We need your help!

Some friends of mine are putting up a new photographic exhibit called Lenta conversazione (Slow dialogue), but they need YOU to make it happen. If you don’t have any money to spare, please promote it to your friends or around the web (there are FB and Twitter links as well). Any little bit helps!

Photo: Boschi di Carrega

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I reject your fantasy and substitute my own

A few months ago someone suggested to me to read Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker, as it was available online for free on his website. The novel was pretty good, nothing to remember in the centuries to come but a nice high-fantasy based about a peculiar magic system and that reads very easily. I liked it enough that I decided to dish out some money to buy his next book, The way of kings, which is now sitting on my shelf wondering if I’ll ever finish reading it.

Because today I made a very big mistake: I read his blog. In particular I read this essay on Dumbledore’s homosexuality and this forum thread on his religion.
And I said to myself, I cannot support this man, no matter how much I like his books. This man is OK with discrimination and depriving other people of equal rights under the law because his made-up religion says so. By buying this man’s books, I support him and his church in their efforts to prevent gay marriage.

Now don’t get me wrong: belief is free, and if you want to believe in a god that says that drinking even a sip of alcohol is bad, more power to you. But when you try to pass that as law even for those who don’t believe in your religion, then we have a problem. Freedom is a very nice thing, but it should never be used as a hammer to deprive other people of theirs.

Now a very good rebuttal to Sanderson’s essay can be found here at Ask the Flying Monkey, which clearly illuminates his case of being the nicest homophobe in the room – the one that will say that gays are not all bad, and he has gay friends, but clearly they cannot be given all the rights of normal people, and he’s not a homophobe for saying that.
Except he totally is. These words have been used to stigmatize first people, black people, jews, immigrants, protestants, and so on and so forth. They probably have been used against the mormons as well, the irony of which should not go lost on anyone.

However, since his website has a contact form and it says that Mr. Sanderson tries to reply to all the contacts personally, I decided the least I could do was write him a letter. It came out as a bit of a ramble and a rant, since it was written in anger and during pauses at work, but if I waited to polish it more I know I would never have sent it.
We’ll see in the next few months if he replies, and how. I do not really expect him to change his mind in the slightest on the subject, but at the very least I’d like for him to acknowledge that there are real life consequences to his words – even something as small as losing a reader.

Here’s the rambling, incoherent text:

Dear Mr. Sanderson,
I am one of your readers who will be your reader no more. This because your positions on homosexuality troubles me, and I actually find it far more problematic than those of your more conservative fellows.

I’ll try to express why in the rest of this post but, since it’ll probably descend into an incoherent rambling, I’ll just link to this article which expresses opinions similar to mine and much more clearly: http://www.afterelton.com/askmonkey/11-15-2010

I believe everyone is entitled to his way of life, be it based on a faith, religion, philosophy, or whatever. I myself am a person of a christian faith, more or less (but not exactly) like the Waldensians.
So I have nothing to say to the concept that, if someone is gay *and* a member by choice of the LDS church, they would have to repress their urges, never act on it and find some measure of happiness in their forced celibacy, because that’d be their choice.

As an extension of this, I cannot agree with the points where you say that you would extend this religious choice into a law for all.
Law should apply to everyone, and defend everyone. It should give equal rights and equal responsibility, and it should stand proud against discrimination.
A law saying “gays can’t marry because a religion says so” is not such a law.
Religion and its tenets should be a choice, not an imposition.

You’ve probably heard this example to death but, imagine if the roles were reversed. Imagine if someone passed a law saying that Mormons can’t marry and, even if you don’t agree with it, it’s really in your best interest, because their holy texts said so.
I think you would be devastated. I think you would fight it. You’d probably call them hateful and hypocrites for imposing their world view to someone not of their belief.
However, when saying the very same things to the GLBT population, you ask somehow to be given a free pass, and say that of course you’re neither.

The only difference is, being a white, straight privileged male, religious in a strongly religious part of your country, you have the upper hand. No one’s telling you to repress your love, or your faith, because they don’t agree with it. No one says that your opinion on gay marriage is simply crazy and not even worth serious discussion. You never had to defend your very existence in front of an hostile society, you’ve never been compared to a murderer, a paedophile, a sick person, an epidemic.
When your cousin says he would have chosen not to be gay in this society, what I really hear him say is that he wishes this society were different, not himself.

