(2) Thu Apr 01 2010 11:33 Crummy.com Podcasts: Sedermasochism Part 1:
Beth's Seder was the first one I'd ever attended, and it was such an interesting experience I'm editing my recording of the Seder into a series of podcasts. As always, you can download the podcast or subscribe to the crummy.com podcast feed. This episode is rated M for mature, with pervasive suggestive themes, language, and of course alcohol references.
Participating in the Seder were Beth; Lucian; me and Sumana; and three others who wish to be known only by pseudonyms: Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, and Princess Peach. The atmosphere was really fun; I'll try to convey it to non-Jewish Americans in a Beth-approved analogy. (If you're not American or Canadian, the analogy won't work; substitute Guy Fawkes Day or something, I dunno.)
Imagine being a kid at Thanksgiving. Except that Thanksgiving has a set agenda, a specific set of symbolic appetizers before you get to the meal, and a set of rituals and historical recreations (Pilgrims etc.) that give a consistent shape to your Thanksgiving afternoon, year after year. There are many Thanksgiving books giving different scripts for the recreations, and your parents probably have one specific book that they pull out every year.
Also, you and your family are living on a Mars colony, where most people come from countries that don't celebrate Thanksgiving. So, although Thanksgiving is intended to be celebrated with your close relatives, as a kid you often spend the holiday with lots of people whose closest relationship with your family is that they're also Americans. Lots of cranky old folks arguing about the right way to do Thanksgiving (this is an official part of the ceremony; it symbolizes American democracy), you as a child being forced to go on stage and perform ritual Thanksgiving songs. You as a teenager still stuck at the kids' table because there's no room for you at the grown-ups' table.
Then you grow up and leave home. You can do your own Thanksgiving dinner, you can mix and match from the books to get your own take on the meaning of the holiday, and you can invite your peers to the meal. Since the cranky old people are not present, you are free to swear and make dirty jokes and have the arguments you want to have about the right way to do Thanksgiving. And despite the aggravation of the Thanksgivings of your youth, despite the fact that you may no longer even think of yourself as "American" except by birth, you still have this emotional attachment to the old songs and rituals, and you still want to do things correctly.
And that's what Beth's Seder felt like. If you've never been to a Seder before, listen in to learn why there's an orange on the Seder plate (apparently not the real story), hear how Gul Maror reminds us of the bitterness of the Cardassian occupation, and endure the first of two terrible Passover filks.
More Seder podcasts to follow. I'm basically going through the recording, cutting out awkward pauses, and stopping once I've got an hour of footage. I expect it'll probably be 2.5 hours total, since not much happens during the meal.
 We only knew one Jewish family when I was growing up, and my Mormon parents wouldn't have been comfortable at a ceremony centered around getting smashed on wine.
(4) Fri Apr 02 2010 10:11 Trending Topic:
Within the past week I've added books to my wishlist called Designing Design and The Design of Design.
Update: I'm currently reading a translation of De Rerum Natura that calls it The Nature of the Universe, and I just received Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos from Bookmooch.
 The correct translation, of course, is On Stuff.
Sat Apr 03 2010 18:10:
Yesterday Lucian and I watched both Ghostbusters movies. The first one is still great; the second is an object lesson in how control of a franchise doesn't automatically prevent you from writing bad fanfic. Plus it was very implausible; as though five years after 9/11, New Yorkers were like "What? Planes? Terrorists? That can't happen!"
Sun Apr 04 2010 21:19 Sedermasochism Part 2:
Yes, the multi-part Passover podcast rises again this fine Easter with an episode covering the rest of the pre-meal Seder, taking us from Lucian demanding to be the wicked son (Beth: "Eh, sure.") to Sumana's first taste of gefilte fish. I'm probably going to cut the whole dinner conversation since it's not Passover-specific, and later this week put up a part 3 that covers the last two glasses of wine. As always, you can subscribe to the crummy.com podcast feed. I'm gonna be writing that sentence for the rest of my life!
