Simon Bisson: Friends' Entries
28th July 2016
nwhyte @ : Interesting Links for 28-07-2016
browngirl @ : A crisis, an opportunity
I found out from davis_square that the Police Union is planning to protest the Black Lives Matter banner on Somerville City Hall. There'll be a counter protest in Union Sq at 4:30 (thanks, ron_newman!).
I was going to take tomorrow off anyway. Do I want to go to the protest? ( considerations and a pollCollapse )
Current Mood: curious
27th July 2016
kevin_standlee @ : Muffler Replacement
During the trip home from the Bay Area, Lisa looked under the minivan and pointed out that there appeared to be a crack in the muffler. So this afternoon, I was able to get away from Day Jobbe (with some difficulty) at 2:30 and run into Sparks, where I'd made an appointment online at a chain muffler dealership. They were a little dismayed by this as they don't like giving out appointments that late in the day, but they did manage to fit me in. $375 later, I had a new muffler, which I think will help some things with the van. I'd rather have given the work to Cory in Fremont, but there's only so many vehicle shuffles we can do.
After getting the muffler replacement, we went to the Peppermill for dinner, and then played the slots for a while. Lisa hit a hot streak and we ended up slightly money ahead, and also put more points (4x comp point today) into my account. It wasn't far enough ahead to pay for dinner, but it did offset what I lost on the keno ticket.
Current Mood: accomplished
rfmcdpei @ : [REVIEW] Annekenstein
I'd always been curious to see Annekenstein. It was almost legendary in the 1990s--imagine, a long-running sketch comedy show that made fun of Anne of Green Gables! I do not joke when I say that some of my elders were disapproving of the idea.
Needless to say, I as a teenager never saw the show. I wanted to, but I never felt as if I'd be able to convince the people involved to let me see it. Apart from making fun of Anne, the show did have mature content, whatever that was. When Annekenstein stopped running, I assumed that I would never see the show. When I learned, as described last month in The Guardian, that the show was set to return to the Island stage, I knew that I had to get tickets.
The original “Annekenstein” was co-created by [Rob] MacDonald and David Moses and produced by Off Stage Theatre. The concept was to poke mostly gentle fun at the Island and the industry that “Anne of Green Gables” had become. During its seven-year run, the show developed a cult following before growing into a mainstream success.
As Sean McQuaid's review for local monthly Buzz notes, this show really was that important to starting off the comedy scene on Prince Edward Island. Annekenstein is foundational.
And so, last Saturday night, together with my entire immediate family, I set off to The Guild on 115 Richmond Street to see Annekenstein. The irony that The Guild is the venue where I saw Anne & Gilbert, a show that still plays there, definitely did not escape me.
Did Annekenstein live up to my expectations? Happily, yes. This incarnation of the show, bringing together material from the original 1991-1997 run of Annekenstein with sketches from MacDonald's later Sketch-22 comedy troupe, is a success. I enjoyed myself; my family enjoyed themselves; everyone in the packed crowd enjoyed themselves. Annekenstein is smart comedy well-acted by the troupe.
This show is dominated by the spectre of Anne. Annekenstein opens with "Anne-aholics Anonymous", a self-help group filled with people who refuse to believe that Anne Shirley does not exist or that Gilbert's love cannot by won. "The World’s Fastest Anne" sees the seven actors compress the musical into three minutes of song and dance. The night ends with “Win a Waif”, where Anne Shirley is forced to compete against fellow orphans Oliver Twist and Huckleberry Finn for a foster family, all in a game show format overseen by smarmy host played unforgettably by Josh Weale. The Island audience gets this.
The Island audience also gets more local humour. Rob MacDonald impersonates the character of Moe Gorman, a lumpish and bitter middle-aged everyman who periodically appears to sing one of his many artfully awkward Songs of Slander & Libel about the ordinary Islanders who anger him. "From Away to Eternity" deals with an Island fixer who is begged by a couple to do something about their son who happened to be born "away", off the Island on a fishing boat within sight of land. (Trading in their child for an actual Islander, each parent agrees, is a possible solution.) "The Topical Humour Sketch" revisits the mid-1990s, explaining the political controversies and cultural idiosyncracies at a time when mad bomber Loki 7 was setting off pipe bombs around the Island. "Stand Up, Canada, Atticus Finch is Passing By" makes glorious fun of the nationalistic CBC panel shows of the 1970s and 1980s. Everyone in the cast gets a chance to shine--Cameron MacDonald and Graham Putnam also deserve praise for their perfectly straight-faced comedy, as do Alicia Arsenault and Olivia King with their acting chops, as does Kelly Caseley for her management of this show on The Guild's elongated stage.
Annekenstein is well-performed and topical sketch comedy that deals forthrightly, but not cruelly, with the issues of the Island. I do hope it will stay active: Island theatre needs it. In the meantime, try to make appearances on its final showings these last Saturdays of the summer of 2016.
rfmcdpei @ : [REVIEW] Spoon River at The Mack, Charlottetown
I had not seen Soulpepper's Spoon River after it debuted here in Toronto in 2014. I knew it got rave reviews from Mooney on Theatre, The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star, but I never found my way down to the Distillery District.
How fortunate for me that it is playing at Charlottetown's The Mack this summer. Again, my thanks to my sister for getting me the tickets.
Directed by Albert Schultz, Spoon River was adapted for the musical stage by Island-born Mike Ross, drawing from the American writer Edgar Lee Masters' 1915 Spoon River Anthology. I think I remember hearing of this book of free verse in one of my survey courses in school, though I never read it. Wikipedia's description of it is as good a starting point as any: "Spoon River Anthology [. . .] is a collection of short free-form poems that collectively narrates the epitaphs of the residents of Spoon River, a fictional small town named after the real Spoon River that ran near Masters' home town. The aim of the poems is to demystify the rural, small town American life. The collection includes two hundred and twelve separate characters, all providing two-hundred forty-four accounts of their lives and losses."
In an interview with the CBC, Schultz suggested that Charlottetown was well-suited for this play.
"When [Ross] was here in Charlottetown working at the festival over a decade ago, he started working on taking poetry, the poetry of Dennis Lee actually, and turning it into songs," explained Schultz.
I think Schultz is right. The town of Spoon River, located in the Illinois catchment basin of Chicago though we know it to be, did feel through the stories of its departed dead much like the small-town Canadian world I'm familiar with. Having the individual stories of the town come alive, through the performances of the spirits of the many dead in a town cemetery perhaps not unlike the ones I saw growing up, is genius. That my family happened to run into people we knew at this performance, and that this performance made inventive use of staging to guide us through a wake and into the audience, made ,
The rave review of The Guardian's Colm Magner is perfectly well-founded. The cast is more than capable of handling the demands of performance, as singers and actors and musicians performers who convincingly evoke dozens of personalities in a single sitting. I was particularly caught by the performances of Jonathan Ellul and Susan Henley--the latter's evocation of a German servant girl who, after giving birth to her employer's son, lost him first to his father's family then to a brilliant political career, was heartbreaking--but I could not say there was a single weak or undeserving performer in the cast. This is a show hard on talented actors but more than capable of rewarding them if they can live up to the tasks put to them.
What of the story? There is no single story, excluding a frame that I refuse to spoil. If there is any message to take from Spoon River, it's the universality of the themes of life. Any individual's experiences or emotions can be experienced by any other individual, not only those who are alive now but those who are dead. The lives the actors evoked in a few lines of prose written a century ago, in a short song done now, are eminently recognizable to us. A deep and enduring community of experience unites us all, and Spoon River evokes that superbly.
