Science Fiction Writer

dmk

Most of the news and press we see is aligned heavily with vested interests. As a result of this, what we see on our TVs and other forms of media is heavily slanted to align with one skewed view of the world or another.

The Real News Network is dedicated to bringing back independent and unbiased news coverage. Help yourself and help them by visiting them regulalry – as they say in their tagline “The future depends on knowing”.

According to IT Business, Ontario’s Electric car infrastructure will use a “cell phone” business plan.

People will buy electric ‘miles’ at top up stations or swap batteries in a system combining subscription and pay-to-play models. This apparently is the best for everyone concerned. As the article says:

“Much like how your cell phone contract helps to subsidize the expensive handset you purchase with your plan, your electric car could also be subsidized with your subscription to using the electric infrastructure.”

Interesting. Now I obviously always completely misunderstood the motivation for this type of pricing model, as I always thought that the only reason for its existence was in order to guarantee a constant stream of revenue for overpriced services to the very wealthy phone companies.

I guess I must have got that wrong…

Now, let’s see. A high level phone costs around $400. A typical phone contract would be about $40 a month, with a three year commitment.

So Obscenely Rich Phone Company (TM) gets a guaranteed ($)12x40x3- $1440 for a $400 phone (which doesn’t even cost them $400 anyway!).

Oh and then they screw you for ‘air time’ too.

Sure, let’s apply this to electric cars too. I’m sure the electric car companies are all in favour of this ‘model’.

How about doing something for the consumers for a change, Mr. McGuinty?

Oops there goes another aerial porcine…

So today I went to the “Sonystyle” website to order an electronic doodad. Filled in the order details, added the billing and shipping addresses, entered in my credit card details, double checked my cart contents, hit the ‘buy’ button…

and its now suspended, hanging in limbo at 38%… Contestent number three, do you:

  1. close it down and hope that they havent actually processed it and try again
  2. try to refresh and hope you don’t get double charged
  3. close it down and just not bother

So I thought I would throw the experience on here as a little five minute blog posting. Open up the site, set up the blog, set account for blogging with. Make a blog post with new account. Notice a couple of mistakes, try to edit…

No edit option… huh?

Log back in as administrator to check settings. Hang on, now I can edit? Log off, log back on to check bloc account cant edit and I’m not actually just insane. Log back out, Log back in as administrator. Oh screw it, I’ll just change the post as the administrator.

Log out completely to check post from user perspective. Hang on – it’s showing the post as being written by the administrator not the blog account. Log back in as administrator, check settings again. Nothing obviously wrong. Okay double screw it. I’ll just delete the account and do everything through the administrator account. Delete blog account and…

the blog post dissappears… even though it was “written by the administrator”

Give it up, come back to it this evening, recreate everything, the whole damn blog set up, re-write post click to change te bulleted list above to use letters instead of numbers…

pop-up blocker triggers, say yes, I really DO want to allow pop-ups on this site you moronic browser pile’o’shite and pooof…

browser refreshes losing the unposted post and I start again.. tears running from my tired red eyes… I wonder how much time is wasted on this kind of thing? How many hours do we collectively sacrifice to re-ordering, cancelling duplicate orders, re-doing the same task multiple times because the ‘system’ went wrong etc. Technology is truly glorious…

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7292981.stm

Really? What can you say to something like this? It always amazes me when people claim that there’s no harm in having these different beliefs. I suppose not, as long as you don’t classify ‘blinding yourself through stupidity’ as ‘harm’.

Just one thing though:

“Their retinas were damaged due to direct exposure to the sun,” Dr Annamma James said.

I doubt that their retinas were directly exposed to the sun, I imagine that a few lenses, corneas, fluids, and around 150 million kilometers got in the way slightly. It would perhaps be more accurate to say “Their retinas were damaged due to stupidity.”.

“The main conservative opposition party, Fidesz, insists that the government must find the money.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7287210.stm

How is it that so many people manage to miss the most basic, fundamentals of how governments work, including those actually within those circles? Let’s all take a deep breath, that’s it, now repeat after me.

“Governments don’t have any money.”

Try again.

“Governments don’t have any money.”

The only money that any government ‘has’ is what they’ve taken from the public in taxes, fees, more taxes, more fees, taxes on the taxes etc. In other words, yours and mine, or in this case the population of Hungary. They can’t just ‘find’ money. They can only take it from us, and if you vote to prevent that, guess what? They have no money.

