Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, My Dear Baginses!

Today is Bilbo and Frodo's birthday!

I know it's a little late in the day, as most people have already finished up second breakfast and are getting ready for elevenses, but I couldn't let it pass by without celebrating. After all, without the adventures of these two wonderful, lovable Hobbits, many beloved games in my life would never have gotten their start, whether on pen and paper or in the various realms of the internet.

So start up the music, cut you some cake, and raise a glass in honor of Bilbo and Frodo!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I'm sore. And cranky. And really wish I'd gone ahead and taken a nap today before going to play D&D tonight.

However, I did come across three different links in the course of my day that, for whatever reason, I feel like sharing. Feel the love.

  1. Juárez, Mexico local paper publishes a story asking local drug cartels what exactly they want of the paper in order to prevent more reporters from being killed, since the local authorities are supposedly doing nothing to protect them.
  2. I just want to say that I love reading Sociological Images, and some day hope to be smart like them. Here's a fascinating piece about the social custom in Afghanistan that allows families send their daughters into public without an actual male relative accompanying them.
  3. And what with all the media uproar lately about Delaware Republican Senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell's meddling with witch-craft, here's a humorous flowchart to help you figure out if she's a witch.

Okay, time to fix dinner. Enjoy!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Harry Potter Read-Thru 1-4

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
by J.K. Rowling

The Keeper of the Keys

Finally, the mystery of Harry is revealed.

Hagrid appears on the scene, literally busting down the door and waltzing on in. We receive our first full description of Hagrid, of his wild, giant appearance. Which, for the record, Robbie Coltrane is excellent as the choice to portray him.

But that is neither here nor there. This is about the books, after all.

Rowling has a delightful sense of the absurd in this scene. Very Serious Things are occurring--Harry's learning he's a wizard, that his parents and he are famous in the Wizarding world, and an evil wizard tried to kill him as a baby, not to mention why the Dursley's treat him as horribly as they do--and yet, there's also this underlying humor. The way the sofa sinks lower and lower every time Hagrid sits back down after scaring the Dursley's, how Hagrid keeps pulling out more and more random items from his over-sized pockets (sausages? a tea kettle? an owl?), and this giant of a man threatening the Dursleys with a battered, pink umbrella, are just a few examples of the humor in the scene.

It puts me in mind of the style of Monty Python.

Of course, I personally cannot help but feel a little sorry for Hagrid in this scene. While it's plain that Hagrid expected some resistance on the parts of Vernon and Petunia, he was ill-prepared for the complete lack of knowledge Harry had of the Wizarding world and his place in it.

Ten years have passed since Harry defeated Voldemort, and we're introduced to the general views on his defeat by Hagrid:
  1. Some believe he died. (Hagrid doubts this as he doesn't know if Voldemort "had enough human left in him to die.")
  2. He's still out there, hale and whole, bidin' his time and waiting to come back. (Hagrid also doubts this, because "People who was on his side came back ter ours. Some of 'em came outta kinda trances [first reference to Imperius!]. Don' reckon they could've done if he was comin' back.)
  3. That he's still out there, but he's lost all of his powers and is too weak to carry on. (Hagrid maintains this is the most commonly held view.)
This is important to remember in later books, when Harry announces that Voldemort has returned. Just remember it.

We also get an insight into just why the Dursley's have treated Harry the way they have. It's rooted not only in their desire to be "normal" and hide from the horrors of the Wizarding world, but also in Petunia's deep-rooted jealousy for Lily and her abilities. It is also one of the very few times we ever hear of Harry's grandparents. Possibly the only time.

Of note is also Vernon's acknowledgment of Harry's propensity for magic. Mr. Dursley makes a point to tell Harry: "I accept there's something strange about you, probably nothing a good beating wouldn't have cured..." The reason why I want to take a moment to point this out, is that on more than one occasion I've come across someone in the fandom who insists that if the Dursley's were abusing Harry, then they had to be beating him. This is not true--in many ways, verbal abuse is more long-lasting than physical, particularly when it happens at such a young age. As much as I thoroughly dislike the Dursleys, there's never any evidence that they ever physically abused Harry, and this statement and Harry's lack of derisive response to it tells me that while they loathed what Harry represented, they did not beat him.

