Why Lulu is the best thing to ever happen to indie writers….

I recently began listening to the followup to The Lexus and The Olive Tree, entitled The World is Flat: A Short History of the 21st Century. The latter was written in 2005 so the author has had time to absorb the true impact of the internet, while it was just getting revved up when he wrote the former book. His key point in the first part (of three) of the book is that there have been many events which have caused the world to flatten. This flattening is a metaphor for a leveling of the playing field across many different industries. For example, Linux has leveled the playing field in computers by allowing poorer people to afford computers since they don’t have to pay for an operating system or programs. Fiber optics have leveled the playing field for India by allowing data to be transmited so quickly and with so much bandwidth that companies are able to do more and more abroad, allowing educated Indians to have jobs of a caliber they could not have before. You get the point.

Let me offer one other example which he doesn’t talk about in the book, or, if he does, he hasn’t mentioned it yet. While the RIAA may consider MP3s to be the bane of their industry, it has been a boom to indie musicians. Unlike .wav files, which take up 10 MB per minute of music, MP3s take up about 1 MB per minute of music at 128kbps sampling rate. This has allowed, as everyone reading this knows, for music to become small enough to transmit over the Internet. While the recording industry claims that this is bad because of piracy, the true reason that they hate it is because it threatens their entire industry! While this is a slow process which may or may not ever reach fruition, MP3s allow artists to be independent of record labels. If I were an indie group or a garage band who didn’t get signed by a label, I could put up a website and post MP3s of my music. If I were good, word would spread over the Internet and everyone would download my MP3s. Then, if enough people from my surrounding area liked me, I could throw a concert. Maybe it couldn’t be at Madison Square Garden, but some smaller venue (like my friends in High School used to do). In the “real world” artists never make money on their CDs anyway, they make money on Tshirts, hats, and concert sales. Therefore, they can bypass the record companies and still make money if they are good. Of course the RIAA feels threatened by this!

Some groups have already begun to do this. I wish I knew the name of the group, but an old 80s group has revived by doing this. Their label didn’t want to resign them so they began releasing MP3s on their website and have gained a huge following of fans who have begun to pour money into them through merchandise and ticket sales.

So what does all of this have to do with writing? Well, Lulu.com is poised to do to publishing what MP3s are doing to music. I discovered this company yesterday because a flickr group I am involved in is using Lulu to create a quarterly photo magazine. They were only charging $20 so I had to see what this was all about! Lulu levels the playing field for indie writers by not charging any money at all up front. If I create a book and upload it to Lulu, they charge me no fees. They tell me how much the book costs to print and then they ask how much profit I want to earn. Profit I want to earn + book cost = sales price. Lulu keeps 20% of this. So you only pay anything if someone buys a book. If no one ever buys your book, it’s ok because Lulu doesn’t charge you. In this scheme the reader really does cover all of the costs! You can even create an ebook, in which case it’s pure profit!

This gives indie writers many, many advantages. First of all, they can set a lower price because they do not have to cover the cost of distribution and markups from the distribution channels and store markups. Second, it allows an author to get his or her work out there without having to lay out any cash. Before, if an author couldn’t get signed by a publisher he or she had to pay for the printing themselves and then get it out and convince Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com to carry it. This is no longer the case! This is truly a wonderful time to be a great writer and you don’t have to remain unknown until a publisher finds you. Just as indie films are often the best, but studios wouldn’t produce it, indie books can be awesome, but not signed. This is dumb because it signals that publishers and producers don’t know what they are doing because good ones are not getting produced – their filter is too strong and it’s filtering out good work.

Andrew, you have some amazing work – get to Lulu now! The rest of you who have always had aspirations of being an author, get to Lulu now! I will blog about this again once I have my first book out. q:o)

The sun sets on Numa Numa….and rises on Andrew’s Beautiful Day?

Andrew, on a dare from some of his mates in the Galactic Irregulars, tried to outdo the Numa Numa guy with his own lip sync to a song. Personally, I don’t think it’s whacky enough. He’s driving and the music is playing while he sings to some of the lyrics. It is kinda neat to see the cars over his shoulder, but nothing that I think would unseat Jersey boy. Andrew may have once looked comical (as we all do when we are in are early teens), he now looks like someone who could probably put up a good fight. Perhaps something a little whackier would be funny, but you can be the judge!

