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A public conversation about our worlds.

  • Monday: Morgan J. Locke
  • Tuesday: Madeleine E. Robins
  • Wednesday: Maureen F. McHugh
  • Thursday: Bradley Denton
  • Friday: Steven Gould
  • Saturday: Caroline Spector
  • Sunday: Rory Harper

Brain Activity



The End of the Net as We Know It…

June 11th, 2008 by Morgan J. Locke

…due in 2012. For reals. Via Avedon Carol:

I’ve worked in industry for many years, and I have no doubt that these kinds of plans are being made. But it will only happen if we let it. If you are a reporter, or know a reporter, there’s a huge story here.

Also, I urge everyone to join the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and donate to the cause of net neutrality. They’ve been fighting the good fight against usurpation of the internet by monied interests since dinosaurs roamed the Earth (or thereabouts…). And while you’re at it, buy Cory Doctorow’s bestseller, LITTLE BROTHER, a can’t-put-it-down thrill ride that deals with these kinds of issues.

I have said before, and I truly believe, that equal access to the internet is not just a First Amendment issue, but also a Second Amendment issue. The founders intended to create a power balance between and among the different actors in our democracy. The power people hold over our government is not through handguns and assault rifles; it is through our ability to share information and join forces to hold the powerful accountable to us.

Posted in Dammit!, Morgan, Politics, Technology | 2 Comments »

AJ

June 10th, 2008 by Madeleine Robins

(cross posted from my Live Journal)

When I went to Clarion in 1981, I was already a published writer several times over. My first two books were in print; the galleys on the third arrived at MSU while I was at the workshop; and I had just turned in the fourth right before I left for Michigan. However, these books were all Regency romances, and I wanted to write science fiction and fantasy. I sort of expected people to sneer at me (I have a long history of believing that everyone else is cooler than I am and will sneer at me). So when we did introductions the first night–name, where we were from, any publishing experience, what we wanted to get out of the workshop–I sort of mumbled: “Hi, I’m Madeleine, I’m from Boston (as I was at the time), um, tiny little voice I’ve published two Regency romances…” Fulfilling my worst fears, there were some snickers from around the room.

Then Algis Budrys spoke up. If you never met AJ, he was a big man with a sharp, incisive, funny way of speaking, and one of the few humans I’ve ever met who literally had a twinkle in his eye. Many of his comments were prefaced by a huge, gusting sigh, and “Okay.” He had the intriguing vestige of an accent–he was Lithuanian–and a slow, deliberate way of speaking; when he was building up to say something funny you could see him trying to keep his smile under wraps. So AJ, one of the two instructors who were with us that night (the other one was Robin Scott Wilson) shifted in his chair, sighed and said, “Okay.” He looked around at assembled class. “This woman has just told you that she’s published two books. Any one else here published any books yet?” Silence. “Uh huh. So.” And that was that.

AJ was a clean, crisp, smart writer, and a sharp, perceptive critic. He was a funny, thoughtful, excellent teacher (his demonstration of the seven-beat plot had the entire class in giggles, and led to the liberation of a boy-mannequin from an East Lansing department store, and the subsequent gilding of its head, in order to create a “golden haired moppet” we could introduce into the classroom) and encouraged our writing with kindness and enthusiasm. I don’t know that he was always a happy man; caught unawares he had a slight tinge of melancholy about him. He plainly adored his wife Edna, who plainly adored him right back. AJ gave me confidence as a writer, he made me think, and I was always happy to see him in years since. More, he made science fiction a richer, more complex and more vibrant genre. He died yesterday, and whether you have ever heard of him before or not, chances are your world is poorer for it. Mine is.

Posted in Daily Life | 3 Comments »

Interesting Nice Friendly Jellybrain

June 8th, 2008 by Rory Harper

I haven’t written here much for quite some time, and feel nauseous guilt about it. I’ve failed in my commitment to my fellow Brainiacs. (Not that they’ve done much better lately. Hah! ….Wait….That wasn’t nice…Or friendly….)

Not Actually Doing It behavior is a constant theme in my life. I often ponder and perfectionize, rather than acting. I go through periods where I just soak up info and rest and am practically inert socially. I’m frequently abstracted and divorced from daily reality. I don’t answer e-mail or return phone calls or seek out companionship. This can go on for months. I call this my Hermit Phase. Until a few weeks ago, I was convinced that this was a serious personality flaw on my part.

But now I know better. I’m not bad, I’m just INFJ. We do those things.

A significant part of the work I did with clients when I was a counselor involved normalizing their behavior. They’d come in feeling damaged and inadequate, blaming themselves and thinking that no one else was like them or had reacted like them to the trials and opportunities that life commonly hands out to us all.

So, you have trouble sustaining long-term intimate relationships? Other people do, too! You hate your job? Everybody hates their job! Methamphetamines? Its a goddam epidemic!

Once you get past those feelings of having unique and insoluble problems or defects that no one else has experienced, you can start looking at ways other people like you have found to cope, overcome, change, mitigate, or even accept them.

But it’s really, really, really difficult to accept your quirks and perceived failings, after a lifetime of internalizing that there’s something inexplicably wrong with you.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is based on Jungian theory, and is extremely popular these days in corporate settings. The idea is to fit people and teams together to match their inner needs and compatibilities. Which, uh, is a bunch of bullshit, as far as I’m concerned.

