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Archive for the ‘internet’ Category

Tarred and Feathered Fetish? Really?

Posted by samgr on October 18, 2007

The internet is weird. I look fairly frequently at the thing which lets me see the net searches that people use to get to my blog, and one that is popping up a lot now is “tarred and feathered fetish.” Is that a thing? Is it just one guy who keeps trying? I wonder what his history is. Talk about being born too late. I tell you though, the thrill is nothing compared to being drawn and quartered.

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Posted in fetishes, internet | Leave a Comment »

Strange, this Harry, he leaves the room, yet remains…

Posted by samgr on July 19, 2007

Part of the tragedy of the internet is that if you think you come up with something brilliant, it’s very easy to do a search and find out that dozens of people have already thought of it. My least favorite example of this is when I thought I was the first person to come up with the phrase “Barack the Vote.” I was able to disabuse myself of that idea very quickly, and “boom” went my visions of millions in t-shirt profits.

(A tiny bit related: I also thought I had come up with the descriptive phrase “muffin top,” and my dad says for a brief period in the sixties he thought that he had come up with “party-pooper.” These are examples of being stupid.)

So anyway, the point is that I’ve discovered my brilliant insight about Harry Potter HAS already been made, but not by all that many people. But I promise I came up with it independently. Also it’s not that brilliant. It is that it’s weirdly easy to make the song “Lily’s Eyes” from “The Secret Garden” correspond to the Harry Potter books, for reasons that are obvious if you’ve read the books. Concidence? Probably. Or J.K. Rowling didn’t bother to google the phrase “Lily’s hazel eyes” before writing the books, and now it’s too late. But here’s where I go out on a limb (again, not totally alone on that limb): my prediction is that the song will be proven MORE relevant by the final book.

Discuss. And I make no apology for writing about Harry Potter.

Posted in books, Harry Potter, internet, language, music | 2 Comments »

Roy Orbison Wrapped in Clingfilm (Shrinkwrap?)

Posted by samgr on July 7, 2007

This is by far the best meme/fetish/slash fiction that I have ever seen. It describes a man’s series of encounters with Roy Orbison, always ending with the protagonist deriving sensual pleasure from wrapping Mr. Orbison up in clingfilm (which I think is shrinkwrap on our side of the Atlantic). I would love to look into contacting and interviewing this gentleman, possibly for the current incarnation of the Open Source website. We’ll see how well that goes over. I also want to write one of these stories. Full disclosure: I also once wanted to write a story in which Roy Orbison was the exiled king of the merpeople. I’m not even joking about this; I had it all worked out in my head. Maybe this site will give me the confidence to go forward with it.

Posted in fetishes, internet, music | Leave a Comment »

Depressing Patches in Netflix Queues

Posted by samgr on July 5, 2007

I’m bored and a little wired from drinking too much coffee, so I’m writing ANOTHER post. Sue me, I’m making up for a couple months of not writing anything. This one is for anyone who has Netflix. Do other people have depressing patches in their queues? For a while I had a stretch that went along the lines of:
United 93
Hotel Rwanda
Crash
Schindler’s List
Downfall

…and so on. These things obviously have to be broken up, no one can actually watch all these movies in a row without sticking some “Simpsons” episodes betwixt and between. I think you may be able to reconstruct what mood you were in when you added movies to your queue by what type of movies they are. The depressing movies don’t necessarily mean that you were depressed, I don’t think. They could just mean that you were seeking self-improvement. So what does it mean when you (I) added Barbarella and Jesus Christ Superstar? I just don’t know.

Posted in internet, movies, Netflix | Leave a Comment »

More of Me on the Internet

Posted by samgr on April 9, 2007

More stuff that I wrote on Open Source:

Theremin Update
CliffsNotes: The Morality Comment Thread (Part One)

I also continue to appear on Cailin’s weekly toast thingy, which you can find here, although I think I look dumb in it.

Posted in internet, morality, music, Open Source, religion, technology, theremin, videos | Leave a Comment »

Blog Stat-Watch (Everybody Loves Liopleurodons)

Posted by samgr on March 25, 2007

One of the slightly OCD things that wordpress lets me do with this blog is to see how people get to it: what sites they link from, or what searches they use. This isn’t exactly a widely-read blog, but about 90% of the people who do look at it still do so because they were google-searching for information about liopleurodons, which I think is kind of hilarious. I hope these people find what they were looking for here, or at least are interested in what I said on the topic. (Maybe they leave angry, because I crush their dreams of 200-foot liopleurodons leaping out of the water and snatching elephants.) This certainly means that I should move forward and write another entry about a different prehistoric animal, even just in terms of generating interest. Any ideas? I’m thinking either woolly mammoths or pteranodons.

P.S. No one thus far has arrived at this blog looking for my reactions to scientific optimism.

Posted in internet, liopleurodons, meta, prehistory, sea life | Leave a Comment »

Optimism

Posted by samgr on January 11, 2007

On the eve of the new year, the website edge.org invited over 100 scientists to contribute essays answering the question: “What are you optimistic about?” On January 3rd, NPR’s Radio Open Source aired a show on the subject, asking a few of the thinkers who contributed their essays to talk about their reasons for optimism. Here are some of my reactions to the show.

