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December 2006

Gerald Ford, Patron Saint of Republicans Threatened with Indictment

StgeraldfordWhen we went to the post office yesterday, I had an odd moment. The flags at the post office were at half mast, and for just a second I wondered why the flags were at half mast for Saddam Hussein. Then I remember. Oh, yeah, Gerald Ford.

The execution of Hussein has really distracted Americans from celebrating the goodness and mercy of the late President Ford. From the Washington Post: At the Capitol, VIP Roll Call Has Many No-Shows

Everything was in place for Gerald R. Ford's state funeral last night -- everything, that is, but the statesmen.

President Bush sent his regrets; he was cutting cedar and riding his bike on his ranch in Texas. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his deputy, Richard Durbin, couldn't make it, either; they were on a trip to visit Incan ruins. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a pass, too -- as did nearly 500 of the 535 members of Congress.

A 6-to-3 majority of the Supreme Court, including Ford's appointee, John Paul Stevens, ruled against attending. All the nation's governors were invited; few, if any, came. Apparently only two Cabinet members -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez -- accepted the invite.  . . .

The American people quickly outdid their representatives in respect for the departed president, as several hundred citizens lined up for a late-night public viewing of the casket. But the populace, too, was slow to rally. Capitol police erected barriers to contain thousands, but by mid-afternoon yesterday, only 20 people were in line -- providing a luxurious person-to-portable-toilet ratio of 1:1.

Clearly, those visibly absent must have been glued to CNN watching CNN's continuing coverage of the Saddam Hussein execution. So I thought I'd help us get back to honoring the memory of President Ford.

I present the St. Gerald Ford Novena, very helpful to crooked Republicans in need:

May the sacred heart of Jesus be adored, glorified, loved, and preserved throughout the world now and forever.
Sacred heart of Jesus pray for us.
St. Gerald, worker of miracles, pray for us.
St. Gerald, helper of the hopeless, pray for us.

[Say this prayer 9X a day, by the 8th day your prayer will be answered. You will not be indicted & will be spared the embarrassment of a public trial, provided you are a Republican. It has never been known to fail. Publication must be promised. Send your $4.00 publication fee to PO Box 78, Pleasantville, NY 10570.]

Thehangedman_1It is important to pause for a moment in the midst of the Republican self-righteous bloodlust following the execution of Saddam Hussein to appreciate the man who "healed a nation" by saving Richard Nixon the embarrassment that might have been caused by a public trial and the presentation of evidence, now forever hidden.

From the New York Times editorial occasioned by the death of Gerald Ford:

. . . his wish to heal led him to do something that reopened the very wounds he was trying hard to close. On Sept. 8, 1974, barely 30 days into his presidency, Mr. Ford announced his decision to give Mr. Nixon a “full, free and absolute pardon.” The reaction was immediate, intense and largely negative. Mr. Ford had expected criticism, but not the outrage that erupted in Congress, in many newspapers and among the public at large.

This page, for example, condemned the pardon as “a profoundly unwise, divisive and unjust act” that in a stroke had destroyed the new president’s “credibility as a man of judgment, candor and competence.” The critics’ fundamental point was that a nation in which the law applies equally to rich and poor, the meek and the powerful, cannot exempt anyone, least of all a president, from the requirements of justice.

The Iraqis are -- of course -- a very different people, and are instead healed by show trials followed by executions. (If they weren't going to try Saddam Hussein for any of his more major crimes that might cause Nixionian embarrassment to current and former US officials, why didn't they just hang him for tax evasion and be done with it?)

From the Angry Arab News Service (via IraqSlogger):

This must have been a very sad month for Donald Rumsfeld. Just think about it. I mean, he lost his job; he then lost Gerald Ford, for whom he had worked. And then came the news of the execution of Saddam, with whom he established that famous and tender US-Iraqi honeymoon of the 1980s.

Too bad for Hussein that he wasn't a Republican.

I witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Mohammed is the- (trap door is opened).

(Rachel Pollack has an interesting essay on the meaning of the card The Hanged Man in the traditional Tarot deck. Her book, Seeker: The Tarot Unveiled, is part of Amazon's Search Inside this Book program. The chapter begins on page 64. )

First Worldwide Official Public Hanging?

Hanging Am I mistaken, or is the execution of Saddam Hussein the world's first worldwide official public hanging?

While I am certain that the world is a better place without Hussein, I am not certain that it is a better place for us having reached this particular macabre milestone. A return to public hangings, using the whole Internet as the village square, does not seem to me a step forward for humanity.

