Jul 162003

1. The briefer and less substantive the post, the greater the number of comments. (Lemma: The briefer and less substantive the post, the likelier a link from Instapundit. Not that I would know.)

2. The more political the post, the greater the number of comments. There are ten people with ill-informed opinions on politics for every one with an ill-informed opinion on philosophy or poetry. This applies to U.S. politics only; nobody cares what goes on in your home town, or your home country if it’s Canada. In life all politics is local: on blogs all politics is national.

3. The more personal the post, the greater the number of comments. There are ten people with ill-informed opinions on you for every one with an ill-informed opinion on politics.

4. The greater the number of comments to a post, the lower their overall quality.

5. A soft answer turneth away trolls.

6. All of my commenters are excepted from all of the above rules.

Jun 232003

This is a test of the emergency broadcast system. Colby Cosh is now officially unemployed and needs your money, for which he is too proud to beg more than twice. Yes, we want Colby to have plenty of leisure for blogging, but we also want to keep him in food, cigs, and an Internet connection, and I’ve heard tell that those Alberta summers can be pretty harsh. If you haven’t been reading Colby, you’d best start, and if you have, then you know how consistently good he is, so cough up. This has been a test of the emergency broadcast system. If this were a real emergency, you would be instructed to give me money instead.

Jun 062003

It was beautiful biking weather today, roller-bladers were scarce, and to top it off, so to speak, I saw a guy with a Kid ‘do, a bit wilted from basketball but a good ten inches tall in its full glory. Or maybe it was a Play ‘do, who can remember?

Anyone who bicycles in New York will eventually encounter a Mexican man, in his 50s or 60s, riding sedately on a low bicycle — usually with a front basket, a banana seat, and a sissy bar — festooned from end to end with bells, lights, horns, streamers, and occasionally pictures of the Virgin Mary. Lacking a camera I can’t do this justice, but it is one weird subculture, and there’s a paid article in it for someone more industrious than I am.

And while I have been failing to fill what Spinal Tap called a “much-needed void,” have a look at Alan Sullivan’s seaworthy new design, one of Sekimori’s better efforts. You should of course be reading him anyway. He’s a real poet, I just talk about them. Stumbling Tongue has a stirring defense of ignorance. Colby Cosh, who embarrassingly posts more when he says he isn’t blogging than I do when I say I am, discusses the politics of Witness, that Amish movie from the ’80s, but fails, oddly, to note how remarkably thick Kelly McGillis’s neck is.

May 242003

You’re kidding, right? This is actually lamer than “The dog ate my homework”: there was an antediluvian era when you couldn’t save your homework to your hard drive. Yet Colby Cosh, Mr. Hand Coding, has trotted out this excuse twice in two weeks, while Andrea Harris can figure out how to change her site design every six hours but seems to have her posts swallowed with some regularity.

I concede that I’m not in the greatest position to hand out technical advice, but people, this is not difficult. Do not write blog entries directly into your blogging software. Open some svelte text editor, like Notepad, Wordpad, or BBEdit if you want to get fancy (Microsoft Word is not svelte), give your post a title, and save it. Begin writing, hitting Ctrl-S or the little floppy disk icon — see it up there on the toolbar? — after every paragraph or so. If you can’t manage HTML outside of your blogging software, then just copy the links you need to the bottom of the post. When you’re finished, open your blogging software, select your post, and copy it in. Add your links if you haven’t already. Post. Repeat as necessary.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled precious art blogging.

(Update: Craig Henry comments.)

May 132003

Let’s see what we’ve got in the ol’ mailbag…

An anonymous “family member” of the late Ty Longley, who doesn’t specify whether he has in mind the nuclear, the extended, the Family of Headbangers, or the Family of Man, takes exception to my discussion of Mr. Longley’s alleged second career:

Um, dude, I am a family member of Ty’s and can personally attest, that he is not the “Tybo” in porn. First of all, try searching under the porn name Tybo on the internet….it’s a chic [sic].

Le Freak, c’est chic! But fair enough, especially since my original source was a porn blog — like you were expecting The New York Times. I take Mr. Member’s advice, and plug “Tybo” and “porn” into Google, noting with alarm that my own item is the first entry. Eventually I happen on this, which is a bit sketchy, but it looks like the right Ty Bo, since the dates, 1999-2000, coincide with the dates in my source. Trouble is, the URL includes “gender=m,” so I’m willing to wager this is not a chic we’re discussing. And really, what female porn star in her right mind would call herself “Ty Bo” anyway?

