client list, and the clients are trying to block the list's release, saying it will "ruin their lives, careers, and families."  Hello?  What about the woman who's life and career have already been ruined by this?  Last I checked, an act of prostitution required at least 2 people, and since there's no mention of a woman breaking into men's houses and forcing them at gunpoint to give her money and then have sex with her**, I'm left with no choice but to assume that all the men involved were willing participants.  So these men need to just shut up, put on their big boy pants, and face the consequences of their actions***.

*  The CNN articles never fail to mention Zumba by name.  I bet they just love being tied to this.
**  And that's the sort of unusual detail that would definitely find its way into the news coverage.
***  In today's article, one of the men named in the section of the list released so far has tried  the Shaggy defense.  Sorry, dude - even if it really wasn't you, people aren't going to believe you.

sense of wonder, SF
Given my interest in miniature wargames, it has seemed to me that I should enjoy computer wargames, particularly real-time strategy games.  And yet I didn't, and I was horribly confused by this.  I couldn't put my finger on it, but from my point of view there was something just wrong with the RTS experience.  And today it hit me - RTS games suffer from "helicopter general" syndrome.

A little background for those of you who've never sent time in the model trenches of minature warfare.  "Helicopter general" is the name wargamers use for rule sets where the player is able to take full advantage of their ability to see the entire battlefield by being able to manipulate individual units on a much smaller scale than their historical counterpart would have.  A lot of the work in wargames rules over the past 50 years has centered on efforts to simulate "fog of war" (the general doesn't have perfect instantaneous knowledge of what's happening in all areas of the battlefield) and "command friction" (your subordinates, represented by rules mechanisms, don't always do what you want, and even when they do, they don't always do it exactly how you would have chosen to do it).  This has not only made the games more realistic, but has also made them more fun - a game of the Battle of Hastings, for example, completely loses all drama if the Saxons stay on the top of the hill just because Harold says to, with no necessity for him to exercise his leadership skills and no chance that they'll respond to the Norman feints.

And yet that's exactly what happens in RTS games - your units do exactly what you say to do, exactly how you say to do it.  Nothing more, nothing less.  There's no experience of the overeager young lieutenant who rushes in when he's told to stay put, nor of the cautious old brigadier, who advances tentatively when told to charge.  More damning still, if you forget a unit off on the edge of the map, they'll just sit there and twiddle there thumbs indefinitely rather than marching to the sound of the guns (or otherwise making themselves useful).

So what I'm thinking I might do, since I've been trying to come up with a project to work on so I'll have a reason to want to learn Python besides a nebulous "to someday get a job as a programmer," is use this insight to help design a computer wargame that I'd actually want to play.  If nothing else, I'll get the fun of trying to make it and the programming experience of trying to do things I might not otherwise try to do.

Great (?!) minds think alike

sense of wonder, SF
"The best laid plans of mice and men aft gang agley." - Robbie Burns

"Everybody's got a plan until they get punched in the mouth." - Mike Tyson


Interesting fandom video from PBS

sense of wonder, SF
I really liked the way the video explored a number of different fandoms and a number of different ways of "doing" fandom.  I also liked that fans were treated as normal people, not as objects of curiosity or ridicule.


My Little Ponies go to the con!

sense of wonder, SF

Awesome video and song!  Enjoy!
sense of wonder, SF
Blong Yang is Hmong, born in a refugee camp in Thailand, and came to America with his parents and 7 siblings.  He grew up poor in Oklahoma and California and went to college (the first in his family to do so) at UCLA.  He moved to Minnesota to go to law school, and after graduating law school worked for Minneapolis Legal Aid, then for a while had his own practice, then most recently worked as an investigator for the county civil rights office.  He decided to run for county commission, believing that his experiences as a person of color and having grown up on public assistance, would greatly benefit the people of his district, which contains a large part of Minneapolis's Hmong population and where around 2/3 of the population is on some form of government assistance.  He believed to strongly in this that he quit his job in order to run, and is running, despite being a Democrat, in opposition to the candidate favored by the local party hierarchy.  Two local musicians produced this video for his campaign:

I don't live in district 2, but if I did, I'd gladly vote for Yang.  This is the American dream:  Blong Yang came from humble beginnings, was able to better himself through education, and is now looking to give back to his community.  I hope he gets elected.

