|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I've just received my author copy of this fine work, and very good it looks too. Designed throughout in the style of an old pulp magazine or paperback, from the pseudo-distressed cover to the retro ads for products that no longer exist and probably never worked when they did, it collects a number of stories from the site's podcasts. Available as a free download and in several hardcopy editions, the book got a rave review on BoingBoing.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
There are also persistent rumours that a film company is looking into a big production of Atlas Shrugged for a television series, and this could bring in new Objectivist converts, such as those who do not read.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Scotland on Sunday Review, 18.10.09, p. 10
'The Browser' - Stuart Kelly
'C P Snow famously derided the "two cultures" mind-set that separates arts and sciences as two distinct and discreet spheres of activity, and though much has been done to dissolve this distinction, the chasm still remains. one of the most innovative attepts to bridge the divide has been the Writer in Residence scheme for the Edinburgh Genomics Forum, currently held by Ken MacLeod [and Pippa Goldschmidt - KMM]. Last Wednesday, they held a fascinating debate on the depiction of scientists in fiction, with speculative fiction writer Andrew J Wilson giving a whistle-stop tour of the various swivel-eyed, shock-haired, demented geniuses from Victor Frankenstein onwards. He was accompanied by three practicing scientists, Emma Frow, Steve Yearley and Chris French, who all spoke eloquently on the stereotypes of boffins (Dungeons and Dragons was mentioned, as well as the persistence of the "Eureka!" idea - most science is, unfortunately, pure slog). Afterwards, I was lucky enough to get a copy of this year's best contribution to the idea of Homecoming - a gorgeous pamphlet called "Alba Ad Astra", produced by the Writers' Bloc Group [and available from the Forum's other partner for the event, Transreal Fiction, who had kindly provided a bookstall - KMM], which details Scotland's forgotten (and fictitious) space programme."
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
When people ask me what it was like growing up behind the Iron Curtain in Hungary in the Seventies and Eighties, most expect to hear tales of secret police, bread queues and other nasty manifestations of life in a one-party state.
Elsewhere, the Mail on Sunday (like the Guardian last week) casts an intriguing light on Mussolini's early career. Next time someone tells you 'Mussolini was a socialist, you know!' you can always say, 'Yes, but at least he was on the Decent Left!'
Monday, October 19, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The first of our Social Sessions (below) went well. More people signed up than we could accomodate, though in the event every seat was taken and (as far as I know) no one had to be turned away at the door. The Forum's admin staff and the University's service staff had worked hard to turn the main meeting room in the offices into an informal discussion venue, with low lighting, seats and small tables arranged in curving rows and drinks and nibbles strategically placed.
The crowd was more or less the mix I'd hoped we would attract - some social science people, several 'actual scientists' (a phrase which, as I mentioned later, I keep having to stop myself saying when there are social scientists around), and a very creditable showing from Edinburgh SF fandom and the Edinburgh literary scene.
After about half an hour of informal mingling, during which Mike Calder from Transreal set up a book table in the foyer outside, we all took our seats. I introduced the opening speakers and the subject: the portrayal of scientists in SF and science studies. Andrew Wilson drew on his long experience with Writers' Bloc to give a lively reading of relevant snippets from Frankenstein, The Island of Dr Moreau, Gregory Benford's Timescape and Paul McAuley's The Secret of Life. Steve Yearley outlined what science studies tries to do, why in the 1990s some scientists felt that it was an enemy within academia (hence the Science Wars), and why the issues it tackles - such as defining what exactly distinguishes science from non-science - have some importance in the wider world, including law (who counts as an expert witness?) and education. Emma Frow then brought the interaction of science and science studies into focus in her own work with a group of scientists working in the new field of synthetic biology. The view from the other end of the sociologists' microscope was given by Dr Chris French, who'd not just prepared a five-minute talk as requested but in true scientific spirit run a survey among his colleagues on the question.
The discussion that followed was still going strong when I finally had to call a halt about two hours after we'd started, and it continued in a local pub (The Canon's Gait) and in the smoke-huddle around its doorway.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Young Master Early has a used car for sale. Good condition, careful owner, etc.
Monday, October 05, 2009
They also shamelessly add to and mangle scripture. The unforgettable:
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
The messenger preaches among skeptics, "Prepare for the way of the Lord and make straight His path."
And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.
Jesus asked the intellectuals, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: doing good or evil? Saving a life, or killing one? The intellectuals did not answer."
'The scribes' are 'the intellectuals', you see, with all their book larnin.
Update 6/10/09: My brother James MacLeod has been quick off the mark with a cartoon.
Sunday, October 04, 2009
His latest news from the far side of the world is that the Brits have taken the Falklands.
Elsewhere in the eternal conflict between good and evil, Tony Blair's chances of becoming President of the EU have increased. Thanks, Ireland! Don't say I didn't warn you.
Friday, October 02, 2009
The Genomics Network is now on Twitter. Give it some love. I've just made a couple of tweets to it myself, one of them about an upcoming event in Glasgow, held in association with listings mag The Skinny, with the intriguing title 'Is Monogamy Deviant?' Be there or be square.
Another of my tweets points out that the Human Genre Project has some new pieces on it, so please have a look. I'd be interested in comments not just on the content of the site but also on its layout and general user-friendliness. And, of course, links to the site and contributions are always welcome.