Friday, May 27, 2005

The Story That Wouldn't End

I asked Elvira what she wanted for Christmas last year and she told me, "A gothic fairy tale, with pictures." Dutifully, I started writing what I intended to be a ten page short story with a couple doodles. Something about an immortal king and a servant girl who was infinitely put upon by his idiot descendents. Then Grad School got in the way and with one thing and another, it became a birthday present, scheduled for completion by early this coming July.

Seven months and Seventeen thousand words later, I'm almost done with the story, though it's looking like it'll be about 75 pages and will have 9 full page illustrations (a small version of one of which appears to the left). I still have 2 (or maybe 4) scenes left to write and five illustrations left to draw (matters were only made all the more interesting by my birthday presnt a week ago. Elvira and my folks got me a digital tablet that has made drawing on the computer easier, which means their's no excuse for simple, scanned in drawings anymore, but fully rendered illustrations).

Initially, I will be making a handful of self published (and hand bound) books but fully intend to post it on an adjacent page, complete with pictures, sometime in mid July.

Alternately, if there's interest, perhaps I'll send it off to a publisher. We'll see.

Update: 1/30/06

Six Eight months later. The book is written (92 pages, or 30k words). Most of the illustrations are done. The move, the new job, the hiatus and the holidays all slowed me down. But the final product should be done... soon. Like, two, three weeks, tops.

Lucy Blogging

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Moore's Vendetta

There have been a number of movies adapted from comics in the past few years. Spiderman and the X-Men films have shown that at least some of the time, Marvel knows what they're doing (the rest of the time, they're making Punisher, Daredevil and a TV movie of Manthing). But ever since DC handed Batman over to Joel Shomaker, it's as if the Men in Suits at Time Warner have lost their collective minds. Such horrors as Constantine and League of Extraordinary Gentleman (and From Hell, which works as a movie but pales in comparison to the source material) are not so much a failure to adapt Alan Moore's source material as a colossal failure to know when you have a good story on your hands and instead, deciding to hollow out it's soul and dance around the theater in its skin. It's grotesque.

Moore, for his part, has attempted to keep these mockeries of his work at arms length, but after some shady deals with DC, he's come out swinging:

Moore felt that enough was enough and decided that if something was worth reacting to, "it was worth overreacting to." He stated "I'd have nothing to do with films anymore. If I owned the sole copyright, like with 'Voice Of The Fire,' there would not be a film. Anything else, where others owned copyrights, I'd insist on taking my name off future films. All of the money due to me would go to the artists involved. I'd divorce myself from the film process, the film industry and any adaptations. And I felt a sense of moral satisfaction."

...Earlier in the year, Moore received a call from "V For Vendetta" writer/producer and "Matrix" director Larry Wachowski, but told him politely, "I didn't want anything to do with films and had no time this year, being in the middle of work, my day job, writing, I wasn't interested in Hollywood."

Shortly afterwards, Alan Moore was made aware of a press release sent out covering a press conference producer Joel Silver and the cast had held.

In this press release, Joel Silver, as well as announcing that the release date November the 5th 2005 was the 100th anniversary of Guy Fawkes attempt on Parliament, instead of the 400th anniversary, also said of Alan, "he was very excited about what Larry had to say and Larry sent the script, so we hope to see him sometime before we're in the UK. We'd just like him to know what we're doing and to be involved in what we're trying to do together"

Alan felt, basically, that his name was being used in vain. Not only had he expressed the opposite to Larry, but his endorsement was being used as a selling point for a movie - the reason he'd requested his credit and association be dropped from all of these movies.
The Comic Book Resource article has a sidebar, detailing some of the heinous details either omitted or added to V for Vendetta. It's a shame no one seems capable of adapting Alan Moore to the screen without feeling compelled to meddle with the details. But at least we still can read and enjoy some of the greatest graphic novels, ever.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Towards a Geek Enlightenment

