Dear America: A List of Things You Do That Piss Me Off

Fuck your McMansions and your second and third mortgages.
Fuck your wage slavery.
Fuck your increasing consumer debt loads.
Fuck your jingoistic revisionist history.
Fuck your ghettoized immigrant neighborhoods.
Fuck all you middle class junkies.
Fuck all you blue blooded lay about millionaires.
Fuck all you rednecks with your GEDs and cro-magnon ideas.
Fuck the corporate rulers and their brand name identities.
Fuck the empty promises of health and prosperity.
Fuck plastic surgeons getting rich off of vanity.
Fuck your six pack abs and your tribal tattoos.
Fuck your cheap sex worn like fashion accessories.
Fuck your middle management jargon and your economic waste.
Fuck your nuclear families and your relationship status.
Fuck your parents and grandparents who made this mess.
Fuck you for not cleaning up after them.
Fuck your children because they won't clean up after you.
Fuck the Machiavellian politicians you elect out of fear.
Fuck Hollywood and New York and the creative elite driving the landfill of culture.
Fuck you for buying what they're selling.
Fuck your television and your laptop and your ipod and your cell phone.
Fuck your gym membership and your organic whole foods grocery store.
Fuck your faddish obsessions with overpaid celebrity assholes.
Fuck your corporate Lawyers and for profit hostpitals.
Fuck your incompetent inability to stop using gasoline
Fuck your sociopathic children decked out in the latest brand names.
Fuck all the hippies and their fashionable consumerist rebellions.
Fuck all the hipsters for being narrow minded sheep.
Fuck the boneheads in the military for being tools of the empire.
Fuck all the rest of us for watching them die on TV.
Fuck the chickenhawks in congress with their boners for new weapons.
Fuck the insurance company yes men who get rich by betting on fear.
Fuck people in pickup trucks with American flag bumper stickers.
Fuck pro-life activists for their ignorant fascism.

Update to Word Processing on iPad: New Documents 2 Go

An update to my previous post about my frustrations in trying to use the iPad as a writing tool:
Documents 2 Go has just updated their app. The arrow keys now work on external keyboards, which was one of the key features that had made the previous version unusable, and made me prefer Apple Pages. Docs2Go now has at least 3 killer features over Pages: word count, pinch to zoom in on text, which reflows to fit the screen without changing the font, and, most importantly, DropBox integration, which allow me to store my documents remotely and have them synchronize automatically with my computer.

However, there is at least one major flaw still that makes working with D2G far too annoying for regular use. When you start a new paragraph and hit "tab", instead of putting in a tab space it indents the whole paragraph. However, normal tab spaces work in the middle of sentences, which means in order to have a tab space at the beginning of your paragraph you have to type a character, hit tab, then go back and delete the character. Which is absurd.

Other features that are standard on computer word processors that are still missing from D2G:
Command-b/i/u for bold/italics/underline (you currently still have to poke the buttons for these things with your finger)
Command-s for save (thats a big frustration; I've become very used to habitually hitting command-s to save my work)

Also, to sync Dropbox on D2G you have to back out to the containing folder and then it prompts you to sync. On a computer, DropBox syncs the files automatically every time you save without you having to think about it (as long as you're connected to the Internet), which is much better.

Finally, I'd really like to see D2G support the OpenOffice open document (ODT) file format, but that may be a pipe dream.

To sum: D2G is much better, is in fact almost there, but still not software to make me give away my Netbook.

Weird Comics at Comixology

Over at the Comixology Blog, I now have a post up about awesome weird comics:

Sometimes, comics’ unique potential for paring wild imagery and cartoon irreverence results in something unique to the medium. I submit for your appreciation Wonton Soup (Oni), Orc Stain (Image) both by James Stokoe, and King City (Image/Tokyo Pop) by Brandon Graham, three of my favorite comics to come out in the last few years.

Read the rest

The Ebook Reader Landscape Changes Again, Translation Dictionaries Are Buried Lede

After the vertigo-inducing price drops in the Kindle and Nook a month ago, the other ebook reader producers have unveiled their new lines and strategies (though in some cases, as with the Cool-Er Reader, the strategy is to go out of business). First the Kobo Reader, which is newly released and sold in Borders and elsewhere, is on sale for $129. That ebook reader is a lot like the old Sony Pocket Edition: no connectivity, no keyboard or touchscreen, eink screen. Borders is also selling the hideous Libre Pro ereader for $100, but it has an LCD screen and not eInk, and looks like it was hammered together in someone's high school shop class. Bleh.