Boycott Hobby Lobby!

sense of wonder, SF
I know a lot of people who are into arts and crafts.  I also know a lot of  people (often the same people) who support women's right to access birth control, and furthermore to have their health insurance pay for their birth control.  I want to make sure all those people are aware that the Green family, who own Hobby Lobby, are currently in court seeking to assert their "right" to deny contraceptive coverage to their workers.  I already didn't shop at Hobby Lobby, since the nearest Hobby Lobby to my house is over 50 miles away, so my decision not to buy anything there isn't going to make a difference.  If any of you shop there, please stop.  Shop online or at another hobby shop, but don't give the Greens another cent.  A quick internet search for "hobby shops near [your town]" will let you know what else is in your area.  And if you're still having trouble finding someplace after that, let me know and I'll see if I can help you find something.
sense of wonder, SF
In one of the comments to Laurie Mann's blog post on Readercon, I came across the following gem:

I have heard from more than one male fan that the zero tolerance policy combined with the lifetime ban makes them (who feel themselves to be socially inept males) uncomfortable enough that they will be asking for membership refunds from Readercon and never return to that con.

The commenter feels this to be a bad thing.  I, on the other hand, think this is a wonderful development.  If you think you're not capable of going out in public without sexually harassing people, then by all means don't go out in public.  

And while we're at it, please let's stop letting the harassers hid behind the label of "social ineptitude."  I am socially intept (or at any rate not as socially ept as I might wish to be) and yet I've never been accused of sexual harassment.  Why?  Because I know better to touch anyone without their permission, I understand and respect the meaning of the word "no," and if I'm uncertain about the appropriateness of saying something, I think it over twice, even three times, and if I'm still in doubt err on the side of caution by not saying it.  Come on guys:  It's really not that difficult.
sense of wonder, SF
When I looked up the Hugo winners last night, I saw some things I wanted to win that did, and some things that I wanted to win that didn't - pretty much a typical result.  But I also saw some things that, unless I'm very much wrong, will lead into a great wailing and gnashing of teeth in one segment of fandom.  Best Fanzine was awarded to an online publication.  Best Fan Writer and Best Fan Artist went to people from outside of "traditional fanzine fandom."  At this point, I'm about ready to pull an Uncle Vernon and nail my mailbox shut.  Now don't get me wrong:  I love paper fanzines, and I love (some of) the people who produce them, but I am sick and tired of the way that some of them obstinately refuse to recognize that they are no longer the center of the fannish universe.  And it's not (entirely) an issue of quality of work - the best paper fanzine art and writing can stand alongside the best online writing, and the worst of each can and should be consigned to the dustbin of fannish history.  No, it's an issue of economics:  A fanzine produced in limited numbers (typically limited by the faned's finances) and for the most part distributed within the same shrinking circles will not - cannot! - have the same reach as a fanzine produced online and accessible to any fan with an internet connection.  Personally I think the development on online publishing a good thing - it's far more meritocratic (which I have always understood to be one of the ideals of fandom, if one honored more often in the breach) than the old system in which the reach of one's voice was limited by the depth of one's pockets, as well as being more science fictional, which is supposed to be why we're all here to begin with anyway (isn't it?).

But maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe the fanzine fans will accept the Hugo results with grace and good humor.  (collapses in a fit of hysterical laughter)

False choices and bad infographics

sense of wonder, SF
There's been an infographic going around with a pie graph comparing the cost of the Olympics with the cost of the Curiosity Mars mission.  Several people have made the case (correctly, IMO) that this should instead have been made as a bar graph to show the relative costs of the two events, as there is no "pie" that was to be divided between the Olympics and space exploration.  But I think people are missing the forest for the trees here:  Rather than pitting space exploration against the Olympics (as I think both are good things), let's compare them both to something else, say... the US military budget.  That bar graph would look like this:

To put it another way:  The US military budget for 2012 is about $550 billion, which works out to about $1.5 billion per day.  So the military spending for 1 day, 16 hours would be sufficient to fund the Curiosity mission, while the military spending for 10 days would be enough to fund the Olympics.  How's that for a question of priorities? 

sense of wonder, SF

I am so angry right now that I'm having trouble writing a coherent post.  Since anyone likely to read this is probably active in fandom to one degree or another, you've probably already heard about Genevieve Valentine being harrassed at Readercon.  If you haven't, go read about it now - I'll wait.  As you might imagine, this has caused all sort of an uproar within the fannish community.  (There's a roundup of links here.)  Given the volume of discussion going on, it was pretty much inevitable:  At some point, someone said "Maybe her harrasser is an Aspie and had trouble reading her social cues."  Nevermind that this individual is, by all accounts, a very socially adept individual.  Nevermind that Genevieve's social cues were as unambiguous as one can get (direct statements to leave her along and not to touch her, physical moving away from the harrasser, etc.).  There are apparently some people who'd rather risk baselessly slandering an entire group of people than entertain the possibility that one person knowingly behaved badly.  This idea has been shot down wherever it's come up - I'd particularly like to particularly thank rose_lemberg, redbird, and dharma_slut for speaking up against it - but I'm still furious that it even came up.

