Internet Explorer 7 is officially out.

Better, but not that great. It renders this page mostly correctly; the deficiencies are minor and overlookable. So that’s good. For Instance, the bottom of the ampersand in the logo is cut off, but while it’s not as stylish, it looks a hell of a lot better than it did before. That is where my adventure began. In the end, my first day with the new version of the software left me befuddled.

Then I noticed that my “Now Playing” section wasn’t working on IE. The way that content is generated is a bit hokey, so I thought it might be a good time to clean up the script. I figured that would probably fix the problem with IE at the same time.

Allow me to interject that the worst language for programming computers ever invented is AppleScript. They try to make it read like “real English”, like you’re chatting with your computer. As mentioned here many times, real English is about nuances, about color and shade, not black and white. As such, it’s not well-suited as a programming language. What Apple ended up with was a syntax that has the same old rigid rules, along with a hell of a lot of verbal clutter and words that don’t always mean the same thing. But I digress.

I cleaned up the script that generates the script that the browsers load to show what music I’m listening to at the moment, and I learned a couple of things along the way. The code is better than it was before, and I will be able to improve it further rather easily. So, that’s cool. I was mildly disappointed that the result still did not work on Internet Explorer 7. I suspected I knew why, but I wanted to see the IE error messages to make sure. I couldn’t find them. I was looking for some sort of window with a list of errors and any other output from the script. I went through all the menus, but could find nothing. I dimly remembered having to set a preference in previous versions of explorer to turn on the Javascript Console, so I…

Wait a minute… where are the preferences?

As far as I have been able to discern, there is no preference window in Explorer. Now, in one sense that’s a good thing. It’s been a design philosophy I’ve been using in Jer’s Novel Writer: put the settings next to the task. But what about the settings that apply to the program itself? Maybe the preferences are there and I just missed them. There were lots of cases where controls were in unfamiliar places.

Which brings me to a lament that is more about other software developers. There was a time when every program’s controls were different. One of the most revolutionary things that the mac introduced was providing a standard way to interact with software. Love the mac way or hate it, it dramatically reduced the learning curve for new applications, and you didn’t have to remember where everything was for each application. The Windows world followed suit, and for a long time computing was just a bit easier. That is breaking down now. I first noticed it on media players for Windows. They look slick, but in many cases important controls aren’t even visible until you move the mouse to a specific area. Menu bar? Forget it. Now it seems even Microsoft is sacrificing simplicity for slickness.

Right, then. One option I did find was to look for extensions for Explorer. The light came on over my head. Somewhere there would be a tool that would let me look at console output from a script. I went to the site, and there was Developers Toolbar. Hooray! I downloaded it, installed it, and discovered several useful tools, none of which were a script console. It was a nice addition, and absolutely free from Microsoft, but not the addition I was looking for. (Having this as a separate download is another design philosophy I agree with. Provide the core and let people add on the parts they need.)

About then I noticed the little error message down at the bottom of the window. Silly me! It was there all the time. I clicked the error icon. Nothing. I right-clicked the icon. Nothing. Now that is just bad design. Microsoft themselves led the charge to make “if you see something you want to interact with, right-click to see your choices” a standard. I concluded that the icon was for informative purposes only, and that somewhere else I would find the explanation of the errors. Only later did I double-click the icon to cause an error window to pop up. More bad design. Double-click is to perform the default action on a selectable item. This is simply a button, and nothing more. You don’t double-click buttons. (You also don’t put right-click menus on buttons, but once the single-click didn’t work I assumed it wasn’t a button, and tried to treat it as an item with more than one action. When the one-action behavior failed, then the multiple-action behavior failed, I assumed there were no actions.)

The window opened up and said there was a problem on line 2 of the file. Line 2 is blank. The “next” button in the little window was dim, so I didn’t realize for a moment that pressing “previous” brought up an error message dealing with line 700. “Object Expected” the error said. There was a “hide details” button, but what passed for detail wasn’t. Could I please just see a list of errors (instead of a little window where I have to click through them) and any debug information I might want to send out? The root error is ultimately my fault, but is it asking too much to make it easier to find, especially since the scripts work on all the browsers whose error reporting doesn’t suck? (Yes, I searched for other downloadable extensions. If anyone out there knows of a solution, I would be grateful.)

I guessed that there must be something wrong with the way I wrote the script tag. Luckily, one of the cool features of the Developer’s Toolbar is a validator. You can do this easily enough anyway, but right there was a way to submit your site to w3c and get back a full report card of your compliance.

