Friday, July 31, 2009

Links for 2009-07-31

@jayrosen_nyu: Last night, NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen twittered something that struck me as very profound:
I grew up in a chaotic household. Television ordered my attention and gave it flow. Family life couldn't. This is one reason I study media.

I grew up in a household that was at times less than stable; attention has never been one of my strengths, other than the occasional attention I have paid in the past to things like computers and Rubik's Cubes. Hell, many of the important things I have learned in life were learned from Sesame Street, and I take great enjoyment now from sitting down with my son and learning about the world of polar bears and four-winged dinosaurs from Nova. I can't imagine a world without this influence. Marshall McLuhan described the television as being like a "bomb in the classroom", and I believe this to be apt on multiple levels.

In this week's "Rebooting the News" podcast with Dave Winer, Jay discusses his inspiration for the week, Marshall McLuhan. "The subject may require you to go very far afield," he comments on McLuhan. "Marshall McLuhan was willing to see the destruction of the world he preferred, which was that of the literate man..."

@davewiner: Dave Winer created a prototype for what has become the blogosphere, and has said some pretty profound things also. What struck a chord with me recently was the idea that, like a wire service, the internet can provide us with a "river of news" into which we can dip to keep abreast of current affairs. "Perhaps the river of news is omniscient," he wonders in last week's "Rebooting the News" podcast.

I have personally spent so much of my life dealing with the anxiety that something is happening somewhere, and that I am missing it. The twitter paradigm, for want of a better phrase, seems to be that the online world has become broad enough that if a meme needs to find you, it will circulate until it does. This is not just cold comfort.

Like journalism, the face of literature is changing, as the media through which these are transmitted are changing. If you aren't following the Rebooting the News podcast, do so. It's become a high point in my week, and I strongly recommend you start rebooting.

Marshall McLuhan steps outside his frame of reference, and Woody Allen pulls him back in.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On the proper use of quote with html attribute values...

A very short rant.

When your HTML tags contain attributes such as "...width='10%'>", please, please, please use quotes around the value. There may come a time when somebody has to take your code and turn it into XHTML, which requires quotes; moreover, there may come a time when somebody has to take your code and generate it on the server side using JSP or ASP... which will not take kindly to that "...10%>".

So please, use quotes around your HTML attribute values. Or my son will kick you.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


From an early age, Alex had been good at floating, at first in water, then a few feet above the ground, then higher as he learned how to channel his magical energy at the school. This, apparently, would be very useful when they hurled him, as they did, later that day, into the Teertsi Hole, where he had been floating ever since. Apparently the hurling had worked, and then the plan had gone awry.
For all he knew, however, many days had passed since they had catapulted him into the Hole. Time passed very strangely therein, and he had a vague feeling that he had missed several meals since his entrance.
"I should be hungry, though," he speculated to the void.
And well you should.
Something had answered him. Not aloud, but silently, as if speaking behind him.
"I should be very hungry," Alex tried again.
I should think so. I am.
"I am ravenous," Alex announced.
As am I, the voice responded silently.
"Oh crap! You're going to eat me now, aren't you?"
In essence, I already have.
A moment later, Alex realized that he had been conversing with the void itself.
Not to worry, however; I eat only plants. Animals disagree with me.
"You are a vegetarian void?"
Call me a... Herbivortex. Call me Odd-Hume, for that is my name. That is what the other intruders call me.
"Other intruders? The Teertsi?"
Yes. They used that name to summon me, and they use that name when they call me. Odd-Hume. It will do.
"Call you?"
To feed me. I am always hungry.
"Well, I'm pleased to make your acquaintance, Odd-Hume! I think we need to talk further."
And later that day, Alex was ejected from a tear in the sky that opened over Galvany Fields and Azure Spires, and he floated to earth, making his way swiftly to his Head Master's office as soon as he touched ground. In Head Master Peeps' office, he explained how the united peoples of the twin cities could summon the Herbivortex Odd-Hume, and feed her themselves, and they should have to pay tribute to Teerts no more.
He was fairly certain Odd-Hume was female, whatever it was, though whenever he tried to picture her, he had a flash of a giant, nebulous cow, with horns that spanned continents.
And that is how Alex of Galvany Fields, student of magic in the College of Dweomer at the 'Varsity of Azure Spires, became a hero.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Eight Years Later

And now, Alex understands, as best he can, the source of the cloying sound coming from the other hilltop, as he watches the Lutanists assembled behind the Starcatchers playing their foul instruments, and strung to these instruments by vibrating cords are wingbound lancers, men whose very clothing forms wide wings. By some enchantment, the cloaks worn by the lancers collect and focus the sound, so that they are lifted from the hilltop, soaring into the air at great speed. As they do so, Alex watches in horror and disgust as the proud eagles of Galvany fall to their lances.
And then the Starcatchers strike, and all hope is lost.
The star-kites they have unwound fall short of the eagles' attack, but they had never been intended as snares, leastwise, not for the eagles. An unfortunate wind has blown the kites much closer to the hilltop on which Alex stands, and, distracted from the eagles' demise, he watches in amazement and then growing alarm as the star-kites swoop down at the mages less than a stone's throw away. The kites are attracted, they must be, by the mages' magic. And whenever a kite strikes a mage, that mage falls down dead, first the mages of Oakenshore, and then the less powerful crop mages, and among them, Alex's father.
And thus ends the battle of Galvany Fields, and so began the Teertsi occupation.
If it weren't for the events of that day, of course, Alex would probably have stayed in Galvany Fields, and become a crop mage like his father. This was a bitter truth.
Eight years later, to the day, Alex found himself in a dilemma. The plan, developed and embellished in secret, had been simple. The plan had in fact been so secret, that Alex, involved as he would become, had had no knowledge of it until he had been called to his Head Master's chambers earlier that day, only to be met by a taskforce of mages and government officials.
"The plan is this, and there is little time, so listen carefully," Head Master Peeps had instructed him, before continuing: "We are going to hurl you into the Teertsi Hole as it opens. When you get to the other side, we are going to pull you back, and you are going to tell us what you saw there."
Stupid plan, Alex had thought.
And just how are you going to do this? How are you going to hurl me?"
"By catapult, of course."
"And... pull me back?"