For those of you who don't know me, I am an Aspie.  As is my wife.  As are our 2 kids.  And none of us would do something like this.  None.  Of.  Us.  Just be sure I was accurate in saying this, I just talked to L., my 8-year-old son, who in addition to being the youngest of us is also the most profoundly autistic.  The conversation went like this:
Me:  Imagine you're at a party.  You're talking to a girl and you grab on to her arm.  She says "don't touch me," pulls her arm away from you, and goes to talk to somebody else.  What do you do?
L.:  I don't touch anyone else.
Me:  And what about the girl who told you not to touch her?
L.:  I tell her I'm sorry.
Me:  What if you try to tell her you're sorry and she says "Get away from me!  Don't talk to me!"  What do you do.
L.:  I get away from her and don't talk to her.  I know that.
Me:  Good job.  [gives him a hug]  Can you believe there are some adults who don't know that?
L.:  [incredulously]  Really?  Didn't anyone ever tell them?

So next time you hear about or see or experience someone being an asshole, be open to the idea that that person's just as asshole, rather than trying to excuse their behavior by giving them an ex post facto diagnosis that, even if correct, wouldn't excuse their behavior.  You see, when I'm with my kids and they misbehave, I have to ask myself if their behavior is:

  1. Because they're misbehaving like any kid will from time to time, in which case they need to be corrected, or
  2. Because they can't control their behavior because of their autism, in which case they need to be removed from the situation.

Note that "because they can't control their behavior because of their autism, in which case they should be allowed to continue to misbehave" is not an option.  I don't know to what extent my kids and I are "typical" Aspies, to the extent that such a thing even exists, but I think that, if anything, we'd actually be less likely than an "average" person to engage in the sort of behavior that Genevieve was exposed to because there are rules, dammit, and you follow the rules, and you'd be better off not talking to someone at all rather than risk breaking the rules.  (I missed talking to Robert Silverberg at a con once because I didn't know the "rules" for talking to a famous author.)

New end for Return of the Jedi?

sense of wonder, SF
I hope this is a fake, but when George Lucas is concerned you never feel safe making that call.

From here.

One. Day.

sense of wonder, SF
I'm reposting a great post by coppervale about the power we all have to be a force for good and for hope in the world.  Read this, and then go do what you can to help make the world excellent.  And as I've told friends and loved one who were going through particularly dark times:  You might think you have nothing to offer the world.  You might think that the world would be better off without you in it.  But you're wrong.  I would miss you.  And I'm sure I'm not the only one.  If all that you can offer the world at this point is your continued presence in it, that's enough. 

The remainder of this post is all coppervale's writing.  I'm turning off comments to this post because I want you to go comment at his post, or to repost this in your journal, or both.

Originally posted by coppervale at One. Day.

The great Will Eisner once did a comics story that took place over ten minutes, and ended with the line, "What's ten minutes in a man's life?"

It is, as it turned out in both the story and in many circumstances in the real world, very, very significant.

Yesterday, I offered a free ebook of DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS - A Meditation on Art, Destiny, and the Power of Choice, to everyone who chose to enter their name and address and click a download link. I stated as my goal that I would like to give away ONE THOUSAND books in twenty-four hours. And now, after just that ONE DAY, more than 1100 people have taken me up on my offer, and started reading the book that I consider to be the most meaningful thing I've ever written.

In just one day, people have already begun to tell me that this book is changing their lives - and I am humbled, and grateful. And now I would like to share the reason that I chose to do this.

My recent keynote address as the Guest of Honor at the LTUE Symposium at Utah Valley University brought the room to its feet for a long standing ovation, and for the rest of the day people shook my hands, and hugged me, and cried as they spoke, and thanked me for what I said in that presentation. It continued into the night at the restaurant where I ate, and at the signing, and then, at my hotel, via email. Some notes I got I was able to respond to in person the next day.

One note, I wasn't.

Emily Adams, my Book Babe and handler for the day, is the only one I shared this with at the time, because I was still processing it, and wasn't sure... I wasn't sure how to encompass all the emotion that I felt in reading this one particular letter.

Someone who may not even have been registered for the Symposium, but who was a fan, and nevertheless wanted to come, had attended the keynote.

