Monthly Archives: June 2005

Outta Here

All right, I’m heading off. Actually, I’m not going anywhere (actually, I’m on my way to Virginia for the weekend, but I mean, in the larger sense I’m not going anywhere), I’ll just be working on a novel. As I’ve mentioned, I might pop up in the comments from time to time, and I’ll be keeping the trackbacks and comments free of spam, but I won’t be making entries for a month — and why should I? The awesome and capable guest bloggers will be keeping you amused and entertained. However, if you find you absolutely cannot live without me, I’ll still be putting entries up at By The Way through July, on account that’s what I’m paid to do. Otherwise, have an excellent July and wish me luck. I’ll be immersed in the universe of The Ghost Brigades, and hopefully the end result is that I’ll have a book in which you’ll want to get immersed as well. Take care. See you in a month.

The July Look

In honor of the Guest Bloggers, I’ve given the site a somewhat less John Scalzi-centric look for the month of July. The cloud design in the background seems almost like a Hopi design to me, although that has less to do with me and more to do with the clouds I based it on. Anyway, I think it makes the site look a little more airy, and I hope you like it.

Update: Did a little more tweaking. Looks less Hopi now, I’d say.

Tidbits, 6/29

Random thoughts on a Wednesday:

* All the guest bloggers have popped in to say “hi” and will start blogging in earnest on Friday. I do have to say it’s a little weird to click onto the page and see an entry I don’t remember writing — because I didn’t — but I imagine I’ll get used to it. Everyone else seems to be okay with it.

* In case you’re wondering, I managed to get all the autographing done yesterday, which means I have one more thing to add to my list of Things I’ve Done You Probably Haven’t: signed my name more than 1,500 times in a single day. Surprisingly, my right hand did not snap off at the wrist, so that’s all to the good.

* I’ve been listening to the new Fountains of Wayne album today, and I suspect that the boys in the band have gotten a little too infatuated with their own verbal cleverness, which I suppose is a danger when you are in fact the smartest band in the room. The most recent Ivy album, however (which features FOW member Adam Schlesinger), is pretty damn tasty so far. I’m listening to both on Rhapsody, which remains my pick as possibly the greatest InterWeb invention evah, since I can listen to tons of music until my ears pop for just $10 a month (Yahoo Music does the same thing for even cheaper – $5 to $7 a month depending on the plan you buy — but I don’t like the interface, and I can afford the extra $3 a month not to be annoyed).

In case one wonders whether this means that I will never buy music again, I’ll note that I am downloading Welcome Interstate Managers even as I write this, because being underwhelmed by the new FOW reminded me that I liked the last album hugely and kept meaning to buy it, and yet I hadn’t. Well, now I have (on iTunes, so I can suck it into the iPod when I want). Have a cup of coffee on me, Fountains of Wayne!

For all that, I have recently been seriously considering getting a Creative Zen Micro for the express purpose taking advantage of Rhapsody’s downloadable ability — you can download rented tracks onto a Zen Micro and take them with you where you go. I am not philosophically opposed to the concept of renting music, and to be entirely honest, the reason I’d do something like that is to have handy access to music I already own on CD that I haven’t already ripped. For example, I have a whole bunch of Brain Eno ambient music, as does Rhapsody, and it’s just a hell of a lot easier to call it up on Rhapsody (or, alternately, download it and take it with me when I go) than it is to dig the CD out of storage and burn it. I don’t want to have to buy all that music again, which I would have to do with iTunes — I’m not that lazy — but having a rented version? Sure, why not.

It is annoying that I would have to get a Zen Micro to do this, since I already have an iPod mini, and it would be nice just to use that instead, but that’s Apple for you. Anyway, the iPod actually belongs to Krissy, who is very, uh, proprietary toward it; I had to negotiate to borrow it last weekend when I went on a trip. The only drawback with the Zen Micro would be that I wouldn’t be able to load up the albums I’ve bought on iTunes (again, thanks to Apple’s buttheaded-ness), but as I can use download rented versions from Rhapsody, eh, who cares.

While I’m thinking about it, last weekend was the first time I had a chance to really spend time with the iPod, and you know what? Those earbuds well and truly suck. I ended up ditching them for a more comfortable pair of headphones. This is another example of Apple aesthetics getting in the way of actual usage, although to be fair to the iPod mini itself, it is a sweet little machine.

