This Machine

Roots are neat things–they can intertwine in odd ways sometimes. I mentioned a couple of days ago that were it not for Pete Seeger, there would be no Digital Cuttlefish. Seeger’s influence, though, does not take just one direct path–Seeger influenced lots of people who (unintentionally, I assure you) shaped me in turn–Dylan, for instance, and Mojo Nixon, and Tom Waits, and Bruce Springsteen… sometimes you can see direct influences of these people in a verse I write (in such cases I usually try to apologize to Bob Dylan, for instance), and sometimes it is more subtle.

One such intermediate influence is Roy Zimmerman. He doesn’t know it, but we’ve met, a couple of times, and I have quite a few of his CD’s autographed by him (the others, not yet signed). His facility with wordplay is as inspiring as the ideas thus presented, which is saying something. Anyway, the video below was just sent out via his newsletter–if you aren’t already receiving it, click through to youtube and follow the link to subscribe (I’d link here, but I’m assuming he gets revenues through youtube as well, so give an artist some clicks)–and it is inspired by and dedicated to Pete Seeger. I’d explain the “this machine” reference, but Zimmerman does, and I don’t want to steal his thunder.

My own machine has no strings at all, but (I am reliably told) it is mightier than a sword.

It should be against the law to offend me

We don’t, normally, see swooning
Over atheist cartooning
But the problem is ballooning
Or, that’s what they’d have us know

One cartoon, they think, might seize us
(They assume it cannot please us)
Cos it shows the face of Jesus
And his little buddy, Mo.

There’s an Author whose creation
Shows a cruel imagination
And whose acts deserve damnation
Or, again, that’s what they say

But the audience intended
Finds the humour simply splendid
It comes highly recommended
By the atheists today!

You all, I am sure, know Jesus and Mo, and the manufactroversy surrounding the cartoon.

Jesus and Mo is offensive. To some people. In very nearly the exact same sense as the bible and the qur’an are offensive, to other people. (and in very nearly the exact same sense as the failure to capitalize the words “bible” and “qur’an” is to still more people.)

I like being offended every once in a while–keeps me from boring myself to death, and surprises me every once in a while with something I thought would offend me, but does not (I’m looking at you, brussels sprouts). I think I’d rather have a variable world that sometimes colors outside the lines of my preferences, than one that always stays safely within the realms of any and all offense. The price I pay to discover new favorites, is the occasional discovery of something offensive. This happens with art, with literature, with food…

I am reminded (true story) of a friend who claimed that “anyone who only ever does it in one position…. that’s a fetish.” She would be (indeed, was) offended by the very conservatism in sex that took offense at her views.

Hmmm… I guess we can’t aim at “no offense” without dooming ourselves to extinction, then.

Maybe we can settle for the government not taking sides.

So, How’d The Test Go, India?

Over the past few days, I’ve had a substantial (for me, that is, a very small fish in the FtB pond) bump in page views, all coming from various locations in India. I have come to learn, over the past couple of years, that this means there is a test coming up. My verse, Time To Eat The Dog?, is in a textbook.

But the thing is, I never hear back from people (well, not true–I heard back from one, who agrees with me that it is a very simple verse, and was graded down for not having a deeper analysis) after they take the exam and get feedback on their answer! Also, I have never heard from any of the teachers!

So, If you are one of the teachers or students, I really would love to hear how people did! And if you are one of the MacMillan publishers, I am perhaps even more curious to know why you chose that verse!

Giving Up Rhyming For A Year

I think, for the year, I will write in prose only; no rhyme and no meter, no scansion, no verse. Iambic pentameter? Perish the notion! We’ll see if my writing gets better… or worse.

A year without sonnets, or ballads, or limericks; a year without couplets or bad villanelles; a year when my thoughts must be written, unfiltered by badly-forced rhymes jammed in metrical shells.