Sun Apr 04 2010 21:55 Now Appearing:
Hey, I gotta tell you about three public appearances I'm making in the near future, breaking my normal Pynchonesque isolation. This Saturday, Sumana and I are going on Jim Freund's "Hour of the Wolf" science fiction radio talk show. At five in the freaking morning. We'll be talking about Thoughtcrime Experiments, I'll read from ...Awesome Dinosaurs a bit, and then there will be a call-in portion. I highly recommend listening/calling in if you're up that early. Maybe you're in town for the MOCCA festival and you can't sleep?
OK, that's in New York. On April 26th I'm going to be in Raleigh giving a paper at the WS-REST subconference of WWW2010. You probably already know if you're going, and I honestly don't recommend buying your own ticket--I had to, and it's damn expensive--but I thought I'd mention it. The true title of my paper is "Developers Like Hypermedia, But They Don't Like Web Browsers"; the title you see on the schedule was camouflage to make my paper look more academic when I submitted it.
And then while I'm in Raleigh, on the 27th I'm talking at the Triangle Zope and Python Users Group. Thanks to my co-workers Gary Poster and Brad Crittenden for setting this up. I'll probably give two mini-talks: I'm planning on "Six Years of Beautiful Soup", then a run through the maturity model heard 'round the world. Then, your questions.
Tue Apr 06 2010 22:36 The Only Awesome Choice:
Photo of UK billboard from Kevan.
Seems like someone needs a visit from the Kick-your-ass-a-saurus.
Wed Apr 07 2010 21:07:
For a school project, Aapo Rantalainen ported robotfindskitten to a robot made of LEGO. In a very steampunk fashion you turn huge dials to move robot.
Fri Apr 09 2010 09:17 Crummy.com Podcasts: Sedermasochism Part 3:
OK, time to give you the hard sell: this episode of Sedermasochism is like the first two except there's more singing and everyone's more drunk. It picks up with the after-dinner macaroons and continues until the Seder is over and Sumana convinces me to shut off the voice recorder. 33 minutes. Subscribe to the crummy.com podcast feed, why don't you.
Fri Apr 09 2010 15:52 Beautiful Soup 188.8.131.52:
Two very minor bugfixes in this release. Remember, I'll be giving a talk on (among other things) the history of Beautiful Soup at TriZPUG in Raleigh on the 27th.
Fri Apr 09 2010 19:43 Hour Of The Wolf Reminder:
Tomorrow at 5 AM Eastern Sumana and I will be on the air on The Hour of the Wolf on WBAI--you can stream and call in, or listen to it later. After a quick timing test today, I can confirm (or at least assert) that I will be reading Let Us Now Praise Awesome Dinosaurs on the air. We'll also be talking a lot about Thoughtcrime Experiments and the process of putting together the anthology.
Mon Apr 12 2010 19:31 Reviews of Old Science Fiction Magazines: F&SF 2000/06:
RoOSFM returns! Because I was near the end of a huge book (The Structure of the Cosmos, which is great) and didn't want to take it on the subway. Here we go!
There is some quality stuff in this issue, though "The Birthday of the World" by Ursula K. Le Guin and "In Shock" by Joyce Carol Oates (!) both start out slow. I recommend reading the first section of N. Lee Wood's "Three Merry Pranksters at the Louvre" as a non-genre story, and skipping the rest. My favorite story in the magazine was Chris Willrich's "The Thief With Two Deaths"--like a Discworld story written by someone with a completely different sense of humor from Terry Pratchett. The shorter pieces are forgettable, but just in terms of word count, most of the fiction in the magazine is good.
I also think this is the first old SF magazine I've ever reviewed to have good cartoons. By which I generally mean "New Yorker-quality cartoons that were rejected because they were too fantastical for The New Yorker." There's also an amazing cartoon in this issue, one that I think I or Sumana mentioned a while back but couldn't find. Here it is. That's by New Yorker staff cartoonist Tom Cheney--not Dick Cheney, as you might think. Actually three of the four cartoons in this issue are his; I guess he's a cut above.
In his science column Gregory Benford talks un-scientifically about how great Southern California is (which it is), and demonstrates that even talented science fiction writers can't write good science fiction and explicit futurism at the same time. (Why are people going to the mall to buy e-books?) There are some funny Hollywood-lunacy stories a la An Evening With Kevin Smith.
