I Am a Genius: listen to my words

I Have the Conch

listen to my words

Archive for September, 2011

Nerdy Intellectual Exercise

spaces... everywhere

click to embiggen

This is intended to be a representation of a hierarchy of literary genres.

Big concerns? Are the Supernatural/horror and Supers genres seem valid?

So I would like some feedback on this because I’d like to do soem stuff with it. Things I missed? Disagreements? Smart remarks?

note, the final product will have interactive notes to explain things.

Favorites: Musical Acts of the 1950s

This is the first in a new series I’m starting. It may be that this series will only reach 6 articles, but it may be that I find something else to put in it.

Why six articles? Because the inspiration for this series was creating a list of my favorite 3 musical performers/musicians/songwriters/bands of each of the last 6 decades. Naturally, they focus on rock and it’s related kinds.

So, without further ado: My favorite three rock stars of the 1950s.

There are really only three to consider: Elvis, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. The 1950s was the easiest decade from which to select favorite music acts.

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry is one of the earliest rock stars I ever even knew about. He was one of the artists Dad listened to. And who doesn’t know “Johnny B. Goode?”

Especially if you’ve ever seen Back to the Future

But he had others that just rock out. “Maybelline,” for one.

“Sweet Little Sixteen,” for another.

And honestly, he brought us the timeless “My Dingaling”

(yeah… that one’s not 1950s, at least that recording… I stand by my decision, however)

and one of the Best Christmas Songs Ever

(look! Reindeers! — if Chuck says it that way, I can too. Sorry, couldn’t find a performance of it)



And... he had great hair

I admittedly overlooked Elvis Presley for a long time.

It wasn’t till the USPS released a postage stamp with his face on it that I gave him a real chance, recognizing at last how many of his songs I did know and love already.I mean, I knew I loved them, I just didn’t acknowledged that I liked so much that Elvis recorded, collectively. It was upon the release of this stamp, and the purchase of a greatest hits CD that I was finally able to admit: I loved Elvis.

So what is so great about Elvis? Other than the fact that he swung his hips and wore a leather jacket and sneered?

and the fact that even in his old age he could kick a mummy’s butt

Well, “Hound Dog,”

“Jailhouse Rock,”

and “Blue Suede Shoes.”

Pretty much ’nuff said right there.

Granted, he did “Amazing Grace” in 1970,

From the title of the album, it’s clear that they didn’t invent innuendo by 1970…

which puts it in another Decade, but since what I love of his music is MOSTLY in the 50s, and since that’s the decade I believe most people associate him with, I’m putting him here.

Buddy Holly

Wait… wrong buddy Holly…

From an early age, I was familiar with his work. I thought it was alright. I don’t think I “got” it though. Even when I was in a fit of buying 50s music and I got his greatest hits I didn’t get it. I believe there are times when I thought he was over rated on the basis of his tragic death as told in epic song.

Wait… wrong epic…

But while his music is simple, and I tend to be snooty about a lot of the virtuoso music I listen to, there’s raw art underneath the wholesome nerd-rock image Buddy Holly gave us. This is stuff at the core of so much rock to follow for the next half century and beyond. This is stuff that is iconic and still influential.

“That’ll Be the Day” (that I’ll die, not the music),

Wait… wrong… oh yeah. This one is right.

“Peggy Sue,”

What if Elvis had worn Holly’s glasses…?

“Maybe Baby,”

Couldn’t find a decent performance for this one either. Enjoy the pre-hipster nerd chic look

and “Rave On!”

But not with glow sticks or roofies! Also, yes, it’s clear the performance and the sound are not really associated with each other. Deal.

I mean, come on. You know you like every one of those, even if you won’t admit it because you’re a hipster and think you’re above it. And it’s because Holly is/was iconic. Emblematic.

jQuery’s Slice (and you didn’t even know it golfed, did you?)

Yes, it’s irritating enough that I’m going to blog about it.

Most programming languages have some version of slice() implemented in their design. The principle for the slice method/function/whatever is self explanatory: It makes a slice of a larger set of data.

HOW it’s implemented varies. It could change the original variable or set of data that you are working on. It could create NEW variable or set of data that copies that subset of the data. Conceivably, it could do both, like a cake: literally take the data out of the original set, leaving it smaller, and making a new object/variable/whatever with the subset you defined.

Every implementation I’ve seen defines the slice it makes using 1 or 2 numbers. The first number is an indication of where to start the slice, and if the second number is there, it indicates where the slice ends, (otherwise, the slice ends when the data slice ends.

Now, before we go on, I have to explain how programming languages and computers number things. If you understand 0-indexing used by most languages, skip a bit to get to my gripe. Otherwise, keep going.

In most computer/programming/scripting languages, counting starts at 0. So let’s say you have an array (an array is a group of things, more specificity in that definition varies from language to language). This array is a list of fruits. In this list we have:

That list is longer than we actually need, but it works. If the array has each of those stored in that order, “Banana” has an index of 0. “Apple” is 1, and so forth until we get to “Lemon” which has an index of 7. The LENGTH of the list is 8 objects. And programming languages will tell you it’s 8 objects long. But they’re going to index it 0-7. Banana is the first object, with an index of 0. Lemon is the eighth object, with an index of 7.

