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August 18, 2007

Comments

That's Dick Cheney we're about to flatten!

I wonder if the PTB have ever given any thought to a re-design of the lay-out of the ObWi site. Bloggers sometimes change for the heck of it, sometimes for better clarity.

I'm kind of curious whether people use the items in the right hand sidebar -- categories & references. The site would be friendlier to me, fwiw, if the left hand sidebar was moved to the right . . .

It's settled then. You'll handle spin control.

you want me to mock the only candidate i have any positive feelings toward ? that's cruel.

"When we have enough experience with this, we can ask permission to drive the Big Car!"

Countrywide is both a bank and the largest mortgage lender in the country. There was a run on the bank earlier this week.

The collapse of the residential housing market is going to have a serious impact. Real misery is about to hit areas that were high-growth in '05 and '06. I'm not sure that there's anything that can be done or should be done.

Cleek, there's no reason the captions have to mock Obama.

Charley, the only things in either sidebar I use are the recent comments (constantly) and the recent posts (occasionally). Well, I have a few times clicked on something in the blog roll, but not often.

With regard to the quote, I've been reading Unqualified Offerings for a while, and that doesn't seem like Thoreau's style. Anyway, if you've been up at midnight, there's no hour earlier. If you've been up at dawn, there's no hour more auroral. So that leaves sacred, which is harder to judge. Maybe I'm pursuing a descending and darkening way.

"Hang on, we're gonna bump Hilary's car again!"

Cleek, there's no reason the captions have to mock Obama.

a caption contest not based in mockery? that doesn't seem right.

Doug, in deference to our host, you should keep your Hilarys and Hillarys straight.

Thinking about marking the anniversary of Sérgio Vieira de Mello's death by finally reading more about him. Snap elegy here.

let's run over my career one more time!

That picture is so endearing that it almost makes me consider voting for Obama.

Almost.

It's sad when the first comment in a caption contest wins.

On my mind: wondering if I should go read the rest of the comments on the thread where I vowed to spit in someone's face.

Shameless, in-law related promotion here.

Wars in Iraq/Afghanistan causing ammunition shortage.

It's a humidless, gorgeous day in DC today. I blame global-warming.

Thanks for running a great blog, hilzoy et. al.

Hilzoy: it may dismay you to know that your thinking here mirrors Kevin at Wizbang. ;)

Bad link above. Try this.

"Otherwise, what's on your mind?"

I'm pursuing a descending and darkening way. It keeps me busy.

The picture: "The new President and Vice-President went for a drive today...."

I use the blogroll quite a bit. I come here, and then use it as a jumping off point to a few other blogs.

"Wow, that's Mike Duakais in that tank!"

Obama limiting his debate participation. I don't know about the strategic decision, but this doesn't seem like good press to me:

Frustrated with the volume of interest group forums and non-party sponsored debates, Sen. Barack Obama's campaign manager has put his foot down: Obama won't attend any more debates that aren't sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee, and he won't accept any more invitations to speak at candidate forums.
.

Awesome picture. I think more of this might really help him with the public, because it seems to me he probably comes across as a bit distant.

OCSteve: I prefer my picture, but Wizbang's is a great "Dad putting on fiendish expression for his daughter" shot. I really like seeing it.

Hilzoy: "Dad putting on fiendish expression for his daughter"

Yeah, it’s very humanizing. Anyway, now that you and Kevin at Wizbang are in alignment I expect the world to end tonight so I am going to have a beer or 6…

As long as you don't start reading the comments under it, Hilzoy. Yeesh.

I note that Wizbang went with a pic (the only pic?) in which the daughter is blocked from the camera. All the better to demonize Obama (the comments would be funny if the posters weren't serious).

As long as you don't start reading the comments under it, Hilzoy. Yeesh.

Come on – some are funny. Shoot – they have us beat here.

I just realized that, up until seeing that, I can't remember the last time I saw a picture of any political personality -- hell, any public personality -- that didn't look somehow posed. Even in the supposedly spontaneous or candid moments there's a certain mask there.

Obama's look here is just so damn goofy -- just looks like a dad having fun with his daughter. I didn't recognize him at first.

We vote for constructs now, not people. This makes my heart hurt. Does anyone older than me remember a time when things weren't like this?

OCSteve, obviously your milage does vary, but comparisons to suicide bombers tend to ruin my sense of humor. Comments even vaguely like that on Daily Kos would, however, be clear evidence that the Democratic Party as a whole is without decency. IOKIYAR.

"Come on – some are funny. Shoot – they have us beat here."

2. "...and then you drive the bomb into the building."

Obama is a terrorist.

4. "Presidential aspirant Barack Obama practices driving, hoping to avoid a 'Patrick Kennedy' incident during this election cycle."

Kennedys are drunken fools, as we all know; Obama probably is one, too.

5. "Anger management classes really didn't help Sen. Obama, so he took out his frustrations with the electorate in other ways."

Obama is just an angry angry black man.

7. "Driving that train, high on cocaine..."

Obama is a coke fiend; aren't all black men?

9. "Barak Obama takes driving lessons from the same school that taught him foreign policy."

This is funny?

10. "When the knock on you is that you aren't mature enough to run the country, perhaps a different photo op is in order."

Hilarious: why couldn't someone here be so witty?

11. "LOL"

Even more clever.

15. "The cries of 'Allahu Akhbar' were a little disconcerting for the other children."

Everyone knows Obama is a Mooslim: ahahahahahahaha! So funny!

21. "Hillary's visit to the bumper car park had to be hushed up when she seriously injured 15 children."

