Read an Almanac Month
|Julian Assange (b. 1971) – Australian editor / founder of WikiLeaks|
Excerpt from Assange interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist
HUO: When you worked as a hacker, were you inspired by these kinds of anarchistic ideas?
JA: I wasn’t personally. The anarchists’ tradition revolving around figures like Proudhon and Kroptkin was not something on my horizon. My personal political inspirations were people like Solzhenitsyn, anti-Stalinists in “The God that Failed” and US radical traditions all the way up to the Black Panthers.
HUO: Liberation movements.
JA: Yes, the various liberation movements—in their emotional tone and force of will, not in intellectual content. That tradition really spread into some other things I did later, like the Cypherpunks, in 1993 and ‘94. 1994 was probably the peak of the “Cypherpunk” micro movement. Cypherpunk is a wordplay on Cyberpunk, the latter was always viewed as nonsense by real computer hackers—we were the living cyberpunks while others were just talking about it, making artistic pastiche on our reality. The Cypherpunks were a combination of people from California, Europe and Australia. We saw that we could change the nature of the relationship between the individual and the state using cryptography. I wouldn’t say that we came from a libertarian political tradition as much as from a libertarian temperament, with particular individuals who were capable of thinking in abstractions, but wanting to make them real. We had many who were comfortable with higher mathematics, cryptography, engineering or physics who were interested in politics and felt that the relationship between the individual and the state should be changed and that the abuse of power by states needed to be checked, in some manner, by individuals.
HUO: And you were one of the protagonists, one could say.
JA: I was. There wasn’t really a founding member or a founding philosophy but there were some initial principles, people like John Young, Eric Huges and Timothy C. May from California. We were a discussion group like the Vienna school of logical positivism. From our interactions certain ideas and values took form. The fascination for us was simple. It was not just the intellectual challenge of making and breaking these cryptographic codes and connecting people together in novel ways. Rather our will came from a quite extraordinary notion of power, which was that with some clever mathematics you can, very simply—and this seems complex in abstraction but simple in terms of what computers are capable of—enable any individual to say no to the most powerful state. So if you and I agree on a particular encryption code, and it is mathematically strong, then the forces of every superpower brought to bear on that code still cannot crack it. So a state can desire to do something to an individual, yet it is simply not possible for the state to do it—and in this sense, mathematics and individuals are stronger than superpowers.
Read the entire interview here
Julian Assange talks about WikiLeaks with David Frost (December 2010)
“There is not a single instance of anyone being harmed by what we’ve done.”
Born July 3
|Colin Welland (b. 1934) – U.K. actor / screenwriter – Chariots of Fire (1981)|
Read an analysis here of Welland’s writing style in Chariots of Fire
Watch a video about the making of Chariots of Fire (Colin Welland at 2:13)
Born July 4
|Jody Lynn Nye (b. 1957) – U.S. fantasy fiction / science fiction writer – The Dragonlover’s Guide to Pern (1989)|
Read about Jody Lynn Nye here and here
Q: Favorite authors?
JLN: Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Mysterious Stranger, Pudd’n’head Wilson, as well as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Naturally I am a big fan of Camelot stories. I will undoubtedly erupt with one someday myself. I love his sense of humor and his unfailing eye for human frailty (which he also does not hesitate to turn on himself). There is understanding and justice in his work. You learn a lot from him while you are laughing.Terry Pratchett has a very keen understanding of human nature as well. He has a paternal affection for his characters that does not hold back at letting awful things happen to them, but in a surprisingly gentle fashion. People meet Death, who does in fact reap souls, but not with any personal axe (or scythe) to grind. Take Windle Poons, professor of Unseen University, who died and never noticed, and continues to teach his classes. His turn of mind delights me. In one of his novels, he mentions that they have learned how to turn lead into gold. It’s not alchemy, it’s printing. I recommend all of the Discworld books, but I have a soft spot for anything featuring Granny Weatherwax, Death and Captain Vimes. My favorite is probably Reaper Man. I adore the Tiffany Aching books (YA, but more than rewarding for adult readers).PG Wodehouse came to my attention because a high-school friend was reading him. We were fellow Anglophiles, so she knew I would like Wodehouse, too. He had a gift for setting a story in time and place, though the characters behave in a way that, as long as we are human, will remain comprehensible and funny.