I’ve posted in quatrains; I’ve posted in couplets; I’ve posted a few in a form of my own. I’ve written more verse than I care to remember, in forms more diverse than most people have known! But now, for one year, I will change up my thinking; I’ll curb my obsession with meter and rhyme.

Or maybe I won’t, cos this “try it a year” bit is silly, and simply a waste of my time.

Planting A Seed…

So I sold only a handful of (War Against) Christmas books (e-version here)–not terribly surprising, since it was a last-minute idea that came to fruition right at the time I had the least possible free time to promote it. The only bad thing about it is that with fewer units sold, there was relatively little profit to be sent off to charity.

So I rounded up. As far as I know, there aren’t a lot of organizations that promise that over 100% (in this case, about 103%) of the profits will go to charity. But that’s how we roll here at the ‘fish.

The cause supported (and still worth supporting, although the fund-raiser is only going on a couple more days) is the Women’s Leadership Project (about which more here). Like I just said, there are only a couple more days in their fund-raiser; yes, they have met their matching challenge, but as I look out my window, and note that the thermometer here reads -6.7 F, I can’t help but think ahead to when I’m planting my garden… and I know how much gardens (both literal and metaphorical) can cost, and how much more they are worth. The WLP could use as much seed money as you can spare them–so if you don’t want to buy my book (same deal applies–at least 100% will go to charity–the WLP if still available, even if I have to hand bills to Sikivu Hutchinson myself, or another cause if need be)–you can give directly. Here’s the direct link–you only have a couple of days.

Starting The New Year Right

So I just ran my first 5K. It was… cold, but not as cold as yesterday–double digits today!

But that’s not what I mean by starting the New Year right.

I’ve heard it said that one of the best ways to get better at something is to find someone who is doing it better than you are, and watch them. And in pretty much every aspect of my life, I have someone I can point to and say “that’s the one”. My brother was one such person; if more people were like him (read: If *I* were more like him), the world would be a better place. Actually, I can say the same about my other brother.

And there is one person who stands out in both my online and meatspace life, who continually astonishes me by how much she does. And does well. And works at doing better. And one of the great things about being her friend is, I get to see how much more she does that most people don’t know about (In the words of Harry Truman, it is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit). I refer, of course, to my dear friend Kylie, of Token Skeptic fame–here, take a look at just this year.

I’m starting the New Year right–Kylie has a new project, a new podcast series, “Urban Legendary”. My second step (the 5K was first) in starting this year is to subscribe to her podcast (via that last link), an investment I am certain will pay dividends throughout the year. Some things are well worth encouraging. (and hey, maybe I’ll be on a podcast one of these days!)

I also have a small amount of money, the proceeds from the (War on) Christmas book, that needs to be donated to a charity. I have narrowed my choices to two, but they differ fundamentally, so I’ll ask you–metaphorically speaking, one group puts out fires, and the other plants seeds. One group reacts to current problems, and the other works to prevent future problems. So, fires, or seeds?

Oh, and you can still buy the Christmas book, if you want to support whichever charity is chosen… and you can still buy my book (or the old book) if you think *this* place is worth encouraging.

And Happy New Year to you, one and all! Now I gotta run… I have a podcast to support.

Paying It Forward…

as per Ophelia

I plagiarized a poet; I
Recycled someone’s rhyme;
I composed collaborations,
Never thinking it a crime

It’s the form of my expression;
It’s the narrative I choose;
It’s the sharing of ideas—
Does it really matter whose?

Hey, a sonnet is a sonnet,
Make the topic what you will—
With a rhyming dictionary
There’s no function left to skill!

In the world of modern poetry,
Your sentences are free—
You could play the Prince of Denmark…
To be, or not to… something…

Plagiarism as a new art form? I must have scores of verses that are pastiches on this or that… (I won’t link one, lest I link a dozen, and that’s not fair). It seems to me that pretty much all parties know (which is very different from all parties admitting) when party B has used party A’s stuff. Some of it is protected; some of it is being a bastard. I have tried, myself, to only use protected bits of other people’s writing… if you see something you think is otherwise, please let me know!

