latin geek
It's old news by now, but Geocities is shutting down today.

I think xkcd's theme today has basically hit the nail on the head as to why this is a point of nostalgia and self-reflection for half the internet. If you can look at that and not feel a twinge for the days of yore, you are probably never going to understand.

Somebody call me if Homestead or Angelfire starts coughing up blood.

Jonathan Coulton

really disturbing.
Wow, I have been way too busy to update this thing. The only newsworthy thing from this weekend:

I saw Jonathan Coulton at Park West on Saturday. After playing D&D with a couple friends, actually, so it was a pretty good study breather in general. I've never seen JoCo live before; I've seen Voltaire in San Diego, but for some reason I didn't go see JoCo when I had the chance. I still wouldn't've if a friend hadn't offered to get the tickets for us. It takes a lot to get me to actually go to a concert: I only pray that when the live acts I've got my heart set on seeing sometime in my life (Billy Joel, Great Big Sea, Leonard Cohen, MB20 among them) come into town I'll be able to overcome this inertia.

Paul and Storm opened, which from what I understand is a pretty usual occurrence for JoCo tours (they have a song about being an opening act); I was with a couple friends who REALLY loved Paul and Storm, and even liked them a little better than the actual act live. I'd never seen or heard them before. They were pretty good: definitely great performers, though I dunno if their songwriting's quite up to their performing. Loved a couple of their songs though, I'd see them again, though probably not alone.

It turned out They Might Be Giants was playing elsewhere in Chicago on the same night, which I understand to be pretty much the worst piece of overlapping-audience scheduling there ever was. Park West was packed anyway, which apparently surprised Jonathan Coulton a fair bit. Personally, I think TMBG's declined a lot in fanbase, or its fanbase has aged at least, whereas Coulton's pretty much the next big thing whether or not you think he warrants it -- I do, obviously, I paid $30 for the privilege of seeing him. On the other hand, I'm not a TMBG fan, so I got a little bored when he and Paul & Storm decided to play all the way through the TMBG album Flood to mirror apparently what TMBG was also doing that night. Istanbul was on that album, though, which was the definite high point of "artist I love covering band I don't."

He moved on to his own songs pretty shortly, which is like -- how do I describe that? Either you're a JC fan and you get why Skullcrusher Mountain, Ikea, Mandelbrot Set, Code Monkey, Creepy Doll, Still Alive, and Re Your Brains are a collective shot of crack or you, well, aren't, I guess. It took a while for the high to wear off. Though he made what I thought was the most amazing closing-song choice -- Sweet Caroline (bum bum bum!), good times never were so good (so good! so good! so good!) Actually, typing that I'm not sure the high HAS completely worn off. A+, would see again.


rome - gaius! julius! caesar!
Some re-issued covers, compared to the originals, are not great.

Others are phenomenal:

I had to get a cellphone picture of that when I saw it in the bookstore, which to date counts the geekiest reason I've taken a cell pic (usually I use it for menu Engrish and my ex-roommate's cat). As usual, I have to wonder what prompted the broader-audience release (though the other covers have always been cool): I can only presume it's the introduction by a broader-audience author. I can only hope the five remaining Gaiman fans who haven't read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell will do so straight away, as Susanna Clarke can never have too many royalties in my opinion if they make her publish something new sooner.

ETA: Alternate CoversCollapse )


The First Amendment

stephen - stupid thing to say
What the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution Says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

What the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution Does Not Say:

1. A private citizen shall make no statement abjuring another private citizen to shut up. Not a First Amendment violation.

2. A private citizen shall make no statement abjuring another private citizen to shut the [redacted] up. Ruder, but still not a First Amendment violation. Still getting warmed up.

3. A private citizen shall express no opinion that another private citizen is a [redacted] and should go [redact] themselves up the [redacting] [redacted]. Ruder yet, but as you can see we are discovering a trend here, and in accordance with this trend this is still not a First Amendment violation. (It may be a violation of any number of other things -- but the First Amendment is, as you can see, rather short, and the first word is "Congress.")

4. A publisher/newspaper/radio station shall can, sack, expel or fire no person who does not meet their standards for their publication/newspaper/station, whatever those standards should happen to be. This one is actually pretty easy too -- like, if I worked for the National Review and I was fired for a column extolling the virtues of Comrade Lenin, I wouldn't exactly be clutching my pearls -- but you'd be amazed how many people have trouble with it. Then again, a lot of people have trouble with #1 too. "Congress" is a widely defined word in popular lexicon. Particularly internet lexicon. Congress: n. 1. a person who disagrees with me; 2. a privately owned company. The More You Know.

