Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cold Comfort

The Ice Bridge, like D.R. MacDonald’s previous fiction, is set on Cape Breton Island, the lobster-claw-shaped island that forms the northernmost part of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Cape Breton is famously beautiful and draws many tourists each summer, but in MacDonald’s novels it is no picture-postcard paradise. It is a harsh but lovely, rock-strewn seacoast — severe, ragged and forlorn, haunted by history and peopled by hardy stoics who think of survival more than of comfort. It’s a place to heal, slowly and painfully, or maybe a place to refuse to.
     When Anna Starling’s husband leaves her and she flees her California life, the tiny settlement of Cape Seal seems the ideal place to go: the opposite end of the continent, both physically and culturally. She rents an old house and takes to wandering the beach, looking for things that have drifted ashore, materials she might incorporate into her art. She appreciates the isolation but has a hard time adapting to the place’s brutality. Within a few days of arriving, she sees a small dog flung to its death off a bridge, an image that continues to haunt her. Later, attempting to rescue another dog that has been caught in a trap, she breaks through thin ice and almost dies in the frigid water."
— Troy Jollimore, The Washington Post
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Steamboat Willie Up The Amazon

From: krazymind

"Facing the loss of their exclusive rights to Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and other cartoon stars, Walt Disney Co. executives led a successful lobbying campaign to secure an extra 20 years of protection for their U.S. copyrights.
     Congress passed the legislation, now awaiting President Clinton's signature, to extend the copyrights that otherwise would have expired beginning in 2003.
     Disney Chairman Michael Eisner took his concerns directly to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.). The company's political action committee also contributed to key lawmakers.
     'We strongly indicated our support for the measure,' said Ken Green, a spokesman for Disney, whose copyright on Mickey Mouse was scheduled to expire in 2003, on Pluto in 2005, on Goofy in 2007 and on Donald Duck in 2009.
     Richard Taylor, a Motion Picture Association of America spokesman, said Disney worked very hard on the issue. MPAA also used its heavyweight lobbyist President Jack Valenti, who called on his decades-old contacts with legislators.
     The change in the law allows corporations to have exclusive rights for a total of 95 years, instead of 75 years. For individuals, such as authors and songwriters, it extends copyrights to a total of 70 years after death, up from 50 years."
Opposing Copyright Extension

"When Congress passed the first Copyright Act in 1790, copyright protection lasted for 14 years, and authors could apply for a single 14-year extension. After a book’s copyright term expired, the work would fall into the public domain and become available for anyone to reproduce it.
     But Congress has repeatedly extended copyright terms. Today, new works are protected by copyright for the life of the author plus 70 years, and some works are still under copyright 90 years after they were published. Rebecca Rosen at the Atlantic spotted some research by Paul Heald at the University of Illinois law school that illustrates how the longer terms of modern copyright have affected the availability of older books.
     Heald examined a random sample of new (e.g. in-print) books on Amazon and plotted their distribution. His results were surprising.…
     Why the dramatic drop-off in the number of titles being published after the 1920s? Works published before 1923 are known to be in the public domain, giving publishers the right to republish them without asking anyone’s permission."
— Timothy B. Lee, Washington Post
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"Disney is famous for getting copyright-term legislation passed that extends protection on old materials and thus protects their interest in Mickey Mouse, their iconic character. One of the first appearances (Wikipedia claims it's the third appearance) of this character is in the cartoon short Steamboat Willy. This short has been at the center of much of the debate around copyright on the character.
     Recent work suggests that, in fact, the character in Steamboat Willie is not copyrighted any longer. If that's so, Mickey Mouse as he's presently constructed is probably a too-close derivative work to be claimed under separate copyright and thus the mouse may be out."
— Alan Wexelblat, Copyfight
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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Books Be Gone (Page 3)

Source images: PSDgraphics and Amazon

“'They’ve devalued the concept of what a book is, and turned it into a widget,' said Melville House publisher Dennis Johnson, one of Amazon’s most prominent critics. He also alleged that major publishers were afraid to speak on the record about Amazon’s tactics for fear of retribution….
     'Our discount cannot compare to what Amazon was setting their prices at, even before they started selling their books at 60 percent off,' said Carson Moss, the buyer for Strand Bookstore in New York. 'There’s frustration that a company that hasn’t turned a profit continues to be rewarded with higher stock prices and they can make seismic shifts in this industry.'
     A clue to Amazon’s plan may lie in its recent decision to raise the prices of small-press and academic books, as they’re among the only places such books can be procured. Though Moss said Strand is doing well thanks to its employees’ expertise, when many of the currently existing places to buy Gone Girl and The Cuckoo’s Calling are driven out of business, it seems fair to presume that the prices will go back up.'"
— Daniel D'Addario, Salon
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"[Amazon] Workers said they were forced to endure brutal heat inside the sprawling warehouse and were pushed to work at a pace many could not sustain. Employees were frequently reprimanded regarding their productivity and threatened with termination, workers said. The consequences of not meeting work expectations were regularly on display, as employees lost their jobs and got escorted out of the warehouse. Such sights encouraged some workers to conceal pain and push through injury lest they get fired as well, workers said.
     During summer heat waves, Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat any workers who dehydrated or suffered other forms of heat stress. Those who couldn't quickly cool off and return to work were sent home or taken out in stretchers and wheelchairs and transported to area hospitals. And new applicants were ready to begin work at any time."
— Spencer Soper, The Morning Call
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"Render unto Caesar..."