Spoon River ends after an hour and a half, releasing its audience into the twilight of the Charlottetown evening. People who want to partake in this experience, audience-members who would like to grasp the things that unite us, should try to catch it before this touring performance heads next for New York City.
e_moon60 @ : Back to Knitting, Briefly
The physical Wall I hit back in April affected everything I was trying to do, including knitting. Last year I was often able to knit while sick, but by March I was making many more mistakes when trying to knit while sick--or even in the brief respites between things. So the attempt to start a new pair of short socks toward the end of April quickly met defeat--for then. Toward the end of May, I was finally able to get a heel turned on one of them, and it looked like this:
( Read more...Collapse )
Current Mood: accomplished
jimhines @ : SF/F Being Awesome: The Harry Potter Alliance
A reader named Romy alerted me to the Harry Potter Alliance, bringing fans together for good causes. Here are just a few of their accomplishments over the past decade or so, from their website:
I’m particularly enchanted by the annual Accio Books campaign. And I love that the different houses compete to see which can collect the most books. (Ravenclaw was the winner last year, which seems appropriate somehow.) The whole thing just sounds like fun, collaborative work to make the world a better place.
J. K. Rowling herself has spoken about the group, saying, “I am honoured and humbled that Harry’s name has been given to such an extraordinary campaign, which really does exemplify the values for which Dumbledore’s Army fought in the books.”
I love seeing fans come together like this. I love the hope and the optimism … and I’m always happy to see how stories can inspire people to change the world for the better.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
rfmcdpei @ : [REVIEW] Anne of Green Gables: The Musical
Thanks to my sister, I was able to get tickets to see Anne of Green Gables: The Musical last Tuesday. This showing will have been the fourth time I've seen the act that has been headlining the
Charlottetown Festival for the past 51 years, at least--I may have forgotten earlier performances.
What was my experience of this, possibly one of the preeminent cultural forms of my native province? Positive, if complicated.
One thing highlighted in the local media about this year's performance is the novelty of having the two lead characters being played by Island-born actors, Jessica Gallant as Anne Shirley and Aaron Hastelow as her sometime-rival and sometime-friend Gilbert Blythe. These, and their colleagues, did their jobs well, singing and dancing and acting their way through the roles that I know off by heart, to the music that I even now can find myself humming along to.
Another thing highlighted in the local media about this year's performance is a limited modernization of the script. Out of a desire to keep Anne of Green Gables more relevant as a remembered past, the sort we might have absorbed from the time of our grandparents and great-grandparents, the era of the play has been advanced somewhat, from Victorian to Edward times. When the people of Avonlea gossip about the injuries Anne inflicted on Gilbert with her slate in the classroom, they do over the telephone. Later, Diana Barry sings rhapsodies about the miracle of the electric lights of Charlottetown's Queen Street, lights which never burn down. On a separate note, Josie Pye, Anne's rival for Gilbert's attentions, is rather nastier than I remember from previous performances. The underlying story remains the same, with the songs and dialogue I remember from other iterations still intact: Anne surprises the Cuthberts and Avonlea, eventually makes her new family and community fall in love with her, and finds her place.
When I watched the musical, I was struck by darker elements of the plot. I don't think I quite noticed the desperation of Anne's early life, the young orphan suffering two failed foster families before being sent to the orphanage, long before she was sent to the Island with the Cuthberts. Her desperation to find a home bit much more with me now than before. At the same time, the desperation of the Cuthberts also came through to me: They arranged to take in an orphan not because they wanted to create a family, but because they needed a boy to do physical labour around their farm, the labour that Matthew could not perform after his heart attack but that needed to be done to keep the farm viable, even--as a last resort--saleable.
The relationship between Anne and Gilbert also made me think. Theirs is a complicated relationship, Gilbert's attraction to Anne inexplicably leading him to tease her hair colour, which leads her to reject him, until she decides she is interested in him, by which time he has resolved to spend time with someone like Josie who appreciates him, and so on and so forth. There's no question of any coercion, at either end, and I did not think Gilbert was behaving like a so-called "Nice Guy."
I was also left wondering, of all people, about Matthew Cuthbert. We learn, in the musical and in the books, all about his sister Marilla, how her life was defined by her rejection of John Blythe when the two were younger. We the audience see Matthew Cuthbert as a kind man and a good man, the first kindred spirit that Anne met in Avonlea. He is the person whose counsel to Marilla that they might be good for Anne convinces her to let the young Nova Scotian orphan stay. We learn nothing about Matthew's past. Why did he stay single and unmarried, living with his sister in the family homestead? Did he have no great lost loves, no terrible disappointments? I'm more than a bit tempted to speculate about the possibility of a queer Matthew.
I have to see Anne of Green Gables: The Musical first and foremost as a rite of community. It is a thoroughly professional and enjoyable theatrical show, two and a half hours long including an intermission, but it's more than that. I found myself thinking of previous iterations of the musical that I had seen, of other versions I had read or watched (Megan Follows and her television movie came to mind). I found it functioning for me, someone who read all the Anne novels and most of the other in-universe stories and is familiar with the proliferating Anne mediasphere beyond books, as a sort of aide-memoire, functions as an aide-memoire for the fandom. Here is the character, here is her community, and here is what they do together for everyone to see.
It works superbly, and likely will continue to work superbly. It could not have lasted 51 years at the Charlottetown Festival if it did not. If you're at all curious about Anne Shirley and her mythology, or about the ways Prince Edward Island is represented in popular culture, or indeed about the lived experience of Prince Edward Islanders (how many of us have not seen this musical?), Anne of Green Gables: The Musical is the show for you.
dorktowerfeed @ : Cthulhu in the House! Ia! Ia! Art Notes! Fhtagn!
Last year, I was flown to Brazil for Comic Con, and got to hang out with some of the folks behind Cool Mini or Not. (As well as signing a ton of Munchkin stuff and Kobolds Ate My Baby stuff in Potruguese, and drinking as many room-service Caiperhina’s as I deemed appropriate**).
Anyway, we started talking, and a couple of super-neat ideas bubbled up. One of them was CTHULHU IN THE HOUSE.
Cthulhu in the House is a nifty, small, fun game that’s based on Rumble in the House and Rumble in the Dungeon, it adds Portals to the game system: you can either Move or Fight, trying to keep your identity secret and be the last one standing (or flying, or hovering, or leaving a slime-trail. You get the idea).
It also allowed me to revisit the Cthulhu Mythos. Ia! Ia!
In the past, whenever I’d work on a new Cthulhu game (Creatures and Cultists, Munchkin Cthulhu, Unspeakable Words Deluxe Edition, and Pairs, to name a few), I’d try and reinvent the wheel, coming up with different takes on the horrors of HP Lovecraft’s pantheon.
With Cthulu in the House, though, I tired of all that. I mean, it’s not like I try and redo Spyke and Flower every time I draw Munchkin. Nor do Matt, Gilly and Igor get rebooted any time I pick up the pen for Dork Tower.
So why try and come up with an all-new Cthulhu every time I tackle the Mythos? I was kind oif pleased with where my work was, after finishing Unspeakable Words and Pairs. I liked how these guys looked. I didn’t want to redesign ‘em, any more.
And here are just a few of them!
Really, the guy never seems to sleep AT ALL…
Deep One? Shallow One more like AMIRITE hur hur!
Some days I’d forget my brain, if it wasn’t attached. Oh. Wait…
Quachil CUTE-aus, more like…
Shoggoth. No, YOU Shoggoth!
In the end, it was hugely fun redrawing, but not reinventing, creatures I’ve tackled in the past. I like the direction they’re going, and I like the overall look of the beasts, elder gods and monsters. It felt like visiting old friends (evil, EVIL old friends), and I can’t wait to draw them again, next time I’m tasked with bringing Cthulhu to comic gaming glory. Or something.
Az goes Azathoth, so goes…well, something, I guess.
I’m really happy with the art, and the Cool Minis or Not folks have done a splendid job with the art direction and colors. They were hugely fun to work with, and now I see why so many of their releases are top-notch. When you stuff a company full of creative, professional, fun folks, Gaming Goodness is sure to follow.
