Archive for September, 2005

Atlanta Nights

Thursday, September 8th, 2005

This isn’t a book review, but an alert:

If you remember the scuffle about PublishAmerica, which claims to be a real publishing house but looks a lot like a new breed of vanity publisher (you get a contract, you don’t pay up front, they pay you an “advance” of $1–but then it establishes a high price for your book, asks for lists of friends and relations it can pitch the book for, and lets you know that you do all your own peddling–and, by the way, most bookstores won’t carry PublishAmerica books)… [whew. That sentence got totally out of hand. Pause. Maybe M. McGrorty’s right, and casual writing is a bad thing…]

Anyway, PublishAmerica put out some astonishing trash talk about science fiction and fantasy not being real literature, specifically saying that the genres meant there was no need for believable situations or characters. So a bunch of SF writers got together and wrote a truly awful book, and submitted it to PublishAmerica. Which promptly offered a contract. Which was then withdrawn after the group revealed the situation.

So, getting to the point, that book–Atlanta Nights–is now “published.” The author is Travis Tea (say it out loud). You can read a fairly telling portion of it here and download the whole thing in Windows, Palm, or Pocket format, for an appropriate price ($0).

Here’s the blurb from embiid, the site for downloadable ebook forms:

Atlanta Nights is a book that could only have been produced by an author well-versed in believable storylines, set in conditions that exist today, with believable every-day characters. Accepted by a Traditional Publisher, it is certain to resonate with an audience. It fits their specialty like a glove.

The world is full of bad books written by amateurs. But why settle for the merely regrettable? Atlanta Nights is a bad book written by experts.

There’s more to the intro, but…well, you can read it yourself. Either the intro, or the, um, remarkable excerpt (I just remarked on it), or the whole thing.

If you want it in traditional form, that’s possible too:
Lulu has a 299-page trade paperback edition for $11.94, with all (net) proceeds going to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Emergency Medical Fund. (If you look at Lulu’s prices, the net proceeds don’t amount to much.)

The (many!) reviews at Lulu are worth reading as well…and the book is #36 as of now in Lulu’s book sales list. (But Lulu doesn’t pretend to be more than self-publishing using PoD.)

OK, it’s been out since January. I’m backlogged on science fiction magazines (because I normally read them on speaking trips…) and didn’t see Tom Easton’s blurb for the title until now. Easton provided a cover blurb (“Unbelievable! Incredible! A real jaw-dropper”) and calls it “bad, bad, bad–so bad you have to see it to believe it.”

I’m really tempted to buy a copy….

And, completely unconnected: If someone actually sent me an e-card (yes, a significant birthday is coming up Real Soon Now), I didn’t see it: Given the lack of specificity, I just assumed a worm or virus and deleted the message. I’m afraid “surprise” ecards and other executables just don’t work very well these days…

Relevance and the end of objective hits

Wednesday, September 7th, 2005

That’s the title of an article by Stephen E. Arnold in the current (September/October 2005) Online Magazine (“Relevance and the End of Objective Hits,” pp. 16-21).

I just finished reading it and feel the need to point to it, even though it’s not freely available. It’s worth seeking out and reading. Since I just published a Cites & Insights with a Net Media section covering Google, and since I’m not running “Good Stuff” sections very often, it’s likely to be months before I deal with this in C&I.

I found the article informative and enlightening. Among other things, it’s the first article I’ve seen that leads me to believe there are “white hats” among the Search Engine Optimization crowd–people offering advice to improve a site’s legitimate positioning on Google or other search engines.

Good stuff. Well written. Go read it.

How genteel can you be?

Wednesday, September 7th, 2005

I’m bemused by this post at the Bookslut Blog, which notes a story in what I assume to be the Christian Science Monitor that found “Bookslut” to be too racy to print.

I’ll admit that the bloggers use language I probably wouldn’t use in a blog, but they also write interesting stuff and put out a frequently-wonderful ezine. Somehow, “Bookslut” itself strikes me as neither offensive nor particularly hot. But what do I know?

Cites & Insights 5:11 available

Tuesday, September 6th, 2005

Cites & Insights 5:11, October 2005 is now available for downloading.

I like to think of this as a nice short 20-page issue accompanied by feedback and followups on “Investigating the Biblioblogosphere,” but that brings the actual issue up to 26 pages.

Here’s what’s there–and those who detest PDF can reach each essay separately, in HTML form, from the C&I home page.

  • Net Media: Google, Wikis and Media Hacks: Lots on Google (and Yahoo!), less on Wikipedia, Meredith Farkas’ remarkable ALA wiki, and more.
  • The Censorware Chronicles: Because it’s been more than a year.
  • Perspective: Future Libraries: Dreams, Madness & Reality, 10 Years Later: The “self-review” I promised earlier this year.
  • PC Progress, March-September 2005: 30 reviews in a dozen categories.
  • Trends & Quick Takes: Five brief essays and five really brief Quicker Takes.
  • Followups & Feedback: A summary of what’s been said about “Investigating the Biblioblogosphere,” with some notes on likely changes “If There Is A Next Time”–and a couple of entirely separate items.

Food porn

Monday, September 5th, 2005

Yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle Magazine was a “Food and Wine” issue–and this time, nearly the whole issue was one long story by Michael Bauer, the head restaurant critic, regaling us with his latest meals at each of seven four-star restaurants in the Bay Area, as part of a 13-restaurant orgy (ordering the “chef’s tasting menu and suggested wine pairings” at each restaurant). The experience resulted in upping the total number of Chron 4-star choices from four to seven.

“Even if you never step foot inside the French Laundry or Chez Panisse, there are myriad reasons why anyone who loves food–even if it’s no more glamorous than burgers and pizza–should care.”

