I shan't be blogging for a while.
My best wishes to all.
I shan't be blogging for a while.
My best wishes to all.
Real science can't compete at the movies with bad science. So writes my erstwhile colleague, the estimable Philip Ball, at news at nature.com.
" "I'm arresting you for breaking the laws of physics," says the policeman to the levitating man, in a cartoon that speaks volumes about the curiously legalistic terminology that science sometimes adopts. In this spirit, two physicists [Efthimiou and Llewellyn] at the University of Central Florida in Orlando seem intent on making a citizen's arrest of all of Hollywood. In a preprint, they examine some egregious physical errors in recent blockbusters."
In the article discussed by Phil, the authors explain (with equations) why the bus in Speed couldn't jump the gap, why the Green Goblin in Spiderman couldn't hold up the cable in the New York tramway, and so on. The words "point" and "missing" come to mind.
As Phil more eloquently puts it: "Should we endorse the violations of physics routinely perpetrated by Hollywood? Efthimiou and Llewellyn clearly think not. I would argue that you might as well complain about 'errors' in the Greek myths or fairy tales, or Warner Brothers cartoons."
Euro Crime and I are now meta-out of date. She's late with last week's update, and I'm even later because I haven't bought you news of the week before.
No more messing about, here we go. I review the most wonderful book, The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill: sheer perfection, which I urge you all to read. However, I have to admit that I gave it to Malcolm (aka the M(ad) P(rofessor)) to read on his latest trip to a Harvard Business School course for UK institutional leaders (very appropriate reading choice I thought) but he did not get into it and bought Robert Harris's Imperium at the airport instead. (Breaking news, he says it is excellent: better than Robert Harris's previous few, which he has enjoyed more than I've done -- does this make them "boy's books"?). But, never mind what these leaders of academic institutions think, please do read The Coroner's Lunch for a beautiful exposition of humanity under the most extreme conditions of privation, and for a crackingly good mystery. (For another view on the same book, see here.)
Other Euro Crime reviews last week include Uriah (Norm) Robinson (Price) enthusing about The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbo (Scandinavian noir); Karen M enjoying Hakan Nessar's The Return (more Scandinavian noir), Sunnie Gill basically positive about The Library Paradox by Catherine Shaw and Declan Burke not enjoying Time to Pay by Lyndon Strachey as much as the week's other reviewers ranked their assignments. I would read Declan Burke writing about the gas bill, though: I now fully understand the term "the charm of the Irish".
"About me" is the search term that brings Problogger most traffic.
"What's the funniest search term that brings you most traffic?" he asks. Here are some of the answers:
“writing is easy hit your forehead”
“Britney’s exposed v****" (Asterisks to discourage p**n spam)
‘Win an iPhone'
"1st - class c motor homes
2nd - fifth wheel campers
3rd - 5th wheel campers
4th - motorcycle tent trailer
5th - motorcycle tent trailers"
free blog templates”, “free blogger templates” and “free blog template”
These and other examples, except possibly the last, indicate to me why I am quite happy to let the wisdom of the crowds stay with the crowds, to let them pass money to and from each other, and why I shall continue in my profitless but pleasant niche, to which none of the above search terms will bring you.
The crime section of the blogopshere is in interrogatory mode tonight.
Peter at Detectives Beyond Borders asks for examples of "crime-fiction scenes, tricks, devices or tactics that are clever but don't quite work?"
Glenn Harper at International Noir Fiction asks whether anyone has read any good noir or policier novels recently. (That word "policier" sounds very sophisticated.)
The Rap Sheet features an interview of Reed Farrel Coleman by Megan Abbott, in which a key question is: "Why do you think it’s still the exception to have a married PI?"
It only took Dave of Dave's Fiction Warehouse a couple of weeks to nail blogging in a clever post entitled The seven stages of blogging. Yes, we recreate our work environments round our blogs, unless we are careful enough to keep the blog as a sort of extra child, a cat, or weekly tennis-lesson equivalent.
I had a similar moment of epiphany after I had been blogging for a while, but it took me longer to get there and I didn't put it as well as Dave. Similar message, though.
Reviews of Keeping the House by Ellen Baker are pouring in, courtesy of the ever-vigilant Dave Lull. Here are some links:
Local author writes about World War II era (Duluth News Tribune).
