Tuesday, November 30, 2010

amnesia tv

Before the program begins, a subliminal message flashes ... if you would prefer to retain your identity, please do not watch this show
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notes, upcoming

My current work in progress is called, for now, In Constant Contact. Next up, guidelines for the beta professional friends. What are the rules?
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Monday, November 29, 2010

Phony Book Scam

Came across this accidentally, doing a search for myself on the Barnes & Noble website (just to see the latest cruel one-star reviews) and came across a "paperback" called "Tom Lichtenberg" for ONLY $50. Curious about the 3 listed editors, I clicked on their links, and found they have "edited" more than 100,000 phony books all in the same price range, including a book on the number 1, a book on the 11th Century in Literature, a book on the Abyssinian Lark, the Acceptable Programming System, and on and on. all listing these fine people:

by: Lambert M. Surhone (Editor), Mariam T. Tennoe (Editor), Susan F. Henssonow (Editor)

I wonder if they've actually suckered anyone into giving them any money ...

  I like how the people who allegedly bought the phony book about 'Tom Lichtenberg' (the football coach, as it turns out, since these people are VDM Publishing out of Germany, and what they do is make print-on-demand books out of Wikipedia articles!) also bought books about Andre Agassi and Secretariat (who happen to be 2 of my all-time favorite athletes - how did they know?)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010

professional friend

From the far corner of her executive suite on the top floor of the fancy new headquarters of Syomatix Incorporated, Kandhi Clarke sorted through the latest batch of applications for the position of Professional Friend. She had a bad feeling about this. Ever since the latest round of financing, the various vice presidents in charge of ideas had been full of really bad ones. Chalk it up to buzzwords, but they were falling all over each other trying to come up with concepts that fit the sizzling hot categories of contagion, sky and transparency. White boards had been filled, meetings had been scheduled and re-scheduled, and this was the best they came up with? Imaginary so-called friends?

Well, that's what Kandhi called it, anyway. The formal term, Professional Friend, had been settled on after many late-night panic sessions. It was to be a service. A service service, if you will. Your very own Professional Friend would be there whenever, ready for whatever, and guaranteed to never let you down, unlike an actual, amateur friend. It would be worth the price (which was yet to be determined). So far the project was only in beta, and it was Kandhi's job, as Vice President of Product Quality, to make sure they got it right before unleashing it on the general public. Or "right enough", since Ginger MacAvoy would be sure to override Kandhi's best judgment, no matter what.

Kandhi sighed. Sure, she had a nice view of the train tracks from her ergonomically balanced seat, but she knew that her influence had been waning since the early days of the company, when she'd been the first employee hired by the two founders, Tom and Chris. Back then the company was known as WWA (which must have meant something to someone, but she never knew what). Now, at the insistence of the money people, it had the more suggestive name of Syomatix. What it was meant to suggest, however, was anybody's guess.

The new product began with an invention, as it always did around there. Tom always coming up with something, then leaving it to Chris and marketing to figure out what to do with it. In this case it was an ordinary-looking wristband, which resembled one of those inspirational rubber bands companies like to give out to employees, which stamped mottoes such as 'Never Give Up', or 'One Team One Fight'.  The Syomatix wristband, though, was nothing quite so simple. It contained, among other things, wireless connectivity, a transparent video screen, and sensors which responded to tactile input. Tom called it the Highly Adaptive Friendular System, or HAFS for short. It was meant to be used for 'constant contact'. When he first brought it up to Kandhi (Tom always worked in the basement, even in the shiny new headquarters), her first reaction had been

"Eeww?"

Tom smiled and patiently explained.

"You would never need to call to be in touch. You're always in touch! Connected, continually and constantly."

"What if you don't want to be?", she countered. Kandhi was not a needy person by nature. The whole idea of constant contact frankly grossed her out.

"Our customers will want to be", Tom assured her. "That's the point. We'll make a product for a certain kind of person, not just something to try to sell to anyone. But anyway, that's not for us to worry about. I make the thing. You make sure it works the way it should. Chris and his people will take care of getting it out there."

"I don't know", Kandhi had argued. "Maybe I'm not the right person for this one".

"It has to be you", Tom informed her. "I can't rely on anybody else. I know you'll do the right thing."