Welcome a new wordpress blogger on my server as well as fellow Spider-fan

Andrew Laine who you may know from Temporary Insanity, a site hosted on my page, asked me today to hook him up with a blog. I was more than happy to oblige, as I had offered a blog to all those hosted on my site. Within five minutes he was set up and you can now see him at Andrew’s Random Ramblings. Apparently, just like me, he’s a big Spiderman fan. As you will remember, just days ago I wrote about Spidey in a 8 April post about buying the Amazing Spiderman collection on CD-ROM.

Welcome Andrew! I encourage my readers to check out his blog, he’s a really great writer and my oldest friend, along with his twin sister. I’ll be putting up a direct link soon, but you can link from write within this post.

Faulkner in a rap song…

I bought the Erace album when it first came out and I think I was just a freshman in high school if not younger. I really liked the rap put out by Gotee records courtesy of GRITS, et al especially because back then they had more of an experimental and underground sound. They’ve recently sold out, in my opinion, by sounding like every other rapper out there. But that’s not the subject of this post, so I’ll save it for another time. At the time I was unable to realize just how creative this song was. I used to play it over and over because I really liked the beat and the raps weren’t too bad.

It wasn’t until my senior year that I finally understood the meaning of these lyrics, in fact, even the meaning of the title. When I bought the CD I had assumed that the rappers had made up a word for the title since it was Yoknapatawpha (a mental mississippi). I figured that since it was a “mental mississippi” that Yoknapatawpha just stood for an ideal mississippi or something.

When I finally got to the grade where we had to read American literature, I was introduced to the magical writer William Faulkner. His brilliance both frustrated and enthralled me. Part of me hated him for being such a different writer. The other part of me celebrated what a gifted writer he was. He was to American literature at the time what Andy Kaufman was to comedy in the 70s. Some people got it and the rest hated him. Just which work of his did I have to read? “As I Lay Dying”

“As I lay Dying” has quite a crazy cast of characters (literally in some cases), in fact the entire plot is insane.

————-begin spoiler, ignore if you hate them, but it probably won’t give away much———–
When the book begins, the mother of a yokel family has recently died or dies in the first paragraph. I don’t remember the exact details. She was survived by a husband, three boys, and a daughter. One of the sons is mechanically inclined and builds her coffin. The middle one goes nuts and drills holes in the coffin so that the mother can breathe. He ends up drilling right through her face, although he doesn’t know this since he can’t see into the coffin. Under the pretext that his wife wanted to be burried with her kin, the husband loads up a wagon with the coffin and heads to her town. Or he would, were the river not too high. So he waits a while. He waits so long that the corpse is actually beginning to smell and he hasn’t even left his town. In the meanwhile, his daughter gets empregnated by one of the farm workers. They had a series of misadventures while trying to get this coffin to her town including setting a barn on fire and having the coffin fall off the back of the wagon into a river. Eventually they make it to town and the middle kid is admitted to an insane assylum. The girl, desperate for an abortion goes to see a pharmacist who rapes her instead. The dad remarries some lady who we presume he went to marry in the first time.
—————-end spoiler———————————————————————-

What really makes this a crazy book, other than the plot is the way in which it was written. Each chapter is written to express the though process of a certain character. The mechanically inclined son has a chapter consisting of a numbered list. The crazy kid’s chaper never makes sense. The daughter’s chapter is written simply since she has no formal education. It is a VERY tough read to understand the plot fully.

So how does this relate to a rap song? First of all, most of Faulkner’s novels take place in a fictitious Mississippi city named Yoknapatawpha. The song also uses “As I lay dying” as part of the lyrics. There are also references to Mark Twain, other novels, and 19th century gospel music. Reproduced below are the lyrics.

