The untapped natural resources of crackpottery in this country…would astonish you. There is a Gresham’s Law of the mass intellect: muddle-headedness inevitably drives out clear thinking. And the political science of the future lies in the control and the application of that law to purposive ends.
That’s Anthony Boucher, from the Nick Noble murder mystery short story “Rumor, Inc.” (1945). A bit prescient, no?
This WWII-era story concerns a group of agents spreading anti-US propaganda in Southern California to subvert the war effort: No real need for West Coast gas rationing; Onion shortage due to government bungling. Mid-twentieth century fake news.
Here’s one more, from Nick Noble himself:
Fascist thinks he’s too strong for democracy. Makes his own laws. The hell with justice; do what’s expedient. The hell with debts; cancel ’em by force. Us, we like justice. We pay debts. Our kind of strength.
The debts under discussion here are “debts to society” — as in “if you commit a crime, you must pay your debt to society.” Let’s hope that is indeed our kind of strength.
I’ve been thinking about the evolution of the word “content” as it relates to creative endeavors. “Content” used to be a quality of a creative work, especially a piece of writing: “this article has no content” means that it’s fluff, a puff piece, filler. Now we talk about an article as content—eliding the difference between a substantive, thoughtful piece of writing (or other creative act), and filler meant to keep the writer visible in their social media feeds. It’s disrespectful of both creators and the works that they produce.
So I now try to consciously avoid the word “content” as a synonym for a body of creative work. I try to use a specific word: “posts,” “articles,” “writing,” or even “creative work.”
I don’t want to get preachy about it, but I put this idea out there because I’d like to encourage other people who think like I do to do the same.
Addendum: Just as I was writing this post, Notion invited me to try their new “AI writing buddy.” Perhaps there is an application here for producing rote form letters or announcements. But the idea of having an AI to help someone write blog posts (a use case they promote) offends me to my very core. “Content,” indeed.
(I’ve updated the original post, too). I’ve switched things up so that Micro.blog now syndicates a feed from my personal microblogging site, Short Thoughts.
I’m going to use Short Thoughts the way I used Twitter, to announce new posts from all my blogs, as well as random short musings. It won’t be much: at most one or two posts a day, and probably often less.
If you are interested in such a feed, there are two ways to follow it.
You can join Micro.blog, and follow me there. This approach allows you to reply to my posts, as well as to follow other people in the community who interest you. You can join for free, just to follow and converse with other people, or sign up for a monthly fee to get a hosted blog site of your own.
If you use an RSS reader, like Feedly, you can subscribe directly to Short Thoughts. If you do it this way, the posts will have weird numerical titles, but it should still be quite readable, and you won’t see all the chit-chat of conversations happening on my Micro.blog timeline.
Or you can just bookmark Short Thoughts on your brower, and check the page periodically. Whatever works best.
Up until now, I’ve publicized my blog posts on Twitter and Facebook. This is not a terribly effective strategy, for a variety of reasons most people summarize as “The Algorithm.” And as time goes by, my appetite for logging on to those sites has dwindled to non-existent — again, thanks to “The Algorithm.” And yet, I still feel the need to let the world know when I’ve written something. So, I’m going somewhere different.
All my blogs — Multo, Ephemera, Dark Tales Sleuth, and even NinaZumel.com — are now syndicated at Micro.blog, at the link https://micro.blog/MultoGhost.
UPDATE 31 Oct 2022: After a couple of days, I decided I didn’t like the terse “just the title and a link” view that syndicating my blogs gave me. So I built myself a little microblogging site, Short Thoughts, on Github Pages and syndicated that instead. I’ll be using that site the way I used Twitter, to announce new posts with a short introduction, across all my blogs.
If you’d like a feed of all my blog post announcements, with less chit-chat than might occur at Micro.blog, you can subscribe directly to Short Thoughts via RSS.
Somewhat over a year ago, I started the Dark Tales Sleuth blog to record my progress tracking down the sources of unattributed stories in the 1856 three volume anthology, Evening Tales for the Winter. I’ve been working on the project on and off since then, and yesterday I wrapped up what I could discover about Volume Two!
Of the last four stories in Volume Two, two were non-supernatural crime or adventure tales, one was arguably a ghost story, and the last a gothic demon tale. I’ve already featured Charles Macfarlane’s “Hungarian Robbers” in my Classic Crime series, so no more needs to be said about that.
Remember my other blog,The Dark Tales Sleuth? That’s where I’m tracking down the sources of the unattributed stories in the 1856 anthology, Evening Tales for the Winter, edited by Henry St. Clair. I’m still working on it!
After wrapping up Volume One, I started on Volume Two with what seemed like a straightforward case, which quickly turned super interesting. I began with what I thought was a plagiarism of one of the seven “horrid novels” from Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, and found what I think is an alternative (and earlier!) translation of the first section of the German source novel. Pretty cool!
It started when I came across an old anthology called Evening Tales for the Winter (1856). The first few stories included some interesting gothic tales, some implied to be translated from German; the book looked to be a potential source for good stories to share for Winter Tales season. So I started reading.
I noticed, though, that nothing was attributed: no authors, no translators, no information at all. This annoys me.
When the world feels like it’s falling apart around you, it feels good to solve little problems that are completely under your control. And that’s what I’ve been doing this past week. I migrated ninazumel.com away from WordPress to a more appropriate host (Github Pages); I merged the old Win-Vector sites (there were two of them, self-hosted) into a single sleek new site — ironically, now WordPress hosted. And I reconstructed a very old and neglected site, mzlabs.com, and set it up here (The address mzlabs.com should still reach it).
All this virtual housekeeping turned up some old writing of mine, and of John’s, that I think is worth revisiting again. So here’s a little (non ghost-related) reading list for you, if you are in the mood:
Browsing through JSTOR the other day, a paper caught my eye: “Vengeance with a Stickpin: Barreto, Quiroga, And García Calderón,” by Daniel C. Scroggins. A stickpin, you say? Oh, that must be “El solitario” (The Solitare)! I love that story; it’s my favorite of the Quiroga pieces that I’ve translated. So of course, I had to read the paper.
Scroggins posits that “El solitario” (probably first published in 1913, collected in 1917), as well as the 1925 short story “El alfiler” by Peruvian author Ventura García Calderón, were both influenced by an earlier story, also titled “El alfiler” (The Stickpin), by Peruvian José María Barreto. Barreto published his story in the Uruguayan periodical Revista Nacional de Literatura y Ciencias Sociales in 1897; Quiroga, remember, was Uruguayan.
If you read Spanish, you can download the August 10, 1897 issue of Revista Nacionalhere; the story is on page 74. It’s quite short: about two columns of a three column layout. I also translated the story and put it up on Ephemera: