Monday, December 31, 2012

Last Call for 2012

Welp, it's been a wild and woolly year, and I just wanted to take a moment and thank everyone who's dropped by, made a comment, spread the word, or otherwise just taken the time to swing through here. Here's hoping 2013 is a good one for all of us.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Adventures In E-Publishing

So far, this dip of the toe into the proverbial e-publishing waters has gone better than expected. It's the holiday season, I'm learning as I go along, and it is a compilation book, comprised of posts that regular readers will already have seen. So I was not expecting to set the internets on fire in a matter of a few days; this is not warmed-over Twilight slashfic repurposed for horny housewives. (Don't get me wrong -- it certainly can be that, if the market is there. I know what I am, all else is mere haggling.)

Still, it's gratifying to see Mockalypse get any response at all. And I'd like to send a shout-out to the friendly folks at Balloon Juice for coming by and checking it out, in larger numbers than I had anticipated. I don't have a lot of time to check out many blogs these days, pretty much what you see on the sidebar and a few others (who will be on the sidebar as well at some point when I do some housekeeping), are on the regular to-read list. So I read and sometimes lurk at the Juice, but am not a regular (or even irregular) commenter there. I appreciate the fact that they responded to my open-thread spamming by coming through here and hitting the links.

There is a more comprehensive post on the subject of e-publishing in the works, but right now this is just a quick check-in and follow-up from the initial post for the book. Again, any and all comments, favorable or not, are welcome. As the saying goes, as long as the name is spelled right. Just check it out, give me some feedback, and spread the word.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

If there's a better Christmas song than The Pogues' Fairytale of New York, I haven't heard it. Here's Oirish folkster Christy Moore with a great rendition. Have a great Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Steal This Book!

Okay, folks, here's one (and in fact, by far the smallest) of several projects I've been working on over the last few months. What you see is the cover to an e-book I was hoping to wind up (given its title and cover imagery) yesterday, but as I am not a graphic designer by training, and am still learning how to use GIMP, it's a day late and a dollar short.

(By the way, if you're just starting out with designing graphics for your own stuff, don't know where to turn, and can't afford -- or don't even know how to choose -- commercial software, I can't recommend GIMP highly enough. Such a cool program. There is a learning curve, but a ton of tutorials out there. Did I mention it's free? Awesome. The internets are a wonderful place. Go check it out now, and block out a few hours just to mess with the many cool features it comes loaded with. Disclaimer:  I have had zero contact with anyone from GIMP, nor am I being compensated in any way to talk about it. I just think it's really cool.)

Anyhoo, although Blogger has made the attempt to bump up its features, it still apparently does not allow you to upload PDF files. Weird, right? No worries, friends 'n' neighbors, Uncle Heywood found a workaround. You can go here to download your very own copy of this fine retrospective of the year that just transpired. Wasn't it just terrific? Yes it was, and you can relive it right now, by electronically thumbing through a couple dozen posts handpicked by yours truly as best representative of the year, and of my jabbering about it.

Now, I know you're all chomping at the bit to swipe your Visa cards and punch in some phat numbers, you just want to know what I'm demanding for such a hot commodity. I decided to try out the model used by Radiohead for their In Rainbows album from a few years ago -- I'll let you, Tonstant Weader, determine what this hot mess is worth to you. Go ahead and download it, give it a spin, and it's up to you whether it's worth five bucks or five cents. Or nothing at all. There's a PayPal link at the upper right of this page, as well as at the download page.

There are a couple things I do ask of you, and they are free, and will take only a modest amount of your sweet time:  One is that, whether you love it, hate it, or couldn't give two lonesome shits about it, you drop by and share some feedback in the comments thread. (Or email me your comments or suggestions; I do actually check the GMail account pretty regularly these days, and I will respond.) Love one of the selected posts? Awesome. Hate the cover art? That's fine too.

The second thing is that you tell a few people (I'm hoping at least two or three for each of you) about it. A comment on a site you frequent, where you think like-minded folks might be interested. That sort of thing. Just spread the word here and there in your daily rounds. It's not that I don't want your money, but right now I'd like to see how much interest can be generated. If that E.L. Fudge broad can turn Twilight fanfic into a kajillionty-pound cottage e-income, this should hopefully generate a ripple somewhere.

Just to be clear about what this book is, it's a compendium of posts from this glorious year. There is some new material, in the form of an introduction, as well as introductory material for each post. Collectively, I think (and hope) that it stands as a representative sample of what this blog has attempted to cover, and what hopefully makes it a bit different from other blogs. I dunno, you tell me.

Couple of final points:
  • This project is what I would term a "first-final" draft, meaning that there may be a few minor, cosmetic changes forthcoming over the next week or so. Again, due to the self-imposed deadline, and the fact that I am something of a control freak on creative projects, I may revise the cover art a bit, reformat the main text slightly, create a back cover page, screw around with headers or footers, things like that. But the content itself is absolutely final as is right now, set in stone, will not be changed unless I spot a typo (after reviewing the whole thing at least five times in the past two weeks).
  • I want to apologize in advance to any of my fellow bloggers, because while I will try to keep it to a bare minimum, I may occasionally barge into their open threads and pimp this thing. Again, my goal here is pure notoriety; I want as many people as possible to check it out -- and if they've never been here before and don't know what to expect, so much the better.

So that's about it for now. Please check it out, grab a copy, give me your feedback, tell at least a few other people about it. I have some more thoughts and concepts about self-publishing, which I plan to discuss in one or several upcoming posts, but this is a start.