My little Star Wars rant ran long and some may find a hint of desperation in the tone. With the Star Wars movies done at last and no new Star Trek series/ movie on the horizon, there's been talk of a void in the world of geekdom. Some are concerned we've lost our guiding light and that geeks like me are flailing because the sagas of our childhood have finally come to a close. Luckily, our young Prince of geek, Wil Wheaton sets things straight:
I actually think it's the beginning of a new golden era for geeks: technology is putting massive computing power in our hands, we're never more and a few hundred feet from the internets, we've got our own network (sci-fi channel) and the big summer blockbusters are all inspired by comic book movies. HHG comes out this year, it looks like Peter Jackson is going to do The Hobbit, there's talk about a movie based on The Watchmen in 2006, and there's a Firefly movie due out as well. Don't overlook Sin City, or Hellboy, and don't forget the new Battlestar Galactica! (Ron Moore is even connecting with geeks using the unprecedented medium of podcasting commentaries *for free* on all the new episodes, as well as communicating directly with the show's fans via his blog.)
That tone in my previous rant was not desperation, but frustration. Contrary to popular opinion, Star Wars and Star Trek were never the twin suns lighting our imagination. Mostly, they were just a plateau where we got comfortable and set up a base camp. We stayed too long and forgot that we were supposed to keep on climbing the next day. Well, now that Lucas has struck camp and Rodenburry's ghost has finally been set free, we can set out once more to see if we can't find our Geek Shangri La.

Sure, we'll all miss Kirk and Luke and Han. But their descendents are already with us and they are brighter, faster and smarter than their forefathers.

The Bronze age of Sci-fi is over. Let the Enlightenment begin!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Wookie Talk

Years from now, Sociologists may be able to explain why my wife and I spent a perfectly good Saturday afternoon standing in line to see Revenge of the Sith.

Going into the theater, I was expecting to be disappointed. After all, no one in their right mind would expect Lucas to pull himself out of the pool of money he's been wallowing in for the last twenty five years and actually make a decent film, rather than another self indulgent special effects vehicle. I had a glimmer of hope that the movie would at least be watchable. Most of the reviews I had read before hand had said it wasn't as bad as the previous two episodes. Perhaps that was just the nostalgia of those particular reviewers clouding their judgement. Or maybe Lucas got to them with his Jedi mindfuck. But these people have genuinely misinformed the public and should apologise.

Sith is a bloated, twenty-three car pile up on the side of the motion picture superhighway. It's cinema carnage, like someone ran over a bus full of Wookies. Special effects litter the side of the road for miles. Luckily, Natalie Portman, Ewan Mcgregor and Samuel Jackson walked away from the crash with just a few cuts and bruises, but Hayden Christianson wasn't so lucky. It'll take years of traction, and probably acting lessons to salvage his career.

Not one moment of this film makes a lick of sense. The story is little more than a kludge designed to superglue lightsaber battles onto explosions. We've grown accustomed to Lucas inability to write dialogue that passes as genuine human speech, but he seams to have had the last shred of his ability to write convincing characters surgically removed. Not that you'll realise it until about thirty minutes after you leave the theater. It takes about that long for the buzz of spectacle to wear off. Your mind is bombarded from the first frame by impressive imagry, all of which means little. Interspersed between explosions are minute and a half scenes of actors explaining what they just did or what they will do next. Or awkwardly professing their love, in the manner of Vulcan preteens who are putting on a show illustrating this thing humans call love. You'll spend the rest of the night trying to figure out what just happened durring the last two and half hours, which can be fun, if you've just seen a film by David Lynch, or any director and writer who is smart enough and trusts their audience enough to let nnuance and ambiguity play their part. Half the fun of going to movies is having some intangible subtext to chew on for a while, even if it's just the drive home. And for Sci-fi movies, it's a prerequisite.

But there is no nnuance in RotS. It's like he saw the Passion and said, "Mel Gibson's a genius! I'll just beat my aaudience senseless with the point, pound every moment I want to emphasize roughly into their skulls and then blink some lights! They'll walk out of the theater dazed, and with a headache! I'll make millions!"