Before descending into pure food-porn mode, Bauer explains some of those reasons–four-star restaurants are “the culinary equivalent of haute couture,” with what happens there drifting down to less exotic restaurants later on (so we’re all in for “infusions, foams and gelees” in a few years?). “What some might perceive as a frivolous indulgence is a glimpse of the future.”

And it’s a good deal too! “For example, a meal of about 16 courses and a dozen wines at Campton Place costs about $200. An 85-minute wrap, facial and massage treatment at the high-end spa Bliss is $215, tip not included. My recent four-star meals were not only just as restorative, but the memory of my delight at cutting into a foie gras torchon and releasing an amber stream of aged maple syrup will last for years.”

What? You thought I was kidding about “food porn”? And for those of you who believe San Francisco is hopelessly politically correct, note that Bauer’s example includes a foodstuff that neither my wife nor I will eat even if it’s offered free, given what’s involved in producing foie gras. (Yes, we’ve had it offered: We do cruise on fairly high-end ships.) That aged syrup spurting from the forcefed-goose-liver torchon: Wait for it at TGIFriday!

It’s not that we’re never going to be able to afford meals like this, so I’m looking on with jealousy: That’s not true, as it happens. It’s not even that I’ve never encountered one of these restaurants–back in the 70s, I had lunch once and dinner once at Chez Panisse, and walked away dissatisfied both times. (Maybe I’m just not cut out for high-priced restaurants where you Get What We Serve You, No Choices Offered.)

Two things struck me about this gastronomic orgy, one while I was reading it, one not until I was thinking about it this morning:

  • There’s not one of these meals that I would want to eat. Not one. That’s not surprising; the whole “tasting menu” thing leaves me cold in any case. (As a side-note, when we were on one of Radisson Seven Seas’ cruise ships, where one of the alternative restaurants offered a tasting menu, we heard that you could always get into that restaurant with no advance notice…and that few people ever returned.) I really don’t want a dinner composed of seven, or nine, or twelve, or 16 little bits of constructed food, particularly when (as in two restaurants here) nobody else at the table gets the same food prepared the same way. I’d like three or four courses (maybe five) that I can enjoy from beginning to end–and I really don’t want a different little glass of wine with each course!
  • The hallmark of California cuisine is respect for ingredients–meat served with wine reductions or light peppercorn sauce instead of overpowering sauces, vegetables served so you enjoy the taste and texture, and so on. It strikes me that most of these menus featured composed food: food with so many ingredients in such bizarre combinations that you’re admiring the culinary architecture, not the ingredients themselves.

Of course, I’m not a restaurant critic, always looking for the hot new experience. And I’ve known for a long time that I’m not a true gourmet: I appreciate good food, but I’m not excited about haute cuisine. Your mileage may vary; if so, Bauer’s article will certainly show you some of the hot places to go. You won’t find me there, though.

Typing music

Thursday, September 1st, 2005

Another trivial entry because it’s hard to focus on important ones…and another “if there’s ever a memoir” entry.

A while back (more than a decade, less than a quarter-century) my wife and I were both getting radios installed in our cars and walked around while it was being done. “Around,” in this case, taking us past a music store. Where we went in and my wife started looking at pianos.

After trying out pretty much everything in the store, she settled on–and fell in love with–a Schimmel vertical grand. You may never have heard of Schimmel, but they’re one of the great German piano companies, with (I believe) the same action as Boesendorfer. This group of piano stores got two shipments a year of Schimmels: five grand pianos and one vertical grand in each shipment. (This was a long time ago; things may have changed.)

A vertical grand is not the same as an upright. A vertical grand is a grand piano with the soundboard tilted 90 degrees, so it stands upright–but the weight, construction, and sound are those of a grand. In the case of the Schimmel, that’s a crystalline, bell-like purity; it’s not hard to fall in love with it.

I’m not sure whether it was the same day, but I do know that we wound up buying the piano, which we really couldn’t afford at the time: Certainly the last consumer loan we ever took out. (The piano cost more than a small car, although certainly nowhere near as much as a Boesendorfer! And this was a long time ago…although I believe the “car” comparison is still valid.)

My wife’s been playing on and off ever since. She takes a while to read music, but plays with feeling and soul. It’s purely a hobby, of course, but worth every cent we spent on the piano (and since then on tuning).

That’s not the story. This is.

A few years back, my wife bugged me to start playing. She knew that I read music (on good days, I can sight-read for singing): After all, I grew up in a Methodist household where we were all in various church choirs from an early age, and my mother had a teaching credential in music. She knew that I knew how to play the piano–my mother convinced me to play all the way through each song in the Methodist hymnal (fine four-part arrangements!) one summer, giving me some royal reward like $10 for completing the 500+ songs. And when I was in the Berkeley Community Chorus (again, a LONG time ago–at least 30 years), I rented a piano so I could hold extra practice sessions with the other baritones/basses, since we really needed the extra practice.

So I tried. And stopped.

The reason? Right up there in the title of this post. I realized something, listening to my wife play (and watching her) and listening to myself at the keyboard.

To wit: I don’t play piano. I can type the sheet music with reasonable agility: I “get the notes right.” But that’s not playing–it’s not making music.

I’d like to think I’m an acceptably good hack-level writer: I’m not just typing words.

But at the piano, I’m just typing notes. And that’s a waste of my time and no joy for the listener.

Louisiana, Louisiana

Thursday, September 1st, 2005

Library Dust has this post relating Katrina to the Great 1927 Flood.

Worth reading.

I was taken aback because I can’t seem to get Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927” from his Good Old Boys tribute to the South out of my head. The song is about the 1927 flood. “Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline”: That doesn’t sound so bad right now.

I wonder whether a politician with the stature of the Kingfish is what’s needed at this point?