It’s not necessarily obvious, but there are good reasons for it which I won’t go into here.

Now, back to slice(). The first number telling you when to start is typically either a) the index number of the object (a range of 0-7 in our example) or the number of the sequence in which it appears (a range of 1-8). You have to know which one to use or you’ll get unexpected results, but once you know you just memorize it.

The second number, if it appears, can also be either the index number or the sequence number. But there’s also a third option! That “end number” might actually be a measure of how long the slice is.

So if you want to get Orange, Mango, and Grape, there are four common sense ways of expressing it.

  • Index method: fruits.slice(2,4) (because Orange is index 2, and Grape is index 4)
  • Sequence method: fruits.slice(3,5) (because Orange is third in the list and Grape is fifth)
  • Index + length method: fruits .slice(2,3) (because Orange is index 2, and you want 3 items from the list)
  • Sequence + length method: fruits.slice(3,3) (because Orange is the third item in the list, and you want 3 items from the list.

Personally, I would prefer it if they’d all just use the Index method, but I don’t get to decide these things.

But what REALLY IRRITATES me is what jQuery does with slice. It uses the index for the start item and the sequence number for the end item. So if we wanted Orange, Mango, and Grape, our expression would be fruits.slice(2,5). It uses to completely distinct numbering systems instead of just one, which makes it look like there are either 4 or 5 items in the slice, when there are only 3.

It’s not consistent, and that’s stupid. Thanks jQuery. I hate you now.

(No I don’t. Come back. Why you gotta make me hurt you, baby?)


In 1944, during World War II, DC Comics published The Big All-American Comic Book. It was nothing particularly remarkable other than it being the first “here’s a bunch of stuff from all over what we do, and it’s all original.” This was the cover:
The cover of The All American Comic Book, December 1940, DC Comics
It’s iconic, in a way. All that golden age art. The price of 25 cents. The kid and his dog. The hero worship. It was definitely All-American.

Shortly after September Eleventh, DC Comics published two comics to raise funds for victims and workers at the crash sites. Here’s the cover for volume 2:
The cover to 9-11, Volume 2, DC Comics, 2001
It doesn’t take much to see where painter Alex Ross got his idea.

There were heroes who sacrificed their lives that day. The men and women who took control back of their plane over Pennsylvania. Men and women inside the towers who helped others get out. And of course the first responders who ran into the danger, even though it was impossible to breathe and there was no way of knowing when the next building would come down.

My senior thesis in college was about the heroes a society produces. In that sense, I spoke of the heroes in literature. Heroes, naturally, have the virtues that the society values most. When those values are in upheaval, the traditional hero is unable to accomplish heroics.

I have since written, more than once, that because of this thesis, the heroes I see honored in our pop culture disturb me. The Punisher is a cruel, vindictive, serial killer. Wolverine is an animalistic dealer in violence with little control over himself at times. We spend so much time looking at the dark side of stories and then finding fault with established role models. It makes me scared for what we’ll develop into.

I remember discussions with people after September Eleventh. Conversations full of anti-Semitic statements that grouped not only all Arabs, but all Muslims into easily derided segments. Conversations full of violent, vengeful wishes to torture those responsible. Conversations that made many ordinary people look like the dark anti-heroes put before me in pop-culture. And I was frightened more than what any terrorist could inspire in me.

But then I remember these pictures. The heroes of reality, not of literature. How these people are honored. And how, no matter what heroes they were presented with in the media, they chose saving others over their own lives. And many of them kept putting their lives at risk.

September Eleventh revealed what we are like under pressure. In the moment, There is still a shining model of heroism in humanity and Americans.

We are not supermen.

But we have those who are worthy of the awe of supermen.

I Can’t Forget

Remember, remember
The ‘leventh September
Airplanes and terror and plot.
I know of no reason
The two towers treason
Should ever be forgot.

I really hate it when people call it 9-11. “Nine-Eleven.” It sounds like the name of a convenience store. I’m not even sure why it’s so popular, other than the coincidental similarity to the emergency call number in the United States. Nine-Eleven has the ring of a sound bite, which is probably why it’s so frequently used. It’s lingo-y. Jargon-y. Insipid.

We don’t say “Seven Four” (which has a cool, CB trucker vibe to it). We don’t say Twelve-Seven either, just to cover the two most likely comparisons out of the way.

Of equal distaste is “Patriot Day.” Before September 11, 2001 I was good with the term. But it’s been co-opted by political actors and has been twisted so that “patriotic” means “people who agree with me.”

Whenever I talk about the day the world ended (if you’ll indulge a bit of dramatic hyperbole) I eschew abbreviations and euphemism. “September eleventh” is what I say. The “2001” part is unnecessary. For the last ten years, if you mentioned that date, it has been understood which day you meant.