This is funny? What's the joke part?

24. "Bravely, Senator Obama negotiates his way through a barage of American 'air raiding' on a village of local brown people in Iowa."

It helps to be able to spell.

25. "Sorry Obama - not even Mapquest is gonna put you on Pennsylvania Avenue."

Thigh-slapping.

All right, I'll stop now, but if this is hilarity, perhaps I can safely skip the party.

I'll grant that a *few* were in the realm of "funny." Many, though, were just "hahaha, I hate Democrats/him, it's so funny" variants, and many weren't funny by any measure I'm aware of, like #10. Unless "LOL!" is the height of humor. Most were just straight nasty attacks, playing to creepy stereotypes.

Inside every man there is a child that wants to play (Nietzsche)

I read about half the proposals at the other blog. Very few funny and even their funnyness was ruined by the context of the others.
The "Turn left, turn left!" was a good one but in connection with the open racism of some of the others...

OCSteve, sorry if I was overly harsh, but I think before concluding that Hilzoy and Kevin at Wizbang are in alignment, it might be useful to consider the very predictable differences in the ensuing comment threads and what that might indicate about the motivations of those starting them.

We were laughing at Obama, but they were laughing with him.

I may almost have it. Soon.

Comments from Wizbang that I found funny:

"To offset the carbon footprint of a day in bumper cars, the Obama campaign plans to torch a wing of Al Gore's mansion."

"A day of Obama family fun turned sour when passengers in the car he bumped retained John Edwards to represent them in court."

Actually, I only got about halfway through, but I have to say: there sure are a lot of people in that comment thread who think racist jokes are funny.

E.g.: ""D'aint takin' me da way dey took Rodney! D'AINT TAKIN' ME DA WAY DEY TOOK RODNEY!!!!!""

"With all due apologies to Garrett Morris...

"I'm gonna get me a bumper car and kill every whitey I see!""

Etc.

I personally found the one about "we will have a white guy driving our car once we have the WH" the most disgusting (even taking the "terrorist" jokes into account).

But Garrett Morris's original song was pretty funny. I thought, anyway.

That doesn't mean that appropriating it works in all situations, or that changing the speaker or context doesn't change the meaning and subtext, of course. Just saying.

Your first quote is racist without a doubt, Hilzoy. I'm not quite as sure of the second, though; are you familiar with the original sketch?

Gary: ah. no. I can see how the existence of a sketch might change that.

Crap people. It’s a stupid picture with a stupid caption contest. Do we have to get this freakin’ serious about every damned thing? The main humor in it all to me was that Kevin (way conservative) and hilzoy picked the same theme for a caption contest.

Can’t we ever lighten up around here?

"This is fun. We should have visited Oprah earlier"

The main humor in it all to me was that Kevin (way conservative) and hilzoy picked the same theme for a caption contest.

I agree with you here OCSteve, no reason to bring the comments into it on either side. But, as I said above, comments here would have been better had not the first comment won.

"Gary: ah. no. I can see how the existence of a sketch might change that."

It was a sketch of a prison talent show. The 11th Saturday Night Live show ever (actually, I belive it was still just "NBC Saturday Night," since "Saturday Night Live" was actually the name of an ABC show at the time, but I digress), January 24th, 1976. The role of "Garrett Johnson" is played by Garrett Morris. See the link for the full information and sketch, including a picture of Morris in costume.

Relevant excerpt:

[...] [ Assistant laughs uncontrollably. Second Prisoner plays "Moon River" on harmonica, then suddenly stops playing and lunges for the Assistant. Everyone screams and pulls him off. ]

Director: I suppose that was part of the audience participation?

Second Prisoner: Sir, if I may redeem myself, I understand the play you're doing is "Gigi". I thought I might sing one of the songs from the original show.

Director: Go ahead, Mr. Sankyou.

Second Prisoner: You're welcome. [ sings ]

"Thank heaven for little girls,
For little girls wear tiny underpants,
And sometimes they pull their dresses over their heads,
And they go walking in a deserted lot without anyone else around.."

[ Second Prisoner lunges for Assistant again, as the guards drag him out of the office ]

Director: We'll be in touch, Mr. Sankyou.

Warden: Terribly sorry.

Director: Quite alright. May we see the next man, please?

[ Third Prisoner enters ]

Assistant: Name?

Third Prisoner: Garrett Johnson.

Director: It says here, Mr. Johnson, that you are serving a life sentence for first degree murder and insulting an officer of the law.

Third Prisoner: That's right.

Director: What are you going to do for us today?

Third Prisoner: I've been in dolitary for years now, and I've studied and developed my talent for writing music, and I've written lots of songs. Here's a song I'm gonna sing which is the sum of my philosophy. [ sings ]

"I'm gonna get me a shotgun and kill all the whities I see,
I'm gonna get me a shotgun and kill all the whities I see.
When I kill all the whities I see, then whitey he won't bother me,
I'm gonna get me a shotgun and kill all the whities I see.
Then I'll get a white woman who's wearing a navy blue sweater.."

[ Guards pull him away ]

I belong to AFTRA!

Director: Wonderful sense of rhythm.

Warden: Next, please!

The humor of incongruity, and racial tension.

There are definitely ways in which substituting Obama might be racist, but it's not clear to me that this was one of them (although I've not looked back to find the exact comment you quoted from).

"Can’t we ever lighten up around here?"

OCSteve, if someone insulted you, or someone you highly respect, to your face, in a way you find disgusting and offensive, what would you think of being told to "lighten up" after you expressed disapproval in some fashion?

