Monthly Archives: February 2012

Prophets of Science Fiction

THE RIDLEY SCOTT thing on the Science Channel is running a segment on Robert Heinlein Wednesday Night. Check local listings. That is all.

I Really Hate It When

POLITICAL JUNKIES TRY TO BLAME the voters and voter apathy for the mess we’re in. BULL. FUCKING. SHIT.

I believe in a principle: in situations where conflict arises, the first actor — the aggressor, as I put it — is WRONG. A peaceable person, minding his own business and harming no other is innocent and CANNOT — BY DEFINITION — be in the wrong or at fault for harm done him.

DO NOT TRY TO BLAME THE VICTIM! THAT’S! NOT! ON!

The fault lies with activists who have sought to abuse the power of government to mind other people’s business. Death would be too good for them.

There is No “Too Conservative”

GOP PUNDITS AND consultants — the ones Rush snarkastically calls “The Wizards of Smart” are quoted by Fox Radio News as fearing that Santorum is “too conservative” to win in the general.

Demotivator featuring epic tits. Your argument is invalid.

PETA is a Marxist Front

INGRID NEWKIRK is a bloody-minded loon. PETA kills more animals than some slaughterhouses. From this, one can only conclude that PETA’s raison d’etre is to kill so many animals that it removes them from human society altogether. If that’s “ethical,” I’ll eat the hat I never wear.

If you want to support humane treatment of animals, support the ASPCA. Better yet, support locally-run, no-kill rescue organizations, such as Save Our Strays. Or… Toni can probably rattle off names and contact information for the top twenty here in in the OKI region.

Oh! And BTW, the Humane Society of the United States — HSUS — is no better than PETA. Just so’s you know. If you have trouble with all the acronyms, just remember: the one with the Sarah McLachlan theme song in their spots. They’re the … heh … angels.

New Entry in the Dollish

LEXICON:

horn•mone — n a chemical released by a cell or a gland in one part of the body that sends out messages that affect cells in other parts of the organism, including the brain, that causes a guy to act like a rampant dick

I Think I’ve Figured it Out

BACK IN THE LATE FORTIES a bunch of science fiction writers were sitting around Heinlein’s kitchen (or some place like that) and BS-ing about religion and suchlike. And, after a few pops, L.Ron Hubbard bet Fred Pohl (or somebody like that) that he could create the next great religion using principles he pulled directly out his ass. Thus was born Dianetics, and then Scientology.

Ann Coulter seems lately to have taken a blow to the occiput. First Chris Cristy and now Mittens Romney. In the last few whenevers, she’s even been heard to aver and avow that Romney is the anti-establishment candidate.

While everybody else to the right of the menshevik next door is wobbita-wobbita-wobbita over the dissonance, I’ve got it figured out.

Coulter, after a few single malts in Bill Maher’s man cave, has made a bet with Matt Drudge that she can persuade the libertarian right to vote for a liberal statist. And Drudge took the bet.

Quote of the Whatever

I really don’t get what our Republican candidates find so difficult to grasp. The message is simple. Pay for your own damn birth control…. What more do you want? Free shipping and handling?

The Cranky Housewife.

Tangentially: why does it take getting your inner crank out and setting him/her on the table to speak such sense?

Hat tip: too many to mention, but I think I started the wander at Maggie’s.

Triumph of the Won

LENI RIEFENSTAHL call your office.

Some Citizens Resist

THE CREEPING GROWTH of a police state and the police are upset.

Granted, the movement’s focus is off, and they have some facts wrong. But you can’t deny that the militarization of police and unconstitutional busybody initiatives have coupled to the detriment of liberty and the public safety. When they shoot your dog, it’s not at all out of line to act like they shot your dog.

The Catur-a-day-late Post

PORTRAIT OF A LITERARY cat. Earnie, looking very The Importance of Being… Earnest.

The whale he’s resting on is me.

He wanted to play with the camera. Here I am trying to explain to him that he should stay still long enough for the timer to count down from 10 and for the camera to snap the picture. As you can tell, he’s not at all persuaded.

Joe Konrath

POSTS A WELL-TEMPERED rant on how tradpublishers treat writers like shit. And there’s some controversy in the comments from a legacy-pubbed author who posts anonymously.

A lot of commenters speculated on said author’s identity. Me, I go, “M’eh!” That someone speaks anonymously says a lot to me about the value of what they say. Yes, someone can speak anonymously or pseudononymously and have something of value to say. But most of the time, they’ve put forth the effort to establish a brand beforehand. So Card’s presage of the Internet in Ender’s Game with the debate between Peter and Valentine under their nommes de plume demonstrates. Without the established brand, the maunderings of some random git who won’t sign his work is worth about what you pay for it — with the normal discount.

But to me (again), the point they all miss is this: publishing and literature are not unique in this paradigm shift. It’s happening in all industries, businesses, and cultural segments across the globe. It’s an effect of the social disruption of technology and its rapid advance and change, and the way in which business is done. I think of it as the future being one in which we will all be cottage industrialists.

It has already happened, with lingering ripple effects, in my line of business — the music industry.

A longtime friend who has been a tour production manager for thirty years recently related that he has finally been forced to put on the personal manager hat. He works for a brand-name musician whom you would recognize — and probably be astonished he’s still working in music and not selling insurance somewhere. But the point is that all of this is migrating out of offices on Melrose in Los Angeles and in Greenwich Village or the Brill Building in New York or 16th Avenue South in Nashville to living rooms and kitchen tables… well, everywhere. The business has atomized, with decision-making driven as far down the heirarchical ladder as it can go and with artists taking control over their own lives and careers like never before.

The change in the music business is epochal. The view the public sees is that the record companies are in trouble because of piracy — or so they claim. But the reality is that the delivery system for the content is changing and the gatekeepers — the record companies and old-line management and booking firms — don’t have the control over it they used to. And the ones who survive and/or succeed in the new paradigm are the ones who adapt.

And the fun part is that the change is least disruptive in country music, where acts have been self-managed all along.

But here’s the kicker. The artist I alluded to above? He doesn’t have a record contract. Not in the old-fashioned sense. Oh, he has a deal. But he takes the finished package — production, masters, cover art — the works — to the record company and licenses it to them. And they pay him so much per unit sold. He retains control.

