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Population: One

Wizards uber alles

I’ve thought to myself, from time to time, that J. K. Rowling’s world is just a little bit on the bigoted side. The Washington Post has an nice editorial on the subject. Mind you, the tendency isn’t reserved for fantasy — it might have been interesting to cross reference Slan for an example of the same thing with a scientific spin. (Hey, that review was written by Tasha Robinson. She used to be a housemate.) When it gets right down to it, the distaste of technology we find in the Harry Potter books is just another avenue through which we express our desire to be different.

Link ripped from the pages of Tapped, which is worth reading.

Bang bang

One more quickie… people have observed that the University of Arizona campus was a weapons-free zone, and that this didn’t prevent the recent shootings. This is about as significant as pointing out that the UIowa student shootings didn’t take place in a weapons-free zone. If you don’t know how many people decided not to go on a rampage due to the policies in either case, you don’t know anything.

I’m anti-gun control as a matter of policy. I’m just tired of stupid people who obsessively twist every tragedy in the world to suit their political agenda.

Rack 'em up

I got a magazine rack for the bathroom the other week, continuing my headlong rush into domesticity. (Today I got rugs. There’s no end to it.) Right now, it’s a very sad magazine rack; it’s populated with a handful of Sports Illustrateds, and a Macworld. They’re pretty limp, since it’s a sizable rack. I’m kind of fascinated by the process of populating the rack. I hadn’t really thought about it, but it’s going to look pretty pathetic until I get it around half-full. I bet Martha Stewart has a way around that.

Fortunately, it will populate pretty quickly. When I moved, the Post Office kindly let me know that there was a service which would do all my magazine address changes for free. I called ‘em, and they knew about Dragon Magazine, so that seemed like an excellent deal. After they got a list of my magazine subscriptions, they took advantage of my generosity by asking me if I wanted to subscribe to two magazines for a low low price.

I had been wanting Analog and Asimov’s again, so I said sure. This apparently earned me a couple more magazines. Um. Sports Illustrated and Macworld, sure. This earned me more magazines. Quite the unexpected little bonanza. I think I wound up with two or three more magazine subscriptions (all for the same low, low single price!) and I’ll be damned if I can remember what they all are.

But they do keep coming. So I have faith that the sad little rack will fill up.

Mirror mirror

Referrer log spam has to be the best kind of spam ever. For $1,000, they’ll add your URL as a referrer in the httpd logs of thousands of weblogs. (They’ve hit me twice.) Right now, the user agent is “Mastadonte Referrer Advertising”, which is pretty easy to filter out; I assume they’ll change that to something that doesn’t give away the game.

The great thing about this spam is that it’s so easy to nullify it. All we have to do is stop obsessively poring over our referrer logs. If we stop caring who links to us, we won’t ever be suckered into hitting one of their URLs. If we stop building those automated referrer display widgets then the spammers get less advertising.

(Yeah, I know, we shouldn’t have to constrain our behavior to avoid spam. It still amuses me that they’re taking advantage of our harmless narcisissm.)

Update: More on this here.

Feelthy pictures

Unnoticed in the furor over other issues: Bush is pushing for a ban on computer generated child pornography. In April, the Supreme Court struck down such a ban. I’m no fan of child pornography or its consumers, but free speech is free speech.

I found the claim that one in four children between the ages of 10 to 17 is exposed to pornography every year to be really funny, by the by. Newsflash: teenagers find porn on purpose. Always have, always will. It’s not an Internet thing, Mr. President.

Lazy hazy days of summer

Worth reading: Salon’s interview with Michael Chabon, on the subject of his new novel Summerland. I haven’t read the book yet, because I was far too broke to buy hardcovers over the summer, but I rather expect to remember to pick it up soon. I think that Chabon’s sense of wonder makes him one of the best authors out there right now. Summerland sounds like a glorious expression of that sense of wonder.

It’s so clear that Chabon is a fan, by which I mean he covertly dwells in the weird little meshwork of interlocking subcultures defined by comic books, roleplaying games, science fiction, and other such traditionally geeky pursuits. I say covertly because he’s never really said as much, and on occasion he’s avoided answering questions regarding the depths of his comic book fandom. I can’t blame him: it’s a tarpit of a ghetto for someone who’s made it in the literary world. I would say that Chabon is no better a writer than Sean Stewart, but Stewart will never break out into the New York Times Book Review, because he comes nicely prelabelled.

As Chabon says, “When people heard that [Kavalier and Clay] was about comic books, I got a lot of ‘Oh, really? ‘Cause I thought I might be interested until I heard that.’ I was aware there was going to be some initial resistance from some people.” I think it’s reasonable to be wary. This way he gets good publicity, and he still gets to write the screenplay for the next Spider-Man movie. Lucky bastard.

Anyhow, in this interview, he mentions that he’s always wanted to write something like Susan Cooper’s “The Dark Is Rising” sequence. The signs are pretty clear. He’s one of us.

I thought it was a little sad that the interviewer failed to comment on the relationship between Summerland and the aforementioned Sean Stewart, who also dives deep into the rich world of American mythology, or even the rather obvious American Gods. Still, it’s nice hearing what Chabon had to say about the process and the choices and laziness in writing.

Weighing the choices

The sniper seems to have been caught, which is great news. Not so great news: he recently changed his last name to Muhammad, and reportedly converted to Islam some years ago. Inevitably, some people are rushing to point out how dangerous those Muslims are.

I thought about it. In the last ten years, if we look at domestic terrorism, the score is American Christians 2 and American Muslims 1. Kaczynski and McVeigh beat Muhammad. Clearly — very clearly — Christians are bad news and very dangerous.

You heard it here first. Muslims make better Americans.

The danger is that we’ll ignore the real cognate, which is terrorism and membership in Al Qaeda. The latter happens to have a prerequisite. You need to be Muslim. That doesn’t speak to the terroristic tendencies of Muslims; it speaks to the prejudices of Osama bin Laden. He was in a position to leverage his hatred, but that says nothing about the likelihood that the Muslim on the street will be a terrorist.

It is dangerous (I’m tempted to say treasonous, but that would be wrong) to sweep all this under the generic rug of “Islamic terrorism.” There’s no such thing as Islamic terrorism, just as there’s no such thing as a black quarterback or a woman rock star. There are quarterbacks who happen to be black, there are rock stars who happen to be female, and there are terrorists who happen to be Islamic. None of those adjectives have a material effect on the nature of what they do.