Until further notice, then, God of the Machine regrets that we are unable to regret the error.

On a more serious note, Casey Fahy (scroll down a bit, and, um, dude, get some permalinks) wants to know why I doubt the story about turning turkey guts into Texas tea. Presumably I would believe it if only I, like Casey, were an optimist. Why am I not an optimist? Take it away, Ambrose Bierce:

Optimism, n. The doctrine, or belief, that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong. It is held with greatest tenacity by those most accustomed to the mischance of falling into adversity, and is most acceptably expounded with the grin that apes a smile. Being a blind faith, it is inaccessible to the light of disproof — an intellectual disorder, yielding to no treatment but death. It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.

Let’s see, where was I? Oh yes, turkey guts. Well, I’m not a chemist, and neither is Casey, but Greg Hlatky is, and he’s read the patent. At any rate, the merits of this particular claim, which appear to be small, are beside the point. This is a matter not of optimism or pessimism, but of epistemology. Every day interested parties, like our “tall, well-tanned entrepreneur” of the Discover story, make pie-in-the-sky claims whose technical merits most of us are utterly unqualified to judge, even if we’re willing to do a lot of homework. You therefore have three choices. Door #1: Ask one or several people who might know and take their word for it (my choice in this case, by trusting Hlatky, but not always available). Door #2: Accept them out of hand. Door #3: Reject them out of hand. Rejection is provisional: you can always change your mind later if more evidence comes in. You’ve wait-listed the claim, so to speak. Acceptance is a different matter. No matter what private reservations you may harbor at the time, your brain files away the “fact” that, for instance, we can make oil out of turkey guts, and six months later you’ve forgotten what your doubts were, if you ever had them. A vast amount of error can be traced to this sort of “optimism.”

(Update: Gregory Hlatky, himself, comments.)

May 072003

Everyone stop reading and go over to the Blowhards to read their interview with architecture theorist — and I mean that in a good way — and Christopher Alexander disciple Nikos Salingaros. I can’t go down the line with Alexander, whose views are a bit totalitarian for my taste, though far less so than those of the people, like Corbusier, he’s trying to supplant, but Salingaros will refine your thoughts about architecture if nothing else. It’s a five-parter, best read in order. One, two, three, and four are up so far. Five will presumably follow shortly. Don’t miss the comments to Part Two, in which AC Douglas gets tossed for being, well, for being AC Douglas, mostly.

In unrelated news, just two short days after being accused of “stifling dissent,” I am now called a racist (“dim-witted” too, but that’s old news) for this. I’m still waiting on “fascist” and “Nazi,” but at this rate I expect to fill my bingo card by the end of the week.

Apr 292003

I’ve added a new Hall of Reciprocity on the upper left, reserved for all you generous souls who keep me in your permanent links. It’s the least I can do. Most of these sites are very good indeed, they all show exemplary taste, and I read every one of them, at least occasionally.

Apr 292003

Eugene Volokh dispenses some advice, worth, as he says, at least what you paid for it, on how to promote one’s blog. It’s sound and well-considered, like nearly everything he writes, but to my mind (and God knows I’m not exactly an authority on this topic) he omits one important thing, maybe the most important thing. Comment on other people’s blogs. Leave comments on their blogs and write responses on your own. Some say you ought to notify bloggers when you reply to them, but I don’t think that’s necessary. Like every other blogger I comb through my reefer logs, and if you write something about me rest assured that I will find it. This is Dale Carnegie 101. People will show interest in what you say if you show interest in what they say.

When the chips are really down, do what I do: comment on Steven Den Beste. He is immensely fair-minded, everybody reads him, and if you say something reasonably intelligent about one of his posts he will find it and link it. It’s the one sure solution when you’re hurting for traffic.

(Update: Floyd McWilliams says pretty much the same thing, but nearly an hour later. You gotta get up pretty early in the morning to stay ahead of me, like before noon.)

(Another: Marduk comments. So does Dr. Weevil. And brmic too. Clearly I left out the best advice of all: write posts about getting linked.)