"After years in absentia — poof! — [fugitive spy Robert Seldon Lady] reappeared out of nowhere on the border between Panama and Costa Rica, and made the news when Panamanian officials took him into custody on an Interpol warrant.
     The CIA's station chief in Milan back in 2003, he had achieved brief notoriety for overseeing a la dolce vita version of extraordinary rendition as part of Washington’s Global War on Terror. His colleagues kidnapped Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, a radical Muslim cleric and terror suspect, off the streets of Milan, and rendered him via U.S. airbases in Italy and Germany to the torture chambers of Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt. Lady evidently rode shotgun on that transfer.
     His Agency associates proved to be the crew that couldn’t spook straight. They left behind such a traceable trail of five-star-hotel and restaurant bills, charges on false credit cards, and unencrypted cell phone calls that the Italian government tracked them down, identified them, and charged 23 of them, Lady included, with kidnapping.
     Lady fled Italy, leaving behind a multimillion-dollar villa near Turin meant for his retirement. (It was later confiscated and sold to make restitution payments to Nasr.) Convicted in absentia in 2009, Lady received a nine-year sentence (later reduced to six). He had by then essentially vanished after admitting to an Italian newspaper, “Of course it was an illegal operation. But that’s our job. We’re at war against terrorism.”
— Tom Engelhardt, TOMdispatch

"A former CIA officer has broken the U.S. silence around the 2003 abduction of a radical Islamist cleric in Italy, charging that the agency inflated the threat the preacher posed and that the United States then allowed Italy to prosecute her and other Americans to shield President George W. Bush and other U.S. officials from responsibility for approving the operation.
     Confirming for the first time that she worked undercover for the CIA in Milan when the operation took place, Sabrina De Sousa provided new details about the 'extraordinary rendition' that led to the only criminal prosecution stemming from the secret Bush administration rendition and detention program launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
     The cleric, Osama Mustapha Hassan Nasr, was snatched from a Milan street by a team of CIA operatives and flown to Egypt, where he was held for the better part of four years without charges and allegedly tortured. An Egyptian court in 2007 ruled that his imprisonment was 'unfounded' and ordered him released."
— Johnathan S. Landay, McClatchy
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"...This tension between hoarding and retailing is both funny and sad, which explains the hilarious pathos that runs through The Pope’s Bookbinder, the sprightly but also melancholy memoirs of David Mason, a Canadian book dealer of international reputation.
     Mason’s father was a stereotypically prudent banker, who often derided his son not only for wasting his youth spent bumming around Europe but also for taking up so impecunious a profession as book dealing.
     As the elder Mason liked to ask his son’s colleagues, 'Why do you guys always only talk about buying books; why don’t you try and sell a book once in a while?'”
— Jeet Heer, The Globe and Mail
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'What is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?" — Lewis Carroll

FroM: Collectors Quest

"In 1865, Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson—better known by his nom de plume, Lewis Carroll—delighted readers with the topsy-turvy world of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. A first edition of this fantastical classic, one of 23 surviving copies, sits on the Newberry shelves. Why is this particular edition so rare? Because, and much to its illustrator’s chagrin, it is littered with unintended content. It contains 42 off-color drawings by Sir John Tenniel. Nearly 2,000 copies of the novel had been printed, and about 50 had been bound, when Tenniel objected to the quality of images. He instructed the publisher—Macmillan, working out of the Oxford University Press—to destroy the substandard copies.  
     Instead, they sold the prints to a U.S. publisher, Appleton, who bound and placed them in American bookshops."
The Newberry Library Read more…

"Book aficionados are familiar with the recalled first printing of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which occurred in 1865. Records state that after 2000 copies were printed by Macmillan at the Oxford University Press in the UK, illustrator John Tenniel decided that he was unhappy with how his drawings were reproduced, and all of these were recalled. While no one is certain how many copies actually made it out into the world, the number is generally believed to be in the single digits. So, despite what is regarded as inferior printing quality, this first 1865 edition ‘Alice’ has some fairly gargantuan asking prices. This copy on AbeBooks has an asking price that looks like someone just repeatedly punched the keyboard or asked their kid for the biggest number they could think of : $173,589.63.
     Keep in mind that this is for a copy with a torn page, stains and a loose spine."
— Colin David, Collectors Quest
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Monday, July 29, 2013

Swap Meat

"… To mark the book launch in Wageningen, specialist insect chef Henk van Gurp will try to set a record for cooking the world's biggest grasshopper pie.
     Research by scientists at the university showed that insects could provide the best source of protein to meet the needs of a rising population. Currently, 70 percent of agricultural land is used for livestock production.
     Dicke said that with the world population expected to hit 9 billion by 2050, it will be difficult to provide enough protein for everyone because there will not be enough land for raising livestock.
     The nutritional value of insects is similar to those of meat, and the emission of greenhouse gases from insect production is a hundred times lower than in pig production, the university said."
— Ivana Sekularac, Huffington Post
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From: dezeen magazine

"Graduate designer Katharina Unger has designed a table-top insect breeding farm that allows people to produce edible fly larvae in their homes.
     'Farm 432 enables people to turn against the dysfunctional system of current meat production by growing their own protein source,' said Unger."
dezeen magazine
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1995: "when the web had just been born"

Mac from 1995 (from: dishinwithedna)

"... But it seems to me that the kind of writing that's done in the electronic media has a sort of evanescence to it. There's an impermanence to it. A book, though, is something you can hold on to. It is a permanent thing. There is something else going on here, too. And that is what happens in the process of reading. When you read a book, there's a kind of a silence. And in that silence, in the interstices between the words themselves, your imagination has room to move, to create. On-line communication is filling those spaces. We are substituting a transitional, impermanent, ephemeral communication for a more permanent one….
     I thought that Sven Birkerts summed up our collective concern about the internet in this perfect one line of poetry from the Harper’s conversation: 'If you touch all parts of the globe, you can't do that and then turn around and look at your wife in the same way.' However the literary tone of Birkerts’ nostalgia implies regret: that we should be unhappy to alter our perspective of our own family. Or it implies that the new perspective is, without questioning, an undesirable one.
     But we could just as easily imagine the experience of contacting the rest of the world as a process that enhances our view of our spouse. 'I have touched all parts of the globe and now I see my wife differently.' But this possibility is not suggested by Birkerts’ wonderfully crafted line of poetry. Instead his koan contains an inherent conservativism in which any change is assumed to be negative."
The Technium

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"coterminous feelings"

"Andy Mister's Liner Notes is a semi-narrative prose poem, a meditation on alienation and pop culture. Beginning with the Beach Boy's [sic] unfinished masterpiece 'Smile,' Mister describes a world populated by ghosts. Adrift on a sea of drug use, boredom and popular entertainment, Mister traces his relationship to the obsessive collection of ephemera and the coterminous feelings of isolation and loss.
     Like an iPod on shuffle, lyrical descriptions of urban landscapes and memories of failed relationships mix with song lyrics and deadpan anecdotes of death, failure. In the end a life, like the book itself, is assembled from the detritus of pop culture."