They intended for that to be one of the last acts of their life.

One hour later, they changed their mind, because they believed I was speaking directly to them when I said, "I am here to say one of the most important things one human being can say to another - I believe in you. There is magic in the world, and I can show you where it is. And I will not let you fall."

The next morning, this person wrote me a note to thank me for being there, and for saying what I did - and to tell me they had informed friends and family of their circumstance, and now people knew, and they were going to a hospital to get some help.

And I cried, and bumped into walls while I got dressed, and then Emily and her hubby picked me up, and I went back to the Symposium, where I thought about the thousand different obstacles that had to be overcome for the Symposium to happen, and for me to attend, and for me to give that keynote address in that one hour, when that one person needed it more than anything.

Ten minutes. One hour. One day. They are significant measures of time when they contain something meaningful. I wanted to do something meaningful that lasted more than an hour, and reached more people than I could reach on my own, and so I called upon you, my Dragon Army, to help me - and together we helped start changing the lives of more than a thousand people in a single day.

I don't have anything more to say about what has already happened, except to note that it is YOU, each of you, who made this a magic and spectacular twenty-four hours: it is YOUR conviction that this book is meaningful that fired up people's imaginations, and got them to reach out for something they didn't realize they needed until they started to read. You did this. And knowing that, all I have left to say is a question, and a challenge...

You made something EXTRAORDINARY happen in just one day.

What can you do with a WEEK?

Show me.

I believe in you.

Here's the link. Pass it on - to EVERYONE.

Make today extraordinary

Your brother in moxie,


Ready to listen

sense of wonder, SF
As we rapidly approach the new year, I'm ramping up for an effort to make sure 2011 is a better year for me than 2010.  This post is part of that effort:  What can I do to improve?  Is there something you've wanted to tell me that good manners or concern for my feelings has stopped you from saying?  Is there something I do that makes you say "If only he would (or wouldn't) do X, his life would be so much better."?  Is there something I say (or have said) on my journal that you makes say "He's dead wrong about that, but it's not worth the time and energy to argue with him."  This is your chance to say all those things.

Anonymous commenting is enabled.  All comments are screened.  This is your chance to turn off the filter between your brain and your fingers and give it to me straight.  I can't guarantee that I'll follow your recommendations, but I'll at least consider them, and if it's related to something I do that bugs you, you'll probably feel better for having gotten it off your chest.

How many cons can say that?

sense of wonder, SF

The strain of norovirus which went around Wiscon in 2008 has been officially named after the con!  That's pretty awesome, in a morbid kind of way.

George, just go feed the pigeons!

sense of wonder, SF
I was thinking yesterday about George Lucas's latest go-round of re-doing the Star Wars movies.  And I thought "That man needs a hobby.  He needs something to fill his time so he's not constantly tempted to mess with those movies anymore.  Even if it's just going to the park and feeding the pigeons."

And then it hit me:  If we could get every Star Wars fan who doesn't want the films remade again to write in and make their wishes known, it probably wouldn't make a damn bit of difference.  (When has what anyone else thought ever made a difference to George Lucas.)  But it could be fun, and there's always that 1 in a million chance it will make a difference.

So here's the idea:  Mail a bag of breadcrumbs along with a note saying "George, just go feed the pigeons!  Leave Star Wars alone!  We don't want a 3D remake" (or words to that effect) to:

George Lucas
c/o/ Lucasfilm
P.O. Box 29901
San Francisco, CA 94129

Please share this far and wide - if I do this by myself, they'll just think I'm crazy and won't listen to me.  But if we all do, then it becomes a movement - the "George, Go Feed the Pigeons" movement!

May the Force be with you!

An experiment

sense of wonder, SF
A lot of people (myself included) are generally unable to ask for what they want, especially if what they want is emotional validation, so they go through all sorts of elaborate kabuki dances to try to passive-aggressively manipulate people into giving them what they want.  I'm thinking that that sort of thing can be avoided through direct, honest communication, so I'm going to give it a shot:

I could really use some emotional validation today.  If you like me and/or enjoy reading this journal, please say so in a comment to this post.  If you feel like elaborating further on exactly what makes you feel that way, that would be even better.

All comments to this post will be screened, so only I will see what you write, and I'm posting this publicly so that you can comment anonymously if you like.

ETA:  I will not be unscreening or replying to comments to this entry, but I want to thank you all.

An open letter to myself

sense of wonder, SF
This is a transcript of my inner monologue as I fixed my lunch today.  I'm posting it here in case any of you need to hear these things as well.