Q: Advice on writing funny?
JLN: You can’t teach people how to be funny. If they aren’t, they aren’t. If they are, one thing that they have to allow themselves is not to be afraid of their sense of humor. The situation is what makes a story funny. … If you want to write humor you have to have an affection for your characters, even though you won’t divert their feet from that banana peel. Sure, there’s snide, bitter and even angry humor out there, but I don’t enjoy it as much as that which is playful. Write from knowledge. The better you know a subject, the more humor you can find in it. Benjamin Franklin had a gift for the affectionate tweak at the same time he was informing his readers. I think the same can be said of any of my favorites. Personal humor transcends time. Anything too trendy or reliant upon a reference that will be old by this time next year puts a shelf life on your work. See the classic television shows and movies and listen to old radio programs. Those jokes last because they’re about human nature. I just saw a special about Laugh-In, which I adored when it first aired. I was much too young to understand the topical humor, but I loved the rest of it. They were having so much fun, and they were brilliant comedians. Clever wordplay delights me. I happen to love puns. Some people hate them, but I can’t resist a good play on words. George Carlin was a god when it came to taking words and turning them upside down. (“Why do we park in a driveway, but drive on a parkway?”) To budding humorists, I say read, listen, and watch the work of other people you find funny, and experiment on your own. Don’t rip off that which you love directly, but create your own take on it. Your own style will be unique and memorable.
(Read more of this Baen Publishers interview here)
Read Michael Ventrella’s interview with Jody Lynn Nye
NYE: There is always an element of the “chosen one,” or else why are we reading about him or her? I think a successful story will tweak the reader’s perception and give a new way of thinking about the meaning of a hero/ine. Archetypes exist because they have a core of truth about the eternal journey. Cliches exist because some storytellers can only think of telling an archetypal story the way we have always heard it.
Listen to the Functional Nerds podcast interview of Jody Lynn Nye
“I consider myself an anodyne to daily life. I want to be the fun thing that someone picks up and says, I can escape; I have time. Now that means that I don’t win awards, but people enjoy what I’m doing.”
Born July 5
|The Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) (b. 1935) – Tibetan leader, philosopher – The Universe in a Single Atom (2005)|
Read a Washington Post article about the Dalai Lama’s visit to Washington DC in July 2011
In his first major public event since stepping down as head of state in March, the spiritual leader will guide one of the most complex rituals in Tibetan Buddhism, a 10-day teaching called a Kalachakra. The event is expected to attract as many as 100,000 people to the Verizon Center between Wednesday and July 16, when a massive, intricate sand drawing created during the festivities will be dispersed into the Anacostia River to signify the temporary nature of all things.
The Dalai Lama had been saying for about a decade that he wanted to step aside from politics and focus on his role as a spiritual leader. While a new prime-minister-in-exile was elected in April, the Nobel Peace Prize winner remains the face of national Tibetan identity.
The Dalai Lama has transformed the Kalachakra from an arcane ritual into a huge peace festival. That is typical of the way he has popularized Buddhism in the West.
Watch the Dalai Lama speak in June 2017 at the University of California, San Diego, about his retirement and the future of the position of Dalai Lama
Born July 6
|David McCullough (b. 1933) – U.S. historian – John Adams (2002)|
Born July 7
|Tom Egeland (b. 1959) – Norwegian novelist, screenwriter, journalist – Guardians of the Covenant (2007)|
Read a review of Egeland’s Guardians of the Covenant
Tom Egeland again sends his albino archeologist hero Bjørn Beltø, a nerd that much prefers his research and the tranquility of his office, out into the world on a new quest. This time is an ages old Viking manuscript, Codex Snorri, from the old Viking chronicler and historian Snorri Sturlason. The ancient Viking parchments contains runes and riddles that seem to point in the direction of an old document containing secrets of key importance to the understanding and interpretation of the Old Testament.
Born July 8
|Patrice (b. 1979) – German reggae singer / songwriter|
Read about Patrice here
Patrice sings “Everyday Good” live at Chiemsee Reggae Festival
Born July 9