Not so desperate (The Stanford Daily)
Writers matter -- to each other, especially (Road to Random House blog)
Keeping the House is more rewarding than it seems (Livinggirlread blog)
For your reading pleasure (Not Afraid of the F Word blog)
"Ellen Baker and her fabulous debut novel KEEPING THE HOUSE recently kept me from doing too many things I should have been doing, but I loved every minute of it. In these pages you’ll meet the Mickelsons–a sad, fascinating, resilient family. Their story spans from the late 1890s to 1950 and it’s full of family secrets and regrets and characters you’ll carry around with you long after the final line."
Here's a "different" view of blogging, expressed recently by a publishing industry analyst: "We are losing valuable dialogue, debate and fresh perspectives in this world of shrinking personal horizons, where the new technologies facilitate tunneling deeper and narrower. Professional, and personal discourse is the weaker for it and we all suffer the loss of challenges to our internal biases, and spark and stimulation from voices far outside our normal communications and chatter."
So, according to this view, blogging enables one to dig a safe little hole and stick in it with a few other like-minded types, reinforcing each other's prejudices and disincentivising one from seeking fresh stimuli. And, as the writer is lamenting, making it hard for the salesperson to break in.
..."bloggers routinely refer to others with first names only, a snobbish practice signaling how "in" they are. Blogrolls, useful to some degree, are double-edged, in that bloggers cluster into groups that link to each other. The same speakers appear again and again on panels, setting up cliques as narrow as any country club set."
Well, it's a view. Although I've found blogging to be a mind-expanding activity, so are lots of other things. And it is true that the interactions one has while blogging are tightly controlled. On the other hand, it adds an enormous efficiency to finding topics of interest, and to being able to interact at all (for me in my situation when I started blogging, the alternative was usually "no interaction"). The writer is looking at the issues from the perspective of publishing challenges: how a publisher can break into these "tight little communities" and get their members to branch out into new, networky-style products. But this is just another way of saying that everyone is too busy doing what they are doing and struggling with the information overload, to be as interested as they might be in trying new things (more power to those silver surfers!).
I am too daunted to attempt a proper review of The Broken Shore by Peter Temple, which I have just read. I have read many reviews of this book over the past months on various blogs, I've bought it, but have not read it -- until the announcement that it has won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger for this year made me do so out of shame.
Every blog post I've read about the award has lauded the book. Now that I've finished it, I can only add my admiration to everyone else's. It is a wonderful book, with many layers. The crime fiction element only really kicks in for the last quarter, and at this stage you just have to sit down and read it all because it is intense. The main, earlier part of the book is slow-burn character study, beautiful placeism and mysterious back story, all creating an atmospheric world that is a pleasure to sink into each time you open the pages. There is drama, sadness and insight. The everyday casual brutalities of racism and ruination of the beautiful, grand environment of this most wonderful continent are compellingly conveyed. It is a book that will repay a second read, that's for sure.
The Espresso machine, currently on loan to the New York public library system where users can print free copies of about 200,000 public-domain books and a few others, costs about £25,000 to buy (and measures 8 by 5 feet), but its makers are in talks with several bookstores and libraries about leasing it -- and making it faster and smaller (4 by 5), about the size of a photocopier. According to a recent Bookseller, Matthew Crockatt, a London independent bookseller, would love one. "We are a small shop and having a self-service print-on-demand machine on site would mean we could potentially have every book in print...It's now just down to the publishers to come on board." Bill Samuel, vice-chairman of Foyle's bookshop, said "The hardware seems to be there. The software needs to be sorted. But there is a definite market...."
The future is on its way: slowly maybe, but it will arrive.
Matt Brown at Nature Network's Editor's blog has listed the top ten most desirable addresses for London scientists. These are all genuine addresses listed in London's A to Z. Amazingly, I lived at the number 1 address on his list for eight years.
1. Agar Grove, NW1
2. Flask Walk, NW3
3. Bunsen Street, E3
4. Doctors Close, SE26
5. Ion Square, E2
6. Tweezers Alley, WC2
7. Scales Road, N17
8. Magnet Road, HA9
9. Electric Avenue, SW9
10. Conference Road, SE2
Do you have any scientific addresses in your own local area?
Eva Amsen, on her Nature Network blog, reviews past science and medical extrapolations of Harry Potter novels and asks: "Are there science (or medical) lessons to be extracted from Harry Potter? I think so! For example, I have a very clear idea of which of the characters would make good scientists and why, and will discuss this later this week. Meanwhile, tell me: which of the HP characters do you think would make the best scientist(s)? And who would be terrible?"
Here is my answer: what's yours?