Oh and if you think somehow they could dip into their own (undoubtedly well lined) pockets…

Governments don’t do that either. Perhaps they should.

Six questions to ask every prospective candidate to separate the wheat from the chaff:

1. Do you believe that Creationism should be taught alongside Darwin’s Theory of Evolution?

2. Do you believe that prayer has any chance of providing any practical help in times of emergency?

3. Do you believe that astronomers and astrologers should be given equal funding?

4. Do you believe that any major industry will effectively self-regulate itself, without the need for external controls?

5. Do you believe that UFOs are spacecraft full of aliens?

6. Do you believe that people will voluntarily limit themselves to combat global climate change?

If they answer yes to any of these, you know not to vote for them. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will get good government – just somewhat intelligent government.

Surely that has to be better?

Strange use of the word ‘stunned’ on the CBS page.

http://www..cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/15/world/main3504859.shtml?source=RSSattr=HOME_3504859

“it is only one piece of evidence and it’s one person’s view, the
viewfinder of one individual,” said RCMP Cpl. Dale Carr, adding that
something made the Mounties take the action they did.

hmmmmm… blatant police sadism? The common police mindset that the
they have the right to act in any gung ho brutal fashion that they want?

“The RCMP urged the public not to rush to judgment.”

Yes.. don’t you naive public people rush to any judgements… err…
like the police do…

Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomy guy (I don’t really want to call him the Bad Astronomer 😉 ), recently brought up a post by Will Wheaton, known almost entirely for playing the part of the endlessly-irritating Wesley Crusher on the equally endlessly-irritating Star Trek: The Next Degeneration.

For what it’s worth, I like a lot of what appears in the Bad Astronomy site, including Phil’s blog posts. I also don’t have any problem with him ‘diversifying’ as some do; he has a right to his own views and politics and I support his right to express those things, even if I don’t necessarily always agree with them. I also don’t have anything against Will Wheaton (apart from the aforementioned role, and I guess that’s the show producer’s fault rather than his personal responsibility).

The article by Wheaton is one of these along the lines of nasty-rich-and-powerful-old-media just don’t understand the web and are trying to kill it off or control it. They don’t understand how it has changed the world and set all of us free to become newly-discovered overnight dotCelebs(tm) in a new and better dotRenaissance(tm) and not only that it won’t cost anything either.

The main gist seems to be that nowadays anyone can post anything online – youtube, blogs, gallery etc. So now magazines, newspapers, movie companies and the like, are just dinosaurs doomed to extinction by the fall of the digital asteroid.

What so many people who live on the Internet fail to realise is that this ‘freedom’ is itself the problem; removing barriers to ‘publishing’ sadly doesn’t mean we all become overnight Shakespeares or Mozarts or Kubricks. All it means is that every talentless prat in the world can now attempt to force his or her detritus on an unsuspecting (and largely uncaring) world. Talent requires somewhat more than an illegal copy of (insert creative software package name here) and the ability to click on a nice friendly ‘upload’ button.

Some of the responses on the Bad Astronomy post have put forward another viewpoint: that the products of ‘old-media’ at least guarantee a certain basic level of quality to the book/movie/article. Come again? If that’s the case you people must have access to a whole network of TV channels that I don’t, you must have different movies coming to your theaters than I have appearing in mine and your book stores must be full of books I’ve never heard of. In fact TV became so bad that when we moved over to Canada, we just didn’t bother getting any. We have a TV, we watch occasional DVDs (99% of which are complete rubbish) and that’s it – we have no TV ‘channels’.

It’s not really that old-world-media provides quality and new-world provides errr… doesn’t. The quality is almost universally bad – it just ranges from bad to very bad in most cases. And if nasty-old-media is dead then they sure don’t seem to know it. What was the biggest media event this summer? Harry Potter? The Transformers movie? Something with Disney Pirates in it? Yet-another-Marvel-comic-turned-into-a-disappointing-movie (YAMCTIADM – also ™)? What it certainly wasn’t, was something from youTube, or BookLocker, or in fact anything from the Internet.