I ran the report and had a bucketload of non-compliant code. I wasn’t that surprised, as the original blog template was done a while back by someone else, the comment system is someone else’s code, the Amazon links weren’t compliant, and so on and so forth. There were plenty of errors of my own doing as well, including some stray markup in a paragraph complaining about Microsoft’s non-compliance to standards. When I saw that error my mind was made up. Time to clean house! I went through the template, modifying (almost) all the markup to match standards, paying particularly close attention to script tags. Almost all of them were using syntax that was at best out of date. Not any more, baby! I brought them all into the modern age, something I would not have done were it not for Internet Explorer 7.

The result: users of Internet Explorer will have to use Firefox to post comments telling me what I’ve done wrong, because now all the Haloscan script tags are broken in IE. “Object Expected.”

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Too many ones, too many zeroes

A couple of days ago the business end of Jer’s Software Hut went down. I got the message “Your bandwidth limit has been exceeded. Please contact your system administrator as soon as possible.” It turns out that for Liverack, my hosting provider, “as soon as possible” translates to “never”, even when you’re trying to give them more money. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I don’t think their hearts are in the business anymore. In the past they had been very responsive, and I wondered how they could have a business that charged so little and maintain that level of service. I guess I got my answer.

Is there a silver lining to this cloud? is my bandwidth limit getting blown more and more quickly an indication of success? Not… so much. While the rest of the Web clamors for Google’s attention, the Goog is loving me to death, downloading several times the entire site’s worth of data each month. This does not include the application download, which is already on another server.

So jerssoftwarehut.com/ will be moving soon, to a server maintained by a Friend of the Hut. I tried to ask Google how I could help them spider the site more efficiently (it costs them also), but got no response. My question was such an outlier on the forum I thought it might get some notice by insiders.

Not being able spend my days combatting spammers on the Jer’s Novel Writer forums, I suddenly had a lot of extra time on my hands. Good timing for it, as I wanted to get a new release up, even if most people won’t hear about it until the hutsite comes back to life. I retired to the Secret Lab, located on an island of stone on a river of magma, drifting through the network of grand, eerily-lit caverns deep beneath this quiet Prague neighborhood, and prepared a release. When all was ready I called to my misshapen assistant, “Raise the software to the server!” “Yes, master!” he called as he shuffled to a giant switch mounted on a stalagmite and threw it in a shower of blue sparks.

We waited.

And waited.

You see, The Hut’s Internet provider also imposes a bandwidth limit. When you reach this limit, the connection continues to work, just very, very, slowly. Remember dialup? I do now.

Too many ones, too many zeroes. The file will be up before you are able to read this.

Come Wednesday all will be well again, and I won’t have the need to do the same large downloads I did this month to get my mini set up. Also I’ll use lower-bitrate Internet radio options. Soon everything will be hunky-dory, and the ones and zeroes shall flow again.

The calm before the storm

Six years ago my wife mentioned that one of her coworkers had told her about a thing where a bunch of people were going to write entire novels in the month of November. (In an odd twist of fate, later that same coworker was my roommate, and my ex-wife was the coworker.) I immediately latched onto the idea, as I had started novels before, but had never seen them through. Already I had been noodling on a story idea, and now here was an opportunity to do something about it.

I signed up and soon I was sitting at Callahan’s (the old location at the start of the month, the new location at the end), cursing the short lifespan of the battery in my Sony laptop, trying to wrestle long, rambling sentences into a long, coherent narrative. I barely made the word count by the deadline. I closed the file, closed the laptop for a day, and then started on another novel. I have written almost every day since that first NaNoWriMo. I have not read the product of the first year’s efforts; only one person can claim that distinction. Melinda reported that it had its moments, and yes, I was correct when I recalled that there was a lot of sex in it.

Of course, along the way I started saying to myself, “boy, it would be nice if my word processor did x,” and so Jer’s Novel Writer was born. Then I quit my job, took a road trip for several months, and moved to Prague.

All because of NaNoWriMo.

So, if you’re thinking of starting a novel on Wednesday, please be careful.

Time flies when you’re clueless

I am sitting at the Little Café Near Home, facing the television (there was hockey on earlier). I glanced up from my work and noticed the clock on the tuner atop the TV glowing greenly. The clock is in 24-hour mode.

I did a double-take. Is it 2007 already? Crap, I know I’m out of touch— oh, wait 20:07. That’s all right, then.