This is the movie that all those skeptics were talking about a few years ago when the first wave of digital movies came about. They were concerned that story, characterization and ambiguity would be thrown out in favor of whizbang and cartoon nonsense. Now, if Lucas had made this movie circa 1995, he might have been hailed, once again, as a technical innovator and we would have overlooked the fact that the story is garbled nonsense because at least he was pushing the boundary of what the medium of film could be. But instead, he made this movie in 2005. After Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, there's no excuse for digital sets that look flat and restrict the actors to a small space in which to move. After Lord of the Rings, there's no excuse for digital characters to be hollow. Golum has not just weight but gravitas. You feel for him as a character because Andy Serkis and WETA went the extra mile to make him not just look cool, but to emote like a human actor. Yoda never feels like he's really there. Frankly, I would have preferred the puppet. In fact, I would have loved to have seen puppets-as-aliens all over the place. Jim Henson'sCo. did it for Hichhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, George, why can't you? You have Frank Oz, possibly the world's greatest living puppeteer sitting in a sound booth, talking like Grover instead of crawling around under the set like a madman. The technology and know how is there, Lucas simply refused to use it. Instead of building on what other people had done, he reinvented the wheel, only he made his square, so it'd be different than everyone else's

In the end, that's all this movie, and all the Star Wars movies are about: techno-cool stuff. George Lucas should have made a video game and let other people make the movies. Instead, in his attempt to tell, "The rest of the story", he strangled all the drama out of the existing films.

Do you remember where we first see the Death Star, in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, when Han Solo mistakes it for a moon? It's a wild and disorienting moment, filled with awe and surprise. And it's mmeaningless now, because we see the Death Star being built outside the window of a star destroyer at the end of Sith.

Jabba the Hutt used to be this mysterious name dropped once or twice in the first two movies. Who was this gangster that was so bad, Han had to abandon the rebellion, just to pay him back? Then, in Jedi when the curtain opens and we discover that he's a giant slug! Well, in the special Editions, Jaba slithers into a scene in the first movie, to haggle with Han like a common criminal. And Greedo shoots first? What?

Then there's the moment. I don't even have to describe it, because it's one of the most startling revelations in all of film: when Vader tells Luke who his father is. Except, if you watch the movies in numerical order, the moment is deflated. You already know Luke's father is the whiney, spoiled Jedi kid who pisses all over three films.

With the ccompletion of this movie, Lucas has revealed the final shocking piece of the picture, and chronicled the rise and fall of the spoiled little Jedi who got everything he wanted and it still wasn't enough to make him happy. Not exactly Joseph Campbell material, more like B-list Mother Goose.

And of course, it's our fault. The fans made him what he is today: a geek with too much money and not enough friends to tell him when he's wasting his time. We were too busy dreaming in the good parts of the story to realise Yoda wasn't a sage, but a puppet selling us sci-fi fetish with no soul.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Wikipedia, Again

About two weeks ago I wrote about Paul Boutin's critique of Wikipedia at Slate, in which he criticizes Wikipedia for not working at the same level as Encarta, or other web based encylopedias.* As Bryan pointed out in comments, Microsoft owns Encarta. I suggested that they also own Slate. Well, this morning, I received an e-mail from the author:

Hi Keith,

I enjoy a good open-source rant as much as the next guy, but Slate is
owned by The Washington Post Company.


I responded thusly:


Thanks for the fact check. Though, you can understand my confusion, seeing as how MSN is all over the site, including in the URL. And while the Washington Post Co. owns Slate (and apparently offers some of their stellar advice when it comes to editorial decisions), Bill Gates is obviously paying the bills in the form of heavy advertising. Perhaps if Slate (and the Washington Post) didn't let commercial interest supersede their facts, I and others would be more inclined to trust their respective content.


I'm always happy to correct a few facts, especially my own.

But as I mentioned in the E-mail, the layout of Slate's site gives one the impression that MSN at the very least underwrites the efforts of its staff. While it is now obvious to me that this is not the case, there is still what I would characterize as a conflict of interest. Normally, we don't think twice about an editorial piece that just happens to dovetail nicely with the desires of a major advertiser of a news website. That's just business as usual and not really new. But in this instance, the criticism of Wikipedia's editorial system was unfounded. Also, Mr. Boutin had several of his facts wrong, facts that were easily verified simply be checking Wikipedia's own stats. Such mischaracterization, if unchecked, can go a long way towards damaging the reputation of a very useful resource, be it Wikipedia or the Encyclopedia Britannica. I don't think Mr. Boutin did so maliciously. I may be cynical, but I'm not that cynical. When someone in the media wishes to trash something of unverified merit, they don't go about it half assed. If Slate or WaPo wanted to rip Wikipedia a new one, they would have done so in purple prose and at length, using the methods perfected by such great newsmen like William Randolph Hurst.