I will conclude by saying that a ban on gay marriage is not just offensive, discriminative and bigoted, but also useless.
Because if you really feel so strongly about some person that you want to marry him/her in front of the law and/or god, then you’re already married in each other’s eyes. The act of marriage, the contract, is just a way of formalizing something that already exists in order to get the same rights and recognition. You can force love into clandestinity, make it illegal, but you can never stop it.

Just to be clear, this has nothing to do with your ability as a novelist. I stopped reading Orson Scott Card, an old favourite of mine, for the very same reasons.
I quite liked Warbreaker and, when the anger has passed, I’ll probably find it in me to finish reading The way of kings. I’ll just be a little sad that I’ll never know how the series ends.

Life Flashes By

Weeks later from when I actually promised I would, here I am writing a review of Life Flashes By, Deirdra Kiai’s latest and possibly most ambitious game to date.

I played it through as soon as it was released and I admit that, even though I liked it, I didn’t feel completely blown out. Since it is a very particular kind of game, I waited until I could play it a second time and see whether the problem was the game or me.
I’ll say it immediately: it was me.

(Knowing well that my posts tend to be on the unclear, rambling and incoherent side, I’ll just link here to Emily Short’s review of the game, much better written and which I largely agree with.)

Semi-spoilerish review follows…
Continue reading

You should believe in your frakking song

So, since I don’t watch Glee and I rarely listen to the radio, I found out only the other day that Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck you!” has a pg-13 version under the more subdued title of “Forget you”; they call it a ‘radio edit’ but, where a radio edit is usually edited for length, this one is just edited for language.
I’m not one who usually thinks it’s particularly interesting or challenging to put a ‘fuck’ right there in the chorus, but I still do wonder what’s the point of making a song with a swearword in it if then you agree to have it removed in order to get more air- and screen-play.
“But,” I hear you saying, “being on TV and the radio is the only way a song can get popular. And if to get on the radio one has to sanitize the song, well, that’s the price to pay.”
Yes, my dears. That’s the price to pay to get popular and possibly rich with the song you didn’t believe in in the first place. Because either the song needed that ‘fuck you’, and so you wouldn’t have allowed anyone to remove it, or it didn’t need it in the first place and was there just for the chock value.

I’m reminded of similar acts of puritanism during the ’80s in Italy, though for different reasons. A tumor in De Gregori’s “Alice” became a “something” in the radio version; Guccini’s “Dio è morto” (God is dead) couldn’t be aired without an extra cringe-worthy strophe with a resurrection; and, in a spectacular case of Not Getting It, when Milva sung Fossati’s “Una notte in Italia”, the bit about “her breasts aimed straight to my heart” became a contemplative “his eyes”. Dull.

Now, let me tell you about a song that came out just a few days ago. A song whose first verses are, aptly enough:

They don’t play the song on the radio,
they don’t show the tits on the video

I’m talking about Amanda Palmer’s “Map of Tasmania”, which is a song about many things:

It’s a song about Australian slang.
It’s a song about pubic hair.
It’s a song about not being afraid of showing what others would find distasteful.
It’s a song about the media, and things going viral, and about not doing things a certain way because that’s how things are done, but because they’re your way, and they work for you, and they make you feel right.

“Map of Tasmania” has no advertising beyond that of the fans, is getting no airtime beyond that of some small radios, doesn’t have a recording label behind to push it to the top of the charts. But it’s fast becoming popular on Twitter, because of dedicated fans and the power of the interwebs, but most of all because it’s a fucking good song with phat beats that is not afraid to use language and talk about lady bits and be honest about what it’s showing off.

We are the media. We don’t need your silly restrictions.


post scriptum: since I mentioned it in the title but then failed to talk about it in the actual post, there are also several ways to swear-without-swearing that have been used since forever in both radio and television – frak, frell, yotz, and so on. Even euphemisms like ‘Map of Tasmania’. If one wants to swear, he’ll find a way.

New directions

It’s been a while since I last wrote here and that’s because D’ni hasn’t really been a big part of my life lately. I still love the Cavern and all the Ages, but my visits were becoming more and more short, and lonely, and less social, and I decided I needed some fresh air – literally and metaphorically.