* I didn’t watch Bush’s speech last night because I honestly didn’t expect him to say anything of any use, and judging from the transcripts, I was not wrong to do else with my time. What I think is telling is the fact that hauling out 9/11 didn’t seem to do the President much good this time around; people have lived with the Iraq war long enough now to have become used to the idea that there really never was was a connection between 9/11 and our tromping through Baghdad so Dubya could avenge his dad. I don’t see how the national opinion of the value of the Iraq war is going to get any better from here on out, and while I don’t think most Americans actually support leaving Iraq at the moment as it is (i.e., vulnerable to the terrorists whose supposed relationship with the former government was the “reason” we went in), I also think they think they got sold a bill of goods, and they’re not all too pleased at the fella who sold it to them, at the cost of more than 1,500 American lives to this point. In short, I don’t think Dubya’s going to get any more popular between now and 2008, and I can’t say as I think this is a bad thing.

* Good on Canada — looks like soon anyone there will be able to marry anyone else they choose, as long as they stick to the “one spouse to a customer” rule. In other news, it’s been well over a year since people could marry members of their own sex in Massachusetts, and yet my own marriage has yet to be threatened — even once! — by the fact. I keep checking, of course, ever-vigilant that the forces of same-sex matrimony are tearing apart my own relationship, but strangely, they don’t seem much interested in me or my marriage. Honestly, I feel a little ripped-off about that. I was promised wholesale marriage discord by the religious conservatives! Where’s my refund?

And Thursdays are safe with (wait…who’s this guy – the one with the kid and such?)

So as the previously-unacquainted blogger mentioned by John as the one with an interesting personal site, I pull up last place on the introductions as your Thursdays in July “Must See Newbie.” I’m very impressed with the accomplished shtick presented by my fellow guest hosts and the overall quality of what gets chewed on as phat herein. But then again, I’m a new Dad, so I’m impressed by a weighty diaper and occasional indiscernible phrases…so don’t put too much faith in my grander view. I’ll throw my considerably sporty frame that’s only mostly gone to seed into the heavy lifting, nonetheless. Expect plenty of offerings on politics, sports, lit diversions, writing schools, sausage making, Jarts (unfortunately not really a sport…yet), kitten juggling, Cullyforneeya (I live in San Francisco), Sheena Easton (pre-Prince side-project), theories of relativity or like something sorta similarish, TiVo, the homeless, the home-more (I’m a stay at home Dad), and the career of Keith David (not David Keith). Of course not in that order.

So sit back, then stand up, then sit back again. And I hope you’ll enjoy my contributions to the community while you catch your breath. Rock on.

Stuck in the Middle with You

Ron Hogan here, your Wednesday guest host. Scalzi and I used to fight pirates on the open seas of Usenet back in the mid-’90s; ahhh, those were the days, when people not only still spoke about “Generation X,” but were actually willing to identify themselves as part of it… I stumbled onto Whatever a few months ago, when I recognized his name on the book jacket of Old Man’s War, and it was a joyous reunion for us two great tools of the liberal media empire. Today, I make my contributions to the decline of western civilization from Beatrice.com, where I blog about books and authors in the news and my own adventures at New York City literary events. I’m also updating my Gen X credentials by publishing my first book this fall, a pictorial tribute to ’70s films called The Stewardess Is Flying the Plane. As you can imagine, there’s a really sweet Karen Black pic on the cover, with about 300 more photographs inside. Not all of Karen Black.

My, it’s hot in here!

Not the blog. I’m actually posting from the road, as part of my fabulous and action-packed professional life as Laurel Halbany, Esq. It’s a hundred freakin’ degrees here, and I’m hiding in my air-conditioned hotel room, smacking myself in the head for having packed a wool suit. Fashion sense, thy name is somebody else’s.

I guess I qualify as a “professional writer” if that means “getting paid for having had something published in a real magazine or book,” to the tune of one (1) short story; lots of bits here and there, some paid and some not, in fanzines and gaming books and on the Web. Most of the writing I get paid to do involves saying things like “hereinbefore” and “triable issues of material fact clearly exist”; but I refuse to assault your tender eyes with such language any further, Gentle Reader.

