Happy Birthday Julian Assange

Today is Julian Assange’s birthday.

Assange thinks human beings have a right to privacy, but democratic governments owe their citizens transparency.

Julian Assange isn’t an ordinary guy, but an innovator. Not mired in preconceived notions, he is a prime architect of WikiLeaks, the first Stateless news organization. WikiLeaks was designed to anonymously accept, vet and publish information that the public should be privy to.

It appears that elements of the United States government prefer to operate without citizen oversight. Some decades past, US government leaks given to Woodward and Bernstein brought criminal behavior in the Nixon government out of the shadows and into the open. For this service to their government and their nation, Woodward and Bernstein were lionized.

Although Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks were well thought of for their efforts in support of freedom in repressive regimes, the U.S. government attitude changed abruptly with the release of the the “Collateral Murder” video where military personnel cavalierly used unarmed civilians for target practice. As far as I know, no attempt has been made to address this problem. The war criminals implicated in the video don’t even appear even to have been reprimanded.

Free Bradley Manning Sticker affixed to a window backed with venetian blinds

However, Bradley Manning, the young intelligence officer accused of being the WikiLeaks whistle blower, (the modern day equivalent of Bob Woodward’s “Deep Throat”) has been isolated, incarcerated, and held in conditions that suggest attempts to “break” if not “brainwash” the young man. It must be noted that Bradley Manning’s extreme loss of liberty has been effected even before he has been convicted of anything.

Wikileaks, and anyone associated with it, has also come under fire.

at New Media Days

Julian Assange, as “the face of WikiLeaks,” has drawn the lightning. Various powerful people have leveled threats against Mr. Assange, including Canada’s own Tom Flanagan, reputedly a friend and mentor of our sitting Prime Minister, who advocated assassinating Julian Assange on Canada’s national public broadcasting network, CBC Radio-Canada. The video of Flanagan’s crime (counselling to commit a crime is in itself a criminal offense in Canada) has been seen around the world. Yet in spite of citizen complaints, petitions and public pressure, no Canadian police force will even bring charges against this well connected Canadian.

Currently, Mr. Assange is being held in the United Kingdom under house arrest, with an electronic surveillance ankle bracelet and draconian terms of “bail.”

Ostensibly, this is because Mr. Assange is fighting extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors wish to question him. They had previously questioned him, and declined to bring charges. Many people believe the real agenda for Mr. Assange’s extradition is simply a sham to keep him “on tap” until the American government manages to find laws under which to charge him. Failing that, existing American laws, which currently allow protection to news media when publishing material that may have been obtained illegally by whistle blowers, may be changed.

So today, on his birthday, Julian Assange remains a prisoner.

House arrest may not be as bad as incarceration in an actual jail, but it is, nonetheless, a deprivation of liberty.

In spite of this, I hope Julian Assange can have a good 40th birthday, and take heart that many ordinary people around the world support the cause of freedom, and we do appreciate his efforts.

Graffiti on an apartment complex in Kitchener, Ontario, advocates freedom for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange
Apartment Complex graffiti, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

Image Credits

Julian AssangeThis photo by New Media Days / Peter Erichsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Free Bradley Manning photo by Steve Rhodes released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No derivs License

Thanks to my brother, humor columnist, Larry Russwurm, for spotting and photographing the graffiti below in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, and releasing the image under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


creators fight back

Creative Commons logo

Just thought you might like to know that I’m not the only weird creator who thinks the idea of copyright needs some help here. So I thought I’d share a few important links:

In Locus Magazine Cory Doctorow explains Why I Copyfight [Cory Doctorow licenses his books under Creative Commons.]

A blog called Techrisk (The vulnerable information society) Mathias Klang has published a list of books released under Creative Commons licensing cc books.

My brother Larry Russwurm’s blog post this week uses/reviews a creative commons licensed cartoon making software in Playing With Bitstrips.

From May 16th, 2000 Salon.com has an unedited transcript of Courtney Love’s speech to the Digital Hollywood online entertainment conference about the record industry Courtney Love does the math

And on her own website, you can read terrifically talented singer/songwriter Janis Ian‘s stunning article the THE INTERNET DEBACLE – AN ALTERNATIVE VIEW

Sita stands in Copyright jail

But the best is from Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues Webpage. because Nina Paley’s explanation of why she had to use the music she did drives home precisely how the changes made to copyright law over the past decades actually impede the creation of art. Because most of us aren’t as brave as Nina Paley.

