February 01, 2008

The Guitar Zeros - Music Nerds Turn Guitar Hero Controller Into Real Musical Instrument

I hate Guitar Hero — I think that it takes people with the music-making impulse and channels them away from actually learning the skills that go into making music. Why would I want a fake Stratocaster-shaped Wii controller when I have a real Stratocaster?

But there are people who think the correct response to encountering something that is essentially broken is to fix it. The Guitar Zeros are a band of such people. They took fake-guitar controllers from Guitar Hero and hacked a music-making system based on high-end music synthesis software — in effect, transforming the fake-guitar controller into a real musical instrument.

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Posted by abostick at 01:06 PM | Comments (4)

June 28, 2007

"Emily Dickinson" House in Amsterdam

Emily Dickinson House
Emily Dickinson House
Originally uploaded by abostick59.
In Amsterdam, on Marnixstraat where it crosses the Leidsegracht canal, is a house which is decorated with verse by Emily Dickinson. It isn't noted in the tourguides. Debbie had heard about it from a friend at her work who had seen it.

It has no significance except that someone once thought it would be a neat thing to do to adorn the side of their house with this verse:

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee.
One clover and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
Posted by abostick at 01:04 AM | Comments (1)

June 09, 2007

Why — and How — Blogging Matters

The Huffington Post published a speech on blogging given by Jay Rosen to the International Communication Association last month. Here is the money quote:

The most famous words ever written about freedom of the press are in the U.S. Constitution: "Congress shall make no law..." But the second most famous words come from the critic A.J. Liebling: "freedom of the press belongs to those who own one." Well, freedom of the press still belongs to those who own one, and blogging means practically anyone can own one. That is the Number One reason why blogs — and this discussion — matter.

With blogging, an awkward term, we designate a fairly beautiful thing: the extension to many more people of a free press franchise, the right to publish your thoughts to the world.

Wherever blogging spreads the dramas of free expression follow. A blog, you see, is a little First Amendment machine.

I've been thinking along these lines for years. I think it is worth adding that if the server that hosts your blog is owned by Google, News Corporation, Six Apart, or any other third party coming between you and your audience, the freedom of the press is theirs, not yours, and they extend it to you only by courtesy. That courtesy can be withdrawn at any time, as we have seen so often.

Posted by abostick at 12:58 PM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2007

LOLPRESIDENT!!!1 - President Macro Contest at Fark

Warren G. Harding rendered as a President Macro
(Fark user Somacandra)
Fark's LOLPRESIDENT!!!1 contest demonstrates once again that if you ever have an idea, you have to run out and do it first. I had even checked the availability of lolprezidentz.com, but did i lock it up? Did I do any other legwork? Noooooo....! So I get to sit here on the sidelights and kick myself for thinking "There goes another good idea that someone else developed before I did."
Posted by abostick at 02:58 PM | Comments (1)

May 21, 2007

Mark Helprin and Copyright: A Moronic Idea Should Be Quashed Immediately

Mark Helprin, wrote an op-ed in yesterday's New York Times proposing that copyrights be made eternal, never expiring.

This idea is so completely bereft of merit that one cannot imagine a person of intelligence advocating it sincerely. Helprin has been a kazoo in the Right Wing Noise Machine since the Reagan years. It seems likely that what Helprin is trying to do is shift the Overton window in the discourse about intellectual property, an attempt to make a currently outlandish proposal seem less extreme by advocating a truly extreme proposal.

One good tug on the Overton window deserves another. Helprin's ridiculous propsal does not support the extension of creators' IP rights; rather, it is a compelling argument in favor the proposition that writers like Helprin should pay the public to compensate us for having to read their drivel. For too long, the public has borne the hidden costs from advocacy from blowhards like Helprin. It is high time that we be compensated for those hidden costs.

Posted by abostick at 04:58 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2007

Johanna Draper Carlson, Superhero Comics, and the Hegemony of Sexism

Comics blogger Johanna Draper Carlson is attracting attention by belaboring what may seem to be an obvious point: superhero comics are written for and marketed to boys, not girls. She has been saying it again and again, and seems to think that discussing sexism in superhero comics is a waste of time.

Quite naturally, Carlson's point of view is undergoing much rebuttal.

I read Carlson as saying, "Of course superhero comics are sexist, silly! That's a fact of life; you can't change it; and you're a fool for even trying." What she is arguing is that the hegemony of sexism is inflexible and irresistable.

I wonder how old she is — I think it is a near-certainty that she was born after 1970, and there's a reasonable shot she was born after 1980. I put the line at 1977; which would you take, the over or the under?