Cthulhu in the House will be premiering at Gen Con, where I’ll just happen to be, next week. And, of course, we’ll be playing it at Drokstock, a teeny little division of Gamehole Con.
Anyway, that’s one of the Cool Minis or Not collaborations that came out of my Brazil jaunt.
What’s the other, you ask?
Can’t talk about it, yet…but it’ll be even cooler!
* I’m actively working on ways of increasing my DORK TOWER time, by the way. More on that later.
rfmcdpei @ : [URBAN NOTE] The National Post on the struggles around gentrification in Moss Park
The National Post hosts Ashley Csanady's article "Toronto’s rough Moss Park neighbourhood becoming the city’s next gentrification battleground", looking at how this up-and-coming neighbourhood in downtown Toronto is responding to gentrification pressures.
Joan Harvey has lived in Toronto’s Moss Park towers for 35 years, and watched as her neighbourhood was slowly infected by drugs, violence and an increasingly bad reputation.
rfmcdpei @ : [URBAN NOTE] "Construction for Bloor St. bike lanes to start August 2"
The Toronto Star's Jennifer Pagliaro notes that construction of the Bloor Street bike lanes is impending.
Construction for a bike lanes pilot project on Bloor St. will start next week.
rfmcdpei @ : [ISL] "Venezuela’s Fishermen Catch No Break as Crisis Riles Margarita"
Bloomberg's Noris Soto reports on how Venezuela's Margarita Island is trying to cope with the wider country's economic collapse.
Life for fishermen on Venezuela’s Margarita Island used to be easy, with the sparkling waters of the Caribbean yielding rich catches of grouper, red snapper and octopus for sale to wealthy tourists. Now the island has fallen into poverty and attempts to sell on neighboring islands can lead to a run in with one of the region’s oldest industries -- pirates.
rfmcdpei @ : [ISL] "Winter Ain’t Coming to Iceland’s Thunder-Clapping Economy"
Iceland, Bloomberg notes, is having an economic boom. This is a very good thing indeed, the more so that it seems broad-based.
Iceland’s economy is growing at its fastest pace since the 2008 collapse of its banks, with annual gross domestic product up a whopping 4.2 percent in the first three months of the year.
rfmcdpei @ : [ISL] "Raunchy East Coast web series ‘Just Passing Through’ makes tracks for a movie"
MacLean's notes the plans of a group of Islanders, some of whom I know, to film a movie, Pogey Beach. Incidentally, they met their funding goals on Kickstarter.
Work boots aren’t normally thought of as beach attire.
rfmcdpei @ : [ISL] "How one tiny N.L. town helped usher in the era of instant communication"
CBC News' Lindsay Bird and Zach Goudie described the role of Newfoundland in ushering in the era of instantaneous global communications.
Of all the ocean views that can take your breath away on the beach of Heart's Content, it's safe to say you wouldn't look twice at the rusty old cables that run across its rocks and out to sea from the small town — population 375 — perched on the shores of Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula.
grrm @ : Three Years and Counting
Hard to believe, but we are coming up on the third anniversary of the re-opening of the Jean Cocteau Cinema. Santa Fe's hometown movie theatre, and first art house, had been dark for seven years when we turned on the lights again and opened the doors in August 2013.
Needless to say, that calls for a celebration... a week-long celebration, in fact!!!
To mark the occasion, we are bringing back three very special films, movies that have a special significance in the history of the JJC, New Mexico's most eclectic movie theatre.
First up we will have PANDORA'S BOX, a classic of the silent cinema starring Louise Brooks, the first film to play the Jean Cocteau when the theatre first opened in 1984.
We will also show FORBIDDEN PLANET, the first film shown at the reborn Cocteau three years ago... and also the greatest science fiction film ever made, in my not so humble opinion.
And finally we will have DARK STAR, our first midnight movie from three years back, a hilarious SF comedy, and the movie that gave Dan O'Bannon and John Carpenter their starts.
Best of all, admission to all three movies will be FREE! (We will also be holding over a couple other films this week, and offering discount $5 admissions on those).
And, yes, ROBBIE THE ROBOT will be returning to the cinema for the celebrations, along with his friends Altaira, Commander J.J. Adams, and the Iron Giant.
We'll be celebrating all week... but the BIG party will be on Saturday at 7:00 pm, when we will be adding some cake to the mix. And our friends at Jambo are sending their foot truck around that night at well, for some delicious African treats.
ANNIVERSARY WEEK SCHEDULE:
FRIDAY, JULY 29TH:
2:30 PM: Yarn ($5.00)
4:30 PM: Pandora’s Box (FREE)
7:00 PM: Forbidden Planet (FREE)
9:30 PM: Showcase Karaoke (with Cyndi and Nanci) (FREE)
SATURDAY, JULY 30TH:
2:15 PM: The Fallen Idol ($5.00)
4:30 PM: Pandora’s Box (FREE)
7:00 PM: Anniversary Party (Cake, Costumes, Games, Food Trucks, & More!) (FREE)
7:00 PM: Forbidden Planet (FREE)
9:20 PM: Dark Star (FREE)
SUNDAY, JULY 31ST:
2:30 PM: Yarn ($5.00)
4:30 PM: Forbidden Planet (FREE)
6:40 PM: Pandora’s Box (FREE)
MONDAY, AUGUST 1ST:
4:30 PM: Forbidden Planet (FREE)
6:40 PM: Pandora’s Box (FREE)
TUESDAY, AUGUST 2ND:
4:30 PM: Pandora’s Box (FREE)
7:00 PM: Forbidden Planet (FREE)
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 3RD:
2:30 PM: Presenting Princess Shaw (FREE)
4:30 PM: Pandora’s Box (FREE)
7:00 PM: Forbidden Planet (FREE)
9:20 PM: Dark Star (FREE)
THURSDAY, AUGUST 4TH:
2:30 PM: Yarn ($5.00)
4:30 PM: The Fallen Idol ($5.00)
7:00 PM: Suicide Squad ($8.00)
9:20 PM: Dark Star (FREE)
So come and join us and help us hoot and holler! We're three years old! And many more to come!
Current Mood: proud
pgdf, posting in theinferior4 @ : New Review at LOCUS ONLINE
David Levine's debut novel:
coyotegoth @ : Ghostbusters '16
Got the check for my editing work yesterday; celebrated by seeing the new Ghostbusters.
First off: Love how many people have been like GOD I'D EAT MY OWN FOOT BEFORE I ATE PAPA JOHN'S (a sentiment I agree with wholeheartedly); I really hope that that particular bit of product placement was a sly bit of character deliniation on the director's part (ie, they're such outcasts at the beginning that even their food is uncool).
It's not the sublime star vehicle the original is; for a lot of this, Wiig and McCarthy seem weirdly subdued, as though they were acting in a drama, not a comedy. (And yes, some of the comedy with Leslie Jones's character is rather awkward; Kate McKinnon is the breakout star here.) Overall, though, director Paul Feig found the right plan of attack of this reboot; I enjoyed the movie's not-so-subtle digs at entitled fanboys; Chris Hemsworth is surprisingly adept as a comedian. B+ to the original's A+.
chris_gerrib @ : A Bit of Snark, Publishing Edition
Over the past 24 hours, comes news that Patrick Nielsen Hayden, long-time editor at Tor Books, is now Associate Publisher. Also comes news that John Scalzi, he of the $3.4 million contract, was involved in developing yet another video game. Note that this money is in addition to his Tor contract.