I hornswoggled Mr. Scalzi into letting me be your Tuesday entertainment by promising to write more stuff like the penis post and not so much with the griping about the asbestos bill. Rumors that I sold my pet cat into an unspeakable fate for the privilege of guest-blogging will be summarily denied.

Dashing in, slightly out of breath…

John seems to be batting a thousand on his daily assignments, as he gave Saturdays to the Jewish guy. Luckily, I’m a bacon cheeseburger kind of Jewish guy (ham and cheese on matzoh for Passover), so this shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

Hello, everyone, I’m your redundant backup Scalzi for the next few Saturdays. Name’s Jeff, and I’m the token non-professional writer here—which is to say, I’ve written one book and I’m writing another, but there’s been a ten-year stretch in between. Looking around at my fellow guest hosts, that appears to put me in the distinct minority.

And naturally, the email from John asking for introductions came during three concurrent crises with my clients, so my hello will be uncharacteristically brief. A longer introduction forthcoming after a few web servers I could mention stop emitting smoke and setting off the Halon systems.

(And to be serious for just a second—hey, it’s an honor to be here. I respect John and I respect the Republic of Scalzi, and so I’ll be doing my best to keep you entertained. Many thanks to the Grand High Poohbah.)

Testing, testing …

Hey all, Claire here, your Scalzi-July-replacement for Fridays. Very excited. Very excited. I’d give you a more complete intro, but I was planning on making that my first entry in July and frankly, I just don’t have that many ideas, so I’ll still need to do that.

Instead, I’ll talk about Scalzi. Obviously he thinks I’m a loser, since he gave me Friday. Actually, Scalzi, I do have a social life. Just ask my mom. Also, Scalzi seems to be copping to the fact that he needs some sort of affirmative action program on this website. Notice the underrepresentation of women among his July bloggers, and the severe underrepresentation of Asians. Since my other blogging gig is as one of five or six regular bloggers from the staff of Asian American Hyphen Magazine (over there I have Sunday, as befits my active tv watching schedule), and since I spend my weekly blogging space taking advertisers to task for using racist stereotypes, clearly Scalzi thought he could kill two straw men with one stone. We’ve seen this tactic before, Scalzi, and we shall overcome.

More on Friday. Surely one hadn’t planned on allowing me to set the tone?

Misspent Youth

I’ve made a living off of my misspent youth. More about that in a minute.

Scalzi-san’s been kind enough to assign me Mondays, which should get everyone’s week off to a stumbling start. In about three weeks I’ll join the ranks as one of John’s publishers, when we release his novel, Agent to the Stars. I’ve met John twice, and can tell you he’s bright, short, bald, dresses better than most authors, and gestures with his hands when excited. His table manners are excellent. He claims to be able to dance, but, thankfully, I’ve seen no evidence of that.

Back to my youth. Like many a geek, I spent most of my free time buried in one book after another, one magazine or another. Everything from drawing room mysteries to thrillers to SF to my monthy dose of Asimov’s Science Fiction. Naturally enough, I grew up to be a publisher.

I’ve earned my living running Subterranean Press for the past five years, where we’ve published the likes of Joe R. Lansdale, Dan Simmons, Orson Scott Card, Charles de Lint, and many others. We release 25 hardcovers a year, with print runs ranging from 500 to over 5000 copies.

Enough of the backstory. Starting Monday, I aim to talk a little bit about the smaller end of publishing, the things that are important to an outfit such as ours, what we can offer to readers and writers. If you have specific questions you want answered, I’m glad to consider them.

See you Monday.

Holy Crap!

Yes, I agreed to sign all 1,500 copies of Agent to the Stars. But Hoppin’ Jesus in a Sequined Vest! I didn’t realize what 1,500 copies meant until a freakin’ huge box appeared at my door today, with 1,500 actual pages to sign. That’s three reams of paper. And I’ve got to do it all in the next several days.

All I can say is this book damn well better sell out. I’m scribbling myself into crippling tendonitis, here. (Buy it from Subterranean Press! Or Amazon! Really, either way).

And now I’m off to find some pens.

