Monday, May 31, 2010

More on the visual arts

Epic timewaster - Mr. Picassohead (via Kate Nepveu) Draw your own Picassos and sign them.

Here's my attempt. I'm not supposed to do this, I'm supposed to save them to their gallery and just point you there. But in my country we have invented prtScrn-Photoshop-new-ok-ctrlv-crop-save as.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Beware of the Flowers

On Saturday we went to the local National Unreachable Wilderness area on a photographers' guided ramble. I bought a digital SLR camera last July and have barely used it since. STB, who calls himself a Conceptual Photographer (meaning he knows all about it but hates photographs) decided a trip with other photographers might do me some good. It was described as a 3 mile hike with a 25 foot elevation taking place on Sunday the 29th May. Date straightened out, we booked on it.

In the morning I got a thorough grounding in the theory ("'...depth of field' is often misnamed 'depth of focus'." "Yes, I know...") and three practice photographs and then in the afternoon it was off to shoot me some flowers. It was a hot Southern California day and I was woozy with heat before we even set off on the trail. Two very enthusiastic volunteer docents took us out, one leading and one bringing up the rear so that the laggards could not be picked off by the man-eating mastodons of Laguna Canyon. Every now and again we'd stop for water, a quotation about photography by Walt Whitman or Ansel Adams, and then we'd go off again. After we'd climbed about 400 feet I was feeling woozier still. Apparently the date was not the only error in the ad for the hike.

Although only one person had brought a professional-looking camera (the others having point and shoots), I still didn't feel like displaying any lack of skill so I didn't actually take any photos until the guide told us we were facing a horehound bush - it was an omen! Jack Himself had planted a bush for me to photograph! When I leaned in closely, it didn't look like horehound, but I snapped it anyway. Looking at the photograph today, it plainly isn't horehound, unless that's a local term. Both Marrubium and Ballota horehound look like herbs - they have that basil/mint/dead nettle look to them, which is not surprising as they are all in the family Lamiaceae together.

I had to ask what this was and was told hemlock. Of course - it grows all over England. I should have known that. This one looks like a hogweed rather than hemlock to me, but I guess it's the same thing. Hey, I took a photograph!

Anyway, the ice was broken and I subsequently took many ill-focused and hastily-composed pictures of flars. STB borrowed the camera and took a few shots of things which illustrated that I'm not very good at it and he is. (We looked at them all as a debriefing today.) I noted that he did not take pictures of flowers, which are not intrinsically very interesting, unless you put them into Photoshop and change the colors around a bit. I will bear this in mind for the next trip, which will be to a multi-story parking structure or something else with a bit of an edge to it.

This is a local cucurbit called something like Spiny Cucumber. One member of the party described them as looking like kiwi fruit with issues. Pretty leaves.

I did learn the names of many of the local plants I see every day. A magnificent flowering Dudleya, the parasitic Dodder (I'd always wondered what this explosion of red hair over other plants was), Monkey Flower, and a big soft plant like a floppy-eared rabbit's ear, which is a Lamb's Ear. I can now tell a coastal sage from a white sage. And I had no idea that pack rats build those huge nests - six feet or more long - you occasionally see at the foot of trees. (Apparently males build them up in the trees and females at the foot of the trees.)

I didn't take this on the trip - this was taken a few weeks ago, under the eaves of my house where there are several hummingbirds' nests. The tree leaves look unnatural, and that's not actually due to amateur photography problems. It's a plastic tree. Trees don't grow in the shade so I have the World's Largest Gallery of Artificial Plants under there.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Piper Maru Eyes

Excellent day today. Following a conversation with a friend a few thousand miles away and three hours ahead (I love the internet) in which we discussed the joys of crab for Sunday lunch, we made a trip to Newport Beach and the world famous Crab Cooker.

We had smoked albacore and calamari and soft shell crab and king crab claws with their local-style potatoes, a sort of lump of mashed potatoes baked with cheese until crispy. Mmmm king crab claws. Oh and their lovely bread loaf. STB had coleslaw while I had the relatively difficult task of ordering the tomato slices. (I forgot to say 'tomayto' the first time and got a does-not-compute look.)

We went for a short walk to look at the ocean. There is a storm blowing through So Cal today and the cold wind was whipping onto the shore, depositing a fair amount of the beach sand between my teeth in that annoying way wind does. Really, I haven't faced such a bracing wind at the beach since the last time I was at Blackpool. (But you can't get rock or deep fried black pudding at Newport Beach.) We did see one person on the promenade being treated by the Lifeguards for Copious Bleeding - there's always one, isn't there? - and attempted to walk down the pier but were beaten back by the winds. We went to the more sheltered dead end road by the Crab Cooker that looks into the marina and found a drunk shirtless guy leaning over the wall attempting to coax his equally drunk and shirtless friend, who had fallen into the marina, to fly or levitate or something the ten feet from the waterline back up to the road. Both of them were bleeding from various grazes, so it must be the height of fashion at crazy old Newport Beach.