And that was that. Once Tom had made up his mind it was useless to resist. The plan had gone through the regular channels, of course, before ending up on her desk. She had hoped it would have been set aside or canceled outright but no, whatever Tom wanted Tom got, in the end. He was, after all, the only reason the company existed in the first place. As a startup, WWA had made its name through some very secretive government contracts. Their inventions, far too unethical to be sold in the open marketplace, had proven quite useful to intelligence agencies around the world. Very bad things, Kandhi was sure, had been done with those gadgets. Very bad things, and this one had just as much awful potential as anything that Tom had ever come up with, which was saying a lot.

so-called

still toying with the idea of the imaginary so-called friend, but with some automation perhaps, as well as some guy in a cube in Finland who's being paid to be your friend. there is a lot of room for improvisation in this whole space (cheat.com, a service that automatically hooks up you with the skank you most deserve), the whole social network as social disease idea ... not ready to write yet, though. surgery takes a lot out of you, i've discovered, more than just the individual part itself.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Geek Fiction

I started a Feedbooks List of Geek Fiction - there are only 3 on there now (Password Incorrect by Nick Name, and two of my own) but I hope other people will add to the list.

piracy fail

I'm a bit disappointed that Zombie Nights seems to be the only one of my books currently being pirated. Come on, people, it's not even one of my best!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

store name for a fiction

Less4Less
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invention of the day

Automatic brights on cars. Off when sensing oncoming headlights, on again after they pass
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Introducing Mr. Diddles

For a preview of:
Mr. Diddles, The Pit of Fire, and the Karate Guys
by Warren Peas (you know, the loner goth guy from Sky High)

Be surprised. Be very surprised.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

kinder,gentler

Came across a story recently asserting that countries which were formerly British colonies are doing better than those which were formerly French. As if. You draw your own conclusions and, by the way, Germany is doing better now than Italy so I guess we know who the better fascist dictator was.
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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Swordplay and Fantasy

Fantasy (the genre) is always romantic about swordplay, but it really fucking hurts to get stabbed
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Universal Boom and Bust

A reasonable theory that the universe itself is merely the latest universe in a cyclical series of universal booms and busts, and why not? Why should anything be immune to the life-death-life cycle which underlines all existences we have experience of, from galaxies to solar systems to planets to the creatures on them?

Change over time is one general law
Life-death-life is another

(economic cycles as well, the bubbles that blow up and burst around us all the time, follow the same pattern)

Nickelhead Comics

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Time Zone review

a review of my 'Time Zone', by ba5080 at Barnes@Noble.com. This one's a keeper:

Gibberish: No wonder they gave this book away for free! It is probably the worst book that I have ever read. I really tried to stick with it under the assumption that it would get better and eventually make sense. All it really did was make me feel like I may have taken the same dose of acid that the author took while writing it!


ba5080 hasn't felt compelled to review any other book on that site, although he has rated such authors as Michael Crichton and Bram Stoker (4 stars for Dracula)

Friday, November 19, 2010

invention of the day

The grokking collar. This is placed around people's necks to prevent them from understanding things. At the slightest sign of comprehension, the collar emits a shock which jolts the wearer our of further reflection. Current alpha prototype is being tested with a certain family from Alaska.
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google street views

very cool collection of google street views by Jon Rafman. the world at a glance, anthropologically speaking ...

Wristcutters

we watched this movie on netflix channel the other day - Wristcutters: A Love Story - a dark, absurdist romantic comedy very much my kind of thing. Written and directed by the same person (Goran Dukic), it features a world where you go after you commit suicide, where everyone else there also committed suicide, and it's pretty much the same as the world they came from only everything sucks even more. They live in shitty apartments, have crappy jobs,  lousy roommates, never smile, never enjoy anything, are surrounded by decay and rot, their cars are always breaking down and nothing works properly. In the midst of all this they go about their business, resigned and jut getting along. The little touches all through the movie are perfect and wonderful - the director keeps to his vision closely every step of the way and makes it all stand up. Some great performances despite the fact that emotions are generally absent in these creatures. It made me feel good about all the choices I made in my own 'Zombie Nights'. You have to stay true to what you imagine or else why bother? And to hell with the people who don't get it. Oh, some really nice roles with Tom Waits and John Hawkes in the movie, too. The ending, also just right. Can't recommend it highly enough.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

scarcity and value and old people

Maybe old people were more highly valued when they were more scarce. Modern life expectancy has screwed that up. Now we survive things that would have killed us not so long ago, and we go on and on and on and on. No wonder health care costs so much and is only going to cost more and more. It's the leading growth industry now, supplanting war which, come to think of it, used to have the exact opposite effect. It's not a death spiral. It's a life spiral!
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Piracy and Free

