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Stuff From This Week

UPDATE: This post has finally been reconstructed. Enjoy!

UPDATE: Somewhere from a third to half of this post disappeared. I’ll rewrite that soon. But not today, as I’m (dramatic flourish) feeling ill!

It’s been a busy lazy week. Since there’s nothing new in Gordland, I thought I’d just dump some links. I don’t do this often, but since I’ve just been catching up and surfing around (aside from a rewrite I’m working on) I have lots of stuff to share. I’ll subdivide it all by headings.

One more thing: for the LJ readers out there, there are some Youtube videos in this post. They probably won’t display on the LJ crosspost, so it’s probably easiest if you just hop down to the bottom of the post and follow the link to this post on my site. Thanks!


Sexy Teaching:

I’ve written before about my theory that attractive individuals make better teachers, and that in one-on-one teaching, the more attractive a teacher of the student’s preferred sex is, the harder the student is likelier to work. I’ve found at least one example online that bears this out. Imagine a videoblogger who posts a few times a week about philology and etymology. How many people do you think would regularly check that out? How much attention would you expect it to get? Well, if it was me, probably nobody would subscribe. But Hot For Words has tons of subscribers, and Marina has been interviewed on TV and appeared in Wired.

Why? Well, I think a video is worth a thousand words:

(I’m not sure that explanation is actually correct, but it certainly explains the interest so many Youtube/iTunes subscribers have in the series.)This is actually the kind of thing I wish I could recommend to my students, if they were all guys, just because I know they’d keep coming back to it. But since my students are mostly women, it’s not so useful. Still, I find it amusing.If you’d like to, um, investigate more, the Hot For Words homepage is here.

Good Reads:

I’ve been reading a lot. I’ll talk about the books I’ve gone through when I get around to a Recently Read post, but I realized I’ve said very little about the fiction I’ve been reading online. This is extra-silly since a lot of good stuff is going up exclusively online. So here are a few words about what I’ve read lately, either fiction, or about genre fiction:

Book Trailers”

This is a neat trend. I don’t know if Jeff Vandermeer was the first genre writer to do this, with his trailer for Shriek — maybe Scott Sigler did it first? — but It’s an interesting form of free self-promotion. Well, free if you’re buddies with someone who can do you up a soundtrack, and if you can do up a decent-looking video.

I’m partial to Tobias Buckell’s trailer for Sly Mongoose:

And having also quite enjoyed the podcasts of his Getting Past Being Joe Blow Neopro series, available here. I have got to check this guy’s stuff out sometime soon…


Like, when people talk about how there’s medicine for AIDS, and millions of people can’t get it, because they’re too poor? This is what they’re talking about:

And I don’t buy the argument that these people cannot learn or have the chance to take a pill twice a day — an argument I first encountered watching The West Wing and which turned my stomach when I heard it. That’s insulting to their intelligence, and to mine if you think I’ll buy it. Yeah, when I see things like that, I suddenly start to think that drug companies’ patents should be honored… to a limit. And beyond the limit, I think companies should be reminded — worldwide — that they were enfranchised not just for the benefit of stockholders, but of humanity.Making a profit isn’t bad, but companies that don’t serve mankind while they’re at it should be drawn and quartered. If people can make money of the damned internet, they sure as hell ought to be able to find a way to make money off saving millions of lives.

Well, apparently, that’s what this Red business is all about. I’m not one to think that Bono and Madonna are going to save the world (and I feel badly for people who’ve been doing good work for ages, only to have some diva rockers show up and get all the credit), but all the same, I am curious about this. Has anyone heard much about it? Is this an example of the kind of humanist capitalism Mohammed Yunus discusses in his new book?

Godless & Thoughtful

Having just finished reading Dawkins’ The God Delusion — I’ll have more to say about it elsewhere — I thought I’d poke around and see what else I could find of Dawkins and other proactive atheists online. I’ve already mentioned the very entertaining Pat Condell here in another post, but there’s loads more on Youtube for you to enjoy. One Youtube user, PiroNiro, has collected a lot of great resources into one place (his or her channel, here). Recommended goodies:

(I should note that this is not an endorsement of Hitchens in all he’s written. I don’t really get how he could support the invasion of Iraq, for example. But these videos were interesting.)

And there’s this simple but inspiring videoblog from Mickipedia:

Dumb Superstition 9999999, Critical Thinking 9999999… +1

What happens when a local news report of a “ghost” at a gas station in Ohio makes it onto the Net?

Why, some smart, critical-minded young people decide to take it to pieces, and show that, yeah, one of the main reasons people manage to be superstitious is really just intellectual laziness. Check out the debunking:

Seriously, look at the color of her suit outside, compared to inside. Ding! Should be a hint, right there. (Though now I think I know a great way to get cheap special effects if I ever make a low-budget movie.)

The thing that kills me is that this is the same kind of newsmedia irresponsibility that has people in Korea believing in Fan Death — the idea you can die (somehow) from running an electric fan in your home at night.

Anonymous vs. CoS

Speaking of young people doing things online, this is bizarre. The online “group” (is that the right word?) Anonymous has decided to take on the Church of Scientology. Actually, to take down the Church of Scientology, a project they call Project Chanology. They issued this video recently:

There’s an interesting article here about this whole set of events, which mentions also Anonymous’ role in the arrest of pedophile Chris Forchand. The article links to this video, which, I warn you, is quite stomach-turning:

By the way, February 10th (my mother’s birthday!) was the deay they protested. Here’s a report on the protest that took place in Los Angeles. What can I say? I hope these kids are careful, because all I’ve read suggests the CoS can be quite harsh when fighting off criticism. But the Church will look pretty silly trying to sue hundreds of teenagers. (And I suspect that the majority of people involve in Anonymous are teenagers, not adults.) That said, good on them for being peaceful, using the resources they have, and for taking a stand.

How Things Change

That expression, the more things change, the more they stay the same… it isn’t true in all respects: for example, this hilarious video points out how much computer tech has changed since the early 90s. And that’s been, what, less than twenty years. I’ve often thought the same of bank machines, and how much more organized people would have to have been in the days before them.

HP Lovecraft Swag, Baby!

If you’re looking for amusing HPL swag, you can get some at the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. Indeed, besides T-shirts and mugs, they have resources for gamers, MP3 radio plays, and more! And before you complain about the cost, don’t worry: you can afford it (except maybe the Cthulhu Icon — somewhat beyond the range of my art budget)… after all, you can read piles of HPL’s fiction here, for free.

Already read all that stuff? Okay, try Dickens (in Mobipocket format, open, ready to go). Or Chekhov. That should do ya.

Art I’d Buy If I Could Afford It

Speaking of art I like but cannot afford, Edouard Martinet’s sculptures really rock. This froggie is only one example, of many cool pieces. I swear, I’d have this frog on my desk if I had the money to throw at art.

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