An exciting time at the hut!

The time before NaNoWriMo is pretty hectic, and all the more so for me. Lots and lots of people out there are searching for software to make their lives easier in the coming months, and people around the world are discovering Jer’s Novel Writer for the first time. What’s cool is that all these new users are discovering the rough edges in the software that regular users have grown accustomed to. It’s all the little things that make a product feel finished and fit, and in the last couple of weeks I’ve gotten a whole bunch of feedback. (Not all from NaNoWriMo folks, there are even professional writers using the program now, and their input even more valuable, as they try to make the software work in their existing processes. Overall, I have managed to attract a fairly passionate user base. Part of it, I think, is that I do all I can to make others feel that they are valued members of the design team, and people like seeing their ideas show up in the product — sometimes the next day.)

So I’ve been doing quite a bit of coding lately, and while none of the improvements have been earth-shattering, when taken in sum they add up to a better user experience. As I sit here in the Hut Treehouse, high in the crown of the teeming tropical rain forest for which this Prague neighborhood is well-known, surrounded by screeching birds and curious monkeys, I am filled with a sense of energy and I’m taking pride in fixing bugs hours after they are first reported.

Of course, that will end with the onset of November, or at least slow down, as we put up the monkey-screens and hunker down to write a novel. One unexpected side effect — from the user registrations I now have a list of a thousand names from all over the world that I can use in my writing. There are some pretty good ones in that list.

More about the itch

This episode is one big complaint, which is not my usual style (at least, not so overtly). For those of you tuning in for the first time, I had (I hope) an allergic reaction to some cheap Czech laundry detergent and every part of me that is touched by clothing is now a mess. I’ve never had anything like this happen to me before.

I haven’t left the homestead in a while — the day I watched the Chargers lose was the only other time in a week, but today I had no choice if I wanted to eat. I’m at the little café right now, and I’m itchy.

At night, I go to bed, and often manage to fall asleep, only to wake up a short time later with one nerve somewhere on my body screaming bloody murder. In my half-awake state I will scratch it. From then on I’m no longer just half awake. Whatever I scratched burns like someone is holding a match to it. I lie awake, trying not to think about the burning, trying not to think of… the other itch, and the other one, and the one after that. I lie in bed, rigid, resolutely not scratching, chanting my “no scratching” mantra.

Must. Not. Scratch. Must. Not. Scratch.

Then there is the moment of erosion of will. A new itch will arise, angry and demanding, from a new awkward and uncomfortable location. I thought I had run out of such spots several nights ago, but no. “Oh, crap, not there too,” has become my eternal lament.

Eventually the itch becomes too powerful, and I will watch as if from a distance as one of my hands scratches the most urgent of the itches. There is a tiny moment of blessed relief before the burning starts. I try to restore discipline, but there’s no turning back now. I claw at my skin, from neck to toe, trying to draw as little blood as possible, but there is only one priority. Scratch. My mantra changes as well — last night I caught myself muttering:

Scratchy. Scratchy. Good, Good.

Eventually my brain is so flooded with endorphins that I can fall back to sleep. For while it’s painful, it’s easier to sleep through the general discomfort of ones entire epidermis burning than it is to ignore the urgent, actionable discomfort that is the itch. Once the itch is banished and there’s nothing I can do to lessen my mysery, I am released from my scratchy frenzy and sleep can come again — until the next itch starts.

If you really want, you can see my skin here, but it doesn’t really capture the purpleness or the puffiness. My hip was just an easy region to photograph. I offer this image in defense of being called a whiner.

Sorry about that.

I was in the Little Café Near Home when I got the call. “Come on! Let’s go watch some football!” I would have said no, but I realized I did not have my AC adapter with me. My time there was limited anyway.

I went to the bar. When I got there, San Diego and Kansas City were knotted at zeroes. We worked our way into one end of a table, and I talked to the guy next to me, then I looked up to see Kansas City score their second touchdown. I hadn’t been there very long at all. I laughed and rocked back in my seat, and reminded myself that this is just statistics. It’s got to happen to someone. Which just proves that I am someone.

The First Millennium

Other than myself, 999 people (not counting the backlog) have requested keys to turn off the gentle nagging in Jer’s Novel Writer. That’s not a huge deal, as keys are free until release 1.0 (other developers have delivered far less for a 1.0 release — remember Windows 1.0? I didn’t think so — but I want it to be right). But still, out there are 1000 people and counting who have been excited enough about the software to request their very own key.