Well, obviously Dumbledore would make a good scientist as he has an enquiring mind, is wise and non-judgemental, and he has a sense of the “joy of discovery”.
I have to say that Snape is also a good scientist, look at the depth of his potions knowledge.
Hermione, naturally (she’d be good at whatever she decided to do).
In an eccentric way, Fred and George Weasley, as their joke shop depends for its commercial success on innovation and targeted R&D.
Quirrell, well, maybe a bit of a failed scientist but he tries (tried).
I suppose one would have to say Voldemort, that recipe at the end of book 4. Very precise, and his life depended on it.
Minerva McGonnegal would have been one of those solid but uninspired scientists.
Now, terrible scientists. Harry and Ron, obviously. Technically incompetent and not the brightest bulb in the box. Sirius, far to impatient and rebellious. Lupin, too mystical. Moody, too impatient and ready to chase after crazy hypotheses. Luna Lovegood, also, is too ready to believe in cranky theories. Rita Skeeter would make a pretty bad scientist as she makes up her conclusions.
Barty Crouch Sr (too blinkered) and Jr (too erratic) would not have made good scientists.
OK, I’m stopping now before this gets out of hand. As you can see, I am suffering from “waiting for book 7 syndrome”, rather badly.
No doubt on the "don't be first, be best" philosophy, The Economist Screensaver is a treasure trove of fascinating data on 66 of the world's major economies. Drawing on the 2007 edition of the bestselling “Pocket World in Figures”, it presents facts and figures on population, demographics, the economy, society, health and education around the world. The screensaver also features a ticker displaying the headlines of new articles published on Economist.com, as well as some of the witty one-liners used in The Economist's renowned advertising campaigns. You can read technical details and download the screensaver via this link.
And even more revolutionary (?), The Economist now offers four (or, as it puts it, three) "lightly moderated" blogs for opinions, observations and to share your views with other readers and journalists from The Economist, Economist.com and the Economist Intelligence Unit. You can choose some or all of: Free Exchange (a general debate on economic issues), Certain ideas of Europe (the project, the people, and the gap in between them), Democracy in America (a potluck discussion on society, politics and culture) and The inbox (letters to the Editor).
Late breaking news: they now have an audio edition as well.
Dave of Dave's Fiction Warehouse asks a perennial question about hardback vs paperback books. "I have fairly strict criteria for buying hardbound volumes: If the book is a gift, if it is a work I expect to frequently reread, if it is a reference book, or if it is something I just can't wait to get my hands on. (Also, if it is offered at steep discount from Sam's Club or Costco, but I can be flexible on that point.)". Dave has just sent his brother the hardback of Ian Rankin's latest for a birthday present. He does not reveal whether he read it first ;-). Nor shall I reveal whether I would have done under similar circumstances ;-).
So when do you buy a hardback rather than wait for the paperback? There are some authors I just can't wait to read: I used to buy Elizabeth George in hardback when her books went through a phase of covering an issue that was particularly relevant to me. At the moment, though, I'm unlikely to read her at all, paper or hard. I buy J K Rowling in hardback the instant her latest is out (naturally). Other authors I buy in hardback include Ian McEwan, Mary Higgins Clark and Nicci French. I don't buy hardbacks for gifts, though -- I prefer paperbacks to read because you can easily fit two into your bag (I always carry two books, "an heir and a spare", to misquote). So I give paperbacks as presents -- unfortunately this means my recipients would have to wait as long as I am having to, to read the last (?) Rebus novel.
Typepad is continuing its programme of providing its happy bloggers with more upgrades: Everything TypePad: Feature Updates: Comments, TrackBacks, sharing, URLs and statistics. I presume these upgrades are driven by the competition of the many free blogging platforms that are available, not just Blogger and Wordpress, but blogs on many social websites at Facebook, MySpace, Ning, Nature Network et al.. But the winner is the user, and I like the additional features Typepad is offering its bloggers.
Typepad offers many custom widgets, its latest being a Twitter widget, which "displays your latest tweets on your TypePad blog, and makes it easy for your readers to follow you on Twitter. It even auto-magically formats itself to match your blog’s theme!" I'm a very occasional twitterer myself (I go there only when I want to check up on Debra, Ian and Susan!), and know that too many widgets make the blog slow to download (or do I mean upload? I am never quite sure), but this widget will be great for those [Typepad users] who are into it.
