Andrew Willett, at it again.

Category: misc. Page 2 of 52

So very, very misc.

Public Service Announcement: DateTags and MT4

For those using StaggerNation’s DateTags plugin with Movable Type 4 (or, presumably, 5): there was a change in the MT3 —> MT4 transition with how entries’ date information is handled. This change can make DateTags behave in odd ways in cases where posts are assigned publishing dates other than the dates on which they were originally written — for instance, if you’re writing entries today and assigning publishing dates three weeks from now, because you’re using DateTags to create a calendar of upcoming events. To address this problem, do a global find-and-replace in your plugins/ file: where you see created_on, replace it with authored_on.

That is all.

Shut Up and Tell Her What She Needs to Know, or What I Am Willing to Put Up With When Connie Willis Is Pulling the Strings

Greetings from page 26, or the end of Chapter 3, of Connie Willis’s new novel Blackout, which is where I closed the book when stepping off the bus to tonight’s rehearsal. It’s another time-travel novel1 centered on the historians of Oxford University, who — because the laws of time travel as they are understood prevent pretty much anything else — bounce around through the less-scrutinized corners of the past, observing the goings-on and not affecting much of anything. And while in general I see holding a copy of a new Connie Willis book in my hands as a good thing, I am concerned. I shall discuss my concerns in a nonspoilery fashion below.

What gave me pause? Well, it’s the way in which I couldn’t even get to the end of the chapter without saying, Oh no, we’re not playing this game again, are we? The game being the one where someone has a piece of important information to impart that, because of communications difficulties (bad handwriting, something blowing up, an inability to get a moment to sit down and talk like grownups for just 30 seconds), cannot be imparted; and thus is the plot created, a long chain of missed connections and misunderstandings and oh my god I am going to reach right into this book and slap all of you until you sit around a table and calmly compare notes. Willis has employed this trick before, of course, and depending on your tolerance for this particular flavor of contrivance you may feel she does it very well: I loved her time-travelers-do-Victorian-travel-memoirs romcom To Say Nothing of the Dog, which is full of it, as is her time-traveler-free romcom Bellwether. There’s even some of it in her wrenching debut novel Doomsday Book: somebody knows what’s going on, and if only he could just relay it to the right person the book would be a hell of a lot shorter and less eventful.

But it does get irritating after a while, or perhaps as time has gone by and I have put more energy into telling stories myself it has become harder for me to ignore a big noisy machine marked PLOT DEVICE DO NOT TOUCH sitting in the corner of the room. And so when in Chapter 3 — in which we see many, many people trying to get important information out of people they can’t locate, because no one’s ever where they’re expected to be — there’s an extended sequence revolving around an illegible phone message that the surly roommate has taken but is unavailable to explicate, I had a moment of panic. But by the end of the chapter the roommate has been found and cajoled into translating and events have moved on. At which point I decided that Willis had been fucking with our heads and heaved a great relieved sigh. We’ll see, I guess. I’m probably being way too optimistic.

Thinking about this sequence, though, revealed a bigger problem, or at least a big thorny weirdness, with the book. Because the narrative “now,” the future era from which these time travelers are setting forth, is 2060, and people are still getting crucial, time-sensitive information to one another by calling their rooms and asking their roommates to leave a note by the telephone. It would seem that we’re reading about a future in which nobody knows how to send a text message, in which nobody thinks to send an e-mail to all graduate researchers that says, “You will have noticed that we’re rescheduling all your trips into the past on short notice, and here’s why it has to be this way,” in which it’s impossible to ping your roommate with a simple WHERE R U? And that, in a novel published this year, is kind of nuts.

I think it’s because we’re looking at a future that is already nearly 30 years old. Willis’s short story “Fire Watch,” which established this continuity, was published in 1983, and Doomsday Book came out in 1992. And given the state of technology then, it probably never occurred to Willis that her future of 2060 needed to be mapped out via the ubiquitous smart phones and text messaging of 2010. (See also the dazzling future of 2001 in Carl Sagan’s Contact, written in 1985: the big schmancy technology in that book is the wondrous “telefax.”) Perhaps, having envisioned a world without such devices, Willis feels obliged to stick with her original set of tools. I know that trying to pull off such a retcon would feel like cheating to me if I were writing it. What do you think?

I rambled on at some length2 about all this to one of my fellow singers on the crosstown bus after rehearsal. He asked if I intended to finish the book, and I probably looked at him like he’d lost his mind. I’m a long way from wanting to give up. But I sure as hell hope that actual communication starts to occur somewhere along the way. I’ll let you know.

