Tag Archives: Twitter

In Memoriam: Leonard Nimoy

I discovered Star Trek in my early teen years, sneaking watching the show when my fundamentalist parents were away. It was everything I could ask for in television–spaceships, adventures to new worlds, a universe of characters who showed that life still has meaning, even when surrounded by and built on machines. And more than that, when it was at its best, the series asked deep questions about philosophy, morality, politics, and science.

With that in mind, it comes as a shock–not an unexpected one, alas–to see the death of Leonard Nimoy. He was, of course, many things–a photographer, poet, director, and actor in many roles on stage and screen, but just as with other people who became icons for one role, he will always be remembered first for one character he brought to life:

Leonard_Nimoy_Spock_1967

In these last few years, he also made his mark on Twitter @TheRealNimoy. His final tweet, found here, reminiscent of Candide, sums up how we must all now feel:

A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP

Live long and prosper in that undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns. You will be remembered.

Crossposted on English 301: Reading and Writing.

Are You a Man or a Whiny Crybaby?

Over the last week, a Twitter phenomenon has come to my attention that reminds me that absurdity and whining never go away–as if such reminders are necessary. The subject in question is meninism. If you don’t have the time or inclination to read many of the relevant tweets, I understand. They’re a bunch of misogynist jokes, pictures I didn’t want to see, and whiny-butt crying about how men just want to be equal.

That’s nice–the goal of equality, that is. But here’s a clue: Your rights aren’t being violated if a woman doesn’t hold a door open for you. If you think that my example is an exaggeration of the meninist position, perhaps you should read those tweets.

I’ve written about questions of masculinity and equal rights for men and women before, so it’s not that I find the subject trivial. Presuming this isn’t some parody movement and thus a joke in poor taste, I have two main objections to meninism:

1.  Language

 1280px-Nouveau_Dictionnaire_Larousse_page

Feminism is derived from feminine.  If people are serious about this, they should call the movement masculinism.

2.  Manning up

 Men_montage_2

When you can prove to me that men are somehow suffering a loss of rights under a matriarchy, I’ll listen. Until then, cry me a river, build a bridge, and get over it.

In fact, it’s best that “meninists” follow this fellow’s advice:

Jaw, Jaw

Winston Churchill once said that jaw-jaw is better than war-war.

Churchill_V_sign_HU_55521

He’s famous for leading Britain in the world’s most recent global war, among other things, and his comment came in 1954, after he had written his history of World War II, but presumably it recognizes the superiority of talking to physical fighting. More recently, the Dalai Lama, speaking of his nation’s occupation by the Chinese, expressed the idea that dialogue is the only way to solve human problems.

At_the_Unsung_Heroes_of_Compassion_event,_San_Francisco

Not that dialogue has done anything to free Tibet, but he’s sticking to his verbal guns.

These statements do raise the question of whether discussion solves any problem. How often have we heard people insisting that we just need dialogue, that we just need to listen to each other? And yet, anyone who’s been in an argument with a family member or followed politics or engaged in a conversation on Twitter should know that talking so often doesn’t reach agreement or cooperation on matters that people hold deeply.

As regular readers of my weblogs know, I support both gun rights and gay rights. I also accept the science of evolution and climate change. These things make for some interesting discussions on Twitter in which I find myself supported by my fellow Twitterati on one subject, while being vehemently opposed by the same people in other areas. It’s fascinating to watch someone make what looks like a good argument one day, then turn around and make a sloppy one the next.

Of course, it’s harder to spot the logical and factual errors on a position we support, since we tend to be much less critical of ourselves and our allies, and when given the choice to go after errors, it’s more comfortable to attack an opponent, rather than a supporter. But of greater concern is the fact that so many people develop a conviction about a topic and then become impervious to facts and logic.

What are we to do about this? One answer that I’ve addressed before is a slow but steady solution: education. The more ideas and information people are exposed to, the more open–it is to be hoped–they are to considering a variety of positions in a logical manner. Note that this comes from what we call a liberal arts education. The liberal arts are aimed at teaching the skills and knowledge a person needs to be a free person, rather than focusing on some specific requirement for a particular job.

But as I said, education is a slow process, and even educated people get caught up in the passion of belief. This leaves us with the question of why we should bother to debate ideas at all. I offer three answers:

1. Not everyone is decided on every subject

We must remember that for every infuriating true believer out there, many more people will be undecided on the subject. Make a good argument, don’t take crap tossed at you, and trust to the potential goodness in all of us.