No one could pull him up so we encouraged him to swim to the wooden-floaty-walkway-thing to which the yachts were moored, but he didn't seem to have the courage. So his friend jumped...agh no!...into the marina and swam to it. Encouraged, the first guy made it to the slip. Being very fit, he soon pulled himself onto the floaty thing. However, his encouraging friend, not being a natural athlete, was unable to pull himself out of the water. His friend dragged him to a mass of piping and other slippery items that would lead to this being even more difficult for him and then left him to his own devices. He eventually made it out of the water. Meanwhile, back on land, their designated driver was walking up and down by the wall, staring in horror and occasionally saying, "Should I jump in too?"

Luckily she resisted this impulse. One thing we hadn't thought of was that the door from the slipway to the outer world was locked, so the last glimpse we had of them was of them attempting to climb a gate in bare feet and wet clothes. Hopefully DD thought of calling the marina management to get them let out. Now that they were out of danger of drowning, we didn't feel too bad about leaving them to it. It's all in a day's fun at the beach, isn't it?

Then off we went to Second Spin to look through the vinyl. I got an old Donovan record - Barabajagal - which seems in very good condition (and is described on the receipt as 'generic vinyl' - gee thanks). Oh, and a MGMT CD. And also some of this Blood Energy Potion.

People are strange, aren't they?

B+ isn't actually my type, but I guess it'll have to do. The bag's sitting beside me right now and it's doing really good job of looking like blood. I worked in a blood bank for years and artificial blood in movies really bugs me if it isn't right.

(I said that on this blog once before and Anonymous wrote in to say, "What if they don't want it to look right?" which I thought was a bizarre thing to say. Why aren't movies acted by papier mache heads on lollipop sticks in front of a bedsheet if they aren't meant to look like what they're pretending to be?)

The Dead Weather played a secret show in Chicago last night. 'Secret' must have changed meanings recently as the show was announced on Tuesday or so. The location was not revealed until Saturday, but that's still not a secret show. A secret show is booking yourself into a club under the name the Bell Ends or something (that's probably already taken. But I did think of a great band name today which they can use if they like. The Talkupines! Like a porcupine but chattier! Isn't that a good name? And it wasn't found on a Google search today so it's mine all mine. (This opinion has not been vetted by an attorney.)) and then when the Talkupines come on stage, it's actually them, in all their monochrome glory. That's a secret show.

My other band name from yesterday was Blogger's Banquet. Or perhaps that can be the Talkupines' first album title. Alas I wasn't the first to think of that but I can't at the mo see an actual band with that name. My acting great band name is actually The Soul Dead Brothers, a mis-spelling of the Soledad Brothers I once saw in an interview. I'm currently working on The Soul Dead Brothers' first single which will be called Piper Maru Eyes.

Piper Maru eyes are ones swimming with black oil, as in the X-Files episode of the same name.

(From Piper Maru, the X-Files)

A friend used it to describe the blacked-out eyes of the Dead Weather members on the inner of Sea of Cowards.

(Copyright is not mine. Scan by KD)

It needs its own song. Black Oil eyes may be the next vampirism.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Ghost Who Walks

As pointed out by Mike, Karen Elson's new album Ghost Who Walks is streaming here at the Guardian.

For the cynics among you, no, I probably would never have heard it if it wasn't for her husband, Jack White. But having heard it, I like it. I will be buying it on Tuesday, in fact.

Although Karen lives in Nashville and sings in an American accent, being British she lacks that dreadful whine that most white American folkies bring to the mic. I don't know which it is, a cultural difference or a hearing preference, but when American folkies tell me how bad life is, I switch them off and hope their remedies include shooting themselves, but when English (or Irish or Scottish or black American or even Chinese or Tuvan) folkies do it, I drink a sad toast and wish for all our lives to get better. (Dylan and Neil Young get to be honorary Tuvans, here.) The self-consciously depression-era songs I find less successful than the (pseudo)autobiographical songs, but she'll learn as she goes along. Her voice is so pure and haunting she makes even trite lines sound intriguing. In a way she's a latter-day Sandy Denny, and I know that's powerful mojo to spray around.

It's not that I understand where she's coming from - I'm from a close analog of Oldham and understand why it's a hell hole, but I'm a foot shorter and twenty pounds heavier, and no one ever called me the ghost who walks at school. She just moves me.

I love this modern idea of streaming albums. I've listened to this three times through, which is enough to know that I'd like to buy it. You could never hope to hear something like this on the radio these days, and even if they played the lead track, the radio would never play the weaker tracks. Streaming gives you a chance to get over the awkwardness of the first listen in your own house, on your own terms and on your own schedule. I listened to Sea of Cowards for a week on NPR, even though the vinyl was winging its way to me at the time, and I've enjoyed this one too.

Hopefully the people who authorize streaming will at some point sit bolt upright during an otherwise undisturbed sleep and think, "Of the people who torrented the album from Pirate Bay, all the ones who liked it eventually bought it, and those who listened three times and didn't buy it wouldn't have bought it anyway. Pirate Bay cost me nothing."

