More Free Swag

Added two more texts to the Project Gutenberg section: “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and The Club of Queer Trades by G.K. Chesterton. I also tweaked the XSL stylesheets for pg.es.o and es.o. Done properly, you will never notice.

I must be doing something right because people who have blogs of their own have been reading my blog, and two of them – who are great in their bloghood – have sent me emails in response to one post or another. So in thanks and appreciation, here they are:

Portnoy

Wordiness

May your hit-counters never stop rolling.

Free Swag

I updated the Project Gutenberg section and added two new texts: Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, and Dead Souls by Nicolai Gogol. Before you go a’clickin’ on those links I should warn you that Tom Sawyer is just over 400k, and Dead Souls is just over 800k.

In the interest of laziness open-ness I have linked those files in before completing the XSL and CSS stylesheets. Both will continue to evolve as I mark up more texts, and need to account for more variation.

Nevermore

The Eisen case left me with a bad taste in my mouth, so in a fit of almost-civil-disobedience I marked up “The Raven” and added it to the Project Gutenberg pages.

While I was Taking It To The Man the UPS fella came by and dropped off a completely kick-ass CD by Bonerama out of New Orleans. I bought the CD based on a single track I heard on WYCE a couple of weeks ago; a twelve minute funky jam version of Edgar Winter’s Frankenstein . Sure, it’s already a bad-ass song, but when a band comprised of five trombones, a bass, a tuba and drums plays it you’d swear the top of your head is coming off. Amazing.

Look for some design changes to es.o in the next few weeks. Brian and Bock are in the process of redesigning and that has me thinking that my stuff is a little dusty.

I had the stunning insight this morning that Jacques Derrida is to philosophy what L. Ron Hubbard is to religion. My opinion has not changed: deconstructionism is still stupid.

Deconstructionism is Stupid

While browsing Arts and Letters Daily I came across this review of a new movie about the French deconstructionist Jacques Derrida. Well, kind of a review. The author mentions the existence of the movie then launches into a rant about Derrida which I found to be both amusing and enlightening.

Deconstructionism is the schools of thought which divorces works of art from their creators and any meaningful context, then picks them apart using, in essence, personal whim and non-sequiturs. The goal of this meaningless exercise if to show that no one thing is any more meaningful or important than anything else.

People who have read Cryptonomicon may remember the scene where the protagonist, Randy, objects to the misuse by a visiting professor of the metaphor “information superhighway”. The professor replies that, because Randy is a computer expert his view of the subject is necessarily skewed and, by knowing less about the subject than Randy, he himself is better qualified to form an opinion about the effects of the internet on the lower classes. He also uses a lot of non-sequiturs and academic in-jokes to show how smart he is.

Huh?

Exactly. In The Bear Went Over the Mountain one of the minor characters wistfully predicts the profound impact his new book, which compares the number of consonants to the number of vowels used by Shakespeare, will have on The Academy. This is also deconstructionism.

Deconstructionism is mediocrity.

Because any tangent can be used in the pursuit of tearing down a work of art, the practice requires neither careful study nor accountability. It is the argument used by far-left liberals when they say all children must feel good about themselves so the smart ones must be dumbed down.

Deconstructionism, when taken to extremes (as convenient schools of thought always are when someone’s career or ego is involved), can seriously damage reputations and, in cases where intervention into affairs outside the academy may be deemed necessary, can actually cost lives. In this article (also by way of A.L. Daily), the author notes that the reason American feminists are spending more time complaining about boy-to-girl ratios in little league teams than they are campaigning against human rights violations in Muslim countries, is that, by their own logic, to act aggressively against the values of another culture is to support the Western hegemony.

The argument is feminist, but the logic behind it is deconstructionist. Western civilization has been shown to have been built by a flawed group of individuals, therefore anything done in support of, opposition to, or in reaction to anything that is connected to Western civilization, is inherently bad.

Thus nothing is done. And here is my primary gripe against the deconstructionists. They are so very good at destroying beautiful, worthwhile things, but they are incapable of creating. Psychologists could have a field day with these people, if they wanted to subject themselves to having their work interpreted in light of the temperature outside, what they had for lunch, number of syllables in their surnames, cross-referenced with whether or not certain fingernails are bitten.

That is no exaggeration. It is much easier to destroy something old than it is to create something new.

And the deconstructionists – not to mention the people who listen to them – never seem to realize that if nothing is inherently meaningful, then neither is deconstruction itself. The entire school of philosophy suddenly collapses, and thousands of trite, untalented graduate students end up holding signs on street corners.

“Will comment on Einstein with reference to South Park, taking into account the feeding habits of the Norway Rat during the Great Plague for food”.

Books

This weekend I read, from cover to cover, The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham. To call it a good book would be a shameful understatement. I wish I had picked it up about fifteen years ago.

The principle character (not the main character) is a Christ-like man named Larry Darrel. Since I am a child of the 80s and a product of my upbringing I couldn’t help but be reminded of the characters Larry, Darryl nad Darryl from Newhart . This is most likely coincidence, but if not then Bob Newhart is a much more subtle man than I gave him credit for.

There is a company called ibooks which is in the midst of reprinting the works of the late Roger Zelazny. If you have any interest at all in science/speculative fiction, then you owe it to yourself to read his books. His short stories are of a calibre which is so far above the standard of the genre that I would feel comfortable putting him on a shelf next to Chekhov and Kawabata.

