Conservatives Sill Twats and DRM is Still Stupid

First, in a fit of irony, the Creationists behind the movie Expelled created a video to lampoon atheist scientist and critic of religion Richard Dawkins. Except to any athiests watching, Dawkins actually comes out looking awesome. ("I'm smarter than you, I have a science degree," raps Dawkins in the video. And he is probably smarter than you, and, yes, his science degree does make him more qualified to talk about things like the origin of the universe than someone whose scientific education revolves around the Bible.)

Meanwhile the Ayn Rand branch of the Republican party are busy trying to put together events to protest bailing out homeowners. Cause, you know, giving money to poor people is so un-Christian. (The meshing of the pro-big-business libertarian mindset with Christians whose doctrine tell them to give to the poor and that a rich man has a hard time entering the kingdom of God and so on never made any sense to me at all.) No, don't give the money to the homeowners, give it to the banks who lent them the money in the first place and then repackaged it on the market and screwed up our whole economy. That's SO much better.

Meanwhile, Amazon reveals that it can cancel your Kindle account at any time, making the device you paid $400 for instantly useless. This is why DRM'd books are a bad idea, as I talked about in my review of the Sony Reader. If you're considering buying an ebook reader, for the love of god buy one that reads unencrypted ebooks, and not not not the Kindle.

Don't believe me that DRM is bad? I have mixed feelings about Cory Doctorow's fiction, but when speaking about DRM he has a knack for putting things in the right perspective. Here's his talk at the TED (Tools of Change for publishing) conference:

And lastly, thank God Time Warner Cable caved in and decided not to meter people's Internet usage anymore. If they'd tried that shit in NYC I would have switched to DSL so fast there'd be a blur where my cable jack was.

Have a good weekend everyone!

WaLS: The New Literary Disease

There is a certain fragment of the literary world that drives me fucking bonkers. In my mind, it is epitomized by travel writers, freelance copywriters, Neal Pollack, Poets & Writers magazine,, preditors & editors, and Nick Mamatas. This is the subculture within the literary community where the act of writing has become little more than a performative task that functions as a signifier rather than a craft that is merely a means to produce an end. In this subculture what matters is not that one has produced good writing but that one is seen to be writing productively. In this world the legitimacy of one's writing has nothing to do with its style or content or mastery, but rather that one can point to various facts that, separate from one's work, are taken to be markers of personal legitimacy in the claim to writerhood. Far from the true virtue of writing, ie the production of quality literature regardless of recognition or fiduciary recompense, this instead is a world of a different kind. Rather than the world of writing as artform, it is the world of what I have come to think of as writing as lifestyle, populated by a crowd of mental lepers suffering from Writer as Lifestyle Syndrome (WaLS). And I for one am totally sick of it.

How Not To Get Funding For Your Book

One of the funniest things I've seen in a while, author Lisa Gabriele takes the piss out of a reality television show.

My favorite part is the panelist who says "You know, I own books." Via.

FOX Wants to Kill Watchmen Movie

On the subject of bad decisions, FOX apparently wants to kill the forthcoming Watchmen movie, claiming legal rights to the material that supersede Warner Bros.

"Surprisingly, Fox said it would rather see the film killed instead of collecting a percentage of the box office."

Why? Beats me too.

Could there be Watchmen curse, placed by self-proclaimed occult magician and Watchmen scribe Alan Moore? In any case, one begins to understand why he wants nothing to do with the film industry anymore.

John Oliver's Literature Rodeo

Apparently, they could spring for John Oliver but not for a decent sound editor. Still, a good example of how to make book ads entertaining.

Fat, Gay Superman?

Some disturbing correspondence has emerged between Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman, and his publisher Detective Comics (DC), including this little bit of criticism:

Another alleged problem with Shuster's artwork is that it made Superman look gay--or in the period slang of Ellsworth's January 22, 1940 letter, "lah-de-dah" with a "nice fat bottom"--

Also problematic is Lois Lane being too sexy, and in general the quality of co-creator Joe Shuster's artwork.