There was a time when, even in places like London, public executions were "perhaps the most anticipated and popular form of mass entertainment." From PBS:

. . . the punishment of criminals that was perhaps the most anticipated and popular form of mass entertainment. Whippings, floggings, being paraded through the streets in chains and enduring the "pillory" -- an open forum for mockery and verbal abuse -- were common punishments for petty crimes. Executions were an even more elaborate affair and quite often were set aside as public holidays. Occasionally, engraved invitations would be sent out. . . . Large crowds of rowdy, jeering onlookers - sometimes in numbers of 30,000 or more (80,000 was the record) -- would arrive in the morning to follow the prisoner to the hanging platform.

Chelwitch Are we there yet?

Of course, nothing like this can happen these days without being a carefully staged media event. If the public opinion in the US were to be that public exectutions are beneficial to the public, the State of Texas, all by itself, could have its own Execution Channel. So I wonder, out loud, what were the intentions of those who staged this media event. Clearly, this is intended as a world-changing event.

But what kind?

UPDATE: Tony Blair's response to the execution seems to me to display an acute awareness of England's own history of execution as a form of entertainment. This is from this morning's New York Times:

Perhaps the most delicately choreographed response came from Britain, whose prime minister, Tony Blair, took a lead as America’s closest ally in toppling Mr. Hussein while his Labor Party prides itself on opposing the death penalty.

In a statement issued an hour after the execution, Margaret Beckett, the foreign secretary, said: “I welcome the fact that Saddam Hussein has been tried by an Iraqi court for at least some of the appalling crimes he committed against the Iraqi people. He has now been held to account.”

However, she said, "the British government does not support the use of the death penalty, in Iraq or anywhere else. We advocate an end to the death penalty worldwide, regardless of the individual or the crime. We have made our position very clear to the Iraqi authorities, but we respect their decision as that of a sovereign nation."

Mr. Blair himself — who faced wide public opposition to the Iraq war, which has shaped his political legacy — refrained from commenting as he vacationed at the Miami waterfront home of Robin Gibb, a singer in the BeeGees. A spokesman for him said Ms. Beckett’s statement had been issued on behalf of the entire government, including Mr. Blair.

Technorati One does wonder if he watched the execution video with a BeeGee. Oh, the post-modernity of it!

Nonetheless, I'd say Blair's response shows an awareness of the larger cultural implications of reviving the tradition of public hanging as spectacle on a global basis.

Do we really want this sort of thing in our Internet Utopia? I don't.

Collage on the State of Publishing, 1994

Collage on the State of Publishing, 1994

I came across this collage this morning. I made it in 1994, I think at the year's end, as a kind of editorial cartoon on what was wrong with the publishing industry just then. Not much has changed, it seems. (One of my favorite items, you can't read very well without going to the larger version of the image: It is the book How To Do Automatic Writing.

That, for me, summed up the crux of the problem.

ALSO, further to the subject of casual art kicking around the house, I am quite fond of one of my earliest posts, Great Minds Sink Ships, a collection of refrigerator magnet poetry created by me, David Hartwell, and mystery writer Sarah Smith during a blizzard in February of 2003, and contains such lines as Beggars should not throw stones! and Those who live in glass houses make light work.

Alan Yee, Age 15, Got Our Year's Best Fantasy 6 for Christmas

From Alan's Mystical Musings:

I'll start off with all the not-too-shabby things I got for Christmas:

4 CDs: Fear of Flying and Mooding by Mya, Can't Take Me Home and Missundaztood by Pink.

Year's Best Fantasy 6 (edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer)
2007 Novel & Short Story Writer's Market.
Little Gods (short story collection) by Tim Pratt.
The Empire of Ice Cream / The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories (ss collections), both by Jeffrey Ford.
Firebirds Rising (edited by Sharyn November).
Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice.

Merry Christmas, Alan!

Recently Added to My Blogroll

I have recently added the following blogs to my blogroll:

  • §hadoΨraith§: A forensic psychology blog.
  • Lovefraud: A blog devoted to the subject of how to recognize & avoid sociopaths.
  • Cyberpaths: Recognizing and exposing online predators.
  • Author Andy Duncan's blog, Beluthahatchie.
  • Easton Jordan & Robert Young Pelton's spectactular new site, IraqSlogger.

Check them out.

A Robot Loose in the House: We are definitely living in the future.

A post-Christmas line just heard from my son in the kitchen: Mommy! The robot is drawing on the kitchen cabinets!

Needless to say, I was a little confused by this, but when I investigated, I found that the red metallic robot was indeed in the kitchen scribbling on the cabinets with a large piece of yellow side-walk chalk. This is definitely the future.

Will the robot be asking for its own room next? An is this an example of algorithmic content creation?


The Robosapien before Peter freed it from its box to roam the house.

Those Burning Questions that Bring People to This Blog . . .