Speaking of this blog's favorite Supergenius, I note that
Current Mood: amused
nwhyte @ : Empire of Mud, by J.D. Dickey
Second paragraph of third chapter:
In August 1814, in one of the last acts of the futile and misnamed War of 1812, British forces dropped anchor at Benedict, Maryland, some forty-five miles southeast of the District. Avenging the American army's devastation of the Canadian city of York, the British marched to Bladensburg, where they routed a force of capital militia. From there they attacked Washington City from the north, only to find it abandoned by its defenders. The British torched the Capitol, the Library of Congress, and other public buildings before finding a fully prepared meal laid out for guests at the Executive Mansion, which they gobbled down before burning that building too.I love going to Washington, and indeed spent three days there two weeks ago, in the course of which I bought this book at Busboys and Poets meeting britzkrieg for dinner, and then read it on my flight westwards. It's a nice little micro-history of Washington City during its lifetime as an independent governmental entity from 1802 to 1871, with appropriate consideration of what happened before, after, and in the neighbourhood - considering also how the city's peculiar relationship with the nation, ruling and ruled by the United States but not part of any of them, constrained its development.
One of my favourite songs in Hamilton deals with the choice of site for the new nation's capital:
[BURR] Congress is fighting over where to put the capital—Dickey goes into this in some detail, and there is more back-story than is in the musical. From Alexander Hamilton's side, he was concerned at the vulnerability of a government located in Philadelphia, or any pre-existing city, to mob pressure. George Washington, who was empowered by Congress to choose the site for the new government, chose partly due to military defensibility (from naval attack - he did not anticipate that the British would land elsewhere and march in from the northeast) but also with an eye to his own personal interests - his own home, Mount Vernon, was a couple of dozen miles away, and he also had investments in local infrastructure, particularly a failed attempt to build a canal linking the capital to the North East. But by 1802, when the city government was established, Washington was dead, Hamilton's career was over, and there was nobody to champion the interests of Washington City; until the Civil War successive administrations and Congresses were suspicious of a powerful central government and therefore unwilling to invest much in its seat. So the Capitol, the White House and a few other buildings existed as islands of decent architecture in a grubby network of streets which still honoured L'Enfant's original design, but the city as a whole was dilapidated and geographically isolated until the railways came. (One little detail - I was fascinated to learn that before the Pentagon there was the Octagon, a six-sided building which still stands near the White House, where slaves worked in the cellars for the Tayloe family and where President Monroe ran the country for a few months in 1814 while the White House was being repaired.)
Dickey goes into the physical and human geography of Washington City - not just the elites, but the slaves, the prostitutes, the small traders, the elites. There are many fascinating snippets: The Supreme Court judges all rented rooms in the same house up to the 1840s. The area between the White House and the Capitol, now the glistening Federal Triangle, was previously known as Murder Bay and was a haven of liminal activity. Mary Ann Hall ran a successful brothel for decades on the site of what is now the National Museum of the American Indian, and rests under an impressive monument in the Congressional cemetery, no doubt close to many of her clients. The Washington Monument remained an embarrassing half-built stump for twenty-five years, due to wrangling over costs and control.
The story shifts gear dramatically with the Civil War, which made Washington City a key defensive asset and also a target for attack. Montgomery Meigs, the army engineer who had already brought in fresh water and renovated the Capitol, tends to be remembered for his role in establishing Arlington Cemetery during the war, but actually put a lot more effort into making the city fit for purpose as a military base. By the time the war was over, the District of Columbia's population had soared and its political image had changed completely; Meigs' efforts led directly to the abolition of the independence of Georgetown and Washington City and the institution of congressional rule over the Dictrit of Columbia in 1871. That's pretty much where his story ends, and he gets a little too caught up in the detail of what was going on with Boss Shepherd, who carried out further city development to personal profit and huge cost in the early 1870s.
The book is lavishly illustrated with maps, photographs, and occasional portraits, and is also reasonably digestible at 245 pages of the main text. I think even readers who don't share my fascination with its subject would enjoy it.
realthog @ : My tweets
rfmcdpei @ : [NEWS] Some Wednesday links
cherylmmorgan @ : Worldcon Site Selection
The Hugos are not the only thing that needs to be voted on at Worldcon. There is also the small matter of deciding where Worldcon will be held in 2018. The two bids that have filed their papers are for New Orleans and San José.
Now New Orleans happens to be one of my favorite places to visit in the whole world. But not, I think, in August. And my reasons for visiting it are all to do with food and music, not to do with science fiction conventions. Besides, if you look carefully at the ballot paper you will see my name on San José bid committee list.
This should not come as a surprise. Back in 2002 we ran ConJosé, and Kevin (my Kevin) co-chaired the event. My job was primarily keeping him sane through the process, though I did a whole lot of other things as well, including persuading a chap called Gaiman to attend the Hugo ceremony even though he was convinced that American Gods had no chance of winning.
All things considered, I think ConJosé went pretty well. Obviously a few things did go wrong (yes, I know the Restaurant Guide — we will not make that mistake again!), but I think we did a decent job. Since then we have done a World Fantasy Con and a variety of other conventions. The facilities have got better (including a lot more local restaurants) and I think we’d do a good job again.
Kevin and I won’t be so heavily involved, should we win. In all probability I won’t even be able to attend. But we are still on the Board of Directors of the parent organization so it is down to us to make sure that the job is done well. That includes making sure that we run a safe, welcoming and diverse event.
One slightly non-diverse thing that we have done is keep up the tradition of having the event chaired by someone called Kevin. No, not this one, this one:
Er, the one on the right, not the one with the eye stalk. And there is no truth in the rumor that the chap with the eye stalk will be the Head of Security.
Our con chair, should we win, will be Kevin Roche, who is a master costumer (including making costumes for daleks) but also has a day job doing really cool science. He and his husband, Andy, have been responsible for some truly spectacular parties at conventions down the years. I have every confidence in Kevin’s ability to put together a team that will deliver an excellent event that will appeal to a wide range of fannish interests and be a lot of fun.
Vote for us, please.
jennycrusie @ : Book Done Yet: Don’t Do This At Home
So I’m obsessing over the beginning, which you should never do.
The thing is, the beginning is going to change again no matter what I do with it now. You can’t write the beginning until you’ve written the end, you really can’t write it until you’ve written a full first draft (no matter how awful that draft is). And yet I keep going back to those first three scenes. I think it’s because I’m trying to introduce the book to myself.
The beginning is the invitation to the party. I must have written that a thousand times. You’re standing in the doorway, looking at the readers, and saying, “Come on in,” and part of the success of the beginning depends on how long it take you get out of the damn doorway so they can come in.
I have pretty much come to the conclusion that the scene sequence of the beginning is 1-1 Nita vs. Mort, 1-2 Nick vs. Vinnie, and 1-3 Nita vs Nick, and that the party starts with 1-3 Nita vs. Nick. Then I think it’s 1-4 Nick vs Daglas and 1-5 Button vs. Nita, which establishes the secondary relationships, and then 1-6 is back to Nita vs. Nick because I think this is a romance. I think. But the heavy lifting is 1-1, which establishes who Nita is; 1-2, which establishes who Nick is, and 1-3 which starts the romance plot.
So 1-1 has to introduce Nita and make her fascinating, introduce the external conflict (Joey’s death) and start that plot on the first page, and set up expectation for the romance. It also introduces Button, Mort, and Clint, but it doesn’t have to; the Musts are those first three.
Then 1-2 has to introduce Nick and make him fascinating, build on the external conflict (the supernatural is real) and move the plot, and continue to build expectation for the romance.
And 1-3 has to move the plot and pay off the foreshadowing to establish the beginning of the romance even if they’re not aware there’s a romance coming at them.
Looking at those three scenes as the beginning sequence is making me look at the book as a whole: who are these people and where are they going to end up? Which brings us to the antagonist . . .
What I’m thinking is that I’m not trying to get the beginning right–I know I can’t do that until the first draft is finished–I’m trying to get Nita and Nick right, trying to get back to the beginning of their arcs, to see who they are before they move from being into becoming, that moment when the last grain of sand drops and starts the avalanche. And the third scene is the grain of sand.
Even so, it’s nuts to spend too much time on the beginning. Don’t do that.
greygirlbeast @ : Blah Blah Blah Blah
Yesterday was, in all ways, wretched.