It's always easy to tell other people to "lighten up" and quit caring about what they care about.

I wish I knew you better to take a guess at a flash point name with you. But if someone literally said "haha, [OCSteve]'s mother is a soiled hooker, hahahahaha!," and you said "that isn't funny," what would you think of "can't you lighten up?" as a response?

I get that you're not offended by anything said in that thread. Similarly, we're not always precisely universally sensitive to your points of offense around here. That doesn't mean the best solution is for us to dismiss your feeling offended.

It's rarely the optimal response in any circumstance, IMO.

"Posted by: dutchmarbel"

Welcome back!

It is interesting that the two sites posted similar photos for caption contests at the same time. That doesn't mean I'm not going to notice that the other site's caption contest is an invitation for a Two-Minute Hate.

Gary: "I get that you're not offended by anything said in that thread."

Pretty sure this is not an instance of getting, but of not getting.

Gary: I get that you're not offended by anything said in that thread.

Where did you “get” that from? Of course there is offensive stuff in those comments. But there is funny stuff as well.

It was an open thread, with a humorous theme. I went with that. Now all this crap from what was meant to be a light hearted moment.

Even attempting to post something humorous is getting to be too much damned work here.

OCSteve:

Gary: I get that you're not offended by anything said in that thread. "Where did you 'get' that from?"

From your not having written anything previous to this that indicated that you were bothered in the slightest. A highly flawed and imperfect mechanism, I agree, but all I have available to me.

"Of course there is offensive stuff in those comments. But there is funny stuff as well. Okay, so what we are disagreeing about?

Really, OCSteve, you need to lighten up.

;-)

OK, on another note, am I the only one so stupid that he doesn't get the Thoreau quote?

Recognizing that I just set myself up.....

But can somebody explain it? I may have despaired of life without even knowing it.

Man, that got screwed up. Once more.

OCSteve:

Gary: I get that you're not offended by anything said in that thread.

Where did you “get” that from? Of course there is offensive stuff in those comments. But there is funny stuff as well.

From your not having written anything previous to this that indicated that you were bothered in the slightest. A highly flawed and imperfect mechanism, I agree, but all I have available to me.
Of course there is offensive stuff in those comments. But there is funny stuff as well.
Okay, so what we are disagreeing about?

Really, OCSteve, you need to lighten up.

;-)

Is it me, or is the post from "somedarkdude" at August 18, 2007 at 09:02 PM a complete non-sequitur spam? Or does it count as a contribution to an open thread? (With what point, beyond advertising a book?)

I was expecting to find similar comments on blogs all over the place, Gary, but perhaps the spam is so recent it hasn't made it into Google. Or maybe we're just lucky to be selected as the spam recipients.

Gary: "is the post from "somedarkdude" at August 18, 2007 at 09:02 PM a complete non-sequitur spam?"

Not anymore ;)

Gary: Really, OCSteve, you need to lighten up.

True enough. {Virtual high five}.

"{Virtual high five}."

Since this is an open thread, we can chat aimlessly, and I'll mention that at this moment, along with the five open tabs I'm reading, I've got Masters of Science Fiction's version of Heinlein's "Jerry Was A Man" (directed by Michael Tolkin) on (very staticy broadcast tv, unfortunately). Gosh, Malcolm McDowell sure has made a great second career of charismatic villain types, hasn't he?

Then I have to decide whether to watch my Netflix DVD of 300 or Deadwood, Season 3. Decisions, decisions.

You?

Lazy Saturday night. Currently reading “Flags of Our Fathers”. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to read it.

Next up though is “The Last Colony” by John Scalzi. I really enjoyed “Old Man’s War” and “The Ghost Brigades” so I am looking forward to it.

I’m a huge SciFi fan from way back: My favorite genre.

"Currently reading “Flags of Our Fathers”. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to read it."

Haven't read it, but liked the movie, as well as Letters from Iwo Jima.

I assume you're familiar with Scalzi's blog.

I assume you're familiar with Scalzi's blog.

Yup. Serious issues with the blog lately.

Scalzi is a great topic I think, with you anyway. It seems to me that he broke the mold. Between the blog and InstaPundit recommending his books, I think he broke out without the traditional backing of the big publishing houses.

What do you think? Is this a new paradigm?

"...I think he broke out without the traditional backing of the big publishing houses."

I'm not quite sure what you mean by that. He had a career as a writer of all sorts of stuff, particularly nonfiction, for many years, and he "broke out" as a fiction writer when Tor bought his book after, I think, Patrick saw it, though I've been largely gafia and out of the business since before then, so I don't know particularly more than what they wrote about it at the time.

If you mean that his initial web self-publication being picked up by a major sf publisher (Tor has actually been the largest sf publisher pretty much since Tom Doherty started it) was a very unusual thing at the time, and that the dynamic of free self-web-publication to picked-up-by-editor was/iss something of a "new paradigm," then, yes, I agree with that, although not in the sense that it indicates some sort of major paradigm shift for how first novels will be found in the future.

I wouldn't view it as particularly revolutionary, though, really, in that once the internet reached a certain level, that sort of thing was inevitable to start happening now and again, but as it's also a bit random, I don't see it dramatically replacing or differing from all the other semi-random ways first novels can wound up being bought. Whether it's just out of standard slush, or an agent's slush, or finally being looked at because someone somehow managed to successfully thrust a copy at an editor that got looked at, or because of a great query, or a friend insisted the editor had to read it, or there was a news story about it, or your friend told you they saw it on the web, or whatever, is all pretty much no different in any significant way that I'm aware of.