I take my inspiration from this page in Google Zeitgeit. These are from my Sitemeter logs. Found art, I guess:

Where does the easter bunny live? What to do with left over roast beef? What is happening to the filipino airport screeners now? Why is standardized testing bad? Why do people have different opinions about henry the 8ths daugther elizabeth the 1st? Who was hippachus? Who is talent rock? Who is rebuilding new orleans? Which is the only type of radiation that might penetrate the walls of a house? Where does a bunny live? Where did the levees break in new orleans? Where can I see pictures of mississippi before and after hurricane katrina? Where are sonics gloves? When did the levys break? What's the easiest way to poison someone? What were you thinking about? What was the dose of po-210 given to alexander? What type of treatment did rosemary kennedy get? What to do with leftover rob roast? What things happen after a hurricane occurs? What really happened to the levees? What kind of tree are you?  What is the importance of journalists covering war criminal trials? What is blackwater security? What happens if a security guard leaves his post early? What happened to kramer? What does islam say about earthquake? What does a fake yu-gi-oh card looks like?  What do the government do for the citizens before and after a hurricane? What caused the levy to break in hurricane katrina? What area of the world is the dog stinkhorn in? What are the bad effect of making a reseach methodology without following a plan? What are ten reasources and what do they import and export to and from Greece? What are some customs of guam? What are juxtapositions?

And the How Tos . . .

How to tell if a yu-gi-oh! god card is fake. How to tell if a yu-gi-oh card is fake. How to spot fake yu gi oh cards. How to memorize the first 20 elements of the periodic table. How to make totem poles from paper. How to make fake yugioh cards on the computer. How to make betting pool charts. How to make a pyramid out of legos. How to make a part. How to make a mary & joseph costume. How to make polonium 210. How to kill pseudocolus fusiformis. How to get a continental airlines buddy pass. How to fix a television. How to be a private military contractor. How russia custom officers compute duties for cars. How psychopath would take revenge from his lover. How many security contractors have died in Iraq? How many people lived in New Orleans before hurricane katrina. How many people died as result of hurricane rita? How hurricane katrina effected new orleans.

And the How Dos . . .

How do you get to the Haunted House without being a Guardian for battleon? How do you get milk from a female breast? How do you fix a television? How can u poison someone with polonium?

And the Doeses . . .

Does the easter bunny have msn? Does boeing 727f need a flight engineer? Does apple warranty cover water damage?

And finally, a Christmas question . . .

Did you have problems putting together the little tikes climb and slide castle?

(Later, if I get around to it, I'll provide links to where the answers to these questions, such as they are, can be found.)

The Domestic Uses of Mercenaries: They Can Come in Handy When Dealing with Your Ex?

Well, what an uplifting Christmas tale! Mom hires mercenaries to re-kinap her kids! Mom lives in Canada, dad in Australia.

From Electric News in Singapore: Were Mercenaries Hired to Nab Kids?

WHEN her estranged husband took her two little daughters to Lebanon and informed her that she would never see them again, Ms Melissa Hawach reportedly hired a group of mercenaries to re-unite her with her daughters, Hannah, 5, and Cedar, 3.

She got her daughters back but is now on the run from the Lebanese authorities.

Two of the mercenaries allegedly hired by Ms Hawach were arrested by Lebanese authorities at the Beirut International airport yesterday.

They were just minutes away from their flight taking off.

The two mercenaries Brian Corrigan, 38, a former Australian soldier and New Zealander David Pemberton were charged with the kidnapping of the two girls.

They face up to 15 years in jail if they are proven guilty, on the charge of kidnapping minors.

Merry 21st centery Christmas! (Good God!)

Iraq's Former Electricity Minister Sprung from the Green Zone by Security Contractors?

From Defensetech, Behind the Green Zone Jail Break:

In a war filled with too-strange-for-fiction stories, this may be the strangest yet.  Was Iraq's former electricity minister, jailed on corruption charges, really "sprung from a Green Zone prison this weekend by U.S. security contractors?"  If so, how did they pull it off?  And what does it say about the rapidly-expanding, ridiculously-lucrative, morally-ambiguous field of private militaries?

Robert Young Pelton, author of the recently-published  Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror, tells Defense Tech that his "guess (if the story is true) is that they simply presented their DoD and other credentials and said [the contractors] were there to accompany him to some mythical destination. Once out of prison it is very easy to leave the Green Zone and then take a taxi to Jordan, Syria, Kuwait or Kurdistan."

He also figures that "there was no gunplay or violence involved... [A]nother likely scenario would be to simply bribe the jailer (by paying a family member) and then the jailer making up some cock and bull story."

See also Mountain Runner: The inevitable happened: "Security Contractors" break a man out of a US military facility... and a GAO report is released.