2. Support freedom of choice

These debates remain theoretical and intellectually interesting so long as we don’t rush off to pass laws. This is the reason that I call myself an eleutherian. Whenever possible, and it’s possible much more often than we’d like to believe, leave people free to act on their own beliefs while we act on our own.

3. Consider the argument being made

That means keeping this open:

800px-Anatomy_of_the_Human_Ear.svg

and engaging this:

Sobo_1909_624

Those, naturally, are the hardest part.

Crossposted on English 301: Reading and Writing.

Your Book Is on Backorder?

In days gone by–in other words, about a decade ago–an author could expect to have a given book run for a few years, if that long, and then disappear. The only exceptions were books that the publisher decided to make into bestsellers. Soon enough, though, the only place to find many books were used bookstores.

But now that these are widely available:

Star_Trek_PADD

no, wait, I meant these:

406px-Amazon_Kindle_3

and the like–yes, now that so many are carrying around devices that can store books by the thousands or even more, if they’re willing to have their books stored by someone else–someone who is making lists of everything you buy and read–where was I going with this?

Ah, the point I’m making is that now that books are widely available in digital form, there’s no reason for anything to go out of “print.” Books can be stored in hard drives for transfer at any time, and with print-on-demand becoming respectable, even paper copies can be cranked out whenever anybody wants one.

465px-Printer_in_1568-ce

But with every new thing comes a new set of problems. In those days of auld lang syne, authors like Dan Brown and E. L. James mercifully disappeared after a momentary flash in the pan. But now, literary zombies can continue sucking the brains of their readers forever. Or am I talking about vampires? At any rate, mindless soul-sucking creatures that don’t die in the light, but glow a faint hue of sparkly and whose dialogue wouldn’t challenge the abilities of the New York telephone directory to thrill will be with us until we’re all living in Panem and don’t have time to read anyway. This means that every time readers go looking for a book, there will be many more than there were the last time.

So what’s an author to do? Leading a revolution to ban all books but the ones I write is one option. But that’s not likely to go over too well, especially since we authors are a cantankerous lot, and readers have the annoying habit of wanting a diversity of styles, genre, and subject matter.

Given the changes in technology and the field of publishing, I’ve reached the following conclusions:

1. Publishers must change or die.

758px-Rembrandt_-_Belshazzar's_Feast_-_WGA19123

Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin, as the writing on the wall declared. Publishers have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. They don’t promote books, except those by authors who are already famous. They are stuck in a world in which a book had to be handed from one person to the next, instead of being copied in an instant. Their business models treat books like boxes of cereal, when in fact books are today more like Internet memes.

2. Authors must produce quality work.

320px-Carl_Spitzweg_021

Yes, I know that lots of bad books get cranked out, many of them given away. But I hope that the reading public will come to its senses and realize that spending a little money for something that’s been well written and then edited is worth the expense.

3. Books must be promoted in new ways.

YouTube_Homepage_Dec_7_2012

You can’t rely on putting ads in magazines and on librarians recommending your book. Eyeballs are on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, blogs (such as this one with its many viewers like you), and other places that Charles Dickens never imagined when he sold novels in serial form. No one’s waiting at the docks for the next chapter to arrive from England.

But there is good news. The cost of all this digital publishing and marketing is low. Time and talent are the keys these days. So what’s the secret?

One thing is to exploit the fact that searching for what you want is as easy as putting something on-line. That is, searching is easy if the thing you want is tagged with enough terms that make finding it possible. If I want a book about the Sahara desert, yours just so happens to be about that, you’d better indicate that your book covers sand, the desert, the Sahara, Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Mogambo, a guy named Dirk Pitt, and some rivers that have been dry a long time. No matter how tangential, tag it. Even throw in Dirk Benedict if you figure it will help.

200px-StarbuckSystem

Another thing is to get yourself on popular websites that allow comments with linking to more of you and make a name for yourself. I’ve found The Huffington Post to be a good place to practice this, especially since I can work in the occasional link to my blogs in what I say there.

Oh, but you want more, don’t you? Recall how I said it was cheap? That doesn’t mean free. I also said it takes time and talent, and that is for sale. My company, Oghma Creative Media, has a plan for you, a plan designed to make promotion successful and a whole lot easier.

Or you can just buy my books. That’s cheaper.

Crossposted on English 301: Reading and Writing and Oghma Creative Media.