It's worth commenting on, to be sure, but I don't see it as in essence marking a dramatic shift of some sort.

I could be wrong.

(You didn't ask me, but I'll throw my 2 cents in...)

I dunno -- Scalzi, along with Stross and Doctorow, seems to illustrate the resilience of SF old-media publishing. After all, they've have used the internet in various clever ways, but, ultimately, come back to book sales as the basic bread and butter of their trade. The internet seems to be a marketing tool, not so much as a distribution network.

I'd be intensely interested in your take on the `is Scalzi a fan' thing, Gary. Oh, and gafia [*]?

Hmm. What do I mean by that… Well, as an avid reader of many genres, but SciFi in particular, it seems to me that getting SciFi published has always been particularly difficult. I could be way wrong on that…

It seemed to me that Scalzi jumped a lot of the old hurtles. It seemed that blogs (particularly InstaPundit) had a large role in his success. Insty pushed his books, and you could track his Amazon rank by those posts.

I could certainly be wrong, but as far as I know, this is the first case of a SciFi writer making it big primarily via the blogosphere.

Sorry to bail, as this is a very interesting conversation. But I have to walk the dog and go to bed. Back to you tomorrow…

"I'd be intensely interested in your take on the `is Scalzi a fan' thing, Gary."

Of course he is. Anyone who declares themselves a fan and is active in some way as a fan is a fan.

This is an ancient debate, which particularly played out at times such as such as when my old friend, Terry Carr, won the Hugo for Best Fan Writer in 1973, or when my old friend, Ted White, won in 1968 (after creating the award in 1967 as Chairman of the Worldcon, Nycon III, that yeear). But basically only people at the fringes of the field suffered from this sort of confusion.

Fandom has included many people who sold stories professionally, whether only a few times, or many times, or as a career, since the 1940s, when fans such as Frederik Pohl, Isaac Asimov, Don Wollheim, and so on, started selling stories. Many of the original sf pros started as fans in the Thirties, and the trend only continued as fandom and science fiction grew older, in the Forties, Fifties, Sixties, and onwards.

Selling science fiction/fantasy professionally, and being active in fandom, or a fan by any definition, are completely orthogonal. Some people do only one. Some do some of both. The mixes in those cases vary. So what?

This is not a remotely open question to anyone who knows what they're talking about.

(And this is a question -- the history of science fiction fandom, in which I am literally one of the world's top twenty experts, even if I've not been collecting or paying much attention to fanhistory in recent years.)

I've not looked at Scalzi's blog in a while, actually; I only read him sporadically. Is the old "you're not a fan because you're a pro" chestnut come round again? Yeah, he was nominated for Best Fan Writer, wasn't he, so that was inevitable.

Oh, yeah, gafia. Oh, dear god, there's now a Wikipedia entry. Of course.

Okay, except "Dafia" is totally made up (as in, "never been in use), though, unless it's suddenly taken on some usage somewhere in the last five years. That's just wrong. The rest is more or less accurate, though. But the closer usage to what I meant was "not active in recent years in fandom" and "somewhat distant from" fandom. "Gafia" includes all that.

I'd more authoritatively point to Fancyclopedia II, as written by Dick Eney in 1959, as revised from Jack Speer's 1944 original, here, though. (Dick just died in December, incidentally; Jack is still hale and hearty, last I looked.)

Yeesh, last time I self-googled to find one of the pictures of myself, almost all the pictures were of me; now an "Gary Farber" image search is all gummed up with a hundred or so pictures from my blog; this sucks. But here's me and Jack Speer in 1986. And here's a picture of me with Ted White, and Moshe Feder and Andy Porter, around that same time, in Moshe's back yard. Gee, and each one of us has been assistant editor of a prozine, though Ted edited his own, and Andy won multiple Hugos for both Algol and Science Fiction Chronicle, and Moshe was at the SF Book Club with the recently forcibly retired Ellen Asher for many years, and a variety of other places including his consultanting editorship at Tor in recent years, and so on and so on. Just for the heck of nostalgia.

Of course, a person should only be nominated for one of the fan category of Hugos insofar as people are actually nominating for their work as a fan. There can be and has been at times a problem with some people being somewhat confused about that, but it can also be impossible to determine, so one just has to accept that there's a bit of bias inherent in the system towards those who are also pros, and just try to discourage it as best as possible, like all the other problems with ignorant Hugo voting, or people voting for reasons they theoretically shouldn't.

'now an "Gary Farber" image search is all gummed up with a hundred or so pictures from my blog'

I imagine you can just do -site:myblogurl or perhaps more simply -myblogurl.

Incidentally, just being paranoid but isn't "an" above a typo?

OCSteve: Hmm. What do I mean by that… Well, as an avid reader of many genres, but SciFi in particular, it seems to me that getting SciFi published has always been particularly difficult. I could be way wrong on that…"

From my perspective as a past assistant editor and freelance editor and so forth, of sf, over many years (from 1975 until the late Nineties -- no, wait, my last few freelance jobs were back in late 2002, actually), anyone with sufficient talent and skill and discipline was eagerly bought and given the chance, for the most part, after a year or so of submitting. Generally speaking, the thing people don't want to hear is that if you weren't bought, in most cases, it's because you just weren't a good enough writer. There are always lots of people who almost have it together, but not quite -- if they keep working, and are good enough, they usually get there.

But there's not actually, contrary to myth, much, if any, really good writing that goes unlooked at, unfound, and unpublished. There just really isn't as much of it submitted as anyone who hasn't read slush imagines.

