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Month: March 2007 (Page 1 of 2)

Are We Evolving?

the divine touch

Not much sign of it in this Newsweek poll. Among its findings:

  • Nearly half of all Americans believe that evolution is not well supported by evidence and is not widely accepted within the scientific community (despite numerous expressions of scientific support from Nobel Prize winners, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the United States National Academy of Science, the American Geological Institute, and many others)
  • The same percentage (and nearly three-quarters of evangelical protestants) believe God created humans in their present form within the past 10,000 years (in other words, they were created more recently than many known human artifacts — I mean, even freaking Fox News acknowledges that).

To accommodate this kind of information I’ve added the a new blog category called “sigh.”

Where (and How) Evolution is Taught in the U.S.

Cute

How to Moonwalk

moonwalkStep-by step-instructions here.

My Sweet Lord

my sweet lordLooks like the Roger Smith Hotel in New York has caved in to demands from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights to remove the art piece My Sweet Lord by Cosimo Cavallaro. A six-foot-tall representation of Jesus on the cross made of chocolate, the piece has apparently offended the League more by its nudity than its calories. (Cavallaro, by the way, has also worked in the demanding medium of ham and cheese.)

All of which is just an excuse for the link below to Tom Waits singing “Chocolate Jesus.”

Swim, Swim, Swim!

swimming across the atlantic

Are you in shape for following step 12 in the instructions shown in the screen capture?

Via Google Blogoscoped. While at GB, check out Raymond Chandler’s 1953 mention of Google.

John McCain Supports Gay Marriage, “Particularly Between Passionate Females”

… according to his website. Explanation: he was stealing images (ripping off bandwidth) for his myspace site and the image host retaliated with a little prank.

I know how the guy (Newsvine Founder and CEO Mike Davidson) feels. What is it about myspace sites? Lately a lot of myspace pages have been using my bandwidth by linking to images from this site without attribution. I wouldn’t mind if they credited the link, but I’ve been getting dinged every time their pages load and getting nothing back in return. So I’ve had to put a little code in my .htaccess file to serve up a different image instead. (Maybe after a while I’ll try removing this and see if it gets to be a problem again.)

Original story and screenshots here.

Related: Horking Vark.

Pandas Are Getting into Publishing

pandas by tom

Publishers have been accused of pandering to an ignorant public. The time has come to panda to them instead. And researchers at a giant panda reserve in southern China are helping to make it happen.

The thing about giant pandas is they’re not just cute they’re also big. And they eat a lot of bamboo. Enough to produce about a hundred pounds of dung daily. That will fertilize a pretty big bamboo grove, which will support more pandas, which …. Anyway, I image the panda reserve researchers were getting a little tired of pulling on their hip boots every time they headed into the grove.

That’s where the story comes back to publishing. They are turning the panda poop into “high-quality paper.” In fact, according to Liu Jun, a researcher at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Base in Sichuan province, the panda poop should be even better for making paper than elephant dung.

So soon you may be able to help to save the environment by buying books printed on panda dung. And help those idlers the pandas to be gainfully employed.

Related:

(panda drawing by tom)

Windows Most Secure OS

according to Symantec. Its tests show the operating systems fall out this way, from most to least secure:

  • Windows (Vista?)
  • Linux
  • Mac OS X
  • HP-UX

The full story, at internetnews.com.

Mambo de la Luna

Lately I’ve been listening to Kirsty MacColl’s Tropical Brainstorm … mostly at work, however, as folks at home are getting a little tired of it. Click below for a sample.

Dolling Up the Classics

jane austen enhanced

Is the attractiveness of authors directly related to their promotability in the minds of publishers today? Certainly to judge by the photos on their dust jackets, authors have gotten collectively younger and cuter every year for the past several years. Some publishers deny, however, that they place any importance on author photos. I guess Wordworth Editions is not among them. For a reissue of Austen they have tarted Jane up a bit. The image on the left is the portrait of Jane Austen by her sister Cassandra (said to be the only fully authenticated portrait of the author). The image on the right shows the effects of Wordworth’s Photoshop magic: Jane’s bonnet has been removed and replaced with flowing locks, her cheeks have been rouged, and if I’m not mistaken she has had some subtle nips and tucks about the eyes and mouth. Wordworth’s managing editor Helen Traylor explains:

She was not much of a looker. Very, very plain. Jane Austen wasn’t very good looking. She’s the most inspiring, readable author, but to put her on the cover wouldn’t be very inspiring at all. It’s just a bit off-putting.

I know you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover. Sadly people do. If you look more attractive, you just stand out more. Sadly, we do live in a very shallow world and people do judge by appearance.

I guess that about sums it up: “Sadly, we do live in a very shallow world.”

Link: Jane Too Plain for Publishers

Related: “Young” authors are younger than they used to be.

Ochre Ellipse

ochre ellipseOver at Mumbling Mynah Jonas is offering copies of his graphic book Ochre Ellipse for just $3.00. The cover is shown. “What I was trying to do,” he says about the cover, “was copy some children’s drawings from an old issue of Highlights I found at SCRAP.”

I suppose narrative pictorial art is on my mind because I’ve been working on labels and text panels for the Asian Art Museum’s Yoshitoshi and Tezuka exhibitions the past few days.