*gets down off of her soap box*

Ahem, at the end of this chapter, we also receive our first clue as to certain things that will pop up in the next book--Hagrid's expulsion when he was a 3rd year. I point this out, because it shows that Rowling is capable of laying down foundations for future books/plot development... provided she actually knows that it will come up. But that's a rant that will appear in full form once we get to later books.

Overall, this is a good chapter--the pacing is good, we get a fair amount of exposition taken care of, and there's ample humor throughout the chapter. And, of course, Rowling continues to excel at making the reader visualize what she describes. Whatever her failings as a plotter or novelist, she is still an excellent story teller.

Next, we'll pick up with Harry's adventures in Diagon Alley, and the wonders of the Wizarding World.

Friday, September 17, 2010

One line post

I totally wish I could be in Washington D.C. on October 30th.

The Great Hunt is Complete

Brandon Sanderson, while on his book tour for The Way of Kings, has been conducting a digital hunt for thirty codes. As these codes were entered into a particular website, pieces were revealed of one of the chapters from the upcoming Wheel of Time book, Towers of Midnight.

The last code has finally be entered, and Chapter 8 of Towers of Midnight is currently up on Sanderson's website.

You can read it here! :-D

Also, if you wish to read discussions about what's been revealed in the hunt (the codes were all chapter titles) and in the posted chapter, I recommend checking out either Theoryland or Dragonmount.

November 2 can't get here fast enough!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

200 Pounds of Awesome!

This is put up especially for my dear friends Will and Sherri.

The rest of you might enjoy this as well, but, really, I saw this and just had to put it up here for those two. It was apparently made for the Georgia Aquarium.

Isn't that absolutely epic?

Harry Potter Read-thru 1-3

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
by J.K. Rowling

Chapter 3 - The Letters from No One

In this chapter we learn that Harry's punishment went on for so long that by the time he was let loose again, the Summer Holidays had already started. This depressed Harry to a small degree because it meant he had no surcease from Dudley and his gang's torments. He was greatly looking forward to the following September, because for the first time he and Dudley would be attending different schools from one another--Dudley to Smeltings (Mr. Dursely's old school) and Harry to the public school, Stonewall High.

In this chapter we also have our first indication for Harry's snarky side, when Dudley tries to tease Harry about going to Stonewall High:
"They stuff people's heads down the toilet the first day at Stonewall," [Dudley] told Harry. "Want to come upstairs and practice?"

"No, thanks," said Harry. "The poor toilet's never had anything as horrible as your head down it -- it might be sick." Then he ran, before Dudley could work out what he'd said.
Which, of course, is just a preview of the sarcasm Harry will unleash on Dudley in Order of the Phoenix.

The abuse of Harry continues as we move on in the chapter. After the big deal the Dursleys made of going and buying Dudley his Smeltings uniform, the next morning Harry wakes up to find Aunt Petunia dyeing old rags of Dudley's for Harry's uniform at Stonewall High. Also, we see Uncle Vernon encouraging Dudley to do violence towards Harry:
"Get the mail, Dudley," said Uncle Vernon from behind his paper.
"Make Harry get it."
"Get the mail, Harry."
"Make Dudley get it."
"Poke him with your Smelting stick, Dudley."
Harry dodged the Smelting stick and went to get the mail.
Thankfully, Harry had a great, happy surprise waiting for him when he goes to fetch the mail--he's received his first Hogwart's letter! Though, of course, Harry has no clue that that's what he has in his hands.

When Vernon and Petunia realize what it is, the send they two boys from the room and discuss the implications of the letter--most importantly to them, the fact that the sender knows that Harry lives in the cupboard, and possibly of other abuses that he has suffered.