And, of course, no one wants to think that they're just not good enough yet, and civilians just aren't, as a rule, qualified to judge when reading amateur stuff.

So the bottom line is that it's difficult indeed to get published if you're not a good enough writer, but not difficult at all to get published, with some time and work and effort, if your work is good enough. Any sf editor will tell you this, and so will most any experienced writer. (Oh, er, you're best off not using "sci-fi" with most professionals, although a few of the younger ones may now use it, and most are used to ignoring it; but for most, it still grates, and they're being polite about not saying so; or they'll say so. But you'll never go wrong using the terms everyone in the field uses, which is "science fiction" or "sf." Occasionally jokingly "skiffy," but that's an esoteric usage that you'd need a degree in sf culture to employ properly. ;-))

"It seemed to me that Scalzi jumped a lot of the old hurtles."

Hurdles. To "hurtle" is a verb.

But as you can see, the only real hurdle is not writing well enough. John Scalzi writes very well indeed, and it was absolutely inevitable his novels would be bought; it's just not a question. So the internet made no difference but in timing. I'd be surprised if he or his editor would disagree in the slightest.

"It seemed that blogs (particularly InstaPundit) had a large role in his success."

Nah. Few readers read blogs, even now, and less then. This is an illusion from your limited perspective. John had a large role in his success, by writing well, and being a complete pro about promoting them. Tor had a large role in his success, by publishing him well.

Glenn had about as much role in Scalzi's success as any of 200 other people who dropped another needle on the book's back. Every little bit helps, but so did every book store owner that pushes a book, every distributor who makes a big order, every convention that asks him to be a guest of honor, and so on.

[...]

"I could certainly be wrong, but as far as I know, this is the first case of a SciFi writer making it big primarily via the blogosphere."

I think "primarily" is way way overstrong. If John or Patrick disagrees, than I'm wrong, of course, and I make no pretense of following the details of Scalzi's sales, but I'd wait to hear it from one of them.

Scalzi has made it "big," insofar as he has -- successful, anyway -- via his own talent and skill, and his professionalism, and that of his publisher. He certainly has made excellent and innovative and clever and highly praiseworthy use of the blogosphere, but it's just another marketing venue/tool, and giving primary credit to anyone else is just wrong.

Nor is it "the blogosphere" that made John Scalzi; it's John Scalzi that's made John Scalzi.

"The blogosphere," you'll note, isn't making successes of less talented sf writers.

"Incidentally, just being paranoid but isn't 'an' above a typo?"

Yes. I make typos, and other forms of errors, and solecisms, all the time in casual blog comments.

I noted that because of "hurtles".

"I noted that because of 'hurtles'.

That struck me as more likely a misusage out of misunderstanding, which OCSteve would presumably want to know about, so as not to make again, but you're perfectly correct that I may have been wrong in either or both: a) that it was a mistaken usage, rather than just a typo; and b) that OCSteve would like to know, if it was a mistake, rather than a typo.

Certainly I'd like to know if I'm mistaken the meaning of a word, but equally certainly not everyone will.

It's just a guess. If OCSteve, or anyone, would rather I not make such comments to them, I'd certainly do my best to comply with their desire, though I can't guarantee my memory always kicking in, alas.

I'm pretty used to most all my friends and social circle being concerned with precision in writing, etymology, word/punctuation choices, and so on, and conversation always including a lot of that, as well as friendly by-play and teasing about it. Naturally, that doesn't go over with all crowds and circumstances.

"You probably meant foo" seems safer to me than "fooo is not a noun".

Safer? You mean something like "less likely to annoy"?

You're probably right; it's just really hard for me to understand people being offended by discussion of usage. But, observedly, many people are, and take it as a personal attack, you're quite right.

But I really only understand that abstractly, as one of those many utterly alien and inexplicable things other people do that I don't really understand, I'm afraid.

(I mean, if I said "that's a noun, you dummy; everyone knows that!," that would be different. But getting hypothetically offended because I said "To 'hurtle' is a verb"?; hard for me to understand -- not that I'm saying that you're wrong that some people get annoyed.)

By comparison, what's your reaction to people getting angry, offended, or defensive, at discussions of physics? If you simply said "an atom isn't a quark," and someone took that as a put down, what would you think?

I think the difference may be that language skill - vocabulary and spelling in particular - is often taken as a proxy for general intelligence, in a way that, e.g., knowledge of even elementary physics is not.

It seemed that blogs (particularly InstaPundit) had a large role in his success. Insty pushed his books, and you could track his Amazon rank by those posts.

Ha ha ha -- given that this seems to have accomplished approximately jack for Reynolds' own books, I have to question the premise here.

Gary: Nor is it "the blogosphere" that made John Scalzi; it's John Scalzi that's made John Scalzi.

Phil: I have to question the premise here.

Let’s go to the man himself.

The Ghost Brigades – Acknowledgments:

“One of the reasons that The Ghost Brigades exists is that the first book in the series, Old Man’s War, was fortunate enough to have been praised online by folks whose taste in books is trusted by their readers. I thank all of them and add special thanks to Glenn Reynolds, Cory Doctorow, Stephen Green, Stephen Bainbridge and Eugene Volokh. If you ever wondered if online word of mouth worked, by the way: Oh, my, yes.

OCSteve, I never said no one did anything John Scalzi wouldn't want to say "thank you" for. I've been thanked in acknowledgements of books (and I've been responsible for the production details of several hundreds of sets of acknowledgements); so what?

Being thanked in acknowledgments doesn't make one "primarily" responsible for the success of a book.

