My Thoughts Exactly

“The Beach Beneath the Pavement”: Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism as Drawing-room Farce

Herewith, another in my very occasional series of reviews of self-published books.

Roland Denning’s short novel The Beach Beneath the Pavement is a satirical portrait of would-be rogue Bernard Hawks, a journalist whose career is on the skids, in a paranoid, scaredy-cat world (represented by present-day London and environs) in which the leading, and indeed only, ideology is a mind-numbing consumerism premised on the very shaky nihilist pilings of “post-credibility”– a jumbled self-contradictory anti-theory full of portentous nonsense that everybody (except our protagonist Bernard and his Sancho Panza Dilwyn) uses to justify all manner of cowardice, stupidity, double-think, cruelty, and frittering-away of life.

Although some of the tropes in this book are Pynchonian, the writer whose works kept coming to my mind as I read The Beach Beneath the Pavement was Carl Hiaasen, whose broad-brush satires of venal bastards destroying the natural and cultural beauty of Florida, although they read sometimes like Three-Stooges scripts, burn with a white-hot rage. Like Hiassen, Denning is angry about the mindless destruction of something beautiful. Like Hiaasen, Denning can be sentimental and lazy. But also like Hiaasen, when Denning is funny, he’s very, very funny. I laughed ’til I thought I was going to be sick, even as bombs were going off in Olde London Towne every other chapter.

I recommend this book enthusiastically.


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My Thoughts Exactly

Left Behind is Right Behind

Jim Munroe is a leading light in the do-it-yourself/self publishing universe. After getting bummed out by some less-than-thrilling experiences with the Big House who published his first, science-fictiony novel Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gasmask, he set out to create a methodology and infrastructure for people (like me) who had decided to go the non-corporate, auteur/artist route. As a founder of AdBusters, Jim had strong culture-jamming experience and street cred upon which to build.

One result of his going out on his own was the No Media Kings website, another was a kind of permanent tour of musicians, artists and writers, both of which are vehicles for similar-minded do-it-yourself artists. He’s written & published several SF novels, and he also makes low-budget indy films and videogames. I’ve met Jim once or twice, and he’s given me some publicity and advice.

Jim’s most recent book is a graphic novel about a post-Rapture world. Below the fold, a short review, part of my occasional series of reviews of self-published books.

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My Thoughts Exactly

Kirkland College Requiem

One night in the late spring of 1978, two young women broke into the registrar’s office at Hamilton College. Their mission was simple: to remove their academic records, along with all other evidence that they had ever had anything to do with Hamilton. They were members of the last class to receive diplomas from Kirkland College, which was about to be swallowed whole by Hamilton, the college across the street. The Kirkland College board of trustees, with a figurative fiscal gun to their head held by the Hamilton board, had reluctantly, in a split decision, agreed to the merger. But the students never agreed and as far as some of them were concerned Hamilton had no more rights to their records than did the man in the moon.

Below the fold, some commentary on Kirkland College president Samuel Fisher Babbitt’s Limited Engagement part of a my very occasional series of reviews of self-published books.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Why Teens Are Smarter Than Regulators — The Difference between Ubiquity and Substitutibility

Greetings gentle reader! Welcome to another chapter in my occasional series “What All Policy Wonks Need to Understand About Economics So They Can Spot The Industry Baloney” aka “The Econ 101 Gut Check.”

In today’s lesson, we look at two concepts often confused with one another. UBIQUITY, which means how widely available something is; and SUBSTITUTIBALITY, which means whether people regard one thing as a substitute for their first choice. Most arguments for deregulation of the media and the internet rest on confusing these related but very different concepts. For example, the argument that the availability of video clips on YouTube or other types of content creation confuses ubiquity and substitubality, as does the argument that cellphones compete with DSL and cable for broadband access.

But according to this USA Today article (reporting on this study by the PEW Internet and American life project), teenagers who actually use this stuff on a regular basis understand the differences perfectly. And if regulators, policy types, or even just folks who care about getting it right for its own sake want to get our national media and broadband polices right, then we better learn from these teenagers and get the difference between ubiquity and substitutibility straight.

Class begins below . . . .

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