From the FT.com: The BBC’s technophile executives see the BBC as the only European organisation able to rival Google as a new media brand but the British public seems more comfortable with its more familiar incarnation as “Auntie”.
A survey of 4,500 licence fee payers, commissioned by the BBC Trust, found that viewers rate “innovation” highly but are more interested in new programming than new technology.
The same research showed audiences’ priority was that the BBC should “help children learn”, but Sir Michael stood by the trust’s decision to suspend BBC Jam, its online education service. “It was done with regret to its impact on users,” he said.
At the link above, Joe Wikert of Wiley shows two alternatives of the cover of a book called Blogging Heroes, and asks his readers which they prefer. I didn't like either. Well, the one with the man on it would have been OK if he'd had a better pair of knickers.
Do take a look. I think Joe needs some good advice if he wants the book to sell on the basis of its looks. He says it "features wisdom and wit from some of the world's most successful bloggers, how they got to the top of the rankings and recommendations they have for the rest of us."
So I learn from Bryan Appleyard -- see Thought Experiments : The Blog: Twitter -- that he isn't a fan of Twitter (or Twittr as might have been a trendier name for the mini-blogette). That doesn't surprise me. Bryan points to an interview with Twitter's founder, Evan Williams, at Technology Review, to which I subscribe but had missed this article.
"Launched in March 2006, Twitter lets people broadcast short messages from computers and phones to anyone in the world. The idea has generated a fair amount of buzz, but while some people love the idea of a constant stream of updates, others are appalled. "
I still find it hard to gain access to Twitter and hence have never really got into it. From the little experience I have had, I can see that it is a great resource for one's online circle of friends, if one has such a thing and if they are all the Twitter type. But although in principle I might like knowing what they might be up to at any given nanosecond, I would not be interested in knowing what everyone in the world is doing at the same frequency. Even if my day wasn't full with my job, I don't have the time or patience for the permanent distraction from a longer-term task, maybe something that would take a whole five minutes.
But the flip side is that I bet Twitter is great for people who are isolated and who have time to kill -- it probably prevents a lot of nervous breakdowns. Hence I would not call it a "vision of hell", as does a certain person. I am definitely not an "instant messaging" kind of person, particularly when I do manage to log on and I see a message from the Twittermakers saying "what are you doing to help with our climate crisis? Live Earth has great tips". In 140 words max, I presume.
Via a publishing industry press service, I learn that Vanity Fair (not a magazine I read) made singer/activist Bono the guest editor for its July issue. The result: New writers with new perspectives came out of the woodwork, showing how publishers can reach beyond their usual bounds.
The issue is focused on the continent of Africa: its people, its youth, its music, and its small, successful attempts at economic development. Bono is praised by the industry press service not so much for the content (though they like that) but because he turned "beyond the usual suspects" for the reporting and writing, including former Viacom CEO Tom Freston (writing about a Mali music adventure), artist Damien Hurst (writing about a Congolese artist) and novelist Binyavanga Wainaina (writing about her Kenyan generation's downs and ups), among numerous others.
"When an article about Bono guest-editing this issue appeared in The New York Times, an unprecedented torrent of story ideas -- sometimes dozens in a single day -- poured in from photographers, writers, and non-governmental organizations," wrote Vanity Fair Editor Graydon Carter in an editor's note. "Most of them were substantive and interesting."
According to the press service, all publishers and editors can learn from this modest experiment, which need not be limited to the Vanity Fair or celebrity editor market. Every community has its own "Africa," an area little covered, and it has many local Bonos, people with wide name recognition and strong networks of relationships. The local "Africas " may be communities poorly covered, from barrios to the working poor to immigrant groups to local education issues of many kinds. Such experiments don't mean relinquishing editorial authority; they mean reaching out to new contributors and in the process many new potential readers, in print and online. One of the distinctive attributes of the Vanity Fair special issue is an online resource bank and interactive map. Nature does a lot of this kind of thing, one example being Declan Butler's award-winning Google Earth-avian flu mashup, the first of its kind.
Bryan Appleyard has outed himself as the author of this essay on Homer Simpson in the Sunday Times: There’s nobody like him... except you, me, everyone - Times Online. The only thing I know about Homer Simpson is that George Bush Jr thinks that families should be less like his and more like Mr Walton's (whoever he is, and please don't tell me, I would rather remain in blissful ignorance), an anecdote that is repeated in Bryan's essay. I found the article very useful, because for many years the Simpsons is on at 6 pm, the witching hour when Working Parent on Duty for that day comes in from work and makes the tea before starting on the night shift. Hence I have seen many hundreds of 30-second glimpses of the Simpsons while carrying in and out trays of food or glasses of drink. Sometimes I even see the same 30 seconds that I saw 10 months ago. Now, thanks to Bryan, I can join up the dots. Although it is a readable and stimulating piece (as it would be if Bryan wrote about paint drying), I remain unable to "get" popular culture.