Sound familiar?

The prediction is that the movies are next. You’re already seeing signs of it. Joss Whedon did it with his steampunk flick a couple of years ago. Felicia Day is doing it right now with her project. Effects houses and music houses have been doing it for years. Read the behind-the-scenes books on Xena for example. And when I was reading about that, I was thinking, “Oh, the software and gaming businesses have been doing this for years.” A friend lives in the mountains in Colorado and, at one time, wrote Photoshop plugins for a French guy and a company in Silicon Valley. Sound familiar?

As the tail of publishing gets shorter, as the capital investment to produce works gets ever smaller, you’re going to see ever-more enterprises delivering product better, cheaper, faster. The legacy publishing houses need to adapt or accept the fact that they are not long for this world. Standing athwart the tide yelling, “I doubt it!” will come to look ever more foolish as time goes on.

Pruning Membership List

SOME OF YOU WILL HAVE just gotten a re-send of the activation email. You are among the very few who have registered but not responded to the activation email who also weren’t over two weeks gone past since you first registered (by which I took it to mean those folks really weren’t interested) or looked overtly spammy — such as former member Viagra from Canada. If for some reason you really did want to register, but didn’t get to responding to the activation email, by all means, register again.

Going forward, I am going to manually delete those accounts which are overtly spammy-looking to me. So, if your screen name really is Louis Vuitton Cheap, please re-register under a more-credible pseudonym. And, keep in mind that, as a creator of intellectual property, I take a dim view of pirates and knockoffs. You’re ripping off my fellow artisans and craftsmen. Why should I want you as a friend?

Finally, I guess this needs to be said — although you’d think it should be obvious. If you want to use this blog for your commercial purposes, you’re going to have to pay for the privelege. If you attempt otherwise, you’ll be cut off at the knees in your attempt. Don’t waste your time. When and if we accept ads they will be 1) Our own publishing ads, 2) from our associates, such as Amazon, or 3) through a reputable ad server, such as BlogAds. Where, by the way, we are already registered. If you’re interested in reaching our audience, check there for our rates and space availability.

Quote of the Day

If somebody says these things to you, he either doesn’t know what he’s talking about or he’s lying to you. (OWTTE*)

–Barack Obama

Yeah. Right.

If somebody lies to you as transparently as Obama did in that speech, he must really think you’re stupid.

Here’s a pro-tip. If you went to a government school in the last forty years, (and I got out forty years ago this coming June), you probably don’t know this, but this is not a new protocol. George Orwell documented it in the novel 1984, which the left doesn’t see so much — as it was intended — as a cautionary tale as an operating manual.

But you should be aware of it, so read the book**. And watch for the behaviors from government. Those guys are not Big Brother, looking out for your benefit. And we have not always been at war with East Asia.

*Or Words To That Effect.

**It may perhaps seem ironic — perhaps even Orwellian to you — when you realize that all of Orwell’s works were removed from Project Gutenberg some years ago.

Santorum Excuses

HIS SUPPORT FOR Arlen Specter on the basis of Specter’s ability — as chair of the Senate Judiciary committee — to support Bush’s nominees to, e.g., the Supreme Court.

Which, in fairness, paid off.

And you could wish that more Republicans could make that calculus in reverse. We might not have Sotomayor or Kagen. Or Holder. Or myriad other high criminals and misdemeanants. In Federal office.

Tell me again why was it we got rid of the spoils system? Oh, yeah. A professional Federal Civil Service.

Right. That was it.

The A. A. J. A.

SHOULD F.O.A.D. That is all.

Color me sick and fucking tired of political correctness and the self-winding perpetually offended. Grow up.

As Passive Guy Says

(AND REMEMBER: PG IS A LAWYER) if you are thinking of signing a publishing contract, or have signed one in the past, you must read Kris Rusch’s most recent blog at The Business Rusch.

(Hat tip to Passive Guy)

And as Tam Points Out

YOU CAN DO A GREAT DEAL less to set the fox amongst the chickens than to nominate Larry Correia for a Hugo. And strike a blow for indie-pubbed writers at the same time. And expose dark parts of fandom to a really great writer. Well, a really, really good one, at any rate. Win-win-win.

And Tam’s hat-tip leads you here.

So President Pond Scum

WANTS YOU TO BELIEVE that the Republicans are licking their chops over rising oil prices because… what? Republicans want you to pay more at the pump? Hardly. It’s the Democrats who will tell you in candid moments that they think Americans don’t pay enough for gasoline. Did you ever hear the like? Why is that? Because you use too much otherwise, that’s why. But… If you pay for it… Why is it anybody’s business but yours? Right? And who is it that keeps blocking exploration and exploitation. Why do you think they don’t drill as much as they can off the California coast? The Atlantic shore? In the Gulf of Mexico? In the Utica Shale in Upstate New York? Ask anybody: environmental concerns. Valid or not.

No, my friends — and you need to spread this word far and wide — it is your President who wishes you to pay higher gasoline prices. He’s said as much. And he believes he is justified in doing so, despite all evidence to the contrary. Despite the fact that he really doesn’t have the lawful authority to do what he’s doing. And his reason for doing this is that he wants the economy to tank. He wants you to lose your job, your house, to break up your family. He wants you huddled in misery, underfed, served poorly by a starvling medical establishment, eking out a benighted existence in abject poverty.

He thinks that’s your just desert.

And you need to make sure this truth is heard far and wide this year. You need to vote against the President and his party. You need to fight him and them at every turn.

If you don’t — mark my words — your future will grow ever more bleak.

Quote of the Week

“People, you don’t ask the President of the United States OR ANYONE ELSE to “let” you practice your faith.”

Do you understand? Do you understand what the martyrology of the Church is all about now?

Do you understand what the words “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” mean? Are you ready to accept the massive responsibility of your personal sovereignty bestowed upon you by God Almighty Himself? Are you ready to look the crack-addled, homosexual imbecile-puppet Obama and his cabal of satanic puppet-masters in the eye and say, ”You’re going to have to kill me” and MEAN IT? Because THAT is where we are. Or are you, like this pathetic, whipped, cowardly priest going to look to the imbecile-tyrant Obama and ask his PERMISSION to LET YOU practice your faith?