Meanwhile, Sony is showing off its new Pocket, Touch and Daily Editions. Rather than competing in the race to the bottom, Sony is concentrating on quality, and the new readers are slimmer and lighter than the Kindle or Nook, and all have a new touchscreen that's supposed to be a big improvement over Sony's old, glare-ridden one. The touch screen also means that now the Sony Pocket edition is capable of annotation and highlighting, like its bigger brothers. However, still only the Daily Edition has connectivity, through 3G and WiFi, which is a strange decision considering that they're still selling it for $299, an absurd price compared to the $139 wifi Kindle/$189 3G Kindle and $150 wifi Nook/$199 3G Nook. The Touch Edition is now $229 and the Pocket Edition is now $179. Sony will also be coming out with iOS and Android apps to read books from their ebook store, ala the Kindle, Nook, and Kobo apps.

However, I think most people reporting on these new Sonys are burying the lede. The one feature I'm most excited about? According to the press release the new readers have translation dictionaries. Meaning, I can read a book in Spanish, highlight a word, and get the definition in English. Nobody else has this feature. Even on the iPad, where it would seem obvious, it doesn't exist. In iBooks you can't even look up a word in a foreign language and get a definition in that language; only an English dictionary is available, even if you've localized your device to another language.

This is a huge feature for anyone learning or practicing a second language. Indeed, one of the reasons I often resist picking up a book in Spanish is because I know I'll have to read the book in front of a computer so I can look up the handful of words on each page that are unfamiliar to me (or worse, cumbersomely thumb through a translation dictionary). With the new Sonys, I wouldn't have that problem -- and I know the translation dictionaries will work on the subway or wherever else I might be without connectivity, because two of the readers don't have connectivity at all. Brilliant! This would completely change the way I read books in my second language, and would be a mammoth boon to the hordes of people learning foreign languages, including English, if only Sony would have the presence of mind to market to them directly. (One assumes that they'll do this at least in their native Japan, where English is the most popular second language class in schools--which shows how big the market is in the educational sector alone.)

In short, this one feature, which most news organs aren't even reporting on, is the one thing that might make me give away my current ebook reader and buy a new one. It's certainly more important to me than wireless connectivity, which I do just fine without. In fact, there are only two reasons I read a book on my iPad rather than on my Sony Reader; one is the iPad has a book available (usually through the Kindle app) that isn't available from Sony, and two is that I read non-fiction on the iPad because I can highlight and annotate there. The new Sony Pocket Edition, however, solves this second problem handily. As for the first; well, I still dream of a day when all books are available as non-DRM'd ePub editions that can be read on any reader.

What? I can dream, can't I?

The Wold Newton Reading Extravaganza

Ed Champion and myself will be hosting a new speculative fiction reading series/carnaval of crazyness called the Wold Newton Reading Extravaganza. First event:

September 26th, 2010 at 6:30pm
at WORD Bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn
With: Charles Yu and Brian Francis Slattery
Poetry by Jonathan Berger
Music! Comedy! Mayhem!

The idea is really to create a reading event that is so much fun people will want to come even if they've never heard of the readers in question, and to that end the event will be as much of a show and a performance as simple readings.

Charles Yu is the author of Third Class Superhero and How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and was one of the National Book Foundations 5 Under 35 in 2007. He wrote a book with a time machine that runs on regret.

Brian Francis Slattery is the author of Spaceman Blues and Liberation and is one of my favorite writers as well as a musician who incorporates musical performance into his readings.

Jonathan Berger is a longtime, New York humorous poet who reads over music.

For more information and laughs, see the official web site.

On The "Ground Zero" "Mosque"

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
Constitution of the United States, First Amendment

I'm angry. Furious. My rage is a white fire deep in my chest that I can't let cool because I fear that if I do I will just start sobbing and I won't be able to stop. It appears to me, frankly, that the world has finally tipped over something and gone completely insane. I don't want to go outside because I fear that if I see another person the rage will boil up and I will start screaming. I don't know how to look another human being in the eyes right now without wondering if they are one of the far too many who think it's okay to protest the faith of other Americans and try to stop them from building houses of worship. I fear that if i started talking to someone on the street about this, and they said the wrong thing, the flames might rise up and jet from out of my mouth, burning them to ash. I am not safe to be near at the moment.