Which is why the Op-Ed page asked four writers and one artist to fill the void and draft “Harry Potter” endings of their own.
The Boy Who Died by Damon Lindelof
When Harry Met Davey by Meg Cabot
Made in Hogwarts by Larry Doyle
Hermione Tells All by Polly Horvath (subscription only)
The Last Day graphic by Andrea Dzeso."
See also A Gala Time for Muggles, again in the NYT, also courtesy of Dave Lull.
From my friend Henry Gee (whose highly recommended blog is The End of the Pier Show, the show in question being Henry's many lives as science editor, fiction and non-fiction book author, palaenotologist, SF supremo, polymath, father and Person Who Lives in Norfolk These Days): Ansible 240 (July 2007)
Here is a sample:
"Ursula Le Guin sends a cry from the heart:
`Michael Chabon has spent considerable energy trying to drag the decaying corpse of genre fiction out of the shallow grave where writers of serious literature abandoned it.' Ruth Franklin (Slate, 8 May 2007)
Something woke her in the night. Was it steps she heard, coming up the stairs -- somebody in wet training shoes, climbing the stairs very slowly ... but who? And why wet shoes? It hadn't rained. There, again, the heavy, soggy sound. But it hadn't rained for weeks, it was only sultry, the air close, with a cloying hint of mildew or rot, sweet rot, like very old finiocchiona, or perhaps liverwurst gone green. There, again -- the slow, squelching, sucking steps, and the foul smell was stronger. Something was climbing her stairs, coming closer to her door. As she heard the click of heel bones that had broken through rotting flesh, she knew what it was. But it was dead, dead! God damn that Chabon, dragging it out of the grave where she and the other serious writers had buried it to save serious literature from its polluting touch, the horror of its blank, pustular face, the lifeless, meaningless glare of its decaying eyes! What did the fool think he was doing? Had he paid no attention at all to the endless rituals of the serious writers and their serious critics -- the formal expulsion ceremonies, the repeated anathemata, the stakes driven over and over through the heart, the vitriolic sneers, the endless, solemn dances on the grave?"
Read on at Ansible, David Langford's infamous British SF/fan newsletter, published since 1979. Dave writes: "The current series (from 1991) was hosted for many years at Glasgow University, but the primary site is now here [includes archive]. The UK print edition is normally produced on the Ansible HQ laser printer or by Kall Kwik, St Mary's Butts, Reading. But if I'm visiting London I go to The Print Centre in Store Street, off the Tottenham Court Road."
From Brandywine Books: Today, 07-07-07, is the day of the Live Earth concerts, an effort by world scientists to instruct us in the coming doom and how, if possible, to prevent it. These scientists knew a Ross Perot-style chart lecture wouldn't communicate bo diddley, so they are masquerading as rock stars. Their message, as you know, is the sky is falling......The Live Earth scientists want you to know that you are to blame, especially if you are an American. China can't help it if they pollute the earth while trying to compete in your corrupted economy. Your keep-up-the-Jones greed forces them to produce cheap goods and ignore common sense environmental guidelines. You should be ashamed of yourself and thankful that righteous men and women will take time out of their busy schedules to educate your butt about your need to stop driving all over the planet and shopping at all hours of the day and night. The sky is falling, for pete's sake. Okay, let's sing about it.
From Open Culture (yesterday): Unless you’ve been living in a bunker somewhere, you’ve probably heard about Live Earth, a 24-hour, 7-continent concert that’s been organized to raise awareness about global warming and to inspire action on the environmental front. You can watch these shows live by clicking here. The concerts in Asia are already underway, and the Western Hemisphere shows will start tomorrow (Saturday). Thanks to Al Gore for promoting this event and this important larger cause.
Funny old world, isn't it? (If you want to know what is actually known about our climate, you can go here. You can also read an interesting article, "Understanding the politics of climate change in the United States", here.)
Karen Chisholm of Aust Crime reviews Peter Temple's The Broken Shore, good timing in case you missed the news on just about every blog I read yesterday that the author has just won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger - and deservedly so, according to, I think, every single posting I read.