Because that's the way it works.

Holy crap

Sorry, can't think of any other title. The new British government is showing signs of understanding the interwebs.

Bring my smelling salts.

According to Boing Boing

*We will scrap the ID card scheme, the National Identity register and the ContactPoint database, and halt the next generation of biometric passports.
* We will outlaw the fingerprinting of children at school without parental permission.
* We will adopt the protections of the Scottish model for the
DNA database.
* We will review libel laws to protect freedom of speech.
* We will further regulate CCTV.
* We will end the storage of internet
and e-mail records without good reason.
* We will create a level playing field for open-source software and will enable large ICT projects to be split into smaller components.
* We will create a new "right to data" so that government-held datasets can be requested and used by the public, and then published on a regular basis.
* We will introduce measures to ensure the rapid roll-out of superfast broadband across the country. We will ensure that BT and other infrastructure providers allow the use of their assets to deliver such broadband, and we will seek to introduce superfast broadband in remote areas at the same time as in more populated areas. If necessary, we will consider using the part of the TV license fee that is supporting the digital switchover to fund broadband in areas that the market alone will not reach.

I'll believe it when I see it, but man...even seeing it written on a page is impressive.

Je suis le grand zombie

Maybe the operation didn't go as planned..I'm currently living on 3 hours sleep a day - and feeling fine the other 21. I went to bed between 9 and midnight but I'm up and chatting and surfing.

Doc 40 points out Zu Zu Mamou, a Dr. John masterpiece. I have to pass it on.

If you come to it cold, it might look kitsch. Believe me, it wasn't kitsch when we first heard it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Fyootcher revisited

Oh, come on Las Vegas!

Not everyone wants to have Facebook authenticating their ID, as Facebook is completely incontinent with personal data. Pretending that folks would prefer to sign in with Facebook rather than yourselves, Open ID, or Google is just stupid.

I wanted to reply to something in one of your articles, but I'll just wait until tomorrow and phone you up, since you give a phone number on your site.

Las Vegas Weekly 2360 Corporate Circle Drive Fourth Floor Henderson,
NV 89074
(702) 990-2550

Perhaps my alter ego Barry Bollocks should get a Facebook account just for events like this? If I signed him up, who would friend, I mean like, Barry Bollocks? I'm sure my other alter ego Miss Demeanour would. Anyone else? All in favor say aye!


I have a number of friends who believe that the world is being forcibly moved away from a cash economy to a credit economy. Some of them believe this is to hide the essential fact that non-gold-backed dollars are worthless. Some of them believe that it's to hide that, plus the antichrist requires everyone to carry the mark of the beast in their hand before they can trade. Some think it's because it's important to Big Brother that they can track all purchases (but don't worry - if you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to hide, right?). Boing Boing reports on a tale of a disabled woman on a fixed income who managed to save enough cash to buy an iPad.

Except you can't buy an iPad for cash, because Apple says so.

I suspect that William Gibson's cyberpunk future - which is about thirty years late at this point - is about to fall with a clang. We should get ready to barter our skills or our wares, because greenbacks will not be accepted (and in many arenas, like during flights, already aren't). And credit is ephemeral, if not imaginary. Disabled people will not be the only folks refused credit cards, you can be quite sure.

On a recent bout of flying, American Airlines told me twice that since May 1, only credit cards would be accepted (even for things like $2 headphones and $8 pillows (because, yes, now they charge for pillows). On the third flight, I was on a small plane, an American Eagle, which explained as how they could never accept credit cards. Cash only. On the fourth flight, after the spiel about credit cards only, being confused I tried to tender cash for a miniature bottle of wine. "Credit card only," the stewardess (or whatever they're called) warned me sternly. I explained about the previous flight. "Apparently American Eagle only accept cash," she said, in partial shock, to the other juice jockey. He shrugged.

Corporate's the same everywhere, isn't it? Mine too.

Welcome to the fyootcher.

The persistence of memory

From about eight to about five years ago, I was pretty sick. At the time we had a phone in our kitchen, hanging on the wall near the water cooler. I've been healthy since then, and the phone (like everyone's, I'm sure) has migrated from a static land line that fastened to the wall to some form of handset that lives where you want it to live.

So today I'm home from the hospital and ready to get my prescriptions filled, and I wander into the kitchen and grope ineffectually at the wall beside the water cooler. There's nothing there. I've also done this before, regularly, every six months as I get my prescription for antibiotics to be taken prior to teeth cleaning. Walk into the kitchen, swing my hand at the wall.

See, that's where my mind has put phoning the pharmacy. I didn't phone much of anybody else in those days - hated phones, still do - and so the action of phoning The Medicine Shoppe is linked with that patch of wall. Every time I do it, I shake my head, walk back to the computer and use the handset beside the screen. Or my mobile.