After reminding themselves that they vowed to "stamp out that dangerous nonsense" when they took Harry in, the proceed to move Harry from under the stairs to Dudley's second bedroom, "just in case."

The next morning, Rowling lets us know that
Dudley was in shock. He'd screamed, whacked his father with his Smeltings' stick, been sick on purpose, kicked his mother, and thrown his tortoise through the greenhouse roof, and he still didn't have his room back."
It's the first time in Dudley's entire life that he couldn't throw a tantrum to get what he wanted. If nothing else, the Dursley's fear of magic encouraged a bit of better parenting for both boys, if only for a moment.

Of course, Harry received another set of letters that day, this time showing that the sender knows Harry is no longer under the stairs, but in the "smallest bedroom," which encourages further fear on the part of the Dursley's.

The following day, Harry tries to sneak down early and wait for the letters, only to discover that Uncle Vernon had slept in front of the door to prevent exactly that. Vernon stays home from work that day and nailed up the mail slot, thinking that would prevent any more letters from arriving.

As expected, that fails.

What follows is three days of increasing insanity on the part of Vernon, as everything he tries to prevent the arrival of the letters fail. It truly is insanity, and even Dudley, dim-witted as he is, recognizes it as such.

After they end up in a small shack in the middle of the sea, Harry realizes that the following day is his eleventh birthday. As the count down to midnight occurs in his head, someone shows up and bangs on the door.

When I was reading the end of this, I could not help but be reminded of another British book about a little boy with magic, written by Susan Cooper in the 1970's called The Dark is Rising. In that book, the protagonist Will Stanton also has a frightening night just before his eleventh birthday, and on his birthday discovers that he has magical abilities.

I've tried doing a bit of cursory research, in hopes I might come across some significance in regards to eleventh birthdays in folklore or the occult, but haven't come across anything. It just struck me as odd, and being a silly American, I thought perchance it had some meaning that a British reader might catch. Perhaps it really is just centered around the way their school system is set up.

Any way, this chapter does a good job of building up the suspense--making the reader wonder just what is so wildly different about Harry, and why the Dursleys act as they do when the letters arrive. Thankfully, the wait isn't long--for the next chapter explains much.

Until then!

A few quick items

  • Sam got his diploma yesterday!!! Hallelujah! It's very pretty. :-)
  • We celebrated with Fazoli's while we were in the city. Yum.
  • Sam and I have been trying to get to the grocery store since Tuesday.
  • The van's transmission stopped working after we got back to town.
  • Sam and I pushed it the rest of the way home.
  • The jeep refuses to actually catch and start up, even though the engine will turn over.
  • My dad is awesome and gave Sam advice over the phone.
  • Sam's dad is awesome and is helping us with the Jeep and letting Sam borrow a car for today.
  • The tow truck will be here momentarily to take the Jeep to the dealership.
  • We still haven't made it to the store.
  • Tiger has decided that she can be sociable with the rest of the cats.
  • She will also let Sam and I get near her now, though she still disapproves of petting.
  • Correction, tow truck just showed up.
  • HP read-thru will commence later.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Going to the City... try and wrap up the final details on Sam's Thesis so we can finally leave academia behind, at least for a little while.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone will continue tomorrow.

In the meanwhile, enjoy this!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Harry Potter Read-thru 1-2

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
by J.K. Rowling

Chapter 2 - The Vanishing Glass

To begin with let me state that few things get to me in a book like reading about a child who is abused, lonely, or feels a failure. It causes a visceral reaction--either tears or anger, and often a combination of both.

Reading about how Harry is treated by the Dursleys is one of those things that always pisses me off a bit. I understand that this is a tried and true convention of children's stories (the clever child who is treated badly by stupid adults), particularly in several of Roald Dahl's books, but it still upsets me when I read it. I find it difficult to believe that no one ever noticed the obvious differences between how Dudley and Harry looked at school, despite coming from the exact same household.