Zeitgeist miscellany: Kathi Maio's movie review column praises every aspect of Galaxy Quest. Charles De Lint's book review column covers In The Beginning... Was The Command Line and mentions "Linux, that outlaw maverick of operating systems". Remember the "Linux doldrums" of June 2000?
From the classifieds:
FREE FANTASY GIFTS CATALOG. Your #1 source for Dragons, Fantasy Figures, Skulls, Lamps, Clocks, Jewelry and much more! Call or write...
I've come to terms with this genre of kitsch--crystal dragons with semiprecious stones for eyes, pewter wizards holding glass orbs. But clocks? Clocks are SCIENCE!
(1) Tue Apr 13 2010 22:23:
Yesterday Sumana wouldn't cooperate with the interrupting time traveller joke, so I made up this joke that requires only minimal cooperation:
(2) Thu Apr 15 2010 21:36 Crummy.com Podcasts: Voiceover Apprentice:
In today's episode, the crummy.com podcasts sell out and play you commercials. Specifically, a Zenith television commercial from 1978, which we found from our buddy bobtwcatlanta. Live the dream! Subscribe to the RSS feed!
This podcast is less than two minutes long, a sorbet after the huge Seder podcast. Don't-miss links: a sequel to the Zenith ad we discuss. PS: I spent a medium-sized amount of time converting and pasting in the original commercial audio rather than giving you the sound of it playing on our TV, so appreciate it, dammit.
Sun Apr 18 2010 21:33 Skin Horse:
I have no idea how this happened, but Shaenon Garrity has been putting out a new webcomic for two years and I never heard about it until today. (Thanks, Andrew.)
Fri Apr 23 2010 12:21:
There was no NYCB this week because we spent a lot of time apartment hunting (no success) and I've been working on the three talks I need to give next week, and my novel has been catching on metaphorical fire. So, it's "stuff you can't see yet" week here at crummy.com. I will try to do a review of an old Analog this afternoon, but it's gonna be tough because there's a really amazing essay that I don't know if I can do justice.
Sat Apr 24 2010 19:21:
When Sumana calls my cell I like to answer the phone with a fake business name. Today I said:
L: Leonard's Apple-Eating Service.
S: What are you doing?
L: I'm eating an apple. I figured I'd try to turn my hobby into a business.
It can't fail!
(3) Sun Apr 25 2010 08:36:
I spend today on the train to Raleigh, testing the question: "how long does the train ride have to be before I wish I'd taken an airplane instead?" Tomorrow I give my WS-REST talk about surprising ways my web service users responded (or didn't) to my design decisions. On Tuesday, I'm at the Triangle Zope and Python Group trying to cram in two talks: "Six Years of Beautiful Soup" and "How To Recognize Different Types of Web Services from Quite A Long Way Away".
Mon Apr 26 2010 23:20:
WS-REST talk went pretty well. Other peoples' talks were also neat. I can tell you more about them when I'm not going to sleep.
I wanted to write down something I thought of about fiction, and what better time than when I'm exausted and delirious. I'm writing the end of the novel, things are coming together, there are so many callbacks to concepts introduced earlier it's not even funny (not that it would be terribly funny if there were fewer). And I get these great epiphanies: one line from character A ties together their main motivation with two of the minor plot threads, and I realize I can build a scene leading up to that incredible line--a scene I need to do anyway because I need a scene between characters A and B. In that scene I can advance the plot entirely through callbacks to earlier in the novel. Remember this piece of technology I've been mentioning throughout, on and off? Character B wants to use it to rectify the injustice perpetrated in chapter N, and it's possible because of what happened for a totally different reason in chapter N-k, but B needs A's help, and thus--conversation!
And I know that the scene is not just using up callbacks; I'm setting up one more callback that will be used in the climax. It feels great and I gotta wonder, do real authors feel this way all the time? I was just messing around, dumping things into the story but so, so much of it is being reused.
(On the downside, in a recent chapter I resolved a subplot in a clattering climax and then my writing group said "Where is this subplot going? When will the payoff arrive?")
Thu Apr 29 2010 20:33:
Jaw-jaw is better than war-war, but is Jar-Jar better than war-war?
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