James Bond and the man from MARS

"Although he was born in Mayfair, [Ian] Fleming did spend his early life living in Hampstead, significantly at Pitt House, in North End, until his MP father Valentine Fleming was killed in the First World War, his mother mov­ing in 1917 to Chelsea.
     When Pitt House came on the market in November 1908, it was described by local estate agents Lowe, Goldschmidt & Howland as 'the house in which Great Britain lost America' – a historical reference to the fact that if William Pitt had not become something of a recluse there in the 1770s the government would not have imposed its infamous tea tax and the Americas would have been saved.
     For these arcane facts you have to talk to Andrew Lycett, outstanding author of the compelling and much admired definitive biography of Fleming, first published in 1995 and now updated in paperback for Fleming’s centenary year…
     Fleming in fact based [the eponymous villain in Goldfinger] on the Hungarian-born architect Erno Goldfinger, who knocked down old cottages in Willow Road, Hampstead, to the dismay of local residents to build his iconic block of flats in 1932, one of which was his home and is now owned by the National Trust as a listed national architectural treasure.
     'I have read, but I have not seen any substantiating evidence, that Fleming was a member of the Hampstead Preservation Society... [Andrew] Lycett reveals. 'That led him to take such a strong stand against Erno Goldfinger’s flats at No 2 Willow Road. He certainly took against Goldfinger, but that was a more personal thing as Goldfinger was married to a cousin of a golfing friend of his….
     'The real Goldfinger threatened to halt publication of the novel. Fleming’s publisher, Cape, fobbed him off, much to the anger of Fleming, who wanted Cape to insert a slip explaining what Erno had done and changing his name to Goldprick throughout.'
     Lycett has many amorous stories to tell about the 6ft tall old Etonian Fleming who was such a debonair charmer.
     His first love was for a Jewish girl named Lisl Jokl, who Fleming met in Austria when he was 20. The author described her as having 'sleepy blue eyes and a romantic face' and she was one of only four people to whom he left a legacy of £500 on his death.
     'It was she who opened his eyes to the world and to sex,' says Lycett. 'She subsequently came to London in the 1930s and worked as a designer and as a buyer, eventually for Marks and Spencer.'"
 — Gerald Isaaman, Camden New Journal
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2 Willow Road, Hampstead in 1940, via DESIGN MUSEUM
(Photo: Sydney W. Newberry)
"[Erno Goldfinger's] monumental 1959-1963 scheme for Elephant & Castle in south London is frequently cited as one of the worst examples of soulless post-war developments. The terrace of three houses that included his own home on Willow Road in Hampstead proved so unpopular with the locals in its early years, that it is said to be the reason why the author Ian Fleming chose the name Goldfinger for one of the villains in his James Bond novels.
2 Willow Rd, (street view)
from: Google Maps
     As imperious as he was uncompromising Goldfinger regarded controversy as part of his role as a modernist pioneer. Among the most prolific of the émigré architects who sought exile in London from continental Europe in the 1930s, he played an important part in the development of the modern movement in Britain. In his early years in London he did so as a founder member of radical architectural movements, such as the MARS (Modern Architectural Research) Group and in modest architectural projects such as the Willow Road houses. During World War II Goldfinger presented his vision of a meritocratic post-war Britain in a series of exhibitions for the Army Bureau of Current Affairs. After the war he applied the modern movement principles to which he had adhered since his student days in 1920s Paris to the design of housing, schools, shops and offices, as well as headquarters for both the left-wing Daily Worker newspaper and the Communist Party….
     Goldfinger’s tower blocks have since confounded his critics by proving to be robustly built and imaginatively planned. The Champagne parties at which he listened to – and learnt from – the complaints of the residents of Balfron Tower illustrate the underlying humanism in his architecture. Today the flats in Trellick, many of which passed into private ownership during the 1990s, are greatly sought after. Yet ambitious though he was for these monumental public schemes, even Goldfinger’s admirers concur that his best buildings were his smaller, beautifully proportioned and impeccably detailed projects at Albermarle Street and Willow Road where, the modern houses which once outraged Hampstead’s conservationists now belong to the National Trust."
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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Into The Deep

From: Book Porn

In a few years all the United States Government has to do to ban books (new books, at least) is shut down Amazon... which, from recent disclosures about the NSA's arrogation of the "interwebs," wouldn't be very difficult.

"Yesterday quietly began discounting many bestselling hardcover titles between 50% and 65%, levels we've never seen in the history of Amazon or in the bricks-and-mortar price wars of the past.
     The books are from a range of major publishers and include, for example, Inferno by Dan Brown, which has a list price of $29.95 but is available on Amazon for $11.65, a 61% discount; And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, listed for $28.95, offered at $12.04, a 58% discount; Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, listed at $24.95, available for $9.09, a 64% discount; and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, listed at $17.99, available for $6.55, 64% off. A notable exception is The Cuckoo's Calling by J.K. Rowling, using the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, which is discounted 42%….
     Some have speculated that Amazon is also emboldened to engage in dramatic price cutting—which hurts traditional bricks-and-mortar stores and feeds consumer perception that a fair book price is lower than its cost—by the Justice Department's victory against five major publishers in the e-book agency model case as well as Wall Street's acceptance of continued losses by Amazon for now in the expectation of retail domination—and major profits—eventually."
Shelf Awareness

Buy books at your local, independent bookstore (like this one). Please.