Elizabeth Baines attends the launch of Missing, by Cath Staincliffe.
John Self at Asylum reviews Clive James's latest set of memoirs, the "companionable and self-deprecating" North Face of Soho. “I still don’t feel that I have Made It..... An onlooker might say that I have Done Something. But I’m still not entirely sure about the ’something’, and not at all sure about the ‘I’.” So writes Clive.
Clare Dudman interviews Chris Simms, author of Shifting Skin. Both Clare and Chris will be at the dreamiest holiday imaginable: discussing books in Languedoc next week. See Clare's post for more details.
God's Spy is the latest book under review at Material Witness. .... "take a bow, Juan Gomez-Jurado, journalist, debut novelist and confident storyteller. The narrative is fast and furious, and the sense of urgency in the investigation very real..."
South African noir: Devil's Peak by Deon Meyer is reviewed over at International Noir Fiction. From Glenn's review. [the] "novel drew me forward through the strength of the characters and the power of the plotting, and surprised me at several points in that most effective novelistic manner: making me see the "truth" about what had happened before ."
OK, this brave guy has cancelled his Norton antivirus in favour of an unbeatable deal -- a free one. Not sure if I can quite summon up the courage myself, but go over and read what he did if you fancy the idea of staying secure at no cost.
Billy Goat and Little Pony are doing pretty well on their 1,000-mile summer - I've been reading each installment of their Appalachian Trail hike with enjoyment and occasional sympathetic winces. When you are dusty, exhausted and footsore, with a heap of dirty laundry, you just need a stopover like Unionville, famed for hiker hospitality.
"Almost as soon as we walked into town, "Butch", a town employee and the mayor's emissary gave us the lowdown: we could leave our packs on his porch while we dined somewhere in town, set up our tent in the town's park, then, after a barbecue, the mayor would meet us and take us to his place for laundry and a shower. After we ran the usual errands (post office, groceries, camp set-up) Butch and the Mayor showed up. The Mayor was a 60-something guy who "ran drugs" (ie, delivered pharmacy orders around the town) and also ran the town. He helped us get our laundry started, introduced us to his new dog he adopted, "Shadow" (named because even though he's only had her for 10 days, the black lab/chow mix) followed him everywhere) and told us to help ourselves to beer in the fridge, ice cream in the freezer and whatever else ("Nothing here's really worth stealing," he said.)."
Great post here in London Underground Tube Diary - Going Underground's Blog about yesterday's Central Line "accident", which was being repeatedly announced in doom-laden tomes as I made my way home yesterday evening.
In a post entitled "regular reader on derailed tube", one of Annie Mole's readers wrote: "Hi Annie. I was on the train that derailed at 40mph between Mile End and Bethnal Green yesterday morning - only one person had a sprained ankle to show for it on the whole train apparently and no one was scared although a bit shaken up (Dunkirk spirit and all that)."
And the newspaper headline? "Commuters thought it was another 7/7" (72 pt, natch).
From the comments to Annie's post:
---BBC report that "Safety checks are under way on the Tube's storage facilities after a dislodged roll of tarpaulin landed on the tracks, causing the derailment."
--It really winds me up when newspapers (i.e., people) do this - invoke 7/7 at the drop of a hat. Scary though it must have been for the passengers, this was NOTHING like 7/7, where the train literally was blown apart.
This is the kind of post I like, over at The Book Depository. Silver Surfers are the new cool. Yes, we are the target internet demographic that companies want to woo. And as Mark Thwaite explains, while young people may need to have it explained to them why they "need" a product [please note this is an ironic way of putting it], us oldies just need to be told that a certain book exists, and we'll head right out and buy it. (I have never met Mark Thwaite but he strangely seems to have hit the nail on the head where I am concerned.) Mark concludes, correctly in my opinion:
"And that is the key thing, publishers need to understand current online activity and learn to interact with it. I fear they’ll find this difficult. Recent attempts by publishers to reach out to bloggers have unfortunately come off as attempts by suits to co-opt bloggers and not to communicate with them. It has certainly not been a model of how to reach out to the online world. Web 2.0 is about transparency, honesty, community — or so it would like to think; corporate interference not only goes down very badly, it is surprisingly easy to spot and, potentially, very brand damaging.
And, remember, your older reader is wise and savvy: a sales pitch will fall on ears that can very easily pretend to be deaf!"