Phil: "Ha ha ha -- given that this seems to have accomplished approximately jack for Reynolds' own books, I have to question the premise here."

I have no doubt that Glenn's posts may have sold hundreds of copies, and I'm sure they were read by several thousand, perhaps even ten thousand or twice more, people. I've never suggested otherwise.

It's just that even another few thousand copies doesn't make a book a bestseller. That would take millions of additional sales.

It can help make a difference in the success level of a small/mid-level genre first novel, but that still doesn't make that boost "primarily" responsible for sales.

But maybe it was: as I said, I claim no particular familiarity with the details of Scalzi's sales figures.

No matter what, though, it's Scalzi's writing that mattered. If it was crap, Glenn Reynolds could have posted every day for a year, and it wouldn't have been a successful book.

Gary: Obviously you know the biz better than I do. It just seems to me that Scalzi himself credits a fair amount of his success to online attention. Of course you are correct that if his writing sucked it would not have mattered.

"You're probably right; it's just really hard for me to understand people being offended by discussion of usage."

The point as I see it is that many people find it rude if one assumes what in fact was a typo arose from a lack of competency in their first, primary language. More broadly people tend to take it amiss when others make assumptions about them, particularly unwarranted ones - I imagine I can find a dozen instances of you taking such umbrage here. If I had explained to you why "an" was incorrect above, it wouldn't have surprised me if you had gotten annoyed.

If someone outside my field mixed up atoms and quarks, I would ask them if they had inadvertently said the wrong word, unless from context it was obvious they had the concepts mixed up. I'd still try hard to avoid curtly saying, "Atoms are large composite object; quarks are point objects" or whatever. If (more analogously) someone in my field got the terms mixed up in a sentence, I would assume it was a normal speech mistake and ignore it.

"It just seems to me that Scalzi himself credits a fair amount of his success to online attention."

And that's clearly 100% correct. He put his first novel up, promoted himself with tremendous skill, made/found fans, attracted people to his blog, and so on and so on, in a quite innovative way.

It's certainly a model others could and should learn from, but such things are also largely an extension of the writer's personality; it's not something that can be directly cloned.

On the other hand, I could point you to dozens and dozens of other interesting sf author blogs. My old friend Kathryn Cramer's sidebar on her blog is the most comprehensive list that immediately leaps to mind. Hmm, she seems to have rearranged them since the order I was thinking of; or there's Locus' list.

All I've disagreed with, OCSteve, is a few of your more excessive claims; I completely agree with your milder assertions.

On the progress-in-Iraq front, I strongly urge everyone to read this. Naturally, OCSteve's thoughts would be particularly welcome.

The usual question: Is there any proof that any of these defeatist persons actually exists (Buddhika* is clearly not a common American name and someone by the name of Omar can't be trustworthy in the first place). Have their superiors be informed (provided they are real and not Rather) that their inferiors embolden the enemy and slander the Iraqi police and army? ;-)

* except of course if it is Boudicca but that would be even more anti-occupational.

Theoretically, they're supposed to have freedom of speech, absent violating operational security, which this didn't.

In practice, undoubtedly their superiors have infinite means of making their lives hell, if they want to. But I wouldn't assume that would necessarily happens; it would depend what the relevant superiors thought.

I'm not sure that I'd want to play the odds that someone high up wouldn't get pissed, and do something to get me stomped, were I in their shoes, but, then, they're a million times better able to judge the odds of that than I am.

And, hell, would it be worse than getting shot in the head?

I should have used thicker irony tags ;-)
But I would not be surprised at all, if we would see a Iraqi Police Captain/Scott Beauchamp/etc. rerun again and with the exact silly arguments I brought up above.

I just want to register a bit of queasiness about that last sentence, Gary. I realize that you are answering Hartmut's snark with some of your own, but it strikes me as a bit much.

"I realize that you are answering Hartmut's snark with some of your own, but it strikes me as a bit much."

Did you actually read the article? Why do you think my referring to what happened is in some way "a bit much"? Should we pretend that this didn't happen?

[...] In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a “time-sensitive target acquisition mission” on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.
What bothers you about my mentioning this?

"But I would not be surprised at all, if we would see a Iraqi Police Captain/Scott Beauchamp/etc. rerun again and with the exact silly arguments I brought up above."

Yes, that was perfectly clear.

Gary: OCSteve's thoughts would be particularly welcome.

Quite depressing.

Hartmut : But I would not be surprised at all, if we would see a Iraqi Police Captain/Scott Beauchamp/etc. rerun again and with the exact silly arguments I brought up above.

I would be very surprised. They’re simply giving their opinion on the current situation. They read to me to be quite credible. At least in my case, I’m going to believe NCOs on the ground in Iraq more than almost any other source.

I assume you also saw this, which got a ton of links, OCSteve?

Did you actually read the article?

I did, which is why I said it. I also imagine that someone who read your link only after getting to the bottom of this thread might also think that you were being insensitive, especially since you say that Hartmut's point was clear, so I merely relay this for your information.

"thread might also think that you were being insensitive,"

To what? That I care about our wounded soldiers? It's insensitive to mention them?

These soldiers wrote an article explaining their views of the war not going well; they describe one of their group being shot in the head during the time between the article being written and published. Hartmut expressed concern about retribution from superiors; I said it was possible, and noted with feeling that it was unlikely to be worse than what had already happened to one, which was being shot in the head.

What on earth is wrong with any of that?

