Friday, January 20, 2006

The Midnight Hour

I see that the people at Google have declined the White House's information request --
The White House argues that a list of all requests entered into its search engine over a single week - which could span tens of millions of queries - will help it build up a profile of internet use it needs to defend an online pornography law.
It also wants a million randomly selected addresses from the index of websites that Google searches. (,,1691274,00.html)
Good luck to them on the coming lawsuit. (Please note that this is for research for "an online pornography law", and don't send me emails about this being necessary otherwise we'll all be blown up in our beds tomorrow.)

Which reminds me (in the way these things do) that it's time for me to give a shout-out to the Open Rights Group -- This is a bunch of good and smart people who have come together to try and
...raise awareness in the media of digital rights abuses
to provide a media clearinghouse, connecting journalists with experts and activists
to preserve and extend traditional civil liberties in the digital world
to collaborate with other digital rights and related organisations
to nurture a community of campaigning volunteers, from grassroots activists to technical and legal experts

It's the pledge group that I mentioned here -- but the pledge has matured and now it's all real.

It's primarily a UK/European group, although, as ED Suw Charman explained to me "digital issues are notorious for failing to respect national borders so some of the issues that come up in, say, the States have a knock-on effect on European/British legislation (for example, escalation in copyright term extension). We'll be keeping an eye on the worldwide digital rights agenda, and will be working together with organisations such as the EFF, Online Rights Canada and Digital RightsIreland, amongst others, to play our part when and were we can."

Suw assures me that the first 1000 people to sign up as members will get special privileges, including use of the ORG billiards room on Thursdays, a secret handshake, their own unique verse of the ORG boating song and special "first thousand people only" desserts at all ORG dinners. Also, in strict rotation, they will get to take Herman the ORG pet spidermonkey home at weekends.

(Actually over at which is where you need to go if you're reading this in the UK, all Suw actually says about the first thousand is In the long term, we�ll provide special goodies for you and try to find whatever other perks we can as we go along. Which is, frankly, not good enough. I like mine better, anyway.)


Hey Neil,There's a British Film Festival here in Tel Aviv and "Mirror Mask" will be shown on Monday 1/23/06, at Nine thirty. For details dial (In Israel) 03-6060800. The movie place is on 2 Shprinsak St.Cheers on behalf of your many Israeli fans and hope to see you in TA soon!:)Hagay Hacohen

Lucy Anne's updated The Dreaming over at, and she says
You might also want to remind your readers that alongwith the Golden Groundhog and Powell's Puddly honors,the SF Site is still taking votes for the Reader's Choice for the Best Read of 2005, but *only* untilFebruary 10th. The full details are here:

Truth to tell, I feel foolish sending people to the Golden Groundhogs. It doesn't have any mechanism to stop each click counting as a vote, which means all it measures is how many people are willing to sit and click over and over (or get a macro to do it for them, I suppose).

But the others are real awards, and I'm happy to push traffic their way.

Hello Neil, I am currently reading Neverwhere and noticed something upon reaching chapter 16. I reached the word cyclopean (and after a short chuckle, as I am a Lovecraft fan) I noticed you had it capitalised? Maybe I am overlooking something simple, but just wondering in any case. Although I realise you're very busy and probably won't be able to reply, I had to ask nonetheless. -Phillip Miller

I never know what to do when I get messages like this. If you send them, you must have a computer. If you have a computer, you must have access to Google. If you type "cyclopean" in to Google and you click on the underlined version of the word at the top it'll take you to a dictionary page, in which definition one is:

1. often 'Cyclopean'. Relating to or suggestive of a Cyclops: a great Cyclopean monocle. Further down the page you learn
Cyclopean, name often applied to a primitive method of prehistoric masonry construction, found throughout Greece, Italy, and the Middle East. The term is derived from Cyclopes, the mythological beings who were supposed to have built walls in this manner. The Cyclopean technique involves the use of huge, irregular boulders, carefully fitted together without the use of mortar, thereby creating a massive wall with an uneven face. These walls were characteristic of Mycenaean civilization. Remaining examples are found at Knossos, Mycenae, Tiryns, and Athens. There are many Cyclopean walls in Etruscan and Anatolian architecture. Somewhat similar examples are seen in China, Japan, and Peru.

and the moral is, Google it. Google is your friend.


Will Entrekin, who has been contributing to the Well and sending in helpful things on the FAQ line as long as there's been one, asked me to do something to help a friend of his -- here's his blog entry.


hi Neil -I had the chance to see the 'other' Beowulf project, Beowulf and Grendel, at the Vancouver Film Festival last fall, and want to let you know not to be dismayed by the filmmakers' approach to Grendel, as he's more than just a 'big hairy guy.' To be sure, this film is less fantastic and more grounded in realism, but it maintains an eerie, magical quality that is enhanced by the otherworldly Icelandic backdrop. Fantastic performances, too, by all the actors. Even Grendel. Blaine

Oh good.


Hi Neil,

I'm an author with my first fantasy novel-The Tower of Shadows-due in stores this June, and I first want to thank you for your storytelling gift. I've found each of your novels to be an inspiration and an enchanting foray into the realms of the imagination; Stardust remains one of my favorite books.

Last night, I drove into Baltimore and joined a small group of romantics and thrill-seekers who gather each year on January 19th, in the early hours of the morning, to surround the cemetery in which Edgar Allan Poe is buried and watch the Poe Toaster-a darkly clad mystery man who walks with a silver-tipped cane-place three roses and a half-empty bottle of cognac on the writer's tombstone in celebration of his birthday ( I was fortunate enough to see him, and found the whole night to be wonderfully surreal. Have you heard of the tradition? It sounds like something you'd enjoy. The event got me wondering: how has Poe influenced you and your work, Shadow's brief but hilarious exchange with a raven in American Gods notwithstanding?

-Drew Bowling

Good luck with the book.

I love Poe. I got to write an appreciation of and essay about him for the 2004 oversized hardback Barnes and Noble SELECTED TALES AND STORIES, which was one of those things that simply made me happy to do, and happy to be given the opportunity to read some of Poe out loud again, which I firmly believe is how he should be read (or listened to).

I just checked and B&N have the Poe book in their Holiday sale right now for less than $5, which makes it a perfect steal for the Mark Summers illustrations alone. At that price I may pick up some extra copies for my basement as well.

And a final clarification about next week's reading and talk in Philadelphia...

Hey Neil, I called Sharon Logan, who is organizing the reading at Temple. The original location was very small, so fans needed reservations. No reservations are needed at the new location, because it will hold all 500 of your fans.

I suspect she might be incorrect on that bit, so I now plan on getting there very early. - Glen