The Missouri Breaks in the 21st Century: "All bounty hunters push the limits and break the rules - that's how you get the job done,"

D63607_1 This AP article sums up just about everything that is wrong with the crazy US system of using bounty hunters as an adjunct to law enforcement. The bounty hunter system is a hangover from 19th-century Wild West days.

You get nutcases running around thinking that they are the Feds or the CIA or something: Calif. Man Accused of Impersonating Feds

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A bounty hunter charged with impersonating federal agents says he was only doing the government's work - arresting fugitives wanted for immigration violations.

Federal agents say Jeremy Christian Brickner went too far, identifying himself as a U.S. immigration agent when he captured three people earlier this year.

Brickner, 30, now faces up to six years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty and was released Friday from jail after posting a $100,000 bond, federal authorities said on Monday.

``All bounty hunters push the limits and break the rules - that's how you get the job done,'' Brickner said Monday in a telephone interview.

Brickner operates ICE Warrant Detail from his Sacramento home, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in Sacramento by an agent with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Francisco.

Brickner is charged with falsely identifying himself while detaining one immigrant overnight Oct. 23 and while holding a mother and her 10-year-old daughter on May 11. The woman's estranged husband was trying to have her deported so he could keep custody of their son, according to the affidavit.

Brickner is charged with carrying a gun, handcuffs, a badge and business cards identifying him as a ``deportation agent.''

Brickner said he has worked cooperatively with federal immigration authorities for three years, turning over 188 fugitives in at least eight states. He said, ``We're serving them up on a silver platter.''

Brickner has been in trouble previously. Twice last year, he pleaded guilty to carrying weapons illegally, the affidavit said. In one instance, he was carrying a loaded gun and a Taser while using an illegal red flashing light to pull over a motorist in California.

On the two occasions last year, he flashed identification saying he was a fugitive-recovery agent, the affidavit said.

The use of bounty hunters by law enforcement should be banned. Anyone who thinks the use of bounty hunters is still a good idea should see Marlon Brandon in The Missouri Breaks, again.

The Missouri Breaks [DVD] (1976)
Violent, offbeat western with Marlon Brando as a bizarre hired gunslinger who employs any means necessary to quash a band of horse thieves terrorizing a rancher. Along the way he tangles with the rustlers' former leader (Jack Nicholson), who has given up his life of crime for the rancher's daughter. Co-stars Randy Quaid, Frederic Forrest, Harry Dean Stanton; Arthur Penn directs. 126 min. Widescreen (Enhanced); Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: English, French.
Category: Westerns    Director: Arthur Penn
Cast: Luana Anders, Richard Bradford, Marlon Brando, Frederic Forrest, Sam Gilman, James Greene, Kathleen Lloyd, Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid, John P. Ryan, Harry Dean Stanton

My kids meet WolframTones 9/28/05

I did this YouTube video, My Kids Meet WolframTones, about a year ago and it never occurred to me to blog it. But now that everyone is covering their blogs with YouTube videos, perhaps it's time.


Here's what I said about it last fall:

After dinner this evening, I sat my son Peter, who has just started 3rd grade, down at my computer and let him play with Wolfram Tones for the first time.  The first interesting thing that happened was that my daughter Elizabeth, who turns 3 in October, started jamming to the WolframTones soundtrack on the toy piano in the living room. (I had gotten the video camera out to film Peter, and she started while I was getting set up.)

After about 10 minutes of fiddling, Peter came up with something he really liked.

Peter Watts reports that support from bloggers is helping sales of his book.

Further to the subject of the Creative Commons release of Peter Watts's novel Blindsight:

Cory DoctorowKathryn Cramer. John Scalzi.  Three people with exponentially higher lemming quotients than I shall ever enjoy, each choosing to pimp Blindsight in the wake of its CC release.  Something about that combination worked:  Amazon numbers (which tanked the day of liberation) have since rebounded and are now comparable to what they were in the heady days of Just-Released  The number of feeds, blogs, and other sites mentioning the book have skyrocketed.  Several of the posts I've seen are illustrated with one or another of the  alternate covers. A few claim to have stayed up all night, reading the entire novel directly off their monitors. I've been getting e-mail from as far as Russia and South America, replete with screen shots and reports of typos that snuck through the editing of the pdf and the html versions.  Thank you all.  I'll get on those ASAP.

Of course, the down side of all this attention is that the light attracts people even more curmudgeonly than I: I've picked up a couple of really excoriating 1-star reader reviews on Amazon amongst all the 5-star raves (nothing in between, interestingly)— and while I'm the first to admit that Blindsight has its flaws, I also think that anyone who claims it is entirely without merit has probably got some other issues going on.  One of those guys seems to give one-star reviews to virtually everything he reads— he's basically the antiKlausner, and if we accept Harriet Klausner's unflagging enthusiasm, then I guess we can't complain about someone who tilts the other way, for whatever reason.  Think of it as bringing a teensy part of the universe back into balance.

