Sybil's Garage magazine has an interview with Lauren McLaughlin, a new young adult writer whose debut novel, Cycler, will be published in September. I've known Lauren for some years now and she inevitably says the smartest stuff about writing in any conversation around the table. I've enjoyed her short fiction and the films she wrote immensely, and can't wait to read this book.
Storytelling is the foundation of any good novel and I think it's actually a very rare talent. Plenty of writers get by on killer premises and witty style. But effective storytelling is all about structure. It's very mechanical, almost architectural. When you can marry that structure to a framework of ideas, then the novel can transcend pure entertainment. The trick, in my opinion, is to weave these ideas invisibly into the story so that they are discovered, unraveled by the reader. My goal is to seduce my reader into a compelling narrative that whittles away at some preconceived idea and leaves them with an uncomfortable but somehow intriguing gap in their sense of the world. I want them to close the book and have a head full of questions. I'm not interested in merely diverting them for a while or helping them fall asleep. Nor do I want that from the books I read. I want to be unsettled, challenged. I want to close a book and say “I never thought of that before.”
National Geographic has a series of interesting articles about the global food crisis. Basically, the high cost of food is changing behaviors around the world, from Japanese bars to the slums of Nairobi. According to the latest story, Italians are eating far less pizza and choosing pasta instead due to the rising cost of olive oil, mozzarella, and wheat flour. Pasta eating is on the rise. From National Geographic:
In fact, the number of Italians who say their favorite food is pizza has dropped from 14.1 percent to 8.7 percent in the past two years, according to a survey from GPF Research Institute, a private opinion poll company....
Olive oil and mozzarella, both vital components of traditional Neapolitan pies, cost more as well. Olive oil prices have risen 10.9 percent and mozzarella prices 14.3 percent since April 2007.
"That's mainly due to recent fluctuations in [the] oil market. We need it to warm greenhouses and cattle sheds, to fuel machines, to transport products, and we have to import all of it," said Sergio Marini, president of Coldiretti, the Italian farmers union. "Italian agriculture is deeply affected by international oil prices."
In total, pizza prices have gone up 13 percent since April 2007, according to Italy's National Institute for Statistics.
AudioOdyssey is a prototype for a Wii remote game that enables visually impaired people and sighted people to play together. Developed by students at MIT and the Singapore-MIT Gambit game lab, it's a music-based DJ simulation game that requires the players to make crowd-pleasing dance tracks. The next rev will enable online play. From MIT News Office:
A recent graduate of MIT's Comparative Media Studies program, (Alicia) Verlager, who is blind, helped with the development of the game.
"As a media studies scholar and a blind consumer, I am very excited to see that Eitan and other game developers are working to make games more available to gamers with disabilities, especially when those games can be shared between players with and without disabilities," Verlager said.
"The element I probably most envy about gamers is just the way they hang out together and share doing something fun," she says. "It's the social aspects of Guitar Hero and World of Warcraft that I really want to try myself and so hanging out with other gamers playing AudiOdyssey was really fun."
A large cemetery and crematorium in Adelaide, Australia reports that Frank Sinatra's "My Way" has become the most-played funeral song. Second on the charts is "Wonderful World" sung by Louis Armstrong. Only two traditional Christian hymns are in the top 10. From the Associated Press:
"Some of the more unusual songs we hear actually work very well within the service because they represent the person's character," Centennial Park chief executive Bryan Elliott said.
Among other less conventional choices were "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" by the Monty Python comedy team, "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead," "Hit the Road Jack," "Another One Bites the Dust" and "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead."
The Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook group is planning a major event for Industry Minister Jim Prentice's appearance at the Calgary Stampede. Prentice is the man responsible for the Canadian DMCA, a bill produced without any consultation that will criminalise Canadians for unlocking their phones and media, even if they do so for entirely legal reasons. Organiser Kempton Lam sez,
We have created a few slogans and info sheets. And may be people attending them can print out a slogan (or make a t-shirt) of one they are most passionate about. The slogans PDF files can be found under their respective directories here.
With much help from Michael Geist, I have created a concise info sheet so when people ask us questions or talk to us, we can hand these sheets out. The PDF file is called Fair Copyright info sheets.pdf.
Ape Lad sez, "YouTuber 2005adamo has extensive footage from the March, 2008 Raymond Scott Centennial Tribute Concert at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada."
Raymond Scott is, of course, the genius composer who wrote all the amazing tunes that Carl Stalling adapted for the Warner Brothers cartoons. He's hands-down my favorite composer and he was also a brilliant engineer whose homebrew, pre-digital sampling and sequencing techniques were 60 years ahead of their time.
Happy 100th birthday, SOS!
There was some early success for the new system a year later when the Cunard liner the SS Slavonia was stricken off the Azores. She sent out an SOS and not a single life was lost.
Even so, not everybody was convinced instantly, and it took the tragedy of the Titanic to reveal just how vital a universal system was. After the collision in April 1912, the ship’s radio operators sent out both the old CQD and the new SOS signals, but some ships in the area ignored both, thinking that they were having a party. They soon learnt otherwise, as international headlines told how Jack Phillips, the Titanic’s first radio operator, and 1,500 others had been lost along with the “unsinkable” ship. The new SOS distress signal was rarely ignored after that.
The geniuses at Evil Mad Scientist Labs have lovingly documented the process of making a D12 purse (of holding):
Drawstring dice bags are nearly ubiquitous amongst people who play with non-cubical dice. They can even be used as hand bags. But what about the inverse-- a bag that looks like one of the dice? Here's how to make a dodecahedral handbag using fabric, iron-on numbers, a couple of washers and a magnet.
Uncle Wilco sez, "We have some wonderful sheds on readersheds.co.uk, but the most quirky ones are the Tardis sheds, full size replicas of the Doctor Who's famous time machine, but most are used to store garden tools and not travel through space and time.
Now is the time to vote for your favorite shed, be it a Tardis or a normal garden shed you have until Friday the 4th July to Vote."
Jesse Willis went to see the new Disney/Pixar movie Wall-E and discovered that the lovable little robot is actually a dire criminal -- because he undertakes a variety of copying activities (bypassing DRM, file-sharing) that will be illegal under Canada's DMCA. Click through to read the unredacted version (warning -- minor spoiler if you do):
1. WALL-E records audio from his favorite movie, XXXXXXXXXXX, putting in onto his own digital recorder (bypassing the macrovision DRM on the tape). A COPYRIGHT CRIME UNDER C-61
2. WALL-E archives the audio, he doesn’t merely time-shift it. He listens repeatedly! A COPYRIGHT CRIME UNDER C-61
3. WALL-E shares his DRM-broken music with his friend, another robot named XXXXX. A COPYRIGHT CRIME UNDER C-61