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Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

Newfangled horseless carriage: good news for bad riders?

To­day Ar­genti­na's largest news­pa­per, Clarín, print­ed a sto­ry about e-­books ti­tled "The e-­book grows: good news for bad writ­er­s?" and it's wor­thy of com­men­t.

First, the ob­vi­ous: yes, of course it's good news for bad writ­er­s, just like the ar­rival of the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine was good news for bad rid­er­s, but it's not on­ly good news for bad writ­er­s, it's good news for al­most ev­ery­one.

Let's con­sid­er some choice quotes from this ar­ti­cle:

In the last few months those au­thors pre­vi­ous­ly damned to self­-pub­lish­ing, ei­ther by the low qual­i­ty of their texts of the short­sight­ed­ness of the ed­i­tors, have found [com­pa­nies] will­ing to pro­vide them, in elec­tron­ic for­mat, the pub­lish­ing de­nied to them on pa­per.

Well, yeah, since pub­lish­ing e-­books is al­most free, yet the prices are sub­stan­tial, it will in­crease de­mand of things to pub­lish, be­cause the mar­gin is big­ger. You can "print" hun­dreds of dif­fer­ent books for the cost of a sin­gle pa­per book!

So far, ob­vi­ous but still more or less aligned with re­al­i­ty. It did­n't last, though:

This progress has its vic­tim­s. First the tra­di­tion­al ed­i­tors, who see weak­en­ing their pow­er over the se­lec­tion, pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion of book­s.

Whoa, how ter­ri­ble for them. I can on­ly imag­ine they feel aw­ful be­cause their jobs are be­caom­ing more or less ob­so­lete. Then again, so did the copy­ist monks jobs when ed­i­tors and pub­lish­ers start­ed their gig. It last­ed them 500 years, that's a lot.

The idea that the free ac­cess to so­cial net­works turns ev­ery­one in­to mu­si­cian­s, jour­nal­ists or writ­ers makes head­way. At the same time, the role of those who, not long ago seemed called, thanks to their ed­u­ca­tion to chan­nel the de­vel­op­ment of en­ter­tain­men­t, in­for­ma­tion or cul­ture shrinks.

I am com­plete­ly against the very idea of im­par­tial jour­nal­is­m. There is­n't one im­par­tial jour­nal­ist, there nev­er has been one, and there nev­er will be one, so why go on with the cha­rade that yes, you are not im­par­tial, but you pre­tend to be, and we pre­tend to be­lieve it, and then try to cor­rect your bias when read­ing... it's tire­some.

So I, a per­fect­ly bi­ased guy will tell you: OF COURSE, YOU SELF­-SERV­ING NIM­ROD. Ev­ery­one is a writ­er nowa­days. An av­er­age teenag­er writes many times more to­day than when I was a teenag­er. The main method of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with peers has switched from oral to writ­ten! Yes, we old creeps hate how they write, but what the heck, that's be­cause we are di­nosaurs.

You are writ­ing about the plight of bug­gy-whip man­u­fac­tur­er's mid­dle-­man­age­ment in­stead of writ­ing about cars.

Just grow a pair of nut­s, say that this scares the shit out of you be­cause you ex­pect jour­nal­ism to not be a way you can make a liv­ing in 20 years ad be done with it.

In the mean­time, we will all have fun hav­ing a wealth of writ­ing (good and bad) with­out peers in the his­to­ry of civ­i­liza­tion.

The tea ceremony in Buenos Aires


I sit on a win­dow ta­ble at La Faro­la de San Isidro and the wait­er will bring me a cor­ta­do en jar­ri­to with three fac­turas sur­tidas with­out be­ing asked. Then I will read the news­pa­per (al­ways back to fron­t), pay and go back home to start work­ing.

I would start ev­ery day that way if I could. It makes my day start great. I get to work re­laxed. It puts a def­i­nite bound­ary be­tween me be­ing dad tak­ing my son to school and me be­ing at work, even if I am do­ing it at home.

Rit­u­al­iza­tion is com­fort­ing. Rit­u­als are good for most peo­ple. On the oth­er hand, rit­u­als suck, are a waste of re­sources, and hurt you.

Sure, my cof­fee+news­pa­per is nice, but it would cost me $15 a day, which means over $5700 a year, which is more than half of what my son's school cost­s. So I ony do it once a week, and the rest of the time I just buy the same damn fac­turas and take the cof­fee at home, while read­ing the news­pa­per on my net­book (BTW: there's just no way to read news­pa­pers back­-­to-front on the we­b).

What I did was re­al­ize I had fall­en in­to a rit­u­al, de­cide if it served a use­ful pur­pose, es­ti­mate the cost­s, and de­cide against it. That means I act­ed ra­tio­nal­ly, and the choice I made seems cor­rect to me. The best part of do­ing that is not even sav­ing mon­ey, but know­ing that I am pay­ing at­ten­tion.

I was read­ing yes­ter­day a news­pa­per I should­n't read [1] and ran in­to a fluff piece about teach­ing tea pro­to­col to kids about girl­s, ages 6 to 13, at a par­ty in the Alvear ho­tel.