Similarly, I just bought a new car. The old one, which I had for ten years, and the one before it, which I probably used for five or so years, had a garage door opener in a little compartment by my left knee. The new one has a gadget attached to the rearview mirror. You show the gadget your garage door opener, it learns to imitate it, and from then on you press a button on the mirror. There is no compartment by your left knee.

But every single day I've backed out of the garage, I've groped around the fascia by my knee, remembered and then reached up to the mirror. Every single day now for six weeks.

I've read a lot over the years about how little people really take in from the world around them. Between automatic systems designed to reduce visual and auditory input to a small enough bandwidth that we can react to it in a timely fashion, and our subsequently learned reactions to recurring events, we simplify what we use to navigate our environment almost to the point of absurdity.

Normally, it doesn't show. Occasionally someone will show us an optical illusion that works because our brains make physics-based assumptions about perspective and size that aren't true when an artist gets involved, and occasionally, we'll get sick again after five years and have to re-learn how to phone the pharmacy. Then we see it, and shake our heads a bit. I may be a little worse than the average person, but after watching STB drive my car out of the garage and scratch at the panel by his knee before remembering, I know I'm not the only one.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Doctors and nurses

OK, I’m home. At the least the part of me that isn’t my lower right parathyroid is home. Mr. Parathyroid is in ur pathology suite bein classified as adenoma.

The nurse who checked me in graduated in 1965. She was cool, calm and collected. The rest of the nurses averaged about 12 years old, or so it seemed to me. I was particularly taken by the little girl who was asked to put the IV line in. She was obviously new at it and I didn’t object because I’m used to people practicing on me – I have good veins. After about ten minutes fishing around in the back of my hand, she couldn’t hit the vein and someone else took over. I should shut up at this point as I just said I don’t mind people practicing on me… better me than some little old lady or some kid just learning what cancer is as they have to go into hospital.

They have great drugs in hospitals – I was able to try the famous Ambien for the first time and it was wonderful except they woke me up four times during the night to take my vitals which rather ruined the whole restfulness of the thing. And I’d refused Vicodin on the grounds that it didn’t work, so they gave me a liquid form called Lortabs, which in double doses almost did work. Stopped the ache, anyway. The nurse said we’d (my room-mate and I had) been authorized morphine but I think both of us thought it would be a bit pretentiously BAMF to order morphine when we’d both had less than an ounce of tissue removed. And I can’t speak for her, but I was worried about DEA agents hiding behind the blood pressure machines.

“Did I hear you say yes to morphine? You’re going down!”
“But it was prescribed to me by a duly licensed MD!”
No matter, kid, this is the US!”

Sound effect: echoey clang of iron doors closing.

I had a minor tantrum when I woke up from surgery and the nurse classified coffee as a full liquid, rather than a clear liquid. Once I’d made my feelings known she got me through the stages of ice chips then water, through clear liquid and on to full liquids in about 10 minutes flat so I could have my coffee. Gotta have coffee. Coffee withdrawal headaches are worse than surgical pain, and I know this for a fact.

The doctor didn’t appear all day the first day, but the dietician arrived several times and recited yumcious meal combinations that could be mine purely by me being a guest of the hospital. (Mrs. Next door was on liquids, poor thing, not knowing about the fast track tantrum-led pathway to soft foods.) Shortly thereafter, minions brought said meals. Boy were they good. I may have to go back when I’m hungry.

However, when the doctor didn’t appear the second day either, we had to organize a revolt. Roommate and I led a phone tree to get him there. Short story, it worked and we got discharged at around two in the afternoon. We had to chivvy the nurses a bit. (“But removing the IV is the very last thing we do.” “It’s okay. We’re discharged. You can remove them right now.” [Big velociraptor smile] )

The mother of Mrs. Next door, who knew from hospitals, advised me to “take anything not nailed down – you’ve already been billed for it”, so now I have some pink kidney bowls, perineum cleanser, toothpaste, tissues and deodorant. Perhaps I can put them on eBay?

I got home and immediately showered in phenol to get rid of the MRSA. Hospitals are bad places in many ways. I’m better off with my lizards as at least I’ve lived with their presumed zoonoses for 15 years.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Ocean

Robert Plant thought of his audience, not as a sea of cowards, but as an ocean. The song, from Houses of the Holy, is a wonderful, joyous celebration. Here it is live from New York in 1973.

I'm going to the hospital tomorrow - at 6:30 am! - to have something out. Three people were supposed to phone me:

Surgeon's person making sure I had insurance: Completed.
Hospital's person making sure I had insurance: Completed. (She also managed to bill me the 10% and the co-pay in advance...she'll go far.)
Anesthesiologist checking to see I'm healthy and how I react to anesthesia so that he can get set: Hasn't phoned.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Plankton in the sea of cowards...

In Get off my lawn, I spoke about fanfiction and Diana Gabaldon's outbursts on the subject.

She's taken them down, along with the 1200 or so comments. In the piece I mentioned her language was so archaic it was hard to believe she was net savvy. Well, guess what, she's taken them down from the Wayback Machine as well. Pretty clever. And I didn't bother to save them because...well...they weren't worth it.