More glowing reviews from professional outlets too, including one from the Vancouver Province (which surprises me, since the last time I looked at that particular tabloid the headline story was about a headless ghost reportedly haunting Gastown — I didn't know those guys even reviewed actual books…)  I've added excerpts to the blurbs page (and have even relented on "Hobbit"'s review, since — aliased or not — it does seem to hail from a fairly high-profile and respectable online sf source).

The experiment continues.  And my mood is somewhat improved.

Photos I've Posted for David

David has been a number of places lately that I haven't and has brought back big batches of pictures that I have posted for him on Flickr:

Fenn Sales Conference in Canada (quite entertaining—it had a 70s theme!), Rob Sawyer's party in Mississauga, Canada, featuring much of the Toronto science fiction scene; and the Tor Books Christmas Dinner (see editor Bob Gleason doing Tarot readings!).

To get a sense of the full horror of how bookselling sales conferences work, here is a shot of David, getting into the spirit of the event:


As usual, David hasn't written captions yet for most of the pix, but I'll try to get him to do that.

A Nice Review of The Space Opera Renaissance in the Kansas City Star

289881381_9f71649b44_m Robert Folsom writes in the Kansas City Star:

This being the gift-giving season, here are some suggestions for the sci-fi reader on your list—or for yourself.

You’d better wrap this one. The heft alone of The Space Opera Renaissance (941 pages; Tor; $39.95) will keep someone guessing. Compiled by World Fantasy Award-winning anthologists David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, this tome covers the space opera genre from its infancy as pulp fiction to today, when it’s a seriously considered category. Hartwell and Cramer’s introduction is historically informative and entertainingly written. Then the stories are presented in six chronological sections from “Redefined Writers” to “Next Wave (Twenty-First Century),” covering writers from Edmond Hamilton to John C. Wright.

A Holiday Gift Guide from Action Potential, Nature's Neuroscience Blog

Seretonin_holiday_ornament From Action Potential:


The Unemployed Philosophers Guild has a whole page dedicated to Freudiana for that very special psychologist in your life. Among my favorites are Freudian Slippers, the Tickle Me Freud doll and the Freudian Sips mug. You can also get Freud and Jung finger puppets, but unfortunately no Ramon y Cajal. Made with Molecules features necklace pendants and earrings with the molecular structures of neurotransmitters and neuromodulators, including dopamine, serotonin, estrogen and caffeine. However, I am partial to the oxytocin baby onesie that says 'Cuddle' next to the molecular structure of oxytocin. MWM also carries a holiday greeting card with the mythical peptide P-E-A-C-E (proline-glutamic acid-alanine-cysteine-glutamic acid) gracing its cover. Finally, for the purist, the Anatomical Chart Company has a good old brain gelatin mold and a baseball cap covered with an anatomically correct illustration of the brain and the words 'Think, think, think' under the brim.

And I have just begun to shop!

MEANWHILE, the Onion is getting into the holiday spirit: Christmas Brought To Iraq By Force:

"Why am I supposed to feel joy for the world?" said 34-year-old Baghdad mechanic Hassan al-Ajili as he stood in line for his mandatory visit with Santa. "My country is still at war. I need an American identification card to get anywhere in my own city. Now, for some reason, men with machine guns have placed two rows of jingling antlered pigs on the roof of our house. This is insane."

I Missed the Malkin Fuss & Accompanying Buffoonery

Iraqslogger We've been frantically finishing both the Year's Best SF 12 and The Year's Best Fantasy 6 (yes, I know it's only December), plus our wonderful cat is dying: two weeks following surgery to remove tumors, she's developed some blood clots, one of which went to a hind leg, and today she seems to be losing use of her back legs.

So I completely missed the whole Easton Jordan/Michelle Malkin fuss, which culminated in Jordon graciously offering to fly Malkin and friend to Iraq. A quick review of the situation (between episodes of waiting on the cat hand and foot) is quite entertaining. Apparently, Wingnuttia thought Easton Jordan was a stuffed trophy on their club house wall. How dare he launch a blog, let alone a blog in collaboration with Robert Young Pelton.

My favorite entry into the wingnut strutting was this guy Curt at Say Anything (apparently living up to the name of the blog). Curt doesn't seem to get out much.