Erase – Yoknapatawpha (a mental mississippi)
© copyright T. Collins, T. Carter, J. Painter, J. Elwood

Verse 1

Memories enter my psyche and they bite me
and once they leave my head its what I write see
when the cage bird sings it hums a memory
I sample my thoughts under an oak tree

Mystic are the ways of the southern life
puffing back the past with a blast on a corn pipe
easin’ thru the trees like the breeze in the August light
the sun kissed my life and made my mind bright

Our eyes are open wide but never seem to see
that knowledge is the air if you care truth needs to breathe
I mouth the words but never write life’s melody
time is better spent in my mental Mississippi

Chorus 1

M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I (in Mississippi)
M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I (in Mississippi)

Verse 2

As I lay dying spotted horses pass me by
in All The Kings Men Warren penned a poets cry
Go Down Moses to the river twain’s marked and looking high
the stares fall upon me and I fear The Blues Eye

Mental lapses left traps in our future for sure
satirical passes on the masses shot confederate lore
so watch where you sit if you ain’t sat here before
cause hanging from that tree is the tradition you adore

Metaphorical excursions tales told in first person
I live my life to love but can’t live before the learning
and ooh my mind keeps yearning
you know I’m reeling back the years and these southern eyes are burning

Chorus 2

Turn 1

Where oh where are you tonight

Verse 3

You know dawn pulls the shade on a new day
woke up still dreaming living in my Mississippi
Country roads take me home
to the place where I belong

Farm livin is the life for me
I find my past pointing back at me
you can’t see the things I see in me
the south’s a piece and not the whole of me

You know I’m kicking back doing some reminiscing
thinking how I was raised on southern living
nothing like a phat cup fill it up
with some sweet tea then you take a gulp

Chorus 3


Traveling The World

I’ve been traveling all over the world for the past month. No I didn’t suddenly win the lotto, I’m still a poor college student. But, through flickr, I have been traveling around the world through the photos of others. I really love doing this because it will be quite a few years before I can actually afford to travel all around the world, so the cheapest way is to enjoy the pictures of people who live in these areas. It has been amazing seeing the world through the lenses of these photographers, some of them have amazing quality work. This last week alone I have been to Malaysia, Iraq, and Japan. Over the next few days I will be blogging about some of my favorite pictures from around the world. This may be in addition to other posts if other exciting things happen around the world this week.

Mandraksoft is now Mandriva!

One of the most well-known Linux distributions has recently changed names! After their recent merger with Connectiva, Mandrakesoft is changing its name to Mandriva. No more Mandrake Linux! It’s Mandriva Linux now. Their URL will soon be changing to reflect this, so make sure to update your bookmarks.

Only in the Linux world can a brand name change without much repercussion. Information travels fast so everyone knows it’s the same thing. Imaging frosted flakes changing the name and mascot of its cereal. Without an expensive ad campaign everyone would assume it was a new cereal and they would lose their brand recognition. Not so with purely internet entities.

Spiderman, Spiderman….does whatever a spider can

Technology continues to be an amazing force and I’m always amazed at even the little things that technology can achieve. Until I was in High School I used to read Marvel comics every month when a new issue would come out. There were only three Marvel comics I cared about: (which happen to be some of the most famous ones) Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, and X-Men.

I liked Spiderman because he was really witty. Even when he was getting beaten up by his enemies, he would still make fun of them with all sorts of wise guy remarks. I also liked the fact that he always had a lot of real-world problems. Unlike a lot of other super heroes he always had problems. His best friend’s dad goes crazy and he is constantly battling with him. Jameson, at the newpaper, is always writing bad articles about Spiderman. No matter how good of a job he does, Jameson is always dragging his name through the mud. He has issues with MJ about why he is always dissapearing. Unlike Lois Lane, she doesn’t naively accept this, she gets ticked and goes out with other guys. Also, for most of the time, his Aunt May, who he so dearly loves, hates Spiderman.

I liked Fantastic Four because of the different characters, although Thing was my favorite. He, like Spiderman, was always cracking on people. He was also a huge guy made of rocks, but he was afraid of the Yancy Street Gang. Mr. Fantastic was really cool because he was always working on all sorts of neat gizmos. Also, FF was one of the groups whose main enemy was a communistic dictator, Dr. Doom, who ran a country in Eastern Europe.

What drew me to X-Men was the fact that I understood, from an early age, that it was a metaphor for racism. In the X-Men comics, the people of the US hate mutants. No matter how many times they save the American people, they hate the X-Men simply because they are different. This is a fact that, I am sure, played a subtle part in getting the youth of 40 years to understand that hating someone for being different was wrong, especially if they were good people. Up to now, the story has been timeless. The Romans hated the Christians for being monotheistic. Almost all of Europe hated the Jews because they were not Christian. Anglos hated blacks because they were darker in skin colour. People hated the mutants because they were different. Additionally, because they had power that the people feared, just as many feared (rationally or irationally) that 19th century blacks should not be educated, lest they rise up against the whites. Of course, as a kid I was also attracted to Cyclops’ laser eyes and Wolverine’s awesome claws. These characters all had a story too and Wolverine’s always intrigued me the most since he knew nothing of his past and the more he found out, the more complicated it got. The movies really don’t do 40 years of comic books justice.

