Thursday, July 28, 2005

OK, that's it. Some fucking dingleberry is trying to get a city memorial to veterans in San Diego destroyed because it features a prominent cross, and is on public property. (Well, used to be - they tried to get around him by getting the city to sell it to a private group, and were blocked in court from doing so because it was an alienation of gov'nt property. Sheesh.)

The behavior of some "civil libertarians" is so extreme, and so miserably intolerant of any symbol of any religion which isn't disguised as some other social phenomenon - like, say, ecology or communism - that they're functionally indistinguishable from the Taliban. Literally! How is something like this different from the Taliban culture minister ordering the demolition of ancient Buddhist statues? (Well, the arbitrary power to do so, instead of quarrelling in the courts, I suppose, but don't interrupt me - I'm on a rant!)

If the shitheads in Hyndman are "American Palestinians", then this guy is a sterling example of the Atheist Taliban, detonator in hand, determined to extinguish all signs of any religion other than his own. Sod that. (Link via Winds of Change.)
Going through the amazon recommendation lists, I came to the realization that there's a large class of writers who have written books that I enjoyed, whom I feel no need to ever read again. I was a much more voracious genre reader when I was younger, and even as recently as ten years ago, I'd go through phases where I'd just tear through the Penn State Science Fiction Society's library, devouring old classics. That all came to an end for some reason in the late Nineties. I think I ran out of patience for speculative fiction. Oh, I still read SF and fantasy, but it tends to be the sort of SF and fantasy which could just as easily be cowboy novels, or historical fiction.

F'instance - Charles de Lint. I loved the hell out of his urban fantasies when I was about fourteen, thirteen - something like that. Read every thing he published for years, and then, blam! Wall. About the time I went off to college, I believe. I needed to read no more de Lint. It wasn't that I stopped liking his books, although I imagine that I'd react poorly to them today, given a re-naming and a blind taste test. I just had... read enough urban-leftist-dark-wish-fulfillment. Might have been about the time that Steven Brust wrote something similar...

Kim Stanley Robinson is another one - I really tore through his stuff in the early Nineties. The fading might have been me getting conservative in my old age, except that people that know me tell me that I was born old, and cranky, and as reactionary as a Victorian vicar. Maybe I just figured out Robinson, and didn't need to hear from him any more.

Figuring out a writer might be the thing. How else can you explain my having tolerated Ursula LeGuin's the Dispossessed, and loved the Lathe of Heaven, while being unable to even get forty pages into the Left Hand of Darkness? Or maybe not.

Same thing happened with Thomas Hardy. I picked up Jude the Obscure on a whim, and loved it. Went ahead and bought cheap copies of Far from the Madding Crowd and the Return of the Native, but then never got more than ten pages into the latter. I guess my enthusiasm for difficult and virtuous fiction extends about the length of a single narrative?

The common thread in all of these authors, of course, is that they're deadly serious do-gooders. Liberals. Progressive. Important, of course, at least in their own minds. Not a single one of them put a single giggle into anything they wrote, unless you count Jude drunk off his ass and near-suicidally depressed, blasphemously ranting in church Latin to be much of a hoot. Well, I did, but I'm not sure that I was supposed to be laughing...

Does Zadie Smith count? Because she's another one where I loved her first book, White Teeth, but couldn't finish her second, the Autograph Man. I'm of two minds about whether she blows the curve or not. Her books are kind of funny, it's true, but it's a bitter, straight-faced kind of funny - more of a Charles Dickens amusement at the foibles of the common man than anything joyous or happy. Smith is pretty earnest in her whimsy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Corner, or more specifically, K.J. Lopez of the Corner, has been pushing Gov. Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination in '08. They seem to think that his Mormonism won't be a problem, which is fairly interesting given the Corner's usual High-Church tendencies. I have to say that the prospect of a post-Christian president is rather interesting.

Well, I should back that up. Are Mormons Christians? There's the problem of the extra book of scripture, for one. Generally, when a cult introduces new revelation, that cult has left its parent religion and pretty much established itself as a new religion in and of itself, I would think. What little I know about Mormonism was told to me by a junior high sort-of-girlfriend whose family was Mormon, but at least some of that might be bosh. Something about believing that the saved dead would eventually graduate to godhood? It didn't bear much resemblance to the Methodism I was raised to believe...