What has become even more curious to me is that a assistant (sic) of Eason Jordan, Robert Young Pelton, has been making the rounds of the blogs commenting on various Jamil Hussein posts.  He is basically trying to dismiss many of our worries that this is a media stunt of some kind.  But in one comment at Blackfive he made this assertion:

Hi guys, Robert Young Pelton just to clarify. The offer is genuine, nothing strange or unusual. We go to Iraq all the time so we figured if Michelle wants to see for herself why not. More importantly this is not a military embed. The iraqi in question is not part of any US project. His stated location is currently a no go zone for the US military so she will have to arrange her own security.

So Robert, or RYP as he likes to call himself in the comments, is trying to assert that the US Military cannot go into the Yarmouk district.  That make sense to anybody?  Since when has the US Military not been able to go into ANY area of Iraq?  Oh, but the AP sure could.......

If it were me, I'd take Pelton absolutely literally: Either pick up the phone and call a private military company for a security detail or cancel the trip.  Pelton actually goes places and reports back, and people rely on and trust their lives to his info.

I would recomend that Mr. Curt read the section in Pelton's Three Worlds Gone Mad concerning the trip to Chechnya before taking Pelton's comments as a slight to our military.

SF Signal Reviews the Dozois The Good New Stuff

I'm really pleased to see SFSignal doing a detailed, intelligent review of an anthology. Anthologies don't get nearly enough of that kind of review attention. SFSignal reviews Gardner Dozois's The Good New Stuff: Adventure in SF in the Grand Tradition and contrasts it, I think, interestingly to our book,The Space Opera Renaissance, in terms of approach:

In the introduction to The Good New Stuff, Dozois uses the term adventure synonymously with space opera. Thus, I cannot help but compare his two anthologies to the more recent (2006) collection of space opera, The Space Opera Renaissance edited by David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer. While the Hartwell/Cramer anthology seemed more concerned with critical analyses and all the myriad definitions of space opera (including some forays into military sf), the Dozois books seem to (mostly) center on stories of adventure. However, the inclusion of some stories here also seemed questionable, like "The Blind Minotaur" which came across more like a literary fantasy than adventure story. To be sure, both anthologies succeed at their own goals and there is only one overlapping story between them (Hamilton's "Escape Route").

I look forward to seeing the Dozois book which I'm sure I'll enjoy.

What the reviewer describes is not just a distinction between these books, but a distinction in the personal styles of the editors, myself included. I view myself as an anthologist in the rhetorical tradition of Judith Merrill.

One thing that made me wince about the SFSignal review was the decision to give star ratings to individual stories. People's likes are more interesting than their dislikes. While I am all for  discussing the merits of individual stories in review of  anthologies, I somehow doubt that anything by, say, Michael Swanwick is deserving of only one star. Perhaps the reviewer wasn't in the mood or it isn't a good fit for the book? Giving it one star seems to me a bit extreme.

I co-edit two Year's Best volumes. You don't want to know my personal opinion of some of the stories that make it onto awards ballots! What is of lasting value to the reading public is what I have to recommend.

Blindsight by Peter Watts: Cory Doctorow Announces its Creative Commons Debut

Peter Watts at Readercon I enjoy hanging out with Peter Watts. He's one of my husband's authors, and also I like his work.

He's exceedingly tall, so of course, he's someone I look up to. But also, he finds the world entertainingly bleak in ways that I often have not thought of. He's an ex-marine biologist, and about five years ago when I mentioned to him over lunch that our small son (also named Peter) wanted to grow up t be a marine-biologist, he responded, He'd better hurry, or there'll be nothing left to study but squid. That's Peter!

11583414 I confess that I have not read Blindsight yet, though it has made it as far as my night table. (But would you take a blurb from the editor's wife, anyway?) So I'll let Cory talk about it.

My friend Peter Watts has just put his breakout novel Blindsight under a Creative Commons license and put it online, partly because the book is selling so fast that readers are having a hard time laying their hands on copies. Peter writes the angriest, darkest sf I've ever read, heart-rending stuff that makes you glad you're alive if only because you're better off than his characters. He's also a wild talent when it comes to the intersection of biology and tech (he's got a Ph.D. in Marine Biology), the kind of person who spits out ideas that lesser writers end up hashing over for a decade afterwards (he once posited a perfectly plausible means by which a computer virus and human pandemic could co-evolve, for example). I've had at least ten people I respect come up to me and spontaneously advise me to read Blindsight ASAP -- my discretionary reading list is very clogged, but it's as high on it as I can put it, you damned betcha.

OK. So Peter's released it under CC license. First take a peak at the whole thing for free, and THEN order a copy for everyone on your Christmas list who needs this kind of dose of pure bracing gloom! What a deal! Act now without thinking!

To quote Carlos Fuentes, an offer like this isn't made every day!

