Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Freddies

Since 2003, the high schools in the Lehigh Valley have a peculiar custom.  Every year the high school plays are evaluated and awards are given for various achievements.  The Freddy Awards, named for the ghost that haunts the State Theater, are given out in an annual ceremony at the old vaudeville theater.  It is, apparently, unique in the nation.  At least sufficiently unique to attract a documentary film maker from LA, who filmed rehearsals at several of the schools and who also filmed the awards ceremony in 2008.  Much film editing followed and the documentary is soon to be released. 


Info on the documentary can be found here: mostvaluableplayersmovie.com/trailer.html
The trailer is here: www.mostvaluableplayersmovie.com/trailer/medium-res-trailer.html

Nice to see some recognition of the performing arts.  Alas, there was no such award when I trod the boards as Mayor Shinn in The Music Man back in the year mumblemumble.  In a peculiarity, the role of Mayor Shinn was also played by my uncle in a community player production.  In that, my brother Dennis played Winthrop.  For my high school play, my brother Kevin inherited the role.  It's all in the family. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Nito, We Hardly Knew Ye!

The Fantasy Life of a Four-Year Old (cont.)
Some of you may remember that Adam had an imaginary girl friend named Nito.  I am grieved to report that Adam has told us that Nito has died. 

And has come back as a zombie. 

Clearly, he has been talking to his Uncle D. 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

This Day in History

Making Amends

For those who recall this: m-francis.livejournal.com/139673.html

Sixty-five years ago today, a young man named Joe Flynn boarded ship preparing to depart Iwo Jima.  It departed the next day, his 20th birthday and the first day that the Old Man felt old.  During that approximately one month, more Americans died than in all the years of the Iraq War. 

He himself has now read that earlier post, having previously had difficulty opening the link.  However, he is disinclined to post his critique here.  He says I made several errors in my recollection of his recollections.  That would be recollections².  Thus: some corrections and additions. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Science Friction"

This is the title of an article in the current issue of First Things by Robert R. Chase on the treatment of religion in science fiction that mentions yr. obt. svt.  It is a thrill to be mentioned with the likes of Cordwainer Smith and R.A. Lafferty, with Gene Wolfe and Philip K. Dick, with Connie Willis and...  I blush. 
www.firstthings.com/article/2010/03/science-friction

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Clearing Out My Tab at the Bar

There are a series of mini-posts on some tabs I had been saving on the primary site: Mike Flynn's Journal

The difference, I suppose, between running a tab at the bar and running tabs across the bar. 

1. Cosmic Rays, cloud cover, and global albedo: A connection with Earth's temperature? 
2. Aristotle's Revenge: Elusive Dark Matter hiding on Earth? Aristotle's fifth element: the aether. 
3. If Only He Had Been a Better Artist An early female nude by... Hitler?
4. Galileo, Scientist.  But he ignored his own data???
5. Tests of Significance. The Odds are You're Wrong.  No one understands significance level, even scientists. 
6. The Continued Infantilization of a Once Self-Reliant People, in which it is learned that power saws can cut off fingers
7. Word of the Day
8. The Opposite of Sloth, including Quote of the Day, Today's mini-essay, following Chastek on Sloth, rust, and the pursuit of happiness. 
9. Creating a Sensation  in which the estimable Chastek distinguishes between the sensation of hearing and the vibration of the ear.,

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hot Times in the Old Town Tonight

Such a Beastly Month as February

You will hear it said that February 2010 was the second-warmest February on record, which indeed it may be.  (Whether it is the second-warmest based on raw data or the second-warmest based on adjusted data, I do not know.)  We are, however, in an El Nino, and "the Kid" typically drives dramatic spikes in the temp record, and are subsequently [and properly] discounted in assessment of trends.  "Weather," as they say, "is not climate." 

But what is interesting about the warmth of this past February is that it applied only to Canada and Greenland. 

This is interesting for two reasons. 

Le Prix Julia Verlanger

Eifelheim in the News

fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prix_Julia_Verlanger

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Data That Came In From the Cold

1. Preliminary
Radiosonde balloon measurements are in remarkable agreement with satellite measurements of temperature during that period when both were in use.  Here is the balloon data compared to both Univ. of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH) and Remote Sensing Systems (RSS), both of which are satellite-based. 

This argues that either a) both the balloon and satellite measures are wrong by the same amount in the same direction, year after year; or b) they both accurately reflect real temperatures. That said, radiosonde measures prior to the satellite system can be used with some confidence. 

2. In an Age Before the Age
That is, in the age before science became political science.   This chart of northern hemisphere temperatures appeared in National Geographic in 1976.  The zero-line was the then-present day temperature because the world is always supposed to be the way it is right now.  (Or else it is always supposed to be the way it was when we were growing up.)  There are undoubtedly psychological reasons for this. 

Matthews called attention to the fact that temperatures had been steadily declining since around 1938.  During the torrid 1940s there was open water at the North Pole and the Soviet Union was saved from the Nazis in part because because the Archangel Route was ice-free.  Articles appeared in the New York Times worrying about the warming.

But by 1976 the opposite worry had set in.  See John Gribbin's Forecasts, Famines, and Freezes for details.  Colder was worse.  It shortens growing seasons, inhibits plant growth, and the like.  In 1974, the US Science Board declared "During the last 20 to 30 years, world temperature has fallen, irregularly at first but more sharply over the last decade."  What to do? 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

SAMBBITU Strikes Again!

