Fri, 31 August 2007
I was interviewed by Greg Morago in yestersday's Hartford Courant about the 10th anniversary of Princess Diana's death...
... A.E. Housman's poem "To an Athlete Dying Young" couldn't have said it better: Dying in your prime is exceptionally stunning.
Category:Cosmos -- posted at: 1:30am EDT
Thu, 30 August 2007
I spoke to a group of Ron Paul supporters at the Village Pourhouse in New York City last night. The NYC Ron Paul Meet-Up group had invited me to talk about the mainstream media's misreporting of Ron Paul's burgeoning campaign for the Presidency.
I was impressed. It's always good meeting people with whom you have conversed online - in this case, Ryan and Avery and Kevin. But there was something else in this group.
Here was a group of people, assembled in the back room of a noisy bar on a hot summer evening. Men and women, different ages, different accents. Brought together by a desire to truly improve this country by working to elect a candidate with an old-fashioned idea: follow the Constitution of the United States. Don't go to war without a Declaration. Don't muzzle the media in contradiction of the First Amendment. Clear, straightforward points, really, that almost every other politician and public official seem to have forgotten.
I was impressed. The questions I received were perceptive. There was something in the air, and it was more than the fine spirits wafting in from the other room.
It was a different spirit. Democracy. I've seen it a few times in my life, first hand like this. Eugene McCarthy challenging Lyndon Johnson to stop the Vietnam War in 1968. Working in his campaign on the streets of New York. Working for John Lindsay, running for a second term as Mayor in New York, a year later.
It's rare to see democracy so directly. It was there in the Village Pourhouse last night. Not like on the television screen. Right there in the room.
It was good to see.
Category:Politics -- posted at: 12:44am EDT
Wed, 29 August 2007
My colleague iPhonematters columnist Tanner Godarzi has posted a disturbing piece over on Tech Blot, inquiring if Digg has a "Secret, Highly Aggressive and Fatal Content Filter Machine".
Maybe not coincidentally: I noticed the post on Digg this morning. I read it, found it plausible, even likely. And now, back after an afternoon as Chair of the Department of Communication and Media Studies, I see that ... the post has been buried on Digg already. Buried, even though it has over 70 Diggs!
Which makes me think Godarzi's hypothesis is even more likely true.
I've already written about the Digg bury brigades, who seem to get their kicks by making sure as many stories as they can get to don't make it to Popularity on Digg. I've certainly seen many stories about Ron Paul - including a few (but not all) of my own - suffer this fate. They get 20, 30, 40, 50 Diggs in a short period of time, only to be Buried.
Until now, I thought this was result of hyperactive buriers - anti-Ron Paul and other people who don't like open, democratic flows of information.
But Godarzi is suggesting something much more sinister and destructive. He believes Digg may have a blacklist of urls which are given very short leashes - just a few hours (unlike the 24 hours or more for other stories), after which they are automatically Buried, unless they have achieved Popularity.
Godarzi correctly points out that, until a few months ago, certain urls - such as those from MySpace - were banned outright, but now they can be entered on Digg. He wonders: did Digg replace this clumsy form of banning with a more insidious kind? His post (now buried) provides the technical details of how Digg might do this ...
I'm wondering, now, too...
I hope Digg will shed some light on this blacklist.
Category:Technology & Society -- posted at: 7:24pm EDT
Wed, 29 August 2007
It's always useful to look at history.
Since AT&T lawyers seem to be doing the most grumbling about opening the iPhone to other carriers, I thought it might be helpful to look at AT&T’s reign as a near monopoly in American telephone service, or at very least the predominating force, until the “divestiture? on January 1, 1984 gave regional service to the Baby Bells.
You needn't look very far to notice a very telling fact.
Indeed, it is something which always struck me as the most telling about AT&T’s 100-year rule - something which says it all, I think, about the impact of near-monopolies on phone service:
The telephone was invented in 1876. It wasn't until the 1950s that more than 50% of Americans enjoyed telephone service in their homes.
Yes, the pace of progress was a little different, then, but not that different. Television was in more than 90% of American homes by end of the 1950s, a little more than ten years after it was introduced commercially.
AT&T held its service very close to its vest. Customers in
effect leased phones from AT&T. You had no choice but to use its
service. Sound familiar?
Under this regime, it took more three quarters of a century for phone service to reach the homes of more than 50% of Americans.Unfortunately, AT&T seems to have not learned very much from this experience. It is trying its same old tricks with iPhone service. Fortunately, it looks like we won't have to wait a hundred years to divest ourselves of these tricks.
Category:Technology & Society -- posted at: 1:52am EDT
Mon, 27 August 2007
I picked up a tall, straggly tomato plant at the local nursery last week. In its better days, the plant would have sold for $45 - the pot still had the sticker with that price. That would have been at least a month or more ago. As it was, the clerk let me have the plant for $7, plus a 20-percent discount.
The plant had about 8 tomatoes and half a dozen yellow flowers when we put it in the back seat of our car. By the time I put it and gingerly staked it in our backyard, it had lost two of its tomatoes and half of its flowers.
The first few days are never kind to a transplant. However good the new conditions, they represent a shock in comparison to where the plant has been situated. About half the leaves turned yellow (not good) and brown.
But I went to water the plant today, I noticed three things:
Next step will be eating the tomatoes. I'll be back to you with a full report, then - figure, in a couple of weeks.*
*Hey, I'm back sooner than that - check out A Umami Tomato...
early European depiction of the tomato, about 1600
Category:Food -- posted at: 9:24pm EDT
Sun, 26 August 2007
It was the summer of 1984 - the very dawn of the digital age. Stewart Brand and I were having lunch with several other people near the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute in La Jolla, California, where we had just given lectures in the morning. That was when I first heard Stewart say "information wants to be free." He said it again over lunch. And I replied - well, maybe so, but creators of information still need to eat. I was a staunch supporter of copyright and patent.
I’m still a strong believer in copyright. But, in the two and a half decades
since then, the wretched excesses of the RIAA and like organizations
have caused me to clarify to myself and others exactly what I mean.
And that would be: If some person or organization wants to make money
from my writing or other creative work, they need my permission and of
course need to pay me. I'm not allergic to money. But if someone wants to take my book out of a
library, read my blog, listen to my podcast, buy a second-hand copy of
my book, that’s fine, even great. I'm delighted, and I don’t expect to get paid. Which means that, to
be consistent, I should have no problem with someone acquiring a new
copy of any of my books and not paying me - and, in fact, that’s fine,
too. I have no problem at all with that.
And that's why, as I wrote yesterday, I was so happy about George Hotz and his re-soldering the iPhone to work with a T-Mobile sim card. Apple and AT&T were wrong to lock the iPhone in the first place. What George did was not only legally permissible but ethical laudable.In the digital age, you can best make money - as well as friends -
by including not excluding.
See also A Lesson from AT&T History.
For more on Stewart Brand and the history and future of intellectual property, feel free to beg, borrow, or buy my book, The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution...
Category:Technology & Society -- posted at: 11:53pm EDT
Sun, 26 August 2007
Big Love is ending tonight on HBO. Mad Men is superb on AMC, as is Californication on Showtime. I'm also enjoyingt the new season of Weeds over there - but I'm really looking forward to the return of Dexter on Showtime in September.
It was the best show on television last Fall, when it premiered. Michael C. Hall - of Six Feet Under fame - played the serial killer who takes out serial killers, and he played the part to chilling, sometimes even humorous, perfection. I've never quite seen anything like this on television (something which is also true of Big Love, Mad Men, Californication, and Weeds - part of the reason I keep saying we're in a new golden age of television).
