April 28th, 2008


Howard Hughes Wonders Why

I don't know what I'd do without Paul Riddell (sclerotic_rings). He keeps me informed, as I squat here in my book-lined niche, afraid to go out into that wide, wacky world of wailing Xtians and Wal-Mart shoppers. For example, without him, I might have missed that Bill Stout (who I've not talked with since Dragon*Con several years back, when we had dinner together) is publishing Prehistoric Life Murals this October. Yay! But, then again, I also would not have to know about Rachel Donadio's article in the New York Times, which reports that even though the number of readers in the US keeps dropping (and don't get me started about illiteracy and functional illiteracy rates in the US), the number of people publishing books keeps going up. Well, skyrocketing, actually. Some 400,000 books were "published or distributed" in 2007 (up from 300,000 in 2006!), but, it should be noted, this figure includes print-on-demand and strictly self-published authors. As of this ayem (16:34 GMT [EST+5]), there are 303,957,569 people in the US (according to the US Census Bureau's "U.S. POPClock Projection,") so this means that slightly more than one tenth of one percent of the US population is being published. This despite "a recent report by the National Endowment for the Arts which found that 53 percent of Americans surveyed hadn’t read a book in the previous year." And maybe it ought not, but somehow, to me, this just all doesn't add up. It freaks me out, even if I can't quite say why. To quote Mark McGurl, an associate professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles (quoted in the NYT article), "...given the manifold distractions of modern life, we now have more great writers working in the United States than anyone has the time or inclination to read.” It seems like everyone wants to talk and be heard, but very few want to listen. As Gabriel Zaid, author of So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance, has said, "Everyone now can afford to preach in the desert.”

Anyway, yesterday I wrote 1,174 words on "Rappaccini's Dragon." Not too bad. I also packed five boxes of books and gave my set of the British Museum prehistoric animals a much needed bath. They get dusty. This collection was assembled between 1984 and 1997, and includes specimens purchased in museum gift shops from Kansas to New York City to London — but I'm still missing the ultra-rare Dimetrodon. Spooky took a photo, because the whole thing seemed to amuse her. I think she's putting it in her LJ tomorrow.

I did not leave the house. We watched the ninth and tenth episodes from Season One of Millennium, and I want a T-shirt that reads, "Frank Black lived for your sins." I did a bunch of Second Life, which I'm actually trying hard to cut back on, if only because I'm growing bloody fucking puking sick of Leetspeak, "txttlking" morons with "names" like Ididyomama229 Potroast, Sexyslut Fishgold, and Restroom Janitor. But...the Museum's coming along quite nicely. In more annoying news, one of the teeth I cracked during the Great October Seizure has started aching again, despite the work done on it in February, and so now I have to contemplate having it extracted and recovering during the same month we have to ready for the move, while I also have to try to keep up with all my deadlines.

Today, we sign the lease on the Providence apartment.

Oh, something cool from Spooky's mother and father. They set up a infra-red camera with an motion sensor on their farm (in RI) to catch wildlife photos. They got the following of a red fox and her cubs (behind the cut; and warning, they are LARGE photos, as I didn't have time to edit them):

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Somehow, this post seems horridly unfocused and meandersome, so I think it best stop now.

Postscript (4:38 p.m.) — Was I not just extolling the virtues of Mr. Riddell? Well, now I have him to thank for alerting me to this article at the Washington Post, reporting the discovery by NASA of possible remains of hydrothermal springs on the surface of Mars, within the boundaries of the equatorial Vernal Crater. Booya! You can get a glimpse of the photo in question here.