Friday's Links

Here’s what’s interested me in the last week:

How Phony is Shepard Fairey?
There’s a fine line between art and plagiarism. 

Apple Store Design Hits a Glass Wall Again
Who is the Old Georgetown Board and why are they holding up Apple coming to DC?

How Will We Survive Battlestar Galactica’s Radioactive Future?
Some practical suggestions.

Christian Bale, Hero of the Set
I find this a little hard to believe – a movie set being terrorized by a DP?

Writers Need to Promote Their Books
Seems obvious, but just because you’re published, it doesn’t mean that your work is done.

What Do You Write With?

powerbooks at SXSW
People writing (maybe) at SXSW 2007.

This poll got me thinking about the endless debate (among writers and techies, that is) about the best word processing tool. As a writer, you think I would have a strong and absolute preference for one software program over another. After all, an easy to use writing tool is vitally important to my trade.

However, like most writers, I’ll write with whatever’s available, whether that’s a clay tablet, pen and paper, or software program outfitted with the latest features. Here’s what I’m using now:

Word 2004 for the Mac – you really can’t escape Word if you work in an office these days. Like Starbucks, it’s ubiquitous. I use it because it’s on my computer at work and I have to. I hate its constant, distracting whirr of activity, the noisy autosaves, the stupid autocompletes, the aggravating formatting issues.

TextEdit – a lovely little program, ideal for short bits of text to dump into web pages, email messages, Word docs and Scrivener (see below). It’s a perfect word processor for laptops because it’s not a resource hog. With it, I’ll write text for my novel that I then paste into Scrivener.

Google Docs – the successor to Word. Google is the company that will dominate our work lives like Microsoft once did. Deal with it. I use Google Docs for things I want access from home and work and to share with others. For example, I have a doc of furniture I want to buy, complete with links and photos.

Scrivener – a program that causes well-deserved spasms of joy among Mac novelists. Though it was created by a non-programmer, it’s a nearly perfect example of a Mac program. It keeps you organized and gets out of your way when you want to work. It’s doubled my productivity through it’s ease of use. I spend every weekend in it, working on my novel.

Pages – my next love. I took the first couple chapters out of my novel and dropped them into Pages. I quickly created a book cover and, my god, it looked like a real book! That’s inspiring.

For me at least, my workflow would go TextEdit -> Scrivener -> Pages.

However, all this debate over the perfect word-processing tool is a distraction, like discussions among photographers over lenses. In the past, I’ve written with incredibly primitive tools, like manual typewriters. What matters most is writing.

Salman Rushdie: 1989 and Now

Salman Rushdie was recently awarded a knighthood by Britain, an act which caused more than one anti-Western rant from the medieval ayotollahs of Iran and Pakistan. The usual threats of violence from the usual dark quarter of the world. This honor by Britain reminded these hateful clerics that Rushdie is the author of The Satanic Verses, a novel considered blasphemous (by some) to Islam.

Rushdie has been under a sentence of death since 1989, when the book was first published and the clerics of Iran took offense. Only recently has he felt safe enough to emerge from hiding.

What’s been forgotten over the years is that the hostage-taking Ayotollah Khomeini wasn’t the only one outraged by The Satanic Verses. This excellent article in the International Herald Tribune reminds us that the book was published to great controversy. Like the recent cartoon conflagration in Denmark, not everyone stood behind the right of free speech in an open society.

In a March 1989 Op-Ed article in The New York Times titled “Rushdie’s Book Is an Insult,” Jimmy Carter argued that “The Satanic Verses” was guilty of “vilifying” Muhammad and “defaming” the Koran. “The author, a well-versed analyst of Moslem beliefs, must have anticipated a horrified reaction throughout the Islamic world,” Carter wrote. While condemning the death sentence and affirming Rushdie’s right to free speech, the former president argued that “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated and are suffering in restrained silence the added embarrassment of the Ayatollah’s irresponsibility.”

It’s just a novel, words printed on the page, a novel that billions of people will never see or even bother reading. A novel cannot violate a religion. A basic tenet of Western civilization is the right to offend people – we must not go backwards on this.

I had heard of Rushdie in 1989, after reading his book Shame in a modern literature class. The fatwa by Khomeini made The Satanic Verses a bestseller. I remember racing through book stores in DC, looking for a copy. I wanted to buy it to show my support of free speech, to show the Ayatollah that we wouldn’t be intimidated. Your religion doesn’t dictate what I can read.

I couldn’t find one anywhere – it was the iPhone of its day 😉 After I got a copy from a friend who worked in the publishing industry, I started the book and found it incomprehensible, a wild magic realism narrative that I couldn’t understand. All this trouble for a book?

Since then, I’ve gone on to enjoy other Rushdie novels, especially the brilliant Shalimar the Clown.

Looking back, it’s tempting to believe that America and Europe supported the absolute right of free speech. However, when faced with the very real threat of violence, people don’t always live up to their ideals and seek to justify censorship.

What will we do when the next of these conflicts arise?  Will we stand firm or compromise our values?