Now, I'm not saying Slate is by any means, the tool of a nefarious billionaire with shady business practices. Nor am I suggesting that they bite the hand that feeds them. All I ask, is that their writers check their facts and their editors double check them.

And while I'm at it, I'd also like a pony.

* Which it isn't. Wikipedia is far more useful than Encarta and other web-based encyclopedias, for reasons I mentioned previously, and in a case study I recently completed for my master's work. If anyone would like to read this case study, which is riveting stuff, send me an e-mail. I'll gladly attach a PDF copy.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A Question for the Poobah of the Internets

I'm filling out applications and what I'm wondering is, do I put the Blog on my resume? Some of the jobs I'm applying for want web experience. Besides the College Website that I've been maintaining for the last year and a half, I've been fiddling with this site for over two years now. Should I include it on my resume or not? Would it be a liability or a bonus?

Friday, May 13, 2005

Mystery Cat Blogging

So, last night, I'm sitting on the couch watching TV while Elvira is fixing dinner. Our couch is just below the window in the living room, by which I mean, the whole front wall. Our building is circa 1951, and the windows go from about three feet from the floor all the way up and as wide as the whole room. That wall is nothing but window. Unfortunately, these windows don't really open. They have little cranks in the corners that are supposed to let you ratchet open four panes in each corner but none of them have worked as long as we've lived in the apartment.

So, I'm being lazy, watching Gormenghast when something thumps against the window. It's dusk, and hard to make out what it is. Sometimes pigeons land on the narrow ledge outside the window flap against the glass and fly off. But this is no pigeon. It's a cat. On the ledge.

Now, when I say the ledge outside the window is narrow, I mean narrow. Two inches wide, tops. But here's this little cat, balancing against the side of the building, three stories up. Elvira and I scramble to raise the blinds, and pop open the window as best we can. I'm frantic, because if there's one thing I cannot abide, it's animals getting hurt. I hate stories about people who are cruel to animals or let bad things happen to pets because of negligence. I'm ready to take a hammer to this window if I have to but luckily, all it takes is the butt of my hand to pop it open.

The cat comes inside, looks around and proceeds to make herself at home (as witnessed by the picture). Judging by her size, she can't be more than a year and a half old. And she's very friendly. However, Lucy does not play well with others. She ends up in the other room for the rest of the night and, as I write this, is still cordoned off in the hallway by the bathroom. I feel bad but it's either that or a cat fight.

We took a picture of Mystery Cat and while Elvira went down the hall, knocking on doors to see if someone was missing a pet, I went outside to look at the building and see if I can find an open window. There it was. Right next door. Which makes sense, because, given the size of the ledge, it's not like this cat sauntered around any corners. Neither did she fall from the sky, or a higher floor. We wrote a little note explaining where the cat was and left it taped to our neighbor's door.

As of writing this, the cat is still at our place. Our neighbor was out quite late ( I know because we went out to a club and didn't get back to 1 AM and the note was still on their door). Hopefully, they'll get their lazy ass up soon and come get their cat. And fix that window.

Update: 10:00 AM-- I just knocked on our neighbor's door to see if perhaps they might be interested in having their cat back. I was greeted only by the sound of scratching and meowing from the other side of the door. There's at least one other cat in that apartment, which kinda sucks, since these apartments are small (and ours is getting smaller by the minute). They have until noon. Then I talk to the Building manager.

Update 2:00 PM-- After knocking on the neighbor's door at noon, half past and finally quarter after 1, we were finally able to return the Mystery Cat, whose name is Bella. Lucy is very happy to have her apartment back.

The Very First Friday the 13th

The Knights Templar were an unusual order in that they were not merely knights but monks as well. Founded by Hugh de Paynes in 1118 as a charitable order, the Knights took up residence in the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem and dedicated themselves to protecting pilgrims who ventured to the Holy land during the Crusades. They became wealthy, which made them envied and branched out into the money lending business, which made them powerful, so much so that Pope innocent II granted them immunity from excommunication. But with power comes politics. When they started to build their own castles in Europe and cart around their treasure in a private fleet of ships, to and from secret ports, they became more than envied by the kings of Europe. They became feared. Especially by King Philip "The Fair" of France.

