7 things I learned this week: Thatcher flipfloppery, critical crisis, and pox substitution

Here we go again.

Oh damn, and it’s gone wrong already. I was all set to reaffirm my 90s preference for Blur (posh boys with talent) over Oasis (working class heroes with Beatles fixation and annoying mannerisms.. suuunsheeeeyine). The Daily Mail, hate-filled pedlar of warped mediocrity that it is, reported this week that Noel Gallagher thought Britain was better under Thatcher. Turns out he doesn’t think any such thing, and is in fact actively looking forward to celebrating her death. So actually this week I learned that Noel Gallagher isn’t a Tory. Which is nice. As to his sentiments regarding the wicked witch of the 80s — I’ve always stood roughly with Elvis Costello on the issue. Except as I grow older I find it hard to celebrate the dementia or death of anyone, even the most toxic. Here’s Costello.

Apparently, there’s a crisis in critical theory. As reported by MHP Books. I don’t have much to say about that, except to ponder who it will inconvenience?

[The door to the room is broken down]
VROOMFONDEL:
We demand admission! We demand admission!
LUNKWILL:
Hey! What?
FOOK:
Hey, hey, hey!
MAJIKTHISE:
Come on, you can’t keep us out!
VROOMFONDEL:
We demand that you can’t keep us out.
LUNKWILL:
Who are you? What do you want? We’re busy!
MAJIKTHISE:
I am Majikthise.
VROOMFONDEL:
And I demand that I am Vroomfondel.
MAJIKTHISE:
It’s all right, you don’t need to demand that.
VROOMFONDEL:
Alright. I am Vroomfondel, and that is not a demand! That is a solid fact! What we demand is solid facts!
MAJIKTHISE:
No we don’t! That’s precisely what we don’t demand.
VROOMFONDEL:
Oh. We don’t demand solid fact! What we demand is a total absence of solid facts! I demand that I may or may not be Vroomfondel.
FOOK:
Who are you anyway?
MAJIKTHISE:
We are philosophers.
VROOMFONDEL:
But we may not be.
MAJIKTHISE:
Yes we are!
VROOMFONDEL:
sorry.
MAJIKTHISE:
We are quite definitely here as representatives of the Amalgamated Union of Philosophers, Sages, Luminaries, and other professional thinking persons.
VROOMFONDEL:
Um-hmm
MAJIKTHISE:
And we want this machine off, and we want it off now.
FOOK:
What is all this?
VROOMFONDEL:
We demand that you get rid of it.
FOOK:
What’s the problem?
MAJIKTHISE:
I’ll tell you what the problem is mate: demarcation. That’s the problem.
VROOMFONDEL:
We demand that demarcation may or may not be the problem.
MAJIKTHISE:
You just let the machines get on with the adding up and we’ll take care of the eternal verities, thank you very much.
VROOMFONDEL:
yeah.
MAJIKTHISE:
By law the quest for the ultimate truth is quite clearly the unalienable prerogative of your working thinkers
VROOMFONDEL:
That’s right.
MAJIKTHISE:
I mean what’s the use of us sitting up all night saying there may -
VROOMFONDEL:
Or may not be
MAJIKTHISE:
[Softly] …or may not be… [louder] a god, if this machine comes along the next morning and gives you ‘is telephone number?
VROOMFONDEL:
We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!
DEEP THOUGHT:
Might I make an observation at this point?
MAJIKTHISE:
You keep out of this metal nose.
VROOMFONDEL:
We demand that that machine not be allowed to think about this problem!
DEEP THOUGHT:
If I might make an observation…
MAJIKTHISE:
We’ll go on strike!
VROOMFONDEL:
That’s right. You’ll have a national philosopher’s strike on your hands.
DEEP THOUGHT:
Who will that inconvenience?
MAJIKTHISE:
Never you mind who it’ll inconvenience you box of black legging binary bits! It’ll hurt, buster! It’ll hurt!

Nick Mamatas reported that, according to an Oklahoma writer’s group, romance is for straights only. Romance Writers Ink, in other words, banned same-sex entries from a short story competition. I was considering submitting the sex robot story I have lined up for workshop in a couple of weeks. That has plenty of entries, and almost none of them are same sex. As it happened, though, they cancelled the competition, so no robot-monkey-rumpy for them.

Back in the golden days of Doctor Who, according to Andrew Hickey an entire series was rewritten at the last minute so that one of the Doctor’s assistants magically changed his face for a couple of episodes. The reason? A bout of chicken pox.

There is a version of the excellent writing package Scrivener available for Linux now. It’s beta, and a little shaky in places, but it works fine. This makes me happy.

What do you mean you don’t run Linux? Did you know it’s free? And that you get access to thousands of applications any of which you can download and install on your system with a single command? Why pay big corporations for stuff that’s freely and legally available? OK, never mind. I’m not going to change any minds here, am I? Enough Linux/Open Source advocacy rantage for now.

According to Piers D Britton in The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction (Design for Screen SF) science fiction movie and TV designers aspire to something called extended common sense. This is the kind of design that annoys pedants (actually drives them near insane), but keeps fans happy. It’s really about fulfilling an audience’s expectations so that plausibility is maintained. But..

“It is worth laboring the fact that the apparent, not theoretical, possibility of existence is the real concern of the sf designer” p341

So we accept explosions and noisy fighters in the vacuum of space because these scientifically incorrect aspects of Star Wars appeal to our expectations of arial warfare.

Advances in literary technology have been baffling readers for longer than you think. This clip is over ten years old, but it was new to me this week.

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