Key 1000 was, completely without my planning it that way, a haggle. Although you don’t have to pay for a key, you still can, and the key you get will last much longer. That’s cool, but the same price doesn’t work for everyone. I set a very reasonable price for the software, but out there are students and teachers and other folk generally working to make the world better and people like that deserve a break. Rather than make a whole set of proces for different circumstances, I recognized that my market was writers. You want a discount? Tell me why you deserve one. Style counts.

Actually, key 1000 wasn’t so much a haggle as a barter. In exchange for a software key that will last a long, long, time, I get a bound galley of his first novel. No two ways about it, I win. From his emails I know I will like the author’s work. You can just tell that sometimes. Some folks have a way with words. Those are the people who can score a discount on Jer’s Novel Writer.

Vanity Googling Hits Pay Dirt

Today I was poking around on that big ol’ Internet thing, and I decided to Google ‘gizo’. He is the Millennial Office Holder and all. It turns out that the top reference that refers to a human being is our gizo, but there are several links to an island in the Solomon chain that come in ahead of him. It’s not much, but I offer this link to gizo‘s home page to help boost his ratings, and to encourage folks here to drop by and say hello over there.

Yes, I know that gizo probably doesn’t care where he ranks on Google.

Then, of course, I searched my own name, and I was nineteen out of the top twenty matches. This is what happens when the spelling of your name is an unusual variant and you’ve been cluttering up the Web for a long time. Ancient threads about Java coding practices, links to this blog, imdb listings, my photo gallery, and so forth. One link caught my eye, though, that spurred me to write this episode. It is from the Web site of a major European university, giving course materials for a class on American literature and culture.

An excerpt:

John Updike, Rabbit, Run

Report 1: Give a brief presentation of 1950s conformity.
Suggested sources:
U.S. Department of State, “The Culture of the 1950s
1950s: Pop Culture Explodes in a Decade of Conformity
Social Trends of the 1950s

Report 2: Comment briefly on the value placed on the open road in American culture.
Suggested source:
Jerry Seeger, “American Road Myth 01

So the oldest University in the Nordic countries is using my writing as a source when discussing John Updike. I think that’s pretty darn cool. Makes me think maybe I should get around to writing more of that intended series. Purely coincidentally, the short story I’m noodling on right now is rooted firmly in that mythos.

Rhetoric and Fiction

Somebody over in the Hut forums tossed out a link today. It was to a series of essays by Orson Scott Card about the art and the business of writing. Uncle Orson wrote some of my favorite ever stories. Although we have parted ways lately (I wonder if he misses me…?) I have a great deal of respect for the man both as a dude and a writer. My first exposure to his work was long, long, ago, when I read a novella of his in Analog. He later turned that into Ender’s Game, a novel that did pretty darn well and (I assume) laid the foundation for his career. I expect he cringes now when he reads it, seeing all the things he could have done better, and by now there is a large body of critics devoted to finding things Uncle Orson could have done better.

Anyway, today I was reading thoughts on writing from a man who is both a successful writer and a successful teacher of writing. The essays I read were on the issue of style. He was answering the question “How do I improve my style?” and his response was that you can’t improve your style, except you can stop yourself from thinking too much about your style and therefore making your style artificial and forced. That’s not earth-shattering news, but his solution was one I had not heard before. A rough paraphrase: Tell the story. Find the most effective words to convince people and make them care. That’s rhetoric. Hone your rhetoric and your style will shine free and unencumbered.

That’s a very rough paraphrase (the ‘free and unencumbered’ part is all me), but the message is there, one that I could really benefit from. Mr. Oxford says rhetoric is “the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, esp. the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.” Who doesn’t want to be good at that? Hell, it’s an art! I often describe my short stories as ‘atmospheric’, but I need to remember that the atmosphere must have rhetorical value; it must promote a story.

I’ll never give up atmosphere, though. I love it too much. Sometimes the mood is the reason.

Mr. Scott Card’s point is well-taken, however. His use of the word rhetoric in the realm of fiction caught me off-guard (although that may just reflect my less-than-literary educational background), but once I read it, it was obvious. Suddenly seslf-aware, I look back now at the last few paragraphs in this episode and chuckle at the briar patch of rhetorical devices.

It’s something I think I already knew, something I was already aware of at the functional level, but by stating the idea explicitly I have been granted a very powerful question to ask myself when evaluating my own work. Beauty doesn’t matter if the words don’t do their job.

