The Null Device
The German State Secretary, Jürgen Chrobog, is reported to have told Foreign Ministry colleagues that the US is turning into a "police state". (Mind you, if any country knows what a police state looks like, Germany does, having seen several examples in the last century.)
Meanwhile, German Defence Minister Peter Struck is apparently having delusions of grandeur:
However, Herr Struck told reporters before the meeting that he had no intention of begging for forgiveness for Germany's stance against the US-led war in Iraq. "It's not for a German Defence Minister to show regret or guilt feelings towards his American counterpart. We have an equal relationship," he said.
No, Pete, you're a branch-office state in McWorld. You take orders from Washington. (Or perhaps from London, which takes orders from Washington.) Got it? Ignore this reality and there'll be Consequences. You don't want to end up like Libya or someone, do you?
The Graun looks at why everyone from anarcho-feral bootleg/mashup collectives to apolitical dance-music producers is sampling George W. Bush:
He added: "He speaks at the perfect speed for drum'n'bass - about 181 beats per minute. In the past I've had nightmares getting various singers to fit with the beats, but everything he [Bush] said was on the beat."
But this sampling can have unintended consequences, as electroclash producer DJ Ali Falsafi, aka Foundation, discovered after sampling Bush saying"I believe in punishment". He used the soundbite because he thought "it sounded like every authoritarian figure you've ever encountered", but the record immediately become a favourite at fetish nights Kash Point and Nagnagnag in London and Hellfire in Sydney.
A thought-provoking essay on the decline of the idea of democracy in the US and McWorld:
There are plenty of signs of our democratic dysfunction, beginning with the fact that we're sending a bunch of generals and corporate executives - professionally groomed to honor anti-democratic procedures - to do the job. Then there is the most elitist media in American history demonstrating its love for democratic debate by blacklisting voices of dissent before and during the Iraq invasion, turning its airwaves over to spooks and military brass, and embedding itself without a hint of skepticism in the administration's agitprop.
'Customer' and 'consumer' were not the only words being used to change the nature of citizenship. David Kemmis, the mayor of Missoula, MT, pointed out that the word 'taxpayer' now "regularly holds the place which in a true democracy would be occupied by 'citizen.' Taxpayers bear a dual relationship to government, neither half of which has anything at all to do with democracy. Taxpayers pay tribute to the government and they receive services from it. So does every subject of a totalitarian regime. What taxpayers do not do, and what people who call themselves taxpayers have long since stopped even imagining themselves doing, is governing."
A reportedly brilliant Canadian physicist with bipolar disorder is fighting a court case to prevent psychiatrists from forcibly medicating him. Scott Starson asserts that forcible medication would slow his thinking, dull his inspiration and make him appear disoriented, and that that he would rather be locked up for life than medicated. The psychiatrists, however, don't see it that way. Starson was committed to a mental institution after threatening a neighbour.
"Being 'normal' would be worse than death for me, because I have always considered normal to be a term so boring it would be like death," he remarked bitterly during one hearing.
(Amen to that.)
Mr. Starson, who repeatedly insisted that he be called "Professor Starson" and that the word "if" not be used in questioning him, said he is confident that he will prevail. Breaking off a train of thought involving moon-walking astronauts, his claim to have invented the modular telephone and his plans for a team of 200 lawyers scattered worldwide, Mr. Starson addressed his case: "Here, I'm basically dealing with the bottom of your species," he said. "Your species deals with force so much. Force is not the way science operates. And the worst religion on the planet is psychiatry."
Charlie Stross has posted an interesting essay about the process of writing novels:
Don't get silly and try to write a multi-threaded novel straight off, you'll tie your own shoelaces together and trip over them. If you must do multithreaded, a better way to do it is to write a novella -- say, 30,000 words long -- and then write a second novella of the same length showing the same story from a different angle. Then intercut them chapter by chapter, like chunks of salami. The trick here is to find a story that has enough different angles to be worth looking at repeatedly.
One of the easiest and commonest character development McGuffins is the romantic engagement or "boy meets girl" plot. The conventional rendering is "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl". With or without variations -- in the case of my most recent novel, "boy meets six-armed alien penguin, boy and six-armed alien penguin have great sex, boy turns into girl, girl loses six-armed alien penguin ..." -- it's a handy tool because it gives your protagonist a goal to aim for and a yardstick for character development. By the way, people have been running riffs on this since the 16th century (and earlier); Shakespeare's comedies are a good source of ideas, notably "As You Like It", "All's Well that Ends Well", "Much Ado About Nothing", and so on. As somebody or other said, "if you're going to steal, steal from the best" -- there's a full run of synopses at http://www.bardweb.net/plays/ that provide a suite of off-the-shelf romantic subplots if you're not imaginative enough to work out the details of six-armed alien penguin sex with hermaphrodites.
And more along those lines. One day, I might give something like that a try (writing a novel, I mean, not hermaphroditic alien penguin sex). I keep coming up with ideas, timelines and scenarios, though not quite enough for a novel.