But a serial killer with a social conscience... who has trouble relating to people - because he is so detached - but is nice to his girlfriend. That's fascinating. And the shows raises the important ethical issue of whether a serial killer of serial killers is ultimately a good or a bad human being....
See you in September with more...
Category:Television -- posted at: 1:55pm EDT
Sun, 26 August 2007
What follows are my four cardinal rules for making it as a writer. Never any guarantees - but if you follow these rules, you'll be giving yourself the best possible chance:
Well, you get the picture. I hope this helps...
PS - It has been pointed out that the above four rules bear a strong resemblance to Robert Heinlein's five rules - which they do. My rules emphasize the new importance of self-publishing, which I think is becoming even more significant than traditional publishing in the 21st century. And my rules try to address the psychological situations of writers. But, clearly, they are indebted to Helnlein's.
Listen also to special podcast - Authors and Critics: Perilous Symbiosis
my Ask Lev podcast: 2-5 mins of advice about writing
Category:Science Fiction -- posted at: 2:06am EDT
Sat, 25 August 2007
this is a sponsored post
The two most important assets of any Web site are content and speed. You want to give your visitors exciting, fascinating, worthwhile things to see, read, or hear, and you want them to have access to these benefits as quickly as possible. Content is king and time is money on the Internet.
Thumbshots.org provides Free Thumbshot thumbnails for your site. You put a little code on your site. And, then, like magic, your visitors can instantly see visualizations - thumbnail screens - of any pages connected via links to your site. You just hover the cursor over the link, and the page it is linked to comes shimmering into view.
These thumbnails at once add valuable content to your site, by giving your visitors views of other pages, without having to leave your site. And they save your visitors time, by giving them a preview of the page in the link, before and if they decide to visit that page.
Yahoo, the BBC, many other important sites use thumbshots. You might give them a thumbs-up, too.
Category:sponsored posts -- posted at: 11:14pm EDT
Sat, 25 August 2007
I just saw him on CNN, and I can't very well applaud through the screen, so I wanted to do it here:
Bravo for unlocking iPhone!
What does this mean?
The iPhone from Apple comes "locked" when purchased - meaning, it can only work with an AT&T sim card - you know, the card on which you have phone numbers from the phone you're currently using.
So, what's someone to do who buys an iPhone, but is currently using a phone with a sim from a different carrier? In George Hotz's case, that carrier was T-Mobile.
So, the 17-year old took apart his iPhone, and after two months of tinkering and analyzing and soldering, he got his iPhone to work with his T-Mobile sim.
Which is the way it should have been, all along.
Apple and AT&T may not like it, but what George Hotz did is perfectly legal - owners of cell phones have the right to put in whatever sim card they choose. Apple may have locked the iPhone, but George Hotz, having purchased the iPhone, had every right to unlock it, if he could.
Locks are not way to go in the digital age...
Category:Technology & Society -- posted at: 6:19pm EDT
Sat, 25 August 2007
Category:Television -- posted at: 3:13pm EDT
Sat, 25 August 2007
Mental telepathy is still a long way off. After all, communicating via voice and fingers, to people near and far, in response to every impulse, is not the same as communicating mind-to-mind.
But consider this:
The first electronic medium - the telegraph - required the user to travel to an office outside the home to send a message. The telephone greatly improved this, by allowing sending and receiving of messages from within the home, and via voice.
That still left you incommunicado when you were walking down the street, with no pay phones in sight.
But cell phones came to the rescue on that score - the cell phone in effect obsolesces the phone booth - and enables us to communicate to anyone, anywhere, wherever we or they may be happen to be.
And now iPhones and Blackberries and similar media are widening the cell phone's flow, bringing written words, pictures, moving images, and even images with sounds into our immediate grasp.
All of this is physical, and therefore not yet mental telepathy. And the process is far from complete - there are many kinds of communication, like the long-predicted videophone, which are not yet integrated into the ease of the iPhone.
But the distance between what our mind imagines and wants in the realm of communication has never been shorter.
And when Bluetooth is thoroughly integrated with all iPhone features, and the features increased, the distance will be further shortened.
And then ... well, we'll be knocking on mental telepathy’s door. We may never have it, actually. But we’ll be close.
Category:Technology & Society -- posted at: 2:15am EDT
Thu, 23 August 2007
Welcome to Episode 42 of Light On Light Through in which I replay the Sloan Ranger's 20-minute interview with me on WGNU Radio this past Tuesday, about the media's misreporting of Ron Paul's 2008 election campaign. I discussed four examples of ABC's misreporting (and worse) with Lloyd Sloan - aka the Sloan Ranger - and he had an example or two from other media. We discussed the problem of media bias in general - easy to find, it's pervasive - and I even offered my view that the FCC, in daily violating the First Amendment to our Constitution, is treasonous.
A frank, colorful discussion which I very much enjoyed, and I hope you find useful.
Plus flashes ... I'll be talking to the NYC Ron Paul Meet-Up group in Manhattan this Tues, August 28, 7:30pm, at the Village Pourhouse, 11th Street and 3rd Ave, admission is free ... space shuttle Endeavor comes home safely with teacher Barbara Morgan ... Californication is still hilarious ...
my latest novel: The Plot to Save Socrates
and Brian Charles Clarke says The Plot to Save Socrates "resonates with the current political climate . . . heroine Sierra Waters is sexy as hell . . . there's a bite to Levinson's wit" -- in Curled Up With A Good Book
Thu, 23 August 2007
Who's Porlock? Just about every literate person will recognize "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan, A stately pleasure-dome decree..." and most have heard the story behind it. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was in an opium trance. He started writing that beautiful poem. Fifty-two equally splendid lines followed- but Coleridge was interrupted by a knock on the door, from a "person on business from Porlock," according to Coleridge's notes...
And by the time he got back to his poem, he had lost it - leaving us just the fragment.
Some cynics claim that Coleridge made up the whole incident to explain his unfinished fragment - that there was no person from Porlock who interrupted him. Others, seeking to claim some high moral ground from the story, accept it, and point to the pitfalls of drugs as its primary lesson.
I don’t know whether the story is true or false. But it has always struck me with a completely different lesson: the vulnerability of the creative impulse, indeed our thoughts at any time, to interruption from the outside world.
With that mind, I’ve long held that this capacity to interrupt - to shatter our inner world when a call comes in at an inopportune time - is the one real drawback of the cellphone. The very strength that the cellphone gives to make a call, to express ourselves at the instant we wish, is turned against us when we receive a call we would rather not have - or, even if we receive a call that would otherwise be welcome, at a different time.
Of course, we can turn off our phone - but that incurs social penalties, such as having to explain to callers why our phone was off.
But, optimist that I am, I can see a route to hope: had the iPhone or any cellphones with Internet connections existed back in the late 1790s, the person on business from Porlock might not have needed to pay a call on Coleridge in the first place. He might have received what he needed on the Internet, the access to which is entering a whole new realm of ease via cellphones. And maybe Coleridge, had he been writing “In Xanadu? on his iPhone or Blackberry, might have been able to retrieve more of his memory with the visceral stimulus of the device in hand. And here's the really crucial point- hold it, there’s someone knocking at my door-
Category:Technology & Society -- posted at: 5:00pm EDT
Wed, 22 August 2007
Hey - a heads-up for everyone in the New York area, with an interest in the mainstream and Internet media coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, and its current percolating campaigns:
I've been invited to talk to the New York City Ron Paul Meet-Up group at 7:30pm this Tuesday - in particular, about the media's misreporting and in one case outright attack on Ron Paul, and what can be done about it.