It's mean­ing­less non­sense, but it's the kind of non­sense that can piss me of­f. Here are some choice quotes, trans­lat­ed:

"A girl asked for sug­ar, even though the right thing is not to sweet­en the tea."

"When it's time to put jam on your scone or toast, you should nev­er cov­er it. 'S­mear jam on­ly on the piece you are eat­ing, and nev­er from the jar, al­ways put some in the plate, then from the plate to the toast"

"... the bel­ly of the fork should be at the bot­tom if you fin­ished eat­ing cake, or at the top if you ate a piece of meat."

"Even if it may seem a nov­el­ty, pro­to­col for chil­dren has 500 years of his­to­ry. A pre­cur­sor was the dutch hu­man­ist Eras­mus of Rot­ter­dam who in 1530 pub­lished a treaty on ci­vil­i­ty aimed to all chil­dren, spe­cial­ly those of the court, where he pre­sent­ed a com­mon code of be­hav­iour..."

Where can I start... how about this is all made up non­sense? The bel­ly of the fork aim­ing down or up? Put the jam in the plate first? Bit­ter tea for 6 year old­s? Eras­mus of freak­ing Rot­ter­dam in 1530?

Here's what this is, it's rit­u­al. It's mean­ing­less rit­u­al. We don't live in the dutch court in 1530, why should we feel it's "right" to act like they did? Why should we not act like 20th cen­tu­ry mo­roc­cans and eat with our right hand in­stead?

At least mo­roc­can food tastes good, un­like scones!

Of course I am not against things like us­ing a nap­kin in­stead of suck­ing on your fin­gers (but hey, I am not go­ing to call you names if you do it, and I will bloody do it if there's no nap­kin­s), but all these ran­dom rules with­out any ex­pla­na­tion are the ex­act kind of things kids should not be ex­posed to.

Yes, some­times you have to put your feet down and say "it's done this way and I can't ex­plain it to you yet", but that's the ex­cep­tion not the rule.

Why should you use a nap­kin? Be­cause if you don't your fin­gers are sticky and leave mark­s. Why your fork should stay on the plate af­ter you use it? Be­cause I don't want to wash the table­cloth to­day if I can help it. Why you should put the jam from the jar in­to the toast? Be­cause I don't want left­over jam in the plate, thank you.

If you teach your kids that there are ar­bi­trary rules with­out rea­son­s, even in sil­ly things like tea, you are form­ing the wrong thing in their brain­s, you are teach­ing them that au­thor­i­ty is right, that habit is truth, that tra­di­tion is law.

And if you do it, al­lah for­bid, then maybe they will do it too, and rit­u­als os­si­fy, and you get a coun­try full of mo­rons that have echo cham­bers in­stead of opin­ion­s.

The rit­u­al­iza­tion of ev­ery­day things is a sign of deca­dence in so­ci­ety. The more rit­u­al­is­tic the sim­ple things get, the more those peo­ple are not think­ing com­plex thought, the more they waste their mind in the triv­ial.

So make my day, leave the fork bel­ly up af­ter eat­ing cake to­day. Even bet­ter: don't look and don't care.

Some people have no sense of scale

I am writ­ing a book about python (in span­ish), and it says this:


The ar­gu­ments about how to write a tech­ni­cal book in span­ish are eter­nal. That in Spain ev­ery­thing is trans­lat­ed. That in Ar­genti­na it is­n't. That say­ing "ca­de­na de car­ac­teres" in­stead of string is bad for the en­vi­ron­men­t.

For­tu­nate­ly in this book we fol­low a bet­ter method that I hope oth­er books adop­t: it's writte like I write. Not even a lit­tle bit dif­fer­en­t. I don't think it even qual­i­fies as span­ish, maybe it's writ­ten in ar­gen­tini­an. If the read­ers of our for­mer moth­er­land are both­ered by the style... they can trans­late it.

So to­day I got this mes­sage (sender anonymized be­cause I don't do that):

I was read­ing your tu­to­ri­al un­til I got to the para­graph where you com­plain or seem to be both­ered that in Spain we trans­late ev­ery­thing and in Ar­genti­na noth­ing. Well, as a read­er from the for­mer moth­er­land tell you [sic] that we like writ­ing in our lan­guage and that not on­ly am I not go­ing to both­er trans­lat­ing from ar­gen­tini­an to span­ish, but that I am not even go­ing to read your hor­ri­ble ar­gent­inglish. One fa­vor, learn eng­lish well and stop mis­treat­ing the old span­ish lan­guage. You know: an ar­gen­tini­an is an ital­ian that speaks span­ish (or so they say) and thinks he is en­glish!. Find your­self a psy­choter­apist of those you seem to have so much and see if you can over­come your in­fe­ri­or­i­ty com­plex and stop hat­ing so much.

I an­swered in ad­e­quate­ly in­sult­ing tone, just want­ed to share the fact that there are peo­ple ac­tive­ly both­ered by peo­ple not writ­ing a book the way they like to the point of in­sult­ing a whole coun­try. Fun!


Cover for City


A bit old fash­ioned but in­ter­est­ing.

Dot Font Talking About Fonts

Cover for Dot Font Talking About Fonts


A re­al­ly great book about de­sign. I am not an ex­pert on the field, but I found it both un­der­stand­able and in­sight­ful.

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