After all, Dudley is a large, very well-fed boy who wears good clothes and is obviously doted on by his parents. Then there is Harry, a scrawny, small-for-his-age boy who only wears his larger cousins hand-offs. The two boys are in the same grade, with the same teacher(s), and no one's ever felt the need to investigate this?

Conversely, Albus Dumbledore, the Headmaster for the premiere British Wizarding School, has established a squib spy, Mrs. Figg, to keep an eye on Harry for the past ten years. A spy who, at least once a year, watches after Harry when the Dursleys go out and about. You mean to tell me she never reported to Dumbledore the way the Dursleys were abusing Harry Potter, the Boy-who-lived?!

Of course, it is possible she did, and Dumbledore just ignored it. Dumbledore is very good at ignoring when his charges are being abused--but we'll get more into that in later chapters.

Ah well. Whatever fits the needs of the story.

In this chapter we catch back up with Harry and the Dursleys, ten years after the fateful night Harry was left on their doorstep. We learn that Harry is treated much like a house elf, certainly not like a ward of the family. Whenever Harry tries to learn about his parents, or anything at all, he's simply told Don't ask questions.

(Aside: I can't help but speculate that the reason Harry is an indifferent student through-out the series is rooted in this training he received during his early childhood. A frequent complaint I've heard from fans of the series is that Harry never thinks to ask anyone around him for information. Surely that stems from the fact that he got in trouble at home for asking questions. Likely, he also learned not to do too well at school, lest he outshine the golden boy Dudley.)

It is also Dudley's birthday, and they have to make sure he has more presents than last year (though he cannot even add together 37 and 2). Just before they're getting ready to leave for Dudley's birthday celebration, the Dursley's find out that Mrs. Figg, Squib-in-disguise, has broken her leg and won't be able to watch Harry for the day.

As Mr. and Mrs. Dursley discuss what to do with Harry, they can only come up with two other people that they're willing to even think about asking to watch over "the boy": Aunt Marge (who must move away sometime over the next book(s), to explain her visit in Prisoner of Azkaban), and Mrs. Dursley's friend Yvonne. The former "hates the boy," and the latter is "on vacation in Majorca."

I find it telling that the list of people they'll ask to watch over Harry only consists of 3 people. This leads me to believe that on some level they know that their treatment of Harry is wrong, and so they only let people who have either a) demonstrated and antipathy towards him or b) he has shown to dislike being with to to watch over the boy. Otherwise, other people will censure them for their treatment of Harry. Or, Harry might learn himself how badly he's treated.

Dudley begins to throw a tantrum about not wanting Harry to go with them to the zoo, but Piers Polkiss (Dudley's sidekick/minion) shows up before any arrangements can be made. Thus, Harry gets to go to the zoo for the first time in his life.

Then we get to hear the tales of Harry and his accidental magic--he causes his hair to grow out at will, he shrinks a hated sweater, and he Apparates to the top of his school building. Rather powerful demonstrations of magic, in my opinion, especially the last one.

Reading these descriptions makes me think about how Mr. and Mrs. Dursley must view all of this. They absolutely loathe anything out of the ordinary, and yet they have the "care" of a young wizard who can use magic--which they fear beyond all reason. Intellectually, I can understand their character motivations. But I still equally loathe them in return.

Harry has one of the best mornings of his life at the zoo--he even got to have a lemon ice pop and Dudley's leftover ice cream (leftover because they had to buy Dudley an even bigger ice cream, since the first wasn't large enough).

Of course, then comes the incident that inspires the chapter title. The group enters into the reptile house, where Dudley and Piers want to see the biggest, scariest snake. When they cannot provoke a reaction, they move on, while Harry stays behind to commiserate with the snake.

The snake then reacts in a way very different from any of the later snakes Harry uses Parseltongue on. It points at signs with its tail and nods his head in reaction to questions--communicating through body language rather than hissing in return.