Not that I'm saying anything nasty about Mormons, mind you. As far as I can tell, they're easily one of the cuddliest and most likeable of the post-Christian religions. If you're frightened by Mormons - and there are some religiophobes who do seem to have that problem - do your best to avoid, oh, say, Scientologists. Those guys scare me.
I ordered Campaign: Shiloh because I'm a sucker, and far too conservative in my entertainment choices. It arrived yesterday, and I spent yet another uncomfortable summer evening playing with it. It's OK, I suppose.

The designer has a peculiar inclination towards hyper-confident units. Both regiments and batteries average "B" and "C" ratings, whereas the unit average in Campaign Gettysburg was more like a "C", and Campaign Peninsula a "D". I can't figure out whether this is an ideological bias - "western regiments on both sides were better soldiers and fighters than easterners", or a design disagreement - the average unit ought to be presumed to be semi-competent.

I don't think I like what they've done with the amphibious movement innovation in the engine. Since there's so much cross-river movement in many of the incidents of the early 1862 three rivers campaign - Mississippi/Tennessee/Cumberland - the designer and his programmer had realized that they needed some way to get units from one side of a river to the other. They chose to make it a characteristic of individual units - companies/regiments/artillery sections/supply trains.

This special characteristic is displayed by a "B" next to the individual unit's movement counter. Basically, it means that the unit is able to walk on water as if it were an uphill slope. The units can change formation from column to line, and advance or assault across rivers. In fact, this is exactly what happened in my first fight, after I wiped out the Confederate outpost at Belmont, and Pillow's Division counterattacked across the Mississippi, grinding forward against my concentrated artillery and rifle fire, leaving a stream of little grey corpses floating still in the swiftly flowing middle of the Mississippi. It's essentially ludicrous.

Units which cross fords or bridges in the old engine couldn't change formation, being forced to stay in either column or routed formation. It's a significant if limited handicap for the units affected, which is what makes these crossings at all perilous. The failure of the designer and programmers of Shiloh to use this paradigm - column-only amphibious limitation - results in a distinctly non-realistic sort of play. It just doesn't feel right to take Fort Henry by storm...

Oh, well. At least I haven't caught the AI marching through swamp bottomland yet. Although I suppose I ought to give it time...
I bought Hoodwinked by Jack Cashill on the strength of a decent presentation on CSPAN's Book Notes. After a low, dishonest decade of academic and leftist fraud, who wouldn't be up for a pungent ramble through the low points of said fraud? Not me, that's for sure. Which is part of why I started into the book with great enthusiasm, and finished it in a mood of irate whimsy. I knew little of Cashill prior to the reading, but it's painfully obvious who he is, and where he's coming from.

Cashill isn't content to write up a collection of various progressive and progressive-tinged frauds, or to make a case that modern progressive culture is built in large part on falsehoods and hidden wickedness. I'm mostly on board for this sort of argument. There's something going on, clearly. But Cashill seems to have gone into the project with a pretty good idea of what was going on, and researched exactly that which would prove his case. It's ironic that he castigates Bellesiles and Kinsey for selection bias, because this entire book is an exercise in selection bias - in collecting evils which prove the case one wants to prove.

The problem possibly begins with Kinsey. Lord knows, Kinsey in particular provides Cashill enough evil to make the world go 'round. His apparent enablement of large-scale pedophilic abuse in the course of his research, if comprehensively true, puts him on a level with Mengele and the researchers in the death camps. Kinsey's apparent selection bias in his adult studies is also pretty damning, and would seem to be bad science. But Cashill wasn't selling a book about bad science, or evil practice. He was selling fraud, the deliberate and persistent sale of falsehoods in the marketplace of ideas. He doesn't make that case with Kinsey, nor does he do so with a number of his other presentations, particularly in the case of some obscure proto-fascist Darwinist named Haeckel, against whom he seems to be presenting a case of fraud-by-bad-draftsmanship.