Household Surrealism

A photo taken by my four-year-old this afternoon:

Household Surrealism

Whatever the question is, the answer is fish.

(A Korean film crew was once sent to my house to interview me about one of my books for Korean television. I noticed that the cameraman made sure to take a shot of the fish decals on the sliding glass door. I never did find out if they made the final cut.)

So Who Should Make This Movie? Or, Return of Revenge of Attack of the CD-ROMs!

From Paul Kedrosky's Infections Greed, a lovely post: YouTube ... GooTube ... WeTube!

The WSJ has a piece today reporting that Fox, NBC, et al., are busily discussion a YouTube-a-like they would jointly create. This is one of those only-in-a-VPs-boardroom ideas, the sort of thing that aspiring young MBA Veeps dream up (and leak to the WSJ), and that has virtually no chance of happening in the real world of lawyers, rivalries, and vested interests.
First of all, it is a damn shame that Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) is dead, since I would just love to read a version of the WSJ piece written in the manner of Seuss's Fox in Sox:
Who toob? You toob, blue toob for chewy chewying. That's what that goo goose is doing!
Or maybe the movie could have the look and feel of the pool scene in The Graduate?
YoooTooob is the future!
There are endless permutations to be considered here: The movie as by Mel Brooks, as by Stanely Kubrick, Robert Altman, George Romero, . . . . How about Woody Allen?
Woman Veep: You're really good at running meetings
Male Veep: I practice a lot when I'm alone.
But, OK. Why does this whole concept as described by Kedrosky as read in the WJS as leaked by one of the Illuminati lead me to such heights or sarcasm? Just why do I find it sooo appalling? To quote a line from Lucius Shepard uttered in another context:
When I read this I was fucking transported! I felt myself a sophmore again!
When I read about today's big corporate attempts at how to make your computer as much like your television as possible, I feel myself instantly transported back to 1995 during the full flower of the (failed) CD-ROM revolution. Rebember the CD-ROM revolution? It was right before the dotcom boom. The primary purpose of the movement was to make your computer as much like your TV as possible.

I feel I've been here before: this idea is Back from the Dead and ready to Party. Ack. Big Media just doesn't know how to let go.

NYT Editorial: Desperately Seeking Ethics

Images_2A notable passage from a New York Times editorial:

No, not every error or failure should be a violation, but certainly the ones that lead to an elected official’s sexually stalking teenage boys while his colleagues turn a blind eye or cover it up should be. We’d set the bar at least there. Apparently, it’s too high for the House.
Indeed. But after absurd political debates on subjects like what constitutes torture and to whom it's OK to do unspeakable things, this latest turn of events fails to surprise.

The 21st century is turning out to be a very bleak place indeed.

The Onion's Iraq War Recommendations

George WashingtonIndiaprotestersi0447The Onion has come up with it's own set of recommendations for the Iraq War, my favorite of which is:

Try to meet insurgents halfway by burning own effigies of Bush.
Perhaps some of the Republicans who lost their seats due to the unpopularity of Bush's war could be enlisted for this PR effort.

There has apparently been a problem in quality control of Bush effigies, noted as early as 2003 by The Daily Probe:

JAKARTA, Indonesia (DPI) - Of the dozens of President Bush effigies burned in anti-war protests today, only a few actually resembled the American leader. "I'm embarrassed to be Indonesian," said Hardi Johan, "The strength of any protest can be seen in the quality of the effigies, and as a professional effigy maker I can tell you most of these were not done with care." Many of the effigies appeared to be only old clothing stuffed with paper and a poor quality photo taped on to resemble the head.
Perhaps outgoing Republicans, who have enjoyed greater access to the President, can help improve the situation, perhaps by contributing locks or hair of items of clothing actually worn by the President himself.

Blog Traffic Volatility (Revised Iron Blogger Edition)

Until very recently, I thought all blogs had traffic patterns rather like mine: that there was a certain baseline level of traffic punctuated by huge spikes. For non-ego related reasons I happened to compare my traffic with that of some other sites, and discovered that my traffic pattern seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Given my baseline readership, I seem to have the largest volatility in blog traffic I can find. I think I know why my traffic behaves that way. I just don't understand why everyone elses's doesn't.

The closest match I can find for my traffic patterns is Making Light. (And I think this is attributable to a shared blogging philosophy.) But Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden start with a much higher baseline readership and still don't have traffic spikes as high as mine. Is anyone measuring this sort of thing?

(Click on the graphic to play with the Alexa graph tool.)

Why does my traffic behave this way? Partly because I take the idea of the blogger as public intellectual seriously, and partly because I am interested in the problem of how to re-envision the data served up to us by the news media, and that on occasion, I have been very successful at that.