1 More accurately, it’s the first half of a novel in two parts. The second half comes out this fall. I had planned to wait for all of it to come out, or for the paperback of Vol. 1 at least, but then I found a cheap copy at the Strand and my resolve imploded.

2 Yeah, yeah.

Yet Another Demonstration of Why Marriage Equality Matters

Because nobody would ever do this sort of thing to an elderly straight couple:

Clay and his partner of 20 years, Harold, lived in California. Clay and Harold made diligent efforts to protect their legal rights, and had their legal paperwork in place—wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives, all naming each other. Harold was 88 years old and in frail medical condition, but still living at home with Clay, 77, who was in good health.

One evening, Harold fell down the front steps of their home and was taken to the hospital. Based on their medical directives alone, Clay should have been consulted in Harold’s care from the first moment. Tragically, county and health care workers instead refused to allow Clay to see Harold in the hospital. The county then ultimately went one step further by isolating the couple from each other, placing the men in separate nursing homes.

They weren’t finished there: to pay for the bills, the county decided that Clay and Harold’s house and all its contents would be auctioned off. And three months later, Harold died, alone.

Read more at the website of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Thanks to Towleroad for the tip.

They’ll Need Something Snappier for the Movie Version

A Collection Of Voyages And Travels, Consisting Of Authentic Writers In Our Own Tongue, Which Have Not Before Been Collected In English, Or Have Only Been Abridged In Other Collections. And Continued With Others Of Note, That Have Published Histories, Voyages, Travels, Journals Or Discoveries In Other Nations And Languages, Relating To Any Part Of The Continent Of Asia, Africa, America, Europe, Or The Islands Thereof, From The Earliest Account To The Present Time. Digested According To The Parts Of The World, To Which They Particularly Relate: With Historical Introductions To Each Account, Where Thought Necessary, Containing Either The Lives Of Their Authors Or What Else Could Be Discovered And Was Supposed Capable Of Entertaining And Informing The Curious Reader. And With Great Variety Of Cuts, Prospects, Ruins, Maps, And Charts. Compiled From The Curious And Valuable Library Of The Late Earl Of Oxford. Interspersed And Illustrated With Notes, Containing, Either A General Account Of The Discovery Of Those Countries, Or An Abstract Of Their Histories, Government, Trade, Religion, &c. Collected From Original Papers, Letters, Charters, Letters Patents, Acts Of Parliament, &c. Not To Be Met With, And Proper To Explain Many Obscure Passages In Other Collections Of This Kind

Thomas Osborne, editor. London: 1745. First edition currently available from Charles Agvent, bookseller.

Andrew Is Easily Amused, Example No. 31,287

It may astonish you, gentle reader, to hear that jobs are not thick upon the ground at present. To facilitate my networking, which I am doing nigh unto my own demise, I think it would behoove me to have some sort of distributable premium. A card, perhaps, with my name and contact information — one that fits easily into a wallet or a vest pocket. I hear those are good.

I should probably include a line just below my name that describes what I do and thereby jogs the memory of the recipients when they draw it from their pockets and wallets and whatnot. The obvious text would be something like —WRITER • EDITOR,— of course, but I am this close to going with —SUPER GENIUS— instead. Because what says professional competence better than a reference to a 58-year-old Warner Brothers cartoon?

To wit, Operation: Rabbit, 1952. Yes, the card the coyote presents at the start of the picture just says “Genius,” but this line is a deathless classic of Western drama, and I defy you to say otherwise.

Plus, Bugs’s take to the camera at 0:17 is Chuck Jones at his best.

Notes On Paradise

I regret to inform you, dear friends, that I will not be able to make it to Boskone this year. After more waffling than I can now comprehend, I chose Option B instead.

We’re in Vieques, Puerto Rico, staying with friends in their house high atop the hill. From the table where we eat breakfast on the patio you can see both the Caribbean and the Atlantic, each of them that stunning shade of blue that you never believe when you see it in photographs. It has been sunny and breezy all week and I have acquired a suntan in February. In February! Word on the street is that there has been some sort of cold-weather event back in the States; I guess we’ll find out upon our return late tomorrow night.

There is a great deal of good food to be eaten in Vieques, from schmancy multicourse meals to here-I-just-pulled-this-little-banana-off-the-tree. I have put a sizable dent in it.

Last night we went to Puerto Mosquito1, said to be the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. It was — well, heck. It was a warm, tranquil body of water that glowed when you swam in it. I drifted along, watching my arm hairs twinkle and my feet generating swirling plumes of ghostly blue light, beneath a sky crammed with stars (and Mars, presently in Cancer2). When the tour group returned to its kayaks and paddled back into the shallows, we startled a huge school of shrimp, which shot off in all directions through the water like bottle rockets. So it was pretty freaking awesome. Thank you kindly, Pyrodinium bahamense.

