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Wednesday, February 25, 2004  

Writers' world: Who is doing what?

•Smart Genes puts it online

When I started this weblog, I had some rather vague notions about including fiction on it since it is a general assignment venue. For a while, there was a Fiction Writers Web Ring logo at the bottom of the page. The code stopped working and I've never gotten around to repairing it. That hasn't been a priority because I haven't added fiction to the menu at Mac-a-ro-nies, anyway.

But, that smart guy at Smart Genes, writer Rick Heller, has done something about his desire to include fiction in his blogging life.

Smart Genes the novel is now online

For those of you who've wanted to read the text of the novel, Smart Genes, I've placed the first 9 chapters online, in a form that allows readers like you to edit it .

Here is my new site.

Anyone can edit it and change the text around. I encourage you to do it. The platform I'm using is a wiki, which allows anyone to make changes, but also keeps every version ever saved in a database. Thus, is someone makes changes that are lame, I can roll them back.

I want to create a collaborative community around this. If this model works for me, I'd be interested in shepherding others through this process. You can also create your own user pages on the wiki if you want to.

So stop by, read Smart Genes, and help me make it better.

I will be reading Rick's newly interactive novel and his short fiction. He said 'collaborative.' So, feel free to be part of this innovation. I'll be there.

Byte Back second guesses SCOTUS

One of the things I like about Byte Back is that its proprietor is a reporter's reporter. Big, easy to grasp, news stories get talked to death in the blogosphere. However, he can be counted on to look into less sexy, but significant stories. Say 'SCOTUS' and most of us immediately focus on last year's decisions on affirmative action and gay rights or wonder if they will ever say 'no' to John Ashcroft. Byte Back is looking at an intriguing, but less easily blogged, decision.

Court OKs Denial of Divinity Scholarships

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court, in a new rendering on separation of church and state, voted Wednesday to let states withhold scholarships from students studying theology, even when money is available to students studying anything else.

The court's 7-2 ruling said the state of Washington was within its rights to deny a taxpayer-funded scholarship to a college student who was studying to be a minister.

"Training someone to lead a congregation is an essentially religious endeavor," Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote for the court majority. "Indeed, majoring in devotional theology is akin to a religious calling as well as an academic pursuit."
the Bush administration argued that the state had been wrong to yank the scholarship from former student Joshua Davey.

Davey won a state Promise Scholarship, but the state rescinded the money when it learned what he planned to study.

Like 36 other states, Washington prohibits spending public funds on this kind of religious education. Bans on public funds for religious education, often known as Blaine amendments, date to the 19th century, when anti-Catholic sentiment ran high.

"It does not deny to ministers the right to participate in the political affairs of the community. And it does not require students to choose between their religious beliefs and receiving a government benefit. The state has merely chosen not to fund a distinct category of instruction."

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Particularly in the last quote there I can only say "huh?"

"The state has merely chosen not to fund a distinct category of instruction."

So if the state decided to not fund teaching, that would be OK?

Or am I looking over the simple fact that he is studying in a church, not in a regular school?

Decision link here (PDF).

Though attention has been focused on attempts by the Christian Right to erode the barrier between Church and State, I believe this case comes at the topic from a different and interesting angle. The Christian Science Monitor summarizes it well.

The right to practice one's religion without government interference does not trump a state's desire to maintain a high wall separating church and state.

In a major decision, the US Supreme Court Wednesday ruled 7 to 2 that religious liberty as guaranteed under the First Amendment does not supersede efforts by state governments to uphold a different part of the First Amendment - the separation of government and religion.

The case marks something of a reversal at the nation's highest court under Chief Justice William Rehnquist, with other recent rulings emphasizing government neutrality toward religion and the religious rather than strict separation of church and state.

The problem, from one perspective, is that the ministry is considered a valid education and career path like any other. So, does it make sense to declare it verboten in regard to financial aid from the state? Analysis would be simpler if there was a major in 'atheist studies.' But, there isn't. So, an argument can be made that giving the young man the scholarship would be favoring religion in regard to absence of religion, which does violate the Establishment Clause. But, one could come back with the response that the content of education, as long as it meets the standards set by accrediting bodies, is not the issue. Society probably benefits more from people who study medicine than from people who study art history, but we don't encourage content discrimination in regard to funding scholarships most of the time. Why should a religion major be treated differently? I don't have a definitive answer in regard to this case, but it is the kind of meaty topic I like to think about.

'Bitch' has Nerve

The stereotype of the starving artist is not completely accurate. Some of us do make a living from our work. But, it ain't easy. Bitch Has Word recently blogged about what one writer has been doing to earn his keep.

Humanoid Love Toys

This is oddest thing I've seen in a long time. Some guy at Nerve.com wrote an article about having sex with a "high end humanoid love toy." He said he "spent a special day with an inanimate object of desire" for science.

But that's what he says about having subway sex [I'm assuming it's the transportation kind and not the sandwich kind], injaculation ["how to dam old faithful"], and cross dressing.

I think he did it because he wanted to and because he found someone to pay him to do it. Isn't that all anyone wants from a job?

Anyway, it's a long article, and not appropriate for corporate work environments. Those of you "working from home" in your bunny slippers can just hop on over to the article directly, however. It even includes pictures of the author getting it on with the doll. The article is currently available for free, but by next month you will probably have to pay to read it. So hippity hop to it!

Supposedly, RealDolls were created as a "high-end fashion mannequins with articulated skeletons." But it didn't take long for the sexually retarded adventurous to start asking for ... um ... enhancements.

If you're feeling lonely and think you'd like a Real Doll for your, ahem, fashion pleasure, you'll have to cough up at least $6000 for female dolls, $7000 for a male. As the web site notes, they're "cheaper than most alternatives." Begs the question: Alternatives to what, exactly?

The most uncomfortable thing I have ever done to earn a living as a writer was edit advertising supplements for a weekly newspaper. It bothered me more than representing the Ku Klux Klan in a lawsuit I worked on when I was in law school. I believe in freedom of speech, but not pushing tacky gadgets and overpriced clothes, I guess.

Let me take this opportunity to flog Nerve, one of the first online writing sites I contributed to. Talking about sex without being sexist or tasteless is difficult. Producing copy that does so for years is quite an achievement. Take bhw's advice: Visit Nerve.

5:00 PM