"Last year my first novel Malarky was published in Canada; it is about to come out in Britain. I received a $1,000 advance from my Canadian publisher and a megawatty – by my impoverished standards – £6,500 advance from OneWorld in the UK. That might sound a lot, but Malarky took me a dozen years to write. Those were a dozen years of dire poverty.
     'You're lucky to be published at all' is the default response – and they're right, I am. (I am lucky that independent publishers took a bet on me.) I realise readers of this article will think I'm wrong to complain about my lot, but it's not really my lot that I'm concerned with here: it's the business of publicising a novel, and of what it is to be a writer these days. I might be considered lucky (though I've worked for it), but we don't tell train drivers that they're lucky there are trains. Nor do we ask train drivers to drive trains up and down to Scotland unpaid, for the glory of saying to the public: look, here is a train, consider getting on it someday!
     So I have three grumbles, or rather I want to raise three tricky questions."
— Anakana Schofield, The Guardian
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"When the kids leave home and you’re left talking to yourself day in and day out, it’s comforting to let someone else’s inner monologue take over your brain. That’s what happens when you open the pages of Malarky, the first novel of Irish-Canadian writer Anakana Schofield.
     Malarky is a fascinating voyage into the mind of a woman embattled but surviving during and after the deaths of her husband and son, the latter being the true tragedy from which she must recover. The central character of the book, Philomena a.k.a. 'Our Woman,' is kind enough to share the running commentary of her life in an Irish patter that could easily mirror the thoughts of many women at mid-life, if in fact, mid-life these days is when the kids have left and the husband has died or departed."
— Georgie Binks, The Star
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Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Master's Voice

"Why a diction teacher? Because delicate French nerves are choqués – shocked! — by the erratic phrasing, intonation, and just plain wrong sounds that émigrés are prone to.
     An aspiring novelist from New York, I am not an émigré, not yet; but I’m preparing to become one by modeling myself after my literary hero, the Anglo-Canadian writer Mavis Gallant, who arrived in Paris more than 60 years ago already speaking exquisite French. The problem is, I see myself ending up like the unfortunate displaced people who inhabit her fiction: adrift, irrelevant, subject to ridicule, alone. Unless, of course, I can finally shed what’s left of my foreign accent….
     Installed at his desk, Monsieur said, 'Alors, Mademoiselle, have you noticed how we French, unlike our Anglo-Saxon friends, use all the muscles in our face and mouth when speaking? Raise your upper lip toward your nose. When performed correctly, this action will cause the nostrils to flare. Now tip your neck back — a bit more, that’s it — and without slackening the tension, articulate a pure clear U-sound, thinking of a bird gliding up to a high branch.'"
— Laurel Berger, THE MILLIONS

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"sentences... pretty in their pettiness"

"At the tender age of 21 Henry James was deeply in love with words. Sometimes he may have been in love with them for the sake of their sound and placement rather than their meaning, at least so when he was a young he grew older, James became one of those few people who never wrote a bad sentence (according to Mr. McMurtry). However, in 1865, he wrote some lovely-sounding sentences that were mechanically semi-pure if not accurate in what they were saying, but certainly sounded pretty in their pettiness.
     It was in The Nation on 21 December 1865 that James wrote what is a very good example of this beautiful nothingness when he brought out his pen and stabbed Charles Dickens in the heart.
From: Entertainment Earth
     He was reviewing Our Mutual Friend, but he managed at the very beginning to say that it was not simply that this novel was not good, but that everything Dickens had written in the previous ten years—back to when James was 11—was 'poor with the poverty not of momentary embarrassment, but of permanent exhaustion.'"
Ptak Science Books
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Friday, July 26, 2013

The Birth of Death

“'There is such a grand murder in the paper,' says a well-bred elderly lady in Emily Eden’s nearly forgotten 1859 novel, The Semi-Detached House. 'A whole family poisoned … It is really very interesting and I like a good murder that can’t be found out; that is, of course, it is very shocking, but I like to hear about it.'
     She was very much not alone, as Judith Flanders’ exhaustively researched but endlessly absorbing new book, The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Reveled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime, explains. Flanders recounts how true crime, specifically homicide, became an obsession in British popular culture during the 19th century, a theme for everything from traveling fairground puppet shows and wax museums to tourism, the theater and the novel. Running alongside her descriptions of some of the most notable or exemplary murders of the era is a history of detective fiction, as it evolved from earlier forms of entertainment and storytelling to become one of the most popular genres of the 20th century and beyond."
— Laura Miller, Salon
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"Writing is manual labor of the mind: a job, like laying pipe." — John Gregory Dunne

From: Retronaut

"Until very recently, when an author's work was copied for educational use, it was usual for that author to receive some compensation through licensing agreements.
     New guidelines published by a number of Canadian educational institutions and organizations claim substantially large portions of printed works are now 'short excerpts' covered by fair dealing.
     The result of such a change in copying practice would be the loss of millions of dollars in annual license revenues for Canadian authors. That is real earned income for real taxpaying Canadians who play a vitally important partnership role in education.
     Does copying an entire chapter, story, poem or article without permission and/or payment seem fair to you?
The Writers' Union of Canada
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What if other professionals were required to provide schools with their services and expertise free of charge?
     Here's the above passage (my apologies to the author) with a slight change of focus, so to speak... 

"Until very recently, when a plumber was needed in an educational facility, it was usual for that plumber to receive compensation, usually through an ongoing service call agreement.
     New guidelines published by a number of Canadian educational institutions and organizations claim that a large portion of plumbing problems such as plugged toilets are minor and should be rectified at no cost to the education facility.
     The result of such a change in practice would be the loss of millions of dollars in annual revenues for Canadian plumbers. That is real earned income for real taxpaying Canadians who play a vitally important role in education.
     Does the expectation that the washroom toilets of an educational institution be maintained without payment seem fair to you?"
— Canadian Regional Association of Plumbers

Thursday, July 25, 2013

double your pleasure

"I've started a series of reviews of Ace Doubles on rec.arts.sf.written. I thought it might be interesting to look at these generally unpretentious, sometimes nearly forgotten, but sometimes significant, short novels and story collections.
     The Ace Doubles were published from about 1953 through 1973. They consisted of two shortish 'novels' bound back to back (or dos-a-dos), each upside down relative to the other.…
     The books tended to include one primary feature, usually a novel that was a bit longer or by a better known writer, and one secondary feature (a shorter book, or a story collection)—but such identification, as far as I know, can only be inferred: there was no formal designation as to which half was the 'main' half. Sometimes Ace Doubles would print two pieces by the same writer, in such a case often a brief short story collection backed with a novel. This could be a good way to get a collection into print. …
     The length of Ace Double halves varied widely, from as short as about 23,000 words (the shortest I've seen is Poul Anderson's Mayday Orbit aka A Message in Secret) to as long as over 70,000 words (the longest I've seen is one of the earliest, Robert E. Howard's Conan the Conqueror (74,000 words).). More typically they ranged from roughly 30,000 to 55,000 words, and as such they provided a convenient outlet for stories of that rather awkward length — a bit short for a singleton book, and a bit long for a single issue of a magazine."
— Rich Horton,
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Big Book? Little Woman?