I say this because I was born in 1959, and the changes I've seen in my lifetime convince me that while sexism retains its hegemony, despite the feminist movement, it is most assuredly not inflexible, and that fighting it can change it. Which is why noticing and calling out the sexism — the increasing degree of sexism in superhero comics in recent years — is important.

And while crotch shots of Green Lantern are a fun and funny way of making the point, sooner or later what needs to happen is that feminist artists and writers need to produce superhero comics of their own, chock-full of the stuff that jazzes them about superheroes and at the same time consistent with their own values, to be put on their Web sites, self-published, and so on, so that the stuff is out there waiting for the lightning bolt of popularity to strike it. (This may well be happening off my personal radar.)

(via Glaurung)

Posted by abostick at 01:58 PM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2007

You, Too, Can Own an Integer

Why should entertainment cartels have all the fun? Thanks to Ed Felten, now you can stake your claim on your very own 128-bit integer and, by virtue of the formidable legal power of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, be able to bring legal sanction against anyone else who quotes it.

Quoth Felten:

Here’s how we do it. First, we generate a fresh pseudorandom integer, just for you. Then we use your integer to encrypt a copyrighted haiku, thereby transforming your integer into a circumvention device capable of decrypting the haiku without your permission. We then give you all of our rights to decrypt the haiku using your integer. The DMCA does the rest.

My integer is 5F ED 45 95 25 13 F7 71 17 02 7D 02 BA 7B BC DE. Use it at your peril.

Posted by abostick at 08:19 PM | Comments (3)

May 03, 2007

Todd Goldman, Plagiarism, and the Creative Commons

Mark Frauendfelder at Boing Boing has written a series of posts about artist Todd Goldman, who is attracting a lot of attention for very strong resemblances between his cartoony work and the work of many other people.

A preponderance of evidence exists that demonstrates quite how much Todd Goldman has copied other people's work. Frauenfelder links to a page that provides a compellingly comprehensive set of side-by-side samples of Goldman's work and purported originals. Frauendfelder points out where the assembled multitudes of Boing Boing's readers have found one design of Goldman's that has features recognizably taken from three different sources.

Goldman is purportedly responding to the charges of plagiarism by threatening to sue the people making the charges and publishing the evidence. He gives every indication of being a major-league asshole whose shield of deniability cannot withstand the blows of fact raining down upon him.

The evidence I have seen is crystal-clear: by my basic standards of artistic integrity, Todd Goldman is a plagiarist.

Nonetheless, this is a strange bandwagon for Boing Boing, the champion for digital freedom and against copy protection, for file-sharing and against the RIAA, for the creative commons and against a draconian intellectual-property
police state.

These are interesting times. The meaning of intellectual property is changing in ways that are not easy to comprehend. For example, one of the difficulties that white American sensibility has in accepting hip-hop music and culture is the vital role that sampling plays in the making of hip-hop music. Hip-hop depends on the evocation of the familiar to create the new. To the pre-digital sensibility, though, hip-hop sampling is theft, unless the artist goes through an elaborate procedure of securing and paying for permissions for the samples used.

My basic standards of artistic integrity are not well-suited to cope with Jonathan Lethem's essay collage, "The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism." The essay is by construction not just an act of theft, but a compilation of many acts of theft. Aside from the obvious fact that Lethem's work is an assembly of words and Goldman's is of drawings, what distinguishes Lethem's thefts from Goldman's?

I consider Lethem's essay a masterpiece in its own right. Goldman's work is shoddy. Nonetheless, the litmus-test of acceptability of artistic theft cannot be the skill with which the theft is executed.

Lethem acknowledges his sources, is completely forthright about what he has done -- which is the point. Lethem says that all art is to some degree plagiarism, that art cannot be made without plagiarism, that the draconian intellectual-property police state is by its nature anti-creative.

How can we reconcile our admiration and approval of Jonathan Lethem with our contempt and vituperation of Todd Goldman?

Is it that Lethem is a nice guy and Goldman is an asshole? But many artists are assholes, including some great ones.

Lethem is (as far as I know) honest, and Goldman is giving all the appearance of being a liar, trying to cover his tracks, trying to suppress the knowledge that his work is largely copies of the work of others.

All art comes from other art. Imitation is a part of art, and so is outright copying, sampling, parodying, paying homage, quoting, evoking, alluding, et cetera. The ethical plagiarist cops to it immediately: Yes, I did copy that. Look at the new ways I am using it! And even: Yes, this is stolen, but look what I stole this from — I think it is wonderful and deserves your attention.

Todd Goldman does none of this. Goldman's plagiarism falls outside its purview. of ethical plagiarism.