Robots.txt Query Exclusion.
We're sorry, access to has been blocked by the site owner via robots.txt.
If you care, you can find them in the first post here at Fandomwank. Our sea of cowards never forgets.

Catherynne M Valente's impassioned pro-fanfiction writer's take on the fuss.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson

Not that I normally go out with much younger men, but here's an analysis of how the word 'cougar' has become gendered...and since it's associated with women...I bet you can't guess...a bad thing.

A cougar is an older woman who dates a younger man. There isn't an equivalent term for men who date younger women (unless the difference is so great that the Brits award the title 'Dirty Old Man'). According to the article, it was a positive term for a while and then turned negative, but I personally missed it being positive.

The article focuses on a study that says older women who marry younger men die early. But what the media isn't reporting is that women who marry older men die early, too.

That puts a different, non-judgmental spin on things, no?

"The other pattern (women with older men) deserves more attention, because it is much more common," he says. "Women that are much older than their husbands are very rare." Yet, this didn't stop the press from issuing broad cougar advisories as if Maggie May marriages were the new swine flu."

Very interesting article on Forbes here.

President requests you get off lawn

Ah Barack Obama, how you continue to disappoint.

Obama tells a commencement ceremony (whatever that is) in Virginia that teh digital is eebil.
With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations -- none of which I know how to work -- information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation," Obama said at Hampton University in southeastern Virginia.
He was also thoughtful enough to blame me personally.

Obama also lamented the spread of social media and blogs, through which "some of the craziest claims can quickly claim traction."
"All of this is not only putting new pressures on you," Obama said. "It is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy."

Manufacturing has fled the country in order to make a buck (forgetting that if the consumers don't have jobs, the buck won't actually ever be made), the government far outspends its income and prosecutes two wars that it can't afford (while killing vast numbers of furriners (who probably Don't Count) as well as Americans) and generally builds up enormous reserves of resentment against America, and education is reduced to a few quick info dumps designed to produce compliant drones.

But the real problem is iPads and Bloggers.

Story from Fox News. Yeah, I know. But still.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sea of Cowards

I ran home after work today to check the mail and I still don’t have a copy of the Dead Weather’s new album, Sea of Cowards. I guess I paid for the cheaper mail while the clever people just went for the download.

But even though I don’t have it, I know that there’s two tracks on the vinyl - well, not exactly on the vinyl per se – that I’ll have that they won’t. Because Sea of Cowards has a track pressed into the label on each side of the vinyl. Yes, it does. And those are not on the CD. (In fact I’m not sure how to play them; I’ll have to digitize them the first time around or risk either the label or my needle.)

I love this album. I’ve heard it enough in previews, and of course (boast boast) heard it played live by the band this time last week, to know how much I love it.

On the cover, the band is wearing masks. In the music, the band's wearing masks too. Last year, during Glastonbury, an interviewer asked Jack White about playing the festival in daylight. He answered, “Do we look like sun people?” And I had to answer, yes, Jack, you look like a sun person. A sun person engaged in convincing himself otherwise. I don’t think Jack’s ever put his hand to something he can’t master. A year later, he doesn’t look like a sun person. His look and his music is a bitter, midnight trek. His fellow musicians look as though only the dim putrescine luminescence of graveyards provides the crepuscular light in which they will bizarrely prosper. Alison, in particular, has become so much of a night person that she has switched species.

When I saw them at Third Man Records last week, after a few repetitions of lines like ‘crack a bone’ and “I’m going to take you for worse or better - to my little grave’ I had a clear vision of Baby Ruthless sitting on a new re-dug mound of earth strewn with splintered coffin-wood as she drove her inhuman hands into the rotten ribcage to pull out the good bits to consume, while her companions rolled in the dirt in driving rain among the headstones, fucking and caressing and yet never once getting even one particle of mud under their spotless fingernails as they quarrel about whose ivory or mahogany-sculptured necks they’d track down before dawn to sink their sharp white teeth into.

“I’m Mad. Hah,” she sings, channeling Billion Dollar Babies-era Alice Cooper. “You’re a real jawbreaker, a crook, obscene,” she says about a boyfriend. “I’d call you a heartbreaker, but I reserve that for nicer things.” Of herself, “I don’t want you to like me,” she sings. “There’s no way that you can.” The video of the single and the recent publicity stills are bright blue and green, like vivid bruises. Jack sings, “I love you so much I don’t need to exist. Dripping blue blood from my wrists.” In Old Mary, Jack intones a parody of the Hail Mary. In another, Jack tells us “Some people die in the middle. I live just fine at the top.” “Hustle and cuss, lick on the dust,” Mosshart tells us. There’s more stuff about horses, the Dead Weather’s signature animal – oddly enough, it's not a crow.