The State of SF Magazines

In a recent blog post, comics and prose writer Warren Ellis discusses why the print SF magazines are dying. The key for me is when he says,

As was stated over and over last year, any number of things could be done to help these magazines. But, naturally enough, the magazines’ various teams appear not to consider anything to be wrong.

You all may recall that I recently did a not very flattering review of a recent issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, in which I discussed in some depth how almost all the stories within were derivative, uninteresting and for the most part crap. However, when that post was discussed on the F&SF message board, I found the editor in chief, Gordon van Gelder, not only unreceptive to my comments, but completely dismissive of them and of me.

First he wrote "I think my attitudes were a lot like yours back when I was 19 or 20. ... One thing I learned is that while I'm completely entitled to my tastes, my likes, my dislikes, it's a mistake to think that everyone else shares them." What are we, in high school? Are you really arguing that all opinions are subjective and the view that they aren't can't be true because you thought that way when you were young?

Then he says that I would be "better served by anthologies" and that it's an old joke that a "Slipstream" magazine would lose money, because he's obviously raking in a fortune as it is. Moreover, he keeps insisting that F&SF is better than ever, and if that was the case why are they loosing readership year after year? And don't say because people are watching TV and movies and playing video games instead; that's a cop out. As Ellis explains in a later post, print is not dead. Not even close. Ellis seems to think that it's too late for the existing SF magazines, for F&SF, Analog, Interzone, and Asimov's. I'm inclined to think he's right.

The best Ebook reader for the iPhone/iPod Touch

I've been getting really frustrated with Bookshelf's limitations, not the least of which is the fact that if you put your finger down somewhere without holding it long enough it JUMPS to the top or bottom of the paragraph, meaning that if you're trying to scroll down and take your finger off too quickly it jerks you away from whatever you're reading. Also the interface is ugly, the HTML book I'd imported didn't format quite right resulting in the first chunk of it being centered, and did I mention it doesn't read PDFs? This thing cost me $10?

Then along comes Stanza. Stanza has a beautiful interface, a huge library of public domain books easily available, and the book formats it supports? "Stanza contains built-in reading support for Amazon Kindle, Mobipocket, Microsoft LIT, PalmDoc, Microsoft Word, Rich Text Format, HTML, and PDF." [Emphasis mine.] And even better: It's FREE!

The only catch? The program to transfer books from your computer to your device only works with Macintosh. Apparently, they're working on a Windows version (and maybe even a Linux version, which would make me happy to no end). For now, though, I found the works of HP Lovecraft that I was reading on Bookshelf in Stanza's free library, so I'm good for the time being. Once they get the software working on other platforms, this will be the only eBook reader anyone should even consider using on their device.

iTunes App Store Opens

Apple has opened the App store for business, though the firmware updates for the iPhone and the iPod Touch are still a day away. (iPhones but not Touches can actually get the 2.0 update through a direct link.)

Naturally, after downloading the iTunes update with the App store, my first course of action was to try and find the PDF eBook reader I've been waiting for. A search for "PDF" came up with bubkis, but I did stumble on this App (which has "PDF" in the description -- Apple, time to work on your search functionality). It allows you to copy files, including PDFs, to your device and read them. The only thing missing is the ability to bookmark pages.

I'm not buying the app until I know it can bookmark, but I've sent them an email asking about it. I'll keep you all posted.

Update: I also just found this app, which doesn't read PDFs, but does read HTML and text. If FileMagnet doesn't do the job, this is what I'll probably be using until a proper PDF reader comes along.

Update 2: The makers of FileMagnet replied to my email:

Hi Eric:

Thanks for your interest in FileMagnet. FileMagnet's PDF viewing is identical to the way Safari on the iPhone shows PDFs. There's not currently a way to bookmark pages as far as I know. We will absolutely be looking into providing more powerful PDF viewing in a future update!


So no dice there. Sigh. If only the iPhone SDK were available for Linux, I could really build something (or at least try to)...