When Dudley notices what's going on, he pushes Harry out of the way to see better. This causes Harry's accidental magic to banish the glass entrapping the snake, and pandemonium ensues. As the snake slithers away, Harry swears he could hear a voice saying "Thanksss, amigo," the first case of Harry actually hearing Parseltongue.

Harry almost gets by with it (though of course he has no idea he actually did cause it), until Piers points out that Harry had been talking to the snake just before everything happened.

Once Piers is no longer on the scene, Harry is confined in his cupboard (with the spiders!) and told he will not be eating. As Harry lies there, he dreams of one day escaping his dreary existence, of having people who care about him and being free.

Thankfully, Harry only has to wait a few more chapters to get his wish.

Monday, September 13, 2010

An Experiment

I've decided that I want to try a new experiment. One of the blogs I follow likes to do read-thru's where they pick a book, and then go chapter by chapter and post their thoughts on it as they read. Lately, I've been having an urge to try something similar, so today I decided I'd give it a try.

We'll see how well this goes.

Having made this decision, I then had to choose a book to go through. I have a fairly limited audience (as far as I know), especially because I'm not a consistent blogger. With this in mind, I wanted to pick a book that most people would be familiar with, since I plan to talk about spoilers.

After some thought, I've decided I want to do this with the Harry Potter series. I think most of my friends have read this, and those who haven't have at least seen the movies. Of course, this will be discussing the books rather than the movies, and if people don't want spoilers for the last movie, I understand. Still, I feel that this will have the widest appeal.

Also, the last time I read through the whole series was in 2006 or 2007, leading up to the release of Deathly Hallows in July of '07. I figure this gives me a little bit of distance from the initial rush of "Oh my, the series is about to end!" and will allow me to think a tad more critically about the books in general.

So, feel free to come along with me on my ride, make your own comments if you so desire, and have some fun!

Harry Potter Read Thru, 1-1

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
by J.K. Rowling

Chapter 1 -- The Boy Who Lived

Spoiler Alert: this post contains spoilers for the Harry Potter series as a whole, not just for the book/chapter being discussed. If you have not read the books, and read this post anyway, do not come whining to me that I revealed too much. You have been warned.

Just so everybody knows, I will be using the books from Scholastic instead of Bloomsbury, which means that yes, this is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, not Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. For Sorcerer's Stone, I am using the hard-back 1997 edition. The chapter/cover art I pull was originally done by Mary Grandpre. If I pull in any fan artwork, I will give credit where credit is due.

And now to get down to brass tacks.

The last time I'd read the books was over the year leading up to the release of Deathly Hallows. As such, I've forgotten bits and pieces of the way Sorcerer's Stone actually reads. So it's fun to start over again at the beginning--it's like meeting an old friend ten years later.

Anyway, right off the bat I'm reminded that Rowling truly tried to write her books at the age level that Harry and his friends are in the books--in this case, eleven. The sentence structure is simplistic and straight-forward, and while she does a masterful job of evoking an instant image of what she's describing, the vocabulary is suitable for a 5th or 6th grader.

This chapter differs from every other chapter through out the entire series, in the fact that it has two different points of view. We begin the chapter seeing the world through the eyes of Mr. Dursley. Surprisingly, knowing what we do of him in later books and the way that he, Mrs. Dursley, and Dudley will abuse Harry, Mr. Dursley comes across as a humorous and sympathetic character in the first part of this chapter.

