Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 09:57 on 04-02-2012, Guy
Some people on a forum I frequent are currently creating a kind of experimental choose-your-own-adventure "forum thread" collaborative book-esque-thingy. Since I know some people here like gamebooks I thought I'd promote having a look (and joining in and having a go!) here, if that's OK.

Take a look.

Contributions needed! :)
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at 04:31 on 04-02-2012, Sister Magpie
If somebody tried to search for books in the "white history" category, they'd be lost in less than ten seconds because there are so many of them. It's not exactly rocket science.


Or they'd get a lot of white supremist sites since usually white history's just referred to as history.
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at 21:23 on 03-02-2012, Kellicat
White history doesn't need an official category because it's so predominant it doesn't need a special category. If somebody tried to search for books in the "white history" category, they'd be lost in less than ten seconds because there are so many of them. It's not exactly rocket science.
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at 19:04 on 03-02-2012, Dan H
Quite a lot of the entries on that tumblr quite specifically say they don't accept that, because it isn't "officially recognised" the way Black History Month is.
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at 12:42 on 03-02-2012, Axiomatic
Given that a quality of an argument is primarily based on how good a pithy quote it is, the best counterargument to any White History Month is this:

"There are eleven White History Months."
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at 20:04 on 02-02-2012, Arthur B
This one is particularly special.
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at 19:54 on 02-02-2012, Dan H
Looking back at that tumblr, the ones that make me most depressed are the ones that say things like "Why don't we have a White History Month, after all, white people have done *way more stuff*."
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at 15:57 on 02-02-2012, Arthur B
Nah, they moved the march so as not to clash with important Men's Rights protests. The fight to allow fathers a say in abortion is clearly the most important one, after all.
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at 15:41 on 02-02-2012, Dan H

I dunno, is it OK to do racial profiling of people who
spout white supremacist talking points?


Now Arthur that's not fair. All those people make it very, very clear that they are not being racist. And only somebody who wasn't a racist would say they didn't want to sound racist.

I'm a bit confused though, because I was pretty sure that White History Month started like a week and a half after the Straight Pride March.
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at 14:49 on 02-02-2012, valse de la lune
Non-UK Ferretbrainers may not have heard about the recent kerfuffle when Britain's first black woman MP was forced to apologise for racism against white people for tweeting "White people love playing divide and rule".


I am making an angry, angry face.
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at 14:42 on 02-02-2012, Arthur B
To be fair, I think a lot of UK Ferretbrainers might have let that one slip them by - the fact that the two men had finally been convicted got far, far more coverage than the fuss about Diane Abbott. But that's more a factor of the Stephen Lawrence train being too big to derail, and people did try their hardest to derail it.
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at 14:33 on 02-02-2012, Andy G
Non-UK Ferretbrainers may not have heard about the recent kerfuffle when Britain's first black woman MP was forced to apologise for racism against white people for tweeting "White people love playing divide and rule". Rather neatly derailing the discussion sparked by the fact that two men had finally been convicted days before for the murder of Stephen Lawrence, 18 years after the initial investigation was fucked-up by insitutionally racist police. But hey, obviously that tweet was kind of equivalent, right?
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at 14:03 on 02-02-2012, Arthur B
Oh, OK, then I guess you can say anything you like about us. :D
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at 14:00 on 02-02-2012, valse de la lune
I'll have you know that some of my best friends are white!
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at 13:58 on 02-02-2012, Arthur B
I dunno, is it OK to do racial profiling of people who spout white supremacist talking points?
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at 13:48 on 02-02-2012, valse de la lune
Is it just me, or are all the quoted tweets... from white people?
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at 08:47 on 02-02-2012, Arthur B
A brilliant tumblr devoted to one thing alone: documenting people on Twitter who ask a certain tedious and privileged little question.
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at 05:25 on 02-02-2012, Guy
I love physical books and having lived surrounded by them all my life I can't imagine not having them around. But I've got a Kindle and I love it; partly for reasons mentioned and partly because it actually helps to control my book-buying habit. It used to be the case that when I read a review for a book I might like, I'd either buy it (and then potentially have it sit unread on my shelf for years) or not buy it (and potentially miss out on a book I would have genuinely really liked). Now I just download the sample; when I'm looking for a new book to read, I browse through my samples, start reading one, and only actually buy the book at the point where I've started reading it and know I definitely want to read more. My spending on books has become much more reasonable, not because I'm reading less but because I'm only buying what I actually read.
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at 23:26 on 01-02-2012, Shim
Most of the Kindle stuff I've bought has gone for less than a pound, thanks partially to people self-publishing and partly to the Daily Deal.

Point, but OTOH those are particular niches and I suspect won't overlap my buying habits too much. I have a reading pile about as tall as me, and odd tastes, so I don't tend to buy books on spec. YMMV of course.

A minor additional point I've just remembered; most devices (not just e-readers) get grubby and vile fairly rapidly. Screens get full of dust, touchscreens smeary, etc. Generally less of an issue with books, and of course it only affects the one, though they're less wipe-clean than decent electronics.
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at 21:15 on 01-02-2012, Arthur B
Also, e-books are not necessarily a cheap or easy option. Quite a few are about the same as the paperback. A lot of my English reading comes second-hand for a couple of quid, which is little enough to risk on random things that I can pass on to someone else or send back to the charity shop. Once you're talking a fiver for a non-transmissible book it's a bit different.

Most of the Kindle stuff I've bought has gone for less than a pound, thanks partially to people self-publishing and partly to the Daily Deal. I agree that £5 a pop is probably too much for an ebook unless there's some compelling reason go for that option over the physical book (hypertext-enhanced gamebooks, ebook is released months in advance of the main event and you'd rather have it electronic and early than physical and late, etc).