This weekend I picked up Changeling and To Die in Italban. Of the books that I currently own, my favorite is the short-story collection The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth.

That’s all for now; I am busy reading.

Saving the Future From the Man

So I see that the Eldred case didn’t pass, and that means that copyrights on currently copyrighted materials can be extended ad infinitum . So now, essentially, once a book/movie/song goes out of print, it will be gone for good. When it is no longer a money-maker for its owner – who 99 percent of the time is the publisher and NOT the creator – it will be “archive” and never again see the light of day.

If this kind of thing had been going on a hundred years ago no-one born since 1960 would have ever had the chance to read Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Lovecraft, Whitman, Dickenson, or any of the foreign works which were translated by Americans. They would all be shelved. Project Gutenberg would not exist. Neither would the Open Source movement. The Electronic Frontier Foundation would be a troupe of Qixotic mimes.

I do not begrudge authors and publishers the opportunity to make money, or many opportunities to make a lot of money. But the rights to a piece of creativity which is no longer making any money should be given to the public – under the understanding that anyone who is willing to pay for a copy of the thing, already has.

General consensus in the online community suggests that 20 years sounds fair.

Think about it: listening to orchestral music we say “Hey: That’s that song Beethoven wrote”, not “Hey! That’s the piece the Austrian nobility commissioned!”

All is not necessarily lost, however. Lawrence Lessig is working on a proposal which would simultaneously extend the length of copyright and move a great many works into the public domain. Eldred.cc is collecting news articles and legal material relating to this issue.

I have to admit that the snob in me occasional throws out a “So What?” Think about it: 90 percent of everything produced (and by extension copyrighted) is worthless and a blight on modern culture. The fact that the creators bother to copyright Britney and that whole crowd of music androids is rather pathetic. As if having that crap is worth the real estate value of the sectors on my hard drive. The RIAA blames music pirates for the decline in music sales when it should be blaming the producers and artists for creating crap. Michael Eisner is fellating Congress with glee now that he gets to keep the Mouse for another twenty years. Twenty years of Cambodian sweat-shops pumping out cheap plastic Donald Duck bidet spouts.

Frankly I couldn’t care less if Disney goes out of business tomorrow, or every member of the RIAA winds up in an oil drum in the Okefenokee swamp. In 2050 I want to be able to download the complete works of Jim Harrison, surf to a Tom Waits feedsite, and tuck into a plate of Soyent Green. For free.

So that 90% of crap which is created by jacking in to a mixer and jacking off on a microphone can stay copyrighted forever. No-one will care. But those few gems should be available for free, forever.

More Calm

Just uploaded a new page of photographs. River Ice . This is what I do at lunch.

Right now I am listening to the CD American Gypsy by the amazing Tony Furtado. The first track, Oh Berta, Berta gets a lot of play at WYCE . Based on that one track, I ordered the CD. I was not mistaken. Furtado’s stuff is kind of bluegrass, kind of blues, and all kinds of beautiful.

This past Saturday I caught the Conklin Ceili Band (website in production) at Pete Brown’s Office . I have known of them for some time, and have met the lead singer Mick, but this is the first time I have actually heard them. They put on a hell of a show. They have a new fiddle player, Natalie – lately of Fonnmhor – who plays as well as ever. A splendid time was had by all.

Cable Bastards

That would be AT&T. They are raising my rates by $15.00 per month. Several of my friends are switching over to DSL and filing nasty letters to AT&T. Can’t say that I blame them.

Here is what I’m a-gonna do:

They will be charging me a large amount of money for a service which, in my opinion, should be less expensive that it currently is. Therefore, for the increased fee, I will become the Bastard- Customer- From- Hell. From now on, AT&T gets exactly 0% slack from me. Every time I get less that 100k/second, even if I am connected to a teletype machine, AT&T will get a stupendously vile email from me. Power outage? I better God Damn still be online. My cable is cut? I better God Damn still be online. AT&T goes out of business? Still goddamn online. End of western civilization? Still online.

I am paying more, therefore I will demand more. AT&T has no say in this. I am merely playing by rules they set up. I demand absolute perfection in this service. I will not switch providers. I will hound the support desk, mid-level leeches management, marketroids and owners to make sure that even if the Earth falls into the sun, for what I am paying, ATT will ensure I do not lose my connection for so much as a nanosecond. AT&T is now my $60.95/month beeyotch.

And no I will not add cable TV in order to keep my current broadband rates. The reason everyone is switching to satellite is that AT&T cable TV sucks. I will not be strong-armed by a company which I am paying to be my beeyotch.

Accidental Popularity

Looking at my site statistics this morning I saw that over the weekend es.o got over a hundred hits. Egads! thought I, The cellular automata experiments must have caught the eye of the Right People. I have become Known! Stephen Wolfram himself might have stopped by while I was at the bar!

But on closer inspection all of the hits, or almost all of them, were referred here by a surfboard design website. Well, sez I in a desperate grab at fading hope, Maybe the members of the Fields Medal Review Panel surf in their spare time.

I suspect someone grabbed one of my javascript files, specifically the one which opens pop-up windows, and plugged it in over there. Plugged it in and neglected to get rid of the absolute URL reference in the code.

No, (he says on looking at the referrer logs and cross-referencing the error files). Someone found my site when searching for “surfboard design”, and maybe linked to something which caused everyone following that link to go to my discussion board. I don’t have a discussion board. Nor do I have a surf board.

Which leaves me right back here where I started: begging for attention.