There's plenty of unpleasant frauds in the book, and the sections on communism, Marxism, the fellow-travellers, modern postmodernism and multiculturalism (which Cashill usefully calls "zero-sum multiculturalism, or ZSM) are useful and apposite. But Cashill has an agenda beyond the castigation of the political and cultural left. He has a larger target in mind - and he blames scientific atheism.

His basic thesis is that naturalism, Darwinism, and atheism breed a contempt for the truth, a Nietzschian love for lies. Which is ironic, in that he never mentions Nietzsche in the text, if my memory and the index can be trusted. In the Darwinist chapter, he throws a lot of mud around, and nails a few targets, but surprisingly fails to tar his apparent primary target with falsehood. I suppose a case could be made that Cashill is arguing that Darwin's ideas breed falsehoods, not that Darwin himself was false, but I'm suspicious. The book felt like a massive exercise in guilt by association. There's even one passage where Cashill blames Stephen Jay Gould for material in textbooks which Gould did not write, edit, or approve. Apparently if there's anything false taught anywhere about Darwinian evolution, the great late-20th-century defender of Darwin's legacy is somehow directly to blame.

I'm not sure whether Cashill is a scientific creationist, or a intelligent design walla (although the gods of probity damn him to academic hell if he's the former), but I'm pretty sure he's somewhere on that continuum. Not that he bothers to tell you in the text - he's too busy castigating the errors of the infidel to spend any time on the errors of the faithful. And in the end, that's what he doing - waging a sort of literary war on the infidel, the pagans of scientism. And he's often right! All sorts of evils seem to be born of the abuse of science - or the modern superstitions which probably ought to be called scientism. When reason and science are clubbed over the head and their stuffed corpses mounted on the altar of an atheistic mystery cult, things will not go well.

But Cashill doesn't make that distinction, doesn't make that necessary distinction between scientists and practitioners of scientism. He's too busy throwing stones at his devil, ranting about the philosophical duality of man and God. There is perhaps a case to be made that fraud is the child of scientism. But Cashill isn't the dispassionate and careful thinker to make that case. Heaven knows, I've just proven that I'm not that thinker, either. But I'm pretty sure that "man and God" isn't the line of argument which will find the way. "Science and reason as a religion in itself" - that, there, is a better line. And an assault on the stubborn and self-deluding insistence of atheists that they don't practice religion, simply because they denounce the gods.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Thank heavens, the second round of attacks on London seem to have only injured one of the perpetrators, as the bombs either failed to go off, or weren't properly speaking finished bombs in the first place. This strongly suggests that this new wave weren't professional terrorists at all, but rather copy-cat kids. Wonder if they were building these things from online instructions, or is it all some kind of elaborate hoax, designed to produce a show-trial by non-al-Queda sympathizers who haven't quite grasped the whole "death cult" thing?

Actually, it would make sense if the attackers' handlers had intentionally shorted them, in the hopes of provoking an anti-Muslim pogrom by the hooligans. Nothing stifles dissent like a defensive huddle. The current strategy on our side was to get the moderate Muslim mass to police the mosques and madrassas themselves.

The BBC is putting up another of their reporters' logs.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Ugh. I hate summer. I'm just not a summer person. I'm just goddamned tired all the time. Wonder if there are any jobs on Baffin Island? The summers are still miserable, but they're shorter...

Dimitri pointed out that HPS has released a new "Campaign" game, Campaign: Shiloh. Campaign Peninsula just came out, and I'm still playing the blasted thing. Dimitri is happy about the whole "non-linear" thing, but Tiller's campaign engine depends heavily on what the designer does with it. Campaign Corinth, for instance, is functionally non-linear - the choices made result in significantly different gaming experiences. Campaign Peninsula, on the other hand, isn't particularly supple in this regard, and neither Campaign Franklin nor Campaign Ozark were, either.

Once the designer commits thoroughly to non-linear, true campaign-style flexability, the relation of the game to the history becomes notational. The prime example in this regard is Campaign Gettysburg. The chances of a player, starting from first principles on the long campaign, actually showing up at the Gettysburg crossroads is almost nil. I hadn't done it in nine months of playing the game. Campaign Gettysburg as a gaming experience is almost entirely counterfactual, from the moment that the Brady Station scenario is complete. You'd actually have to rein-enact in the course of the game, intentionally hobbling your gameplay, playing from a detailed campaign study, and mimicking every move by Hooker, Lee, and Meade, in order to end up fighting over shoes in the proper small Pennsylvania town. And that presumes that the opposing AI is inclined to play along with your re-enactment intentions, and that's most likely a presumption too far.