I haven't posted for a while about many of the interesting articles I've read while surfing the blogosphere (can one "surf" the "blogosphere"?) but you can go to my shared Google Reader items if you want to see the raw collection. I would like to mention a couple of new (to me) sites.
First (via Peter of Detectives Beyond Borders) is Dave's Fiction Warehouse is a new blog, that of Dave Knadler, "notes on a life of crime". Check out the best book he's read all year, the [second] worst book he's read all year, and which woman author he thinks can write (he's right!). Anyone in doubt about whether women can write crime fiction can be cured by reading this Petrona "favourite women detective novelists" posting, by the way.
Second (via Grumpy Old Bookman) is The Compulsive Reader , "reviews of some of the hottest writers working today, exclusive author interviews, literary news and criticism". The site has several contributors, first listed is Magdalena Ball, whose novel Sleep Before Evening is due for publication by BeWrite Books in 2007. From the blurb: "Marianne is teetering at the edge of reason. A death in the family sends her brilliant academic career and promising future spiraling out of control until resentment towards those who shaped her past leads her on a wild and desperate search for the truth about herself."
What more can I say? We should pay crime writers more respect.
The past four books I have read are:
Diamond Dove by Adrian Hyland
The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill
Darkness and Light by John Harvey
The Shadow Walker by Michael Walters.
All wonderfully insightful and mind-expanding. If you think crime-fiction writers don't deserve respect, read those and then come back here and let me know if you still feel that way.
After reading the above post by Elaine of Random Jottings, I clearly must read Lisa Miscione. From Elaine's four-book review:
"The heroine of these books is Lydia Strong whose mother was murdered by a brutal serial killer when Lydia was only fifteen. Now thirty years old she is a reclusive bestselling true crime writer and investigative consultant. She goes by her instincts, what she calls the 'buzz' to sense when someone is lying or hiding something from her. She and Jeffrey Mark, an ex-FBI agent work together. He was the agent assigned to the case when her mother was killed and over the years he has kept an eye on her, watched her grow up, helped her through her college years and finally, fallen in love with her. Though Lydia has strong feelings for him she is afraid to give way to them in case he, like her mother, is taken away from her."
Isn't Elaine's response to the commercial imperative wonderful?:
"I also love what appears to be product placement in all these stories. Lydia writes with a Montblanc pen, she wears a Prada navy silk blazer to track down a murderer, slips her feet into her chocolate coloured leather boots from Gucci, puts a quick slick of Margella Borghese plum coloured lipstick on her lips, grabs her La Furla shoulder bag and off she goes. This is all impossibly glamorous and adds to the style of the books. I mean 'Lydia shrugged into her Marks & Spencer anorak, thrust her feet into her Clarks sandals, quickly smeared Boots No 7 peach lipstick on her lips, grabbed her Debenhanms handbag into which she placed her Bic Biro' doesn't have quite the same ring does it?"
Thanks, Elaine, you made my evening. I got kicked off your comments so I have made this post instead, in tribute.
You are invited to witness the trial of Severus Snape, on 7-07-07, starting at 10:40 AM EST.
"The Leaky Lounge will host the trial of Severus Snape for the murder of Albus Dumbledore. Witnesses include: Draco Malfoy, Bellatrix LeStrange, Severus Snape. Don't miss this day as we recap Harry's six years at Hogwarts, and shed some light on the events at The Lightening Struck Tower. We'll spend the day hearing various testimonies, with Rita Skeeter herself getting the witnesses' reaction to being on the stand. After the trial, you will have the opportunity to decide the guilt or innocence of Severus Snape. This is an all day event, so come in when you can and relive Harry's years at Hogwarts, and highlight Snape's role in Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince."
From the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Here is some suggested summer reading from regional writers, booksellers and others who love books:
For your warm-weather [Ha! interjects Petrona] perusal
Here is some suggested summer reading from regional writers, booksellers and others who love books:
Frank Wilson, Inquirer book editor:
Nostromo by Joseph Conrad. "The very humidity of the jungle is turned into poetry."
Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope. "Brings to mind expansive lawns in bright sunlight where supremely civilized men and women stroll and bicker."
Travels with a Donkey by Robert Louis Stevenson. "The perfect walking tour with the perfect companion, at the end of which you will surely shed a tear."
Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier. "A gentle venture into pure magic."
Thanks to Dave Lull for sending me the link. The article there, by Karen Heller, is a good read, and there are many other recommendations of books, too.