5. A company shall pull no advertising that offends their viewers. Another no-brainer -- and yet.

6. A newspaper shall refuse to publish no article that they don't like. I love this imaginary First Amendment. I wish it were true. I would have so many publication credits if it were true and no one else knew about it. Sadly it is not, editors and publishers still have the right to turn down your story for bad writing, offensive sentiment or all-around [redacted]ness, and once again, to the tune of today's program, the First Amendment still doesn't give a [redacted].

7. A company shall refuse to hire no person whose personality or behavior they dislike. Here we get a little stickier, because of course the question comes down to why they dislike this hypothetical person -- but if the reason is, "they said or did something that led the company to believe they are a blithering idiot who will bring harm to their enterprise," chances are the First Amendment is -- you guessed it -- still not concerned with it.

8. No one can ever express disapproval of another person, their opinions, or their behavior. Never. Ever. It is truly remarkable how many people believe that this is the actual text of the First Amendment. I wager if Jay Leno went out onto the street and asked people if this was the actual text of the First Amendment, most of them would say no, but only because it doesn't include the words "freedom of speech." But the bottom line, the driving point, the moral of the story, the monster at the end of this post: the First Amendment protects your right to say something. It doesn't compel anyone else to like it.

This post has nothing to do with school. This is partly because we are not studying the Constitution until next year, but also because if I posted about school it would pertain to how school introduced me to the name "Welford Wigglesworth Jr." and that basically gave life a meaning from the void.


Thursday Lunchtime Links

calvin devil
A History of Violence screenwriter John Olson Will Not Read Your Fucking Script -- and I agree with him.

Meanwhile, the producer of Creation claims that he can't find a producer because Darwinism is too controversial in America. I'm going to echo what John Scalzi had to say on the matter, which is that the distribution problems probably had very little to do with controversy, but that a little bit of manufactured controversy is an excellent publicity ploy for a film. Personally, if this really is a cynical play for publicity, I'd have to tip my hat a little at its efficacy and shake my head a little at the kind of snotty crap about Americans it perpetuates. Seriously, we are pretty crazy and I am losing a little faith in us with every new Tea Party, but we ain't that crazy. Or at least, we love our entertainment more than we love our crazy. Which isn't hard. We do so love our entertainment.


Gordon Brown Apologizes To Alan Turing

art - into the west
Not much to report today, except that the campaign to get the British government to apologize for its treatment of Alan Turing has met with success: PM Gordon Brown has issued an apology for the UK's persecution of Alan Turing.

But even more than that, Alan deserves recognition for his contribution to humankind. For those of us born after 1945, into a Europe which is united, democratic and at peace, it is hard to imagine that our continent was once the theatre of mankind’s darkest hour. It is difficult to believe that in living memory, people could become so consumed by hate - by anti-Semitism, by homophobia, by xenophobia and other murderous prejudices - that the gas chambers and crematoria became a piece of the European landscape as surely as the galleries and universities and concert halls which had marked out the European civilisation for hundreds of years. It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe’s history and not Europe’s present.

So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.

Aside from finding it mildly strange that Mr. Brown is, apparently, on a first-name basis with Mr. Turing -- thoughts? I think it's surprisingly and, I would say, admirably unequivocal. I am glad to see the leader of a country acknowledge homophobia for what it is: and take responsibility for the devastating effects of this bigotry. I also gloomily can't imagine President Obama being able to take the political risk of making a similar statement of condemnation for governmentally sponsored homophobia in today's political climate, but perhaps I just don't have enough imagination.


luke and han
Weighing in finally on the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film starring RDJ and Jude Law slated to come out around Christmas -- by the way, if anyone else out there has costochondritis and is considering air guitaring wildly to Jessie's Girl against their better judgment, don't do it -- I'm pretty sure there's no point in embedding the trailer here, as it breaks my pretty layout and I imagine most of you have either seen it already or don't really care. I'll link it anyway in case anyone hasn't and does.

I'm always going to be a little obsessed with adaptations of things I care about. Inevitably there's a thrill at watching something you like or love come to the big screen -- inevitably you go to watch it and you're elated at what came to life from your head, or what didn't but worked beautifully anyway, and you're heartbroken at what was left out or changed or adapted terribly; I opined at length on Zack Snyder's Watchmen when it came out. The movie Watchmen hurt my heart a little bit, not just because I thought it failed at so many things, but because every big-budget adaptation of something I love is another big-budget adaptation of something I love that isn't going to come out -- that's always my sadness when an adaptation isn't good, actually. It's mourning the loss of the adaptation that could've been good. It's grieving for the adaptation that's not going to happen now, not for a good twenty years at least when another remake fad hits the theaters. That definitely factors into my opinion on Sherlock Holmes -- I can only think, if this bombs, how long before we get another shot at Holmes and Watson?