Scardown Hits the Shelves

Elizabeth Bear’s Scardown is in the stores today: It’s the followup to her debut novel Hammered, which I liked quite a bit and which has been very popular, as signified by the fact that when we were at Wiscon signing books right next to each other, she signed a lot more copies of Hammered than I did of Old Man’s War. She’s also nominated for the Campbell Award this year for best new writer, so this will probably be your last chance to jump on the Elizabeth Bear bandwagon before it becomes overburdened by all the Johnny-Come-Latelies. And you know how they are.

Winter In July, Film At 11

Hello, I’m Jim Winter. I’m that snarky small press writer who occasionally pops up in the comments section here. I’m not sure how I got picked for this gig, but it may have something to do with Old Man’s War and The Book of the Dumb both being on my recommended reads list for extended periods.

I am a crime fiction writer who holds a mind-numbing day job at an insurance company in Cincinnati. Never mind which one. Aren’t they all mind-numbing? I mean, it’s insurance.

So what am I doing taking up space on a science fiction writer’s blog? Ask anyone I went to high school with (who isn’t dead or in prison.) They’re all shocked, shocked, I tell youse, I’m not trying to become the Second Coming of Gene Roddenberry. It’s all well and good. Everything I wanted to do in science fiction’s been done. I leave it to folks like John to reinvent the genre.

John, in his infinite wisdom, has opted to give me the Sunday slot, which means one of these will fall during a business trip. (During that time, my own blog will have a guest blogger.) I suppose he intends me to post more contemplative posts fitting for a quiet Sunday morning.

I neglected to tell him Sundays are usually when I post lists of people who need to be forced to wear gasoline-soaked underwear during a Tony Robbins firewalk.

Don’t worry, John. I promise to behave myself.

Maybe badly, but I’ll behave myself.

Meet the Guest Bloggers

As I mentioned earlier, I had several dozen applicants for the position of guest bloggers for July, and from those many worthy applicants, I selected seven — one for each day of the week. Ladies and gentlemen, here are your Whatever Guest Bloggers for July (click on each name for their home blog/site):

Jim Winter
William Schafer
Laurel Halbany
Ron Hogan
Eric Magnuson
Claire Light
Jeff Porten

You ask: Why did I pick these folks, and not, say, you? Well, as this is the first time I’ll have guest bloggers here, I tended to go with people I already knew, either in person or through online correspondence, and I also tended to go with people who are active in publishing, either as authors, editors or in some other capacity. Which is not to say that I didn’t pick from outside of these criteria: One guest blogger here I don’t think I corresponded with prior to selecting him; I just thought his personal site was interesting. But overall I went with people who had some track record with which I felt comfortable.

If you were not selected, take comfort in knowing that it was actually fairly difficult to pick folks. There are some people who I didn’t have guest blog this time around who I would love to hand the reins to if I take another break sometime down the road. It was an embarrassment of riches, really it was. So thanks. I am pleased to see that opening up the process did provide such quality results.

I’ve asked the guest bloggers to pop in here over the next couple of days (i.e., prior to July 1) to introduce themselves and tell y’all a little about who they are, etc. And when July 1 rolls around I’ll step out and they’ll step in. The idea is that one guest blogger will “anchor” one day a week (i.e., that’s a day I’ve asked them to post something, so there are no gaps), but any of the guest bloggers is welcome to post at any time, on any subject they like, in any manner they choose fit. Where will I be? Hopefully finishing up a novel.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m excited about this. I think this is a great group of writers, and I’m pretty sure by the end of the month you’ll all be formulating ways to bump me off so they can keep on blogging here. Just remember that most of them have their own blogs, so even when they’re not here, you can keep reading them. This will keep you happy and me alive. Everybody wins.

Comments Out

FYI – The comment function appears to be disabled at the moment. I’m on it to get it working again.

Update 9:01 pm: They seem to be functioning again. But don’t take my word for it — leave a comment.

That’s a request, actually. I know I can leave a comment. I want to see if you can. If you can’t, send me an e-mail.

Attempting Upgrade

I’m going to try upgrading my Movable Type now. If the site is inexplicably gone for some reason, that’s why. Of course, this note will only work if — in fact — you have read it before the site implodes. Well, that’s a chance I’ll have to take.

Update, 5:45: Ah, I feel so competent. Looks like I managed the upgrade!