An e-reader showing text on a static screen doesn't provide any physical clues to help out. When I try to recall something I've read, I tend to picture the book or the layout of the pages in my mind. I know it was about halfway down the left-hand page maybe a quarter of the way into the book. My physical and visual memory of the book provides a strong connection to the text that I reckon simply wouldn't be there with an e-reader.

I thought that'd be the case, but the Kindle provides a handy-dandy progress bar at the bottom of the screen whilst you're reading, which I find is enough of a cue to help me work out roughly where something was in a book. It's not as easy as flipping to a spot in a physical book but it's easier than I expected it to be. (Also searching for keywords works well for precisely this sort of purpose.)
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at 20:52 on 01-02-2012, Shim
My negative take on ebooks is a bit of a touchy subject, given my job. I cheerfully do a lot of on-screen reading, be it blogs or news or articles, but the idea of reading books on a handheld gizmo doesn't do anything for me. Alasdair's points 2-5 cover some of my objections already, especially that I do too much on computers already. Searching stuff for keywords is nice, but I don't often want to do that in novels, nor comment or highlight them. For one reason and another, my typing-from-text skills are sufficiently badass that not being able to copy-paste a page or two of text doesn't bother me much on the rare occasions I'd like to.

One problem is that I'm not really that keen on devices in general. Several Ferrets could gripe about my neglect of phones (I have one I was given second hand eleven years ago; it's never turned on). I don't think about devices, or remember to charge them, and carrying them around is too much hassle (my tiny cheapo MP3 aside). The idea of reading depending on me remembering to charge a device, load books onto it and actually bring it with me is too much. I can just grab a book and shove it in my bag.

Also, e-books are not necessarily a cheap or easy option. Quite a few are about the same as the paperback. A lot of my English reading comes second-hand for a couple of quid, which is little enough to risk on random things that I can pass on to someone else or send back to the charity shop. Once you're talking a fiver for a non-transmissible book it's a bit different.

Alasdair already pointed out that lots of things aren't digital. About a quarter of my book-reading is non-English, and most of that will never be digital, plus I bet it'd be hard to get that stuff anyway. Gutenberg's all well and good, but I rarely find stuff there that I both want to read and can't readily get on paper.

Above all, though, I've always found there's a sort of nebulous sameness to electronic text that doesn't tie into the way my mind seems to work. I struggle to remember what blog had some bit of information on, and I find it harder to concentrate on. Articles blend into each other distinguishing features and I don't feel I remember information as well. An e-reader showing text on a static screen doesn't provide any physical clues to help out. When I try to recall something I've read, I tend to picture the book or the layout of the pages in my mind. I know it was about halfway down the left-hand page maybe a quarter of the way into the book. My physical and visual memory of the book provides a strong connection to the text that I reckon simply wouldn't be there with an e-reader.
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at 20:52 on 01-02-2012, Arthur B
Well a lot of his other-planets stories were written well before we had a clue what conditions on Venus/Mars were actually like. ;)
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at 20:43 on 01-02-2012, Sister Magpie
In Ray Bradbury's case, there's his entire corpus of Mars stories to stand as fairly compelling evidence that he's an SF writer.

Yes, I do know that and I have read the Mars Stories, and the other ones mentioned. What I meant was that his sci fi still feels more like his fantasy to me, with little interest in the workings of the technology. It's one of the things I like about him, actually, because I'm not very into what I guess would be called Hard sci-fi. It just feels like it could just as well be fantasy to me. It doesn't seem really interested in making the science plausible or being inspired by scientific discoveries of the time.

I didn't mean to imply that I thought a sci fi writer shouldn't be a Luddite, actually. (In fact, my vague impression of the whole genre is that it's conservative and old fashioned, sometimes in really disappointing ways--at least when it comes to the "old guard.") I more meant that Bradbury's work just always felt very nostalgic to me, even the sci fi stuff, so it didn't seem surprising that he wasn't interested in technological advances themselves. He seems very fond of small town life and mourns older ways passing away in his work.

Of course, given his age, maybe stuff that seems nostalgic to me wasn't so much when he wrote it. Maybe I shouldn't really make a distinction between kids in R is for Rocket and whatever the cutting edge techno guys are doing today. Going to the moon is going to the moon. I Married A Monster from Outer Space is sci fi just as much as The Terminator. Village of the Damned and Alien are horror movies with equally sci fi premises. It's just that like I said for me it always seemed like his sci fi didn't depend on the science part. For instance, "All Summer in a Day" takes place on Venus, but it's not overly dependent on actual conditions on Venus.
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at 19:35 on 01-02-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Arthur's right on the money here. Bradbury started out in the 1940s working more in traditional SF, but he slowly evolved away into horror and mainstream writing by the 1960s. Alongside The Martian Chronicles, I would certainly consider "The Veldt", "A Sound of Thunder", "There Will Come Soft Rains" to be science fiction.

Along with Crichton-esque "fear the machine" stories, I'd also include some postapocalyptic neo-barbarian romps to be another example of Luddism in SF. Stories involving far-future societies that are structured like premodern ones from Earth could count in certain circumstances, but I'd say the majority of them are more conservatively minded than actually technophobic (not quite the same thing, believe it or not).

Also, Sister, distaste for how the world had turned out was actually fairly common among writers from the Golden Age of American SF. Understandable, really; you spend the prime of your life imagining how the world is going to turn out, and when you finally get there the stuff you wanted to see never appeared and the stuff you warned people about just got worse. By and large the general reaction was to turn inward and recycle old settings (something SF critics in the 1980s complained a great deal about), though Robert Heinlein is perhaps unique for deciding to deal with the world by collapsing into a singularity of pure Heinleinousity.
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