–Ann Barnhart, as quoted at American Digest

I DO Not Understand

HOW DICK MORRIS can be so thick as to say, “Barack Obama was a moderate.”

Come ON, Dick! Share that wacky backy you been smokin’!

Obama is a red diaper baby and has been an unreconstructed Marxist all his life and has never given any evidence otherwise and plenty to confirm that.

The Idiotic Question from the Debate

WEDNESDAY NIGHT — “Which of the candidates believes in contraception…?”

And these guys put themselves forward as the best and brightest. Just remember that.

“Believes in…” as in “…accepts the existence of”?

I do believe in spooks! I do, I do!*

It’s interesting that the self-vaunting secular humanists insist on articles of faith, while the bible-thumping superstitious primitives know it’s not a matter of belief.

*And, for the kind of mind which thinks the title of William Gibson’s Spook Country might be a racist commentary on The Ghetto, that is a quote from The Wizard of Oz — the Cowardly Lion, as portrayed by the immortal Bert Lahr (Nobody can eat just one!).

Flash! FBI Removes

ITEMS WHICH MIGHT BE considered to be in poor taste from training materials in counterterrorism. Examples given include stereotypes about Muslims and Islam.

What about stereotypes about Americans, patriotism, and military veterans?

Oh, those aren’t in poor taste. Those are accepted conventional wisdom.

That doesn’t follow.

Eh?

Yeah. Conventional wisdom can still be in poor taste. AAMOF, it’s practically part of the definition.

Oh. I getcher point.

Much Better, Now, Thank You

WELL… AT ANY RATE, marginally so. What felt like a grain of sand in my eye, after a thorough flushing with cold water, turned out to be acting like an allergic reaction to something. I’d seen this before, and those times, it turned into something nasty. A real weapons-grade bangeroo of a migraine. DO not want. Took some OTC meds — Benadryl, ibuprophen — went to bed. Slept the afternoon away. Got up at seven, feeling much refreshed, albeit grumpy, and — at midnight — think I’ll be back at my desk in the morning.

Feeling the Crappy

WORSE THAN USUAL, thankyouverymuch. Staying home the PM from the day job. Probably nap until the crud goes somewhere else.

Thanks for your kind wishes.

What kind wishes?

Well…? They could! Not everybody is as hateful as you.

Not hateful. Just honest.

Well thank YOU! (Tomayto/tomahto.)

Happy Birthday

TO OUR YOUNG CATS Chester and Jane.

Sunshine Come On Back

GET YOUR VITAMIN D — very important. Perhaps as, or even more important, is the advice to question authority on subjects nutritional.

In the meantime, we need to always exercise skepticism toward “authorities” who tell us to simply trust their judgment regarding sunshine, diet, climate change, or anything else. It will become increasingly critical that we do our own research in the years to come as government has expanded into every aspect of sciences. At the same time, the sheer mass of legitimate discoveries is making it harder and harder for anyone to keep up.

Patrick Cox, Sunshine, Vitamin D, and Death by Scientific Consensus

RTWT. Me, I’m doubling my daily dose.

Ranting Leftist Rants

ON RIGHT WING TALK RADIO talking as though he’s just discovered all of the — scorn quotes — “facts” the left-wing agitprop machine churns out by the 500-sheet roll (single ply to save the Earth), not taking into account that the world existed long before he was born, and that his tired old arguments have been heard and disposed of a million times. Before he was born.

Silly old leftist.

You Know, for a Political

MOVEMENT, PARTY WING, IDEOLOGICAL stance — whatever — that denies the existence of absolute, objective truth and insists on relativism in all things moral, the Left sure does insist on absolute obedience to their diktat when it comes to arenas where relativism and point of view really do hold sway.

Opinions Solicited

FROM THOSE WITH EXPERIENCE in the matter: I’m thinking of switching to Word Press hosted at Dream Host. Also using the jQuery plugin and the masonry page layout css. Any opinions based on actual experience wanted. Hold forth in comments.

Sick

TAKING A BREAK. I keep hoping I can tough this cold out. And it keeps kicking my ass. Drinking a quart of NyQuil and going to bed. Say, “Goodnight,” Gracie.

Goodnight, Gracie.

I Say, “It’s Spinach”

AND I SAY, “To Hell with it!” Looking at the lunch tray image topping this post all I see is the sins of the past fifty years of government malnutritional advice. I you want to see the source of the current so-called “obesity epidemic” you only need to look at the ever-shifting “Food Pyramid,” which looks more to me like a rationing scheme, or maybe campaign contribution quotas, than good nutrition.

But only progressives can see doing more of the same and expecting different results as sane and sensible.

Persiflage and Pettifoggery

THE POLITICAL PROTOCOL known as “spin” must always be recognized for what it is: lying. In trying to cast a favorable light on something that may not be seen in such a light in the cold light of day, or — conversely — to darken the perception of a thing in order to shift opinion away from its favor… These are all ways of distorting the truth. Of lying.

Similarly, when one needs to “spin” an act of government, and try to shoehorn it into a spun interpretation of the constitutional text, the wise and informed voter will always see the attempt for what it is — a lie.

And remember: when a politician cannot tell you the truth for fear you will no longer trust him, why should you trust him in his lies? A politician who lies to you once should never be trusted again. On anything.

Right?

So why do you continue to support leftists?

Ice Storm 2007

Artistic vision requires that the artist fall in love with his subject — if only a little. Without that, you can’t put the beauty into the work that makes it a work of art and not just auto-eroticism. In this picture, there is a lot of detail to discover. There’s mystery — what’s happening, here? There’s natural beauty of the snow outside, but also in the deadly nature of an ice storm and what it can do to the underpinnings of our comfort. We are reminded of that by the lights reflected in the window. There’s also an element of serendipity. I wasn’t trying to shoot the reflections. I wanted to get a shot outside the window. Set up a time exposure on a tripod to get it. The reflections in the window glass were a happy accident. But when I saw them in-frame, I knew I had it. They’re what makes the picture.

Can We Do A Test

ON THE PRESIDENT’S budget? Please? He says, “We can’t cut back on the things we need to grow.” So… When — not “if”, “when” his initiatives fail, and his increases in spending and the debt do NOT bring about the promised growth, can we finally put faux-Keynesian socialism to rest? Can we finally admit it’s an utter failure?