So, Yule has come and gone with no celebration other than saying "Happy Solstice!" to your family and reading a poem that one of your friends posted on Facebook.  And now it's only 2 days to Christmas.  You haven't baked any cookies.  You haven't made Chex mix.  The tree is - at best - half decorated.  None of the presents are wrapped yet.  You did manage to get the Christmas cards and packages for your extended family in the mail, though you're sure you missed someone you ought to have sent a card to and you have absolutely no idea if the presents will get there on time.

This is okay.

You aren't Martha Stewart.  Hell, Martha Stewart isn't even Martha Stewart - she has a vast media and corporate apparatus dedicated to projecting the illusion that she is.  There's a lot going on in your life, and only so much you to take care of it ("Hardly enough for regular days," to quote Ma Otter).  Adding on the extra demands of things that "must" be done for the holidays isn't going to make you magically capable of doing more; it's just going to make you feel miserable when you're not able to Do It All.  No matter what you do or don't do, Christmas will come just the same - without ribbons; without tags; without packages, boxes or bags.

So relax.  Take a deep breath.  The Christmas Police aren't going to come bust up your celebration because you're not "doing Christmas right."  Let yourself off the hook for all the things you've come to believe you "should" do, and enjoy spending time with your friends and family, however much (or little) time you've got to spend, and however many (or few) of them you get to see.
Courtesy of Shayne at No, Not You:
  1. Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.
  2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!
  3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!
  4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.
  5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!
  6. Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry, do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.
  7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.
  8. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.
  9. Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!
  10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident” you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.

And, ALWAYS REMEMBER: if you didn’t ask permission and then respect the answer the first time, you are committing a crime- no matter how “into it” others appear to be.

Really, people? I mean . . . really?

"In September, Public Policy Polling released the stunning results of a survey designed to measure extremism in the mainstream. Among other things, the poll found that 21% of Americans believe that Obama is the Antichrist or may be. Among Republicans, 34% believe the president is or may be the Antichrist, while 64% of that party's voters say he is not or may not be an American citizen." -- Mark Potok, "Gathering Storm", Intelligence Report (published by the Southern Poverty Law Center), Winter 2009, IFC.

21%? Twenty-one percent of Americans believe our president is or may be the Antichrist? I am appalled.

(If you take these statistics a step further and make the reasonable [I think] assumption that all of these people belong to the 78.4% of Americans who identify as Christian of some form or another [the Antichrist being a Christian theological concept], you're looking at something in the neighborhood of 26% of American Christians who believe this.)

Oct. 19th, 2009

sense of wonder, SF
Okay, folks - help me out here.  I'm sure you're tired of hearing about my application to the U.  Hell, my journal bores me right now, so you've all got my sympathy.  At any rate, worrying's not going to make the U give me an answer any faster; it'll just increase my chances of getting ulcers, which I've already got a family history of anyway.  So please, help me get my mind off my application:  Ask my a question, request a top 10 list, suggest a topic - anything to get me posting something that's not "still worried about my application for the U."

All comments will be screened, so feel free to say whatever you want.  I even made this a public entry so you can comment anonymously if you want.

Desert planet books

sense of wonder, SF
I'm making this one of my rare public posts, because I think this could be a lot of fun, and it will be more fun the more people we can get to participate.  Please feel free to spread the word about this in your journal, if you're so inclined.

Imagine you are going on a one-way colonization trip to another planet.  You are allowed to bring with you half a dozen books.  In order to attempt to ensure some variety in your colony's library, you and your fellow colonists agree that your books should be allocated to different areas as follows:
  1. Fiction, 20th-21st century.
  2. Fiction, 19th century.
  3. Fiction, pre-19th century.
  4. How-to/survival.
  5. Philosophy/religion.
  6. History
Assume that a resupply ship will arrive later carrying a complete library, but not within your lifetime.  You are thus relieved of the obligation of trying to preserve the "best" books, and can instead focus on the ones that will be most interesting/useful to you.Also, to ensure your ship stays within its weight limits, these must each be single books - no omnibus editions, no "collected works of".

Here's my list:
  1. Friday, Robert Heinlein
  2. Sylvie and Bruno, Lewis Carroll
  3. Le Morte d'Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory
  4. The Boy Scout Fieldbook, in a pre-1990 edition.
  5. Escher, Godel, and Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, Douglas R. Hofstadter.
  6. From Dawn to Decadence, Jacques Barzun
Imagine that I am one of your fellow colonists, as is anyone else who comments here.  Feel free to ask your fellow colonists why they chose their particular books, what their second choices are in any particular category, or any other questions you might want to ask.