On Friday the 13th 1307, 123 members of the Knights of the Temple of Solomon, including Grand master, Jacque de Molay, were arrested and subjected to torture until they confessed to a number of crimes. These included: blasphemy, black magic, homosexuality, heresy, spitting on the crucifix and idolatry, specifically, worshipping a severed head.

Some theories suggest that the head was ornamental, either brass or wood, either with two faces or just one, maybe female, maybe male, possibly with four legs. Other stories suggest that the head was none other than that of John the Baptist and, if the stars were right, would speak in an oracular voice, predicting events cosmic and miniscule. Still others suggested that it was not a head at all, that this particular story was merely Inquisitor's mythologizing, that in fact the Templars had worshipped a small black doll that was an idol of a devil named Baphomet.*

In 1314 Jacque de Molay renounced his confession, declaring that the various charges were erroneous and extracted under duress of torture, especially the charges of Black magic. For his honesty, he was burned at the stake and the Order of the Knights Templar were disbanded. From the stake, as the flames licked his boots, Jacque de Molay cursed the Pope and the King of France, inviting them to join him in death within the year. Pope Clement V died one month later and King Philip IV, seven months after that.

Most historians regard the allegations of Satanism and idolatry as trumped up charges by a jealous royalty in order to seize the wealth of the Templars. Very few have anything to say on the happenstance of the predicted deaths of the Pope and king of France, other than vague allusions and nervous jokes.

* Baphomet may actually be a name for Sophia, used in the Atbash Cipher. Sophia, in Gnosticism, is the Godess of Wisdom, often seen as the female counterpart to either God or the companion of Christ.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

To Be Reviewed, Forthwith

For about two years now, I've been wanting to read City of Saints and Madmen, by Jeff VanderMeer. Normally, I would just go to Amazon (or the above linked publisher) and try to find the earliest hardback edition, and dig in. The problem is, their are several editions, some out of print, others almost so, all with different amounts of material between the covers. See, the book is a collection of interrelated short stories and novellas, to which the author keeps adding new stories. Which is great but hard for me to get ahold of when there's no definitive edition. Well, back in March, on his blog, Mr. VanderMeer announced that Tor had just released what he assured us in comments was the definitive edition. In the UK. It won't be out here in the US until Spring '06. So, I had resigned myself to having to wait a whole nother year to read what, by now has been blown up in my imagination as a compelling mystery. Who are the gray caps? What's the deal with that squid?

Then, about two weeks ago, Mr. VanderMeer posted on his blog a link to the website of Clair Weaver, who is handling publicity of the UK release of the book. I followed the link, more out of curiosity to see what a publicists website would look like than anything, and was surprised to find, at the bottom of the page, an email link that said in quiet, understated British fashion, that if we'd like to receive a review copy of the book, just send her an email. So I did.

I said that I was a librarian who reviewed books on his blog and often made unsolicited recommendations to passing strangers, who often ran away, glancing nervously over their shoulder at the strange man dressed all in black throwing books at them. Or something to that effect.

I figured, at worst, I'd be ignored as just some schmuck with a blog. At best, I'd receive a free copy of a much desired book, and from the UK, no less. I received a n email message the following day, thanking me for my interest and letting me know that the book would be mailed out to me shortly. In fact, in arrived here in Savannah the day before I did.

And now that I'm done with Grad School, I have the time to sit back and read a lengthy volume of strange, interrelated stories and write a review about it here. Watch this space.

Finally, the One True Religion

"Scientology is rooted in strict scientific principles, such as the measurement of engrams in the brain by the E-Meter," Kurz said. "Scientology uses strictly scientific methodologies to undo the damage done 75 million years ago by the Galactic Confederation's evil warlord Xenu—we offer our preclear followers procedures to erase overts in the reactive mind. Conversely, Fictionology is essentially just a bunch of make-believe nonsense."

Hollywood actor David McSavage, who converted to Fictionology last year, attempted to explain.