And, conversely, if the left will not allow the conjecture to be falsified, then let us deny them any increase in spending.

Dolly Gets a Present

Today is Dolly’s Birthday. According to the State of Ohio, she’s 41. Actually, she’s 13. I’m currently working on a novel centered around events that took place on her first birthday, back in 1999. But I wanted to do something special for today, so here’s a bit from the last novel in the Apocrypha — A Doll’s Odyssey.

II. Criminy Crimea or, Meet me in Sevestapol, Louis

Sunday, August 15, 1998, Cincinnati, Ohio

Dolly came padding and shuffling down the back stairs in her fuzzy slippers. One could tell it was early morning by her generally rumpled condition and the red-gold halo her unruly hair formed around her head. Pillow hair, she called it. She was dressed solely in the aforementioned slippers and an oversized terrycloth bathrobe that must have belonged to her lover, Drummond, who was easily twice her size.

She reached the bottom of the stairs and stopped sleepily for a moment, dithering over whether to go out front and get the paper or if it would be more gemütlich to start up a pot of coffee.

Then, like the sun breaking through a layer of cloud, her nose woke up and she could smell that there was already coffee brewing. Her heart swelled with affection for the man who shared her life. He didn’t drink the stuff himself, but had started a pot of it for her before he left on his morning run. He was always thinking of her like that.

She shuffled over to the coffee maker and found a cup set out on the counter, along with a cream pitcher full of her favorite condensed milk and a little silver tray piled high with packets of her favorite sweetener. A spoon stood in the cup. Tied to the spoon by a green curling ribbon was a mylar helium balloon with Garfield the Cat printed on it and a large numeral “6”.

There was a running joke in the household that her feline buddy, Orange Jell-O, most times known as Jelly, was the model for the cartoon cat. He was big and orange and lazy and had an attitude. But he adored Dolly.

“What’s that all about?” she asked the empty kitchen with a sleepy rasp to her voice. She released the balloon to bounce against the overhead and drift in the wind from the ceiling fan.
Pouring a cup of the rich, brown liquid, she savored the aroma of it.

Just like a freakin’ commercial, she thought wryly to herself. She poured in a liberal dose of condensed milk and the contents of a handful of the blue packets of sweetener, then shuffled back over to the table in the breakfast nook, stirring the hot liquid briskly as she walked.

When she got there, she found a wrapped box at her place at the table. It was a heavy box, but what it contained was quite dense. She shook the package and could feel the weight of the contents mostly centered in the box. Whatever the box held, it was asymmetrical. It seemed to want to tumble, a bit like a precessing gyroscope. She set her coffee cup down and turned her full attention to the mysterious parcel.

It was wrapped in creamy gift paper, embossed with the words “Happy Birthday” in a fancy script. That was odd. She had been born in February, if her Genesis could have been called a birth.

She twisted at the waist and stared for a moment at the helium balloon, bouncing against the blades of the lazily turning ceiling fan. Turning back to the package, she saw a small folded card — a gift tag, really — tucked under the binding ribbon. She finagled it out with her slim, elegant fingers and opened it, recognizing Drummond’s messy script immediately. It took her several tries to decipher it, but eventually, she could make out:

Dearest Gabrielle;

You are six months old today. I realize it is not an anniversary, so it’s not properly your birthday, but it is a milestone, and an important one nevertheless. So here’s a present. Happy Un-Birthday.

I love you,
Mitch

This was so like him to get her a present just because he felt like it and then make up some occasion. But then, she was six months old. And it was a big deal for her, even if nobody else in the world knew or cared. She shivered a little with delight in her lover and then started in on the package, tearing it open greedily. She recognized the Browning Arms box immediately when it was exposed and she gave a little cry of glee, her nails scrabbling on the slick cardboard as she rushed to open it.

“Oh, wow! A new High Power! Oo! And it’s .45 ACP, too! Neat! OH!” Then she got the box open and found that there had been some custom engraving done on the weapon, chased in gold.

“Gabrielle Dolly, August 15, 1998, with love, from Mitch,”

…she read aloud, a tear coming to her eye and her voice as she did so. By the time Drummond got back from his run, she had it out of its wrapping and cleaned of the cosmolene, had dug out some snap caps, and was sighting it and dry-firing it all over the kitchen.

“I see you found your present,” he said dryly as he came through the back door.

“Sure did,” she said, carefully pointing the pistol at the floor with well-trained muzzle discipline before she bounded over to give him a big sloppy wet kiss. “It’s neat. I love it! Thanks! Can we go to the club this morning and get it sighted in?”

“Sure. Sure!” he laughed, holding up both hands in surrender. “I’ve got us some time with Wex already scheduled. I figured you’d want to. I also figured you’d want to pick out a new holster for it, but in the meantime…” he reached into a basket of laundry and pulled out another wrapped present, “… I thought this might come in handy.”

“Wow! A Bill Taylor holster!” she enthused when she got it peeled. “Wow! You love me. You really, really love me!”

“Well, I wouldn’t want to think that that is the reason, but, yeah. Pretty much.” He put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her into his side while she eagerly inspected the fit of her new gun in its new holster. “And since I also thought you couldn’t stand the suspense of any more presents, I’ll just tell you. There’s a box of wadcutter in the bread box and a case in the back of the Jeep.”

The smile on her face and the glow in her eyes just about made his day. Then she put the gun down and thanked him properly and it did make his day.

Where’s My Waiver

SO APPARENTLY whole swathes of religious folk are able to get waivers from the requirements and penalties attendant on Obamacare on the basis of objections of conscience.

Exsqueese me?

I am an American. Citizen. Native-born of longtime residents. Born of a tradition in my family going back through the generations to the early 17th Century on these shores. We came here in the pursuit of the freedom afforded us in this new land. I am a firm believer in the founding creed of this nation: “All men are created equal; they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

On the basis of my firmly-held moral beliefs, I do not accept the authority of Congress to legislate in this matter, nor of any executive under the Constitution to impose regulations by fiat. I therefore claim a waiver of the requirements and penalties under Obamacare.

Quote of the Day - Kathleen “Fuck You Kitty” Sebelius Edition

The recent order by President Barack H. Obama (and Kathleen Sebelius at the Department of Health and Human Services) — that every employer must offer health insurance that fully covers birth control, sterilizations, and morning-after abortion pills, regardless of any religious objection employers, including faith-based employers that are not actually churches, might harbor to those procedures — is not an “unintended consequence” of ObamaCare. Its architects are not that stupid.