One of the guests was Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker, who argued that we can be grateful for the gradual decline of violence over human history. I found his argument convincing, although not necessarily as cheering as it might have been. When asked about the incredible levels of modern violence that we see in the news every day, Professor Pinker pointed out there was even more violence in past eras of history, just that people were less aware of it. Fair point, but that’s some awfully depressing optimism. I also noticed a parallel between the reasons that Professor Pinker suggests for the decline of violence, and the writings of modern philosopher Richard Rorty. In his essay, Professor Pinker suggests that the trend could be caused by the increasingly inescapable logic of the golden rule, and adds:

“Perhaps this is amplified by cosmopolitanism, in which history, journalism, memoir, and realistic fiction make the inner lives of other people, and the contingent nature of one’s own station, more palpable—the feeling that ‘there but for fortune go I.'”

Steven Pinker, The Decline of Violence, Edge.org

This sounds a lot like the expanding “circle of the we” that Rorty describes in Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, where people become more aware of the feelings of others and more invested in preventing cruelty when they are exposed to descriptions of more and subtler kinds of cruelty, which can be found in novels and other types of literature.

Another guest was Chris DiBona, who works at Google, and predicts that the increasing availability of high definition online maps and images “will end conflict and ecological devastation as we know it.” The idea is that when we can all see all of the nasty instances of rapine and murder that are going on, we will work harder to stop them. I certainly hope this is the case, but Mr. DiBona didn’t really have much in the way of evidence to support his prediction, which was more noticable than it would have been otherwise, since his segment of the show followed another segment in which Clay Shirky talked about the increasing importance of evidence-based reasoning in human history. Oh well.

My favorite guest was Paul Steinhardt, who talked about some of the exciting technology-driven innovations in physics and cosmology that he expected to come about within the next five years. His optimism was very easy to get caught up in, since he offered up potential discoveries and answers to nagging questions that it was reasonable to assume might come in the near future. I want to know why we haven’t heard more about some of this stuff in the news, and I look forward to following some of the described projects in the next few years.

Finally, all of this reminded me of the best-written explanation of the fundamental optimism of scientific progress that I’ve ever read — the short story “No News, or What Killed the Dog,” by Ray Bradbury, who is also known for his dystopias. Can’t find this on the internet, but everyone should try to read it if they have a chance.

Posted in futurism, internet, Open Source, optimism, Richart Rorty, science, Steven Pinker, violence | Leave a Comment »

Plagiarism

Posted by samgr on January 9, 2007

[Note: This entry will be a bit more formal and less opinionated, since I’m writing it as a writing sample for an internship that I’m applying for.]

There has been no shortage of high-profile plagiarism cases in the last few years. Most recently, novelist Ian McEwan was accused of lifting passages in his novel Atonement from a memoir by Lucilla Andrews. As usual, a debate has followed these accusations, dealing with the possible definition and seriousness of literary plagiarism. McEwan has been defended in print by several other authors, including novelist Thomas Pynchon. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, Pynchon wrote that McEwan did nothing that was not fundamental to the normal process of writing:

“Unless we were actually there, we must turn to people who were, or to letters, contemporary reporting, the Internet until, with luck, we can begin to make a few things of our own up. To discover in the course of research some engaging detail we know can be put into a story where it will do some good can hardly be classed as a felonious act– it is simply what we do.”

Thomas Pynchon, Words for Ian McEwan, Daily Telegraph, December 6 2006.

McEwan’s is only the most recent of a host of related cases. Others who have recently found themselves in similar controversies include historians Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Harvard student Kaavya Viswanathan, to name a very few.

In reaction to these recent and well-known instances of plagiarism — as well as the controversy over what exactly constitutes plagiarism — author, judge, and law professor Richard A. Posner has written a book called The Little Book of Plagiarism, analyzing the problem and attempting to create a workable definition of what is and is not plagiarism. The book will not be out until January 16th, but it has already been accused of overly politicizing the issue. In a New York Times review of the book, Charles McGrath writes that Posner is soft on cases of legal plagiarism, but hard on academic cases. According to McGrath, Posner sees the world of academia as dominated by the left, and claims that professors are unwilling to crack down on plagiarism because “the left is uncomfortable with ideas of individual creativity and ownership.”

Books and college essays are not the only places where plagiarism is occuring. The internet has certainly made searching for and copying other people’s words easier than ever before. Blog plagiarism — or the appropriation of other people’s blog entries — has become a problem, even though the motivation behind this type of plagiarism can be more difficult to understand. Helped out by the internet, plagiarism can pop up in some unexpected places. Political blog Lakeshore Laments revealed that Wisconsin Congressman Steve Kagan’s website ripped off much of its layout and text from the website of Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry. Perhaps even more surprising, pastors have increasingly taken advantage of the internet to find sermons online and present them as their own words. Christian blogger Tim Challies discusses the implications of this in an entry on sermon plagiarism:

A pastor who plagiarizes sermons is clearly not fulfilling his primary responsibility. He is not investing time and effort in studying the Word, in understanding the Word, and in helping others understand what God has taught him. Furthermore, he is being unethical in allowing his congregation to believe that the sermons he delivers are his own work. I don’t think it is always wrong to preach sermons written by another person. I heard of a pastor who preached a series called “Sermons I Wish I’d Written.” He did not try to pass these sermons off as his own, but simply wanted to provide his congregation with what he considered some of history’s greatest sermons. Surely this is far different from a person who preaches those same sermons while pretending that he has written them himself.

Tim Challies, Plagiarism in the Pulpit, Challies.com, November 16, 2006.

There is also a blog devoted specifically to web plagiarism issues, plagiarismtoday.com. What do you think? Is plagiarism more of a problem than it used to be? Is the definition of plagiarism that we use today still useful and accurate for the way things work in the information age?

Posted in books, internet, plagiarism | 1 Comment »