Linkblogging for 04/0610

Have been unwell, hence lack of posts. Doctor Who post tonight, with any luck.

LessWrong have a more-intuitive-than-normal description of Bayes’ Theorem, while Decision Science News has a counterintuitive probability puzzle you can try that on.

Fred at Slacktivist talks about fundamentalists’ attitudes to sexuality and money.

A personal letter from Steve Martin.

An interesting experiment in art, starting with some Dave Sim drawings, starts here

And Bully tells you everything you wanted to know about the Marvel Universe

Linkblogging for 23/09/09

Posting will probably be light for the next few days, as it’s a busy time at work. To tide you over, here are some links.

Al Ewing is reviewing Beatles: Rock Band one song at a time. The interesting thing here is that Ewing – as he admits himself – knows almost nothing of the band’s music and is using this as a way of getting into them…

In other Beatles posts, Jog has a post on the comic insert in Magical Mystery Tour, along with some thoughts on how this would translate into the digital age in comparison with the film and album.

Todd Alcott continues his look at Kubrick with A Clockwork Orange part 2 .

For those of you who think I’m too hard on the anti-immigrant propaganda coming from people like racist UKIP, this is why.

James Graham has more on the ridiculous events at conference, which appear to involve the leadership briefing against the party…

And Chris Dillow has an interesting post on a fundamental disconnect in the debate between the religious and ‘new atheists’.

Linkblogging for 14/09/09

Well, if I’d realised how many hits a blog gets just from saying “Beatles”, I’d have done that years ago. Beatles Beatles Beatles… you have a go…

I do hope some of you stick around and read my other stuff (especially those of you who came linked from a Doctor Who site – I have tons of Who material on here) – I’ve written quite a lot about music here, and I’m planning on reviewing the rest of the Mono Box one disc a week.

Anyway, on to links (no longer post today as I’m suffering from exhaustion).

Firstly, an old one – I’ve been arguing today with a USian fundamentalist (well, I say arguing, more ‘hurling abuse at’, but in fairness I’ve known him twelve years and he just *will not shut up*) so now’s as good a time as any to link to Brad Hicks’ excellent series of essays from a few years ago, about the perversion of USian fundamentalism into something he considers literally Satanic, Christians In The Hands Of An Angry God (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Charlie Brooker on the plans to ban p2p users from the internet.

David at Vibrational Match on Adam Curtis’ It Felt Like A Kiss.

Over at the Mindless Ones Amypoodle has a great post on the Joker, Morrison & Quitely’s Batman & Robin, mental illness and concepts of the self.

Abhay on crime novels.

And Cameron Stewart has previews of his Batman & Robin art

Linkblogging for 22/07/09

Sorry for the lack of posting over the last few days, but I was unprepared for the amount of vitriol that came at me for that “Ten Things…” post (not, I hasten to add, from my regular reader/commenters, who mostly kept civil, whether here or over on Charlotte’s response – and I’m very impressed with some of you, like James and Pillock…). I’ve been mostly scared away from the internet by this (meaning I’ve also not done a few important things like sort out hosting for a website I’m working on…) . I’ve also had some other problems (lost my passport, someone stole my wife’s bike, someone else tried to steal my wife’s purse) which have been rather more pressing than this blog.

I would like to say though, ignoring the actual abuse and so forth, that one thing I found annoying was when people saw two apparently-contradictory statements and said “That’s a contradiction, therefore you’re stupid!” rather than “That looks contradictory to me – how do you reconcile those points?”

I will be doing a post, soonish, on how ‘evidence-based medicine’ as currently practiced is actually in many respects anti-scientific, but I’ll be leaving it until the fuss dies down. I’ll also be on holiday next week, without net access, so don’t expect anything from me then. But this week I’m hoping to get a few more posts done, on the usual subjects rather than anything controversial. Today, though, some links…

Most Lib Dem bloggers have been talking about the proposed policy document that’s just come out, which will not commit us to as much spending in the event we were to get into power. (We will still *hope* to spend as much, but recognise it’s not likely as the current GDP is fifty pence, and that’s being taken out of the country and held in an off-shore tax haven by Rupert Murdoch). Alex has what I suspect is the most accurate take on this, but Darrell and Costigan both have good posts too.

Calamity Jon has a post about a genuinely touching moment in 60s Superman, which also contains the best description of comic book ‘ages’ ever.

Slacktivist talks about offendedness, including a remarkable picture which is apparently the first ever Christ-on-the-cross image…

The Daily Mail have been reviewing films without bothering to watch them

And Microsoft are ‘donating’ code to the Linux kernel

You Damned Sadist! You’re Trying To Make Them Think!

Debi has a fascinating post today on ‘the FedEx arrow’ – on the way that once you’ve seen subtext in a work, you can’t unsee it, and the various reactions that can come from that.

Now, I’m not really one to talk about that directly, because I can completely distance my reaction to a piece of work from a recognition of its political flaws – hell, I love Cerebus where for a large part the rampant misogyny and homophobia are text, not subtext. I enjoy the banjo music of Uncle Dave Macon, who recorded songs like “Run, Nigger, Run”. I can distance myself from these things, of course, partly because I’m not in the group being attacked, but also because I can split good art from its message.