The humor for me with Mr. Dursley stems from how he tries to explain away all the weird things he sees throughout the day. First he espies McGonagall in cat form reading a map.
"For a second, Mr. Dursley didn't realize what he had seen -- then he jerked his head around to look again. There was a tabby cat standing on the corner of Privet Drive, but there wasn't a map in sight. What could he have been thinking of? It must have been a trick of the light."
Then there were all sorts of people in cloaks and other funny clothes running around. At first he thinks it's a new fashion for the young folks, until he sees a gentlemen even older than Mr. Dursley dressed that way.
"But then it struck Mr. Dursley that this was probably some silly stunt -- these people were obviously collecting for something... yes, that would be it."
There are several other instances of this, but the one that made me giggle was after he hears the strangely dressed folks talking about the Potters and their son Harry, and he started convincing himself he was panicking over nothing.
"He put the receiver back down and strokes his mustache, thinking... no, he was being stupid. Potter wasn't such an unusual name. He was sure there were lots of people called Potter who had a son named Harry. Come to think of it, he wasn't even sure his nephew was called Harry. He'd never seen the boy. It might have been Harvey. Or Harold. There was no point in worrying Mrs. Dursley; she always got so upset at any mention of her sister."
It's this particular thought process that leads to the sympathy one feels later, when he feels obliged to ask about Mrs. Dursley about the Potters, since he can no longer ignore all the strange things happening that day.

Though he has moments of humor and sympathy, that's not to say that's he a good guy. It's obvious that he's a flawed character. For him, a good morning comprised of:
"...a perfectly normal, owl-free morning. He yelled at five different people. He made several important phone calls and shouted a bit more. He was in a very good mood until lunchtime, when he thought he'd stretch his legs and walk across the road to buy himself a bun from the bakery."
Certainly not a pleasant person.

Once Mr. Dursley goes to bed, the chapter has an abrupt shift from his limited omniscient third-person point of view, to a general third-person point of view with no one's thoughts accessible. It's at this point the chapter loses its charm for me, partly because of the shift in style, and partly because the three Magicals we meet--Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Hagrid--seem more like badly-written fanfic versions of themselves than the characters we grow to know and love later.

When Dumbledore notices Cat!McGonagall, he heads over to the wall she's on and greets her by name, to which she replies in a rather put-out way: "How did you know it was me?" Only to have Dumbledore point out that no cat sits that stiffly.

Problem! Problem!

I'm sorry, but McGonagall is the Transfiguration teacher at Hogwarts and can do the Animagus transformation into a cat, and had to register all of her markings with the Ministry of Magic. Dumbledore is the Headmaster at Hogwarts and was the Transfiguration teacher before McGonagall. And McGonagall wonders how he was able to recognize her? Really?

Another part of the exchange between the two professors which made me go "Wait--what?" is when Dumbledore offers her a lemon drop.
"A what?"
"A lemon drop. They're a kind of Muggle sweet I'm rather fond of."
As if McGonagall has never noticed up until that point that Dumbledore has a weakness for sweets--Muggle or Magical. It's consistently referenced through-out the rest of the series. I suppose this could be the beginning of his affection for lemon drops in particular, but it's still a tad jarring for me.

There's also a moment which made me smirk a bit, knowing what I do of Deathly Hallows. At one point Dumbledore points out that Voldemort has powers Dumbledore never will, to which McGonagall replies:
"Only because you're too--well--noble to use them."
Ah, Minerva, if only you knew.

We also learn about the war against Voldemort at this point, how it had not been going well at all, and that currently rumors are flying that Voldemort's gone, Jame and Lily are dead, and Harry somehow survived.

And then the next batch of confusion is introduced.

We know from the beginning of this chapter that McGonagall has been at the Dursley's ever since Mr. Dursley left for work that morning, and that she has been there all day. We also know that she learned from Hagrid that at some point Dumbledore was going to show up at Privet Drive, even though she didn't know when. Dumbledore finally arrives at midnight. When Hagrid eventually arrives with Harry, he's on Sirius Black's (!) motorcycle, and has flown a long distance with little Harry.

What was going on in that time span? Where was Harry? Did it really take Hagrid all day to fly with Harry? If so, how was Hagrid able to tell McGonagall what was going on? Hagrid had to have arrived on the scene at Godric's Hollow pretty quickly after the attack, as shown when Dumbledore asks if Hagrid ran into any problems fetching Harry, and Hagrid replied:
"No, sir -- house was almost destroyed, but I got him [Harry] out all right before the Muggles started swarmin' around. He fell asleep as we was flyin' over Bristol."
We know from later books that Sirius and Hagrid crossed path's at Godric's Hollow, not before. We also know at the end of this chapter that Hagrid was planning on returning the motorcycle to Sirius immediately. Lastly, we know that Dumbledore was unable to go and check out Godric's Hollow himself for whatever reason.