From: Lost and Found in Prague

I wonder which characters of 21st century fiction will be considered stereotypes a hundred years from now?

"Having recently decided to re-read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women series (the last time being when I was around 10 years old), I’ve noticed there are many aspects to the story that I’m struggling to come to terms with. What started off as a desire to expand my knowledge of the Classics, has turned into an analysis of the rampant sexist stereotypes within the books.
     ‘Tomboy’ Jo is one of the best examples. In the beginning of the novel, Jo exerts examples of ‘boyish’ behaviour which are slowly stamped out of her by the end of the series. Despite claiming she will never marry, she does indeed marry and have children, becoming the very matronly figure she used to be so adamantly against. Everyone in the novel considers this a great improvement."
— Emily Jane, Feministing
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From: fuckyeahcraft

"Then a Barnes & Noble 'superstore' came to town. It anchored a mini-mall with a large parking lot. The bookseller already had a cloudy reputation; I knew that its steep discounts on best-sellers were putting pressure on smaller bookstores near its locations. The retailer was then making its big expansion push. Soon after the opening, I drove over to check it out. Look, Starbucks coffee! A magazine rack filled with alien titles such as Zyzzyva, Utne Reader, and Foreign Affairs. A 'Cultural Studies' section. An entire shelf full of Faulkner. Going to Barnes & Noble became a Saturday afternoon. It was as if a small liberal-arts college had been plunked down into a farm field."
— Michael Agger, The New Yorker
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"Publishers, fearful that selling to libraries will hurt sales to the general public, have thrown up roadblocks. Some major publishers jack up the price libraries pay for e-books compared to what they charge the public. Others make only a small number of titles available, delay their availability until weeks after the general release, or require libraries to buy another copy after lending it 26 times. Such policies actually mark an improvement over the recent past. Until earlier this year, some major publishers refused to sell to libraries at all.
     Public awareness that libraries lend e-books will play a key role in whether Amazon's digital book business erodes, Barclays said. As it is, relatively few people know about borrowing digital books, although their numbers are growing. A survey last year by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 31% of the public was aware that libraries lend e-books, up from 24% in 2011. Only 5% of people actually had checked out a digital book compared with 3% in the prior year, Pew found. 'E-books are becoming more important, and we do expect them to grow going forward,' said Christopher Platt, director of the joint technology team for the New York and Brooklyn public libraries. 'Digital is not a boutique service. It's part of the future of the library.'"
— Verne Kopytoff, CNN Money
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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

eye candy

"When [Blake] Snyder published his book [Save the Cat!] in 2005, it was as if an explosion ripped through Hollywood. The book offered something previous screenplay guru tomes didn’t. Instead of a broad overview of how a screen story fits together, his book broke down the three-act structure into a detailed 'beat sheet': 15 key story 'beats'—pivotal events that have to happen—and then gave each of those beats a name and a screenplay page number. Given that each page of a screenplay is expected to equal a minute of film, this makes Snyder’s guide essentially a minute-to-minute movie formula.
     Snyder, who died in 2009, would almost certainly dispute this characterization. In Save the Cat!, he stresses that his beat sheet is a structure, not a formula, one based in time-tested screen-story principles. It’s a way of making a product that’s likely to work—not a fill-in-the-blanks method of screenwriting.
     Maybe that’s what Snyder intended. But that’s not how it turned out. In practice, Snyder’s beat sheet has taken over Hollywood screenwriting. Movies big and small stick closely to his beats and page counts. Intentionally or not, it’s become a formula—a formula that threatens the world of original screenwriting as we know it.

     Screenplay gurus like Syd Field and Robert McKee touted the essential virtues of three-act structure for decades. For Field and McKee, three-act structure is more of an organizing principle—a way of understanding the shape of a story.

     Field’s Story Paradigm, for example, has just a handful of general elements attached to broad page ranges. Field and McKee offered the screenwriter’s equivalent of cooking tips from your grandmother—general tips and tricks to guide your process.
     Snyder, on the other hand, offers a detailed recipe with step-by-step instructions."
— Peter Suderman, Slate
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Salinger-like, & more...

"When someone uses the term 'instant classic,' I typically want to grab him and ask, 'So this is, what, like the new Great Expectations? You sure about that?' But David Gilbert’s novel & Sons, seductive and ripe with both comedy and heartbreak, made me reconsider my stance on such a label.
     & Sons feels deeply familiar, as though it existed for decades and I was just slow to find it.
     Revolving around a New York writer of J. D. Salinger-like fame and reclusiveness, & Sons is about fathers and sons and the complications and competitions between them, all set within the world of East Coast preppy privilege. It has a twist with a tantalizing hint of science fiction and a devastatingly poignant ending. This is the book I’d most like to lug from one beach to another for the rest of summer, if only I hadn’t torn through it in two very happy days this spring.
     The main character is 79-year-old A. N. Dyer, 'unknowable' to his adoring public despite having been a literary celebrity since the publication some 50 years ago of Ampersand, his debut novel set at a prep school modeled on Phillips Exeter Academy (where virtually every major character in & Sons went or goes to school). Ampersand was a literary sensation along the lines of The Catcher in the Rye although, unlike Salinger, A.N. Dyer — or Andrew as he’s known — never vanished from the publishing world and produced many novels after Ampersand. Andrew is beloved, but not at all interested in being beloved; sometimes he wishes he’d gone into advertising."
— Mary Pois, OPB
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"True success is overcoming the fear of being unsuccessful." — Paul Sweeney