The music is perfect. It’s synthesizer driven. Jack’s vastly improved drums and Dean Fertita’s guitar drive the record but Dean lays down synth riffs that could challenge anyone. A while ago I wondered why people kept on referencing Led Zeppelin in relation to the Dead Weather. Now, I see it. There’s something about those riffs, which are no longer driving flurries of eighth notes or triplets, but complex rhythms in which the spaces between the brain-bleeding tones are as important as the notes. The gaps, the white spaces, open up the riffs to breathe, and they go on to stomp the land like Gojira. In riff terms, the Dead Weather has gone from Led Zeppelin [#1] to Presence [#6] in less than a year.

For me this is a must-buy. One of the few living R&B or blues influenced bands allowed on the internets to ply their trade.

Edit: one of the vinyl tracks is a hidden track on the CD apparently. However, hidden track is hidden.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Dictionaries have rude words in them shock horror

Good gads, two from Fandomwank in one day.

According to Making Light, this is what has recently happened to Wikimedia Commons, the site that holds the images for Wikipedia.

•April 7: Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger sends the FBI an email stating that he believed that Wikimedia Commons “may be knowingly distributing child pornography.” In the email, he states that his reasons for reporting it are (a) that he has a moral and legal obligation to do so, and (b) “they [Wikimedia Foundation] purport to be a reliable source of information. Moreover … some school district filter managers are not filtering such smut from the view of teachers and students.”
•April 27: Fox Advocacy News picks up and elaborates on the story.†
•May 7: Fox follows up with a report that Wikimedia Commons is “rapidly purging thousands of explicit pornographic images from its websites.” This appears to be because it (FoxNews) is “in the process of asking dozens of companies that have donated to Wikimedia Foundation…if they were aware of the extent of graphic and sexually explicit content on the sites.” It then helpfully enumerates some of the larger donors for the benefit of its readers.

Fandomwank's take on it.

My take on it: As security recedes during this recession, there's a flight towards the center. The oddballs and the ones pressing for more freedom are increasingly being seen as threats. As this occurs, individuals are looking at their own actions and pre-classifying them as threats before Fox News gets there and does it for them. Clearly, diagrams of the reproductive system and images of 19th century art are not pornography; and even if they were, they're not illegal.Self-reporting mildly racy content to the authorities is the action of a scared, demoralized person.

Today I read a news item about a person whose toddler grabbed a White Russian on the table and had a sip. The person called the police. Yep, called the police to self-report giving a minor alchohol. It's not like we're in 1950 again, more like we're in 1905.

I feel very sorry for the millenials, the people who are around 20 now. They won't have nearly as much money as we have, because it's all been squandered. (Although I'd like to point out that the "we" who had all the money doesn't include 98% of us.) And they won't have anything near the freedom we had, even though we currently think of our expression as censored and with barriers everywhere. They're going to have no net neutrality, no privacy, explicit monitoring, censorship and fewer ways to express themselves.

Then again, I came of age during the Thatcher years. It'll be a while before things get as bad as that.

But they will.

Get off my lawn

I'm late with this, so you've probably already heard all of this.

Diana Gabaldon is an idiot.

Edit: Gabaldon has taken down the posts and the replies. You can find them as screenshots here.

I've never read any of her books, but her blog is quite well known and I've been there before. Last week she told us her thoughts about fanfiction at some length. Apparently someone is auctioning a piece of fanfiction to help a cancer patient pay her bills. Diana decided to tackle the thorny 'problem' of fanfic. She was against it. Which is fine. Authors who don't like other authors writing fanfic in their worlds usually just state that, and the big fanfiction sites take it down and disallow it going forward. Any writer who wants to risk it usually just writes in a closed group in Live Journal or similar so the author never has to see it and the works in question never circulate publically. Everybody's happy.

But Gabaldon decided to call fanfic writers names and trot out a number of tired tropes - the stories are all about sex; writing about my characters is like seducing my husband and like writing porn about my daughter; it's not very good; writers should shape their own characters. She wasn't always this unimaginative. She has likened writing fanfiction to selling children into "white slavery". That's a new one on me!

She wrote four posts about this, all written in a sort of Usenet text dialect, with multiple _underline_ for italic and [g] for 'grin' or as normal people say, lulz or :). Much of the conversation apparently took place on Compuserve. Compuserve! She sounds like a prim little old lady, and her defenders writing in sounded like clueless pensioners themselves. It's stealing. The writers are lazy. Poor Diana, having to put up with having fans. Many of the fanfic defenders responded in standard Live Journal wank style. More than 1200 people replied (and that's not counting Compuserve, where I did not dare to tread). The overall effect was like Zombie 1992 rearing up and attacking 2004 on its deathbed.

Much of fiction is fanfiction. It just gets a more respectable name. Sometimes the author of the original is dead. Sometimes the writer files off the serial numbers (changes the name of the characters). But most often, the writer is thinking vaguely about something and says to themselves "but what if...?" Then the thoughts come tumbling out and presto, there's the outline of the story. The thing they're thinking vaguely about is often a book, or a film, or a real person. The only difference between that "but what if...?" impulse and a fanficcer's "but what if...?" impulse is that the fanficcer has bought the book and loves it and wants to express what happens next, or what a character did that we didn't see in the book. They take the extra step of making sure they are consistent with something that has gone before (or deliberately deviating from it in some way).