There’s no doubt that there have been some ‘successes’ in the ‘new media’ world. I’ve heard of a couple of youTube people being made offers that undoubtedly wouldn’t have come their way if it wasn’t for their online activity. I’ve also heard of a couple of writers being picked up after self-publishing on places like BookLocker. The point is that once their talents are discovered – they’re being picked up by ‘bad-old-media’ and the Internet has just been a vehicle for them to get noticed. What I don’t hear is people saying, “Hey no, we don’t want your filthy stinking nasty-old-media money, we prefer to stay as we are, freezing cold and hungry thanks very much.” Even Phil Plait has books published by nasty-old-media. And as for Will Wheaton – well we already mentioned his past ‘evil history’.

So if nasty-old-media is dead or dying and we’ve finally got the uppers on those selfish money gougers that must be good – right? Instead of giving them all that money, now we… oh yeah, we give it to Google, and Microsoft and youTube, and presumably all of those wannabee authors are making BookLocker a tidy sum too.

Replacing one set of rich controlling media companies with a new set hardly seems to be progress.

In fact, it’s quite easy to say how new-media is the best thing since sliced (insert product placement here) bread when you’re not actually relying on it to pay for that bread. The expenses of the Bad Astronomy site are, I’m sure, more than covered by Phil Plait’s undoubtedly generous University stipend (and the proceeds of his book sales). He boasts how he has 30,000+ readers, a substantial fraction of any astronomy magazine, but what has he done with those readers? All he’s really done is drawn away 30,000 of people who at one time would have probably bought magazines and provided employment and helped to convince them that everything should be free. Oh… and collected a rather nice audience for his next book (and I applaud him on doing that!). He even says, “My publisher appears happy to have me working hard on the ‘net to promote the book as well.”

Phil also makes a good argument for the speed of publishing on the Internet. But again, speed isn’t everything. In 2006, members from the Duke Lacrosse team were charged with raping a black dancer. The news was splashed about the Internet at the speed of light. The responses came in from all sides just as quickly – it was a violation, the worst kind of sexual assault and bigotry committed by a bunch of sadistic, selfish, over-privileged white boys. The only problem was… it didn’t happen. The evidence was fudged, the prosecutor lied in court (that would be Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong lest we forget), withheld evidence, and the victim’s testimony was shaky at best. Eventually the case was dismissed, but by that time the boys were already tarnished. Opening the box is a lot easier than closing it again – just ask Pandora.

Speed of information dissemination is no boon if the information itself is incorrect, or from a tainted source. The Bad Astronomy site itself is littered with posts about people publishing bad information; in fact as the title suggests, that was its prime motivation for being created. Speed kills – not just people, but objectivity.

Most of the success stories I have heard that have come ‘from the Internet’ have come about not because of the Internet but rather the people involved. They were determined, they plugged away, they kept on beating on those doors, bugging people, pleading with people, irritating the hell out of people – until eventually someone said, “Oh Jesus, just buy the damn thing if only to shut them up.” They have been a success because they had the essential characteristics of successful people – resilience, persistence and sheer bloody-mindedness.

They used the Internet for sure; but if it hadn’t existed, they’d undoubtedly still have succeeded – because of those characteristics. Without the Internet being there, they’d have just found another way.

I once heard that Billy Gibbons said in an interview that ZZ Top was: “an overnight success, it just took seventeen years to get there”. In the ‘instant world’ that most people seem to live in, it seems scandalous almost sacrilegious to say this, but success takes those three things: resilience, persistence and sheer bloody-mindedness. Yes, you may get lucky. Yes, you really may be an ‘overnight success’, it does happen – just don’t hold your breath. It takes hard work.

According to this report a number of schools who were presented with free classical books had them returned as being ‘too boring’ for current students.

I can sympathise to an extent. When I first studied Shakespeare in class it was mind-numbingly dull, the presentation was fundamentally flawed – Shakespeare’s work are plays meant to be performed, not read as if they were novels. Nor were they meant to be analysed and pored over until every bit of fun and entertainment was wrung from it until all that remains is a ‘carcass fit for hounds’.

Once I saw Shakespeare performed (especially by the RSC) I was hooked and realised just what these great works were all about. Not only that, I could then go back and ‘read’ the plays and gain an even greater understanding of them so that when I watched them again for a second or third time (which I did willingly) I was able to get even more out of the repeated performances.

What was needed wasn’t that these works be abandoned, but simply that they should be presented well.

Where my understanding and sympathies run dry though, is in reading the quotes from the ‘librarians’ at these thankless schools, who hold the opinion that Manga comics and “magazines” (and I’m sure my assumptions of puerility en masse are not entirely unfounded) some how equates to ‘reading’. Continue reading