In Bloggy News

Hope everyone out there is having a safe and sane Christmas weekend with the people they care about the most. I've been winding up a project that I hope to get posted here tonight or tomorrow. Details to come shortly, please stay tuned.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

There Is No Why

Even after giving it a couple days to sink in, words fail when it comes to last Friday's shooting. It's hard (for me, at least) to construct a coherent narrative that doesn't feel incomplete or even a bit opportunistic.

Mass murder and serial killing in particular tend to inspire questions of "why" and "how", and those pursuits always seem inadequate and pointless to me. As always, your mileage may vary. People process these things in their own way, whether with candlelight vigils, makeshift shrines, or attempts to comprehend the actions of incomprehensible people.

A few thoughts, many of them open-ended, keep cropping up throughout this national weekend of grief, take them for what you will:

  • When we talk about "gun control" after these tragic events, we should not only be careful, but also precise about what that would and should look like, and what effect it would have had on the event in question. The guns Adam Lanza used were legally owned by his mother, and as she had no criminal history nor issues that would have come up in a background check, no proposed stricture or regulation would have prevented her from anything.

    Now, if you're talking a ban on "assault weapons", that too needs to be written with precision and common sense, so we're on the same page as far as weapons that can fire dozens of rounds per minute, and not bickering over bayonet lugs and collapsible stocks, pretending that Something Is Being Done.

    Doesn't mean it can't or shouldn't be done, just with the understanding that there are 320 million people in the US, and probably just as many guns, and punishing the 99% of responsible gun owners for the actions of a deranged, infinitesimal slice is not only unfair, but may not even work.

  • Gun-rights advocates, some bordering on the fanatical, have reflexively (as they always do after these events) suggested that if everyone were armed, these events would never occur, or at least be neutralized well before the body counts registered by "soft targets" such as schools. This is utterly ludicrous. Consider just two examples of countries where everyone is armed to the teeth:  Somalia. Afghanistan. How's that been going?

  • It is easier in the US to acquire, own, and operate a gun than an automobile. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing, and why or why not?

  • You can believe in the Second Amendment, and still believe that we need to find a way to prevent -- or at least reduce -- the ease with which deranged individuals can possess weapons of slaughter, and put them to use.

  • The Founding Fathers could not have conceived of handguns with 30-round magazines, or fully automatic assault rifles with 90-round (or more) clips. Had they been able to envision such an enormous technological leap, might they have written the Second Amendment any differently?

  • We grieve after every one of these tragedies, even as we lose count of them, they are so commonplace. Is it the cost of doing business? Is it the notion that they can all be prevented by arming (or disarming) everyone? Does anyone else find this cycle of public grief binging, purging, and forgetting even a little bit odd, and a lot useless, if nothing ultimately gets done about it?

  • It's interesting, to say the least, that calls for arming teachers in classrooms are now coming from the same corners who routinely demonize any and all facets of said profession. Really, Mister Random Conservative, are you sure you want lazy pothead librul indoctrinators packing heat? Maybe a couple Paul Blart types at each school, patrolling the perimeter with a Segway and a Sig Sauer? At least it'll create some jobs, right?

  • Before using Japan, Britain, and Switzerland as arguments for or against gun control, do keep in mind the significant cultural and geographic differences between those countries and America. And I do not mean "they're cultured and we're boors". It's a hell of a lot easier to enact control mechanisms on small island nations under constant surveillance, than a sprawling, teeming landmass. And Switzerland's vaunted mandatory militia, in which each household is required to keep an assault rifle, also has a proviso that ammunition is tightly regulated, registered in fact. Don't be surprised if any gun control proposals here lean in that direction. Or even simpler, mandating a limit on clip capacities. There is absolutely no logical reason you should be able to load a 30-round clip into a Glock handgun.

  • Opportunism comes in many forms after these things. It can be anything from sanctimonious assholes suggesting that we're just not godly enough, to intrepid journamalists pulling up their grief-pimping slacks and pestering second-graders outside the school where their playmates just got mowed down. Honestly, I don't know how either of those two very real examples of humans can look at themselves in the mirror when they get home at night. Probably through the bottom of a vodka bottle.

It would be nice if there were easy proposals or solutions. There aren't. Having a more comprehensive mental health care system would be a great place to start, but committing people against their will who haven't actually done anything presents another set of challenges. I dunno what to do, and I'm not going to pretend I do know. The easy answer is to point out that, again, there are 320 million people, and by the law of averages, some of them are crazy to some degree.

Hopefully the rest of us can figure out a way to prevent those folks from accessing weapons of a level of destruction that would have been unimaginable a hundred or even fifty years ago.

Also, too.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Royal Flush

Okay, this is another one of those things you can just go ahead and file under "I don't get the outrage". A person taking their own life is always tragic, don't get me wrong. Permanent solution to a temporary problem, as they say.

But does anyone seriously believe that anyone would hurt or kill themselves over being pranked by a morning zoo radio show, or even that the DJs should have taken such an outcome into consideration before making the call? Really? Because honestly, it's barely conceivable to me that Jacintha Saldanhas would have even been fired from her job, unless she had willfully committed a huge violation of well-known hospital policy. Something else was clearly going on with her; this was at most a last-straw kind of thing.

Maybe this affords the media an opportunity to step back for a second, take a deep breath, and ponder the logical outcomes -- none of them possibly good, at best merely neutral and inert -- to spending the next six months swamping morons with meaningless "preggers" nonsense, acting like one of the most routine human activities is somehow special and unique this time around.

Seriously, from of the weirdos the mediots have whipped up on this, you'd think no one had ever fucking gotten pregnant before, like evar.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff Scam

Check this out, not really anything to add to it. Every element in the discussion of this "fiscal cliff" is explicitly designed to preserve and perpetuate wealth inequality, period.