"Rejections can cause four distinct psychological wounds, the severity of which depends on the situation and our emotional health at the time. Specifically, rejections elicit emotional pain so sharp it affects our thinking, floods us with anger, erodes our confidence and self-esteem, and destabilizes our fundamental feeling of belonging.
     Many of the rejections we experience are comparatively mild and our injuries heal with time. But when left untreated, even the wounds created by mild rejections can become 'infected' and cause psychological complications that seriously impact our mental well-being. When the rejections we experience are substantial, the urgency of treating our wounds with emotional first aid is far greater. This not only minimizes the risk of 'infections' or complications but also accelerates our emotional healing process. In order to administer emotional first aid and successfully treat the four wounds rejection causes, we need a clear understanding of each of them and a full appreciation of how our emotions, thought processes, and behaviors are damaged when we experience rejections."
— Guy Winch, Ph.D., from Emotional First Aid (via Salon)
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"Feel glum over oodles of rejection letters? Please note that the examples below are often referenced and we’ve done quite a lot of research, but as with so many things, there’s always a chance for error. Do not cite this article for your academic thesis! Go to the original sources.

  1. John Grisham’s first novel was rejected 25 times.
  2. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) received 134 rejections.
  3. Beatrix Potter had so much trouble publishing The Tale of Peter Rabbit, she initially had to self-publish it.
  4. Robert Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) received 121 rejections before it was published and went on to become a best seller.
  5. Gertrude Stein spent 22 years submitting before getting a single poem accepted.
  6. Judy Blume, beloved by children everywhere, received rejections for two straight years.
  7. Madeline L’Engle received 26 rejections before getting A Wrinkle in Time published—which went on to win the Newberry Medal and become one of the best-selling children’s books of all time.
  8. Frank Herbert’s Dune was rejected 20 times before being published and becoming a cult classic.
  9. Stephen King received dozens of rejections for Carrie before it was published (and made into a movie!).
  10. James Lee Burke’s novel The Lost Get-Back Boogie was rejected 111 times over a period of nine years and, upon its publication by Louisiana State University Press in 1986, was nominate for a Pulitzer Prize."

Writer's Relief
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Quick Study

Captain Agostino Ramelli’s Book Wheel, 1588 (from: Retronaut)

Man Booker Longlist Announced

"The Man Booker judges have presented 'vibrant' list for the prize’s longlist mainly focusing on disasters ranging from the financial to the natural. Heavyweight authors including Margaret Atwood, JM Coetzee, Roddy Doyle and David Peace missed out.
     The judges took nine months to sift through 151 works, the most in recent times by a Booker jury, before coming up with 13 titles for the 2013 longlist for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
     Jonny Geller, joint chief executive of literary and talent agency Curtis Brown, said: 'It is one of the few longlists in recent years where I want to read more than a handful. Full of life, vibrancy and different worlds. The absence of some big names is not the point; the inclusion of new ones is what is exciting.'”
— Nick Clark, The Independent
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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Amazon (rainforest)

Brazilian rainforest (from: The Guardian)
"According to survey research by the Codex Group, roughly 60 percent of book sales — print and digital — now occur online. But buyers first discover their books online only about 17 percent of the time. Internet booksellers specifically, including Amazon, account for just 6 percent of discoveries. Where do readers learn about the titles they end up adding to the cart on Amazon? In many cases, at bookstores.
     The brick and mortar outlets that Amazon is imperiling play a huge role in driving book sales and fostering literary culture. Although beaten by the Internet in unit sales, physical stores outpace virtual ones by 3-to-1 in introducing books to buyers. Bookshelves sell books. In a trend that is driving the owner of your neighborhood independent to drink, customers are engaging in 'showrooming,' browsing in shops and then buying from Amazon to get a discount. This phenomenon is gradually suffocating stores to death. If you like having a bookseller nearby, think carefully before doing this. Never mind the ethics of showrooming — it’s self-defeating. You’re killing off a local business you like. (If you prefer e-reading, many independent stores have agreements with Kobo and Zola Books that give them a cut of e-book sales.)…
     By defeating its competitors, Amazon is choking off some of its own air supply. Barnes & Noble and independents are in one sense competitors for Amazon, but in another sense they are functioning as unwilling showrooms and sales agents for the online giant. As David Carr has suggested, Amazon should want them to survive, if only out of self-interest."
— Evan Hughes, Salon
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From: SoupTV (via collegehumor)
"Many times, it's big-name publications that get young adult literature all wrong. Their 'experts' call anything published for the under-18 crowd YA, or they make claims that there aren't any books written for boys (I covered this in my 5 Things to Know About YA post).
     But really the blame might be grown-ups more broadly.
     This month alone, an adult called Laurie Halse Anderson's groundbreaking Speak 'child pornography' because it dare bring up rape. Speak also promotes abortion, theft, promiscuity, group sex, and profanity. Shoo Raynor, a children's author himself, claims that books like Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking series aren't books for teens, but rather, they're 'adult books disguised as children's books.' He goes on to suggest that Ness's series encourages readers to pick up guns and to join gangs.
     Neither of these are the first challenges to YA lit, nor will they be the last.
     Another interesting grown-up phenomenon is that of suggesting that YA books today are nothing like they were back in the day. That when today's adults were growing up, either there were no such things as YA books or that YA books were in no way as dark, scary, profane, or bleak as today's YA books. Neither of these are true."
— Kelly Jensen, BookRiot

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"We gotta get out of this place." — The Animals

From: AOL Soft

"The world of Narnia faces evil-doer but smart Lucy is here. But she as any woman wishes to be attractive everywhere, doesn't she? So, try our free download game Narnia 3 Dress Up Game and make different images for this perfect girl. Narnia 3 is famous for its gorges [sic] graphics and picturesque backgrounds. Narnia 3 Dress Up Game has the same mouthwatering artwork and thrilling backgrounds.
     Dress up the main heroine for the memorable fight! Her wardrobe is full of nice dresses for such outstanding events."
AOL Soft