It is an event that has occupied our national mind-set for this last decade. I don’t think I’ve had a single day of the last 3652 days where the thought of the disasters that happened hasn’t come to mind.

As a writer, I sometimes wonder if I should be ashamed that I am unable to find the words to communicate better what that day means. There’s a deep emotion that stirs whenever I consider it. Yes, there’s a deep love for my country. But that’s not it. Yes there’s a deep grief for the unnecessary death. Yes there’s anger that there are people who thought that not only was that death a good idea, but a righteous, holy idea. There’s mystification at how to make sense out of tragedy. Inspiration that there are those who can go forward. Tears of joy that there are people willing to sacrifice their lives to help others who might not even be around to appreciate it anymore.

Art Spiegelman created a 42 page biopic in graphic novel format about his reaction and explanation for that day called In the Shadow of No Towers. It’s a magnificent work, artistically interpreted and finely communicated. Nothing else I’ve read about September Eleventh is nearly so clear. Yet in all that, there are more questions left or opened than are ever answered. And his thoughts are very dense.

I can’t condense it. I can’t explain it properly even when I don’t condense it. We could speak for days, weeks, even years and not work out the meaning of that day. As a nation, we’ve tried for ten years and haven’t accomplished it yet.

When I watch movies or TV shows where something apocalyptic happens, particularly something like a nuclear detonation in a U.S. city, my mind still blocks it off. Despite the fact that I watch the events of September Eleventh unfold on my TV in real time, a part of my mind is unwilling to make the suspension of disbelief necessary to accept a story where Baltimore or Los Angeles is laid waste by weapons of mass destruction. There’s a mental block. Am I just unable to accept the reality of the world? Is it just the way I’ve dealt with not being terrified of the universe?

Because of all this, I don’t know how to react. I don’t really know how to honor. I know that there is a feeling in my heart. Some big combination of sympathy, grief, fear, admiration, love of country, and loss. I can’t begin to muddle out how much of each is in there or where it is. I have emotions in quantum states — I can identify emotions or I can identify the intensity of the emotion. I can’t do both simultaneously.

And that’s why I hate it when people say “nine-eleven.” When you wrap something as complex as the events and reactions of September 11, 2001 into a neat little phrase, you obviate all those emotions and thoughts and struggles. You minimize what happened and how significant it is. Saying “September Eleventh” is my way of acknowledging that there’s so much I don’t know about it, there’s so much I don’t understand about what I do know, and there’s so much left to feel about it.

So of course I’ll never forget. I can’t forget. I’ll never be finished processing my thoughts and feelings about it. That’s too big to forget.

Predicting or Preventing the Events of September 11, 2001

Let me tell you something about predicting.

In 1999 The Leading Edge, a science fiction and fantasy journal published by Brigham Young University, printed a (very) short story called “Y2K+5.” The premise of the story was that society collapsed due to the Y2K Bug — a hypothetical but likely glitch in older software (of primary fear was software used by the financial industry) regarding how it kept dates (using 2 digits). The concern was that when the 2-digit representation of the year rolled over from 99 to 00 it would cause a host of errors and confusion. The financial system and other infrastructure IT systems would crash and data would be lost. Societal collapse would be followed.

Everything in that premise was true. At least, the fear and potential was true. The story simply made a joke about what the world would be like 5 years after the collapse of the world as we knew it – since media attention had made The Doom all but inevitable. In reality, nothing happened.

In 1994 Tom Clancy had a book published called Debt of Honor. At the end of this book a member of a failed plot to restore primacy to a fallen empire took his revenge by crashing a passenger jet into the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. He did it just before the president was to speak to the assembled joint-houses of Congress. Naturally, the president and most congresspersons died. The sequel, Executive Orders, details events that followed this act of terrorism. Another terrorist plot using bio-weapons is included, as well as near-war in two southern Asian nations.

This one didn’t come true either. But it echoes eerily for some of us.

Most of the world, even if they didn’t expect anything to happen, was aware of the potential of their world changing at midnight on January 1, 2000. But nothing happened. We were able to go back to our regular lives. We were convinced that the foretold doom was nothing.

None of us were ready for the world to change on the bright, clear morning of September 11, 2001.

On that date, terrorists, using passenger airlines as kamikaze missiles killed thousands by crashing into the two World Trade Center towers in New York City and into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Another plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania when its passengers learned what was happening and heroically gave their lives to foil the terrorist plots.

In the aftermath, the terror meant to be inspired by these terrorists became real: civil rights were revoked in some of the most free countries in the world to stem unspecified potential attacks. Anthrax was used as a biological weapon. War was started with multiple Asian nations on sketchy premises. The world became a political thriller, except that there was never a neat conclusion.

So maybe somebody knew something could have changed things and nobody listened to him. It was human nature if that happened, and it wastes time and breath to try and blame people.

Because we predicted Y2K and nothing happened.

Y2K + 1 was when society as we knew it died.