Posted by abostick at 10:24 AM | Comments (1)

April 25, 2007

Genderqueer Poker SF Erotica by Hanne Blank

Hanne Blank celebrated International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day by publishing on her Web site the hot (but PG-rated) story "A Game of Cards."

The plot of this work genderqueer poker science fiction erotica hinges on the play of a hand of Texas hold'em. And the plot is structured like a hand of hold'em. It's a nice piece of writing. It's completely safe-for-work; and at the same time it's really hot. Read it.

(via Debbie Notkin)

Posted by abostick at 11:05 AM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2007

Get Out of the Blog Echo Chamber — Del.icio.us Finds You Interesting Things on the Web Before Others Find Them.

The typical blogger reads BoingBoing (or Daily Kos, or Michelle Malkin, or Lifehacker, or [name of the top-ranked site in your favorite genre]) and sees something interesting, neat, outrageous, urgent, etc. Immediately, the typical blogger posts about it. So there grows an explosion of links pointing back to the post in the top-ranked blog.

A large number of bloggers wind up posting about the same things, and, all too often, saying close to the same things about them.

That's all well and good if your readers are people like your ex-boyfriend who still keeps up with you, or your mom, or that friend from two jobs ago whom you get together with for drinks every month or so. That's your role in the social circle, to tell them about David Letterman's video of the Top Ten Bush Moments. But if you want other bloggers to notice you and give you lots of link-love, you've got to give them something they haven't seen before.

Here is how I find interesting things to blog about that are off the beaten track:

  1. Sign up with del.icio.us.
  2. Bookmark and tag everything on the web that takes up any of your mindshare. Love it? Hate it? Tag it! Be generous with tags. Do this for every page that catches your attention. Yes, it is extra effort and slows surfing down. It's worth it.
  3. Subscribe to your top tags. When you have accumulated a couple of hundred del.icio.us bookmarks, look at your list of tags, ordered by frequency. Take the top five, or ten, or however many you want, and use del.icio.us's subscription feature.
  4. Review your subscriptions. Click on the subscriptions link at the top of your page, and start browsing. Click on the links that stand out as something that looks interesting to you. This is an ideal way to use the tabbed browsing feature of Firefox or Safari.
  5. Look at the sites you have found. Some of them may not be as interesting as you first thought they might. Skip them. But you very likely will have found a few gold nuggets. Bookmark and tag these.
  6. Review your main bookmarks page. You now have a list of new sites that you found through subscriptions. Pick out the ones that are the best fodder for your blog posts and blog them.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Keep going through this cycle, and you will find yourself casting your net much farther than you could without the help of del.icio.us., and you will be finding things that are much more likely to have not come to the attention to the people in your local network of blog links.

Posted by abostick at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2007

Last Night's Dream: Of Death, Love, and Remembrance

I am walking outdoors, talking with Bill Gibson. Bill sees something on the ground, bends over to pick it up. It is the wrapper from a stick of gum that has been folded very small and tossed into the gutter. Time and the elements have polished it into a jewel-like state. Bill talks about his dead friend Lenny. Lenny would fold up chewing-gum wrappers like this and toss them away all the time, knowing that some of them would eventually become jewels like this. He would also throw soda and beer bottles into the sea, so that they would eventually be made into driftglass. Now, Bill said, Lenny is dead, but every so often Bill would find something beautiful that reminded him of Lenny. It is incumbent on us all, Bill told me, to do what Lenny did, so that, after we die, the people who loved us will be occasionally reminded of us, so that we can still be present in a way for them.

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Ding-dong.
Hark! now I hear them — Ding-dong, bell.

(William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act I, Scene ii)

Posted by abostick at 10:02 AM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2007

Eschew the Passive Voice

How could anyone who blogs under the title As I Please resist an article called "George Orwell’s 5 Rules for Effective Writing"? I was drawn to it like an alley tom to catnip.

John Wesley draws upon George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language," perhaps the most well-known essay written by the man considered by many to be the finest essayist in the English language, at the very least since William Hazlitt. Orwell closes his essay with six rules, and Wesley takes all six of these rules and expands upon them in his own words.

I was particularly tickled to read this:

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

This one is frequently broken, probably because many people don’t know the difference between active and passive verbs. I didn’t myself until a few months ago.

It seems as if Wesley still isn't quite up to speed with the concept.

In any event, here at As I Please we are happy to see almost anything that promotes George Orwell's reknown as an essayist.

Posted by abostick at 05:19 PM | Comments (5)

March 01, 2007

Inspiration by the Numbers?

"101 ways to beat drawer's block" reads the headline of a post to Boing Boing by Mark Frauendfelder. Dani from Dani Draws, Frauendfelder writes, has compiled a nice list of 101 ideas for illustrators needing a creative spark.