Random House caves to Islamic extremists

sense of wonder, SF
Full story here.  Long story short, Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones, a historical novel about A'isha, Mohammad's child bride, was scheduled to be released on August 12.  Instead, Random House canceled because, in the words of Random House deputy publisher Thomas Perry,  they have received "cautionary advice not only that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment." (Jones' actual word for the novel's fate was "postpone[d]," but since he goes on to say that Jones is free to sell it to another publisher, that sounds quite a bit like "canceled" to me.)

After reading this story, I was furious.  I called Random House at 212-782-9000, used their employee directory to get Mr. Perry's extension (22027), and left a very calm, polite message in which I:
  • Expressed my dissappointment with Random House's actions.
  • Stated my intention to immediately buy a copy of Jewel of Medina from any other publisher that had the courage to publish this book.
  • Informed him that I was starting a personal boycott of Random House that would last either until August 12, 2009 (the one-year anniversary of Jewel of Medina's scheduled release date) or until they actually published the book.
If you agree with me, I urge you to do the same.

A tax on blackness?

sense of wonder, SF
Standing at the gas pump this morning, waiting for the gas tank to fill and my wallet to empty, I was passing the time by reading the ads on the front of the gas station store.  Amid the posters for fountain drinks, candy, and overcooked hot dogs, I noticed something that really bothered me.  They had signs up showing the prices for popular brands of cigarettes.  As the car's tank was particularly empty today, I had time to move beyond my first thought upon seeing these signs ("Cigarettes cost that much now?  I'm glad I quit when I did!") to notice something else:  Kool and Newport, brands of cigarettes typically favored by and marketed to African-Americans, were 30 cents a pack more than Marlboro and Camel, brands typically favored by and marketed to whites!


A chance to help

sense of wonder, SF
I know a lot of you already know Tom Smith (filkertom) and know what happened to him.  For those of you who don't, Tom is a professional filker.  He makes a living by traveling to SF cons, playing concerts of his music, and selling his CDs.  This is, as you might imagine, a rather precarious position financially - one wrong step and he's ruined.  Well, this past Saturday he took that "one wrong step" - he was getting onto a stage and severely ripped his quadriceps.  He's in the hospital right now, unable to move his right leg below the knee, waiting for doctors to reattach the muscle, after which he'll spend weeks to months in a wheelchair and doing rehab.  Filkers have pulled together to help in amazing ways:  Some people are taking his CDs to sell at the conventions he'll be missing, and a benefit CD is also being compiled.  If you'd like to help, you can make a donation at Tom's Virtual Open Guitar Case.  A. and I just made a donation (being, for a change, in a position to do so, even if only in a small amount) and I hope you'll find it in your hearts and your wallets to do the same.  


[Busycon] Closing ceremony

sense of wonder, SF
And so Busycon #1 draws to a close.  I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.  I don't know when or if I'll be doing this again.  If any of you want to run a Busycon, feel free to borrow the name - all I ask is that you let me know so I can keep the numbering straight.  If you have any suggestions for ways that Busycon could be improved (should I choose to run another one), or any ideas for additional activities that could be added to Busycon, please leave them in a comment here.  And in conclusion, I'd like to thank the ConCommittee, the Guests of Honor, and everyone who attended - without you, Busycon would not have been possible.


[Busycon] Panel: It's all been done before

sense of wonder, SF
Okay folks, here's our final panel of Busycon:  What science fiction, fantasy, or comic book clichés do you hope never to see again?

Here are my top picks:
  • Fantasy:  The farmboy (or girl) from out in the sticks who has a fabulous destiny.
  • Science fiction:  The Evil Corporation.
  • Comic books:  Any plot having anything to do with secret identities and the protection/revelation thereof.

Also, our filk GOH has provided us with some filk programming here.

[Busycon] Extreme planetology

sense of wonder, SF
SF writers have a history of creating planets that take one characteristic to an extreme, whether it be a planet with an extremely long year (Aldiss), or a planet that is all desert (Herbert), all swamp (Cherryh, Bear), or all forest (Foster).  Why are these "extreme planets" so popular?  Do you as a reader enjoy them, or do you groan inwardly when you discover that a story is set on an "extreme planet"?  Are there some particular "extreme planets" that have been done so well (or at least so popularly) that that particular "gimmick" can never be used again?  (i.e. after Dune, can there be another book set on an all-desert planet?)  And finally, what "extreme planets" would you like to see that (to your knowledge) have never been done?