"Scientology can only offer data, such as how an Operating Thetan can control matter, energy, space, and time with pure thought alone," McSavage said. "But truly spiritual people don't care about data, especially those seeking an escape from very real physical, mental, or emotional problems."


Return to Ithaca

After traveling the world, fighting monsters, saving damsels, drinking rough men under the table, defying the very Gods themselves (and gaining a Masters Degree in Library Science in the process), I have returned home at last.

I'll probably write more about Grad School when I have sufficient distance between it and me but for now, I'll say simply that I learned much, forgot some and have become a better and more knowledgeable person because of the experience. And I'm never leaving my wife for this long, again.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


I'm on the road to Georgia. Be back Thursday.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Pissing On Wikipedia from a Great Height

Is Wikipedia the real Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? Paul Boutin at Slate seems to think so:

The parallels between The Hitchhiker's Guide (as found in Adams' original BBC radio series and novels) and Wikipedia are so striking, it's a wonder that the author's rabid fans don't think he invented time travel. Since its editor was perennially out to lunch, the Guide was amended "by any passing stranger who happened to wander into the empty offices on an afternoon and saw something worth doing." This anonymous group effort ends up outselling Encyclopedia Galactica even though "it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate."

It's a humorous idea, I admit. It's also wildly inacurate. I've just recently finished a comprehensive case study of Wikipedia and while it's not perfect and does have some holes, I can't really get behind a criticism made by an author who doesn't even know how big Wikipedia really is. Boutin says, "Wikipedia, with more than 1 million entries in at least 10 languages, is the mother of all wikis..." That sounds sort of impressive. However, Wikipedia actually contains 1.5 million articles (over 540,000 in English) and is available in 195 languages, 92 of which are actively edited. I know these well guarded secrets because I spent two minutes looking for them. But Boutin's criticism doesn't end with just inaccurate facts that even hasty research could correct. He follows these up with gross generalizations of Wikipedia's collaborators:

Don't expect Wikipedia to change your life, though, unless you've secretly longed to be an encyclopedia editor. Just because you give everyone read and write permissions doesn't mean everyone will use them. Wiki lovers argue that they are collaborative, self-correcting, living documents that evolve to hold the sum of all the knowledge of their users. But, like blogging, editing the Net's encyclopedia appeals to a small, enthusiastic demographic.

There are over 6000 active Wikipedians, all over the world. They are computer programmers, yes. Nerds, of course. But they are also librarians, painters, writers, and teachers. And while 6000 is small compared to the the population of the Internet, they far outnumber the dozen or so specialists who compile the Encyclopedia Britanica. But these are professional nerds, rather than merely enthusiastic amateurs, so we must respect their slow, and highly specialized knowledge base, which does not begin to take in the breadth or depth of human knowledge. Otherwise, we all might contribute to our own information gathering and learn how to do research ourselves. And where would that get us?

As Steve Eley said on a recent thread over at Making light: "If the Internet had cars and motorcycles a la Snow Crash, mine might have a bumper sticker which reads "IT TAKES EXACTLY AS LONG TO EDIT WIKIPEDIA AS IT DOES TO COMPLAIN ABOUT IT ELSEWHERE."

Or you could get paid by Microsoft to piss on it because it isn't up to your rigourously inaccurate standards. Your choice.

Friday Meta + Cat

The end of Grad School is in sight. My work is done and now, all I have to do is pack up for the drive home to Savannah. When I came to Baltimore, I had three suitcases, a small filing cabinet and a box of books. I'm going home with at least three times that many books and who knows what else. Packing should be fun.

So, posting may be intermittent but when is it not? Once I'm home and settled a bit, I should have the first chapter of my novel ready to post, plus one or two changes around the blog. And oh yeah, the job search continues... Ain't being a grown up fun?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

#9 and #10

I'm running a bit behind on my goal of reading 50 books in a year. It's already May and I'm just now hitting #10. (#9 was The Princess Bride, which I wrote about here).

#10 is Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow.

It's been a long time since I've read a whole novel strait through in a day. Hell, it's been a long time since I could devote so much time for such a hedonistic task. But I'm glad I managed to spare the hours because it was well worth it.