Rather, that was one of the very reasons for enacting ObamaCare in the first place.

–Dafydd ab Hugh at target="_blank" class="com_tb">Big Lizards

You Mean To Say You Didn’t See

THE ROPE-A-DOPE coming? They genned up a false First Amendment controversy, knowing they’d be backed down on it.

Now, they are able to say, (they think), “You see? We’re completely reasonable. We gave you your religious liberty exception.”

Well… They haven’t, yet.

Of course. They’re going to work it for all it’s worth before they do, but that’s the end game. They want to make opponents to Obamacare look unreasonable and extremist.

Wrong point. The freedom-of-religion thing is a red herring! Congress has no brief to legislate on the financing of medicine in the first place!

Sheesh, people! How many times do you have to get fooled on this crap before you get it?

Seen at Instapundit

THIS AD

We’ve mentioned these before. If there truly were equal time in political discourse, then the ad would also carry a petition for the countervailing cause. Or one could simpy check off a box on the “official” petition signalling opposition — which would be required to be reported with equal emphasis to those numbers signed in the affirmative.

But this one jumped out at me an bitch slapped me upside the haid because my immediate response was that countervailing slogan, “Support Sherrod Brown’s Petition to Overthrow the First Amendment.”

Now, Sherrod Brown (thank you for your service to our country) is a despicable shred of human debris, utterly unworthy to be dogcatcher — and I apologize to the hard-working dogcatchers in our fair land, but I am prisoner to the metaphor. So one may be excused for spitting when mentioning his name and wanting to Elvis the Teevee or something when you hear someone else utter it. He is a perfect example to that corollary to Lord Acton’s dictum — power attracts the corruptible. And, possibly an excellent example of what NOT to encourage your children to be when they grow up.

Had to have been a reason they keep him around.

Anyway. That’s our editorial commentary for today. Have a great Friday!

So Kentucky Is

IS CONTEMPLATING another power grab, trampling on the liberty of cold and allergy sufferers in the name of stamping out the scourge of methamphetamine.

Caffeine, alcohol, opiates, cannabinoids, stimulants, hallucinogens, euphorics. Cold medicines.

Government kills more people in a year than drugs have in all of history…

ORLY? What about all those people Los Zetas are killing down Mexico way?

Since those deaths are attributable to the black market nature of trade in contraband, and since black markets are solely the creature of government, I’d say those deaths are on the government side of the ledger. And, I might add — insult-to-injury-wise — in a lapse of fiduciary duty. Nope. Government “wins” hands down.

Here’s a radical solution: why don’t we ban government?

ORLY?

PAUL MCCARTNEY’S new album is called “Kiss My Ass”?

No. It’s “I Kiss YOUR Ass.”

Oh… Kay. That’s much better.

What? The? F**k?

DID I JUST HEAR Ann Coulter say that illegal immigration is the most important issue facing the country? WTF? Did she sleep through the putsch? When they socialized medicine?

Man! When they slip, they go downhill fast.

Everybody’s Jumping On

CLINT EASTWOOD’S pep talk from the Stuporbowl, especially that the Regime is running to get out front of the bandwagon.

In there, Clint says that after 9/11, we all came together to do what was right.

Well, yeah. For about 30 seconds. Until the traitors and wreckers on the Left just couldn’t refrain from carping and caviling and blaming ourselves.

Coverage

THIS IS A SUBJECT near and dear to my heart — and my wallet — because it’s essentially what I do in my day job. I don’t design book covers, but do make objects of similar purpose in support of a creative field where the content providers have recently won manumission from the corporate middlemen who heretofore ruled the roost. Eerily similar to the book world, as a matter of fact. I don’t want to be more explicit about my day job because my employer would rather I not associate my (sometimes toxic) political views with his business. Entirely fair. So you’ll just have to imagine.

Sarah A. Hoyt has put up what she has learned about book covers at According to Hoyt and The Mad Genius Club. This turned out to be too long to post in comments, so I bring it here.

I’m assuming you understand at least basic composition and design, and have some kind of tools — whether a full-on version of Adobe Creative Suite or a cobbled-together collection of the free, cheap, and bundled. Let’s step on from there.

Design principles I long ago learned to hew to: Size, frame, focus, readability, color, texture, negative space, and fit and finish.

Size: remember you are essentially designing a postage stamp. Your whole design must convey your intent from a tiny canvas at an impossible distance. Everything in it must serve the purpose with nothing extraneous.

Frame: your design must stand out from the background. Place it in a frame that permits stark contrast across the boundary of the frame. (By frame, I mean the “box” in which your image is contained, nothing more. You should eschew most framing devices for a simple, rectangular crop. God forbid you should attempt to use an actual picture frame. That way lies disaster.)

At the same time, you must select elements and size them in the frame for maximum impact. Ex: you want human figures in your design. You should rarely have more than one, though. And you should crop the figure as tightly as you can and still permit the viewer to identify it. George Lucas once said that, in editing Star Wars, he sought to show objects and actions for the least amount of screen time possible that still permitted the audience to see what was going on. Proper framing should also be dramatic. You want to attract attention to your design. Your chances of doing that with undramatic images are slight. If you have a face, crop it tightly to the features — eyes, nose, mouth. Do not obscure features with type, but don’t hesitate to run type over hair, forehead, ears, or below the neck.

Focus: do not clutter your design. If possible, it should be limited to a single object — person, thing, or device (logo, badge, etc). Fancy type faces should be avoided at all costs. Unless you are a professional typographer, you’re probably better off sticking to the basics — Helvetica, Univers, Gill Sans, Franklin Gothic in sans-serif, and Times, Palatino, Century, Bodoni, Garamond in serif faces. Do not use light weight faces. Keep the typeset copy simple — author’s name and title will suffice. A tag line is OK, but it should be puncy. For It’s Dolly’s Birthday, I intend to use a line the doll delivers in the denoument: Sometimes, you have to go to war in the underwear you have on. I believe I am sure I know why and that my reasons are compelling. If I should have doubts down the road, I will cut it.

