Saturday, February 26, 2005

I've recently become quite a big fan of the Goon Show. Consequently this play about Spike Milligan looks quite interesting. Pity odds are I'll never get to see it.

Friday, February 25, 2005

I wish it was possible to get and/or stay mad at a kitten. But it's just not.

Four and a half hours of sleep. Yarg.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Reading this BBC article on the Pope's new book, I was struck by one thought:

Cardinal Ratzinger
cardinal ratzinger

looks a bit like Sir Les Patterson,

Les patterson

doesn't he?
I'm giving up on Korzybski. The basic linguistic ideas behind General Semantics are very interesting, and I think there's a lot to the idea that our view of reality determines the foundations of how we talk about it, and that our view changes at a faster rate than the structure of the language (especially in the last 150 years or so). I also agree that this disparity can lead to some forms of mental (or at least existential) illness. However, the science in Science and Sanity is outdated and just plain wrong in some spots. Chapter X is about "Colloidal Behaviour" in organisms. Besides the chapter being centered around the outdated concept of protoplasm, Korzybski includes a passage that says different body types indicate different types of colloidal behaviour in the organism, and in turn a different type of mental ability. This was a little too close to phrenology for my tastes.

(By the way, I love that the first question on that site is "What was phrenology?". If only it was completely dead.)

Meanwhile, I've started Kim Stanley Robinson's Forty Signs of Rain. Sixty pages in and I'm finding it very slow going so far. If I hadn't enjoyed the Mars trilogy and the Years of Salt and Rice, I'm not sure I'd still be reading at this point.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

John Scalzi gets my creative juices flowing again today with this "let's mock Scalzi" contest. Here's my entry (OMW means Old Man's War, a novel that he somehow got published)...

I'm going to pretend that many Whatever readers have written in, asking me how we decided on the page numbering system for OMW. I know many of you think that when you get to be a bigshot fancypants Published Novelist that the choice on how to number the pages is one of the perks of the job. But in fact, a number of people have made the important decisions before I even get so much as an unbound galley:

Numbers Editor: the Numbers Editor determines the basic system to be used (ordinal, binary, x-Mississippis,etc.), based on marketing data, sales projections, demographic reports, and a coin toss. It sounds boring, and it is, but a good numbers editor can make or break a book or at least get it printed in an order that matches the writer's vision. Teresa Nielsen Hayden started as a Numbers Editor. She's still famous for talking Philip Jose Farmer out of starting Dayworld on page 57.

Non-Alphabetic Typeface Designer: This person designs a brand new font for the page numbers, taking into account the genre of the book and how the page numbers can best serve the needs of the story. You may want to know why the same font as the text isn't used. The reasons for this are complex and varied and someone who isn't a Published Novelist (like most of you, and unlike me) wouldn't really understand. Just take what we give you.
By the way, Donald A. Wolheim broke into the business working as a Non-Alphabetic Typeface designer. This was back when you drew the typeface by hand using a lump of charcoal and numbers only went up to 216.

Number-Proofer: The Numbers Editor determines the vision. The Non-Alphabetic Typeface Designer brings forth the form. The Number-Proofer makes sure that each number follows one after another after another after another, in the proper sequence, and in a timely fashion. This may seem like no big deal, but for OMW this required no less than 320 separate checks, one for every single page. When was the last time you counted to 320? I get tired just thinking about it. Luckily, as a Published Novelist I work from home so I can take a nap.
Hugo Gernsback started as a Number-Proofer, though back then they were called "Counters" (because they were often found under piles of dirty dishes). Gernsback -forward-thinker that he was- is actually credited with inventing the numbers 217 to 321, so without him OMW wouldn't have happened. Or would have been shorter.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about how the string for the binding was chosen.
"That all debunkers must add new boshes of their own to supply the vacua created by the annihilation of the old, is probably a law of nature." E. T. Bell The Principle of General Relativity

Korzybski uses this as one of the many epigrams found at the beginning of each book of Science and Sanity. I'm not absolutely sure he took this very wise bit of advice to heart: the book continues to be interesting, but the Count often seems more concerned with his legacy than the immediate goal of communicating his system. He reminds us that the Euclidian world gave way to Lobachevsky and others, that the Newtonian world gave way to Einstein and others, and now surely the Aristotelian world must give way to General Semantics. Let the system speak for itself please.

(BTW, Bell, a mathematician at Caltech, also wrote science fiction and adventure stories under the name John Taine. Seeds of Life is a quite good one about genetics that has some truly creepy images in it. Out-of-print, natch.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Reading Count Korzybski's Science and Sanity. Interesting so far, though there are some grandiose claims being made (General Semantics allows the comprehension of complex science in the careful student; a proper study of General Semantics will alter the reader not just mentally, but neurologically, etc.) that are lightly tapping my kook alarm.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Just heard the tail end of a lovely piece callled Pange Lingua by a composer named Naji Hakim on one of my Live365 channels.

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