I was awake at dawn, shutting windows and lowering blinds to try and keep out the coming heat. At nine, I gave up trying to sleep. I got up and work on my "Favorite Movies 1930-2000" list. I'm selecting between five and seven films for each year. The list is limited to American and British films, as my knowledge of foreign film is really rather spotty, I'm afraid. Same reason I'm not including films made before 1930. After 2000, that's a different project. So far, I'm up to 1943, and there are already 77 entries. I'll likely post it somewhere, whenever I'm done.
I'm so desperate for sleep that I'm almost willing to go back on gabapentin for a time.
No writing yesterday. We ran some errands (library, post office, Staples, the market). We mostly sat here in the heat, listening to box fans whir and our lives ticking away in discrete and interchangeable units of waste, boredom, and inactivity.
At least Lovecraft's exile to Brooklyn lasted only four years. I've now been stranded in Providence for more than eight.
Current Mood: at sixes and sevens
cherylmmorgan @ : More Trans Pride Reportage
The very talented Kate Adair, who has a regular slot on BBC Scotland’s The Social, has produced her take on this year’s Trans Pride. I have a brief interview with Kate in my audio collection from the weekend. Large parts of it involve Kate and I still giggling over this.
teddywolf @ : A blast from the past--oh, how the characters change!... or maybe not.
Clocks in at 471 words.
theferrett @ : So What’s A Post With 24,000 Facebook “Likes” Get You?
On Monday, I posted my essay “Oh, For Fuck’s Sake: A Gentle Talk With My Republican, Democrat, And Undecided Friends.” By this morning, it’s up to 24,000 Facebook “likes” in a viral politigasm.
Which is weird. I’ve gone viral before, most notably for my essays “Dear Daughter: I Hope You Have Awesome Sex” and “Can I Buy You A Coffee?” And I’ve found that those who haven’t gone viral have the wrong impressions about how this works, so let’s bust a few impressions:
1) You Don’t Get Famous. The Essay Does.
That demonstrates that when you go viral, 99.9% of the people show up for that essay, read, and leave. Hardly anyone goes, “Oh, I’ll read what else this fellow had to say!” and proceeds to trawl your blog. You’re a one-stop entertainment, worthy because someone’s friends linked them there, and then you go.
It’s nice to have that level of attention for a while, but people tend to think, “Oh, you’re famous!” No. That essay has been widely read. I doubt most of its readers could pick me out of a lineup.
2) A Viral Post Doesn’t Sell Your Books.
Now, sometimes, if a post blows up huge, you’ll get offers related to that post. When “Dear Daughter” passed half a million likes – still my high-water mark! – on the Good Men Project and the Huffington post, I got an agent asking me if I wanted to turn that essay into a book, because they had a publisher who’d expressed interest. I told them “No, but I have this novel” and they went, “Nah” and disappeared.
3) …But It Kinda Does.
See, when I published my webcomic “Home on the Strange,” I noticed a weird pattern: I’d have a huge hit, with 10,000 people linking to our Doctor-Who-As-Jesus strip or our alternate ending to Harry Potter, and then the next comic would be bare-bones normal in terms of traffic.
But the overall numbers kept creeping up.
Eventually, I came up with my “Pepsi machine” theory – which is to say that a fan is like a big, cumbersome Pepsi machine that you’re looking to tip over. Hardly anyone tips over a Pepsi machine in one muscular push. No, you gotta rock them, a little at a time, until eventually they sorta wobble over.
Likewise, most people – me included! – have established habits. I hit the same six webcomics every morning. Adding a new webcomic to my list? For no apparent reason, that seems like an effort. But if a webcomic keeps getting linked to by my friends, with each visit I’ll think, “Oh, I should come here more often!” and then I don’t.
Eventually, I accrete enough good will that all right, I’ll add this to my regular trawl, and suddenly I’m a fan.
Likewise, I have a lot of fans (comparative to the normal person, not at all comparative to a true celebrity), but they’ve all arrived in dribs and drabs; some liked Home on the Strange, others liked my essays, others liked my books. Most of them had to see me around a lot before they eventually started reading me regularly, for whatever definition of “regularly” counts.
I’m not going to have 24,000 fans tomorrow. But I’ll probably walk away from this with maybe fifty people who now read me regularly. Maybe five will read my book, maybe two will like it enough to recommend it to other people.
That’s actually a decent ratio.
Which is why I wouldn’t recommend this method if you don’t actually enjoy blogging. It works, but it’s like panning for gold; lots of time knee-deep in mud, a few flecks.
Better enjoy the outdoors.
4) Hardly Anyone Knows What Goes Viral.
The rest of us have no idea what connects, or why.
Look. “Dear Daughter” was an angry essay I wrote in fifteen minutes on my lunch hour, and that writing will probably be referenced in my obituary. “For Fuck’s Sake” was a Sunday evening writing which I put a lot of thought into, but I’ve written a lot of thoughtful pieces and I still don’t quite know why that one took off.
I just write a lot, and about once every eighteen months, one catches fire. And I assure you, if I knew how to craft essays that consistently drew 24,000 Facebook “likes,” I would. Even now, I have no clue why that “For Fuck’s Sake” essay launched into the stratosphere versus my usual political rantings – it feels about the same to me, but it resonated with others.
Every so often on FetLife, some moe without an audience will get a wild hair up their ass, belligerently bumping chests with people who do have an audience to say, “Why don’tcha write an essay anonymously, HANH? Why don’tcha prove that it’s the WORDS that make you popular, but your AUDIENCE?”
Well, first off, why the fuck do you think my audience – such as it is – sticks around? Because I’m writing things they think are shitty? Come on.
But secondly, if you think “writing an essay” is “one shot, one kill,” then you’re wrong. I’ve written probably ten thousand essays. Of them, three have gone viral enough to spread across the Internet. The Venn diagram between “What I consider quality” and “What resonates with people” is a mystery indeed.
Oh, I’m confident that if I wrote a lot of essays under a pseudonym, I’d eventually regain my current levels of notoriety. But expecting one essay to be as popular as, say, “Dear Daughter”?
The only person who could say that is someone who doesn’t fucking write.
5) Your Reputation Sticks With You, Though.
Lots of people really don’t like me for any of those.
So when I meet people at conventions, I sometimes have folks doing the stop-and-stare moment of “Do I want to talk to this asshole?” They have formed an opinion of me from my writings, and they do not like me. Sometimes they make excuses and GTFO.
Which is why I’m always baffled when people are like, “Oh, Ferrett just makes up shit to start controversy!” No, man. I get enough side-eye for the things I believe. There are real-world consequences to my writing, and as a dude with social anxiety I assure you I feel every one.
There are doubtlessly people who do start up controversies for “fun” – I’ve met them, scrappy assholes who want to start “a feud” to “get traffic” – and they’re usually people with small audiences. And I wonder whether they’re so enthused over these mock-fights because they’re never planning on going out in public where their rep is attached to their face. And after a couple of thoroughly faked essays, I wonder if they’ve lost any friends.
But me? I put my face and my books on these essays, because if one goes viral and I wind up getting shit on by a thousand people for some opinion I’ve opined, I want that shit to be from people I actually don’t like. I’ve got enthusiastic Trump supporters leaving insulting comments, but hey, I’m okay pissing off those people.
Like I said: most people can’t tell what’s going to be a hit or not. So pretending to be an asshole in the hopes that someone pays attention to you? Seems like small pay for idiotic work. You probably won’t go viral, but you’ll have real-life people who read you – if you have real-life people – believing you’re either a genuine asshole, or a manipulative fake asshole, and I’m not sure what’s worse.
You may think I’m an asshole, but at least it’s for things I believe.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/549692.h
bart_calendar @ : Now That John Hinkley Jr. Has Gotten Out Of Prison.....
Who is the most jealous?
Who Is More Pissed Off Hinkley Got Out?