Let me add something that I've written variants of in comments at least four times now in recent months, and deleted before posting, each time, but this time I won't: I invite you, LJ, specifically -- not anyone else -- to cease offering me unsolicited advice and commentary on my style and manners. Naturally, you're free to ignore this as you like, but generally speaking, I'm beyond tired of this routine, and don't find it remotely helpful or insightful. Sorry. Thanks.

What's on my mind? Well, the wife has cut back to one day a week, working, the youngest is going into first grade, having passed her gifted exam. Her teacher also taught my older child in first grade, so she's a known quantity. Almost a total coincidence, as she taught Em at another school and had since quit to have a couple of children, but not a complete coincidence because quite a few other teachers have moved from that school to this, including the current principal. Anyway, great teacher, as well as having far too much education to be teaching first grade (MS in psychology).

Older kid we had thought would have been an automatic for a charter school, as she's at the top of the wait list, but so far no one has dropped. My wife will be home-schooling her until we get this sorted out; probably it'll be a couple of weeks at least. The charter school is small; about 220 kids in the K-8 grades, so we're thinking the odds of Emily getting completely lost, there, are pretty low. Plus we know various and sundry of the teachers, and we also have to put in some volunteer time there, so we'll always be close to the action.

We just finished having the pool re-plastered, because the tile was just falling out and the marcite was actually missing in places. Which was a rather large expense, given that we've just cut back to about five-eights of our income as of last week. So I'm going to be putting in 60-hour weeks for a while. Fortunately, I get paid for most of my overtime, so that ought to pick up some of the slack, income-wise.

We've always had much more work than we can actually get done, and far too few people that we can get to do it, so this will help out some in that regard. I now have, as of next week, four people working for me. I've had sort of a paradigm shift regarding being overloaded at work; it used to be that I had far too much to do. Now, I look at that kind of situation and see far too much work that isn't going to get done. Hiring people to help get it done is painful, in that I've got to train them, but at some point they've got to start working more independently; at that point they make my life easier, instead of harder. I've got one guy working for me who's fresh out of school, and he's already doing some things in a self-starting way, after only six or seven weeks. That guy is very close to evening out all of the time I've invested in training him, and after that, it's all gravy.

I've begun, finally, to adopt what I call a proslacktive mindset, in that I have begun to make time to do some things that will allow us to do things more quickly in the future. Finally, I've got breathing room at work, in terms of being able to step back from the immediate emergencies and put my focus, from time to time, on where I want things to go.

All of which means that for the most part, I don't spend much time composing blog-comments, except when I have a free moment or two at home.

More Iraq:

Senior military commanders have told the Government that Britain can achieve "nothing more" in south-east Iraq, and that the 5,500 British troops still deployed there should move towards withdrawal without further delay.
Slart, can I come over and use your pool once and a while?

The one in the backyard of this apartment building, a primary reason I moved in four years ago, wasn't heated the last two years (it's outdoors), and on Memorial Day weekend this year, since the landlord didn't want to pay a couple of thousand for a new heater to replace the broken one, he had a dump truck come in to fill it with dirt, and then he had it paved over.

And then built two worksheds in the area, so he can have workmen there all the time cutting wood and metal, and drilling it, and what not at top volume. This certainly helps one wake up at 7:45 a.m. when they start.

This week they spent a lot of time working on the sheds/office installing air conditioning. Because since the central air for all three of these buildings doesn't, contrary to the advertisements we rented under, supply any air conditioning, and our apartments tend to be sweatholes over ~100 degrees or so, he doesn't want to be overly warm while he sits down there. Unlike us.

On top of which he raised my rent last week (although, fortunately, only $25/month, so that's not a hugely serious complaint, and as I said in my blog, it has been four years, so I really can't complain, although it would be nice to have an actual lease, which he refuses to give after the first one).

Not that I'm complaining, or anything. But we can chat while I'm using your pool!

I don't have any other comments on your update, but it's good to know you're not doing too badly.

Whoops, it just thundered for the traditional late afternoon summer thunderstorm!

Gary: I assume you also saw this, which got a ton of links

Yes – that’s a regular stop for me.

Slart: "I have begun to make time to do some things that will allow us to do things more quickly in the future."

Have everyone learn python?

"Yes – that’s a regular stop for me."

I certainly don't always agree with Michael (Totten), and I don't care for some of his friends, but I do respect him as an honest and sincere and thoughtful guy, and of course his first-hand reportage is valuable, though naturally only one person's perspective.

We've been on each other's blogrolls since at least early 2002, and I've never thought of dropping him from my blogroll. Even though, gasp, he is not a leftist. :-)

"Have everyone learn python?"

No, no, have everyone learn monty python.

Oh, wait, they already know all the episodes.

Gary: I certainly don't always agree with Michael (Totten), and I don't care for some of his friends, but I do respect him as an honest and sincere and thoughtful guy, and of course his first-hand reportage is valuable, though naturally only one person's perspective.

Well, that’s really all I could ask of anyone. The guys got big brass ones. Did you catch this one?

“We want to use you as bait,” Sergeant Eduardo Ojeda from Los Angeles, California, told me before I embedded with his unit on what was shaping up to be a night raid.

“Excellent,” I said. “That’s why I’m here.”

This is what passes for black Army humor in Baghdad.

“Our TST [time-sensitive target] blew up a vehicle and killed four soldiers and an interpreter in the next AO [area of operations],” he said. “He’s somewhere in our AO now.”

He could tell by the frozen and dubious look on my face that I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on the mission.

BTW Gary – I’d appreciate any recommendations you may have for new SF authors. I like to support authors who write good stuff but are just under-appreciated for whatever reason. So if you have some titles/authors to recommend I’ll definitely check them out.

