Diversity Weblogging

More than a little envy?

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I’ve been determined not to write anything on any of Halley’s posts about Alpha Males, other than a link here or there for fun. Today’s posting made hash of that, though.

There’s so much about this posting that really describes ‘everyman’ not just that mythical man beast, Alpha Man. And in many ways, I can enjoy Halley’s posting, when she writes:


At work he spends a good part of his day trying to dodge the bullets of getting fired, trying to climb the ladder to a promotion — only now it’s an escalator that used to go up but looks more like those endless automatic walkways in airports — stretching flat for miles with occasional rises — and when he’s not losing heart over his own circumstances, he’s called on to help other guys and gals deal with the same disturbing business terrain, which he does with good humor, courage and generosity.

What’s not to like, or to empathize with regardless of one’s sex? But then there’s a paragraph such as the following:


At breakfast, he’s doing 2nd grade math with his daughter who’s braiding Barbie’s hair and doesn’t care much about carrying. She does light up when he scribbles the answers next to the problems and lets her copy them in her scrunchy writing in the right place. His coffee isn’t the way he likes it since they’ve run out of half-and-half. Watch what our hero does — does he think, SHE forgot to get half-and-half and adds one more disappointment to his list of wifely misdeeds — NO! He looks over at her and sees she’s up to her ass in alligators as well, packing lunches, writing notes to teachers, dashing for school buses. She’s half dressed and not the sexy girl he married by a long shot. No, she’s not Dr. Holly Goodhead, but he goes over and gives her a hug and says something terrific like, “what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” and tells her how great she is. Wow! This guy knows how to do the right thing.


And I have to push back because the image of little girl too busy playing with Barbie to learn math, and Big Daddy helping her to cheat after he refrains from not yelling at his wife because she didn’t buy half-n-half shows us Mr. Hyde to go with Dr. Jeckyll. In this case saying the ‘right thing’ doesn’t erase the wrong image.

My first reaction was a complete rejection of the posting, but then I read Jeneane Sessum’s reason why she liked the post. In Jeneane’s comments, she wrote:


What I liked about it was that this one, unlike the others, had “her” in it–in other words, she was observing, not stating the case for all me/women. To me it seemed like she was waking up, going through the day with, and then encountering her dream alpha male as she walked down the street. I love when people put themselves into their posts. Like you!

I love when people put themselves into their posts Suddenly I could see what drew other people to the post, and to much of Halley’s writing — she does put herself into her posts. She draws people in.

I envy Halley. Not the Alpha Male stuff, which I see more as tongue-in-cheek. She connects with people, as if the weblogging medium is a clay that she can mold and extend from the page. Jeneane’s kindness aside, this is something I don’t do. Even at my most intimate, I am not intimate. Chances are very good that l will never meet other webloggers, or only a few. My connectivity with all of you will be through these pages, through these words, which I wrap around myself like a soft, warm comforter in a cold night.

I love my words, I love to write, but they make a thin comforter. Sometimes, this all becomes just too damn flat — like being a line person in the land of the three-dimensional.


Too many syllables

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I don’t understand it, I really don’t. I watched the news last night as Rumsfield said that this country has a right to defend itself and the world regardless of the UN or any UN resolution. Or law for that matter.

Loren writes:


With few signs that the economy is going to rebound in the near future, it increasingly looks like the Bush administration is gambling that a victory in Iraq will lead to their re-election. They appear desperate to start our war with Iraq as soon as possible, whether or not UN inspectors can find evidence to support our claims that Iraq is readying weapons of mass destruction.

What Loren says makes sense. So I don’t understand it, I really don’t.

Jonathon writes about Australia mobilizing 350 soldiers for a war in Iraq when only …6% of Australians support sending troops to join an invasion of Iraq without United Nations approval….

These precentages join with the percentages in this country and in other countries such as Britain, German, Russia, China, France who are basically saying that no country should go to war with Iraq without UN authorization.

That means us. U.S. Us.

So, I don’t understand it, I really don’t. Bush, Blair, Howard, these are all elected officials, right? These people are all accountable to the people they represent, right? Yet these leaders, and a few others, all want to stop the inspections now, and go to war now when we all know…


…people will die.

…….probably a lot of people will die.

…………and the war will cost a lot of money.

………………and disrupt a lot of soldiers lives.

…………………..and all of the countries who want to go to war have some real problems right now that are far more dangerous to the welfare of the citizens then Irag; problems including no jobs, no money, no food, rampant disease, and no health care.

But these world leaders, leaders mind you, will go anyway.

No matter what we say, they’ll go.