And, unless you’re looking for a ransom note effect, use no more than two typefaces in a single design. Seriously. I’m warning you! This is one even non-pros know, and they will ding you for it! Which brings us to:

Readability: Has mostly to do with contrast. Black on white or white on black is best. When you move away from these, make sure you are maintaining that kind of visibility as far as you can. In selecting colors of type to go over a background or an image, remember that colors closer together than about 60 degrees around a color wheel of the spectrum are hard for the eye to distinguish one from the other in less than ideal circumstances. Yes, when you have a life-size image in front of you and you can turn it one way or another to look at it, you can tell the differences in shadings of color from fuschia to red to orange, but if you need to rely on a color contrast to render a title readable at thumbnail size on a 72 dpi computer display (or even 96 or 120 dpi), why stick your foot in a bucket to boot? Pick colors that contrast with one another. Not only that, but you must also assure contrasting tints as well as hues. You want a minimum absolute gray scale delta of 25%. That is, when you convert your image to grayscale, you should be able to eyedropper both the glyph shape fill and the immediate surround and find at least 25 points different on a 100-point scale (64 on a 256-point scale). And that is chancy. 50% (128 levels) is better, if you can get there.

Also, though I do recommend you use texture and variability, do so with restraint. Do not make your design too “busy”. Complexity is all very well. I’m not even saying you should escew it utterly in book cover design. I am, however, urging you to ensure that your dominant elements stand out from one another at the extremes. You can render even the cleanest type unreadable by surrounding it with an image or texture with too much high-contrast detail in it.

Color: You should work color the way pros do. That is, work from a limited palette. Include a color in your design for a reason. Pick colors that work together, either by complement or by contrast. You should also be aware that colors render differently in different media. An image printed offset in CYMK will look markedly different from one viewed on a monitor in RGB and still differently when printed on a modern digital press, such as might be used in print on demand. Most of the time, no one will notice. But every once in awhile, the color gamuts of open-loop devices will surprise even seasoned pros, and results will be the veriest definition of not-pretty.

Unless you have a solid creative vision that demands it, I would strongly advise you avoid large areas of flat, solid color. No colors in nature, and none in well-done art, are precisely the same tone from pixel-to-pixel. Pick your colors for natural variation. Gradients, for example, help break up a large flat area and can add drama and intensity to colors. In the realm of visibility, you should avoid what I call “browns.” These I define as colors between about PMS400 and approximately PMS600 in the Pantone system. If you don’t know that system, you should watch the CMYK equivalents of whatever colors you pick. If you see values above 10% in more than two colors, beware: you’re getting into territory where colors can look dull and muddy. Earth tones. It’s not necessary to avoid earth tones, but you should use them advisedly. And be aware that a CMYK spec of 20,85,95,10 is not red, no matter how bright and bloody it looks on the screen. It will come out of the printer as dull and lifeless.

(And, if it does look firey or deep and rich on your monitor, you should do some calibration work or get a new monitor.)

This is all less important if you are designed for an exclusively electronic product. But, if you are working on something that will eventually have to put pigment on paper, pay attention to clean color, and make as many tests as you can to ensure it. Finally, you should work in RGB. Select colors by Pantone number or CMYK spec if you want, but translate them into RGB. There are myriad reasons for this, but here are two: RGB is most likely to get you the colors you see on your screen from your output. And: RGB is a color space, while CMYK is a device-dependent separation spec. If you do not understand the difference (and trust me: many self-designated pros do not), working in CMYK will get you into trouble sooner or later.

Texture: texture is related to color in that it permits variability and takes your design away from the flat and lifeless and toward the natural and professional in appearance. Texture can be achieved in many different ways. Perhaps the simplest is to add an overlay of the Photoshop Clouds filter (or your local equivalent). And, of course, if you have the budget, you can render textures in a myriad of plugins. However, if you are of a more-limited budget, you can find textures all around you. Closeup photos of clay bricks, for example, can yield source images that, with some creative manipulation, can add interest to any design without necessarily revealing the source. A long time ago, before the advent of microcomputers in the graph arts, textures were more graphic and rarer in actual use. As a result, you didn’t see much of them. This can actually be a telltale in judging the age of a design. Flat, untextured designs tend to look a little dated these days, whereas dimensioned, textured designs — even from the elder days — look fresh and up-to-date.

Just as with type faces, it is possible to have too many textures in a design. I do a lot of logo work in 3D CGI applications and quickly learned to use no more than two textures of any type — no more than two stone textures, no more than two metals, two plastics, etc. No matter how you build your design, textures are one area where I’d urge more restraint rather than less. For one reason, textures can be a detriment to readability. Multiple textures can multiply the problem.

And here’s a pro tip. Your texture should be large enough that it fills your entire frame. That is to say: Don’t Tile. Tiles are strictly bush league and are a dead giveaway that there’s an amateur at the controls. Even so-called “seamless” tiles have obvious repetitions that, when spread across large areas, stick out like a lemon in an orange crate.

Negative space: this is one I see even pro designers mis-step on. Back in the ’60s, artists had this drive to fill the field of view with images. Type was stretched to fill all areas that weren’t images. Images were blown up. Full bleed was the watchword. Nobody used borders at all much any more, it seemed, and when they did, the border threatened to overwhelm the design — like Mucha on steroids. Readability went out the window in favor of the eye kick. What was missing? Negative space.

There’s a rule to be derived from this: if your image bleeds, don’t put a border on it. I will be the first to admit I break this one almost daily. But it is something to think about. And the more complex your border, the less you should want to use it with a bleed image.* On the other hand, a clean, white border never hurt anyone. Just sayin’s all.

More egregious is the failure to hew to good margins. Margins are defined as negative space around the content of a page.

What is negative space? Well, it’s basically nothing. That is, when you take all of the things in a frame that are something and eliminate them, what’s left is negative space. Not quite that, because a background with color and/or texture can be negative space, depending on the intended focus of a design. But close. In photographing art mechanicals for prepress in offset lithography, the black areas of the negative — which would not permit light to hit the plate, thus making an image — were referred to as negative space in some contexts. In an ideal situation — the textbook example — negative space is white and the image is black. This is generally true for text, which is usually printed in black on white paper.

And a margin is a special kind of negative space around the outside of a page of content, or a block of it, although that usage is rare.