Also, ebenbrooks is hosting a panel here to discuss the first batch of pictures from the Phoenix lander.


[Busycon] Panel: Fannish anthropology

sense of wonder, SF
Fandom likes to think of itself as one community with a worldwide shared culture, but that's really not the case.  As came up in yesterday's panel on the future of fanzines, even such a basic concept as "fanzine" can mean different things and entail radically different customs to different groups of fans.  And just as some customs and traditions are unique to different fannish subcultures, some are unique to fans in different geographical areas - I first became aware of this when I got involved in an APA consisting largely of California fen and they mentioned having a Regency Ball at a con as if it was the most natural thing in the world, whereas I'd never even heard of such a thing.

So here's your chance:  Tell us something about your part of fandom that others might not know, or that might be commonly misunderstood.  Or ask a question about some aspect of fandom that puzzles you.

Here's one question for starters:  I've noticed that West Coast filk is vastly different from Minneapolis filk.  What other different subgenres of filk are there, and how did they come to be?

[Busycon] Panel: Trek vs. Wars

sense of wonder, SF
Welcome back to the second day of Busycon!  (WTF is Busycon?)  I was thrilled to see so many people come out last night for the Masquerade, and I'm hoping we can get even more people involved today.  My plan for today is four panels, roughly every two hours, with the closing ceremonies at 5:00 PM my time.

Let's get today started with a bang by bringing back another classic panel topic:  Star Trek vs. Star Wars:  Which is better and why?

[Busycon] Additional programming

sense of wonder, SF
I've just had time to check my flist and see that there's Busycon programming going on elsewhere! 

pgdudda and ebenbrooks have started discussions of the Phoenix landing here and here.

Also, pgdudda has started a discussion of travel for fannish events here.


[Busycon] Masquerade

sense of wonder, SF
Okay folks, it's Masqurade time!  Let's see those costumes!

[Busycon] Dinner break

sense of wonder, SF
We're going to have a short break in programming for dinner, to be followed in about two hours by the Masquerade.  So while you're eating your dinner, consider your costume for the Masquerade.  It can be anything you want, real or imagined, possible or impossible, in any media you want (Photoshop, drawing, photo of you an in actual costume, text description, sculpture, whatever!).


[Busycon] Panel: W(h)ither the fanzine?

sense of wonder, SF
Here it is:  The traditional panel on the future of the fanzine.  (Come on - did you really think you were going to get through the con without one?)  Is the traditional fanzine dead and fanzine fans in denial?  Or will fanzines continue alongside blogs, webpages, podcasts, and other forms of fanac that haven't even been created yet?  And what technologies and trends will most affect the future of fanzines?

Here are my thoughts on the subject (numbered for easy reference, but in no particular order):
  1. Fanzines are alive and will survive.  The episodic nature of fanzines provides a different sort of experience from blogs or webpages that many fans find appealing.
  2. Increased postal costs will drive many more faneds to resort to online distribution of their zines (either through the central clearinghouse model or with e-mail notification of availability of new downloads at their personal website such as R-Laurraine Tutihasi does with Feline Mewsings).
  3. Photocopiers, as convenient as they are, are not conducive to large print runs, as they can't get anywhere near the per-copy costs of copyprinters or mimeographs.  Inkjet is even less efficient for this purpose.  Laser printers are a good compromise between the cost advantages of mimeo and the convenience of photocopy.
  4. Given the costs of printing and postage today, I think the surviving paper fanzines will continue their migration to FAPA and other APAs, which have the advantages of simultaneously limiting copy count and streamlining postage.

[Busycon] Panel: Engineering the Future

sense of wonder, SF
Even more than science, what really strikes me about a lot of early hard SF is the engineering.  There was a sort of feeling that the things being described in the stories could actually be built, given time, and that the authors themselves could do it.  I'm not often finding that feeling in current SF - while the science today often better than the science of yore, I not really feeling the "nuts-and-bolts" of the technology.  Am I just reading the wrong authors?  (If so, who should I be reading?)  Or has the focus of the genre just shifted?


[Busycon] Guest list

sense of wonder, SF
It just occurred to me that no con worth its salt, even a virtual one, should be without a guest list.  Therefore, the first published professional (any paid publication, however small, will qualify you for this) who comments to this entry will be named the Busycon #1 GOH.  I also need nominees for Filk GOH and Artist GOH.  I am hereby appointing myself Fan GOH (because if you can't be Fan GOH at a virtual convention run in your own LiveJournal then things are seriously wrong in the world).  If you want to invent another category of GOH, however silly, and nominate yourself or another Busycon attendee for it, be my guest:  We've got plenty of egoboo to go around.