I'll be talking at the Village Pourhouse on 11th Street and 3rd Avenue (southwest corner) for 30-45 minutes, followed by 15-30 mins for questions and answers.
The meeting room will be spacious. The general public is welcome. Admission will be free.
I think the media coverage of our election campaigns thus far should be of concern to anyone who values our democracy.
Ron Paul and his supporters, in particular, have received less than truthful treatment from a variety of media. ABC News and its affiliates has had the greatest confluence of misreporting, and I'll be talking in particular about ABC's posting of misleading photos, reporting of Internet poll results which left out Ron Paul's standing, and, in the case of ABC radio talkshow host Mark Levin, about his urging listeners to call Ron Paul headquarters with hostile comments.
Full disclosure: I'd be outraged about such media malfeasance whomever I supported, but I do support Ron Paul for the Republican nomination for President. That's easy for me to do, for two reasons. 1. I think our country's disregard of the Constitution - whether it's trampling on the First Amendment or going to war without the Declaration of War required - has gotten us into enormous difficulties. Ron Paul is the only candidate in either party with a lifelong commitment to supporting the Constitution. 2. My second reason for supporting Ron Paul for the Republican nomination is that the other Republican candidates are simply impossible for me to support - three of them don't believe in evolution, and most support the Bush administration's continuation of the war in Iraq.
But there are Democrats I admire, too. Indeed, any of them is easily better than any of the Republicans, with the exception of Ron Paul. But the three leading Democratic contenders - Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards (in that order for me) also have qualities that would make me consider their candidacies very seriously (not to mention Al Gore, who at this point is not in the running).
Accordingly, I'm urging everyone to work for the best candidate receiving the nomination in each party. And in the happy event that this happens, we can then decide in the general election who is better - the Democrat or the Republican - to lead this country. End of Disclosure.
But, whichever candidate you support, I hope you agree that our democracy is best served by truthful media coverage. How can we make a rational decision when we're fed misleading and false information? It would be good to see you on Tuesday. And I'll be posting a postscript here to my talk later Tuesday night or early Wednesday.
Further details on two of the above points:
Category:Politics -- posted at: 8:03pm EDT
Tue, 21 August 2007
This got me thinking: when will an iPhone make its first appearance on a television show - in which series?
Well, it won't likely be Battlestar Galactica, where digital media are banned, lest the humans be compromised by Cylons, and the phones are attached to walls with wires. It won't be Lost, either, which is not quite yet in the present (though you never really know with that extraordinary show).
Otherwise ... certainly any of the Law and Orders, "ripped from the headlines," could sport an iPhone, and probably will, sooner or later. When that happens, I predict it will mostly likely be in the hands, or at least the view, of John Munch (Richard Belzer's digitally savvy character).
But, ok, I'll stop making conditional predictions. I have no inside information, but I predict the first iPhone we'll see will be in .... Heroes ... on NBC ... on a late-November episode.
Let's check back here in the November, and see if I'm right ...
Category:Television -- posted at: 11:50pm EDT
Tue, 21 August 2007
I've getting a few requests for the above, so I thought I'd post it here.
First, the lyrics (which you can read while you're listening), then the story ...
written by Paul Levinson & Ed Fox, 1969
(a brief question-and-answer period)
(cameo appearance by the Hawaiian Herb Singers)
Children don't you know it's past your bedtime
People all been cold for such a long time
It's time alright and yet it's not the right time
the story ...
Ed Fox and I wrote close to a hundred songs in the Fall 1968 - Winter 1969. He usually wrote most of the music and I wrote most of the lyrics, but not always.
One night, in November, I dropped by Ed's brownstone apartment on East 85th Street after dinner. Ed had a copy of some newspaper in his hand, and pointed to a headline - "The Lama Will Be Late This Year" - something about the Dalai Lama's trip to somewhere being delayed.
"Good title for a song...," Ed said, and I agreed.
I wrote the lyric in about 10 minutes, and Ed wrote the music ...
We recorded and mixed it in a variety of studios in New York City from 1969-1971. Ed's singing lead, and I'm doing the harmony (falsetto) with Ed. Pete Rosenthal's playing at least 2-3 guitars, and electric harmonica. I'm playing piano and tablas, and Jay Sackett's on bass.
We put "The Lama" on our 1972 album, Twice Upon a Rhyme ... over the years, it's been lauded in Japan and Scandanavia (by Patrick the Lama - understandably) ...
In a separate post, maybe, I'll someday tell you the secret of Hawaiian Herb...
Category:Music -- posted at: 1:53am EDT
Mon, 20 August 2007
The vast majority of you - my American and world-wide readers - will have never heard of Paul Feiner. Understandable - you don't live in the town of Greenburgh, a few miles north of New York City, where my wife and I and family have lived since the summer of 1992.
Category:Politics -- posted at: 6:03pm EDT
Sun, 19 August 2007
It's by Dave Michaels.
And you never heard of him, right?
He published a novel, in the year 2000, entitled Red Moon (not to be confused with Michael Cassutt's novel of same name published around the same time). Cassutt's novel is good. Dave Michael's is among the best 3 or 4 novels I've ever read, period.
The background of the novel: I've always been fascinated by the collapse of the Soviet space program in the 1960s. The Soviets jump-started the space age with Sputnik in 1957. They got the first animals and then the first people up into space. They sent spacecraft - with no people - to the moon. They were on the verge of getting people there.
They inspired John F. Kennedy - in the names of both wonder and security - to put the U.S. on a course to send a man to the moon and safely return him by the end of the decade. Which we did.
But the Soviets never made it. Their move into space hit a mysterious stone wall. And the lack of continuing competition between them and us was likely the most significant factor in the fizzling of our own efforts in space. Forty years later, and we've yet to set foot on the moon again, or anywhere beyond our space station.
What happened to the Soviet space program? The death of its mastermind, Sergei Korolev in 1966, no doubt was a grievous blow. But ... I don't know ... there were a lot of other talented people working in the Soviet space program. The death of one man, however important, should not have led to its demise...
Red Moon provides some breath-taking science fiction answers.
How I found out about the novel: It was at a reading I was giving at a science fiction convention - Balticon (in Baltimore) in the Spring of 2001. David S. Michaels came up to me after the reading, with a copy of my novel, The Silk Code, for me to autograph. Then he pulled a 600-page book out of his backpack, and asked me to please accept it, as a present.
I wasn't sure what to say. First, travelling back from Baltimore to New York by train (I love driving, but trains even more) is no fun with a heavy bag of books, which I already had. Second, as a writer, I find I don't read as much fiction as I would like - if I'm writing a novel, which I usually am, reading someone else's can throw me off course. But ...
There was something about Dave, and I was already keenly interested in the subject, so I thanked him for the present and added it to my bag (it was filled with non-fiction books, by the way, which I do read when I can).
It was well into June before I had a chance to open Red Moon. And when I did - well, I couldn't put it down. It might as well have been a new Foundation or Harry Potter novel. The subject, the plot, the characters, the writing was brilliant. I contacted Dave right away, told him how much I enjoyed the novel. It had been published by a very small press. I told him I would try to get it to the attention of a bigger publisher.
Which I did... But all of this was right before September 11, 2001, when lots of things changed in the publishing world (most of which is headquartered in New York City). And in the aftermath, at least the publishers that I had been in contact with were doing other things, cutting back their acquisition lists.