"If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution."
George Washington

The Meaning of Novelty: Convention, Form, Genre and an Existential Crisis

What is a Convention?

Allow me to describe a conception of art based around the twin poles of convention and novelty (which I will resist calling Convention and Novelty, because I am not French). A convention is simply a norm or collection of norms, and all art exists within certain conventions. In the visual arts, applying paint with a brush is a convention of method, and a landscape is a convention of genre, containing its own, respective conventions that can differ from time to time and place to place, as illustrated by the clear differences between traditional East Asian landscape paintings and traditional European ones. (European landscapes tend to be wider than they are high and emphasize the horizon, while East Asian landscapes tend to be higher than they are wide and emphasize scale. Each convention produces a remarkably different effect.) There is no art, or even expression, without conventions of some sort; conventions are the means by which things are expressed, the (sometimes literal, sometimes figurative) vocabulary and grammar we use to convey things. In this sense, conventions are a type of language.

Reading a Book About Roland Barthes

Barthes refers to what he calls the 'Flaubertization' of writing, by which he means a move to a notion of writing as 'hard work', a laborious craft. Writers such as Flaubert, in other words, attempted to cure their increasing sense of alienation from bourgeois Literature by figuring themselves as workers, craftsmen and craftswomen. It is obvious, however, how easily such a strategy can be absorbed by dominant culture and transformed into bourgeois cultural values which have always in themselves emphasized hard work and perseverance.

Thus, MFA programs, writer's workshops and James Wood.

...An even more important and far-reaching example follows the discussion of Flaubert's strategy of hard work, that being the emergence in the nineteenth century of the realist novel. Realism and Naturalism (nowadays a less commonly used term) set out to cure the alienation of literary writing by producing an accurate and artless form. One definition of realism in the novel which is still employed in university courses today is as follows: 'Realism, a form of writing which does not bring attention to its own artifice, its own constructedness'. Barthes's thesis is, however, confirmed in that very definition, since the realist novel, so dominant from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, is by definition an alienated form of writing, hiding its literariness at the same time as establishing this more as the standard of 'good writing', of 'literary' writing. Barthes refers to the fact that the realist novel is at one and the same time the kind of novel still privileged in bourgeois schools and the kind of novel officially sanctioned by Soviet Communism and its interenational off-shoots, such as the PCF (Writing Degree Zero: pg 58-61). The realist novel, far from creating an unalienated mode of writing, has become the 'sign of Literature' for both bourgeois and anti-bourgeois culture. ... Thus, a mode of writing that was created initially in an attempt to move beyond literary conventions towards an accurate representation of the social world, ends by establishing tenacious codes and conventions for the creation of the illusion of reality.

Roland Barthes, Graham Allen

Using Their Machines Against Them: A Manifesto.

In the mid to late nineties, Eric Rosenfield and I founded a webzine called, which was an attempt to duplicate in internet form the sort of xeroxed zines that helped drive the underground music scene of the eighties. That attempt more or less failed, but we did end up doing some cool and interesting things, giving me the opportunity to publish a satirical hitlist entitled "This is not a hitlist" in response to an earlier post that had gotten a warrant issued for Eric's arrest in the State of Connecticut. Eric later plead no contest to the charges, which were, frankly, bullshit and I got off scott free. Much of this was done in pursuit of one of our many mottoes and mission statements, in this case the fun idea that we had been "Using Their Machines Against Them Since 1899."

At this point, it's clear that "Using Their Machines Against" them is an idea whose time has come. At this point, three things are clear 1.) Various large and powerful political entities are fucked up and are more concerned with covering their asses than they are in doing The Right Thing™ 2.) Occasionally, if not for the outrage in the blogotwitterverse about the villainous actions of these entities, nothing would have been done about it. 3.) There is a lesson to be learned from this.

The lesson is that the time has come for a strategic view of how exactly the asymmetrical warfare of the electronic proletariat, by which I mean the people who make the communications economy work, against the electronic capitalists who own the means of production can actually be fought. More importantly, this model is one that gives a way forward for those of us who want to do something to shape politics and challenge the status quo of global capitalism in the years to come.