Anyway, rather than letting this blog just rot away, I think I’ll just refurbish it a bit and use it a more general outlet for all those thoughts that wouldn’t fit in the 140 characters of Twitter. I still won’t post much, so I shouldn’t be a burden on your RSS feeds, but if you were here just for the In Cavern material I can tell you there won’t be much of that any more.

Greenflower updates

Interesting new discoveries from the Age, and a big headache for me. I’ll repost from the DRC thread again:

Sat Apr 03, 2010 9:30 pm

I’m in the Age, Prof, just set up camp for the “night” and hour ago and I’m writing down a report. I sprayed trees along the road with red paint to mark a sort of path (don’t worry, it won’t hurt the trees) so you can catch up with me if you want; I took it very easy along the road so it shouldn’t be more than a few hours walk.

By the way, there is some sort of creeper I didn’t notice the other day and – wow, it’s just amazing. It grows on the trees, coiling around the trunk and getting thicker on the higher branches, and it GLOWS. The color is not uniform even in the same plant, there are greens and blues and yellows, and it also sheds some kind of wooly seed that glows bright white for a while before going out.
This basically means that the whole forest turns into a softly lit canopy, which makes it very easy to walk at night even without a flashlight, as long as you stay in the forest.

Mon Apr 05, 2010 4:12 pm

the creepers (…) grow on the underside of the branches, and they get progressively thinner when going towards a clearning or opening (which I guess explains why I didn’t see them in my first excursion). My guess is they prefer to stay out of the sun.

Anyway, I walked another few miles yesterday and collected some plant samples along the way, if anyone from the DZS wants to take a look at them. Sometime yesterday ‘evening’* I found a brook running through the forest and I started following it upstream. The water is good (I tested) and very cold.
There was a lot more animal activity near the water – I could hear rustling among the bushes and some distant calls (something like a very small elephant, and some very deep short howls). I didn’t see any animals, but I kept a fire going at night for safety.

The night was fresh but not particularly cold, and monday was warm enough to walk around in a light long-sleeved shirt (never go short-sleeved in alien environments, folks!).
As they ‘day’ went on I could see the lights from the plant getting dimmer, though I could see no sign of sunrise on the horizon – not that I actually see the horizon from here.
There is very little plant-light right now, but I saw some kind of enormous stone up ahead -the first big non-plant thing I saw since I got here- and I want to try to reach it before I get back to the surface. I’ll keep you posted.

* I measured things by my local time, which is KI time + 7 hours

Wed Apr 07, 2010 8:48 am

Ow, my head! well, that was an unexpected turn of events.
First of all, I’m fine and at home. Thanks for the search parties, but there’s no need to worry for me!
Second, do not touch the moss on the rock with your bare hands. I’m now going to explain why.

OK, recap. I finally reached the stone with a bit of plantlight to spare. It is indeed a big one, about 20 metres in diameter, sunk deeply in the ground, and really high. It is also there that I found the first man-made objects in the Age.
There is a staircase carved around the rock, spiraling clockwise up above the treetops. It is not a difficult climb but the steps are sometimes smooth and a bit slippery, and I had to grab the wall for safety sometimes. The rock face itself seems to be porous, and habitat to some small weeds, flowers and the infamous moss. I think what got me in the end were my fingerless gloves – the tip of my fingers must have brushed it more than once. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

About what I guess was halfway of the climb I found a small recess in the rock and there, embedded in the stone and hidden behind some weeds, one of the Nexus hand devices! You know, those things you put your hand into, left to the Nexus books on the stands. I tried my luck and it did indeed react to my KI, glowing briefly yellow (that’s a new one) and saying it had added a link to my Nexus.
My curiosity was thoroughly tickled and I decided to resume the climb, but after a very short time I started to feel dizzy and my vision blurred. I linked back to Relto, and everything went black.

I must’ve slept for almost a day and I felt really terrible when I woke up. It was then that I noticed that the tips of my fingers were stained green-blue and smelled faintly of anesthetic ; I quickly washed them under the waterfall in Relto and the dizzy spell seemed to wear off almost immediately. I still felt very tired and hungry so I got back to the surface to grab something to eat and sleep off the last remnants of the drug.
By then unfortunately it was also time for me to get back to work, where I’m writing this now (just don’t tell my boss!).

My guess is that moss was placed or Written there deliberately as a security measure, to get rid of anyone who arrived there without precautions. I would not advise using that new Nexus link, if indeed there is one, without a Maintainer suit or other precautions.