However, many people in ‘fandom’ (a group of which I emphatically do not count myself a member ) have real trouble with this. If someone points out, say, that in Star Wars how heroic a character is correlates very strongly with how blonde they are, they go absolutely berserk, asking “How dare you accuse George Lucas of being racist?!” and saying “you’re reading too much into things!” Which is where Debi comes in.

Now Debi thinks, and I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of truth in this, that many of these people are worried that liking something that is (say) racist would make them racist, and since they think (possibly even correctly) that they’re not racist, and they do like those things, then the thing they like can’t be racist. I’m sure there’s a lot of truth in this – one should never underestimate the sheer, overwhelming sense of privilege and entitlement in fan circles – but I think there’s more to it than that. I think fans are often fundamentalists.

Many fans (at least the ones who don’t go around trying to find gay subtexts in everything) hate the whole idea of subtext – you just have to look at the people whose reactions to Seaguy we talked about in this comment thread. There is a sizable contingent of ‘fandom’ who hate metaphor, theme and subtext, and who say things like “It’s what it is, you just need to turn your brain off”. Many go so far as to deny, at least implicitly, the very possibility of something meaning more than its literal meaning (which is to say, they deny the possibility of art).

I’ve wondered for a long time what could cause such hostility to the idea of a layered narrative (and if you doubt that such hostility exists, go on to Newsarama and try to discuss Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, or anyone else who’s a relatively competent writer), and why it should show up in ‘fandoms’ far more than in the general public.Because I think, though I may be wrong, that most people’s reaction if you show them that a work they like is one that works on multiple levels, would be to say “Oh, that’s quite clever!” – to use the metaphor Debi elaborates on, they’re pleased to see the arrow in the FedEx logo, rather than thinking the designer was trying to play some trick on them.

In this, fans are like fundamentalists, who believe in the ‘literal truth’ of their holy books, even the bits that specifically state themselves to be fictional (there are people who believe in the literal existence of the Good Samaritan – Fred Clark has a great pair of analyses of their mentality) and who get really angry if you say “Well, the world wasn’t *really* made in seven days”. With the fundamentalists, it’s because they can’t understand the difference between ‘metaphor’ and ‘lie’ – if you say that some of their holy book isn’t ‘literally’ true, you’re saying it’s a lie.

I think some fans have such an intense desire to *actually live in* the DC or Marvel Universe, or the Star Trek or Star Wars or Doctor Who or whatever ones, that any reminder that these are artistic works – any reminder that they were created by a human being with a point of view, rather than just being neutral historical records of true events, is a reminder that they will never really get to travel in the TARDIS or Enterprise, and they react, at least a little, to that. If something isn’t absolutely, incontrovertibly, linear and one-dimensional, then they won’t be comfortable with it.

Which is, I suspect, why so many things created for or by fans are so deeply, deeply awful.

(This post took longer to write than any other post I’ve done, and is fewer words than almost any of my ‘proper’ posts. I’ve no idea why this should be, but thought it worth noting…)

Playlist for Easter Monday

Since summer appears to have started, alas, this week’s spotify playlist is a little more upbeat and summery than previous ones, though I’ve still included a couple of blues tracks, just because. You can play this one from here . It’s fifteen tracks.

Oh My Love The Wackers is a cover of the Lennon solo track by the classic Canadian pop band. As you might expect from their name, the Wackers were very Beatles-influenced, and this track was a deliberate attempt to do the song as it would have sounded had the Abbey Road-era Beatles recorded it. Gorgeous little track.

Product by Glenn Tilbrook and the Fluffers is from the new album Pandemonium Ensues, which is musically the strongest thing Tilbrook has ever done, drawing from a far broader palette than he ever did in Squeeze (though lyrically he still misses Difford enormously). This one actually worked better live, where it sounded very Jobim-esque – here the John Barryisms in the chorus sound a little cliched. But there’s still some very interesting stuff going on here, and bassist Lucy Shaw’s vocals are great.

Riot In Cell Block #9 by The Robins (the band who later became the Coasters) was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and is an obvious precursor to their later Jailhouse Rock, but this is by far the better song.

As it’s Easter Monday, I thought I’d add in the best religious song ever written, the lovely Country Boy by Jake Thackray. Over a melody which is strongly reminiscent of Heroes & Villains, Thackray sings about Jesus’ ministry in the down-to-earth Yorkshire Catholic way he had – referring to a prostitute as “living her life between the scandalised fist and the beckoning finger” and a thief being crucified as “clinging to life with hands that had always been empty”. It’s an expression of a very humanistic Christianity, and is in its own way as great a religious artwork as Bach’s St Mathew Passion or the Sistine Chapel – that sounds an exaggeration, but I truly think it’s the case.

Give Me A Pig’s Foot And A Bottle Of Beer by Bessie Smith is there for pillock, who asked about this one last week, but also because it’s a great early blues track.