Mark David Chapman
james_nicoll @ : A Passage of Stars (Highroad Trilogy, book 1) by Alis A. Rasmussen
A Passage of Stars (Highroad Trilogy, book 1) by Alis A. Rasmussen
Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment(s); comment here or there.
rfmcdpei @ : [BLOG] Some Wednesday links
theljstaff, posting in news @ : LiveJournal app for iOS
Hi all, it's been a while...
We have released new LiveJournal app for iOS. It's available for free (for devices on iOS 8 and higher).
This is a totally new mobile app - modern, convenient and of high standard for iOS apps. Explore LJ without even having to log in or register - all you need is download the app. Unique tree-structured comments system allows you to keep track of all important discussions. And it's fast, too! Publishing your posts, downloading feed, crossposting to social networks - in a flash. The data is cached, which means no connection break will prevent you from reading entries and comments once they've been downloaded. And while you're offline, you can write and save drafts and post them once the connection is restored.
We would very much appreciate your feedback!
marthawells @ : News
For people who were asking, The Edge of Worlds will have a paperback edition out in April. (You can preorder it now.) The Harbors of the Sun is turned in and may be scheduled for July, but I'm hoping it moves up a little.
Thanks to everyone who's left comments or ratings on Amazon, B&N, GoodReads, LibraryThing, etc. It really does help. Also, remember you can request that your local library buy it for their collection. (And they may already have it in ebook if they have ebook lending services.)
I'll be at ArmadilloCon in Austin this weekend, and here's my schedule:
Sat 1100DR Autographing
Sat 11:00 AM-Noon Dealers' Room
Sa1300A Career Management for SFF Writers
Sat 1:00 PM-2:00 PM Southpark A
Cheney, Chu, Eudaly, Landon*, McKay, Wells
Sat 3:00 PM-3:30 PM Conference Center
(I'll probably read something from The Harbors of the Sun)
Sa1600A Gender Roles in Fantasy
Sat 4:00 PM-5:00 PM Southpark A
Clarke, Fischer, Moyer, Muenzler*, Wells
From fairy tales, to Tolkien, to today's urban fantasy and dark fantasy, how are authors experimenting (or not experimenting) with gender and gender roles?
Link: How Creating Inclusive Sci-Fi/Fantasy Sparked a Culture War by Lynne M. Thomas
Both Chicks Dig Time Lords and “Dinosaur” are routinely attacked on the Internet by certain people (a parody of “Dinosaur” made it onto this year’s Hugo Award ballot due to a slate and as part of a campaign of ongoing harassment directed at its writer). These works are derided by people who believe inclusive SF/F is bad for the genre, or just plain bad. These works were pointed to as the reasons for creating certain Hugo Award slates over the last few years. A well-known alt-right website weirdly implied that Tor Books was responsible for the Hugo nominations for those two works since they were so bad. (I’ve never worked for Tor.) There have been dozens of articles written about my work and what is wrong with it; most of them don’t mention my name.
rfmcdpei @ : [PHOTO] Down to Rollo Bay, Prince Edward Island, at low tide
I went down to the water at Rollo Bay, down the path mowed into the scrub of the field separating the houses and the road from the sea. It happened to be low tide there, the first time I had seen low tide on Rollo Bay for quite some time.
bryangb @ : Stupid O'clock again
I upgraded my new phone - a Cubot Note S, for those that care - to Android 6 Marshmallow, via some help from the excellent folks at xda-developers and Needrom. After a couple of false starts (mostly to do with Marshmallow needing a tweaked version of the recovery program TWRP - that's the one that lets you install & backup system-level stuff, such as the superuser program needed for root access) it all worked pretty well. I'm still coming to terms with the mucking about that Google's done with the application permissions and with write access to the SD-card, but in general it's a step forward - leaner and smoother than Android Lollipop.
So the next thing was to upgrade herself's phone, which has been struggling with low-memory issues. I figured out a nice clean-ish process: for some reason Titanium Backup is fine restoring app data from a Lollipop backup to a Marshmallow target, but doesn't like restoring the apps themselves, so I used Android Assistant (AA) for those. You have to click to restore each app in turn, which is immensely tedious, but still faster than doing it via the Play store. Plus by doing a fresh AA backup, I had an exact list of the user apps that were installed before and therefore needed to go back - that was a big win, process-wise.
So it was:
* Full data backup via Titanium
* Backup all apps via AA
* Run a WhatsApp backup too, just in case
* Boot to recovery and do a nandroid (system image) backup, also just in case
* Flash the new firmware, including Marshmallow-compatible recovery & superuser
* Reboot and do initial phone setup, eg. Google accounts
* Reinstall Android Assistant from SD-card
* Restore all the user apps via AA
* Restore the user app data via Titanium
* Fix a couple of settings and let Play do a few app updates
* Reboot again, and Voila!
Yes, that did take quite a while, but it was mostly time when I could do or read something else while waiting for a process to complete. And at the end, all was running nicely and I was looking forward to getting to bed at a vaguely normal (for me) time - until I went to restore the SMS database, only to find that the backup app which is supposed to run every day hadn't actually done so since January... 😱
Alright, I thought, no big problem - I've done all my backups! I'll do a new nandroid backup, restore the original setup from the previous nandroid, grab the text messages and then restore the new setup.
Except that for some bizarre reason, TWRP wouldn't restore across different Android versions, ie. from within Marshmallow it couldn't see its Lollipop backups. Argh! OK, I'll flash clean Lollipop firmware back on, then restore from there. Except that this time the restore process crashed - and then it hit me that Stupid O'clock really had made me stupid, and that the text messages had probably already been backed up by Titanium, so I could get them from there. Doh!
OK then, let's restore the nandroid of Marshmallow - but that process crashed too! I ended up having to flash the new firmware and reinstall the apps all over again. At least this time I remembered to restore the messages from Titanium as well as the other user data before finally getting to bed. Then of course this morning, she says Oh, the text messages weren't that important...
There's probably still a few apps to tweak so they work properly with the new Marshmallow permissions, but the phone's now running faster and cleaner, with less memory consumed, so overall it's a win. Was it worth it in terms of time consumed? Well, hopefully I will get it right next time - and hey, it's all a learning process, innit? 😂
Current Mood: accomplished
browngirl @ : Art Collaboration: The Captain & The Wasp
I am awake. That is not what this post is about. I've been meaning to post this art for several days, so I'm taking the opportunity now.
So an offhand comment about "fist bumping a wasp" gave me an idea, which summercomfort kindly joined me in. ( 2 versionsCollapse )
Current Mood: creative
coth @ : SWA Art Show, The Mall Galleries, London
My friend Jackie Duckworth has a picture in the SWA art show - a notable achievement! So Brian and I went along to have a nice evening out and to give her moral support. Promise of canapes had nothing to do with it, honest Gov, coff coff.
So off we went for an evening in London like the ones we used to have when we were young. We took train and tube to Westminster, and walked along Horse Guards parade enjoying the summer evening (the Queen has beautiful gardens: https://www.flickr.com/gp/57536449@N07/5
There was some stunning stuff on display, not just by Jackie. Some of the works are shown on the SWA website (http://www.society-women-artists.org.uk/a
And I was particularly and personally pleased by the work of Cathy Read, who has been wandering round the City and seeing some of the same things I see, and painting some of them. She had three paintings in the show, but the one that caught my attention is shown on her website. Do go take a look - you'll see what I mean. http://cathyreadart.com/
And do go and see Jackie's hawk if you can. The exhibition is on until
natalief @ : Happy Birthday fjm!
Happy Birthday fjm!
I use the LJ notification emails to remind me to make these posts and so I apologise if I miss anyone's birthday - I likely did not get that email for whatever LJReason or you may not have your birthday on your LJ userinfo page. Also, if there are multiple LJ names on this post, two or more of them might belong to the same physical person IRL or to different people in a multiplicity.