 "The only people who hate escapism are jailers, said the essayist and Narnia author C S Lewis. A generation later, the fantasy writer Michael Moorcock revised the quip: jailers love escapism — it’s escape they can’t stand. Today, in the early years of the 21st century, escapism — the act of withdrawing from the pressures of the real world into fantasy worlds — has taken on a scale and scope quite beyond anything Lewis might have envisioned….
     As the technology of escape continues to accelerate, we’ve begun to see an eruption of fantasy into reality. The augmented reality of Google Glass, and the virtual reality of the games headset Oculus Rift (resurrected by the power of crowd-funding) present the very real possibility that our digital fantasy worlds might soon be blended with our physical world, enhancing but also distorting our sense of reality. When we can replace our own reflection in the mirror with an image of digitally perfected beauty, how will we tolerate any return to the real? Perhaps, in the end, we will find ourselves, not desperate to escape into fantasy, but desperate to escape from fantasy. Or simply unable to tell which is which."
— Damien Walter, aeon
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Friday, July 19, 2013

"When I read a book I seem to read it with my eyes only, but now and then I come across a passage ... which has a meaning for me, and it becomes part of me." — W. Somerset Maugham

God Complex

"Unlike the British government, which, to its great credit, allowed public debate on the idea of a central data bank, the NSA obtained the full cooperation of much of the American telecom industry in utmost secrecy after September 11. For example, the agency built secret rooms in AT&T’s major switching facilities where duplicate copies of all data are diverted, screened for key names and words by computers, and then transmitted on to the agency for analysis. Thus, these new centers in Utah, Texas, and possibly elsewhere will likely become the centralized repositories for the data intercepted by the NSA in America’s version of the 'big brother database' rejected by the British.
     Matthew M. Aid has been after the NSA’s secrets for a very long time. As a sergeant and Russian linguist in the NSA’s Air Force branch, he was arrested and convicted in a court-martial, thrown into prison, and slapped with a bad conduct discharge for impersonating an officer and making off with a stash of NSA documents stamped Top Secret Codeword. He now prefers to obtain the NSA’s secrets legally, through the front door of the National Archives.
     The result is The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency, a footnote-heavy history told largely through declassified but heavily redacted NSA reports that have been slowly trickling out of the agency over the years. They are most informative in the World War II period but quickly taper off in substance during the cold war."
— James Bamford, DMZ Hawaii
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"… cooperation allows law enforcement agencies to circumvent the straightforward restrictions that you believe in, by having the agencies of one country conduct surveillance on the citizens of another country, then share that information with the agencies of the other country.
     Yes, with the very agencies that are required by their country’s law to obtain a warrant prior to such surveillance. To use Canada and the US as an example, the NSA intercepts and collects the communications of Canadians, then shares it with CSIS [Canadian Security Intelligence Service], the RCMP and other Canadian law enforcement agencies. The CSE [Communications Security Establishment] intercepts and collects the communications of Americans, then shares it with the FBI, CIA and other American agencies.
     This form of cooperation is possible because the restrictions that liberal democracies typically place upon their law enforcement agencies in dealing with their own citizens, in the form of judicial supervision and authorization, do not generally apply to the activities of foreign citizens. In Canada, for example, the National Defence Act allows the CSE to intercept communications related to 'foreign intelligence' on the authority of the Minister of National Defence – and therefore without any form of judicial supervision.
     Foreign intelligence is 'information or intelligence about the capabilities, intentions or activities of a foreign individual, state, organization or terrorist group, as they relate to international affairs, defence or security.' To the CSE all American communication is 'foreign' – and therefore fair game. Similarly, for the NSA all Canadian communication is 'foreign' – and therefore fair game as well."
— Avner Levin, PEN Canada
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"We all knew that the saga of Edward Snowden and his NSA leaks would eventually get the tell-all book treatment (several times, probably), but it looks we'll soon get an account from someone who is actually in a position to tell-all: journalist Glenn Greenwald. The publisher Metropolitan Books has announced that Greenwald has a new deal in place to write a book about NSA surveillance, which — thanks in large part to Snowden — he probably knows more about than any private citizen. The book is scheduled to be published in March 2014."
— Dashiell Bennett, The Atlantic WIRE
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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fish Stories

"Venus on the Half-Shell is a science fiction novel by Philip José Farmer, writing pseudonymously as 'Kilgore Trout,' a fictional recurring character in many of the novels of Kurt Vonnegut. This book first appeared as a lengthy fictitious 'excerpt'—written by Vonnegut, but attributed to Trout—in Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965). With Vonnegut's permission, Farmer expanded the fragment into an entire standalone novel (including, as an in-joke, a scene that incorporates all of Vonnegut's original text).
     Farmer's story was first published in two parts beginning in the December 1974 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The plot, in which Earth is destroyed by cosmic bureaucrats doing routine maintenance and the sole human survivor goes on a quest to find the 'Definitive Answer to the Ultimate Question,' bears some resemblance to the later Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [by Douglas Adams] series."
— Wkipedia

“'Trout doesn’t really exist. He has been my alter ego in several of my other novels' These are the words of the author Kurt Vonnegut in his introduction of his… novel, Timequake, his latest work to feature the character of Kilgore Trout, a gifted writer who is comparable in many ways to his creator. Says Vonnegut, 'for better of worse, I have always rigged my stories so as to include myself For the most part, these inclusions have been in the form of Kilgore Trout.'
     Trout, who has appeared in Vonnegut’s novels God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Slaughterhouse Five, Breakfast of Champions, Jailbird, Galapagos, Hocus Pocus, and Timequake, is for the most part a chronically under-appreciated science fiction writer of some 117 novels and 2.000 short stories. The details of his life fluctuate endlessly, according to the needs of the novel.
     In Timequake, he is an only child whose father, a college professor and researcher of ornithological methods of evolution other than Natural Selection, had murdered his mother when Kilgore was twelve. In God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, he is a Jesus figure. In Jailbird he is Dr. Robert Fender, serving a life-sentence in prison for treason, and publishing fiction under pen names such as Frank X. Barlow and Kilgore Trout . In Breakfast of Champions, he has been married three times, but currently lives alone with a parakeet named Bill. In Galapagos he has had a wife, who left him, and an estranged son Leon, a deserter from the United States Marines in the Vietnam War who died in an accident while working as a wielder in a Swedish shipyard. Sometimes, as in Breakfast of Champions and Timequake, he rises to prominence before his end—in the former as a pioneer in the field of mental health, advancing his ideas disguised as science fiction and winning a Nobel prize for Medicine and, in the latter, as a celebrated hero."
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book bravado