It should be noted that what HTML refers to as a margin is not. A margin in print design is what HTML code calls padding. Don’t ask me why they got that wrong, but it bugs me, so I point it out here. It’s only one of myriad examples where computer folk don’t get graphic design.

Margins serve several purposes. First and foremost, they contribute to the readability of blocks of text. You can test this by looking at a badly-designed Web page — one designed, say, by and for computer folk. The paragraph tag does not in and of itself have a default margin spacing. A margin or padding needs to be added to the tag in order to lay out negative space around a block of text. If the bare tag is used, the paragraph will butt up against the browser window frame — at least on the left — making it maddenly difficult to read. A very slight margin of 5 or 10 pixels would pull the text away from the frame decorations in the browser window, eliminating the visual conflict between the two, making the text more readable.

Second, they provided printers a clear area of paper by which a page or a flat (of several pages) could be picked up and handled without touching wet ink. Of course, modern best practices obviate such handling and this purpose is not so urgent any more.

Third, they provide a safety margin in both cutting and folding. Pages are printed several to a sheet of paper. (There are many reasons for this, mostly having to do with efficiency and economy in process. If you’re interested, any beginning textbook on the graphic arts can explain it to you. I don’t have the time or space.) When several groups of pages are folded down and lain together in a saddle, there are multiple thicknesses of paper between the end of the type and the edge of the paper at the spine of a book. Control over the size of this inner margin (also called a gutter) permits all of the pages to line up so they don’t flicker when fanned through like a flip book animation. This is a readability issue. (No. No time to explain. Just trust me.)

In cutting, which is relevant to our task, where folding was not — quite — the margin also provides a safety … margin. When any printed job is printed, it is done on a sheet of paper that is somewhat larger than the finished piece. (There are many reasons for this, the explication of this would turn this into a teal deer (tl; dr.).)

You mean it’s not already?

I’m trying to keep it short.

The mechanics of cutting are thus: a stack of paper is jogged up by bouncing it on its edges and fanning air into the stack, allowing the sheets to slip past each other into (more-or-less) perfect alignment. This is one of those lost fundamentals, like those German apprentices who used to spend two years just filing metal blanks. Nobody knows how to jog paper any more. The alignment is critical, because of the next step, which is to slice the stack with a razor-sharp knife, (No hyperbole: lots of writers use “razor sharp” when it doesn’t quite apply; these knives can cut your finger clean off just sitting there.), driven by several tons of pressure (in excess of 10,000 psi). Even with such a sharp blade, the friction of the knife within the stack can cause “draw” — which is the sheering motion along the direction of force of the moving blade. This can cause inaccuracies in the cut. In order to hold the paper steady, it is first put into a clamp, which presses down with even more pressure than the knife (5-9,000 kg). This pressure can be “soft” or “hard”, depending on the compressability of the stock and the amount of air in the lift. If the pressure is too great for conditions, the stock can “belly”, or bulge out of the clamp.

Thus, when the knife cuts through — straight — it actually follows a curving path which, when the clamp is released, will result in a concave edge to the stack. And, on the individual page, the distance from the edge of the content to the edge of the paper will vary slightly. The closer the content is to the intended edge — the tighter the margins — the more noticeable this effect will be. If the design has not been made with an awareness of these factors, it is quite likely that parts of the content will “bleed” off the edge of the paper — whether intended or not. (This can be a quite disconcerting sight when encountered in actual production, with many thousands of dollars on the line.) The wider the margins allowed, the less noticeable this effect. Thus the wise designer will allow for these effects in laying out the margins.

Over the centuries, all of these marginal effects have become ingrained in the tastes and habits of the reading public. That is to say there is no absolute reason in natural law that margins should be left, except that work without margins tends to look unfinished or badly-finished, and thus unprofessional. At life-size on a cover, (say… 6″ x 9″), you can probably get away with a 1/8″ margin, though wider would be advisable. But, when that margin is shrunk down to Amazon-standard thumbnail size, it will look cramped. So you’re wise to leave a slightly wider margin (I’d say at least 1/4″) at life size, so that, when you shrink your design down, there will still be a visible — if not measurable — margin.

Now. Is this to say you should not run type right to the edge of your design? Of course not. It works. It’s quite dramatic. It’s highly visible. But you should make sure that it looks like you intended it that way, and not that you just ran the type to the edge with no rhyme nor reason for it.

Fit and finish. Just as your prose should have a solid “thunk” to it, like the closing of a door on a new car, so, too should your visual design. Almost any sin can be forgiven if the execution of the whole is clean, clear, and has the right finishing touches. All of the covers Sarah calls out in her post fail on this score, no matter how else. Yes, the typeface selected for Neewa the Wonder Dog is an abomination of inappropriateness, the frame is all wrong, the focus is horrible, but the worst sin is it looks like it was thrown together at random. Even as a rough schematic, it fails miserably. If you’re going to set type at random, with no margins and no justification, no centering or alignment, then you should at least try to make it look as though you had a reason for doing otherwise. I’ve staggered type across a frame a brazilian times. But I always did it to balance other elements, or to draw the eye down a specific path through the design.

In short, you should be aware of everything you put into a design, have a reason for its size, conformation (color, etc), and be certain you can’t find a better way.

And, still, somebody will call you out, but at least you will know you have given it your best effort. And one of the joys of indie e-pubbing is, as Sarah points out, you can go back and change things if you’re not happy with them. And you can do it without breaking the bank.

Obviously, I cannot core dump all of the lessons learned in a 30-plus-year career that is not over yet. However, I don’t mind showing off what I know. So, if you’ve got questions, ask in comments. If you disagree with my conclusions, say why — in comments. If you have something to add, pipe up. In comments. Just, please, make your comments substantive.

*(“What’s bleed?” I hear you say, and can imagine you picturing the colors all running like a watercolor in the rain. But no. It’s where the image runs off the edge of your design. It “bleeds” out of the frame. (In actual printing, the image runs past the crop mark for a specified distance — usually 1/8″ — and the paper cutter actually cuts it off and throws it away.))

Privacy

JOE HUFFMAN notes a new technological development and rightly anticipates one eventual use of it.

Which, I say, makes it most urgent that a marker be lain down and a line drawn in the sand, NOW, as to the absolute and ironclad nature of the right to privacy.