And so, nothing more happened with Dave Michaels' Red Moon. I listed it as my #1 favorite first science fiction novel on a list I started on Amazon. (It's a pretty exclusive list. I'd highly recommend Bob Katz's Edward Maret, which is #2 on the list. Wen Spencer's Alien Taste and Larry Ketchersid's Dusk Before Dawn are there, too.)
Amazon now has an "out of print" sign on Dave Michaels' Red Moon's page. (I also have a reader review of the novel there.)
Now that I'm thinking about the book again, I'm gonna do what I can to help get it published - hopefully better - again.
In the meantime, if you're at all interested in the space race, what could have been, why what happened - and didn't happen - happened, the extraordinary human struggle to reach the cosmos, give yourself a treat, and see if you can score a second-hand copy of this novel somewhere. Trust me - you'll be caught up in an adventure, in an intrigue of alternate and real history, that you'll never forget.
Category:Science Fiction -- posted at: 11:16am EDT
Sun, 19 August 2007
As some of you know, I write both fiction and non-fiction. I try to do as much damage as possible.
To some extent, I lead two separate lives as an author. There are many people who know me only or primarily as a science fiction writer, and many who know me mostly as an author of books on the history, evolution, and social impact of communications media.
I'm sometimes asked why I don't write under two separate names. The logic is that I might be taken more seriously in my non-fiction if I wasn't also known as a science fiction writer.
Actually, this may have once been a problem - long before I started writing. Back in the 1950s, Isaac Asimov claimed he ran into difficulties with colleagues at Boston University - where he taught in the chemistry department - because of his science fiction. But Asimov went on to have fabulous careers as both a science and a science fiction writer, both under the name of Isaac Asimov. (He did publish a few novels under the pen name Paul French.)
Nowadays, I don't know who would really think that being a science fiction author could detract from how seriously readers take your non-fiction. If anything, I think most of the world recognizes that science fiction, though fun, often deals with the most profound issues in the universe - our place in the cosmos, our capacity to create machines that think (which leads us to contemplate what we mean by intelligence, thought, consciousness), etc. You know, those sorts of things...
So I would never write under a pseudonym for that reason - that it might hurt my nonfiction career to be known as a science fiction writer - even if I were so inclined, which I'm not.
Some writers, unhappily, have no choice but to write under a pseudonym - for economic reasons. They have sold so poorly under their real name, that the only way bookstores will stock their books is if they are packaged under a new name. Fortunately, and thank my lucky stars, that hasn't happened to me (yet).
But there is one transcendent reason which will keep me, I'm sure, from ever writing under a pseudonym. It does not have to do with the profundity of science fiction, nor with my level of success as writer.
It has to do with the girl who sat next to me in social studies class in
She pretty much ignored me back then, and I want to maximize the chances that when she walks into a bookstore somewhere today or tomorrow, she will notice, out of the corner of her eye, my name on a book on a shelf. And at that moment, she will realize all that she could have had back in our junior high school class....
yeah, that's the reason...
Category:Cosmos -- posted at: 1:59am EDT
Sat, 18 August 2007
The single most frequent question I get as a writer is not where I get my ideas or how does an author find a publisher - though those two questions are certainly high on the list.
But the most popular question is: what do I do, what kind of physical or mental activity do I recommend, to encourage or facilitate writing?
The preamble and proviso for my answer to this question is: Not all writers are the same. Different writers like and rely upon a different things.
But here's my secret: walking.
A mile or two or three, around the long block near my house (3-4 times around the block is a mile). I find there's nothing like it when I need to think through a story or a scene, decide where a character should go or be when I'm feeling stumped.
I like driving, too. I guess there's something about motion that gets my creative energies flowing.
But I like walking even better - mainly because it not only gets my mind and imagination going, but makes me feel physically good, too.
So there you go. Next time you're stuck in a story - take a hike!
Category:Cosmos -- posted at: 9:41pm EDT
Sat, 18 August 2007
People have been complaining about the big stack of paper printouts they have received from AT&T for their iPhone service. Some have been objecting almost as much to the paper delivery as to the bill, saying that if the iPhone were as a true harbinger of the future as its champions (including me) claim, its telephone carrier would have figured out a way to send the bill electronically.
But I doubt that paper’s really the issue. I've never seen anyone object to getting some paper cash in hand.
Paper, of course, has long been put forth as an early item to be replaced by the digital realm. I remember lots of talk and writing back in the 1980s about the “paperless office?. It didn’t happen.
I’ll let Sierra Waters, heroine of my novel The Plot to Save Socrates, explain why. Here’s what she’s thinking on the very first page of the novel:
And paper also has what I call “reliable locatability? - what’s written on one part of a piece of paper today will be in the same place tomorrow.
So, as much as I dislike bills, I actually prefer getting them on paper.
Meanwhile, if the history of phone and online service is any indication, iPhone AT&T service will sooner or later progress to very low, flat rates for huge amounts of data - which I doubt that anyone will be complaining about, whether on paper or screen.
See also The Secret Riches of the Panda
Category:Technology & Society -- posted at: 1:36am EDT
Thu, 16 August 2007
I was just listening to Bob Shannon on WCBS-FM "oldies" radio in New York. It's good to have him back.
As some of you may know, Bob and the WCBS-FM dj staff were abruptly banished a few years ago, when WCBS-FM Radio became "Jack" radio. I'll resist the four letter word that fits with "Jack" and rhymes with fit, but let's just say that "Jack" didn't fit New York City or oldies music, and this sarcastic, automated, sour format brought down what good music the format managed to play.
"Jack" was brought in to increase the ratings and revenue of an oldies station that was already doing fine in both areas - "Jack" was inoculation against the graying oldies audience.
Well, every once in a while, commerciality comes through heroically, and, in Jack's case, it turned out that the ratings actually dwindled under his format.
And so Bob Shannon and some old and new, fully human, disc jockeys were brought back along with the good name and sounds of WCBS-FM oldies radio in New York City last month.
You know, there's no substitute for a human, not-pre-recorded disc jockey. Especially when he has the easy, encyclopedic knowledge of rock music, as Bob Shannon has, along with a great, sparkling sense of humor.
Welcome home, Bob!
Category:Music -- posted at: 3:08pm EDT
Wed, 15 August 2007
I was thinking about rhymes - not poetry, necessarily, but just rhyming, and how it originated in our history, in our language.
Marshall McLuhan provides a clue, as he does for so much in communication: lots of things that we regard as art forms or sports, McLuhan says, started out as very practical technologies. For example, horseback riding was once just a practical way to travel. The automobile made horseback riding into a sport, even an art-form.
I first heard McLuhan say this back in the mid-1970s. Since then, I've come with examples of my own. For example - delicatessen. Ham and corned beef started out as ways of preserving meats. Once refrigeration came along, we no longer needed that spicing for preservation - but we liked the taste so much, we kept on eating and enjoying the delicatessen - it had become an art form. Or take convertible cars: in the days before air conditioning, we rolled the roof down to keep cool. Now we don't need to do that to be cool, physically - but we like our convertibles because we look cool, driving around in them.
And rhyme? Well, think about it. Before writing was invented, our ancestors had to rely completely upon their memories. In these oral cultures, anything that enhanced the power of memory, helped it work better, was welcome.
Rhymes ... the Velcro of the mind...
Category:Technology & Society -- posted at: 5:34pm EDT
Tue, 14 August 2007
People in the Middle Ages spoke of a Prester John - a prince of a far off kingdom in the East. He was said to have magic powers and magical instruments. Most magical of all was his "speculum," through which Prester John could see all the provinces in his kingdom. A sort of television...