Most of us make the changes required by copyright law.

Real or imagined or feared, because we don’t have the time or energy or money to fight lawsuits or pay extortionate amounts of money to use the creative works of artists that should have been in the public domain. We just want to make art.

And that is bad for art, bad for culture. For all of us.

Thanks to Adrian du Plessis for directing me to Janis Ian
Thanks to Jonathan Fritz for directing me to the Courtney Love piece

In the Can: Inconstant Moon

I began writing my novel, ‘Inconstant Moon’, last November.

National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo Crest: November
November is National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo is so successful it’s gone international now, but they haven’t changed the name. Possibly because InNoWriMo doesn’t have the same zing to it. I went to some local NaNoWriMo write-ins back in November, as well as finding some support during and after through the Identi.ca  NaNoWriMo group. After NaNoWriMo concluded a couple of us continued there through finishing & editing.

Although my intention for the last few years has been to get back into writing, specifically with novels, something always seemed to come up. Which is why having the deadline provided by NaNoWriMo was important for me. It gave me something to shoot for. I even told my family I intended to ignore my birthday and everything else during November so I could get it done.   And I did.

CreateSpace logo

I was a NaNoWriMo “winner” which means that I fulfilled the NaNoWriMo objective of writing 50,000 words in the month of November.   But one of the coolest things about NaNoWriMo is that a company called CreateSpace gives all NaNoWriMo “winners” the opportunity to collect a free printed proof of your novel. Even if you don’t plan to publish it, or even ever read the thing, it’s a lovely memento.

But I’ve been planning on self-publishing for a while, so it was an ideal situation for me.

I realized about half way through the month that there was no way that my novel would be finished at a mere 50,000 words.  During NaNoWriMo I wrote 58,681 words. After that, it took until April 11, 2010 to get the first draft finished. It came in at 103,289 words. And that was just the first draft: getting to the end.

That’s when the first editing started. Because my novel has a cast of thousands (not really, only twenty or so) and because I wrote it in bursts, just smoothing out the rough stuff took much longer than I thought it would. Instead of having a single main character, the group of students that I follow are all roughly equal in importance. Which is kind of interesting, but it made extra difficulty for me having to choreograph the characters throughout.

Unfortunately, it was already into the month of June when I got it to the point I was comfortable giving it out to Beta Readers. In order to claim the free proof from CreateSpace, the novel needed to be submitted by their June 30th deadline.

Wanna know how nasty I was?

Essentially I dumped a 400 page novel on my poor Beta Readers, and they had to read it and give me feedback on it in a week.

A week.   (I needed the last week of the month to make the changes needed.)

What is truly amazing is that they did it. I got really great beta feedback from all of my my readers under the impossible deadline I gave them.

Ruby balloon

Drum roll Please:

Thank you Beta Readers:

(and you’ll all get an acknowledgment in the book too: woo hoo!)

I got different things from the different beta readers whose input helped the novel.

Spelling and grammar and culture – oh my!

The most difficult part of self publishing is not having an editor. If time wasn’t an issue, I could do it myself, simply by setting the novel aside for a while.   Like a year… or maybe two. After I’ve written something I need at least that much time to be able to look at it with fresh eyes. But I’d rather not wait that long.

The most editorial feedback came from Nienke, and if I can manage not to be so under the gun next time, perhaps I’ll be able to entice her into being my editor.

Honorable mention goes to my sister Nicole Russwurm. I waved a couple of pages under her nose before we headed out to our nephew’s stag & doe (which, naturally, fell in that last week of June). If I was more conscious or organized she’d get a book mention too… alas, I am not 😦


Although I had front cover art, I had to do the back cover and spine as well. You don’t know how big the spine will be until you know how many pages there are.

Which means you can’t finalize the cover until the page count is frozen.

So on the 30th I was alternating between adding the spine and back cover and skimming through the text formatting. Although I was a wreck at the end of the day, I got the files uploaded.

Final Wordcount: 109,850

Here’s the back cover:

Inconstant Moon back cover

Although I like a good vampire story, the title is, and was always, from ‘Romeo and Juliet’. My worry is that the moon will make people will think it’s a vampire book, when in fact it is not.