Needless to say, we are introduced to Rowling's sloppy plotting very early.

The chapter ends with our three Magicals leaving a scarred Harry Potter on the Dursley's front step with nothing but a letter explaining what had happened. Admittedly, this was over McGonagall's objections.

Despite what I'm writing here, I have enjoyed restarting the series and reading the first chapter. Rowling does an excellent job of evoking a the colors of a scene for me, making it easy to envision what she describes. I'm eager to move on to later chapters, even though I know there are lots more plot fun/confusion to come.

Tomorrow we'll get our first chance to view the world through the Harry filter. Let the games begin!

Friday, September 10, 2010

From the "I felt like sharing" files....

It may or may not surprise you to know that I'm a little bit of a political junkie. There are approximately 8-10 political sites I keep track of every day, and another half-a-dozen that I check sporadically if I think they'll have something cogent to say on a particular topic. In addition, over half of the bloggers I follow will reference said political sites and give their interpretation of events, even if they're not primarily political blogs.

(It's amazing how many authors have an interest in politics. Just saying.)

As I'm sure most of you know, there's a pastor down in Florida by the name of Terry Jones who's been making noises about burning the Koran on 9/11, which has lead to a media frenzy giving him exactly what he wants--attention. Recently, he has indicated that he won't actually burn the Koran, first if the Park 51 project (aka the "Ground Zero Mosque") was stopped, and then later if he got a phone call from the president.

However, there is at least one group that says they don't believe that Terry Jones will go through with it--so they will. Meet Bob Old in Tennessee, who says that Terry Jones waffling shows he isn't "committed to the cause," and so he and his church will proceed and YouTube the whole event.

I'm pointing all of this out, to set up a comment from MA I read on TPM:
I remember being sent to monitor a tiny Ku Klux Klan rally in, of all places, Ann Arbor, when I was a stringer for the Detroit News in the early 1990s. Clearly they had chosen an avowedly liberal college town in the spirit of provocation in the hopes of getting some coverage. The editors told me that they didn't want to give the KKK any free press, but I should show up in case anything newsworthy happened.


I suspect editors still have similar policies in place about the Klan, but it's fascinating to me that they're willing to give Terry Jones's hate speech so much play. What has happened to the media environment that makes it possible for a fringe freak like this to get the media attention he so desperately craves, and without which he would have to close shop and find something else to do with his time? Why are media outlets unable to just ignore this guy like they ignored the Klan's transparent attempts at media manipulation. Being an editor still means deciding whose attempts at media manipulation will get play -- is this a symptom of the decline of editorial control in the internet era? Is this coverage being driven by shifts in the media environment that make it impossible to ignore any member of the lunatic fringe who might do something creepy enough to gain saturation coverage in the blogosophere? Is it a function of the shift toward focusing on the most sensational and polarizing figures in order to win ratings by catering to the kinds of excitement and indignation a figure like Jones incites? If so, are we going to see editors start reversing their long-standing policies about not catering to the Klan's media strategies? It's kind of depressing to see how this guy can make the media twitch and dance -- and the international media are, of course, eating it up, since it confirms so many international stereotypes about the US. Just how low do you have to go these days to get saturation cable coverage by outlets who clearly take pleasure in fuelling a productive spiral of incitement and indignation?
Obviously, MA was focused on the decline of editorial control which media outlets have. However, while reading it I found myself thinking that if the media had not given Terry Jones such intense attention, then Bob Old and his church wouldn't be holding a "Koran-burning Festival." Or, at least, the likelihood of it would be drastically reduced.

What do you think?

Editor: A person employed on a newspaper whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff is printed.
--Elbert Hubbard