Surf’s Up by The Beach Boys is one of the two greatest songs ever written. Both, according to most sources, were written by the same two men, Brian WIlson and Van Dyke Parks, on the same night (the other is Wonderful, Rufus Wainwright’s version of which I linked the other week). If this had been released in 1966, as part of Smile, as intended, rather than five years later, it would have been as important a record as A Day In The Life. But it’s still a better one.

You’re No Good by The Swinging Blue Jeans is one of the best Merseybeat singles ever. I always think it a shame that the Swinging Blue Jeans are ignored while even The Searchers get some respect now – You’re No Good and their version of Don’t Make Me Over are classic pop singles I could listen to all day.

Directly From My Heart To You by Little Richard is a song I first learned from Frank Zappa’s cover version. In both versions it’s a wonderful piece of greasy blues. Why Little Richard isn’t absolutely worshipped, I don’t know – the man was one of the greatest vocalists who ever lived.

Someday Man by Paul Williams is a version by Williams of a song he wrote with composer Roger Nichols for the Monkees. Williams and Nichols are possibly the least cool songwriting team ever, having written Rainy Days and Mondays and Rainbow Connection, but this song, Trust and To Put Up With You are as good as soft pop gets. This one reminds me of Neil Diamond, but less smug.

Candombe by Los Shakers is what you get when an Argentinian band that started out as a clone of moptop-era Beatles goes psychedelic.

Sport (The Odd Boy) by The Bonzo Dog Band is a rare full collaboration between Neil Innes and Viv Stanshall, and manages to be hilarious, an accurate attack on British schooling *and* parenting, and musically unusual, combining cod-Elizabethan woodwind, waltz-time harpsichord and mass chanting.

Three Hours Past Midnight by Johnny Guitar Watson is one of the greatest electric blues records ever made. In particular, the guitar playing on here is pretty much the template for all Frank Zappa’s playing throughout his career.

I Want A Pony by Candypants is my favourite stompy pop song of all time. “Mom, I wanna be the king of pop/buy me fans, hurry up/I just wanna be a millionaire/You’d die and leave me money if you really cared/…I want a pony, I want a pony, I want a pony, I want a pony now!” Lisa Jenio is my favourite songwriter of the last few years, and I wish she’d release some more albums of her own material.

Say You Don’t Mind is not, as Spotify thinks, by The Zombies, but is actually a solo single by lead singer Colin Blunstone, a cover of a Denny Laine song. Blunstone is a great vocalist (and I’m looking forward an unreasonable amount to the Zombies’ Manchester gig next week) but what really makes this for me is the fact that they’ve chosen to back him with *only* a small string section, playing in a chamber music style. It turns what would otherwise have been an average 70s pop-rock singer-songwriter track into something very different. And that last note just blows me away every time.

And finally, Cups And Cakes by Spinal Tap is a wonderful gentle pisstake of English pastoral psychedelia, while fitting the genre perfectly.

Linkblogging for 06/01/09

I’d hoped to do another proper post today, but exhaustion is getting the better of me (for some reason I didn’t sleep last night, and I’ve done a couple of longer-than-normal days at work this week). I also owe p(il)lo(c)k at least two comments and an email, which will have to wait until I’m coherent…

From the Grauniad – Vicar has ‘horrifying’ statue of crucifixion removed from church:

“We’re all about hope, encouragement and the joy of the Christian faith. We want to communicate good news, not bad news, so we need a more uplifting and inspiring symbol than execution on a cross.”

I’m sure I’ve heard that before

Amypoodle at the Mindless Ones has an absolutely astounding extrapolation of one panel from Batman #666, detailing the Joker of the future. Which reminds me, I must get back to my own thoughts on Batman – it’s been a little while again…

The great Rick Veitch has been posting drawings over at his blog. Here’s one of his dream comics (and I *must* write about those, too, at some point) involving Alan Moore, while here is Dave Sim’s cubist period.

The blogging platform Livejournal has just sacked half its staff. This is a shame, as LJ is in many ways the blogging platform/social network with the most possibilities, but it’s been consistently mismanaged for years – there’s a reason I’ve stopped using it, and rarely even look at my friends list any more (a shame as there are actually some great people on there, some of whom I’ve linked on my blogroll).

Kevin Church has an excerpt from ‘Marvels 3

And finally, there’s the Convention On Modern Liberty, which I would be promoting even were my mate Dave not organising the Manchester branch of the event (although watch out for the page if you’re on a slow machine – there’s a ton of embedded Youtube videos that slowed my old laptop down so much I had to drop to terminal mode to kill the browser). This looks like the biggest conference on human rights and liberty issues in the broadest sense for decades, bringing together every major group and publication from the liberal left and libertarian right. The main partners are NO2ID, Amnesty International, Liberal Conspiracy and Unlock Democracy, but everyone from the TUC to the sodding Countryside Alliance of all people is involved, by way of the Grauniad, the Fabian Society, Private Eye and the Campaign For An English Parliament. I may even go down to That London for this rather than go to the Manchester event – it looks like it could be a major, major event.