People love the test and feel that it describes them well. It’s enticing that it’s a no-shame no-blame test. It just tells you in what ways you’re wonderful and that you’re okay. It’s great at helping you to accept yourself and not feel weird.

There are areas that you might want to examine, of course….

The MBTI is a for-cost test, but there are a lot of copycat versions floating around out there on the InterWebs for free. A popular one is at HumanMetrics and another is at Similar Minds.

I get almost identical results from both, and a few others out there. Sometimes I show as having a razor-thin INTJ classification, by about 1%, rather than INFJ. I’m sorta okay about that. INTJs are pretty cool, too, though not as cool as INFJs.

The MBTI correlates, some, with the Big Five test, which supposedly accurately addresses the best, most current psychological theories. But I don’t like the Big Five so much, because it says I’m neurotic. And that the MBTI is flawed. To Hell with them evil Big Five people.

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Read More »

Posted in People, Personal History, Pop. Culture, Rory, Science, You | 11 Comments »

Who Do You Love?

June 5th, 2008 by Bradley Denton

What Mr. McDaniel Made 

On Tuesday, I had lunch at my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant in the world, which happens to be located five minutes from my house. My favorite barbecue joint is maybe another minute beyond that. There’s a terrific pizza-and-burger joint nearby as well. Manchaca, Texas is a near-paradise in this regard. And we just got a deli, so I’ll have to check that out. If it’s any good, I may never leave this ZIP code again.

In the booth next to mine at the Tex-Mex joint, two gentlemen were having an animated conversation in Russian. One of them sounded pissed-off about something, but I could be wrong about that. Anyone speaking Russian always sounds a little pissed-off to me. (Ditto if they’re speaking German.) (Or English.)

I had never heard anyone in Manchaca conversing in Russian before. Our two most common languages around here are Spanish and GoodOlBoy. So as I was leaving, I thought about pausing beside the two gentlemen and welcoming them to Central Texas, since they obviously weren’t from around here. But at the moment when I might have done that, one of them was gesturing with a crushed quesadilla. So I kept walking.

Now, if I had actually stopped and spoken with them, what would I have said after welcoming them to this small chunk of the world?

Well, I might have asked the same question the restaurant host had asked as he’d seated me. He’d seen that I was carrying the new issue of Rolling Stone with B.B. King, Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, Carlos Santana, Buddy Guy, and a few others on the cover — and he’d asked me:

“You know what happened yesterday, right?”

Oh, yeah. I knew. So he and I commiserated over it for a few minutes.

And later, as I left the restaurant, I found myself profoundly satisfied to live where I live.

It ain’t perfect, and there are too many born-again churches and Bush/Cheney bumper stickers for my personal taste. But on the other hand –

It’s a place with tremendous brisket and chimichangas. It’s a place that now has at least three conversational languages (four, if you count Baptist). It’s a place where the veterinarian knows the names of all your dogs, both living and passed-on, and buys your books to boot. It’s a place where harp legend James Cotton sometimes shows up at the local bar just to jam with whoever’s playing that night. It’s a place where black buzzards stand guard on cell-phone towers, protecting the community from the Evil Dead. It’s a place where the volunteer fire department serves breakfast five days a week.

It’s a place where we’re glad there was a Bo Diddley.

You know what happened Monday, right?

And if you answered “Yes” to that question, here’s another one to answer just for yourself:

“Who Do You Love?”

Posted in Brad, Daily Life, History, Music, People, Personal History, Pop. Culture, You | 6 Comments »

I Got a Piece of Obama, and You Can, Too.

June 3rd, 2008 by Rory Harper

Wouldn’t it be cool if ten million American citizens each gave a hundred dollars over the next 5 months to help elect the next President of the Unites States?

Then he’d be beholden to us,  to all of us,  rather than some conglomeration of corporations. Wouldn’t that be just an interesting change in the way things have been working for awhile in this country?

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I just now started my program for that, with a $25 contribution. It only took about three minutes.

I figure this will put me in line for the ambassadorship to Denmark when he wins.

Or maybe even Iceland. I bet them hot Icelandic rave babes loves them ambassadors with motorcycles.

Posted in Daily Life | Comments Off

And, Alas, Boldly Gone

June 1st, 2008 by Madeleine Robins

You might say that Alexander Courage was something like the Fifth Beatle of Star Trek. Or at least his theme music for the original Star Trek was. Even when Sarcasm Girl was very very tiny and the first few notes of the theme (glockenspiel, flute and oboe, the Spouse says) would come on (and this was for Next Generation, which would then go off into its own theme music), the kid would bounce up and down and say “Mama, mama! Captain! Space! Final frontier!” The eight note brass fanfare that was used to introduce scenes on the original series has that same effect: immediately you’re there, with the cheesy special effects, the scenery chewing–and also, the hope that mankind could get its shit together and go out into the universe to make friends with strange new civilizations.*

A lot of that had to do with Courage’s theme, which was both swaggering and yearning, very much rooted in that time in our history when Americans had been asked to consider what we could do for our country (or species). Courage, who died last week, had a long career in film and TV, and Star Trek was only a tiny part of it. But it’s the part that will always be, for some of us, the soundtrack of space exploration and mankind boldly trying to use its power for good.

*Or at least check out their women.

Posted in Daily Life, Music, People | 1 Comment »

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