Thursday, July 09, 2009


And of course, Alex was well aware that many had not, that many of the poverty stricken members of society, who had before relied upon charity for their well being, had simply died of hunger. Many had been killed by the policemen of the occupying force during the early uprisings that took place in the first year of the occupation. And many had attempted to leave the Delta, though few had succeeded.
So the cities had adapted to their oppressors, and, in secret, planned their downfall.
"Filthy, oily bastards! Why?" Alex was weeping now. And of course, there was no answer, although he couldn't shake the strange feeling that someone, or something, was watching him.
The Starcatchers open their silvery cages, and shimmering star kites are released, stretching out into the sky on silken filaments. These filaments are attached to the cages by miniature winches, which the Starcatchers spin out rapidly. There are only a dozen or so.
What initially draws Alex's attention to the hilltop on the other side of the fields is the sound, which he initially thinks is coming from the group of Starcatchers. He can barely make out what they are doing, but the sound seems to come from the strange boxes they are holding, or from the bright kites rising from the crowd.
"The kites! The kites! They're trying to snare the eagles!" He yells out, and the other farm-folk join in the chorus.1
Silent they become as the mages of the Oakenshore Guild and the remaining crop mages pool their energy and cast out devastating curses to the opposing hilltop, obliterating several of the Starcatchers on the spot. Flying above the kites, the eagles descend on the hilltop, similarly bent on carnage.
The cacaphony from the other hill only grows. When he was a child, Alex had watched, horrified, as a group of older boys tortured an alleycat for their own amusement. This sound is similar, but worse, pure but awful, a cross between the sound of music and the sound of agony.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Eight Years Earlier

First to arrive was the mage army of the Oakenshore Guild, who after a brief, uneasy parley with the crop mages (who had retreated to a hilltop overlooking the battlefield), turned their efforts to the ground assault, hurling bolts of lightning and explosive curses against the Teertsi shock troops.
Soon after arrived the nimble lion-riders of Galvany, who were able to destroy much of the Teertsi ground offensive, distracted as the shock troopers were by the Oakenshore magic. With the lion-riders came birds of the sky, great eagles, which swooped down on the battlefield, plucking soldiers up and hurling them at their allies.
The lion-riders set up a whooping battle cry, rallying and re-rallying as they tore the Teertsi to pieces. From the vantage of their hilltop aerie, Alex and the other farm-folk joined in the rallying cry. His chest nearly burst with pride as he watched the tide of battle turning.
That battle had taken place eight years ago now, almost to the day. In actual fact, it had been eight years exactly.
"Eight years of occupation! Eight years paying tribute every year to those filthy oily bastards!" Alex yelled out into the void that surrounded him, but no answer came.
Every year since the occupation, on the day of the Autom Feast, the Teertsi Hole had reopened, and every year, a tribute of flour, lumber, preserved fish and various other goods was taken back to Teerts. There was nothing the Delta-folk could do about it, either, for the Teertsi were among them now.
And in many ways, ironically, the twin cities of the Delta had prospered since the occupation. The Teertsi occupation had ended the war between Galvany Fields and Azure Spires, for one. And though the Teertsi themselves were not hardworking, the people of the two cities had had to work that much harder in order to prosper, and many had risen to the challenge.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Chaff Demons

Alex's father and the other crop mages now agreed that it was time for action, and so, strengthening and redoubling the hexes they had made on the chaff demons, they sent them at the intruders. But the chaff demons were no match for the Teertsi ground offensive, and again and again the straw men were beaten down, trodden underfoot or exploded into nebulae of hay, only to be brought into being again by the tireless crop mages.
"We can hold them! Keep them together, lads!"
Alex prayed that his father was right. He was almost too young to believe that his father could be wrong.
When the first wave of shock troops met the straw men in combat, they had smashed them with brute force. The crop mages pooled their guile and arcane energy, and the straw men were whirled back into being, forming larger and more powerful homunculi, which seemed momentarily to push back the Teertsi ground force. But then Alex had witnessed a terrifying sight, as some amongst the ground force drew forth lit torches, and set their comrades ablaze. Such was the nature of the Teertsi armor that it protected the wearer from the flames, while feeding the blaze. Alex watched as the burning soldiers tore a swath through the straw men, which kindled almost immediately into towering infernos, exploding from within as the crop dust took.
Trolls, Alex had seen, on one memorable (and quite frightening) occasion when he had traveled with his father to the Mithwood, to trade with the people who lived there. But these invaders, in many ways troll-like, were different. The trolls had been ruthless, but had only been protecting what was theirs. These people were relentless, intent only on breaking through to Azure Spires and neighboring Galvany.
And eventually the crop mages and their allies had had to do just that: to let the Teertsi pass through, and hope that they had given the twin cities of the Delta adequate time to prepare their defenses.
Had this only been the case, the occupation would have ended there, but there had been strife between the cities, and so the cities were prepared for attack, but not from this direction, and the reinforcements they mobilized were delayed.