No matter what we say, they’ll go!

I don’t understand, I really don’t. But then, after thinking about it, I figured out what the problem is: we’re using words with too many syllables. We’re trying to provide intelligent arguments against the US and a few allies going to war with Iraq without UN support, and we’re relying on too many big words. Words such as: petroleum, accountability, unprovoked aggression, mass destruction, globalization, international law, responsibility, and morality. The leaders just don’t understand what we’re saying. That’s it — what we have here (to borrow a phrase from the movies) is a failure to communicate. What we need is an alternative communication style.

We need to use simpler words. So from this day on, let’s use the following:


War bad

Go to war, lose job

No go war


Inspiration is not derivation

Recovered from the Wayback Machine

I have branded myself outsider, if not outcast, in some weblogging circles by not embracing Creative Commons without hesitation, and not being 100% behind the anti-copyright/pro-public domain movement.

(For what it’s worth, I am behind Imaginative Pastures.)

Scott Andrew LePera wrote an excellent posting saying very nice things about my Mockingbird’s Wish. His post also highlighted what I feel is the disconnect between what I’m trying to say, and what the folks who have been disagreeing with me are hearing. Scott wrote the following:

The Mockingbird’s Wish is itself a derivative work, having roots in wishbringer mythology passed down through oral tradition from numerous cultures. The theme is a familiar one: foolish animals go before gods and spirits to ask for wishes, often getting their just desserts in the end. Rudyard Kipling drew heavily on the same themes in his Just So Stories. I’ve never read Joseph Campbell, but I’ll bet he’d have something to say about the character of the wishbringer.

Shelley has, unintentionally or not, done a bit of rip/mix/burn literature.

I’ve never heard of ‘Wishbringer’, but the concept behind god-like beings granting wishes to foolish creatures is as old as time itself, and forms much of our folklore and mythology, as Scott points out. However, I differ with Scott when he says that I derived my story from Wishbringer. I think what he meant to say is that I was inspired by a genre of writing, of which Wishbringer is most likely a part of. And that’s the heart and soul of the miscommunication. defines derivative as:


1. Resulting from or employing derivation: a derivative word; a derivative process.

2. Copied or adapted from others: a highly derivative prose style.

What’s even more telling is some of the synonyms for derivative: plagiaristic, rehashed, procured, second-hand, uninventive, unoriginal.


Mockingbird’s Wish is neither a copy, nor an adaption of a specific work, and I certainly hope it was not uninventive, unoriginal, and second-hand. No one story or tale was in my mind when I wrote it, and the style is, I hope, uniquely my own. However, the inspiration for the type of story, and the concept of using a parable to make a point arises from every story and tale based on folklore and mythology I’ve read over the years.

In Mockingbird’s Wish there is a little Hans Christian Anderson, and a smidgeon of “Through the Looking Glass”, and a tiny bit of Navaho legend, an atom or two of a story I read years ago and can’t find, as well as a dab of Greek mythology, a hint of the King James Bible, and more than a little general faerie god-motherness thrown in. It’s inspired, in part, by all of these influences, and more, but it isn’t a derivation of any of them. The closest you’ll come, perhaps, is that I mention the nightingale in the story, and that’s the focus in Anderson’s classic The Nightingale. But then, Mockingbird’s Wish focuses on birds, which are the subject of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic movie “The Birds”, so if my work is a derivation of Anderson, one could also say it’s a derivation of Hickcock, too.

The point I’m making is that there is a world of difference between copying or adapting a work from another and creating an original work based on inspiration. No matter how modified, or beautiful, or grand, the derivation is and will always be a copy, while the inspired work is, and will always be, an original work. This isn’t to say that derived work is “bad”. But a derived work is dependent on a specific work that, if it had not been created, the derived work would also not exist. Inspired work is not dependent on any one work or even any one artist.

Copyright laws provide controls on derived works, but not inspired works. When a work enters the public domain, it can be used for a derivation, but a work can provide inspiration regardless of whether it’s copyright protected or not. This is one of the points I’ve been trying to make, and one that seems to keep failing — to many of the people who I disagree with, there is no difference between the two, while to me, there is a world of difference.

Another point I’ve been trying to make, and one that has even less acceptance if that’s possible is that regardless of copyright, there exists another element that should impact on what we do with another’s work: respect.