Scholars, inspired by this legend, began referring to their surveys and encyclopedias as "specula" - or speculum literature. There was a speculum of history, of astronomy, of alchemy, of morals. Someone even wrote a speculum on fools.
The speculum, in other words, had gone on in the popular and then scholarly imagination to encompass not only the physical world but the realm of ideas. Maybe a little more like the Internet than television...
But it doesn't really matter what we call our wondrous devices today. Whether television, or Internet, or iPhone, what counts is they are real.
For we have gone with our technology from the realm of myth to what we can keep on tables, or desks, in our very hands.
And that's progress - real, and maybe even more than what could have been imagined in the Middle Ages...
Category:Technology & Society -- posted at: 11:13pm EDT
Tue, 14 August 2007
Welcome to Episode 41 of Light On Light Through - a conversation with Mark Shanahan about Sedition - the new play by David Wiltse, in which Shanahan is currently performing ... We talk about the uniquely powerful medium of theater ... the importance of a play about freedom of speech in this day and age ... the response of the audiences to Sedition in its first week in Westport, CT ... the effect this play about a professor has had on me as a professor ... and much more ... a 25-minute interview ...
Plus flashes ... more summer television - John from Cincinnati ends, a jewel within an enigma ... Californication debuts, hot ... Mad Men on AMC, a safe-way to experience non-stop smoking ... and a special preview flash: Obama Girl producer Ben Relles is coming to Light On Light Through....
The Plot to Save Socrates - my latest novel
Mon, 13 August 2007
John from Cincinnati concluded on HBO tonight - you'll find my review, and links to my reviews of all the episodes, here - but in this post I wanted to reflect a little on the salient characteristic of the series: ambiguity, also known as lack of clarity.
I don't think I've ever seen a television show - including Twin Peaks - so brazenly unresolved. The question, then: is that good?
People complained about the open, ambiguous ending of The Sopranos. Well, John from Cincinnati was ambiguous at the beginning, the middle, or the end?
Good or bad?
The murkiness of the show will certainly make it memorable. Is it always necessary to have clear-cut resolutions in our narratives?
I've been criticized for not tying up more loose ends at the of my time-travel novel, The Plot to Save Socrates - in particular, for one major character (no, not Socrates). I don't know ... I ended my novel that way because it felt good, right.
After all, life is usually ambiguous in its endings, not resolved, so why do some of us insist upon resolution in our fiction?
I think John for Cincinnati was probably too unresolved throughout for my tastes in narrative. I don't mind a murky jewel at all, but I like seeing a little more light through it, when I hold it up in my mind for scrutiny, at least some of the time.
But I suspect John from Cincinnati will be scrutinized for light and meaning for a long time to come.
Category:Television -- posted at: 12:13am EDT
Sat, 11 August 2007
Welcome to Episode 40 of Light On Light Through in which we focus on a very unwelcome development: the media disenfranchising of Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul. I admire his unflinching support of the Constitution (including the First Amendment), do not agree with every one of his positions, but whether we agree with any candidate's positions or not, we should be alarmed when a major news network such as ABC forgets to mention that a candidate, in this case Ron Paul, came in first in its poll, gives the impression that Ron Paul had fewer supporters at a rally than he in fact had, etc. I've written blog posts about this abuse of our democratic system, intend to teach my Intro to Communication and Media Studies class at Fordham University about this in Fall, and am hoping this podcast will help get more word of this out to the American people...
And this just in from Iowa - Ron Paul placed 5th in the Iowa Straw Poll. Certainly not a win, but ahead of Tommy Thompson, and better than many expected. Politics, as ever, is unpredictable, and this is why it is so important for media to report the news, and the results of their own polls, as accurately as possible.
Plus flashes ... David Wiltse's Sedition opens in Westport - the beginning of the 20th-century assault on the First Amendment ... The Bourne Ultimatum is outstanding - why? ... summer television - Meadowlands, Big Love, John from Cincinnati, Weeds ...
The Plot to Save Socrates - my latest novel
Try GotoMyPC free for 30 days! For this special offer, visit www.gotomypc.com/podcast
Sat, 11 August 2007
I've been interviewed by many major media - you can see the details on my Wikipedia entry - but I've found, over the years, that local interviews are often the best.
I had lunch last Saturday with Michael Pellegrin of the White Plains Times. We talked about everything from the New York Yankees to The Plot to Save Socrates to the First Amendment. I found the interview one of the most engaging and enjoyable I've ever had.
Here are the results ...
From Socrates to Science Fiction
Prolific Local Writer, Professor Champions Everything From Quality Television to Croc Shoes
By: Michael Pellegrin
Published: August 10, 2007
Paul Levinson is used to getting strong responses to his work. His first novel, “The Silk Code,? won the Locus Award for Best First Novel in 1999. The first time he posted a blog about television, he got dozens of responses almost immediately, and his podcasts attract thousands of listeners. And as a professor at
Actually, that's just the first paragraph. You can find the whole interview on the White Plains Times web page, City People section - From Socrates to Science Fiction.
Category:Cosmos -- posted at: 12:50am EDT
Fri, 10 August 2007
this is a sponsored post
How would I customize an address label?
In this case, not for myself, but a friend, Sierra Waters ... who is a time-traveller...
First, whether for me, or as a gift for family or friends, I would use Vista Print online for my personalized address labels. Vista Print lets you upload your own design, or choose from hundreds of templates. You add your content, place your order, and your personalized return address label is good to go.
What would I get for Sierra?
Well, browsing through the many attractive styles, I think that two general categories would be most likely to appeal to Sierra - New Age, and Wild and Edgy. And the more I look at the New Age designs, I'm thinking those would be most appreciated by Sierra. There's a nebula swirl, a reddish sunset, a bright light coming out of a hand, and what almost looks like a cave-art human figure...
Hmmm ... I think I'll go with the bright light in the hand - there's something about that light that speaks time travel.
Next step: Add the name and address - customize the label. Ok. Sierra Waters is the name. And then I have three lines for the address. Knowing Sierra, I think she'd prefer just two. Make that: The Millennium Club on one line, New York City on the next. Those in Sierra's world who need to send mail to Sierra will know exactly where that is.
I can further edit the address - adjust the size and the font - and then I place the order, and I'm all set.
Next time a suitable occasion arises, I may surprise Sierra with a present...
Category:sponsored posts -- posted at: 11:38pm EDT
Fri, 10 August 2007
Just got back from The Bourne Ultimatum, and I agree with all the superlatives. The movie had everything - fine, razor-keen acting, captivating plot, non-stop breathtaking action. This third movie in the Bourne series is clearly the best of three - though the first, The Bourne Identity, was almost as good. (I thought the second, The Bourne Supremacy, was not as good as the first and third.)
But I'm wondering why, given that the essential elements of the Bourne series plot are so familiar, these movies - and the first and last ones in particular - are so good. We've seen many movies about spies and secret agents abused by their employers. Many movies about secret agent amnesia. Many movies about spies on the run for their lives, helped by beautiful women, civilian or agent - some of whom survive, some not.
What makes the Bourne series different?
If I told you, my life would be forfeit...
No, only kidding - the truth is I don't know. It's something I'll have to think about.
But I will, and when I come up with an answer, I'll get back you. One of the nice things about blogs in contrast to, say, newspaper reviews, is that blog reviews can be easily updated...