First, we must dispose of the coinage “Unreasonable [FITB with the particular infringment upon rights at hand].” Let us start with the presupposition that there is no reasonable infringement upon individual rights. Period. End of discussion. This may be distilled down to the bumper sticker/sound bite slogan, “You don’t get to waive my rights.” (Which is essentially what’s going on when a government judge rules on the reasonability of an action of agents of the government.) Such rulings are prima facie evidence of bad faith intent.

Summary: How is it reasonable for the state to rule on the reasonability or lack thereof of actions taken under the aegis of a charter of limitations on the actions of the government?

Next, we must have a more-expansive and more-rigorously-defended definition of privacy that is absolute and inheres closely to the individual.

I argue that privacy must include such matters as identity, self-ownership, and the right to be left alone and unmolested — by all actors, but most especially by the state. In aid of these, I make the following assertions — in no particular order. This list is in no way exhaustive.

The state may not assert an absolute right to know who you are — or who you represent yourself to be. On the other hand, it may demand that you meet certain standards, and that you must therefor prepare and present upon reasonable demand unrebuttable proof that you have, do, shall, or can meet those standards. For example, the state does not need to know who you are or where you live or anything else about you for you to be able to demonstrate dispositively that you have met the criteria for the granting of a driver’s license. In fact, the driver’s license need carry no human-readable identification, only admit to a cooperation with an independently-verifiable trust mark that serves as proof of your assertions.

Neither the state nor any private actor may keep or maintain any permanent record of your identity or of any of the earmarks of identity, or of any transactions with you without your explicit, written, independently verifiable permission on a case-by-case basis.

Identity theft must come to be seen as morally equivalent to murder and must be a capital crime in any society wishing to be considered civilized.

Recordings of any nature which may expose an individual’s identity may not be promulgated in any medium or in any venue without the explicit, written, independently verifiable permission on a case-by-case basis. Note the promulgation. Any individual may take a photograph of a street scene with people in it, but if he publishes it without permission…

And most certainly the state may not surveil the people for any reason under any pretext whatsoever, as it is a clear violation of the constitutional right to privacy. There is no “in public” exception to any of these rules. If privacy is not absolute, it does not exist.

Many people will argue, no doubt, that these strictures would make it impossible for ordinary commerce to be carried out. Contra that, I offer this example:

You walk into a store. You select your merchandise. The proprietor adds up the bill and informs you of the price, with tax. You pay him in bills and coins. He wraps your purchase according to custom and usage. You walk out. Both parties to the transaction are — presumably — happy with it. Neither need know anything more about the other than the bare fact of his existence. More may be volunteered at any step along the way, but it need not be demanded, nor need it be a mandatory prerequisite for the transaction to occur.

I submit to you that all of my criteria as listed above are met in this description. I further submit to you that this description applies to all human interaction, and that any interactions which cannot be carried out within these limits probably encapsulate affronts to liberty.

Certainly, for someone to claim a compelling state interest otherwise ought to raise enough red flags to mark a space shuttle crawler road trip.

Lamar Smith May Be

AN HONEST POLITICIAN in that, once he’s bought, he stays bought.

But: as Dolly says, sure a broken clock may be right twice a day (depending on the nature of the breakage). But still and all, it is broken*. A bought politician who stays bought may be honest thereby, but still and all, he is bought*.

We often aver that it’s impossible for properly-couched statements of rights to come into conflict, that when rights appear to come into conflict, it’s usually because somebody is deliberately attempting to abridge one or the other*.

Don’t let them.

In the present contretemps over SOPA/PIPA, Congressmen and Senators — acting as agents of rent-seeking corporate speculators in copyright* — are attempting to bring intellectual property rights into conflict with the private property rights AND the liberty of individuals.

Yes. Of course, the rights of creators of works of the mind should be — must be — defended, most vigorously. And, when meek individuals are robbed of their sustenance and unable thereby to defend themselves against depredations, the state must needs step in and prosecute the predators — for the sake of civilization.

(Still and all, I would not be unhappy to see IP rights inhere ONLY to individual creators, and NEVER to corporations.)

However, there are other principles in play, here. Such as the principle of jurisprudence that one may not be prosecuted for a crime one has not committed. And the one that the accused is to be considered innocent until proven guilty according to strict standards of evidence. Neither PIPA nor SOPA seems to take these principles into account*.

And yet, in the recent brouhaha, certain individual congresscritters saw fit to ignore these facts and principles, including the aforementioned Lamar Smith, who vowed to soldier on, despite the massive outcry in opposition*.

So, one may find it gratifying that Smith has a primary challenger. And, at first glance, the guy seems like a righteous dude. With sufficient support, he ought to be able to put Smith out to pasture. Do what you can to help.

*Refrain: And there’s your problem!

Obama Apparently Believes

THAT SCRIPTURE which teaches “If you do not work, you shall not eat” demands we pay higher taxes because (as it says in Genesis) “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and we should succor the needy. By being forced to do so at the point of a gun on the part of the state. Rendering unto Caesar that which is God’s.

Yeah. Well…

They say the devil quotes scripture, too.

Ann Coulter to America: Bend Over, Grease Up

ST. ANN IS A LAWYER, so her bowing to precedent is not terribly surprising. That she target="_blank">misses the point of the public revulsion at Romney Care. In citing the reasons why the entire odious and horrific edifice of progressive meddling in medicine cannot be dismantled, she conveniently ignores the fact that it should.

I have to agree with Rush (and, as much as I dislike doing so, Charles Krauthammer) that Romney does not speak Conservative fluently. Or persuasively.

You Know

WHAT KONRATH describes here sounds an awful lot to me like a perfect market — unlimited supply, unlimited demand, perfect pricing signals, no friction.

How long’s it gonna take ’til some meddling busybody comes along and fucks it up by trying to “improve” it or obviate supposed “failures” of the model?

Ground Hog Day Was Yesterday

SO PUNXATAWNEY PHIL saw his shadow, and we’ll have six more weeks of winter.

Which takes us up to…

The first day of Spring.

Funny how that works.

Actually, Dolly, that takes us up to the fifteenth of March. The first day of spring is the 21st — almost another week later.

Shhh! You’ll wreck my snark.

Oo! That’d be bad. The body work alone…

Exactly. So just you shut your face.

Yes. Ma’am!