Campaign Peninsula, on the other hand, wants you to re-fight the Seven Days, in their proper order. You can (and will!) butcher the other side as the AI marches its columns brainlessly through swamps and into oblivion, but you'll still end up moving forward into the next day's battle, on the expected location, on the scheduled hour. Well, if you're the Confederates, that's the case.

Regardless of the design work and effort, the Tiller battle engine still has one huge, gaping flaw - the AI. It stinks. It can't handle movement, let alone alignment and tactics. The AI in Campaign Peninsula is constantly marching its columns through swampy bottomland, so much so that it sometimes feels as if it's hiding its units down there, because they're so far back that you can't get at them easily without artillery support. Given that the AI can't mount an assault without comprehensively disordering its entire attack column, I suppose it's superfluous to complain about its inability to recognize a turning movement and respond appropriately to a flanking element. Without a well-programmed AI, these sorts of civil war-themed wargames are essentially a long-form species of solitaire, because the action is far too slow and drawn-out to rationally play in a multiplayer context, assuming you could find a partner to play with, that is.

As for Dimitri's displeasure with the prospect of a John Adams biopic shot mostly in places Adams never graced with his irritated presence, I have one question: how did filming Gettysburg on the battlefield result in a movie which would have been distinguishable from a similar film shot on look-alike terrain in, say, Georgia, or Ohio? Boston must be an obscenely expensive town to film in.

Update: Rich Walker, the designer of Campaign Franklin, is the designer on Campaign Shiloh. That cryptic line about "full power melee" seems to be describing a new variant on melee combat where the attacked unit gets a full defensive blast in, instead of the usual half-volume defensive fire given to units in range of an active unit. Sounds like a lot of fussing about with new units and new features, and still nothing about the brain-dead AI. At least Walker seems to have learned his lesson from Campaign Franklin, and describes a much more truly non-linear campaign tree than the one presented in Campaign Franklin.

I don't know... there's that Bull Run real-time game that I've been hearing about...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I'm reading the second volume of Beatie's Army of the Potomac and his account of McClellan's December bout with typhoid fever that supposedly almost killed him, and it sent me off on a counterfactual meander of wondering what might have happened if McClellan had been killed by it, during the first winter of the war. Then the thought brought me up short: what general, Union or Confederate, was killed by sickness during the war?

The only one I could come up with was John Buford - Charles F. Smith sort of counts, but then, sickness due to complications from a bad fall strikes me as not quite on the point. Granted, I'm not really up to speed on the biographies of all the division-level commanders, let alone the hundreds of brigade commanders, but it's striking that I can rattle off plenty of commanders of corps or armies dead by violence - Nelson, in a half-assed duel with a fellow Union general, Mansfield on the field at Antietam, A.S. Johnston, T.J. Jackson, McPherson, Sedgwick, Reynolds, etc, etc - it's a very, very long list. But their soldiers generally died at a ratio of two to one, death by sickness versus death by violence. Where are all the generals dead from camp fevers?

Is it a matter of exposure, and poor usage, and bad camp conditions? What protected those with shoulder-straps from the worst of the dysenteries and typhoids that killed off the cannon-fodder? I can't imagine it would be better access to doctors, could it?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Porphyrogenitus, whom I used to argue with a good deal back in the day, re-joined the army a while back. His unit is getting ready to go to Iraq. He is a warblogger, one of the originals, who went out to support his words with deeds. He has my respect and admiration.

Link via Instapundit, which says something about how much I've been paying attention to Porphy recently, which I kind of regret. I don't even know his name; all I know about him is that he's from Wisconsin, and is about my age.
Manga I've had enough of...