Adam Maxwell (Author of 'Cat Chaser' and other fine books) tweeted that some of his ebooks had been spotted on an illegal bit-torrent download site along with those of several more well-known authors (Steven King, Elmore Leonard etc ...). The kicker is of course that Adam's books are FREE from Feedbooks, so the pirates are charging people for stuff they could otherwise get for FREE. Now, the question is, who are the pirates actually robbing, if anyone, in this case? They're not taking money from Adam. He wouldn't be getting any anyway. And the people who are buying the product they could otherwise get for FREE, they're not being robbed either - they're just paying for something. Is it a win-win-win situation all around?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

would-be ghosts

recent episode in my life reminded me that many of us would not be around today without the advances in medicine made over the past century or so. how many of your siblings, friends, neighbors would've succumbed to infectious or other incurable diseases? so many of us are walking around where none of our ancestors would've been ...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Password Incorrect

i love these stories of wild impossible inventions, absurd and cynical enough to come straight from tomorrow's headlines. playful and downright silly, this is really funny stuff. 'Password Incorrect', by 'Nick Name', free from feedbooks

Sunday, November 14, 2010

indie pub b. free

As if everyone who picked up a guitar is asking you to buy their song. It seems that 'amateur' has become a stigmatized term. Everybody is a star and wants to get paid.
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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Golden Record

One of my favorite human endeavors of all time is the Golden Record - an actual phonograph record containing recordings of human music and speech, hurled into space on the Voyager I spacecraft. Of all the vanities of vanities, this one might take the cake. Not only will no alien civilization ever even come across the darn thing, but the chances of them making any sense of it whatsoever is as close to zero as numerically possible. Who among the people you know even has a darn record player today? A dwindling quantity for certain. It was deemed a kind of 'message in a bottle', but it was more like a secret code written in fish feces and buried in the bottom of the ocean.

Want, Don't Want

"I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that. "


Lloyd Dobler

Friday, November 12, 2010

On the recent controvery


This incident reminds me of ‘The Anarchist Cookbook’ controversy back in the 1970’s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Anarchist_Cookbook ). In that case, it was a “traditional publisher” (Lyle Stuart) who “crossed the line” of what is and is not acceptable in the marketplace. ‘The Anarchist Cookbook’ contained recipes for making explosives and other illegal and dangerous items. This week’s bad seed is just as over-the-line as that one was, and the arguments pro and con are almost word for word of what they were back then.
The subject matter is certainly horrifying, but you know, it seems that whenever I look at the new releases on Smashwords there’s a ‘Date Rape 10′ or an ‘Incest 17′ so I’m not terribly shocked, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this author genuinely thought that his book was a good idea, and maybe he wasn’t even doing it for the money.
(I totally agree with Neil, though, in his comment above. Once you align your passion with money, it’s bound to get at least a little compromised, if only in your own heart)

Kindle Author Interview

My Kindle Author interview, where I get to promote my all-time favorite book, Mad Toy by Roberto Arlt

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Arkadian Anthropology

Reading, to my son, 'Arkadians', by Lloyd Alexander (whose 'Chronicles of Prydain' were my favorite books when I was a child). This one has a curious mash-up of Ancient Greek plus Native American cultures, including a Bad (and seemingly Godless) Patriarchy (The Bear Tribe), a Good Goddess Matriarchy, both of which together make some (obvious) sense, but also a Good Patriarchy (The Horse Clan) which is somehow in the middle of all this. The Good Patriarchy is also fierce, proud and warlike, but somehow not oppressive of women whatsoever, and isn't that nice? I wonder where the Bad Matriarchy is, though. This would even things up nicely. Witchcraft and all that ...

Altogether there are some good tales told within the context of this overall, distracting, structure

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Inland Empire

"We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream. This is true for the entire universe." Upanishad

Laura Dern's comment on her performance coincided with my feeling about watching the film: "You’re not sure where you’re going or even where you’ve come from. You can only be in the moment.”

I love that!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Free Ebook Recommendations

I'm currently round-robin-ing among 5 free ebooks, each of which I am enjoying immensely, so I thought I would write them up a bit of recommendation.

1) Complete Stories of Guy de Maupassant, in 13 volumes, of which this is the first, from Project Gutenberg.