Current Mood: awake
andrewducker @ : Interesting Links for 27-07-2016
Original post on Dreamwidth - there are comments there.
marypcb @ : My tweets
sbisson @ : My tweets
irregular_comic @ : Irregular Webcomic! #1420 Rerun
To understand the mathematical notation here, you need to know vector calculus. I believe, however, that anyone can understand Maxwell's equations, and why they are so important and amazing, if they're explained clearly enough.
James Clerk Maxwell was a Scottish physicist who lived in the mid-19th century. He became interested in the then-fairly-new sciences of electricity and magnetism, and the intriguing hints that the two were somehow related to one another - hints that arose through the work of earlier scientists such as Hans Christian Ørsted, Michael Faraday and André-Marie Ampère. Ørsted had noticed in 1820 that the magnetic needle of a compass jumped away from pointing towards north when a nearby electric circuit supplied by a battery was switched on or off. This observation came as a complete surprise; up until then nobody had suspected that electricity had anything to do with magnetism.
Ampère soon heard of Ørsted's discovery, and within a week had formulated a mathematical theory to describe it. He posited that an electric current could generate a magnetic field, and that turning the current on or off meant that the magnetic field changed (from not being there to being there, or vice versa). This change in the magnetic field affected the compass needle. Faraday, meanwhile, worked on the opposite idea: that a changing magnetic field might cause an electric current to flow in a wire. He proved his theory and used it to invent the electric dynamo, an electricity generator essentially similar to the ones used today in electrical power stations. See, this stuff is important, and we haven't even reached Maxwell yet!
Maxwell formalised and extended the work of Ampère and Faraday, combining their discoveries into an interlinked set of equations that described fully every aspect of electricity and magnetism as they were then understood. Maxwell's equations still form the basis of electromagnetic theory as learnt by generations of physics students, and underpin everything we know about electromagnetism and do with it.
The first equation says, in words, "the divergence of the electric field equals charge density divided by εo." Okay, so what does that mean? The εo (that's the Greek letter epsilon and a tiny zero subscript) is just a number; we'll get to that in a minute. Electric field is, in broad terms, a measure of how much electrical influence there is somewhere. If you've ever been to a science museum and stuck your hand on one of those electrostatic generators which make your hair stand on end, you know what an electric field feels like. (I'm deliberately simplifying and not using precise scientific definitions here, so people who understand formal electromagnetic theory, cut me some slack in my descriptions, okay? Thanks.)
Divergence is a mathematical measure of how much stuff comes from somewhere. For example: when you turn on a tap, water comes out. Mathematically, the divergence of water at the tap opening is a positive number. The divergence of water at the plughole in the sink where it vanishes is a negative number. Furthermore, as long as you're not taking water out of the system by filling a glass or something, the divergence of the whole shebang (tap plus plughole) adds up to zero, which means that you're removing exactly as much water with the plughole as you're adding from the tap.
So, the divergence (that's the triangle and the dot in the equation) of the electric field (the letter E) is how much electric field is coming from somewhere. This is equal to the electric charge density (the Greek symbol ρ, "rho") at the same place, divided by that εo number. Okay, now we know what the equation says, but what does it actually mean?
The amount of electric field coming from a region of space is equal to the total electric charge in that region of space, (divided by a number).
Electric charge is a property of subatomic particles, such as electrons and protons. Electrons have a negative charge, while protons have a positive charge. If a region of space has more protons than electrons, the total charge is positive, and the electric field coming from that region is positive. Protons are like taps for electric field. Electrons, on the other hand, are like sink plugholes for electric field. If a region of space has more electrons than protons, the total charge is negative, and the electric field coming from the region is negative - in other words the electric field goes into that region rather than "coming out" of it.
Pretty cool, huh?
Now, what about that dangling εo? This number is called the permittivity of free space. It is a constant, but its value depends on what units you use to describe electric charge and electric field. (If that seems odd, think of a car driving at a constant speed. The speed is constant, but it can be 50 miles per hour, or 80 kilometres per hour, depending on what units you use to measure it.) Physicists usually measure electric charge in units called coulombs, and electric field in units called volts per metre**.
Anyway, in those units, εo turns out to be approximately 0.0000000000088541878176. Remember that number.
Maxwell's second equation is a doddle now. The only new thing you need to know is that the letter B represents the magnetic field. Why B and not M? Heck if I know, but that's what it is. Anyway, knowing that, you can now read this equation yourself. The triangle and dot says "divergence" like in equation one. So the equation reads: "the divergence of the magnetic field is zero". Easy!
Ah, I hear you ask, but what does that actually mean?
It means that for magnetic fields, there are no things that act as taps or plugholes. Magnetic field doesn't come from anywhere or go away anywhere. But it certainly exists. How is this possible?
Magnetic fields "flow" from magnetic north poles to magnetic south poles (in the way that electric fields "flow" from protons to electrons - nothing actually moves.) But magnets always come with both a north pole and a south pole. If you cut a bar magnet in half, you don't get just a north pole and a separate south pole, you create two smaller magnets, each one with a north and south pole.
Magnetic fields don't come from north poles and go away at south poles. What happens is the magnetic field comes out of the magnet at the north pole, flows through space to the south pole, goes back into the magnet, and flows through the inside of the magnet back to the north pole, where it comes back out again. Magnetic fields go around in loops, never beginning, never ending. This is why if you cut a magnet in half you don't end up with single separate north and south poles. The half containing the original north pole still has a north pole at the same spot, where the magnetic field comes out, but the magnetic field has to go back into the magnet at the other end, and where the magnetic field goes into the magnet is a south pole!
In other words, single magnetic poles - or magnetic monopoles - do not exist. A magnetic monopole would be the magnetic equivalent of an electron or proton - a particle where magnetic fields emerge, or vanish from space.
Now, there's actually no strong theoretical reason why magnetic monopoles shouldn't exist. They just don't seem to. We've never seen one, despite many scientists looking for a long time. If they do turn out to exist, it's no disaster. All we need to do is add a "magnetic charge density" to Maxwell's second equation, in place of the zero, analogous to the electric charge density of equation one. Magnetic monopoles are thus good candidates for "exotic particles" in hard science fiction stories. You could probably do some cool things with them, if you could just find one.
On to equation three, which states that "curl of the electric field is minus the rate of change of the magnetic field". On the left side, E is our old friend the electric field. The triangle and cross represent the mathematical operation known as "curl", which is pretty much what is sounds like. The curl of the electric field is a measure of how "curly" it is, how much it twirls around in circles.
In terms of our water flowing analogy, if you look at a river, most of the water has no curl, as it's flowing straight along the riverbed. In some spots, however, the water swirls around in little eddies and whirlpools. At these spots, the curl of the water flow is non-zero. You can measure the curl of flowing water by sticking a tiny paddlewheel in it. If it spins around, the curl is non-zero; if it doesn't, the curl is zero.
The curl of the electric field is equal to... minus the rate of change of magnetic field. (The ∂ symbols and the t on the bottom are the mathematical symbols meaning "rate of change".) Rate of change is exactly what it sounds like: how fast the magnetic field is changing. If the magnetic field isn't changing, then the rate of change is zero, and the electric field is non-curly. If the magnetic field is changing, then the electric field goes curly. If the magnetic field is getting weaker, the rate of change is negative, and the electric field curliness is positive. If the magnetic field is getting stronger, the rate of change is positive, and the electric field curliness is negative - this just means that it rotates in the opposite direction.
How does a magnetic field get stronger or weaker? Well, we're talking about the magnetic field at some point in space. If the magnetic field there is zero, and we bring a magnet close, the magnetic field gets stronger. If we take it away, it gets weaker. Basically, if we wiggle magnets around, we generate changing magnetic fields. Changing magnetic fields generate curliness in the electric field. But what does a curly electric field mean?
Curliness in the electric field pushes electric charges around in circles.
Pause there for a second.
Electric charges going around in circles is an electric current.
Join the dots...
Wiggling. Magnets. Around. Generates. Electric. Currents.