Here is Greenwood

I really, really liked the six-episode OAVs from the early Nineties. It was quirky, colorful, well-written and charming, and it ended well. So naturally, I started picking up the manga as it appeared in the states. And kept waiting for the charming and funny. And waiting. And waiting. As of the fourth volume, I've come to the conclusion that this is one of those adaptation-is-better-than-the-original deals, and the manga version of Here is Greenwood just isn't my cup of tea. There's too many characters, none of them are all that likeable, and nothing all that amusing or exciting ever happens. I will have to finish the fourth volume, because I hate having a half-read manga laying about, but it'll be something I get around to, not something I'm looking forward to, to dangle a participle. Or something.

Land of the Blindfolded

This started out kind of charming, but three volumes later, it's about as substantial as fire-retardant foam, and just as tasty. The writer just isn't suited to serious themes, and the set-up doesn't lend itself to light romantic comedy. The protagonist is just too damned saintly, and everybody, even the villains, are too nice. It almost inspires me to Into the Woods-themed spasms of nice-hatred. No more.

W Juliet

I'm generally a sucker for gender farce, especially cross-dressing gender farce. So I had high hopes for W Juliet. It's one of these "X has to attend school as a member of the opposite gender to satisfy crazed relative" stories, but yet it still manages to make the subject dull and uneventful. The supporting characters are increasingly cardboard-thin, and almost all the dramatic tension is drawn from pointless "x is hiding z from y" conflicts, which usually have nothing to do with the central gender game. Dave warned me about this series - I should have listened. Meh. Dropped after the third volume.


This is the only one on the list which I haven't decided one way or the other. You'll note that this is the second CMX title on a list of four. This is because CMX has the worst paper-quality and binding in the industry. It's sleazy, stiff, and every volume feels like it's been soaked in a pan of fanboy sweat under the hot sun. Dave dropped my copy of Hot Gimmick vol. 9 into a rain-puddle last week, and it's in better shape *now* than any of my CMX manga are, straight from the vendor. This cruddy presentation makes it really hard to get into any story, let alone insubstantial, allegedly amusing piffle like Gals!. If a story wants to bound along like a hypercaffienated rug rat on a sugar kick, then don't ask me to follow along to the tune of a creaking book-spine and the cheap rustle of warped pages. CMX, you're on my shit list.

Monday, July 11, 2005

I never quite know what to expect when I stick my head out my door these days. Last Wednesday, there were these percussive noises just after sunset - Bellefonte had apparently decided to hold their 4th of July fireworks on the sixth. It was actually a quite extensive display, not even counting whatever had gone on before I came wandering out to the street. On Saturday, I heard marching bands playing, which isn't as odd as it sounds, as a local band used to practice in the recess yard of the elementary school over on Linn Street, just across the alley from my bedroom window.

But no, it wasn't anybody's practice.

It was the Logan Fire Company's 4th of July parade, down Allegheny Street. (On the Ninth, but these days it seems that the 4th of July covers the better part of a week. Perhaps when I'm old and greyer, it'll have conquered the whole damned month of July.)

I've never seen so many of those newfangled canvas folding chairs in one place. The parents had all equipped their kids with plastic bags, which confused me a bit until I noticed that every single vehicle and politician that rolled by had a big bag of penny candy, the contents of which they were using to pelt the crowds. The kids were scrambling all over the place, and made me more than a little anxious that one of the rug-rats would go under a tire in their enthusiasm.

It wasn't just Logan, or indeed, just the fire companies in town on parade. They had invited companies from throughout this section of the "T", from Reynoldsville to Beech Creek, and including some towns I couldn't mentally place on a map, like Wingate. Some of the smaller communities, like Port Matilda, had glorified pickup trucks groaning under the weight of a full hose-and-pump apparatus. I ended up being kind of curious how effective those tiny fire trucks *were* in fighting fires. I can see how there'd be worry in the more distant communities about waiting for the big-community engine companies while their houses burn to the ground... Speaking of which, it occurred to me that with every fire company in a forty-mile radius on parade in Bellefonte, it would've been a hell of a time for something to catch fire out in the boonies. Oh, well.

