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Monthly Archives: July 2011


Anonymous Fiction, Part 1

Issue forth, papery minions.

Warning: cryptic content below.

I’m going to attempt a little real-world experiment with anonymous fiction writing. I’ll explain more in the next post if the experiment ever advances. Please notice the emphasis on “if” in that last sentence. When you’re depending on people that you haven’t met and don’t know that they’re being depended upon for a distinct purpose, there’s a good chance things will go awry, or not go at all. I mean, things sometimes don’t work out even when people are committed.

So this is basically a useless post — I’m really only setting myself up for failure by starting it with no guarantees but making a public declaration of it.

Confused yet?

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I Did an Autopsy on Harry Potter and He’s a Woman

We know.

I just read two very-related articles on sites of disparate focus that will not be linked in this post. One post was concerning the Google science fair and how the top three entrants were girls, a story that ends up undermining, if we’re being honest with ourselves, against both boys and girls. The other article made a passing mention of public education and its scientism fetish — a fixation on science magnified but hidden in plain sight, an exercise in scientific imperialism to the detriment of other, equally legitimate methods documented by epistemology.

Except for the connecting strand of being related by the mention of science, the two posts are related in yet another way. Because of academia’s longwinded worship session with science, it has overstepped the boundaries set by its methodology, like using a plank to kill an elephant by slapping its backside raw. Science left by itself will attempt to reduce everything to predictability, which is good if you’re building a car or smashing atoms but a little strange evil if you’re talking about human choice (economics). Humans tend to order their own circles of chaos by themselves, and usually very effectively, thank you very much; we are excellent microplanners, deploying our feelers to scan the surrounding detritus and reassemble disorder to meet our goals. It’s how we get girls’ nights out or the perfect lasagna made without an fidgety admin peering over our shoulders. Science in the hands of the state will get, among other nasty things, hyper-egalitarianism — whereby, relative to this particular application of the Google science fair, “we” need to get girls more interested in science because there’s too many boys for someone’s liking, and the preferences of girls’ to simply not be interested in science be damned. And because of the edict of a few bureaucrats, who have the privilege audacity to morph their preferences into law, “we” need to enjoy equality in all aspects of everything, and “we” need “them” to plan it for us.

Turn now then, to Rowling’s mediocre-to-decent writing with Harry Potter, and her followers now on the brink of suicide now that the greater canon of Potter’s universe is closed. Potter and his sparkly, fairy-vampire counterparts in Twilight unwittingly created the Young Adult publishing subindustry (signified by the regrettable monosyllabic acronym of “YA”, heretofore referred to as “YAH!”), which hustles a mind-boggling amount of money through the pipes. My RSS reader can’t go one Gosh-fudging-blessed day without yelling at my eyes with tips and tricks for writing to the YAH! audience from the countless blogs for YAH! writer-hopefuls. The emergence of this new industry is really an economic issue, which is, at its heart a study of human preferences, which I believe are ultimately unpredictable, uncontrollable, unscientific.

Think of how this industry came about. Don’t worry if you fail to come up with something, because this is the phenomenon that can’t be explained; there’s no accounting for taste. People simply ended up preferring Harry Potter more than other books and more than other things. Nothing was centrally planned to coerce it into existence: no do-gooder politicians, no new government programs, no patronizing public service announcements, no finger-wagging lobbying group, no corporation throwing money at lawyers and state capital buildings.

No one could have predicted with certainty the YAH! explosion, not even those editors, marketers, and publishers that got a little lucky by putting their resources and reputation on the line and taking chance with an author’s product. The explanation for the YAH! industry’s existence is really that there’s no explanation. It is as we see it, prima facie — so I was wrong, despite my conclusive data: Harry Potter may be dead but he’s really still a dude, just as he appears.

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Book Review: Florida to Maine by Bike and Train

"This...is...Tampa!"

Florida to Maine by Bike and Train is Seth W’s third e-book and end result of a traveling stint he recently completed. After the cover, which has Seth channeling Leonidas on his bike, the pages are filled with photos, stories about the places he visited, and some good advice if there’s been something you’ve always wanted to do but could (or would) never find the opportunity.

In an interview about a month ago the tour was named “14 Cities in 14 Days”, yet as plans seemed to have changed he visited two less cities than mentioned. It’s kind of a interesting indicator of the spontaneous nature of the project, and I can’t be sure if this was because of an unforeseen snag. Seth would be the first to admit a mistake.

Like what Tobias Buckell did with writing short science fiction stories in Nascence, Florida to Maine is about attempting the unknown and documenting the results. These results are never perfect, but as I’ve said before on here — and as others have said before, undoubtedly — if you’re not screwing up you’re not doing it right. For every one awesome story idea you should have a dozen unworkable ones, and it appears the same would hold true for something like a traveling adventure.

You can buy Florida to Maine right now for however much you’d like to spend. He’s also selling other e-books for the same price, to clear the shelves for expanded editions.

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The Oxford People Snoot It Up Towards Final Commas

Via Gallycat, the Oxford people across the pond have dropped support for their comma in their official style guide. If you didn’t know — and I didn’t know it had an official name — the Oxford comma is that last comma in a list of things. Like this:

He’s allergic to bananas, kiwi, strawberries, and pears.

