There’s something just so… satisfying about using Metallica lyrics to title this post.

As you may have heard, there is an Internet Blackout going on right now. Wikipedia’s English site has gone black for the day, HuffPo has covered its usual front page with a giant black square, Reddit has plans to shut its doors for a while, and there are plenty of other sites around the web that are going dark as a protest against the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).

In a nutshell… Well, I’m going to let this explain it, because I’d probably muck it up:

Got all that?

On my scale of trust levels, internet movements don’t rank all that high. Any time some brush fire gets started online, I’m usually sure that either it’s inflating things out of proportion or outright lying. But this rings much truer than most, and even if it’s not as bad as it’s being made out to be, it’s still very important that we make it crystal clear to Congress and Commerce – both of which I trust about as much as I do the guy who sells discount Viagra out of the trunk of his car [1] – that we do not want our internet fucked with.

Any more than it already has been, of course.

To that end, I’ll be joining the Blackout, thanks to the special settings that WordPress.com has introduced to its blogs. This site – as well as the Labyrinth Library and Year of Stories – will go dark on January 18th at 1 AM, UTC (about four hours from this writing) and return at 1 PM, UTC. It will sport a “Stop Censorship” banner until the vote date, which is January 24th.

In the meantime, if you are a US citizen, you can contact your Senators and Representative and voice your disapproval. If you’re not in the US, you can use the same link (and scroll down a bit) to contact the State Department and protest. After all, what the US does with the internet affects the world, and don’t think for a second that your government wouldn’t give some thought to adopting identical laws if they were successful in the States.

I’ll leave you with a quote that I grabbed from Wil Wheaton:

“Why is it that when Republicans and Democrats need to solve the budget and the deficit, there’s deadlock, but when Hollywood lobbyists pay them $94 million dollars to write legislation, people from both sides of the aisle line up to co-sponsor it?”
–Reddit Founder Alexis Ohanian on CNBC.

I have a feeling that it’s a rhetorical question.

Anyway, see you on the other side.


[1] You bastard!

In which I am almost, but not entirely, like Ultra Boy

It’s very important that I write something. Over the winter break, I picked up a bunch of games off Steam – Batman: Arkham Asylum, L.A. Noire, Grand Theft Auto IV, Bastion, The Binding of Isaac – they call to me. They want to help me eat up vast amounts of time without really realizing it. They want to sap away my precious intellectual juices in a haze of car crashes and Batarangs.

On the other hand, I stole a SWAT truck!

As much fun as that sounds, I do have work to do. Not school work, though that wouldn’t be a bad idea. I have my own work to do – writing.

Last year, I got really lazy with writing book reviews, which isn’t really a sound strategy when you’re the sole writer for an internationally-known book review podcast. [1] With every week that I do the show, my backlist of reviews diminishes by one, and sooner or later I’ll be at a point where I have to actually write one review a week just to catch up. That’ll be the point where I’ll have to either end the podcast or put it on a hiatus, because there’s no way I can pull that off for very long.

So, one of my resolutions for this year is to get back in the saddle of review-writing, and make sure I always have plenty of reviews to choose from each week. As of this writing, I have a backlist of 48 reviews. That’s great. Unfortunately, half of them are either Wheel of Time reviews or Discworld. So I need to get moving on this and try to put some variety back in the stacks. I have a lot of old, pre-podcast reviews that I can beef up, but a lot of those are for books I no longer own. That means doing a bit of research to remember what they were about, to say nothing of cursing out Past Chris for not writing more thoroughly.

The other work I have to do, of course, is writing fiction. I’m still plugging along on my fic-a-day work, and have decided that in January I will use only all-new characters. That’s not as hard as it sounds, but after seven months it does seem to take a little more energy every day just to get started on writing. I know I have to do it, but I find other things to do, and that’s never a good sign. It also brings me to the title of this post.

His Ultra-Smooth is always on, though. Another difference between him and me.

In case you’re not familiar with him, Ultra Boy is a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, a group that battles interstellar menaces in the far future of the DC Universe. Ultra Boy is a character with pretty run-of-the-mill powers – super-speed, invulnerability, great strength, and so on – but with one rather strange caveat: he can only use one of his powers at a time.

The idea is that his body is full of some kind of “ultra-energy” that can allow him to do amazing things, but he has to consciously will it to do what he wants. And there’s not really enough of it to go around. So, he can be really fast, but not inhumanly strong, or he can be super-strong and yet vulnerable to an enemy’s weapons. It’s an interesting twist, and part of what makes him more than just Superboy with some stubble.

Now while I cannot, as of this writing, fly or shoot lasers out of my eyes, I do feel a kind of kinship with Ultra Boy. I have creative energy that I can do pretty good things with. I’m not superheroic or anything, but I’m certainly not bad. The trouble is that I can only use it for one creative outlet at a time. So if I’m writing, it means that I’m not drawing or doing photography. If I start getting more caught up in photography, then the writing will stop. If I feel the drawing itch kick in, then that’ll be it for the photography, and so on.

I hear Fitzgerald did this all the time.

The thing is, I don’t really have a lot of control over when my creative outlet is going to switch from one thing to another, or if it’ll just stop altogether – which has happened before. So when I get to a point like where I am today, where I just want to switch off my brain and hijack cars all night, I start to worry that this is the first sign of The Switch. I really want to continue with writing, and I have no plans to stop doing the podcast. But perhaps my subconscious has other things in mind for me.

The obvious solution, of course, is to soldier on. To write something, even if it’s half-assed and half-hearted, just so I can say, “Well, I did it.” But at the same time, I don’t want it to become a chore. I don’t want it to become just one more damn thing I have to do every day. I’m not making money off the podcast or the fiction, so the main reason I do it, really, is for my own enjoyment. And if I don’t enjoy it, then what’s the point?

Anyway, all that is neither here nor there. I’ll keep on keeping on, and monitoring myself to see what’s keeping me on track and what’s trying to nudge me off it. Self-knowledge is a good thing, if a little tricky at times.


[1] There are people in other countries who listen to it. So I’m just being accurate.

Iowa, O Iowa

We should all just re-use this picture. It's gonna happen eventually...

Just a short note, covering a couple of things.

1) I’m going for a blogging schedule of at least once a week this year. No guarantees on content, and it’ll probably get politics-heavy as 2012 drags on. And there’ll be some maniacal cackling and / or pleas for a swift death after December 21st, but disregard that.

2) Explain to me why we care about the Iowa Caucuses again? I mean, aside from the fact that the only people who are going to participate are the hard-core wonks from either side, a quick look at their record seems to suggest that someone ought to just build a giant coin-flipper in the middle of downtown Des Moines. Seriously, when there’s not an incumbent running for re-election, it’s a 50% accuracy rate at best.

Actually, now that I jot down the results, in races where there was no Democratic incumbent, Iowa picked the eventual nominee 4 out of 6 times. In races with no Republican incumbent, Iowa Republicans picked the eventual nominee 2 out of 5.

So what does this mean? It means stop encouraging these people. And by “these people,” I mean the candidates, the media, and the self-absorbed partisans who participate in this charade in the belief that what they’re doing actually has any influence.

Oh, and just for fun: the New Hampshire Primaries are only slightly more predictive, but only for the GOP. In the same races as above, the Democratic NH winner went on to be the nominee in 3 out of 6 years, and the Republican did so in 3 out of 5.

Man, if I’m this cynical now, just wait until things really get rolling…