People make up stories all the time. A kid playing with a Batman figure and saving Gotham City is doing fanfiction, and someone in school doodling his favorite manga character is doing fanart. The story of Noah is fanfiction of the story of Gilgamesh. The Greeks wrote large numbers of fanfiction Odysseys..."but what if," they thought, "someone else journeyed home from Troy and different things happened to him?" Shakespeare loved retelling older stories - he wrote fanfiction. People have written Shakespeare fanfiction. Rosenkrantz and Guildernstern are dead, for one. There's a hundred others mentioned here.

As for 'stealing characters' it's noticeable that fanfiction goes with genre writing. Few people write Captain Ahab fanfiction but a lot of people will write Dr. Who fanfiction. A few people will write a Stephen Dedalus, but many, many people will write Harry Potter, or Anakin Skywalker. I think that's because the really strong, unique characters of whom authors can be proud tell their story once and then are done. The Joseph Campbell archetypal characters are far more generic and can be used multiple times. An author who originally writes Luke Skywalker or Lestat is in a way already writing fanfiction, because their character is older than themselves - older than writing in many cases.

I'm oversimplifying, of course. And I can't sum up the arguments for and against that were made in over 1200 posts on Gabaldon's blog, or the 80 posts on Charlie Stross's blog (which is where I found out about it). Stross is very sensible about fanfic, compared with the other writer. Fandomwank takes 1800 posts to dissect this little outpouring. My, so much wank! (I haven't read them all...who could?) John Scalzi has weighed in. And so has George RR Martin. And Nick Mamatas.

If you would like to read some good non-personal debate, Making Light is always a good place to start. They discussed it (in only 900 posts) here.

I would like to end this with a quote from her entry on Wikipedia:

James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser (Jamie) : Claire's husband in the eighteenth century. A strapping young Scottish redhead with a complicated past and a disarming sense of humor. Jamie is intelligent, principled, and by eighteenth century standards, educated and worldly. In The Outlandish Companion Gabaldon says he is partly based on the character of Jamie McCrimmon from Doctor Who.


Saturday, May 08, 2010

Zombie Master

My first computer came with a hard disk... well, that probably wasn't my first computer, but anyway, the first computer I think of as mine. The hard disk volume name was pre-assigned as 20mbmaster.

So of course, the computer became known as Zombiemaster. (You can all stop laughing now at the back about the concept of a hard disk that was 20 megabytes big.) My next computer was called Son of Zombiemaster, and although somewhere in there I had Big Bugger, we did eventually get Doctor Zombiemaster and finally, a couple of months ago, Herr Doktor Professor Zombiemaster. Doctor Zombiemaster, I think, had a a hard disk crash so we gave it to someone else with a spare disk in it. We got a new laptop, whose name included Zombiemaster.

Some of the machines went to the recycling station on e-Waste day this year. One of the recycled machines, don't ask me which, lives on in Herr Doktor Professor Zombiemaster as a virtual XP environment running inside the Windows 7 machine.

The virtual machine and the desktop machine call each other ZM3 and ZM4. I can't remember the laptop's name but it includes Zombiemaster. The net result is that I have no clue where files end up when I save them. I think I've worked out how to save on the virtual machine versus the real machine on the keyboard I'm typing on now, but when I look on the network for where to post stuff from the laptop, I just really have no clue. It certainly does not help to have to move from XP to Windows 7 as I move computers.

Truth be told, I liked MSDOS. At least DOS was transparent and logical. The big, fluffy, friendly icons of Windows 7 do nothing for me. In my life of course I file things in filing cabinets in manila folders, but the half-open Windows 7 folders in "libraries" do nothing for me. They look like they'll lose documents, and anyway the library concept continues to escape me. As for the difference between "shared" and "public"...

It's entirely possible that I will shortly tell the kids to get off my lawn. In the meantime, we are going to rename the computers "Server", "Virtual", "Lyle's laptop" and "STB's laptop" so I can get a clue as I'm scouting round. I may eventually ask for everything to be downloaded or saved to the server rather than the requesting machine to save me doing it manually. Shortly after that, I'll agree to upload everything to the cloud about a week before North Korea lays down a really big magnetic pulse and everything in the cloud disappears.

It'll be liberating.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Nashville again

The people I met in Nashville were the most friendly (or professional, as appropriate) generous and wonderful people I've ever met. The myth of the Southern Gentleman is true. They were taking time to be nice to me while this was happening.

Edit: That garbage can on its side between the stop signs hasn't been knocked over into static water. It's actually being swept from right to left by running water. The river has risen over the street.

I'm looking for a charity. Red Cross may not quite cut it, I'll see. But these were wonderful people carrying on during a disaster and I pledge to give something towards that.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

How to get pissed

This one is at last not about the Dead Weather, except in a way it is.