I'll have it known now, I officially want to live in the Bitchun Society. No work, except the kind that I find gratifying (writing, both fiction and this Blog), a cure for death and the ability to be transhuman and travel the stars... that's the sort of thing I've always wanted to do. I think I've got enough Whuffie saved up to at least afford a slimmer waistline. Combined with my wife's, we could spend the next thousand years, travelling the world and out er space, and just living. Maybe we'd even get down to Disney World and check out the Haunted Mansion.

It's fascinating how caught up you can get in the intrigues and politics surrounding ad-hoc groups of devoted Disneyphiles who live in the Magic Kingdom and lie, kill and scheme to see who can make the better amusement park ride. Mr. Doctorow, of Boing Boing fame, has written a fine little meditation on the nature of identity, culture and the role of fun in the grand scheme of things. It's Speculative Fiction at its best, taking big ideas and playing them out in inventive, what-if scenarios that poke fun at our human weaknesses while also showing us what a future might be like without war, famine, death or scarcity, where the only pursuits worth chasing are the ones that improve everyone else's lot in life, thereby improving your own.

It also answers a nagging question I've had concerning Utopian future worlds: If nothing is scarce, and there's no need for money, what do they use as an economic system? Star Trek is probably the worst offender in this realm, skipping over just how an economy based solely on credit would work. What sort of incentives would one have for putting forth the effort and labor required to build a faster than light spaceship? Who decides who gets to decide these things? Cory Doctorow offers us an idea of how a post-scarcity economy would work: on reputation. It's simplicity is really the genius part of it. You win Whuffie by doing things others like: writing symphonies, making art, or maintaining the happiest Place on Earth. You loos it by pissing off people and since everyone is networked and can ping your Whuffie rating, everyone knows whether you're a schmuck or a superstar. No more politicians or laws or coercion to do distasteful things for reasons no one understands. You do things that are nice for your friends and don't hurt others. A society based solely on the Golden Rule. If only...

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Monster With Darwin-Shaped Teeth

Frank Perretti has a new book about that most evil and satanic of monsters, Sasquatch:

"My goal is to make them think about evolution," he said. "Evolution as a philosophy makes monsters out of all us. It removes all that makes us human - morals, virtue, love, honor, self-sacrifice. All those become illusory. I'm trying to raise some questions. Who is the real monster here?

That would be you, Frank. You and all the other ant-evolutionist writers out there who think that, "...morals, virtue, love, honor, self-sacrifice" and all the rest of our human traits are only valid if we all believe they were handed down to us, chiseled in stone from Mount Sinai.

It's not that these traits are illusory. It's that they are social conventions that have evolved as a means of expressing our innate emotional and intelectual traits. That's the problem Mr. Peretti and all the other anti-evolution "thinkers" don't want to address, that our most human traits evolve and change as our society changes. But, instead of writing a speculative novel addressing the fear of evolution, we get a potboiler about a satanic monster who evolved instead of falling face first out of the Garden of Eden. Does he get converted and saved at the end dor do the righteous and peace loving followers of Christ lynch his monkey ass? I'll never know, because frankly, I don't care. Christian fiction is anti-literature, as far as I'm concerned. Wooden characters, slaphappy dialogue and poorly constructed plots that, instead of exploring the uncertainty of modern life, try to explain away the complexity and shoehorn the wide open world into a 3000 year old book of shepherd poetry. It's reductionist to the point of absurdity. (But oh so fun to pick apart. Fred over at Slacktivist has been doing a bang up job disecting Left Behind).

I'd much rather read a story about an evangelical who starts to evolve into something more than human and has to grasp the ineffable and frightening new world he is privy too, with the creeping fear that perhaps an ancient book of fairy tales doesn't explain everything there is to know about the world we live in.


Sunday, May 01, 2005

May Day!

Greetings to all my Communist Comrades!

Secret handshakes to my Anarchist buddies!

For all you Socialist Workers out there, keep up the good work!

I hope all you Witches had a lovely Walpurgis Night and many happy turns around the May Pole! Think of me whilst you frolic.

It's a joy to see hundreds of little Catholic School Children twirling around a fertility symbol, all in honor of the Virgin. Wink.

Happy Birthday Ma Sanchez!