Euro Crime's first weekly book-review post of July included my review of Blood in the Water, Gillian Galbraith's debut. This book has been likened to one of Ian Rankin's Rebus series, so check out my review to see if I concur. Other reviews this week include Karen Meek (aka Euro Crime) on Jo Nesbo's The Redbreast; Terry Halligan on How to Kill by Kris Hollington and Geoff Jones on Bangkok Haunts by John Burdett. You can also enter the competitions to win some readable books.
And, as it seems I once again blinked and missed a week, you can also read my review of the excellent Sun and Shadow by Ake Edwardson here. Also last week on Euro Crime, Pat Austin reviews Illusion by Daniel Boyle, Fiona Walker enjoys The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett, Jan Harris is disappointed by The Tainted Relic and Karen herself enthuses about Karin Fossum's Calling Out For You. (I haven't read this particular Fossum book, but I've very much enjoyed earlier ones. The Simon Beckett is a good read, too -- not the very best of the genre, but pretty good.) For another Euro Crime take on Sun and Shadow, read Karen Chisholm's review here.
If I can dredge up the energy (it's been a long day, so what's new?) I'll try to answer this set of questions, via the Vox newsletter, with a slightly less serious twist than they suggest. So, three by three: what are three things you want to learn, three things you want to do, and three things you can teach others to do? (There are lots of people's answers at the link.)
Three things I want to learn.
1. How to write code to build a website and lots of nice things on it.
2. How to enjoy social occasions.
3. To write well.
Three things I want to do.
1. See my children be happy (probably does not count as too vicarious)
2. Enjoy something.
3. Go to Philadelphia to see Frank, Susan, Peter and John. (This will cover (2), now I come to think of it.)
Three things I can teach others to do.
1. Edit a piece of writing.
2. Set up a blog (so long as does not involve (1) in part (1) ).
The National Theatre’s free summer festival, Watch This Space, is back, bringing an unparalleled programme of outdoor entertainment (and a lovely lawn) to London’s South Bank. This year there’s the chance to see international world premieres, as well as a sparkling mix of street theatre, bands, club nights, dance, cabaret and spectacle. Join us in Theatre Square from 6 July to 1 September.
First up: Friday 6th to Sunday 8th July. "As the Tour de France races through London, the opening weekend of Watch This Space celebrates the joy of cycling. The Bicycle Ballet forms the centrepiece of the weekend, plus a wealth of unicycling, bicycling and tricycling acts. Stunning Magnum photography lights up the Lyttelton Fly Tower in the evening. The first leg of the Tour de France passes behind the National Theatre on Sunday at 10.30am."
Overlooking the Thames, the chilled surroundings of the Terrace Café provide the perfect backdrop for late nights of musical eclecticism with Bring & Share, the original DIY Disco. So get digging and bring along your vinyl, CDs and mp3s for the B&S DJs to mix into their anything-goes sets. 10pm – 1am, Fridays and Saturdays in the Terrace Café.
Sometimes one receives some really rather inventive insults. This is the best I've seen for a long time, so I thought you might like it too. Rather handy for that special occasion when one is so cross that one is lost for words:
“a lack-luster pedantic me-too character based on following the stampede”.
A company called comScore has annunced the launch of Widget Metrix, a service to track the usage of widgets (data files that can be embedded into a site's HTML code and are typically displayed in a small viewing pane on the site). Widgets are used to display customized or personalized content on a web site or blog, for example to share photos or music recommendations, or links to Amazon recommendations, ads, badges and many others. You can get them free from all kinds of sources, not least Google and Yahoo! Facebook also recently announced that it was opening doors to third-party widget developers.
Widgets, however, do increase the time it takes the reader to download a blog or website. I have a reasonably fast broadband connection, but even so I find it can take minutes or even forever for a widget-laden blog to appear on my screen. But clearly, companies are realising that tracking widgets will lead to commercial opportunities, not least on the mushrooming social network sites Facebook, MySpace, Bebo et al., though comScore is apparently the only company tracking them as a business service. It will not be alone for much longer, probably.
Link: nourishing obscurity: Help!.
Bryan Appleyard has not been seen on his blog since Thursday, all of four days ago. A campaign has been launched to free him from whatever part of Blogger's dashboard he has fallen into. Or as he puts it:
"I am locked out of my blog by Blogger. A campaign has been launched to free me. I am humbled."
You can sign up at the above nourishing obscurity link - which leads to a blog run by Bryan and all the Thought Experiments regular commenters. You live and learn. (Well, I do.)