The reason for this post, however, is a recent purchase I made at Best Buy a couple of days ago. On 11 CD-ROMS I bought the ENTIRE collection of The Amazing Spiderman comics from issue 1 to the last issue in December 2003. This would have been an insane thing to do in real world for two reaons. First of all, it would have cost a fortune to get all of those first issues in good enough a condition to read. Second of all, it would have taken up many, many more shelves than I have to devote to comics. With technology, however, I can have all of the 40 years worth of comics in about 2 inches of CDs. Trust me, it’s not the same reading it on the screen. I like feeling the newspaper-like paper of the older comics. There was a very nice grit to it which I liked. I also liked when they switched to the higher quality paper that allowed for more vibrant colours. However, when it comes to being able to carry with me, and read the entire collection of comics, this is unparalled. If I wanted to, I could take this with me on a long plane trip and remain amused for quite some time.

I read issue #1 and I must say it was very funny. The art style is VERY different from the art style used when I used to read it. Peter Parker looks more like an adult than a teenager. He also isn’t quite as witty yet, but I think that Stan Lee, the script writer, was getting a feel for the character. One also has to take into consideration the time period in which it was written. I’ll have to keep a close eye on the credits and see if it’s actually another script writer who introduces the vitriolic wit of Spiderman. Also, so far he has helped stop a bad guy from getting some secret plans to some commies, standard fare for the Cold War super hero, I’m sure.

Overall, I really like the experience. They have a cupon here for $10 off of something so I may check it out. I saw something on Tv wondering how Marvel would make money in the new era of comics, I think this is definitely a good strategy – making the original comics available. They are redoing a lot of the stories, and that’s fine for a new audience – they don’t identify with a superhero defeating the commies. But, there’s something about the old ones that I pine for. I’d definitely buy similar collections of the X-Men and Fantastic Four.

Google’s watching….not big brother!

According to CNN Google will begin offering a new map service to rival and surpass Mapquest. They bought this service from Keyhole, a company with a large repository of satellite pictures of people’s houses. Some people are protesting this from a privacy point of view. I don’t see why they are protesting. It’s not as though I can pull up a live picture from your house. All I can do is see a picture that was taken at some point in the past (Google claims 6 months). I don’t see how that’s a privacy issue? Right now I could pay someone to go take pictures of your house and you probably wouldn’t know. As long as they aren’t tracking people or anything (something nearly impossible with civilian satellites), it’s not a big deal. If you look at the CNN articles you will see from the pictures that the resolution isn’t all that. It’s more of a cool geek thing than anything else. Actually, the article did mention the only good use I can see for this service, checking to see just how far that hotel is from the beach when they claim they are just “minutes away from the water”. Actually, I can think of one other thing. If you are trying to figure out which houses to visit with your realtor, you can look it up on Google and see just how big the yard is, front property, etc.

If the world was a series of gas station….

I am coming to the end of the Lexus and The Olive Tree. In part three of his book, he had a very interesting analogy for the world’s economic systems. If they were a gas station….

Japan – the gas costs $5/gal, but there are five guys who service your car. They pump your gas, fill your tires, and clean your windshield. They are all guaranteed to have their jobs for life.

Europe – the gas also costs $5, but there is only one guy who is always telling you that his union contract says he only has to pump your gas, nothing else. He works 35 hours a week, gets 90 minutes for lunch and six weeks of vacation every summer. His uncle and cousin are across the street playing because they make more money on welfare than their last job.

Third world country – the gas costs $0.35, because it is subsidized by the government. Fifteen people work there and they are all cousins. Only one of the ten gas pumps work. The station is owned by a guy in Zurich who takes all the profit back to his own country. He never goes to the station and doesn’t know that many of the workers sleep in the garage and use the car wash to bathe in the morning.

Communism – the gas costs $0.15 cents, but there isn’t any in the pumps because two of the three workers are selling it on the black market. They still come in on Fridays to collect their paycheck.