The thing I am likely to remember most about Vieques, though, is not the luminous water or the shining stars; it is not the hours spent doing blissful nothing by the pool. It is the damned roosters.

There are a lot of chickens on this little island, particularly among the households that live outside the urban(ish) concentrations. And they make a lot of noise. Suburban boy that I am, I had always thought of roosters as making noise at sunrise. You know, like in the movies: they sleep at night, they get up with the sun, they do their cock-a-doodle-doo sun-salutation thing for a couple minutes, then they go about their business. This turns out to be a lie. Roosters in Vieques, PR produce their roostery chorus twenty-four seven. Sometimes, like now, it’s almost subliminal, rising gently from the countryside in a gentle call and response. Other times, it gets a little more raucous: the first time I heard it, I would have been willing to believe that a bunch of local 9-year-olds were just down the hill somewhere and had decided that you know what would be really fun? To impersonate roosters, really loudly, and to go on and on for a good 20 minutes. Or what the heck, maybe for an hour. And other times they ratchet the racket all the way up to 11. No, to 12. Or maybe 14. Seriously, at about 3 Tuesday morning it was like the Roosterocalypse, like every damn bird on the island was crowing its lungs out within 20 yards of the house. Maybe atmospheric conditions meant that the usual cacophony rose up from the lowlands particularly well; maybe every damn bird on the island was just under the window. I don’t know. But Don and I started to laugh despite that we’d just been awakened by roosters in the middle of the fucking night, because you would not believe how loud it was. And of course, once it gets that loud, the local dogs all start barking as well, and it takes a good while before the dust settles. So, yeah. Roosters. Who knew?

I have finished two cracking good books this week: Iain M. Banks’s Matter and Margaret Ronald’s Wild Hunt. Maggie was a classmate of mine at Viable Paradise3 and she’s hugely talented and funny besides and everyone should read her stuff. Go throw money at her.

Anyway, I’m headed back out to the pool now. The “big island” is visible again today, after a couple of days where it vanished in the haze — I’m told there was a volcanic eruption in Montserrat that is at least partially to blame — and I’m going to go stare at it for a while. Cheers.

1 They don’t call it that for nothing. The trip from the shore to the mooring buoy? Ay, dios mio. The bugs were as big as your head and vicious vicious vicious.

2 I have never been more thrilled with GoSkyWatch Planetarium than I have been this week. So very worth your $9.99.

3 Submissions for 2010 open now! Deadline June 30. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

Best Headline of the Century Arrives, and It’s Only 2010 2007

Somewhere out there is an anonymous editor who needs to come forward and claim his or her shiny new internet. Whomever you are, I salute you.

Skywalkers in Korea Cross Han Solo

EDITED TO ADD: Okay, so we backdate the award to three years ago May. The general assertion stands.

RSS and Me (and You)

If anyone out there is using ANY of my RSS feeds, would you mind commenting on this post? Thanks.

This post will also serve as a test to see if Google Reader notices that the feed it seems to prefer (RSS 1.0, index.rdf) has started updating again. (My spring redesign broke it.)

UPDATED: Okay, Google Reader has figured it out at last, and I’ve also figured out why GR preferred the oldest of the three flavors I set up, way back when. I’m still curious to see who’s subscribed; I believe we will very soon be eliminating the RSS1.0 and Atom feeds, though, and going with a single standard. (Now that all readers seem to handle all standards equally well, there’s no reason to maintain multiple feeds.)

Today’s Hall & Oates Moment

From the fun-loving kids of Shorewood High School in Shorewood, MN WA: a reverse lip-dub of “You Make My Dreams Come True.” Which is to say, an amateur music video shot in a single take and involving a cast of thousands — and filmed backwards. I know, right?

This is the high school my niece and nephew will attend someday. Clearly, they will be in good hands. (Note to self: Research, then assertion. Oy.)

In Which I Enter the Dazzling World of Vampire Fiction

A while back my friend and teammate Julian Yeo, a jazz-singing accounting professor, asked me to write him a very short story. It’s a quick mood-setting thing for the liner notes of his new album, Deep Purple Dreams, about the character Julian used as a touchstone while recording and choosing songs for the record. The disc will be out in January, and you should check his stuff out — he’s got a lovely voice.

But if you want to read the story now, you can: it’s online as part of an interview with Julian at (It’s also on Julian’s site, but it’s locked up in a Flash lump and I can’t link to it from here.)

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