ACORN is a bad seed

Mea culpa time.  I was wrong about ACORN the first time I posted about it.  I still believe the thesis of that post, but I think I was a bit ignorant of the scope of the corruption involved.  And a little exchange on Facebook led me to realize that a lot of people (most perhaps) are still living in the happy little world where registering Mickey Mouse was only a little bit of comic relief for the Morning Zoo crowd.  In fact, there are some people that still honestly believe that ACORN is being attacked for purely racial motivations.  Orly?

Here’s what ACORN’s all about:

Review Redux

This is a redo of a post that was eaten when my blog went all ‘splody.  I had done a little overview of a bunch of reviews I’d seen lately.

So let’s try this again:

  • Dear Author:
    “I would recommend this to those who are intrigued by the shifter myth and the philosophical bounds.”
  • Romance Reader’s Connection: “Romance, historical accuracy, and elements of science fiction cause WOLFBREED to be one of the very best novels I have read this year.”
  • Armchair Interviews: “This new look at the werewolf myth is intriguing and well worth your attention.”
  • Don D’Ammassa “It’s an adventure story in an historical setting with undertones of seriousness about tolerance and fanaticism and the nature of freedom. Another promising contender in a very crowded field.”
  • Lycanthrope Library “This is one of the best and most original werewolf novels I’ve read this year.”

In the original post I made some discussion about some critiques of Wolfbreed going on in the comments of the Dear Author review.  To reprise my main point:  I think that there’s a class of folks who may find the mixing of genre elements in the book a bit disconcerting.  If you expect a genre romance, you’ll find the broad outlines there, but I break a lot of the rules (not necesarrly by intent, but due to the fact it wasn’t written with any particular genre as a model) you’d be used to seeing in a romance.

Fact checking your kid’s videos

There’s a video making the rounds that’s causing a considerable stink around the interwebs, enough that it even got a segment on the Glen Beck show where it fit seamlessly into the vast left-wing conspiracy.  The teeth-gnashing and angst about this video may not be quite comprehensible to those of a left wing bent, I’m sure most just look at this video called “the Story of Stuff” and see just an innocuous environmental video about how we’re damaging the planet.  The problem is, there’s a bit more to it than that.  There are rather unsubtle political assertions going on all throughout the video that have no relationship to the environment, and unfortunately for an educational video, no relationship to facts.  One of the more egregious examples is how the narrative is stressed to breaking so the narrator can give a factually inaccurate aside on how the U.S. spends half its tax dollars on the military, which is only true if you take the intellectually dishonest route of saying things like Medicare and Social Security are not government expenditures of tax money.

The sad thing is, when you lie to a kid (and yeah, some of the assertions in this film are pretty much the moral and factual equivalent of lies) you discredit yourself.  Once the kids seeing this film come across a credible source that says the U.S. has had a pretty constant area of forestation since the early 20th century, and that area is considerably more than 4% of the original, they’re likely to shitcan the entire argument, including the valid points about consumerism.  By that point, it ain’t going to do much good to explain “no we meant only 4% of the original old-growth forest is still untouched.”  That rationale is good for campaign ads, not so much educational videos.

Also, it might have been a little more honest to mention that the happy little government asked the evil fat corporations to dip the pillows the fire retardant neurotoxin.  After all, fire retardant neurotoxins cost money, and we know that the evil fat corporations would let your head burn if they could make a buck, right?  Come on, can’t your strawmen be consistently malevolent?

Anyway, here are the original video weaved in with some rebuttal.  Not on board will all the rebuttals, but it does a good job of highlighting all the places where there are arguable assertions.

Running away from Utopia

Anyone following my blog should realize I have a strong libertarian streak, which may in fact confuse some people who’ve read my Hostile Takeover books and/or Prophets. The planet Bakunin plays a central role throughout, and while it has a functioning anarcho-capitalist society, its not portrayed as a shining Heinleinesque utopia of the competent man, I’ve described it more a Somalia with venture capital.

So why would I take a world embodying some of my deeply held ideals and portray it in an, at best, ambiguous light?

There are two reasons.

First reason, utopias are boring places to write about. We have the perfect society, now what? In order to have any conflict the story has to turn into soap opera dealing with nothing larger than the character’s personal interrelationships, or you have to pull elements from outside the story into the “perfection,” or throw your characters outside their perfect world (see: Star Trek TOS). In all three cases, the “utopia” is relegated into the background.

Second reason, a utopia requires one of two prerequisites. The first possibility is the idea that human society is somehow perfectible and everyone will realize the perfection once its glory is made manifest, a belief I find naive and somewhat creepy. The second possibility is much more sinister; that those forming the utopian order insure that everyone realizes and accepts the perfect order. Human history is painted red with the blood of those who didn’t accept the latest vision of the perfect society.  Utopia, in practice, is synonymous with totalitarianism.

Every time I see a perfect society in SF; orderly, clean, free of acrimony or dissent, I have to wonder what happened to the oddballs, the assholes, and the people that didn’t fit in to this perfect realm. Where are the asylums, the prisons, the re-education camps, the mass graves. . .

(And in a truly amazing coincidence, after I wrote this, I ran across a video that perfectly encapsulates this thought, and ties it into our beliefs about the nature of man.)

Narrowcasting

The advent of the internet has meant the arrival of all sorts of programming serving niches that were, until now, ill-served by the mainstream media.

For instance, a series of “let’s put random crap in a microwave and see what happens?”

Then there’re Lovcraftian talk shows:

And the Sith Lords of the supermarket.

Then there’s my favorite rabid squirrel (NSFW audio)

The Trufflemobile

Truffles, our Chocolate Lab, has not had a very good couple of months. She’s been slowing down for a while, and showing some weakness in her back end that we assumed was due to age. Last July we took her down to Bow-wow beach for what was probably the last time. By the end of July, she was unable to walk for extended periods. By the beginning of August, we took her in to a neurologist for an X-Ray and an MRI. By the end of August, she was unable to stand or sit on her own. The most likely culprit at this point is degenerative myelopathy, though if so it isn’t a typical case.  So, at this point we have no definitive diagnosis. (We know it isn’t cancer, or a slipped disk.) I’ve had to carry her outside to go to the bathroom for the past month and a half.

Still, immobile as she is, she still looks up at us with the same goofy grin, and still has her tail waging for us all the time. So we’re not giving up on her yet. We can’t afford official hydrotherapy, but there’s a doggy “spa” just down the street that has a pool and a very nice staff person with experience in special needs dogs, which costs much less than having the vet do it.  So we have Truffles swimming again twice a week hopfully going to three), albeit with human assistance and a life-jacket.

And this past weekend we saw a guy who has made it his hobby building wheelchairs for dogs. Every job he does is custom work, which is good because Truffles needed some custom assistance. Unlike hip dysplasia, the strength is gone in her front so badly that she can’t support her weight, even if her back end’s supported.

With her new cart though, she actually managed to push herself along a few feet on the first try. Best case scenario, we’ll get enough muscle back on her so she can move around a bit on her own. But failing that, at least she’s happy to be out and about for even a little while.

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What I did on my summer vacation

I vacuum-sealed dog biscuits and mailed them to various people, some of whom didn’t get it, and  I put up some interesting websites here and there.

All of this was in support of an Alternate Reality Game, which in some respects could be considered the bleeding edge of narrative.  Sort of a cross between a Video Game and a LARP, the “puppetmaster” (who role-playing geeks would think of as a gamemaster) sets up a rabbit-hole that leads whatever random participants who care to follow into the world of the game where they follow the threads of the story to websites, video, social-networking sites, live events, all tied to the ongoing story.  Probably one of the better known examples would be the Lost Experience.  Of course, I had no finances, and my corporate support was pretty much a blog post, so I was a little less ambitious, and the storyline relatively simple.  Despite the feeling of those folks on Making Light commenters on Making Light that have absolutely nothing to do with Teresa who respond to the word marketing as if it was kryptonite, the story was an end in itself.  My connection to it was discovered prematurely primarily due to my inexperience.

Props (and/or blame) for my involvement in this goes to my Hamster pal Maureen who is deeply involved in the actual commercial ARG industry.  (No, these things aren’t developed in house, it’s such a rarefied skill that she’s probably only one of a dozen writers getting paid to do this sort of thing.)  She got me started, helping design the rabbit hole and the initial draft of the storyline.  The things that worked, we can attribute to her.  Beyond that, it was a one man show, with me doing everything.

For those of you who want to see how the whole thing played out, the main folks involved have pretty much documented everything in a thread here.  So I want to give a special thanks to all the Unfiction people who played in my sandbox, it made the exercise worthwhile.