GOH:  orangemike
ARTIST GOH  pgdudda:
FILK GOH:  ebenbrooks
FAN GOH:  brithistorian
MEDIA GOH:  barondave
TAPIR GOH:  timprov
COSPLAY GOH:  xenaclone

ETA:  Since our GOH is a professional in the field of nonfiction, I've added an additional field for "Fiction Author GOH."

[Busycon] Panel: Irrational favorites

sense of wonder, SF
If you've been reading my LJ for any length of time, you're probably aware that I have an enduring fondness for Robert Heinlein's Friday that is entirely out of proportion to any literary merits the book may or may not have, and is completely unshakable even in the face of the strongest criticism.  How about you:  What books, movies, TV shows, etc., do you love unconditionally even in the face of their flaws, faults, or obscurity (deserved or otherwise)?

[Busycon] Opening Ceremonies

sense of wonder, SF
It seems like the vast majority of my FL are at cons this weekend, either Wiscon or Baycon or some other local con.  While I don't feel bad enough about not being able to go to designate this a Bittercon (as seems to be the tradition for this sorts of situation), the situation has been brought even more acutely to my attention by the fact that I had to go back to work today and will be working again tomorrow.  And so I'm declaring today and tomorrow to be Busycon #1 and making a rare series of public posts to commemorate the event.  Panels will appear from time to time as I think of topics, there will be a masquerade tonight (to get your graphics programs ready to create your virtual costumes or, barring that, get ready to describe yourself in your virtual costume).  If you want to organize a Busycon activity of your own, post it in your LJ with the [Busycon] identifier in the subject and (if you like) comment about it here so I can pimp it out.  Come on, left-behinders!  We don't need them, we can make our own fun!


gay rights
Why May 17?  May 17, 1990, was the day that the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from their list of mental disorders.  (A mere 17 years after the American Psychiatric Association removed it from the DSM-III.)  This was a major step, but there's still a lot of work to do.

How bad is the problem?  Out of 192 member states in the UN, 75 still list homosexuality as a crime.  And even in the countries where it's not illegal there's still massive social and institutional prejudice out there.

Want to learn more?  Go to the IDAHO website.  They've got lots of news articles, interviews with activists, and links to IDAHO activities in a number of different countries around the world.

Reading Log

sense of wonder, SF
17.  Elizabeth Bear (matociquala), Undertow

If you like your science fiction hard, but not so hard as to have completely crushed the sense of wonder, this is the book for you.  Bear mixes magic (in the Clarke-ian "any sufficienctly advanced technology" sense) with technology, creating a story worth of Heinlein in a setting reminiscent of Cherryh with a climax of the sort that Neil Stephenson wishes he could write.  If you haven't read this yet, you really really need to.

And Bear, if you're reading this, I hope your not offended that in my imagination the ranids looked like Gollum from the Rankin-Bass Hobbit/Return of the King.  :-)

Failed that final saving throw...

sense of wonder, SF
I just got the news that Gary Gygax has died.  Without Dungeons & Dragons (and the multiple other role-playing games spawned from it), I doubt my teenage years would have been anywhere near as pleasurable at the were - to a young man growing up in a small town in Mississippi, the name of Gygax was right up there with those of Roddenberry, Heinlein, and Asimov - a mythical, almost superhuman personage whose flights of imagination helped lift me beyond the boredom of my surroundings.  They're all gone now, and while I never got to meet any of them, I'm sure they heard from enough of their fans that they know my case in general, even if they lacked the specifics.  He will be missed.

So Gary, this one's for you:  *Rolls D20*  4!  Damn!  ;-)

It's Oscar night...

sense of wonder, SF
Which means it's time for my annual Oscar night tradition:  Reading britgeekgrrl's liveblogging of the event.  The first post is here, and at present she's up to post 14.  A summary of the show (without commercials!), fashion commentary by someone who knows what they're talking about (with as many pictures as she can manage to find), and a healthy dose of snarkiness when it's called for.  What more could you ask for?


sense of wonder, SF
I'm surprised this hasn't been all over my FL already:  Terry Pratchett has early-onset Alzheimer's.  I know no one ever promised that the universe would be fair, but this strikes me as particularly unfair.

ETA:  Never mind.  It apparent was all over my FL a couple of months ago and I just managed to miss it somehow.  Still, l'm leaving this post up, in case someone else had managed to miss it as well.



sense of wonder, SF

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