Category:Le Cinema -- posted at: 11:21pm EDT
Fri, 10 August 2007
My hibiscus tree is in full bloom. I told you last week about my myrtle ... I guess every plant has a story ... or, at least, I have a story for just about everything I've ever planted...
We bought this hibiscus as a sickly sapling about 15 years ago. It was on sale, and something about it looked promising, even though it looked as it had just been cured of some kind of insect attack.
I planted it on a low-maintenance side of our property (actually, our property could be described as all low-maintenance). The hibiscus tree - with soft, crumply pink-lavender flowers - struggled for the first five-ten years. But it always came back the next year, and managed to come through with some splendid blooms.
Last year, we had a decrepit white birch cut down - that's always the key. A little bit more sun, maybe the hibiscus was ready, who knows.
But this year, for the first time, the hibiscus really looks like a tree. It looks as if it more than doubled its size from last year. All feels good in this tiny corner of the cosmic. The hibiscus has claimed its proper place.
Category:Cosmos -- posted at: 5:25pm EDT
Thu, 9 August 2007
6:36 this evening. Endeavor lifts off from
Category:Cosmos -- posted at: 12:00am EDT
Wed, 8 August 2007
Sarah Beth Durst has written a delightful fantasy novel - Into the Wild - which details the adventures of fairytale characters ... who have escaped the fairytale. I'll post a proper review, soon ... but, in the meantine, I wanted to say a little about "meta-fiction," in general...
What is "meta-fiction"? Well, it's fiction in which the story is in some sense about the very telling of the story. You could have characters escaping from one story into another - as in Durst's novel - or discovery of a novel within a novel that tells the story of the first novel ...
There's something intellectually delicious about this. Indeed, any time there is any action around the boundaries of stories - whether from characters leaving stories (also seen in
Category:Science Fiction -- posted at: 6:17pm EDT
Tue, 7 August 2007
I posted a note in my InfiniteRegress.tv blog yesterday, about ABC News' misreporting of the results of its own post-debate polls - in particular, ABC somehow forgetting to mention that Ron Paul came in first.
Now, I've written political posts before, and many critical of the media, but I have to say I had a special zest and focus when writing that post - and listing it on Digg, where it now has more than 800 Diggs. Wiltse's Sedition stirred that part of me that knows that being a worthwhile professor is more than teaching your students in the classroom - it is taking a stand on important public issues, and using your voice to bring issues to the public's attention.
This, of course, is the lesson Professor Schrag taught us in Sedition. I am grateful for having been reminded of it at Sunday's splendid performance in Westport.
Hannah Cabell as Harriet Schrag, Chris Sarandon as Andrew Schrag, and Mark Shanahan as Cassidy in Sedition
Category:Politics -- posted at: 5:09pm EDT
Tue, 7 August 2007
I was honored and pleased to be informed, a few days ago, that I'm in the above Twitter Mosaic - Bogey and Bergman in the Casablanca movie poster.
Now Casablanca is one of my favorite movies, and I'm a Bogey and Bergman fan - and I assume you've all heard of that great movie and actor and actress.
But what's a Twitter Mosaic?
First, Twitter.com is part of the new Web wave of social applications. In Twitter's case, you can keep in instant touch with what your friends, family, business associates, whatever are doing. You'll find a Twitter Box on the bottom left of this page. By all means check out it, and, if you like it - how could you not - by all means "follow" me on Twitter, and I'll do the same for you. I'm PaulLev over there.
Which brings me to the Mosaic. Twitter_mosaic over on Twitter.com creates mosaics from user pictures on the site. And that's how I got into the Casablance mosaic! My picture never had it so good - actually, it's my http://InfiniteRegress.tv logo - except, of course, even smaller...
The immortality of the timeless mosaic...
Category:Technology & Society -- posted at: 12:42am EDT
Mon, 6 August 2007
I was thinking about the dandelions in my garden, and how I like them every bit as much as the flowers and bulbs I've deliberately planted.
I've never understood the general dislike of weeds that flower - ranging in some cases to a mania to want to pull them out. If the color is nice, if the flower adds some sparkle to your lawn, why pick a fight with that?
I could understand if the unplanted flowers were so aggressive that they took over everything you carefully planted. But dandelions, though a stubborn species, pose no threat to most planted flowers. In fact, they do just fine with daisies, black-eyed susans, and violets (which I guess, in some quarters, are also considered weeds).
Bottom line (of plants) for me: dandelions and violets are really no different than more exotic wildflowers. It's good to see them - for when they pop up, you're seeing the result of a what some breeze blew over, and it's nice to see the cosmos at work in that...
Category:Cosmos -- posted at: 7:19pm EDT
Sun, 5 August 2007
There's something about a play - seeing the action in person, rather than through or on a screen, can be uniquely moving. And when the play is about a political issue, the intellectual and emotion combination can make a permanent impact for the better on your psyche.
We just got back from David Wiltse's Sedition, premiering this weekend at the Westpost Country Playhouse in Connecticut. Mark Shanahan - known to readers and listeners of Light On Light Through as one of the Four Phils - plays Associate Professor Cassidy, in this powerful play about Wiltse's real grandfather, Andrew Schlag, Professor of German in Nebraska during World War I.
This is a story about the beginning of the erosion of the First Amendment in World War I - an erosion which has attained deluge proportions with the Patriot Act and the FCC's and Congress's attack on broadcasting. Seeing this story in play format, about a time in which there was no television, radio was an infant, and even motion pictures were just a little beyond toddling, was especially appropriate and effective. Like the garb for 1917, we in the 2007 audience became part of that 1917 world, by virtue of sitting in a live audience, the way people did back then.
A problem with the medium of the theater, of course, is that, if you don't live in the area, it's not easy for you to see the play. But if you get a chance to see Sedition - if it by chance gets made into a movie, or turns up on television or YouTube - you'll be glad you saw it, if only through the more remote media of our day.
Meanwhile for the politics of the play, see my review: David Wiltse's "Sedition" Premiers in Westport: Powerful Championship of First Amendment.
Category:Politics -- posted at: 8:24pm EDT
Sat, 4 August 2007
this is a sponsored post
It was Arthur C. Clarke who sagely observed that advanced technologies often seem indistinguishable from magic - they both do things so powerfully, so easily, so seemingly without effort. And some technologies are more powerful than others. For me, that would be sailing through the toll lines on a crowded day at the bridge, using E-ZPass. And logging on to the web from the beach with any little computer. Or talking on a cell phone with Bluetooth.
The magic of Bluetooth is that you quickly feel as if you're not even talking on a cell phone, or via any device. You're talking, and your voice is somehow magically transported. Having a conversation via Bluetooth, I think, is the closest we have to mental telepathy.
I especially like it in my car. My Prius is Bluetooth-enabled. This means that as soon as I start the car, I can receive and make calls - through the car's dashboard. True, I do have to have my cell phone in my pocket or otherwise in the car. But, again, I'm often not even aware that there's a cell phone involved. It feels to me, for all the world, as I'm talking to you or whomever, right through my car - even though, of course, you're nowhere near my car.
But, you know what? You don't need a Prius or a car with built-in Bluetooth to enjoy this magic. Your Bluetooth head-set can do the same trick - in or out of your car. And you can get Bluetooth car installation kits. Check out Buy.com and its comprehensive, well-organized site for all of your Bluetooth needs. It's that easy to buy into this powerful magic.
Category:sponsored posts -- posted at: 6:26pm EDT
Sat, 4 August 2007
I first fell for the Starland Vocal Band in the summer of 1976. My wife and I were on our honeymoon in London, and the BBC was playing "Afternoon Delight" at least a couple of times an hour.