Ophelia notes that being pointed to other people’s writing is a good thing, a feature, not a bug…I agree.

And if you plagiarize me… remember, my sister used to be a lawyer.

Now she’s a judge.

Cyber… Something…

Hmmm… it appears to be CyberMonday, if such a thing exists any more. Time was, Lulu would offer special discounts on Cyber Monday, so I was waiting for those so I could do this post right…. but it appears they are not (if they do, I will update immediately). The only thing they have is the code “FREESHIP” for free shipping on up to 14 items, and “CYBERBULK2013″ for 20% off of 15 or more items.

More importantly, they have information, on shipping deadlines:

Screen shot 2013-12-02 at 1.27.54 PM

And of course, here is the page with all the available cuttlebooks–the (War On) Christmas book with all proceeds going to charity, the latest compilation, the earlier compilation, and yes, some free downloads of the earliest stuff. You might want to wait a bit to see if Lulu is just slow on the draw, but (as per the shipping info) you don’t want to wait too long.

And yes, the “cuttlestuff” link up at the top of the page also leads you to cafepress, where the coolest logo in the world can be found on clothing, mugs, and more.

Ink!

Ink

Checked my mail, and there it was!

Ink!

It’s the latest in technology, delivered to your door
Like the internet, but portable—why, who could ask for more?
All that Cuttlefishy goodness, but in one convenient book
What a marvelous invention; don’t you want to take a look?

You can take it to the mountains; you can take it to the park;
With a flashlight or a candle, you can read it in the dark!
It’s much lighter than a laptop, so transporting it’s a breeze
There’s no silicon or plastic—nope, it’s all recycled trees!

It’s an omnibus edition! It’s the Cuttlefish, condensed;
If your dog is acting funny, it’s because he must have sensed!
So you’d better buy an extra, when you’re buying one for you,
Cos the animals all know, it’s all the verse that’s fit to chew!

You could buy one for your Mother; you could buy one for your Pop
You could buy one for your Pastor just to hear him holler “stop!”
You could buy a bunch, and swap out all the hymnals in a church
So they never find “Amazing Grace” no matter where they search!

You could pull one on the Gideons, and place them in hotels
You could slip one to a Wiccan while she’s murmuring her spells
It’s the perfect gift for enemies—the perfect gift for friends!
It’s the gift that keeps on giving—oh, the messages it sends!

You can take one on an airplane; you can take one to the beach;
You could buy them by the dozen, so there’s always one in reach
It’s a conversation starter, if you bring it on a date,
And you’ll know if you’re compatible before it gets too late!

Be the first one on your block to place your order—click today,
And the elf and fairy printers will get on it right away!
As the product of a Cuttlefish, of course you’d call it “Ink”
Really, what more could you ask for?… Well, just one more thing… the link.

Oh, and the link to the preview.

I Feel Like A Million

At some point last night, around 3 AM-ish local time, some visitor here ticked over the odometer, and The Digital Cuttlefish experienced its one millionth view.

I rather like the fact that it happened at that hour, because traffic was light, and I can look through the stats and have some idea (but not an exact idea) of the visitor… and the cool thing is, that person could have come from anywhere! Well, not *anywhere*, but at that time, I had visitors from the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, India, the UK, and The Netherlands. I forget, sometimes, that as small as this blog is, I have many more people reading it than I do students in my combined classes, on any given day (except rare days with atypically low readership).

You might remember, a little less than a month ago, Pharyngula hit 50 million views. Since that time (that is, in under a month), PZ has already had more visitors than I have had in all my time here at FtB. FtB, as a whole, has had over 130 million views, so my million views represents less than one percent of the traffic here. I am a very small cuttlefish in a moderately-sized pond.

But some days, like today, you people make me feel like a million.

Thanks.