"…Is there a point at which, via osmosis, adaptations, and self-delusion, one can actually begin to believe he has in fact read a book, and is there a German compound word for this phenomenon?"
— Sadie Stein, The Paris Review
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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

cover me

"Getting to design your own book cover is the sort of ultimately maddening power that probably shouldn’t be entrusted to vain mortals. It’s a little like getting to choose your own face. What kind of face would best express your inner self? Maybe more important, what kind of face will make other people like or respect or want to sleep with you?
     … publishing houses hire professional designers for books’ covers and allow their authors very little say over them. Most writers are given what’s called 'consultation' on their covers, which means that when they’re shown their cover designs they try not to cry right in front of their editors. But, because I’m a cartoonist as well as an essayist, and also have a savvy and implacable agent whose will is not to be opposed, I had 'approval' over the cover of my book, which meant that I got to make a tiresome and nit-picky pest of myself.
     I had what we’ll call a constructive dialogue with my publisher’s editorial, design, and marketing teams, finding a balance between my personal vision and something people might possibly want to buy. For months we went back and forth: I’d send them several illustration options and they’d pick whichever one I liked least; they’d send me some design options, I’d pick the one that made me least unhappy, and they’d veto it. Book covers are an important sales tool, and the marketing department felt, quite reasonably, that the cover was very much their business. I also had a paranoid sense of shadowy, Olympian forces weighing in from farther above; I’ve been told that the most powerful figures in the current literary world, the buyers for the major national bookstore chains, have been known to offer to increase their orders for a book if its cover is changed."
— Tim Kreider, The New Yorker
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"literary bondage"

From: mE Studio

"You might think Raymond Queneau was guilty of a little overkill when he cured a bout of writer's block by writing One Hundred Thousand Billion Poems, but this flipbook presentation of 10 sonnets did more than paper over a barren spell, it became the founding text of an experimental literary collective. The 14 lines on each page are printed on individual strips, so that every line can be replaced by the corresponding one in any of the other poems. By the author's reckoning, it would take someone 190,258,751 years to go through all possible combinations….
     Oulipians are into literary bondage. Their fetish is predicated on the notion that writing is always constrained by something, be it simply time or language itself. The solution, in their view, is not to try, quixotically, to abolish constraints, but to acknowledge their presence, and embrace them proactively. For Queneau, 'Inspiration which consists in blind obedience to every impulse is in reality a sort of slavery.' Italo Calvino (who was co-opted in 1973) concurred: 'What Romantic terminology called genius or talent or inspiration or intuition is nothing other than finding the right road empirically.' Choosing the 'right road' from the outset, instead of stumbling upon it haphazardly, is the Oulipian way: once the Apollonian structure has been circumscribed, Dionysus can work his magic.
     'I set myself rules in order to be totally free,' as [Georges] Perec put it, echoing Queneau's earlier definition of Oulipians as 'rats who build the labyrinth from which they plan to escape.'"
— Andrew Gallix, The Guardian
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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." — Albert Einstein

"When ideas are stated clearly, after all, they may be detached from their author: one can take them away and pursue them on one’s own. When they remain mysterious (indeed, when they are not quite asserted), one remains dependent on the originating authority. The thinker is heeded only for his or her turgid charisma."
— Martha Nussbaum

"With [Jacques] Derrida, you can hardly misread him, because he’s so obscure. Every time you say, 'He says so and so,' he always says, 'You misunderstood me.' But if you try to figure out the correct interpretation, then that’s not so easy.
     I once said this to Michel Foucault, who was more hostile to Derrida even than I am, and Foucault said that Derrida practiced the method of obscurantisme terroriste (terrorism of obscurantism). We were speaking in French. And I said, 'What the hell do you mean by that?' And he said, 'He writes so obscurely you can’t tell what he’s saying. That’s the obscurantism part. And then when you criticize him, he can always say, "You didn’t understand me; you’re an idiot." That’s the terrorism part.'
     And I like that. So I wrote an article about Derrida. I asked Michel if it was OK if I quoted that passage, and he said yes."
— John Searle (both quotes from Open Culture)
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"Derrida was the father of ‘deconstructionism,’ a critical practice that questions the foundation of Western thought by exploring the inherent instability present in language. From it ground-breaking conception in Derrida’s 1967 texts, 'Of Grammatology' and 'Writing and Difference,' deconstruction has heralded the death of the author by arguing that meaning has limitless layers of interpretation, not all viable at the conscious level.
     Throughout his life, Derrida wrote hundreds of books and essays that reread and deconstructed great philosophers such as Plato, Heidegger, Hegel, Nietzsche and ideals such as giving and forgiveness. In recent years, deconstruction has become the dominant discourse of academia and has seeped into pop-culture reference."
— Elyse Weingarten, EGO
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"… musically true."

"Lady Sings the Blues captures the tart voice and unflinching eye of [Billie Holiday] one of the most affecting and mythicized artists of the last century. The singer tells the story of her bruised life — a tale of teenage prostitution, racist indignities and abusive men, heroin addiction and heavy drinking, corrupt cops and jail time — without self-pity.

First Edition (1956)

     Ghostwritten by the late newspaperman and author William Dufty, the father of San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty, Lady Sings the Blues was published three years before Holiday died in a New York hospital at age 44. Police officers were stationed at the door to her room. She was busted for drug possession as she lay dying. It was a ghastly end for a woman whose subtle artistry, with its rhythmic freedom and bare emotion, changed the sound of jazz and pop singing, and continues to seduce and move people who listen to her records….

50th Anniversary Edition (2006)

     'Her voice, no matter how the Dufty/Holiday interviewing process went, is as real as rain,' wrote the noted ghostwriter David Ritz, who did autobiographies of Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye and many other musicians, in the introduction to the new edition of Lady Sings the Blues. Despite the factual inaccuracies, 'in the mythopoetic sense,' Ritz says, Holiday's memoir 'is as true and poignant as any tune she ever sang. If her music was autobiographically true, her autobiography is musically true.'"
— Jesse Hamlin, San Francisco Chronicle
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