That being said, I draw a line between a good adaptation and a faithful adaptation: granted, how strongly I draw that line depends on how much I like the work adapted. Hellblazer's a comic series I will always and forever hold in my heart, and Constantine's a pretty good fantasy movie, and never the twain shall meet (but I'd hit Gavin Rossdale). Watchmen suffered from smothering faithfulness, if anything (but I'd hit Jackie Earl Haley). Stardust made an okay book and a fantastic movie (but I'd hit Mark Strong, that handsome devil, please bar him from shaving his head ever again). So when I hope Sherlock Holmes is a good movie, I don't hope it's a faithful movie; I can already tell it's not a faithful movie. In truth, I think a faithful movie to the Holmes stories could be a good movie -- but it's not this one. I'm okay with that. The only sorrow I've got over it is, like I said before, that the making of a wildly divergent Holmes film precludes the making of a stringently faithful one for a long time. I just want it to be good. Actually, I just want it not to be bad. Please God don't let it be bad.

So I'll try to be optimistic, though the LXG tone of the trailer concerns me a bit: it's the Van Helsing-ish supernatural stuff, the shit blowing up, the dubious accents, the clear belief that if you don't make an internationally beloved pop culture figure look like an 3dgy womanizer in the trailer no one will see the movie, the sexy flirting between Holmes and Watson -- wait no actually I like that bit, very true to the spirit of the thing, keep that in. But everything else, meh. Just -- meh. Not as an adaptation, but as a movie. Which concerns me a lot more. However, I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt -- I want to. I've got no other choice. I have spread my Holmes under your feet; tread softly because you tread on my Holmes.

Wait a minute, Irene Adler's a central plot element? Never mind. Burn this drivel.


RIP francis u.
So I got wind of a link through Catherynne M. Valente, or catvalente, to an article by Lev Grossman in the Wall Street Journal's Life and Style page. Valente's thoughts were, to say the least, unfavorable. Now just to get this out of the way, I respect Catherynne M. Valente pretty goddamn deeply and enjoy her writing -- The Orphan's Tales books are excellent and this is coming from someone who was pretty sure they weren't her kind of thing. Ms. Valente's a classicist too, which earns her points. I love other people who love boring things, it makes me feel validated. (As previously established, I love validation. Maybe I should replay Achievement Unlocked again.) If you mosey on over to her journal you might find me vaguely agreeing with her on her comments page without reading shit, which is a common internet habit of which I advise you all rid yourselves lest you wind up making an ass out of u and me like myself.

That being said, here is Lev Grossman's actual article, Good Novels Don't Have To Be Hard Work. Go take a gander. To be honest I agree with the sentiment, but I don't agree with a lot of the particulars, so in no particular order I'm going to quibble over said particulars. Basically I think Grossman's making a twofold point: that good lit doesn't have to be modernist stream-of-consciousness (with which I agree) and that this is some kind of populist revolution that just occurred to people at this very moment (the hell you say). Quibbling:

In Soviet Russia, yesterday was invented pop culture.Collapse )

I'm glad to hear I hallucinated all that pop culture between 1909 and 2009.

More seriously, I took interest in this article because, somewhere in the cockles of his heart, maybe below the cockles, maybe in the sub-cockle area, maybe in the liver, maybe in the kidneys, maybe even in the colon, we don't know, I think Lev Grossman and I basically agree: that fiction as entertainment is as worthy a goal as fiction as art. I'd go a step further and argue that the two aren't, and shouldn't be, mutually exclusive. It takes genuine artistry to make good entertainment. That is the difference between a Pixar film and a DreamWorks CGI picture; if I hear one more person spout the cause of shoddy quality and poorly thought-out offensiveness in the name of populism I'll have to fantasize about punching something, but if I hear one more person counter with the cause of pretension, elitism and self-congratulation I'll have to fantasize more ardently about punching something.

Good creators -- writers, artists, animators, directors, producers -- have figured out that it takes a bit of art to entertain. What's taking critics so long to catch up?


Instead of cleaning my kitchen, I...

gay viking holiday
... replay Achievement Unlocked, the world's most validating Flash game
... change my LJ default userpic. In my defense there are valid reasons for No there aren't, this is an entirely narcissistic exercise and it's even more narcissistic to tell people about it. That aside, mangatars are narcististically fulfilling (hey look it's me with gigantic eyes!) but don't tell you a whole lot about a person. If you were to travel to someone's profile and look at it and see a mangatar, you'd probably be like, "okay, this person obviously visited the mangatar generator" and move on. Whereas I am pretty sure that Gay Viking Holiday says a number of things about me, namely that 1. I don't make my own icons and 2. I enjoy gayness, Vikings, and going on holidays.
... come up with wild theories as to the plot and backstory of Lackadaisy, stemming from the last few pages. Is there anyone left on the internet who doesn't read this? Bueller?
... complain about being down with the sickness again instead of calling a doctor
... describe bronchitis as being "down with the sickness"
... seriously, how else would you describe it
... draw bones, wish I'd never heard of an iliac crest