The politicians consisted of the three commissioners, and the Democratic and Republican candidates for District Attorney. The Republicans were all in cars, while the Democrats were walking alongside their cars, playing out that whole tribune-of-the-people thing. Conklin was being pretty cool, but Arnold was a tad desperate-looking. The guy on the microphone and speaker at the band-stand made excuses for Madeira being in his car, claiming that he had hurt his knee in a motorcycle accident. The two Republican commissioners got no explanation as to why they were on their duffs and not out glad-handing. They had apparently forgotten to bring their top-hats and canes, or perhaps the hats had blown off in the non-existent breeze.

Perhaps they should have had a mother or two trailing their cars to catch 'em, like the women flanking the various majorette companies, arms full of discarded or dropped batons. There were almost as many of these companies as there were fire companies on parade. There was even a contingent from University Park - I didn't think any families *lived* in University Park - has State College's school district re-named itself without my noticing?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

An attack on one of us is an attack on us all.

Well, goddamnit. Sorry, London.

[Just a note - and I can't believe that I have to make this clarification - but this was an expression of sympathy, not an admission of guilt or an apology or any other goddamn miserable variant thereof.

Some people...]
Steve Sailer is on my radar again, tearing into both James Taranto's Roe Effect theory, and Steven Levitt's Roe crime-fighting argument.

For those who haven't encountered these ideas, they go like this:

Taranto argues that the legalization of abortion allows pro-abortion types (IE, liberals) to limit their reproduction, while abortion opponents reproduce at a higher clip. One or two generations later, there will naturally be fewer pro-choice types - because their parents aborted their hypothetical brothers and sisters - and more pro-life types - because their parents were baby machines. Sailer - a conservative just to the left of Pat Buchanan - rather unexpectedly has torn into this particular just-so story, which I was rather taken with, back when I first heard it two years ago. Sailer argues from the statistics - and Sailer is a statistical maniac - that the nominal reduction in births attributable to the introduction of legal abortion is about one-sixth of what "Roe Effect" proponents say it is. He offers numbers that show that unwanted pregnancies increased during the Roe period to a degree that comes close to matching the increase in the rate of abortions. He dismisses the remainder as "not [...] trivial, but it's not very important either".

I still haven't gotten around to reading Levitt and Dunber's Freakonomics, but there's so many excerpts floating around that I'm starting to wonder if I won't end up getting most of the book via blogsphere osmosis. Apparently that theory about the underclass liquidating their potential criminal cohorts via legal abortion is one of the prize theories of Freakonomics. Again, you would think that Sailer would be enthusiastic in his paleoconservative fashion about such an idea, which lays such an ugly light upon Roe. Rather to the contrary, he produces a set of statistics which throws a considerable damper on the idea that Roe is responsible for the Nineties decline in crime, showing that youth crime actually increased per-capita in the post-Roe cohorts, and that the declines in crime were seen in the pre-Roe cohorts in the late Nineties. He argues that the striking swings in crime in the Eighties and Nineties can be explained largely or entirely (I'm not sure which) by the crack epidemic and the social and cultural issues which encouraged it. He flat-out blames abortion for those factors, blaming the availability of abortion for eliminating the "shotgun marriage". I'm not as sold on his argument in this as I was on the Roe Effect matter, as the statistics seem to go by pretty fast. But it's a striking set of counter-intuitive arguments, don't you think?

Initial link via the Corner.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

"I'm a pediatrician and I can tell you birth control doesn't work 100 percent of the time," said Dr. Jim Diamond, the Sierra Club's biotechnology expert. "I don't see it working in trees either."

...from an article about bioengineered cottonwoods designed to clear mercury from contaminated brownfields, our pediatrician-cum- "biotechology expert" is worried about cross-fertilization by sterilized GMOs. Let me know how that mule out-breeding project works for you there, Dr. Diamond.

In all seriousness, the mercury cottonwood sounds like a deeply cool concept, and I can't imagine that a critter engineered with a handicap like "deliberately sequester heavy metal poisons" is going to be much of a threat to the general cottonwood gene pool. Sometimes environmentalists sound a bit like turn-of-the-century racists with their concerns about quick-breeding "mongrel races" out-competing their preferred race. If it's so damned superior, why wouldn't it have the evolutionary advantage, Mr. Social Darwinist/literal Darwinist/nature-worshipper?