This is the basis of Faraday's breakthrough invention: the electric generator. He realised that if you got some wires, and wiggled some magnets around near them, you would generate electricity. If you get something, say a steam engine, or a water wheel, to wiggle the magnets for you, you have a modern day coal-fired or hydroelectric power station. Without James Clerk Maxwell, his predecessors, and his equations, our lives would be very, very different. I hope you're starting to understand just how important these equations are (if you didn't already know).
And we still have one equation to go.
By now you should be able to read almost all of equation four by yourself. "The curl of the magnetic field equals μo times the letter J, plus μo times εo times the rate of change of electric field." Correct! The new term J refers to current density, which I'll explain in a minute. This equation is a bit of a mouthful, so let's take it one bit at a time.
In fact, let's start with the curl of the magnetic field. How curly is a magnetic field? Well, we've already seen that magnetic field always goes around in loops, from north pole, to south pole, and then back to north pole inside the magnet. Yes, that means it's always curly. The stronger the magnetic field, the tighter the loops are - and the more curly it is. In fact, the curliness of a magnetic field is basically a measure of how strong it is.
So the curliness (or strength) of a magnetic field is equal to μo times current density (plus the other bit, which we'll get to in a moment). Current density is how much electric current is present somewhere. What this part of the equation says is that if you have an electric current, there is always a magnetic field curling around it.
Again, like εo, the μo (Greek letter mu and a subscript zero) term is just a constant number that makes the units of measurement come out right. It's called the permeability of free space. When the magnetic field is measured in teslas and current density in amperes per square metre, μo equals about 0.000001256637061. Again, remember that number.
Notice that this equation is to magnetic field what equation one is to electric field. Equation one says that the amount of electric field depends on the amount of electric charge. Equation four says that the amount of magnetic field depends on the amount of electric current. Curiouser and curiouser...
Now, what about that last extra term: "μo times εo times the rate of change of electric field"? By now, this shouldn't be too hard to understand. If there's an electric field that gets stronger or weaker, it generates magnetic field. That was easy!
That last bit was Maxwell's major achievement, his crowning glory, his enduring and profound addition to our understanding of the universe. What it says is that to generate a magnetic field, you don't even need to have any electric current at all. All you need is a changing electric field.
I hope you'll excuse me if I guide you by the hand through the implications of this.
If you have a changing electric field, you will generate a magnetic field. Imagine you have an electric field that oscillates, wobbling back and forth from positive to negative. That will generate a magnetic field. What's more, because the electric field's rate of change has to change in order to allow it to wobble back and forth, the magnetic field will not be constant, it will change over time.
But remember what equation three told us: if you have a changing magnetic field, you generate an electric field.
The wobbling magnetic field will generate a wobbling electric field. That wobbling electric field generates a wobbling magnetic field. That wobbling magnetic field generates a wobbling electric field...
You can do some mathematics with equations three and four if you assume the current density J is zero (i.e. there are no electric currents). I won't go into the algebra, but they turn into the following:
As you can see, these are completely identical, except that one refers only to electric field, while the other refers only to magnetic field. In essence, what these two equations say is that an electric field that changes in time (on the right) generates an electric field that changes in space (on the left) in a precisely determined way, and likewise for magnetic field. In fact, these equations describe the motion of ripples of electric and magnetic field, which travel through space like waves.
If you know much about differential equations, you can solve these equations to work out the speed at which these waves travel. The speed works out to depend on those numbers εo and μo. The speed is:
Imagine you are James Clerk Maxwell, in 1865, formulating your theory of electricity and magnetism, and writing down your four equations for the first time in history. You write down the terms of these equations based on your experiments with electric batteries, bits of wire, and magnets. You realise you need to define some constants (εo and μo) to make the numbers come out right. You can measure the values of those constants using your batteries and wires and magnets, and you do so. The numbers don't make any sense to you at the time - they're just some sort of constants that nature seems to use. They could be any values at all, as far as you know or care. Anyway, you measure the numbers and you write them down.
You notice that if you apply some algebra to your new equations, you can generate an equation that only refers to the electric field, and an almost identical equation that refers to the magnetic field. You solve them and realise that these equations describe the motions of waves of electric and magnetic fields. You do the algebra to calculate the speed of the waves and realise it depends on those values you measured for εo and μo.
So you do the arithmetic. You take the values you measured for εo and μo, multiply them together, take the square root, and then take the reciprocal. The answer is a speed, so it has units of speed, in this case metres per second. And the answer is very close to 300,000,000 metres per second. Converted into miles, that's a tad over 186,000 miles per second. Being James Clerk Maxwell, and a brilliant physicist, you immediately recognise what this number is.
Where the heck did that come from??
You, James Clerk Maxwell, know in 1865 from the work of Isaac Newton and others that light has certain properties: that white light is composed of multiple colours of light mixed together; that transparent materials such as glass bends rays of light and can be used to focus them into images, such as in telescopes; and that light diffracts through small holes and around sharp edges. This diffraction property can only be explained by supposing that light is made of some sort of waves. But nobody in the world knows what sort of waves they are. Nobody knows what light actually is.
Nobody in the world - except you - knows what light actually is.
When you were writing down your equations, you were thinking about electricity and magnetism. Light was the farthest thing from your mind. You had not the slightest clue (and nor did anyone else) that light was related to electricity or magnetism. But there it is, falling out of your equations.
You realise that you are the first person in all of history to know what light is made of. Can you imagine that feeling?
Maxwell's equations gave humanity, finally, an understanding of what light actually is. His discovery was stunning and revolutionary. Light is electric and magnetic fields, wriggling through space together.
From this breakthrough have come countless other discoveries about the nature of light, as well as its sibling electromagnetic waves: radio, microwaves, infrared and ultraviolet, x-rays, and gamma rays. All these forms of radiation are made of electric and magnetic fields, moving through space at the speed of light, exactly as described by Maxwell's equations. We now know that radio waves, for example, can be generated by switching an electric current on and off at high speed. The electrons in the wires wiggle back and forth, creating wiggling electric fields, which create magnetic fields, and so on - the overall effect being radio waves. And radio waves in turn wiggle the electrons in your radio or TV antenna, creating electric currents that various electric circuits turn back into sound and pictures. I could go on with example after example.
Vast quantities of the technology we use every day makes intimate use of our knowledge of electromagnetism and its interaction with light. Civilisation as we know it would simply not exist without James Clerk Maxwell and his four equations. I hope I've managed to give you some insight into how wonderful they truly are.
2016-07-27 Rerun commentary: Well, there's not much more I can really add to this in the reruns.
Something I can say is that this has been one of the most popular comic annotations that I have written. It's linked from around 200 different sites on the web, and has generated more complimentary email than almost any other strip I've done. (I don't keep an exact count of how many emails I receive for each strip, so it's possible there are one or two other more popular ones. But this one is certainly in the top few.)
Which is very pleasing!
Sometimes it's difficult for me to know whether people like my stuff more for the comic gags and story, or for the occasional informative annotations. I don't think there's any doubt with this one. In all the correspondence Ive received about it, I don't think anyone has complimented the joke in the comic. :-)
grrm @ : Ice Buckets!
Remember all the madness of the Ice Bucket Challenge that swept the world not so long ago?
Sure you do.
If not, here are some reminders:
There were more. Hundreds more. Thousands maybe. But you get the idea.
Silly, right? Celebs, regular people, rich people, poor people, men, women, all dumping ice on their heads and squealing and shivering... and for what? Some cynics compared it to stuffing phone booths or swallowing goldfish or doing the macarena.
Well, not so fast. Turns out all that silliness made a difference.
Read it here: http://nydn.us/2arKgDf
All those buckets of ice may have helped put the freeze on ALS. No, it's not a cure... but it's one battle one in the war against a truly horrible disease.
And I am so pleased that my friends and I could do our tiny little bit, with all the others around the world, in bringing this about.
Current Mood: pleased