Supreme Court Rulings, Etc

Thoughts on today’s Supreme Court rulings and other stuff:

* It looks like the Court’s “Split the Baby” rulings on the 10 Commandments in courthouses and on government land hasn’t made anyone happy, so I figure that probably means it’s not a bad pair of rulings. As far as it goes for me, I tend to feel that the Commandments in the actual courthouse is a little too God-huggy for me, but I can’t really bring myself to care if there’s some slab o’ Judeo-Christian rules somewhere on the court property. For example, a couple towns over from me, in Troy, the courthouse grounds has one of those 10 Commandment slabs that was handed out by the Fraternal Order of Eagles right around the time The Ten Commandments came out in the theaters. It’s located in one of the far corners of the court’s grounds, nowhere near the actual courthouse, and honestly, who the hell cares. Although I do wonder if the courthouses that have the 10Cs in their courtyards would be required to also exhibit a monuments with Islamic laws or say, some of the precepts of Scientology, if someone came around toting such monuments to give away to the courthouses of this great land.

* I think the Grokster ruling is particularly interesting. It points out the elephant in the room regarding Grokster, which is that it really was a system designed to take up the thievery slack from Napster (which is, of course, now a paid service), and that’s a legitimate issue. However, it doesn’t invalidate the hallowed Betamax ruling, from what I understand; i.e., just because something can be used incidentally for copyright infringement, this will not be an excuse to punt the product out of the market or otherwise make it illegal.

My own (not a lawyer) reading of the ruling suggests there’s a simple way around this for producers of file-sharing software and other software that would facilitate copyright theft, which is to make sure the marketing of the product/software accentuates and facilitates the legal uses of the software, and/or offer a rudimentary way within the software for copyright holders to flag their properties as copyrighted, and illegal to copy through the network (for books, for example, a string of non-related sentences that are located within the text, tied to a search function for uploaded files). Would determined copyright holders get around this stuff? Of course they would, but the software manufacturers can show they’ve made an effort to instruct end users in the correct usage of the software.

What also make this easier for future designers is the fact there is a wealth of freely-distributed material out there, particularly music and text. Preload your software with pointers to that freely-available material and out of the box you’re promoting the legal and legitimate uses of file-sharing (or whatever), and that the software is designed with this sort of thing in mind. I could be off on this, mind you (that’s the whole “I’m not a lawyer” bit raising its head), but I suspect that this is a ruling that is easily routed around.

* Someone noted to me that there was a Wikipedia entry on me. I knew I was referenced in a couple of Wikipedia entries (my logs show when someone swings by via the Mike Krahulik entry) but I wasn’t aware someone put in something about me directly. And the even better news is that while brief, it is also factually correct. Which is always nice.

* I am still accepting applications for guest bloggers for July through tonight, so if you’d still like to apply but haven’t, there’s still a little time. I’ll probably mail people who have applied with the yeas and nays tomorrow at some point. At this time there are a few dozen applicants, so simply by numbers involved, most of you will get a “nay,” but I still haven’t made final selections, so late applicants still have a chance. How many guest bloggers I ultimately select will actually be dependent on whether I can upgrade my Movable Type license from a “personal basic” one to a “personal unlimited” one (i.e., whether I’m smart enough to do an upgrade install). If I can, I may pick as many as seven. If I can’t, I’ll pick four. I will of course share my selections with you after I make them.

1000

This is the 1000th Whatever entry since I switched over to Movable Type in March of 2003. This is not actually the 1000th entry of the Whatever, however — the entries of the Whatever prior to March of 2002, three and a half years of entries, are currently MIA (if you’re insanely interested you can pull them up off archive.org). Fold those in and this is closer to entry 1600 or 1700. Maybe I’ll get around to adding those in at some point, but I wouldn’t stay up nights waiting for it. I am notoriously lazy.

Whatever number entry this truly is, it’s a large enough number that I am reminded I have been doing this a very long time now — seven years this September, which make this officially my longest-lasting writing gig. Certainly other people have clocked in more entries in a similar amount of time (especially “true” blogs, where the entries just a few sentences), but I like to think that Whatever has maintained a reasonably high standard of readability through those several years and four figures worth of entries. I am pretty proud of the work I do here.