UPDATE: Here's a link to a page on the mathematics of volatility in the stock market. The difference between stock volatility and blog traffic volatility is that blog traffic mainly moves up from a baseline and then returns to traffic of a similar order of maginatude, whereas stock volatility can go in either direction, through the roof or through the floor.

SO I DECIDED TO PIT MY SPIKES AGAINST SOME STIFFER COMPETITION: I went to the Truth Laid Bear's Blog Ecosystem and pitted my spikes against those of some of the Ecosystem's top ranked sites: "Higer Being" 8. Stop The ACLU (2728 blogs linking in); and "Mortal Humans" 13. Mudville Gazette (1948 blogs linking in); 21. BLACKFIVE (1537 blogs linking in); and 23. the evangelical outpost (1375 blogs linking in). (The Truth Laid Bear is a bit confused about me, but here I am at #4008.)

So. Look at this:

Guess what? I still win. OK. So this is great for my sense of self importance in the world and all that, but what the heck is going on here? Am I unique, or am I representative of a specific type of blogger?

"The more psychotic the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Bush.": An Opportunity for the Republican Machine

Bedlam_t_1 Oh, goodness. A study of political preferences of psychiatric patients (conducted by a Reagan-Republican working on his masters thesis), apparently broken down by diagnostic category, reported on by the New Haven Advocate.

The blogosphere goes wild!

From the article, given the inflamatory title Bush Nuts: Are George W. Bush lovers certifiable?

[Christopher] Lohse, a social work master’s student at Southern Connecticut State University, says he has proven what many progressives have probably suspected for years: a direct link between mental illness and support for President Bush.

Lohse says his study is no joke. The thesis draws on a survey of 69 psychiatric outpatients in three Connecticut locations during the 2004 presidential election. Lohse’s study, backed by SCSU Psychology professor Jaak Rakfeldt and statistician Misty Ginacola, found a correlation between the severity of a person’s psychosis and their preferences for president: The more psychotic the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Bush.

But before you go thinking all your conservative friends are psychotic, listen to Lohse’s explanation.

“Our study shows that psychotic patients prefer an authoritative leader,” Lohse says. “If your world is very mixed up, there’s something very comforting about someone telling you, ‘This is how it’s going to be.’”

The study was an advocacy project of sorts, designed to register mentally ill voters and encourage them to go to the polls, Lohse explains. The Bush trend was revealed later on.

(Via Lot 49.)

The Neurontic grumbles about the popularity of this news story, especially with science bloggers:

Considering how much ink has been spilled in scientific circles over the Bush Adminstration’s willingness to skew science to further its political agenda, I find it appalling that normally levelheaded bloggers got swept away in this quasi-scientific brand of conservative bashing.

I understand Neurontic's irritation, but the Bush administration's industrial-scale denial of the scientific method is not comparable to leftish bloggers chuckling publicly over their morning coffee over a hilarious result from a seriously intended scientific study. A really good skeptical discussion of the issues involved in the design of the study can be found at Respectful Insolence.

Not nearly enough research is done about the political ideologies and theories of the mentally ill and how they play themselves out in the public arena. I'm tempted to say more research should be done, except for the dystopian scenarios that arise: the Far Right Hate Machine secretly obtaining lists of those prescribed Zyprexa and making sure they are all registered to vote and turn out at the polls. (This has the makings of some really dark political satire!)

Naked Science note's Tom Tomorrow's thought on all this:

Via Tom Tomorrow, who dryly notes: "Anyone who's spent any time reading right wing blogs already understood this to be true." Indeed.

Despite the fun and games to be had with this study, though, it does not make a statement about the mental health of Republicans, it does not say that Democrats cannot be psychotic, or anything of the kind, though the far-right blog Barking Moonbat Early Warning System is most amusing on this subject:

You’re mad ... all of you. Totally insane. Around the bend. Fruit loops, even! Or so says a new study out of Southern Connecticut State University. Yes, I’m talking to you - you certifiably insane Bush-lover. All of you need to have your heads examined. Maybe then you’ll wise up and vote for Kerry ... in which case you’ll not only be barking mad but certifiably stoopid ....

It simply observes that among a relatively small sample of the mentally ill, the more psychotic the patient, the more likely the patient-voter to support Bush.

I don't see this study as an attack on conservatives, so much as an unexpected result from a study focused on something else, resulting in a political opportunity for the Karl Rove wannabee sick enough to pursue it: Trust me! I know what I'm doing!

So how will the Republican Machine react to Christpher Lohse? Swiftboat him? Or offer to fund his next study? Or ignore him and make much deeper cuts in the treatment of mental illness?

The strategic adversary is fascism... the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.  —Michel Foucault

The American political landscape is a very strange place.