May 7, 2011

Moving along…

Filed under: General — crcb @ 11:01 pm
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I will soon quit updating this blog. Instead, please check my new blog at

Following NaPoWriMo I felt a need to get my geek on, so the first few posts there are heavy on the math/tech side of stuff.


March 18, 2011

Martin Luther’s new media

Filed under: General — crcb @ 11:47 pm
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Via Mike Masnick comes this story of Bob Woodward’s recent anti-internet-journalism rant. If I may go off on a tangent…

The old guard of the newspaper and book publishing industries are all singing from the same song book. Their implicit message is that the unlettered peasants can’t be trusted to create, or indeed to recognize, good content. We need, they say, professional journalists and editors.

If their concern about the public is genuine, it’s condescending. But I don’t think that’s it. I don’t even think it’s primarily about money. Their anxiety is about losing their mystique. They fear people will realize that journalism and publishing were never about difficult skills and esoteric knowledge, but about access to resources and willingness to do the work.

This reminds me of nothing so much as the Church’s reaction to the translation of the Bible into the common language. Now the holy mysteries have been handed to the laity, who don’t realize how lost we will be without their professional guidance.

But I don’t think we’re the ones who will be lost.

February 11, 2011

Maddeningly Poe

Filed under: books,General,reading,Writing — crcb @ 6:58 am

It’s tempting to dismiss Edgar Allan Poe: his theories were humbug, he did so much wrong, and what he did right, he made look easy. But we still read him. His images and lines often echo through my head.

Similar statements could be made about the melodramatic Dickens, the modifier-intoxicated H.P. Lovecraft. But Poe, Dickens and Lovecraft are not just read; they are loved. Many of their contemporaries who were (by every rule book) better writers, who did not regularly commit the most wretched of prose crimes — those upstanding literary citizens are gone, or at best embalmed in academic dissertations. Poe, Dickens and Lovecraft refuse to stay in the Hell their crimes against style deserve. They walk among us.

Moral: It’s more important to do some things right than to do nothing wrong.


December 16, 2010

Yahoo! killing – Updated

Filed under: General — crcb @ 9:33 pm
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(Update: The latest is that Yahoo! is looking to sell Delicious, not shut it down. Whether that was their plan all along, or a reaction to public response, is unclear. I’m still going to prepare for the worst.)

Yahoo! is getting ready to pull the plug on, and I’m trying to pick a new social bookmarking tool. It has to be free, and I’d prefer one that will let me import my Delicious bookmarks. Candidates I’m presently considering:

  • StumbleUpon – but it has no support for bulk imports of any kind, from what I can see.
  • Reddit – where I first found out about the Yahoo! move. I don’t have a Reddit account, and I do have a Yahoo! account (in addition to my Delicious account). Something isn’t right here.
  • Diigo – I’m not familiar with this one, but apparently the servers are under a heavy load right now, as users import their Delicious bookmarks.
  • Zootool – also new to me, and also reportedly under import stress.

I’ve seen Pinboard recommended, as well, but it isn’t free.

By the way, if you’re a user, you’ll want to back up your bookmarks while you still can (you’ll need to be signed in).

October 31, 2010

Halloween Tree 2010 (pics)

Filed under: General — crcb @ 1:14 pm
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Halloween Tree 2010, close-up

Halloween Tree 2010, close-up

Halloween Tree 2010, side view (sorta)

Halloween Tree 2010, side view (sorta)

Halloween Tree 2010, full view

Halloween Tree 2010, full view

August 30, 2010

Them as has, gets – updated

Some literary journals, such as New England Review and Ploughshares, have begun charging for e-mail electronic submissions. In other words, if you want to submit poetry or prose electronically to these publications, you need to pony up $2 to $3 dollars per submission.

Excuse me?

I first discovered this on the Avoiding the Muse blog, by New England Review’s C. Cale Dale Young, where he defends the practice, in response to a critical post on Steve Fellner’s Pansy Poetics.

In thinking this over, I’ve tried to be as fair to these two journals as I can. Here’s the best I can do for their side: e-mail [and the internet] lowers lower the barriers to submission, increasing the workload in reading and responding to them, without lowering costs or increasing revenue for the magazine. It’s not really about the money; literary magazines aren’t for-profit ventures, but labors of love. The writers would be paying for postage, paper and printer ink to send a postal submission (which is still free at these magazines). Nobody wins if the magazines don’t survive.

I hope somebody can make a better argument, because that one is pretty weak tea. If it really isn’t about the money, but — as I suspect — about discouraging submissions, re-raising the barriers, un-democratizing literature, that’s worse than simple greed. If it’s only about reducing workload, that’s understandable, but this is an incredibly wrong-headed approach.

Let me make it clear: I know I’m no Seamus Heaney, but you are not providing me with a service by agreeing to read my submission. I’m doing you a service by sending it to you. Even if it’s the most pathetic drivel written this century. And what you are asking most writers to pay for is the privilege of being rejected.