"BTW Gary – I’d appreciate any recommendations you may have for new SF authors."

Two points: 1) I'm so out of touch with the field these days, that any I could pass on would almost certainly either: a) have been writing for at least five years or more; or b) be purely a second-hand recommendation, based solely on reviews, comments, and other hearsay I've read/heard by my friends and colleagues whose taste I respect; and 2) as is typical with this sort of thing, it makes far more sense for me to try to recommend stuff to you that I think you'd like, from what little I know of your taste, and what clues you could offer me, than to recommend stuff I like, with my fairly eclectic, and sometimes esoteric, taste.

I tentatively have the impression of you as favoring straightforward, clean, prose, and perhaps somewhat towards the Baen/Analog AO of the field, but I don't want to leap to conclusions; if you'd like to mention some names that spring to mind off the top of your head as the sort of writers you really like, that couldn't hurt, and then I'll see if I can throw a few back at you, with the previously stated caveats noted.

I invite you, LJ, specifically -- not anyone else -- to cease offering me unsolicited advice and commentary on my style and manners.

I'll try, but given that you display a certain amount of hypersensitivity to any comment that touches on anything that you have mentioned, either here or at your blog, I'm not sure if I will be able to comply to the extent that you demand. I'll do my best, but I hope you can help out by simply ignoring what I write, given that you clearly don't care how your comments appear to me.

Gary: I like them all, although I don’t go so much for the “fantasy” genre (and don’t agree with lumping it in with SF).

I enjoy all the classics. I probably like “hard” SF most, although I enjoy a good Cyberpunk or Alt History story from time to time.

I always get “The Year’s Best SF” edited by Dozois. My bookcase has David Brin, Kim Stanley Robinson, as well as everything written by Hubbard. I like a good space opera and have to admit to a soft spot for David Weber. ;)

Hey guys, what is really overlooked by the MSM, and NYT in particular, are stories by our military guys that are upbeat, or matter of fact, at least:

Like an 82nd team teader.

Or this guy.

Or this guy.

Or this guy.

Or this guy.

Or the guys who can weigh">http://badgerjake.blogspot.com/2007/08/well-our-batallion-got-our-victory.html">weigh both the bad and the good.

Well our batallion got our victory speech today. It's kind of weird because, well because the war isn't over. But when you examine what we did in our little piece of it, then I think you could say that we did a damn good job. The other thing that made it so hard was knowing that as we are all celebrating the end of our deployment, preparing to go home to our families and loved ones, we have 8 brothers who will not make the trip with us, who can't share in our joy. In addition to the eight Marines who sacrificed it all, we took over 140 casualties in the batallion. Our victory, if that is what it is to be called, came at an awfully steep price.

So to those who gave some, and to those who gave all, we saluted you today. The cigars that were smoked and the hands that were shook and the speeches that were given were done in your honor, to your memory.

Or this funny guy

However, since arriving in theater I have received an education almost every time I have gone to the bathroom with in a facility and not out in God's Brown World. This is what I have learned:

Chuck Norris is responsible for almost everything in American History. Now this could mean two things though. Like being either a Chevy guy or a Ford guy, you must make a stand. You are either with Chuck Norris or you think he is gay.

I have decided to declare my allegiance to Chuck and not to the haters! As a boy I enjoyed his movies and reading the articles in black belt magazines about him. He truly is the American dream and took his own money to produce shows that sent a message of good moral content not shock value to turn a buck. I however will not hide on a crapper to say this.

Even when he is complaing about the behavior of our troops it is funny.

There are times in life that one realizes he is different than those around him. The time I spend around other MOS's in the Army (thats different jobs) I can't help but notice the "Sallification" of our guys. Where did all the red blooded North American males go? I found some at the beauty parlor, others getting massages and manicures.

Hey DUDES, we are at war and maybe you will break a nail! WOW! I think they should change Basic and raise the standards in stead of taking anyone. A few GOOD men and alot better than a lot of SALLY's.

All of whom are linked to by MadTom, who shows all sides, even though MadTom is an anti-war veteran.

Look, the vast majority of our military are great human beings, and have good morale to boot. Even whats-his-name from Colorado.

Not to mention embeds like Yon, Roggio, Ardolino, etc.

Look, the vast majority of our military are great human beings, and have good morale to boot.

But you reckon they're just not smart enough to know that they're being wasted in Iraq?

OCSteve, my wife (who has read all David Weber's Honor Harrington novels) suggests Eric Flint (alternate histories from Baen Books, starting with "1632").

Gary, thanks for the list.

It was just an add-on to the other comment I made.

I'll pass it on to him to do with as he will. And I used the term allegory, not him. He just said about America. But it was a comment in passing.

Appreciate your time and thoughts.

"He just said about America."

Oh. Well, that would be entirely different, then. Ignore that list, as they're all extremely atypical of sf, and quite borderline, at best (save for Anthony, which, as I said, I don't recommend), and mostly written by non-sf writers.

But I'd need some way to narrow down what he's looking for: there are thousands of sf novels about America in some fashion. Tens of thousands.

OCSteve, I've not forgotten your request; I'll get back to you; I'm just being tired and lazy. :-) (Besides, this way other people will make suggestions. :-))

Starter: you might give Linda Nagata a try.

That NY Times Op-Ed by the non-coms? Here's a lesson in how it's being dismissed.

And speaking of Michael Totten, I don't think he'd claim to have "a length of time in country depth of perspective that these young men don't"; he's been there a few weeks, for god's sake. Not 18 months, or years. I won't bother pointing out the other absurdities.

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