An example that keeps being brought up is Samuel Beckett and his plays. Beckett, perhaps more so than most playwrights, had tightly held notions about how his plays were to be produced, including blocking two plays because female actors were brought in for male roles. Some would say that Beckett’s strict controls inhibited other’s interpretation of how the play should be produced. Scott wrote:


I simply disagree with the notion that any creative works are so important that we must have laws that state they cannot be interpreted in any other way other than how the author intended. Things are interpreted, and reinterpreted. It’s the way our culture works. Even our own Constitution is constantly being reinterpreted, sometimes with grave consequences.


Scott has a very good point, but then, so did Beckett. Beckett’s view was that he was ‘inspired’ to write a play that had a specific message, and someone else’s interpretation of his play could also change the message, and this changes the soul of the play itself.

Ultimately the question of inspiration compared to derivation compared to interpreation reduces to: does the need of the new artist to re-interpret or create a derivation of the original work take precedence over the need to respect the original artist’s wishes? This is a question that can never be answered by copyright law because it is an issue of respect as it is balanced agains innovation.

This question, or it should be, the question asked every time a person want’s to re-interpret another’s creation. It is outside my comprehension how an innovator who is so moved by a piece of work to want to apply their own interpretation on it, not also be moved by the original artist’s wishes. If they are not, then their arrogance can’t help but obscure the original artist’s message and rather than add to the work, they detract from it.

However, if the innovator does ask themselves this question, and applies their innovation with respect to the original artist, carefully, delicately, adding their own message without destruction of the original artist’s, then the work can be enhanced. But only a person who can see beyond their own needs has the empathy necessary to merge their view with the original artist’s view.

I think my biggest concern about all of this is that we seem to be a society that is progressing towards an attitude that it’s okay to rip/mix/burn with no thought of the consequences, the results, the original artist’s views or work, or anything other than our own desires to do what we want, when we want. Cheap hacks rather than inspired creations.

Scott wrote at the end:


And let’s face it: sometimes the derivative is better. Or at least more consumable.

Not sure how to respond to that, except to quote what Michael Hanscom wrote about Mockingbird:


I’ve always tried to do my best to sing my own song. Some days I do better than others, of course, and it’s easy to get lost in the chorus, but at least I can always keep trying.

(I said in a previous posting that it was the last posting on this topic; I guess I lied. But I was inspired to write this when Mockingbird’s Wish was called a derived work. )


Happy birthday, Jonathon

It’s the 24th here in the States, but it’s the 25th in Australia, which means it’s Jonathon Delacour’s birthday ‘today’.

I think you all should drop on by Jonathon’s weblog and wish him a Happy Birthday. Better yet, go to this posting, and write “Happy Birthday, Jonathon! Now go buy the damn PowerBook!”.


Birthday Cake


Come together

I finally started posting the updated chapters for the Practical RDF book, over at the weblog. These have been edited, drastically, since the last release. The end is in sight for this book and I’m not sure who’s happier: me or my editor. This book has been a long time coming.

Thanks to my most recent announcement about the TOC, I was introduced to some new and very interesting uses of RDF/XML out there ‘in the world’; including a very sophisticated commercial application. These are all covered in the updated chapters.

Other work, though the effect is subtle: I’ve made some majors modifications here and there. For instance, the Recent Comments, Recent Trackbacks, and Recent Writing sections now cross all of my weblogs/web sites. I found that with the Practical RDF, weblog keeping it in isolation from Burningbird was not a good idea.

Now, no matter what main page you go to you’ll be able to see, at a glance, what’s happening elsewhere in the Burningbird Network. I used PHP/MySql to make these change, and once I test the code out a few days, I’ll post it online.

I didn’t use Movable Type plug-ins because by the time I’m finished with the Burningbird Network re-organization and my porting of all the BB Net pages to Moveable Type, I’ll have over twelve main weblog/web site pages. MT plug-ins would require a re-build of all these pages whenever a comment or trackback arrived or a new posting or edit was made.

There’s much less CPU involved just by accessing recent activity directly from the database. Since the amount of data is small and the queries are optimized, the data access should be lightweight. If anything, the PHP processing is what slows the page accesses with my current host, which tends to be a bit CPU and bandwidth bound, rather than I/O bound.

(In other words, with my current host, CPU resources are a bit strained, as is the available Internet bandwidth; however, internal file access, which is what happens with local database queries, does not seem to be strained at this time.)

Of course, all individual and category or secondary pages are static HTML. They’re only re-built when a change is made to the page that impacts them, only, so it was more efficient to use MT plug-ins with them. The only exception is the Backtrack PHP page, which is why it’s linked from the individual pages, instead of incorporating the processing directly into the page itself.

It’s coming together. It’s all finally starting to come together. Right now, over you.

(Apologies to the Beatles for taking their song title and messing with their words.)