Wednesday various

  • A couple of weeks ago, they unveiled the new costume for NBC’s upcoming Wonder Woman series. The internet responded with the appropriate amount of disgust and horror. “I feel like my eyes are not only bleeding,” I myself wrote, “they’ve been top-coated with a carcinogenic plastic laminate.”

    Well, not to worry: NBC and producer David E. Kelley have heard our complaints and all is better now. Her boots are now red instead of blue.

  • Making Light lays out a recent timeline of Dorchester Publishing, explaining why it’s probably a good idea for writers and readers alike to stay very, very far away from them.
  • Military ranks of the British Invasion. [via]
  • “Though the efficacy of standardized testing has been hotly debated for decades, one thing has become crystal clear: It’s big business.” [via]
  • And finally, Ryan McGee on the Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump:

    All of this proceeded banally for the first half of the show, until Sorrentino [the Situation] got up and did something that, had it been done by an Andy Kaufman, Norm MacDonald, or Zach Galifianakis, might have been called performance art. What he did was manage to stretch seven minutes of stage time into what felt like 36 hours of aural waterboarding. Trump, who was already a nearly invisible presence up until that point in the overall proceedings, receded even further as each ensuing comic opened up both barrels on The Situation, sensing blood in the water. Sorrentino’s performance will probably get the roast more publicity than anything else, but that’s part of the problem: The show clearly booked him so he’d bomb, not because he would do a good job.

    And maybe that’s fine with you, if you enjoy train wrecks that involve baby seals and orphans inside said flaming train.

Thursday various

  • Oregon allowing spell-check on written school exams? I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this, and I didn’t have the kind of knee-jerk reaction I might be expected to as an English major, writer, and editor. I think spelling is important, but not always critically so, especially on exams where spelling is secondary to whatever is being tested. I think spelling is less important, for instance, than reading comprehension and overall communication skills. Many great writers have been notoriously bad spellers; and outside of a spelling bee, crossword puzzles, and certain game shows, success in life rarely hinges on knowing when it’s “i before e” or the opposite.

    At the same time, spelling is important. An over-reliance on spell-check can lead to laziness, and not knowing how to spell can impede communication. Spell-check is far from perfect — their, there, or they’re, anyone? — and a poor substitute for really understanding why words are spelled a certain way. Further, many of the standardized tests these students will later encounter — like, for instance, the SAT — will not allow them use of a spell-check.

    I think, if the Oregon Department of Education really wants to help its students, it won’t just allow them to ignore spelling altogether. It will allow its teachers to grade spelling more effectively, more fairly; it will design standardized tests that weigh other, perhaps more important, factors, and look at spelling in a broader context. [via]

  • First they came for the ignorant news pundits and I stayed silent… Glenn Beck is quite fond of quoting Martin Niemöller’s famous poem about the rise of fascism in Germany. (As well as of crazy-as-all-bugfuck conspiracy theories.) It’s quite telling which parts of the poem he always leaves out. [via]
  • Dubai’s archipelago of luxury islands, already something of a financial disaster, is sinking into the sea. [via]
  • Robotic ghost knifefish is born. Somebody should totally start a band with that name. [via]
  • And finally, Zack Handlen remembers Indecent Proposal:

    Yeah, the movie where Robert Redford turned Woody Harrelson into a pimp and Demi Moore into a, ahem, lady of the evening. It was a ridiculous movie, all slick visuals with no real soul or character, but the concept was so intriguing that it didn’t need to be good to be successful. Everyone was just so fascinated by the moral question at the heart of the story that everything else was just gravy. Stupid, stupid gravy.

    It’s all in the context of a Star Trek: The Next Generation review, naturally.

Tuesday various

  • I’ll bet Chelsea Clinton didn’t have wedding invites this adorably geeky. [via]
  • Oh my god! The triceratops may never have existed! That’s so–oh, wait, it might have been the younger form of another dinosaur that looks almost identical except for some cranial features? And, if it is the case that they’re one and the same, palaeontologists will just rename them both triceratops? Wow, what seemed like a stunning revelation is curiously a non-story by paragraph’s end.
  • Syfy Announces Development Slate of 7 New Scripted Projects. Only eighteen of them are Battlestar Galactica or Stargate spinoffs. [via] [Related: Cracked on the Syfy Channel.]
  • I think what I find most interesting and amusing about this whole recent Neil Gaiman/Todd McFarlane thing is that the judge’s decision is ultimately an argument over comics continuity.
  • And finally, as someone who, as part of his day job, spends a great deal of time hunting down potential authors and reviewers at universities, can I just say how right xkcd is?

Wednesday various

  • I don’t know, there has to be a better way to reform our failing public schools than by firing all the teachers. [via]
  • Is it just me or is having Abe Lincoln say, “I’ve been a slave to vampires for thirty years” sort of in questionable taste? It feels like maybe it’s just me. Still, this is pretty neat as far as book trailers go.
  • I admit it, I got a kick out of Hark! A Vagrant’s Canadian Stereotype Comics.
  • Yes, and this font joke. [via]
  • And finally, I meant to post about this when BBC Audiobooks America did their whole audio book by Twitter thing with Neil Gaiman, way back in October, but I just never got around to it. You can read the whole story here (or you can listen to the audio version here), but even I haven’t done that, and I contributed a line to the darn thing. They’ve apparently since done at least one other such story, with author Meg Cabot, but I’m much more interested in the experiment here than the results. It was fun to participate the day-of, but like Salon’s Laura Miller, I’ve yet to be convinced that the results are particularly readable to outside eyes.

    Raymond Chandler once offered this piece of advice to his fellow writers: “When in doubt, have a man with a gun come into the room.” Yet even the excitement of an armed intruder wears thin by the time you’ve got 30 of them milling around for no apparent reason….At some point, every tale needs to stop expanding so it can begin to contract into a coherent whole. People often ask great storytellers, “Where do you get your ideas?” but the real question is “How do you make sense of your ideas?” [Samuel R.] Delany believed that good writers read so much that they “internalize” certain “literary models” and thereby acquire an instinctual feel for a story’s proper shape. As they build on that evocative first image or scene, while they are still venturing further out into the unknown, an unconscious part of their creative intelligence is figuring out how to knit it all back together again. Writers who never develop that instinct tend to keep dragging new gunmen into the room until the story stalls out, which is why a decent ending is so much harder to write than an enticing beginning. The ability to pull it off is one thing that separates the Neil Gaimans of this world from the rest of us saps.

    Which may just be another way of saying too man cooks — especially untrained cooks — spoil the broth.