12 April 2011

Inadequately Caffeinated Link Sausages

  • In what might be a truly ironic problem, I can't reach the American Library Association site to link to the announced list of most-challenged books of 2010... and it looks from the outside like it might be a DDoS attack (censorship of complaints about censorship), or conversely a simple system crash due to overloading (popularity of complaints about censorship). That said, GalleyCat (a usually accurate source) says that the list looks like this.
  • An item in the B&N Review, reprinted at Salon, asks "Has Google turned evil?" I'm afraid that the esteemed philosopher A.C. Grayling largely misses the point here, because he has read neither enough fiction nor enough law (admittedly, it's often difficult to tell the difference). If he had read enough fiction, he would understand that villains do not think of themselves as "evil" outside — perhaps, and only perhaps — of James Bond novels and screenplays. If he had read enough law, he would understand that the left hand, by the nature of business organization control, really doesn't know what the right hand is doing with that Molotov cocktail; nor does it care; nor is it obligated to care, particularly in the face of potential profit. In short, Don Draper would be proud... and given the business model upon which Google was founded, that's rather important.

    I'm not advocating nationalization of Google or anything like that; I'm only advocating intelligent restraints on power, just as I advocate them on government. The evil is not "big government": it is unchecked accretions of power. At present, the social balance in the US places plenty of checks on government power and not nearly enough on private power... in a manner disturbingly reminiscent of the era of the great trade monopolies, with their private fleets and armies (and atrocities and centuries-later remnants of colonialism, bigotry, and genocide). I grew up in what was essentially a "company town" suburb of Seattle, where if one criticized Boeing or Paccar one could expect to be hauled in front of the Neighborhood Unamerican Activities Committee faster than one could draw one's next breath; in many ways, it's worse than government-sponsored totalitarianism, and it's yet worse in the "true" company towns found in Europe.

  • A bit of amusement from the periodical publishing world: Thanks to the imperatives of deadlines, the April 2011 Conde Nast Traveller thinks Libya is a top vacation destination. One would think — wrongly, as it turns out — that modern communications and in-house typesetting would considerably shorten the production cycle from the 1950s when lead times became engraved in stone... an irony itself of another kind, but still...
  • Not another lawsuit led by Jonathan Tasini! Please, no! Oh, well — at least this time it's a different company in his sights: AOL under the "content leadership" of Arianna Huffington. Wait a minute — one of the defendants in Tasini v. New York Times Co. was Time-Warner, later aquired by AOL... sort of.
  • The inestimable Teresa Nielsen Hayden reveals all about publishing categories, with one exception: She neglects to point out that those short descriptions are summaries by someone in the S&M department who has not read the book — not even the author's elevator pitch.
  • Tor.com is hosting "Dystopia Week"... and inadvertently demonstrating that none of its participants (thus far) have read enough utopian/dystopian works, let alone those posited just as "fiction." Contrary to popular belief — or at least those explicated there thus far — "dystopian fiction" did not begin in the 1920s and 1930s with Zamiatin, Huxley, and Orwell. Formally, it begins not later than H.G. Wells; functionally, it extends as far back as Swift, or Voltaire, or More, or even Plato. Just because many authors weren't quite as overt about not wanting to live on the islands of their creation as was Plato doesn't mean that they are not "dystopian" in character. Then there's More's whole misbegotten multilingual pun "utopia" in the first place ("utopia"/"eutopia") and its implications. Sniff! Such shallow analysis and grasp of literary history just will not do.

    This sausage brought to you by waaaaay too much time theorizing about utopian and dystopian literature in the course of post-baccalaureate studies in English literature. And if you don't stop me now, I probably — no, certainly — will theorize again! Perhaps it will be only over wine and cheese at some faculty gathering or lecture series, but it will happen... and yes, you should be afraid.