IMHO the very best short story writer ever in any language. Maupassant does in a few pages what no one else can do no matter how many words they string together - evoke original characters in bright bold excruciating scenes filled with drama and revelation.

2) Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki

Spinning themes familiar to fairy tales of all cultures but with distinctively Japanese turns, from their perpetual ocean imagery to their traditional mores and manners, and surprising resolutions you would never even dream of finding in Grimm's or Arabian Nights or Russian, Italian, Native American or Chinese or any other stories.

3) Tokyo Zero by Marc Horne

"One man goes to Tokyo to end the world. It goes fairly well.

As a Japanese cult gets ready to stage a massive attack, they are forced to recruit a secretive young bio-chemist from the West. They hide out on the fringes of Tokyo, taking care of the daily business of preparing for the apocalypse, until the foreigner's secret past starts to come to light and threaten their future dreams."


I'm enjoying his ambivalent and ambiguous writing style, where sentences stubbornly undermine themselves continually. It's quite engaging and deservedly one of the top ten most downloaded free original ebooks from Feedbooks.

4) How to Disappear Completely by David Bowick

Sitting at the top of a Ferris wheel overlooking the Boston skyline, Josh’s life takes an unexpected turn, and things will never be the same. Along with the many surprises on his life’s new path, he’ll come to take life advice from a family of ducks, get in a bloody war with a dog, lose his job over a spilled drink, wake up in the hospital, apply to work at an adult-themed novelty bakery, and find out that people often aren’t what they seem. When you're at the top of the world, there's nowhere to go but down.

This book is just a fresh and funny romp from the very first sentence on. No wonder it's the most downloaded free original ebook from Feedbooks. People love this book. If you have a sense of humor, you will too.

5) Heavy Metal Harvest Dream by Simon Royle

This is one short story I had to read all at once. From the start a gripping suspenseful tale of desire and necessity, courage and risk, of one man's feverish devotion to his small daughter and her future. Highly recommended

the phases of the moon are the only kind of change I can really believe in

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Featured

When someone features one of my free ebooks, they get downloaded. Surprised to see that Sony had picked Bobby and the Bedouins for a promotion on this site.


When I noticed on Smashwords' Sony retail report that more than 3,000 copies had been downloaded, I wrote to Smashwords, thinking there must have been some kind of mistake. Only around 750 copies were reported as downloaded there. It turns out that the Smashwords downloads count doesn't include their retailers, such as Apple, Sony, Kobo, Diesel and Barnes & Noble. More than 25,000 copies of my books had been downloaded from those places (not including Apple, which Smashwords is not reporting yet for free ebooks). Apple's download counts would probably double that number, at least, so, instead of 150,000 copies downloaded so far this year via Smashwords, Feedbooks and Amazon, the number is probably closer to 200,000, if not more.

Featured is everything! 'Bobby' was one of my least downloaded ebooks everywhere else, yet is #2 among those retailers (excluding Apple), trailing only 'Snapdragon Alley' (which has apparently been downloaded more than 30,000 times, not the 20,000 I had previously thought). Altogether, 'Zombie Nights' still leads with more than 50,000 downloads, again not including Apple).

boy, now I really want to know those Apple numbers! Smashwords tells me that they have the numbers from daily and weekly reports, but not from the monthly reports, which is what they are publishing. They also hinted that I would be startled by those numbers (if I could ever see them) ...

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

words matter

I was talking to a neighbor about our local billionaire who is busy with his winery and might very blithely poison our little town's water supply with his pesticides. My neighbor says "that's okay" because the water flows through the billionaire's property and if we can't do whatever we want with our property then we've lost our "freedoms" because of "regulations", a typical right-wing/libertarian viewpoint in this day and age.

But "freedom" does not mean "doing whatever you want". The word for that is "anarchy". You cannot run a meth lab on your property. You cannot run a whorehouse on your property. Why? Because we have laws. When they use the word "regulations" they really mean "laws".

Using the appropriate words, you see that these people are advocating "lawless anarchy", not "freedom".

Words matter.

Monday, November 01, 2010

great pumpkin

Today's Peanuts featured Linus depressed because he waited all night in the cold and the Great Pumpkin never showed up. I read this in the Mercury News at lunch today and almost began to cry. I had been to the doctor in the morning and the biopsy results I'd been waiting for did show up. Cancer was my Great Pumpkin, and did not make an appearance this year, thank goodness
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