Post-apocalyptic superheroes

Leaping tall buildings isn’t so useful when there aren’t any. Invisible jets are cool and all, but when airports were taken out with the first strike and ‘jet fuel’ is a euphemism for home-distilled hooch that glows in the dark, jets just aren’t that practical. So what, then, are the abilities that will give the post-apocalyptic superhero the edge when fighting (or simply out-surviving) super-villians? Here is a short list of candidates.

Buzzard Man
Super-power: Born with the immune system of a buzzard, he is able to eat food that would kill anyone else. Carrion several days old, crawling with whatnot, is the mainstay of his diet.
Super-weakness: He still has the taste buds of a regular human.

Camel Woman
Super-power: Able to store large amounts of water in her impressive, uh… humps. She can make it from oasis to oasis across the shifting desert sand, and will never be driven by thirst to drink from contaminated sources.
Super-weakness: chronic back pain and constantly pestered by men offering her glasses of water.

Radiation Boy
Super-power: Not only is Radiation Boy able to withstand nuclear fallout, he thrives on it. Cesium isotopes are his favorite. He can go where no others can, and there’s no worry about finding his way in the dark.
Super-weakness: Loneliness. Since he is, himself, radioactive, he has a bad habit of giving his friends cancer.

Orbital Girl
Super-power: Actually a holographic projection generated by the AI of an orbiting weapons platform, she is quite literally untouchable. Plenty of backstory potential when it comes time to explain why an orbital weapons platform would choose the guise of a teenage girl (unless the satellite is Japanese, in which case it goes without saying).
Super-weakness: While seemingly invulnerable, she is also unable to directly influence events — except with high-power lasers and a few remaining nuclear warheads. She is hot-tempered and you wouldn’t like her when she’s angry. She can never go indoors and can only appear when the satellite is overhead, and is only bright enough to be seen at night. She’s also not that bright in the mental sense.

The Mysterious Person from a Faraway Land
Super-power: Weaves spell-binding stories of a place far away where life doesn’t suck so bad. People will follow the Mysterious Person anywhere and defend Mysterious person to the death.
Super-weakness: Mysterious Person is a complete fraud. (What part of global thermonuclear war did you not understand?) If anyone finds out the truth, Mysterious Person is toast.

Mole Man
Super-power: forget the ozone layer, forget all the troubles on the surface. Mole Man can tunnel deep into the earth — so deep that mankind has not yet found a way to screw it up.
Super-weakness: There’s no food down there. Mole Man must on occasion creep back to the surface. Even a bright moon is blinding to him.

Ozona
Super-power: I have no idea. I just like the name.
Super-weakness: See above.

In the next day or two I will mount a new poll, asking you all who you think is the most awesome of post-apocalyptic superheroes. In the meantime, you can choose a favorite and start campaigning, or you can suggest others as well.

Itchy!

File this one under ‘more things you really didn’t need to know’…

It started a few days ago. I started feeling itchy all over. Then the bumps started showing up. I am now covered with itchy red bumps. Writing about it makes me think about it even more. Itchy, itchy itchy.

You’d never know by looking, however, and when I figured that out I had the likely cause of my malaise. I only have bumps where my clothes touch me. Two weeks ago I bought a new batch of laundry detergent. I have heard the complaints of others (some who read this, in fact) and I have always counted myself as fortunate that such afflictions do not affect me. Until now. I can’t imagine what would happen to someone who actually had sensitive skin if they used this stuff.

Of course, after I bought the detergent I washed all my clothes (had a bit of a backlog waiting for the detergent) so suddenly I was left with practically nothing to wear that wouldn’t make things worse. My hawaiian shirts escaped, but the weather isn’t really favorable for those. The worst, of course, is the underwear. Once I figured out the problem I put the remainder of my clothes that were still clean through another wash cycle with no detergent, hoping for some intensive rinsing action, but I’m still itchy and bumpy. I’m not sure what it’s going to take to fully expunge whatever chemical it was that I reacted to. Whatever it was, it was nasty.

Hopefully it’s just that the irritation is slow to fade and its not that the problem is actually something else entirely.

The Transitional Seasons

Piker Press just published a story of mine, a decidedly springtime one. It didn’t feel at all strange to have it come out as the days are getting shorter, however; spring has more in common with autumn than with her neighbors. Lazy, shimmering, devil-may-care summer is too self-absorbed, while brooding, fierce winter will not contemplate another’s voice.