Without the comma, this sentence would read:

He’s allergic to bananas, kiwi, strawberries and pears.

The guide says that the comma can be used to avoid ambiguity, like if a common pair is listed at the end (“shave and haircut”) to in order to separate from the rest, but otherwise the comma should be avoided.

I’m not sure how this affects things really, especially stateside, if there is a difference. I don’t know the tendencies of editors and I haven’t really noticed what most writers do, although I think most omit it anyways. I was always for the comma, ever since middle school when I remember deciding to always use it, because it came off to me as intuitive and consistent.

No big deal. Business as usual.

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Huffington Post Wants Men to Walk the Dog More Often

WorldNetDaily is a huge, festering neocon sore on the Internet’s bum-bum so this is probably a bit of selective reasoning on their part, but they’re reporting that Arianna Huffington wants dudes to touch themselves. The article, written by Huffington for everydayhealth.com, ended up on AOL.com’s front page. Shocking!:

The health site’s subtitle read, “Ever wonder if his ‘big O’ was all a big show? Turns out, plenty of guys say they have faked an orgasm at least once. Here’s why.”

You'll go blind!

It looks like WND is trying to pin this on the merger between AOL and HuffPo, by saying that critics are saying it would drag AOL’s content to the left. But then the article goes to quote conservative critics of the merger. Well, duh. That’s like asking a bunch of Nietzchean nihilists if Christianity should be thrown into a vat of acid and then proclaiming that Christianity has, in fact, been thrown into a vat of acid.

With the vast amount of content that AOL had already published there was surely already some equivalent to what Arianna wrote. I don’t know. I was only part of a micro-niche of AOL that still exists today and seems to be doing fine regardless.

Photo by georgia.kral.

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A Very Functional Photograph of Me

This is a photo of me, looking a little awkward, and my bicycle, Functional, a 25 year old steel frame Trek 520. I bought it off of someone on ebay over a year ago, and it came with a sticker that just said “Functional” on it, hence its name. If you click for the larger photo you can clearly see the sticker on on the top tube near the seat tube. I don’t have a great photo of Functional and I — this isn’t really ideal but it’s a start.

This was taken yesterday before my brother-in-law and I did a 30+ mile (round trip) ride to the Penn State campus near us, then to Northmoreland Park. In terms of cycling that’s not a huge trip but there were plenty of hills to get super-burned out on (this is western PA, mind you). Functional’s gear ratio isn’t ideal for extended schleps up hills so at one point late in the ride I had to hoof it up one particular hill.

We ended with chicken and booze at the House of 1000 Beers. They have a lot of beer there.

Have a fun extended weekend!

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Time to Bring Back Book Banning

Not quite what I had in mind.

The other night on PBS there was a documentary on post-Soviet Russian families. A father, speaking to someone offscreen, said that his children don’t read much because there’s no interest in books any more. I didn’t see what happened after that but I inferred that when the father was younger, when the hammer and sickle smashed and hacked at liberty, reading some books was a dangerous idea.

Maybe it’s a good idea to resurrect book banning. This is why: I’ll only be on this earth for a finite number of years — probably a few hundred. Part of that time is being spent reading, and since time is scarce I had better make my reading hours count for something. With the Internet I can know of and have access to almost any book in existence. There’s a lot to sift through so I need to have some way to know what I should probably read, and it would make the search a heck of a lot easier if someone (the government), somewhere (where I live) told me I’m not supposed to read it under threat of force.

I dislike didactic fiction but I don’t mind offending the state apparatus. There’s plenty of ways an author can offend the state while entertaining; an author’s task is to construct imaginative scenarios in which some people know some things and others don’t anyways, so why not take it a step further into reality and smuggle some dangerous liberty under the nose of bureaucrats? It doesn’t have to sparkle on its chest, it just has to suck the blood out of Bella Bureaucrat. By owning private property embodied in the physical book you’re already one step there. Just go with the flow.

I’m looking at you, Christian writers, mostly. Let’s put aside the eschatological Revelation rewrites and the back-patting, self-help redundancy. And while we can lobby back and forth whether or not it’s okay to have our protagonist say “goddamn”, there’s plenty of other things we can address. The whole breadth of scripture is awfully unapproving of government ubiquity, those thrones and dominions of the earth with the monopoly on coercion. The church — except when it falls in love with the state — works on covenant, not by entrapment. It offers salvation as it’s asked. It’s not enforced, whereas the state is defined by force. In the end, we know who loses, and you don’t even need to be a minarchist to believe that. What happened along the way to make the church forget this tradition?

So I’m casting my vote for banning books — any books, really. And make the consequences dire, but I need a government to do it. Any chump with a clubhouse following can come up with and issue a list of banned books on his website, and everyone else will laugh and sip their teas anyway. Too, this whole thing about reading books that aren’t banned anymore doesn’t count. It’s smacks of Dandies foraging for scraps for fashion. Take the stupid button off and get burned alive, 451-style…at least you’ll know you read something worthwhile while you were alive.

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