Writer Extraordinaire

Noelle, who once held the title of Smartest and Most Beautiful Baby in the Universe (SAMBBITU), has once again displayed the prowess of her genetic heritage, having won second place in the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group annual short story contest with a two kiloword story entitled "A Black Crepe Hat, a Short Story on Jack the Ripper's Final Act."  The prize carries with it a cash emolument, and is the third such contest she has won.  She follows in the footsteps of her mother, who won the Andalusia prize twice, and her grandfather, who has sold a few science fiction stories here and there; as well as her great-uncle, author of two true-crime books. 

4th Annual GLVWG
Short Story Contest Winners:

1st place - Carl Wandersee (Phillipsburg High School) for his short story "The Book"
2nd place - Noelle Flynn (Easton High School)  for her short story "A Black Crepe Hat"
3rd place - Rachel Schnalzer (Southern Lehigh High School) for her short story "The Makeover"
www.glvwg.org/index.htm

Monday, March 15, 2010

Baby Talk


I will try to transcribe this as I heard it.  Adam (aged 4) is telling us about his imaginary girl friends. 

My first girl friend is Elizabeth and my second one is Nito.  [He holds up fingers to indicate the number, in case we are confused on this point.]  Your brain is like a map.  You can see pictures and talk to people, and kiss them.  Nito is talking to me now. 

[His sister asks him if he means "in his thoughts".] 

No, these are visions.  Thoughts are... [Hesitation]  Thoughts are in the bone.  [He points to his arm, where there is presumably a bone.] 

[Well, it makes as much sense as most theories of the mind.]   

I'm not a real baby.  I'm a fake baby.  I'm four years old.  A baby is one years.  Or a little bit more.  All big boys are like four year olds. 

[I can't say he's too far wrong on that last point.]

All the words are pronounced and the sentences are correct, but which planet he is from is so far unrevealed.

If Rock and Roll Were a Subway

The lines would look like this:
www.flickr.com/photos/smoy/4413987999/sizes/o/in/pool-16135094@N00/

You will likely get a better image at the original site.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

How Do You Know

When there is an Olympic Hockey Match in Canada? 

Simple: track water usage.



The green line is the day before.  The blue line is the day of the Hockey Gold Medal game.  The timing is exquisite.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Passing of the Modern Ages

The Age of Representation

This is one mark the passing of the Modern Ages, which were ages of representation in the arts.  You can see it in painting, sculpture, writing.  The goal of the Renaissance, Age of Reason, Victorian Age and all was to represent the world "als es wirklich war" (as it truly was).  The words are Ranke's and refer to historiography, but look at Dürer's watercolor of a Young Hare, in which every hair [pun intended] is drawn in. 
Likewise, the novel was called "novel" because it tried to do in writing what Dürer and others were doing in painting.  Hence, the appeal to all five senses, the dipping into different points of view, the vivid descriptions of the landscape and humanscape, the multitude of characters each motivated by his or her reasons.  People were supposed to read a "novel" and say, "Yes, that is true to life."  I've been there; I've known people like that. 

It was part and parcel of the Scientific Age, in which all truth was objective and experienced from without.  The Renaissance, or Enlightened, or Victorian reader did not "identify" with any of the characters, but rather "observed" them objectively. 

The Post-Modern Ages, which began about a hundred years ago, or even earlier in the arts, began to replace objectivity and description with subjectivity and impression.  So, impressionism, and the mis-named "modern" art.  Nude Descending a Staircase is not a painting of a nude or a stairecase, which would be objective; but it is a painting of "descent," a subjective impression. 

As visual arts became sketchier and more impressionistic, the written arts became interior and minimalist.  One rarely sees the universal, omniscient narrator any more; one expects to ride the "novel" inside one of the character's heads.  One we can "identify" with.  Perhaps more than one character; but if you populate your book like Tolstoy or Dickens, the post-modern reader will complain that his head hurts and he can't keep the characters straight. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Clapping Hands of God


StarShipSofa podcast has put up my story "The Clapping Hands Of God."  You can listen to the story here. The intro for the story starts around the one hr mark.  I've been told that the story has be very well received. with many many emails regarding the story, some stating this has been the best show of StarShipSofa's life. The narration is by a guy called Mike Boris.

OK, This is Kool


h/t Mark Shea

Contra originalis


An alert reader writes me to point out an essay Out There in the Blogosphere:
> I'd be interested to see your reaction to this:
> http://www.infiniteinjury.org/blog/2010/02/25/reading-originals/
>
> Summary: "[I]n all those disciplines where we have reliable quantatative [sic] measurements of progress (with the obvious exception of history) returning to the original works of past great thinkers is decidedly unhelpful. Therefore at the very least anyone who wishes to claim that reading past great thinkers in the original (be it Plato, Keynes, Aristotle or whomever) has a substantial argumentative burden to meet and until they do the assumption should be against spending time doing so."


Now, one's first reaction is to say, "I think I'll wait and read a commentator on this rather than the original essay.  That is, I will read what someone says he wrote, rather than what he actually did write. 

A PROBLEM

There are some obvious problems with this approach which might give even Mr. Gerdes pause. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Science Marches On!


Quite dramatically so, in this illo from Popular Mechanics (Jan, 1952)
(h/t: paleofuture)



Back in the Modern Ages, when everyone believed in Progress-with-a-capital-P. 

And the audience for SF comprised those for whom such pictures caused a swelling of the heart and a tear of joy in the eye.  Notice that there are only two human figures in the entire panorama. 

Not shown are burking fresh cadavers for anatomists, the eugenics movement, poison gas, the Tuskegee experiments, the atomic bomb, or tailored plagues. 

But now that the postmoderns have deconstructed the Enlightenment Project, what comes next?