Well, not exactly. What Dani Jones actually posted on her blog was something different:

101 Projects for Artists and Illustrators

Don’t know what to do with your extra time? There are plenty of odd jobs and tasks that an illustrator can do in between assignments. If you’re looking for some inspiration, here’s a long list of projects, ideas, and necessary chores to help make your free time more productive....

In other words, Dani Jones offers suggestions for What to do with your time when they aren't paying you. Or maybe Use these ideas to practice working on assignment when you don't actually have an assignment.

Is Frauendfelder saying that they can be used for breaking through creative blocks as well? If that's the case, then if I were him I would have said something along the lines of "It seems to me that these time-filling and productivity-boosting excercises can also be used to jump-start your creativity." As it is, it looks as if he simply missed the point.

Dani Jones's 101 Projects look very useful indeed to illustrators with a particular set of problems, such as portfolio building or simply needing practice. An artist trying to work through a creative block often needs a different sort of medicine entirely.

Posted by abostick at 09:08 AM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2007

Literary Collage

I've been a bit slow posting a link to this, but it is too good to pass up.

In the February 2007 issue of Harper's, Jonathan Lethem fires a salvo in the ongoing war between the Creative Commons and the Society of the Spectacle. "The Ecstasy of Influence: a Plagiarism" is an essay on the impact and importance of appropriation in the creative process, and it is itself almost entirely appropriation of the words of others, with a little bit of connective tissue written by Lethem himself. Although it is a patchwork of quotation and appropriation, it is a single, coherent essay on the importance of influence, imitation, copying, and outright plagiarism in the creative process. As such, it is a brilliantly original piece of work.

Because of its nature as a collage, to excerpt quotes is almost to miss the point. Read the whole thing, including the explanation at the end of which part was stolen from whom.

(via Roz Kaveney)

Posted by abostick at 12:40 PM | Comments (2)

August 03, 2004

Creativity in Thirteen Easy Lessons

Hugh MacLeod has posted How to Be Creative on his blog gapingvoid. It consists of a page of thirteen bullet-points, with links to subsequent posts elaborating on those points. For example:

6. Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.

Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with books on algebra etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the creative bug is just a wee voice telling you, "I’d like my crayons back, please."

(more...)

Other advice includes "Keep your day job" and "Put the hours in". Sounds simple. It's also valuable. Check it out.

(via Boing Boing)

Posted by abostick at 02:55 PM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2003

Today's Quote

A writer, from time to time, trips up on the convolutions of his own literary intestines and falls flat; can't move, can't write. That happened to me because of the machinations of a maverick senator. His hi-jinks struck me in a special way. Think of Asimov's dictum that there are three kinds of science fiction: What if—, If Only—, and If This Goes On. My preoccupation has always been the latter, and applied to what I saw was happening in the country, I was terrified, not so much by the actual, but by the potential, all of which became very real to me. Where it stalled my writing machine was my feeling that though I had a large-caliber typewriter, I was using it only to entertain, and I couldn't think of a way to use it where it might do some real good.

Horace [Gold] called me one day, concerned, and I spilled the whole thing to him. He said, "Well, I'll tell you what to do. Write me a story about a guy who goes to the bus station to pick up his wife; she's been away for the weekend. And the bus comes in and the place is suddenly full of people. And across the crowd he sees his wife, talking avidly to a young man. She sees her husband coming and says a word to the young man, who hands her her suitcase, tips his hat, and disappears into the crowd. She walks across, meets her husband, gives him a kiss hello.

"Write me that, Sturgeon, and everybody in the country will know how you feel about that meathead senator!"

—Theodore Sturgeon, preface to The Stars Are the Styx, (Dell Books, 1979).

That story has been on my mind recently. I've told it as best I could from memory to various people. I wanted to put it in a place where I could point people at it.

Posted by abostick at 08:40 PM | Comments (1)
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The Guitar Zeros - Music Nerds Turn Guitar Hero Controller Into Real Musical Instrument
"Emily Dickinson" House in Amsterdam
Why — and How — Blogging Matters
LOLPRESIDENT!!!1 - President Macro Contest at Fark
Mark Helprin and Copyright: A Moronic Idea Should Be Quashed Immediately
Johanna Draper Carlson, Superhero Comics, and the Hegemony of Sexism
You, Too, Can Own an Integer
Todd Goldman, Plagiarism, and the Creative Commons
Genderqueer Poker SF Erotica by Hanne Blank
Get Out of the Blog Echo Chamber — Del.icio.us Finds You Interesting Things on the Web Before Others Find Them.
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