When Third Man announced that there'd be a Dead Weather show on the 3rd, and the competition was Right Now, a few people wrote in to the website to say how much that sucked, because they weren't on the computer right now and anyway they couldn't be in Nashville on Monday.

And I thought, dude, five minutes ago you weren't going to see the Dead Weather in Nashville and now, five minutes later, you aren't going to see the Dead Weather in Nashville.

Nothing in your life has changed, except now you're really pissed about it.

It's all about your attitude and not about phenomena.

I know it's easy to say because I won and they didn't, but I'm going to try to take this as an example for when something like that happens to me.

The House That Jack Built

Well, I'm at the airport on my way home.

I know this is identical to everyone else's photos of Third Man Records, but the difference is it's my photo.

And one day I might crop it properly.

Happy Star Wars Day!

May the Fourth Be With You.

The Dead Weather at Third Man Records: It was great. Ben was, shall I say, vehement that we shouldn't take photos, so you won't see any of them from an identifiable person. The sound was recorded for a black and blue vinyl, which we all dutifully signed up for afterwards. I don't remember any specifics and of course I couldn't see the MySpace feed as I hadn't brought any digital devices into Third Man in case it got me kicked out. And I didn't take any analog notes as I was busy enjoying myself.

They played Sea of Cowards and blew me away. I'm an old hand and I've heard some good live stuff, but this had everything - the tunes, the passion, the energy, the performance. Jack's first comment was 'Welcome to my house,' and I really did feel I was at his house. The band gave everything they had.

They did a three song encore, with Jack rapping extensively from the drum stool during TMLYM. They were all smiles, everybody happy. I'm really hoping they'll be bonus tracks on the vinyl. Afterwards, we went out for a meal with multiple Vault/LR members and enjoyed real southern food. And then I came back to my hotel room and watched it again on YouTube. I am, as Jonathan Richman memorably said, in love with the modern world. And I'm equally in love with Jack White, to whom many thanks.

We aslo got to meet Jack's new guitar Veronica. She's lovely.

MySpace feed was captured by Kurt655 and is on YouTube here and I'll get a better source for that later and post it, if I survive today's air travel back home.

Edit: the original source is still here. Right click and save as to download.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Nashville, May 3rd again.

Went for a little walk downtown. The something river is still rising, apparently, but the area we are here to visit is dry (and littered with junkies and Christian missions). We saw a huge BBQ truck pull up to Third Man Records and had brief dreams of a meaty treat from Jack, but it was just backing up to the mission to feed the homeless. There's a satellite uplink truck parked outside Third Man Records, though. Always a good sign of impending activity.

Nashville is dominated by a building that looks like something from an early Batman movie. If the gargoyles start to move in this place will def. become Gotham.

It's actually an ATT building, so when it lights up at night, with the AT&T Death Star between those two spikes it looks like the Eye of Sauron.

Nashville, May 3rd.

Well, I've flown into a disaster area. It's sad to come to a city for the first time and see it struggling with devastating floods. The locals on the plane were gasping as they looked out of the windows during landing.

It's dry and sunny today, and Nashville's continued health depends on whether the river continues to rise or not during the day. My heart goes out to the people mopping out after the flood and those who have lost loved ones.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Going to Nashville

Sea of Cowards has an awesome cover, doesn't it?

Oh wait, that's not it. This is it.

The first one is my version, painstakingly made out of pictures cut up with an X-Acto knife, like the original. Though of course the background is made by Photoshop's gradient tool like every other background in the world. This is a scan, obviously, as everything becomes digital when it goes on teh nets. It looks a bit cooler in real life as Dean's horns and his mask's horns aren't glued down giving a bit of a 3D effect, as does his white coat coming out of the frame. I think my Dean looks badass and I couldn't bear him to cover up that cute face with his mask, so he's not wearing his.

Little Jack looks pretty cool too.

Oh, and I didn't have any Dymo Tape so I used a free Dymo Tape maker I found on the web which had a pretty good imitation font.

The name Sea of Cowards refers to me, apparently. According to the interivew in this week's NME, Jack is still all ruffled by us anonymous bloggers. But I can give him my business card on Monday, because I won a chance to see The Dead Weather play at Third Man Records from The Vault!

Yes, I won a giveaway during the recent 24-hour Screaming Live Vinyl event (Sea of Cowards was played live, as in a camera watched the vinyl play and now and again people came in and turned it over. There was more to it than that, like this little competition. (Though of course, like my analog album cover, the vinyl didn't really stream. Digital bits streamed. Jack may hate the internet but he seems dependent on it. I've worked with APAs and CD-R vines and weeds and I know how long the mail takes. And how much it costs.))

Trouble is, winning a chance to see someone on Monday on Friday afternoon is kind of difficult to pull off for a Californian. We don't like to make plans. But I've managed to hook up with my friend from the Las Vegas gig (who also won) and another internet friend, book tickets and almost start packing.

Blogging could be sporadic for a few days.


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