Link via a bit of slumming in Fark.
My dad pointed out this Doonesbury comic in the Sunday paper over breakfast in Cranberry Township. (The version that ran in the print edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cut the snarky "let me make 109 points about Bolton" bumper, as they often do, for space concerns.) I think I said something lame to the effect of "that's why I don't read Trudeau". But one of the virtues of the blogsphere hive-mind effect? There's always somebody lighter on their feet and better-prepared to crush the object of irritation.

Jason van Steerwyk was the captain of a headquarters company in a National Guard line-battalion in ar Ramadi when he first started blogging. He's moved into media criticism and personal finance commentary since coming back from his tour in Iraq. He's one warblogger you don't want to mau-mau with the "Yellow Elephant" routine. He's always worth reading. Even when he's going on about fiddle-playing. ^_^

Monday, July 04, 2005

"Blog" is just a species of slang for a class of web-journaling applications. It overlaps imperfectly with livejournal, a related but culturally distinct community that tends more towards personal, diary, fannish, and less serious usages. Here's Samizdata's definition.

I personally use Blogger, and I haven't spent a dime on the hobby. You can go from my cheapskate model through various designed and maintained models to the heavy-iron bandwidth-intensive requirements of a Instapundit or a Lileks, with various blogging applications like Movable Type or communities like

As for professional, journalistic uses of blogs, you have a number of variants.

As I mentioned, BBC tends to set up very bare-bones blogs for specific events and occurrences like the Gulf War reporters' log. There's no commenting features, no real use of fancy html tricks, little flash and bang - just a kind of quick, terse, immediate rolling log of reports which could have been produced on teletype or even by telegram.

The next step up from that is the National Review's the Corner, which is technically similar to the BBC's reporters' logs in their lack of commenting and heavier structure, but differs in its persistence, and the breadth of subject matter. NRO uses the Corner to provide a sense of community and identity tying together the "face" of the political magazine with the people who actually produce the magazine. There's a lot of pop-cultural foolishness and linking of "timewasters", mixed in with quick news-bites and a lot of arguing back and forth based on those snippets. In general, the Corner offers the appearance of transparency for its sponsoring organization. It helps deflate the notion of a "Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy" to see John Derbyshire and John Podhertz argue over Star Wars, and Jonah Goldberg's comedic attempts to get around Corner editor Kathleen Lopez's dictatorial ban on Star Trek references. It's the political magazine re-cast as a sort of reality-show sitcom.

The heavy-grade model is that of the Daily Kos and RedState. I'll discuss RedState, because I don't pay much direct attention to dKos, which isn't really my political cup of tea. RedState essentially took their blogging model from dKos's earlier example, anyways.

RedState is run by a board of directors, who are the primary posters on the site - off the top of my head, trevino, Augustine, Thomas, Erick, doverspa, and krempasky, but you could check their director's page to see, and thus I discover, myself, that only Josh Trevino, Mike Krempasky, and Erick Erickson are directors. It's easy to loose track in the audience as to who's exactly in charge, and who's just an editor. RedState started out rather informally, but last year they registered as a 527, and it's definitely an activist's medium. The directors and editors post articles. To comment, a visitor has to register with the site. This registration also allows the visitor to create their own diary entries, and theoretically, the directors or editors can find merit with these and promote them to the main page along with their own output. RedState has a relatively strong editorial policy, and thus has a good reputation for civility and comity. There's no swearing, abuse is frowned on, and "trolls" - people who come in to specifically cause problems and stir up trouble - are quickly banned from commenting and posting diary entries. Some folks use their diary privileges to essentially run their own blogs off of RedState, but I don't generally bother. I've got my own personal space.

RedState also has a Corner-like discussion-log called RedHot. They will spin off additional, themed blog-threads as the politics and events warrant. Currently, the most notable of these is ConfirmThem, a partisan blog dedicated to the ongoing Senate confirmation drama. Isn't really my sort of thing, but as an example...

For blog-usage in journalism in general, Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine is probably your man. He's a big blog-evangelist, and is a kind of mainstay on the journalism conference circuit on the subject. He has a lot of opinions on how blogs ought to fit into the professional media. He gets a little technical for my tastes, but then, I'm not a journalist. Jeff's favorite catchphrase is "the news as conversation".