De omnibus dubitandum
18 Jun 2009
Or, simplified, 4 authors that really suck. Why only four, you ask? Because I’m picky when it comes to my reading material, and I tend to avoid vacuous crap, and these really are the worst of the worst. Putting Charlie Stross on this list somehow felt disingenuous.
4. Dan Brown
Because stealing someone else’s good idea and then writing a dumbed down, poorly constructed, plotholes-the-size-of-Jupiter-filled novel about it makes you a Really Bad Writer. Somehow managing to repeat this feat increases your level of stupidity exponentially.
3. Ayn Rand
Before I took up Atlas Shrugged I never had the questionable privilege of being exposed to such extreme narcissistic excrement deluged forth by an obviously delusional schizophrenic entertaining a rather distorted view on the world. Anyone quoting Ayn Rand at me (which surprisingly is often accompanied by a certain sense of intellectual smugness, utterly misplaced as that is as taking Ayn Rand serious is on a par with eating mule dung) deserves to be punched in the face and subsequently forced to retake their basic level economics class.
2. The misogynistic Bronze Age dudes that wrote the Bible/Koran/Torah
Conceiving of a villain possessed of such a vast range of antisocial and psychotic tendencies (homicidal, fratricidal, infanticidal, egomaniac, megalomaniac, jealous, vindictive, racist, petty, cruel, sado-masochistic, malevolent, and genocidal, to name but a few) as God possesses in any of these works, is an act of sheer genius – in a work of pure fiction. However, casting him as the Good Guy and taking this demented shit seriously enough to build your life around it, is just fucking stupid.
1. Adolf Hitler
Yes, technically he’s an author. Mein Kampf, you know. If I need to explain to you why this retarded fuckstick is #1 on my list of Incurably Bad Writers, you have bigger problems.
26 Mar 2009
Many of this year’s Hugo Award nominees have opted to publish their stories for free online, usually under Creative Commons licenses. I think this is a spectacularly good idea, as it gives us fans more opportunities to partake of these literary gems.
Here’s one such a gem: Evil Robot Monkey. It’s short, but its emotional impact on me was significant. An excerpt:
Sliding his hands over the clay, Sly relished the moisture oozing around his fingers. The clay matted down the hair on the back of his hands making them look almost human. He turned the potter’s wheel with his prehensile feet as he shaped the vase. Pinching the clay between his fingers he lifted the wall of the vase, spinning it higher.
Someone banged on the window of his pen. Sly jumped and then screamed as the vase collapsed under its own weight. He spun and hurled it at the picture window like feces. The clay spattered against the Plexiglas, sliding down the window.
In the courtyard beyond the glass, a group of school kids leapt back, laughing. One of them swung his arms aping Sly crudely. Sly bared his teeth, knowing these people would take it as a grin, but he meant it as a threat. Swinging down from his stool, he crossed his room in three long strides and pressed his dirty hand against the window. Still grinning, he wrote SSA. Outside, the letters would be reversed.
(Via Boing Boing)
12 Mar 2009
Sorry for the late heads-up, but I only just heard about it. Apparently this week is Read an Ebook Week – March 8 to 14.
“Read an E-Book Week is a not-for-profit week set aside to inform the public about the pleasures and advantages of reading electronically. Authors, publishers, vendors, the media and readers world-wide are welcome to join in the effort. We encourage you to promote electronic reading with any event.”
As part of this ebook promotion week you can download free and discounted ebooks. Be quick though, only a few more days left in this Ebook Week.
3 Dec 2008
Cory Doctorow and Ben Rosenbaum have co-written a novella for inclusion in the Fast Forward 2 SF anthology. This novella, called True Names, has now been released independently as a freely downloadable Creative Commons licensed work.
It’s a fantastic piece of speculative fiction, revolving around the struggles of sentient programs running on galaxy-devouring self-replicating nanomachine-computronium. It contains Matrix-esque mindbends of simulations-within-simulations and ends with a mightily satisfying twist.
If you’re at all into post-Singularity sci-fi, this story is highly recommended. The PDF of this awesome novella can be downloaded here.
(Via Boing Boing)
17 Oct 2008
Seth Godin’s new book Tribes is just out.
I wrote a case study that got included in the casebook (page 124 – “David and I”) and I’m excited to see it in there. I was skeptical at first about this triiibes.com experiment, but I’ve come to see the value of it. There are a lot of intelligent, inspiring people in there who freely share their tips and ideas.
I hope that this tribe will continue to exist for a long time to come, as it’s become a valuable part of my online social groups.
16 Aug 2008
I recently finished reading a book that has changed my life. Not in a evidently significant way, as I’m not the kind of guy that believes in radical changes. Well, sometimes I do, but generally I’m more in favor of subtle tweaks and improvements.
This book has inspired such a subtle tweak, but one that has, befittingly below the surface, made a huge impact on how I approach things.
The book in question is Het Slimme Onderbewuste (the smart subconsciousness) by Ap Dijksterhuis. So far it’s only available in Dutch, which I consider to be a huge disappointment. A book of such profound insight and significance should be available for all the world to read.
The core message of the book is that the subconscious mind, all those mental processes that we are unaware of but that do occur, are actually vastly more powerful, influential and significant than we believe. The conscious mind gets all the credit for our intelligence, our decision-making capabilities, and our creativity, while actually the subconscious mind is responsible for most of those things.
Naturally, due to the nature of the conscious and subconscious parts of our mind, we are unaware of the power of our subconsciousness. That is precisely why we so stubbornly believe our consciousness to be the seat of our mental abilities.
The author demonstrates, through countless outcomes of experiments he and others in his field have performed over the past several decades, exactly why the subconscious mind is so much more powerful and important in our daily lives than our conscious mind. Anecdotes from great thinkers like Newton and Einstein tell us that their greatest ideas came not from deep conscious contemplation but from the efforts of their subconscious minds.
What the book taught me is that we can safely rely on what we often call ‘instinctual’ decision making. It’s not instinct but actually our subconscious mind telling us what to do. Most often this turns out to be the right decision and runs counter to what our conscious train of thought would have led us to decide.
We cannot always rely so blindly on our subconscious mind, and Ap Dijksterhuis tells us this as well. Sometimes the conscious mind rightfully deserves to be in the driver’s seat. But most of the time it doesn’t, and isn’t, but still claims it is.
I don’t think I need to elaborate here on the power of subliminal messages that are ignored by the limited bandwidth of the conscious mind but which the subconscious mind, so vastly more capable, picks up effortlessly. The book spends a great deal of time on priming and subliminal influences, and this is must-read material for all marketers.
I can only hope that this eye-opening work will receive a proper English translation soon.
19 Jun 2008
4. The Kindle does a fine job of being a book reader, and a horrible job of actually improving the act of reading a book. This is a surprising design choice, I think, and a mistake. Here are three simple examples of how non-fiction books on the Kindle could be better, not just cheaper and thinner:
- Let me see the best parts of the book as highlighted by thousands of other readers.
- Let me see notes in the margin as voted up, Digg-style, by thousands of other readers.
- Let me interact with hyperlinks and smart connections not just within the book but across books
I can think of ten others, and so can you. Instead of making this a dead end (like a book) they could have made it a connector (like the web).
If the next-gen Kindle could do that, and gets rid of its ridiculous DRM, I’d seriously consider getting one.