Although I am famously always saying that I write the Whatever for myself, I do appreciate that so many of you take time out of your day to swing on by and see whatever damn fool thing it is I am saying today. So for you long-time Whatever readers, thanks. I’ll try to make the next thousand entries as interesting as the ones that have preceded them — and if we’re all lucky, maybe even more so.

The picture has nothing to do with anything, incidentally. I just thought it was a nice picture of Krissy and Athena.

Soliciting Guest Bloggers

I’ve decided to take off the month of July in order to get a little work done (which you should understand to mean I’m just a smidge behind on The Ghost Brigades, and given its relatively tight release schedule, I don’t want to give the wonderful folks at Tor a major panic attack). Rather than shutter the Whatever, however, I thought I’d turn it over to some guest bloggers for the month.

So here’s the deal: I’m looking for five guest bloggers to ran rampant around here for the month of July. My plan is to assign each guest blogger a certain day of the week (weekends off); they may post here on any day, but they would have to post on the agreed-upon day. That way I know there would be something here every day. They can write whatever they want (because that’s what I do) but they have to keep the general standards I keep, i.e., I don’t want this to suddenly become a den o’ porn (sorry, guys).

The selection criteria: You have to write well. That’s pretty much it. Having said that, it will help if you already have a blog/journal so I can see examples, and while I’m not opposed to letting someone I don’t know fiddle around here, your chances are slightly better if I already sort of know who you are. I will try for a nice range of guests, but I suppose it depends on who applies. Also, of course, please don’t hate me if I don’t pick you. You know I love you.

What do you get out of it? Well, the Whatever typically clocks 8K to 10K visitors a day, which is fairly decent, so there’s some good exposure there, particularly if you already have your own blog/journal — perhaps some Whatever readers will follow you home. And as long as every entry of yours isn’t “hey, look what I’ve written over here!” I’m perfectly happy to let you self-promote. Also, you have the benefit of some of the most excellent commenters around, as the Whatever regulars are a damn sharp group. And, oh, I don’t know, maybe I’ll get you all some nice gift or something. Or maybe an Amazon gift certificate. Or a pony.

How to apply: Send me an e-mail. Put “GUEST BLOGGER: [your name here]” in the subject header. Tell me why I should let you wreck the joint. If you have a blog/journal, include a link so I can see it. If you’ve got any other writing experience (books, articles, interpretive crayon stylings), let me know, too. If you want to send a writing sample, drop it in the e-mail itself, don’t attach it. Attachments make me twitchy.

I’m out for the weekend but I’ll make my selections by next Wednesday, so be ready to hop into action. And naturally, if you have any questions, drop them in the comment thread so I can answer them once in stead of over and over again in e-mail (which means you should also read the comment thread to see if your questions have already been asked by someone else, and answered by me). Thanks!

Cracking the Flag-Burning Amendment

I’ve gone on before about why any Constitutional Amendment to ban burning or otherwise desecrating the flag of the United States of America would be cracked the very second it was passed, but apparently asking the members of the House of Representatives to read is too much to hope for. So for the members of Senate, who vote on the proposed Amendment soon, and the members of the 50 state legislatures here in the US, allow me to offer this visual primer on How to Crack the Flag Burning Amendment.

First, for reference, the American Flag:

amflag1.jpg

If you want to get fiddly about it, here are the actual government specs for the flag, dictating what the standard dimensions of the flag would be, down to the Pantone colors used in the flag. As the proposed Amendment allows Congress and the states to prohibit desecration of the US Flag, let us assume — for the sake of argument — that the flag is defined by these standard dimensions. Got it? Fine. Here we go:

An American Flag? Hardly. It has only 49 stars! There’s a circle where a star should be. Certainly an American Flag had 49 stars, but it didn’t look like this (it looked like this).The true 49-star flag would likely be covered by the Amendment, but this one, not so much. Use it for kindling!

Three cheers for the Red, White and Gray? I think not — use this one to swaddle a horse. Then feed that horse lots of grain.

The 13 red and white stripes represent the original 13 colonies of the United States — but what’s this? One of the stripes has gone flaming pink! Clearly it’s the stripe for Massachusetts. But whichever former colony it represents, we don’t salute the pink, white and blue. Use this one to mop up vomit after a Socialist Party USA beer bash!