The record has everything - vibrant harmonies, catchy tune, and a clever and well crafted lyric. I agree with every word of it. Why wait until the cold dark night if you can have it right now, in the afternoon. Plus, it's fun easily seeing the person you're making love to...
Bill Danoff wrote a classic song.
The Starland Vocal Band is often cited as a classic one-hit wonder. Although Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert Danoff (half of the Starlight Vocal Band) had earlier written "Take Me Home, Country Roads" with John Denver, and often performed with him, nothing much happened with the Band after "Afternoon Delight".
Doesn't matter. Bill and Taffy and Margot Chapman and Jon Carroll made a record which, although it's only one, can stand up to the best of the Mamas and Papas and the other great harmony groups.
Why I am a writing about them now? I just came across their page of MySpace, and put in them in my Top Friends - which, in a way, they've been for years...
One other thing ... I just noticed - I may have already known but forgot - that the Starlight Vocal Band's second album is titled Rear View Mirror.
Like Light On Light Through, Rear View Mirror is a phrase that Marshall McLuhan loved to use...
at the 1977 Grammy Awards... (The Starlight Vocal Band won a Grammy for the Best New Artist of 1976) ...
Category:Music -- posted at: 5:01pm EDT
Sat, 4 August 2007
I was not happy when I came across a critic's snooty review of Borrowed Tides a few years ago, which concluded that it was my worst novel.
I moaned about this to a friend, who helpfully remarked that, hey, some novel that you wrote has to be your worst - they can't all be your best - so why be concerned about it?
I understand the logic, but still...
Borrowed Tides is about the first starship to Alpha Centauri, that leaves our solar system in the 2020s - with only enough fuel for a one-way trip. That's not so bad as a plot device, is it? The captain is a philosopher, his second is an expert in Native American mythology (which plays a role in the story), there's a passionate woman with great taste in rock 'n' roll, and a Russian, and a Japanese gardener - what's wrong with that?
True, I do have the ship turning at pretty steep angles travelling at half speed of light - which violates what we know about bodies in motion here on Earth - but deep space and half-speed-of-light speed isn't exactly what we have here on Earth either, is it?
And it does seem, as the ship rounds Alpha Centauri, that it's starting to roll backwards in time ...
So there you have it, Borrowed Tides, my worst novel...I don't know ... I still like it...
Category:Science Fiction -- posted at: 3:08am EDT
Fri, 3 August 2007
I was on the phone yesterday with J. Charles Sterin, PhD - he was inviting me to be in a textbook he is writing. Not asking me for permission to reprint an essay I had written. But inviting me to be in his textbook - literally.
The name of textbook Sterin is writing is Mass Media for the Digital Millennium. Allyn & Bacon, its publisher, say it "will be the first college textbook with an embedded and assignable media component built from the ground up". Students will be able read about Marshall McLuhan, for example, maybe even what I say about McLuhan in my Digital McLuhan: A Guide to the Information Millennium, and then click on me talking about McLuhan, nearly ten years after my book was published.
I'm one of fifteen "experts" who are being so invited by Sterin into his book. I'm not only honored, of course - but gratified to be part of the future that McLuhan, I, and so many other have been predicting - the integration of word, written and spoken, and the image. As I've been saying for years - that's the way our brains operate, why not our media?
The taping will take place in mid-September. I'll keep you posted.
Category:Technology & Society -- posted at: 4:14pm EDT
Fri, 3 August 2007
Ever wonder why people cry their eyes out at a movie or a television show? Not just children, but men and women, fully grown? Not about a documentary about a slain president or a real-life princess who died too young, but about characters and plots that are purely fiction?
Hey, ever wonder why you have cried during such presentations, and I bet there is nearly no one on this planet who has not?
Samuel Taylor Coleridge had the answer – even though he was writing a good fifty years before the invention of motion pictures.
In his Biographia Literaria, published in 1817, the man who wrote the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"? talks about "that willing suspension of disbelief, for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith"?. (Interestingly, later in the same paragraph, Coleridge also disparagingly mentions "the film of familiarity and selfish solicitude"? which can get in the way of that willing suspension, but he of course is not talking about our kind of film.)
Let’s substitute "filmic"? for "poetic,"? and see how Coleridge’s observation explains our tears in front of screens.
First, Coleridge recognizes that we approach a movie or television show – as indeed we do a poem, a short story, or a novel – with a healthy degree of skepticism or "disbelief"?. We do not believe for an instant that what is up there on the screen or down there on the page is really happening.
We have to be coaxed or persuaded to pretend that it’s real. The disbelief, in other words, is not only suspended or put aside, but knowingly so. We become, literally, double-minded, one part knowing that what we’re looking at is not really happening, the other part playing along with the illusion that it is.
This point is absolutely crucial, and by the way makes appreciation of fiction very different from propaganda, in which the goal of the communicator is to make us suspend our disbelief and forget that we ever had it in first place.
In contrast, we can cry our eyes out, get frightened at a horror movie, all from the safe vantage point of knowing, just a stone’s throw away in our mind, that there’s nothing really, truly to cry or get scared about.
Now, admittedly, there may be other things that go into this mix – willing suspension of disbelief need not operate in solitude. We might cry at a movie or television show because it reminds us of something sad or tragic that happened in our lives, or our world, and there would be no disbelief making us cry in that. We would be crying because our experience, sadly, made what we saw on the screen all too believable.
Or we might cry because we see something on the screen which relates not to a real experience, but evokes a similar emotion we felt about some other experience – grief, like all human emotions, is easily transferable. If we cried in real life because we were jilted, we might well cry about some other kind of loss we see depicted on the screen.
Willing suspension of disbelief, then, is not only something which does not operate in isolation, it is usually part of complex continuum of experiences we had and did not have, all drawn into the emotional festivities by the poet or filmmaker.
And, if we with agree with Coleridge, it all lasts but a moment. Pretty powerful, high-octane stuff. The spice of life – and art.
Category:Cosmos -- posted at: 1:24am EDT
Thu, 2 August 2007
Dear Readers - I received the following this morning in my e-mail, and, after much consideration, I've decided to post it on all of my blogs, in an effort to be of whatever assistance I can to Sierra ...
Dear Dr. Levinson - Pardon this unexpected e-mail, but since you have written about me, and my work, I thought you might be receptive. Truthfully, I'm can't be at all sure that this will even reach you. Setting e-mail to be delivered at a future date is one thing. Setting e-mail to be delivered in the past is, of course, something quite else.
First, I do want to sincerely thank you for all the good things you have written about me, and for the good attention you have brought to me from others. This means a lot to me, believe me. I also appreciate the care you have taken in not revealing too much of my story, in too much detail - you seem to understand the dangers of too much leaked information in what I am doing.
So, with that in mind, I would ask you, and anyone who reads this, to convey whatever information you might have about the whereabouts and activities of the following people in 2008: Alcibiades, Heron of Alexandria, and Thomas O'Leary. The first two are of course historical figures, and may be and in fact are likely using different names in 2008. Any information about their 2008 activities would be enormously helpful. Thomas O'Leary is of course a much more common name. I am interested in the Thomas O'Leary who is a member of the secretive Millennium Club in New York City, and, also, I believe, teaches as an "adjunct," likely in philosophy or history, in one or two universities in New York.
I've have taken the liberty of setting an account for myself on your system - I can be reached at Sierra@LightonLightThrough.com
Thank you, again, for everything.