New England Review and Ploughshares certainly won’t mourn the loss of my poems, but they won’t be seeing them. I won’t pay a (regressive) reading fee, though I could probably afford it. Call it a gratuitous act of solidarity.


1. I typoed C. Dale Young’s name in the original post. My apologies.

2. I should have said “electronic submissions,” not “e-mail submissions.” I don’t think it changes the principles involved, but it was inaccurate.

3. My comment (in the comments) about a “form-letter comment” was gratuitously snarky. Again, apologies.

August 17, 2010

Dream: Painting, poetry and fish

Filed under: art,General,Oneirica,Poetry,Writing — crcb @ 10:10 pm
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I don’t usually blog my dreams, but I have a far, faint intuition that this one might be about writing.


I’m part of a group on a mission.

One will create the painting. She acquires a canvas, and pictures keep revealing themselves on it — a portrait of a lonely young man, a Kandinsky-like abstraction. The artist will have to find the true painting that is already there.

Another will create the poetry. She meets her literary idol, a middle-aged man, gray-haired but vigorous, who agrees to participate. As they travel around together, she realizes that he typically gets the title and the “occasion” (her word), then declares the piece finished. Only later, and only sometimes, does he write the real poem. But he is a poet, when his ego and laziness get out of the way. She suggests going to the lake and waiting. He thinks it will be a waste of time, as seeking inspiration outdoors usually is, but she prevails.

The “lake” turns out to be indoors: an oddly-shaped irregular solid of a wooden room, with a rectangular pool in the middle which holds a single, immense fish, as large as a person. The room has a chapel feel about it, with people sitting respectfully on wooden benches. I’m with the poets at this point. The fish wants out. The pool goes under one wall to join the outdoor lake, but the opening is too small for the fish to swim through. I make a joke about going to the attic and letting it out, and immediately a female security guard is there. When she understands that I was joking, she says, “Well! You took me somewhere different!” Then we all realize that the fish is gone.

I’m walking to buy something. I wear my green jacket (for the pockets), even though it’s summer and I’m in shorts and a hawaiin shirt. It’s raining, with white particulate matter in the air. Pollution, I think, and now everyone can see it: the game is up for the polluters. Or is it snow, or hail?

Our group is at a garden party. So is our opposition.

August 15, 2010

On conversation

Filed under: General — crcb @ 3:02 pm

Nerds, guys and other clueless people often think conversation is about conveying information, and that if there’s no new data in the content, the conversation is meaningless. More than half the time, the function of conversation is social, not cognitive: establishing bonds, jockeying for position in the group, performing a mating ritual. This is as true in the workplace as in personal life. (Maybe not the mating part, but that isn’t entirely absent.)

May 27, 2010

Garrison Keillor: Too many writers killing culture

Filed under: General — crcb @ 7:02 am
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I generally like Keillor, but he can be a back-in-my-day codger sometimes. According to a new op-ed by Keillor, book publishing is “about to slide into the sea,” and all because it’s too danged cheap and easy to write and publish and read. His prediction: “18 million authors in America, each with an average of 14 readers, eight of whom are blood relatives. Average annual earnings: $1.75”

I’ll let others discuss the financial side. They can parade examples of self-published authors who have large followings and make good money, like the enjoyable and prolific Cory Doctorow. Instead, I call William Blake to the stand. Blake’s work never would have survived any editorial vetting process in any era, even ours, and without his egotistical determination to print it himself, the world would be a poorer place.

If I can play the codger myself, back in my youth we had something called “the zine explosion.” Cheap photocopying and cheap postage made it possible for anyone to be a publisher. There were zines on coin collecting, zines on librarianship, racist zines, peace zines, erotic zines, religious zines, zines espousing socio-politico-economic theories that been developed with the aid of powerful chemicals, mobs of music zines, and literary zines — oh, were there literary zines! I saw my own poetry and satire published across the world: Finland, Turkey, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. (My readership was small, but it was cosmopolitan.) I read poetry and fiction and humor and rants and manifesti from those countries and more. And it was good. Not all of it, not most of it. But I would pluck a piece from the spillage and, as Keillor says, “read the first three sentences” to decide if I wanted to read the rest, just as I do with fiction in The New Yorker. I found many poems, stories and articles that were just as good as those in mainstream publications, but I never would have read them there.

For Blake, creative work was synonymous with worship; every poem, book, story, song, drawing or sculpture was another stone laid for the New Jerusalem, and he exhorted every Christian to contribute to building that city. I’m sure many aspects of modern technology would have troubled him, but “everyone an artist” would not have been one of those aspects.

May 26, 2010

Worth reading: Cory Doctorow’s “Jammie Dodgers” story on Shareable Futures

Filed under: General,What I'm Reading — crcb @ 8:52 pm
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Not great literature, but enjoyable. Makes me miss the ‘zine explosion of the 80s, it does. Plus he names names.

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