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Letters to the editor, September 2009

This a traditional letter column. You are encouraged to write a letter of comment on anything that you find worthy of comment. It will (may) be published in this column along with my reply. As editor I reserve the right to delete material; however I will not alter the undeleted material. E-mail to me that solely references the contents of this site will be assumed to be publishable mail. All other e-mail is assumed to be private. And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication. Oh yes, letters of appreciation for the scholarly resources provided by this site will be handled very discreetly. This page contains the correspondence for September 2009.

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From: Suford
Date: 20 August 2009
Subj: Your Movie Reviews

Hey Harter --

Just reading your movie reviews...

You've Got Mail
Very interesting insights on business in YGM. One minor quibble, though, even possible when the movie came out, would be to move the bookstore to the internet (if no lower rent physical location was possible). Bookstores being a low margin, high effort, high knowledge business, draw crazy or retired people (or burglars cf Bernie Rhodenbar) who are in it for love more than income.

I take it that in the movie the small bookstore specialized in children's books rather than used books and thus was more in the direct target market of the large bookstore. To the extent that Kathleen dealt in used or small press, harder to find children's books, she could still have a market, but her clientele need to be drawn from a larger population than her local area to make her profitable and voila! we are back at the internet again, where she has Amazon as both a competitor and another outlet. However, her advantage is still in her knowledge of the field and the tastes of her customers and being able to tell her customers when there is something they are or might be interested in available. It is a service business as much as a retail business and so should command at least some price differential. Subscription fee, for instance.

I doubt that Katherine would have been able to transition to the internet, both for business reasons and for personal reasons. Her entire conception of who she was and what she did was tied to her interaction with her customers and with children. She wasn't just selling books in a niche market; she was selling the right book to the right person and enriching their lives thereby. It was what her mother had done before her. It was the kind of person she had learned to be. For her, business was personal.

Nor do I think that going to the internet works from the business angle. She still couldn't compete on price and she would lose the advantage of personal service. In the short run she would still know her customer base, but that knowledge would not be renewed by new customers or personal contact. Her learned sales techniques would not be applicable.

Then, too, there are other sharks in that ocean besides book superstores. Amazon.com and its ilk, including the superstore web sites are out there too, with their huge book lists, their automated warehouses, and their computerized interest lists.

Still, we shouldn't take movies too seriously as a source of economic knowledge. When Meg Ryan doing background for the movie, she briefly worked as a cashier at a bookstore in NY. She learned how to operate a cash register and how to sell books. Interestingly enough it was a specialty book store not far from a Barnes and Noble, a specialty book store that was still doing very well when the movie came out, a specialty book store that sold, if memory doesn't fail me, children's books.

Your point about supermarkets vs Mom & Pop groceries is valid as long as we don't go to the extreme of Walmart with its pressure on suppliers for cheaper goods depressing the quality of what's available (to say nothing of unfair labor practices). Though it does seem to me that China (!) could have done some push back on the lead and lead paint in childrens toys issue. (Possible long OT digression ommitted.)
Thank you.

The upside of Walmart and the other discount large volume retailers is that they make a major difference in the quality of life in the, ah, less than affluent regions of the country. The down side is that suburban sprawl is a precondition for their success.

Dungeons and Dragons
Possible answer to "Where are we going?" wrt Dungeons and Dragons movie & Hamlet on the Holodeck; there was a play performed in Second Life which could be a new direction in several ways (I believe it is available on U-Tube). Similarly, the characters created with digital animation from actors in suits with detection points (Roger Rabbit, Gollum, both enhanced by human animation additions for facial expression & other subtleties). However, these examples only get beyond the need for actors who resemble the characters.

The game space itself as a "stage" for improvisational drama with invented characters and amateur or professional actor-authors, with or without collaborative sessions now and then deciding the direction or theme of the "performance," pretty much takes off most of the constraints of all current art forms. Is not Second Life itself an example of this? It is certainly an example of the blurring of "real life," performance, and fantasy role-playing. It rather removes the moral part of most plays and novels by leaving the control to individual characters within the work, but a new analogue to that could also emerge. It's going to be an interesting future.

One of the problems with Second Life and the like is that the technology is still rather crude. We need a few more cycles of Moore's law to get more realistic animation. It may be rather low of me, but I chuckle at the concept that one has to buy a penis from the penis shop in order to have sex.

Something that might be interesting is the Narrative Machine. The problem with ordinary narrative generation is that one has to do so much work to make the narrative exist at all. Imagine a system that generated an entire movie in response to cues. You wouldn't have to create as set of characters and work their motives, desires, and facial twitches. It would generate appropriate characters in response to the selected settings. In turn you could alter the characters to change the narrative.

And when the kinks are worked out, the next step is to permit many authors to work on it concurrently. In fact, now that I think on it, everyone gets to be a Mary Sue in the same story. I wonder - has any body ever done that? I mean, have several people collaborate on a story with the requirement that everybody has to have a Mary Sue character?

Watchmen
I guess I had better both reread the graphic novel and go see the movie. It certainly sounds more interesting in your review than in reviews by others. I think those who didn't remember the graphic novel were at a loss to understand the movie and those who did remember it, were mostly unhappy by what was left out. That's what happens when they try to make a movie of a novel. It's much easer to fit a short sory or novelette into a movie.

Well, I was wondering what to try to go see, and I am answered. Thanks,

I hope you enjoyed it. I mean to do a review of the Popular Culture Philosophy volume on the Watchmen. The really remarkable thing about the movie is how much of the graphic novel they got into the movie. I suspect that the movie might make more sense to the uninitiated if they read an explanation of what the graphic novel was about rather than reading the graphic novel itself.
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From: Joy Okana
Date: 31 August 2009
Subj: Hello

Hello Dear

How are you today? i hope you are fine,well to me i am Ok,my name is Joy Okana i saw your lovely profile at www.englishbaby.com/findfriends and i really love it please write and tell me more about yourself,here is my email id (joy.okana8@live.fr) as soon as i receive from you i will be happy to reply back with my picture,take care and happy to meet you,

Hello dear,

Thank you for your letter. It puzzles me why I might have a profile on englishbaby.com since I have never, ever, posted a profile there. In the nature of things it seems likely that there is no such person as Joy Okana. If perchance you are a real person, may I suggest that it is probably not wise to send emails like yours to strangers.

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From: myloxian
Date: 1 September 2009
Subj: Re: the Noachian Ark... possibilities

[This letter began with a reprint of a 1988 usenet posting. I've trimmed most of the most and have tried to leave enough to provide some context.]

On 1 Mar 1998, 01:00, c...@tiac.net (Richard Harter) wrote:

Even so.  I suspect that you are thinking of "professed witches"  in the same sense as "professed Christians", i.e., people who profess to be a member of an organized religion, whereas I am thinking of it as people who profess to be witches, i.e., people who claim to be witches albeit with varying degrees of certainty.

If I profess to be a myloxian (whatever that might be) it is beside the point that the US government doesn't not recognize myloxians as an a organized anything.  Likewise it is beside the point that that organization is against our principles and do not form organized groups. We know what we are and claim the title humbly.  (We myloxians are always humble - we pride ourselves on our humility.)

a myloxian is an entity from the spacial realm mylox.

my invention, my definition.

i'm pretty sure i put this in the free webster dictionary a couple of years ago.

You will note that I used the term, "myloxian", over twenty years ago. I strongly suspect that I have priority. I had always fancied that a myloxian was someone addicted to the spice drug mylox, but if there is a realm named mylox the entities therein would be myloxians.

Give my best to the myloxians.

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This page was last updated September 1, 2009.

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