Green, white and orange. Man, that’s not even trying. Use it as a dropcloth for that goat slaughter you have planned.

The 48-star flag flew over America for nearly 50 years, the longest reign of any US flag. But this isn’t that flag. This is just some cheap and tawdry knockoff of the American flag suitable for, oh, let’s say, being torn into strips and used as emergency feminine protection.

Red, white and blue? Check. 13 stripes? Check. 50 stars? Check. Well, then it must be an Americ– hey. Wait a minute. Isn’t that the Hamburgler in the bottom right corner? I may not know much, but I do know that the great Flag of the United States of America does not feature a second-tier corporate mascot, especially one with acknowledged — indeed, celebrated – criminal tendencies. This is not the American flag. Let’s soak it in gasoline and roast weenies!

Now, aside from not being the flag of the United States of America, what else do these last six objects have in common? Well, what they have in common is that each and every one of them would fail what I like to call the “VFW Test,” which is conducted like so:

1. Go to your local VFW hall on the 4th of July.
2. Burn the flag-like object in the parking lot.
3. See if you don’t get your ass kicked.

Do you think a mob of angry veterans won’t kick your ass for burning the flag, just because one of the stars is a circle, or one of the stripes is pink, or you’ve embossed the Hamburgler into the corner? As if. You’ll get a stomping, all right, because it looks like an American flag, even if it is not, and burning it feels like you’re burning the American flag, even if you’re not.

And of course, that’s the point: by not burning the Flag of the United States but rather something excruciatingly close to it, you’re not violating a Constitutional Amendment, but engaging in free speech, which is of course covered by the First Amendment. You’re getting all the impact of burning the US flag, with none of the Constitutional risk (although you may still get your ass kicked by angry veterans). You’ve cracked the flag-burning Amendment.

Alternately, one could simply dispose of a worn and soiled American Flag in the acknowledged respectful and non-desecrating manner of burning it (see U.S. Flag Code, Section 8, subsection (k)), and, while respectfully burning that worn and soiled flag, in a public place, simultaneously and independently engage in political speech.

“Protecting” the flag with a Constitutional Amendment won’t solve the not-at-all pressing problem of people burning flags for political protest. They’ll still do it. They’ll simply do it in ways that will now additionally mock the stupidity of those who love the symbol of American freedoms more than they love actual American freedoms. And no matter how expansively Congress defines “the American Flag” there will always be something that is not the flag, but is close enough in its shape and structure to feel just like the flag. And there will be the people who will use that not-quite-flag-like object to protest.

And you know what? Good for them. They’re being better Americans than those who would pass a flag-burning Amendment. Real Americans don’t take away the freedoms of other Americans.

Interaction Panel Schedule

Interaction (this year’s Worldcon) has mailed me my final panel schedule:

Thursday 5:00pm
How to Participate in and Moderate a Panel

Janice Gelb (M)
Eileen Gunn
Ellen Klages
John Scalzi

Notes: I suppose this is proof people do actually read the InterWeb.

Friday 12:00 noon
The Immortal in Written and Media SF

Ginjer Buchanan
Tanya Huff
Fiona McIntosh
Elaine Nichol
John Scalzi (M)

The immortal characters are a staple of SF and Fantasy. How do the
written and media genres cope with characters who look at the world
without our cultural assumptions.

Notes: This proves someone at Interaction has a sense of humor. When the preliminary panel assignments came out I wrote back telling them they should take me off the panel, since I haven’t written an immortal character nor do I have any plans to. Not only have they not taken me off the panel, they’ve gone and made me moderator. Very cute. But: I accept, and now I’ll read up on the subject and the other panelists’ work so I can intelligently direct traffic as the moderator. I don’t write immortal characters, but I think up of some interesting things to ask the people who do.

Saturday 7:00pm
Is Blogging Helping or Hurting Your Career?

Michael Cobley
Eileen Gunn
Benjamin Rosenbaum
John Scalzi (M)
Martha Wells

Is you blog taking over your life — or your writing? Are you
talking too much about writing and not actually writing, or is your
blog helping you to write better?

Notes: Heh. Yeah, I guess I know a little about this topic.

There you have it.