Readers - please feel free to re-post and distribute this as far and as wide as you can. PL
Category:Science Fiction -- posted at: 4:04pm EDT
Thu, 2 August 2007
this is a sponsored post
The one advantage that old-fashioned paper has over our marvelous computers is that paper doesn't crash. A sudden, unexpected failure of your computer, with a loss of your data, is the Achilles heel of the digital revolution. That's why backup is so crucial.
And, of the all the kinds of backup you can use, I'd say online backup is the best - because it's totally independent of your own computer, home, or office. With your data saved totally off the premises, you have the most amount of security.
IDrive-E offers encrypted, secure online backups for up to 2 GB of your data - for free! You can't beat that price. And, of course, if you need more storage, you can easily upgrade to unlimited storaged with a paid, pro account.
I learned the value of data storage online years ago. I was writing one of my novels, Borrowed Tides, at our cottage on Cape Cod. I made backups on two disks, and of course I had what I had written on my hard drive, too. But by the time I got back home, the two disks had fallen into a puddle, and the computer had crashed. Fortunately, I had uploaded my chapters to an online system...
Category:sponsored posts -- posted at: 3:32pm EDT
Thu, 2 August 2007
Shaun Farrell recently completed his podiobook of my novel, The Silk Code. Shaun was the 4th Dr. Phil D'Amato ... Who is Phil D'Amato? Well, this seems like a good time to lay out some of his key biographical details...
Dr. Phil D'Amato is a fictional forensic detective with the NYPD, who has a penchant for getting involved in strange cases...
Here is his story...
The First Phil: That would be me - Phil D'Amato's author, and creator. I started telling his story in the summer of 1993, when I came across Stephen Hawking's "Chronology Protection Conjecture". Even if time travel were mathematically possible, Hawking thought that the universe would not let it happen. Because time travel could unravel the whole cause-and-effect moorings of the universe .... Somehow, in my mind, that became a great set-up for a metaphysical murder mystery. Phil investigates the death of scientists whose only link was that they were working together on a time-travel project, now abandoned.
The short story - actually, a novelette, "The Chronology Protection Case," at over 7500 words - was published in the September 1995 issue of Analog Magazine. It became an immediate hit, getting nominations for the Nebula and Sturgeon Awards, and being reprinted in what by 2005 would be three books (Supernatural Sleuths, Nebula Awards 32, and The Best Time Travel Stories Of All Time), as well one online magazine. I went on to publish "The Copyright Notice Case" in 1996 (Nebula nominee, and winner of the Homer award) and "The Mendelian Lamp Case" in 1998 (reprinted in Best SF#3, Science Fiction Theater, and The Hard SF Renaissance) - both featuring Phil, both in Analog - and then I turned my attention to getting Phil into the covers of novels...
The Silk Code, published in 1999, was my first novel and my first Phil D'Amato novel. It went on to win the Locus Award for Best First Novel of 1999 (a rarity for me - I usually get no further than nominations). The Consciousness Plague followed in 2002 and The Pixel Eye in 2003. (The Silk Code and The Consciousness Plague have also been published in Polish editions. And "The Mendelian Lamp Case" has seen print in
But, by then, Phil was already leading a second life...
The Second Phil: In February 2002, I returned from a science fiction convention in
The Third Phil: walked into my office at
Fast forward to June, 2003,
Here's how we got there: Mark's radioplay of The Chronology Protection Case was performed live at the
Mark, of course, not only wrote the radioplay, but, like Jay, plays Phil! (Something about that Phil - anyone who writes him wants to be him.) Mark also went on to co-produce a studio version of the radioplay, available from Audible.
But if you like free, that brings us, ever so smoothly, to ...
The Fourth Phil: Who would be Shaun Farrell, who, as I mentioned when I started telling you Phil's life story, just finished a podiobook of The Silk Code. It was #1, by the way, for more than a month over on podiobooks.com - hey, not winning an award, but I and the other Phils will take it....
The Fifth Phil: Ooops - ok, I'm getting ahead of myself here. But the Fifth Phil will be whoever plays him in the first Phil D'Amato feature-length movie, or TV show, neither of which has happened yet....
Meanwhile, here are some other important facts about the Phils that I didn't want to get lost in the above:
A - Two Phils (me and Shanahan) are irredeemable New Yorkers; the other two (Jay and Shaun) are Californians.
B - I'm writing a new Phil D'Amato novel - but first I have to finish the sequel to The Plot to Save Socrates.
C - I got the name Phil D'Amato as follows: I have an old friend on the NYPD whose first name is Phil. I tacked on D'Amato, because Al D'Amato was Senator from
D- Mark Shanahan starred in the
Stay tuned for more...
Category:Science Fiction -- posted at: 4:26am EDT
Wed, 1 August 2007
I was looking for a place to put in some late tomato plants around Chez Levinson today, and I noticed the Myrtle - no, not Moaning Myrtle, even though I’ve been posting a lot about Harry Potter. This one's Trailing, and has its own story…
Yeah ... about seven or eight years ago, I took a sprig of Trailing Myrtle (known also as Vinca minor or Periwinkle - great names - looks a lot like the above) and planted it on the side of our house that receives almost no sun. It was so shady there that even the few deep-forest ferns I planted were struggling. You could almost hear them gasping for sunlight. There were so few roots around that every good rain or melting snow - or worse, a hard rain after a deep freeze - had a fair chance of flooding our crawl space.
I pretty much forgot about the ferns and Myrtle, both.
But some of our trees were trimmed last Fall, and I just noticed on the side of our house that the struggling plants are doing splendidly. The ferns are big and feathery. Trailing Myrtle covers almost a entire, formerly vacant area. Bright green leaves and little purple flowers are everywhere.
And it did rain cats and dogs last week, and, come to think of it, the crawl space got wet but not flooded.
Not to make too much of this, but I think there's a lesson here - sometimes it's good to just do one little thing, and then let it go, and see where the vagaries of nature and trimmed trees take it...
Category:Cosmos -- posted at: 11:33pm EDT
Wed, 1 August 2007
We'll be convening a conference, to take place at Fordham University in
The Sopranos, A Wake
We expect about 100 papers to be presented, written not only by professors and graduate and undergraduate students, but by critics, writers, and indeed anyone with something interesting, sage, original, provocative to say about The Sopranos.
Here is our formal "call" for papers.
Admission will be open to the general public.
The guiding force behind this conference is David Lavery, Chair in Film and Television,
Some background: David Lavery edited This Thing of Ours, Investigating The Sopranos (Columbia University Press/Wallflower Press, 2002), which contains essays by Lavery, Howard, me, and other scholars and critics. In September 2002, to inaugurate the book's publication and a new season of The Sopranos, I organized a small vest-pocket conference at
Sopranos script supervisor Christine Gee Lowrey was our special guest.
We expect to have all sorts of exciting special guests at the 2008 conference.
Keep an eye on this blog for details, and/or send me an e-mail at PaulLevinson@LightonLightthrough.com to be put on our mailing list.
Category:Television -- posted at: 3:47pm EDT
Tue, 31 July 2007
Look for a special podcast episode of Light On Light Through - my interview with Obama Girl producer Ben Relles of BarelyPolitical.com - in the next few weeks.
In the meantime, Ben came by my "Propaganda and Persuasion" class tonight - I teach one every summer at Fordham University, where I'm Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Media Studies - and revealed the following -
More details on Ben Relles's talk tonight at Ben Relles - Obama Girl producer.
Ben may well be responsible for the election of the next President ... his videos will certainly have an impact on the election ... stay tuned...
Category:Politics -- posted at: 10:14pm EDT