US – the gas costs $1 and you have to do everything by yourself. But you are in charge. You can pump gas or wipe your windshield or do as you wish.

Fedora Core 4 Test 1 Released!

I am a little late in mentioning this due to events in my life at the time at which it occurred, but the Fedora Core 4 Test Release 1 is now available! This is only for use on a test machine because, as the test 1 release, it is very full of bugs. However, if you have an extra machine you can throw it on, you can help them in the debugging process. They have all new goodies that you can’t get anywhere else like Gnome desktop 2.10 and KDE desktop 3.4. Most distros are still on 2.8 and 3.2!

Download it here
or Bit Torrent it off here

Perhaps the last Numa Numa Post

I was looking at the stats for my server and I saw that four people had come here by searching: “a mexican and asian guy singing the numa numa remix”. I googled it myself and saw that you guys had been tricked by Google. I had written about Asia in one post and Numa Numa in the other. None of the other search results had anything to do with it, and mine was one top. I was very happy to be the top item in the search, but felt bad that people coming here weren’t getting what they wanted. I looked around on the Internet to see just what this Mexican and Asian Numa Numa dance was all about. Turned out to be quite hilarious! So, I decided to copy the video and put it on this server for you to be able to see! (Because it was on some weird site that was full of weird ads.) So you can access it here!. Save it to your computer and then enjoy the Numa Numa happiness!

Daylight Savings and Lack-of-Savings

The funny thing about the changing of the time that we do twice a year here in the US is that no one ever seems to know when the day is for changing the clocks. We all know approximately when the time is: in the early spring and early fall. But, even the week before, if you go around asking people, no one seems to know that it will be the next Sunday. Yet, without fail, the night before there is a slew of emails as one person finally figures out that this night is the night to move the clocks. They email their friends and acquaintances who email their friends until about 90% of the people know. Everyone else, like one of my homework group members who isn’t here right now, finds out when they turn on their computers the next day or any other electronic device that automatically adjusts itself.

The most amazing thing to me is the way that this works. First no one knows, then people exponentially find out as more and more people tell each other. It’s a marvel of modern technology. What in the world did people do before email? I know what I did – I used to check the Tv guide channel every morning on the weekends and when I saw that it was later than I thought it was, I knew it was time to change the clocks.

The McDonald’s Theory of War

I’m still listening to The Lexus and the Olive Tree, which I mentioned back back on 12 March, since it’s a massive 21 hour book. Today I heard what I consider to be one of the most interesting theories involving wars. The author of the book noticed that no two countries containing a McDonald’s in their borders had ever fought. In other words, if Country A and Country B both have a McDonald’s they won’t fight each other. If Country C didn’t have a McDonald’s, then it may be attacked by either Country A or Country B, or it may attack either of these countries. His main exclusion to this theory is that a Civil war doesn’t count, so the problems in Yugoslavia don’t disprove the theory. The author then took his theory to McDonald’s who then independently verified that no two countries containing a McDonald’s had ever attacked each other.

What does this mean? Is it just a coincidence that no two McDonald’s countries had ever fought? The author explains himself this way: McDonald’s is just a representation of a country achieving a critical mass of middle class citizens. Poor people can’t afford to eat McDonald’s often enough and rich people would probably eat higher quality food. Therefore, a McDonald’s franchise would only open up in a country with an entrenched middle class. As a generalization, countries with a large middle class are averse to war. They know that wars are increasingly devasting to even the victor.

A country’s economy cannot support an indefinite war (present Iraq conflic aside) and sooner or later the middle class will begin to complain to its officials to end the war. Additionally, when countries go to war, the uncertainty drives away investors and they take away their money with them. Therefore, it is in a country’s best financial interest to stay away from wars.

Although I would like to wholly believe the author of the book, his theory sounds eerily like two men he mentions in the book. These were both people who said in 1910 that war was over and there would never be another war again. Countries were too tied up in economics to wage wars and it would be devastating for both sides. Within just four years of that statement would be the first World War and more would die in that conflict than in all the wars before it. In fact, the men were right, the war decimated the European continent and its countries. Coupled with World War 2, Europe was left behind until very recently, allowing the US to become a world leader. I agree with the author of the book I’m listening to that it would be very chaotic if there were to be another world war. However, I am not so sure that the implication could be made that there would never be another world war.