Spring and autumn are the seasons of change, when we feel the passing of time. It makes perfect sense to me that spring and autumn are the times when new fashion lines are revealed, summer and winter are when one coasts along, enjoying or enduring according to personal preference. Excitement comes with uncertainty and change, with the realization that today will not be a repeat of yesterday.

Spring is often compared to birth, and of course Halloween could not come at any other time of year. Autumn is spookier than winter, even though winter is darker. There is a restlessness to the season; leaves skitter and twirl aimlessly on city sidewalks and in fields harvested and prepared against the coming cold. There is anticipation in the air, the certaintly that something is coming, but there’s no telling when it will arrive. It’s the same feeling that horror films so often fail to achieve.

They are the seasons of scent. In autumn there is the smell of decay in the air, leaves piling up, but it is not death, it is autumn passing a note to spring, right under winter’s nose, the down-payment on spring’s vitality. In return spring fills the air with the scent of flowers and the songs of birds — dialogues of reproduction, as spring creates sprawling vibrant life poised and ready to take all the energy it can from summer’s plenty, the return message to her friend on the other side of the sun. They are in cahoots, spring and autumn, giddy seasons sharing the joke that is life, while summer and winter are none the wiser.

On the cover at Piker Press

If the top story in this week’s Piker Press seems familiar to you, that’s because it is an improved version of a story that appeared here first. It was, in fact, the favorable response from readers here that encouraged me to fix it up a bit and give it a life beyond the blog. The story takes place on the first warm day of spring, so in a sense it is antiseasonal. Yesterday I enjoyed tea on a bench outside a coffee shop on a chilly day that left no doubt that winter is fast approaching.

If you want to leave a comment about the story, you have to go to its dedicated, photoless page. You can see a list of everything of mine that has appeared in the press here.

The accompanying photo is also by me (though enhanced by the Piker editorial staff), snapped from a location near the beer window mentioned in the story.

A Nation Comes Together

The TV is not on here at the Little Café Near Home very often, but sometimes there is an event that draws people here to watch as a group. the most obvious example of this is for major sporting events, but there are other programs that draw in the crowds as well. One of those shows is on right now. I’d consider going somewhere else, but any other place with a TV will have the same show on.

What is this event that draws the nation together? I’ve mentioned it before, but the current season of Česko hleda Superstar is getting down to the finals. The good news is that means the contestants who really, really, suck have all been eliminated. Now we have a homogeneous batch of people who fit the formula. They all sound pretty much the same, craftsmen rather than artists, singing safe tunes written by other people. One of these will be labeled ‘Superstar’, a large fish in a small pond, and will then try to turn that into a career, just like the other winners of the other Superstar contests all over the world.

I’m not sure you can pin all the blame for the superstar formula on the U.S., but as the worlds largest producer of pop clones I think it’s fair to guess that the recipe for the McPopstar was perfected there.

As I was watching the show (I have no resistance to the box of moving lights) I started to wonder: what’s so damn special about singing that these guys are the superstars, while artists in other disciplines toil in relative obscurity? Technology is part of the answer, certainly; electricity has made it possible for there to be a music industry. People are listening to music all the time, where for most other art forms they have to dedicate time to appreciating it. Technology has changed both the product and the distribution.

A hundred years ago there were certainly celebrated musicians and entertainers, but back then there were people in other art forms that were just as celebrated. Maybe more so. I think for a while the writers had the edge — between the invention of the printing press and the invention of radio they had the best mass-market potential. Ah, if only I was born a hundred years earlier! Before that, I’m not sure. Whatever the talented person in each village did, perhaps.

The Buggles claim that video killed the radio star. That may well be true, but the singers are still hanging in there, as long as they are attractive enough. You can’t be a superstar if you can’t carry a tune. Well, let’s just say you can’t be a superstar without singing. With Internet getting steadily faster video will become more and more influential, but the difference is that people will be able to watch anything, whenever they want. By putting distribution squarely in the hands of consumers, we might (fingers crossed) see the last of the manufactured pop star. There will always be those who have big promotional budgets, flashier videos, and whatnot, but already I only buy music from independent labels (not out of any sort of protest, their terms and pricing on downloaded music are better), and I don’t think I’m missing out on much. Honestly, I have no idea who’s popular right now anyway, and I can always find something I enjoy on an indie Web site.

I am told there are even people who use the Web to read what other people write.

The next few years will be interesting. Big extravaganzas like the one I witnessed tonight will work to make the next superstar, while beneath the stage the termites are gnawing on the supports.