Anders Monsen

Lost worlds and ports of call

Month: June 2007

Glasshouse redux

In a comment thread below on Glasshouse, Sunni Maravillosa (whose blog and Salon I regularly read), talks about the criteria that “Prometheus finalists’ content [be] firmly in the pro-freedom camp,” and whether or not Glasshouse fits this recipe. I’d like to think that it does fall into this camp, as the protagonist holds very individualist view about life and self-defense. Also, the villains in the books are mind-controllers who spread their views via worms and viruses that re-write how people think, and they eradicate those who they believe are not susceptible to such a virus (which is basically identity theft on a large scale). In the experiment that is the glasshouse itself, you can also see how the protagonist, Robin, reacts to the conformism of the people in the village as well the those running the experiment. There’s a mini-revolution within the glasshouse experiment, and in Robin’s flashback as well as the events prior to him entering the experiment we see a post-human society where freedom to remold your self exists almost totally. That this society at one time almost was wiped out points to conflicts being eternal. Government is hardly present in the post-human society, and no one forces you to back your self up should you chose this.

As far as The Prisoner, I have only seen it on VHS tapes from a few years ago, and remember the fake village where Patrick McGoohan’s character wakes up. It was a bizarre, self-contained place of happiness and conformity, much like in Glasshouse. Everyone talks about “the village,” and in Glasshouse there’s a sign that says “Welcome to the village,” which to me is a very direct allusion. The taxis in Glasshouse also seem to mirror those in The Prisoner. I probably am reading too much into this allusion.

“I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own.”

Out Stealing Horses

A Norwegian writer wins one of the richest literary prizes available, for the translation of his 2003 novel. I happen to have the Norwegian version right next to me. Admittedly it was third in line of the Norwegian books on my list to read (my small library is augmented once or twice a year), but it sounds enticing enough to bump it up to next in line.

Glasshouse review

Sunni Maravillosa posts her review of Charles Stross’ novel Glasshouse. I did note some similarities between Stross novel and John C. Wright’s The Golden Age while reading the former, as she also notes, but then again these are now almost standard sf tropes. Glasshouse is also a sequel of sorts to Accelerando, which was based on several short stories and novellas, and many of these deal with the same themes. Despite its shortcomings, I do believe Glasshouse is the best of the five Prometheus Award finalists. I have now read all the nominees, and I believe the choice comes down between Glasshouse and Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End. I am still mulling my vote, but see no clear cut winner yet. As far as nominees for the 2008 Prometheus Award, I’m firmly behind Adam Roberts’ Gradisil, which (as Bruce Sterling would say) rocks hard.

A Scanner Darkly

In my quest to present the entire run of Prometheus online in PDF format, I need to find a tool that allows merging of PDF single PDF files into one document. Today I found a link to a solution on Max OS X hints. This involves using Image Capture (which comes with every new Mac), plus loading a freeware app called Combine PDFs. Simple enough. I install the new app, and open Image Capture. Hmm, no scanner drivers on my Mac. I move onto Vuescan, an application I bought a few years ago to scan images. I proceed to scan three pages of an old issue as a test. Scanning these as B/W images involves adjusting the page on the flatbed scanner just so a few times. After a few minutes of clicking through each step and saving the files, I have three .jpg files to merge. Hmm, will those convert into a PDF? I drop the files, each around 500-600k, into Combine PDFs, and click on Merge. The process seems to work, but the resulting file is 4.2 Mb, quite massive considering it is only three pages. I must have done something wrong.

Back to the instructions from Mac OS X hints. They suggest installing SANE, and so off to that web page, locate the files, and download them. Install three elements (in proper order, if you please), and open Image Capture again. Browse for devices, and SANE appears. Cool. Follow the directions in the hint, but wait, the Scan button is grayed out. At this point take a deep breath and walk away. After a while to cool down, I will try Google for other options to reduce the size of the end product. I can’t see anyone downloading 12-15 Mb files at this point.

IHS Conference

This is a conference I’d almost like to attend. Well, probably more than almost.

Safari 3 and Blogger

Apple debuted Safari 3 beta today. The big news: it runs on Windows Vista and XP. I believe it’s the second Apple application to run on Windows (after iTunes), and a bold move in trying to extend market share in the browser wars. Is it just a matter of time before the full-blown Leopard (or the cat after that) runs on any Intel computer, and not just an Apple controlled Intel machine? What then will happen to the more expensive hardware line Apple produces? How far will Apple have extended into the consumer market by that time (iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, er, scratch that last one)? Lots of questions, as the former computer company continues to slowly re-invent itself. In the meantime, I had bemoaned Safari 2’s lack of compatibility with Blogger, and while it seems the Ctrl-keystrokes still don’t work, at least the new version does display icons for the shortcuts. A small step forward, I suppose.

Update: I neglected to mention QuickTime, which has been around for Windows for probably a decade or so, and still going strong.

Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 not about censorship

Now this is an interesting article in LA Weekly. Ray Bradbury revisionism from Bradbury himself.

Bradbury has decided to make news about the writing of his iconographic work and what he really meant. Fahrenheit 451 is not, he says firmly, a story about government censorship. Nor was it a response to Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose investigations had already instilled fear and stifled the creativity of thousands.

This, despite the fact that reviews, critiques and essays over the decades say that is precisely what it is all about. Even Bradbury’s authorized biographer, Sam Weller, in The Bradbury Chronicles, refers to Fahrenheit 451 as a book about censorship.

Bradbury, a man living in the creative and industrial center of reality TV and one-hour dramas, says it is, in fact, a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature.

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