Worlds of Words

Serious fiction writers think about moral problems practically. They tell stories. They narrate. They evoke our common humanity in narratives with which we can identify, even though the lives may be remote from our own. They stimulate our imagination. The stories they tell enlarge and complicate — and, therefore, improve — our sympathies. They educate our capacity for moral judgment….

From “Pay Attention to the World,” a posthumous essay by Susan Sontag, reprinted in the Guardian

Book Publishing Glossary

To accommodate the new comment from BR, I’m moving the following post from my old blog, Frozen Coagulated Culture, over here. This provides a place for people to leave comments.

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Originally posted May 07, 2006

New at rightreading.com, a glossary of book publishing terms.

A few sample entries:

BOOK REVIEW: A recycled press release offered to publishers by newspaper and magazine sales departments as an inducement to advertising.

DEADLINE: An item that exists to be renegotiated and revised. In his famous paradox, the Greek philosopher Zeno proved that deadlines can never be met.

FOREIGN MARKET: The part of the country outside New York City.

FRANKFURT BOOK FAIR: An annual international exhibition of artwork on paper.

LINE EDITOR: An escort charged with limiting an author’s consumption of cocaine.

MAINSTREAM FICTION: The pretense that there is a group of readers who can be reached through writing that is sufficiently unspecific as to exclude no one.

etc.

Outlook grim for writers

According to a story in the Independent, authors’ income has fallen in recent years. In the UK the top 10 percent of authors take home more than half the pay. Take away that ten percent and the remaining 90 percent have an average annual income of just £4,000 (about US $7,715).

From the story: “The best advice if you want to eat is: ‘Do something else.'”

Helvetica, the Poster

helvetic poster

The official Helvetica movie poster.

How to Read a Book

Reading, says Susan Elderkin, in the Financial Times, has become “a highly stressful business.” The main trouble, it seems, is that there are just too many books. How is one to choose? Elderkin, a novelist and fellow in creative writing says that “the number of books in the world is growing at five times the rate of the human population.”

Apparently the best way to solve this problem is … to read another book. Like one of these:

  • Gabriel Zaid, So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance
  • John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel: A User’s Guide
  • John Mullan, How Novels Work
  • Nick Hornby, The Complete Polysyllabic Spree
  • Nick Rennison, ed., Good Reading Guide

In brief, Mexican critic Zaid psoesthe problem: “Books are published at such a rapid rate that they make us exponentially more ignorant. If a person read a book a day, he would be neglecting to read four thousand others, published the same day. In other words, the books he didn’t read would pile up four thousand times faster than the books he did read, and his ignorance would grow four thousand times faster than his knowledge.”

Sutherland talks about judging books by ther covers, margins, and other design elements. He also proposes applying “the McLuhan test,” which is to read page 69, and buy the book if you like that page. Mullan seems to be a lit crit type, who breaks books down into how they use everything from parenthesis to paragraphs. His book is assembled from newspaper columns, as is Hornby’s, which amounts to a kind of reader’s journal. Hornby writes, “I am not particularly interested in language”; he prefers light books that can be read in one sitting. The Good Reading Guide is “great books” list of 400 titles.

Regrettably, Elderkin’s review doesn’t give a much of a sense of the nature and content of the titles in her roundup, and it doesn’t come close of realizing its premise of addressing the problem of proliferating books proposed by Zaid. If you’ve read any of these books let me know what you think about them.

Why we need music

Nerve impulses are based on sound not electricity.

Mayas Perform Critical Purification Ritual

juan tineyI returned recently from el mundo maya, where I visited several sacred sites. As far as I am aware, no purification ritual was required after my visits.

The same is not true of President Bush, who is visiting the ancient site of Iximche near my old home town of Mixco. Following Bush’s visit, Maya priests will perform rites (involving chanting and burning incense, herbs, and candles) to eliminate “bad spirits.”

“That a person like him, with the persecution of our migrant brothers in the United States, with the wars he has provoked, is going to walk in our sacred lands, is an offense for the Mayan people and their culture,” said Juan Tiney, director of a Maya NGO.

Juan Tiney photo by Antonio Jiménez, from Prensa Libre

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related post: The Indonesian Curse Is Working

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read more at Salon
this item via Exploding Aardvark

The Dead and the Unknown

Recently I was doing a loooong overdo update of my rolodex (actually a filemaker pro database these days). The file began, as I recall, as an Alpha4 database back in the day, and I’ve been porting it over into new programs as I’ve upgraded over the years. (I needed it as a database because I used to do a lot of mail merges.)

I never really thinned the list out the way I should, and as I worked on it I discovered that it still contains the directions of a lot of people who have passed on. There’s something poignant about deleting these names, such people as Marlon Brando, William Burroughs, John Cage, Guy Davenport, Allen Ginsberg, Thom Gunn, Joseph Heller, Pauline Kael, Hugh Kenner, Ken Kesey, Arthur Miller, Frank Zappa, and many more – not necessarily people I knew well, or even at all: often they got into my rolodex when I was requesting blurbs for a book or some similar reason.

Another disturbing feature of the rolodex pruning was encountering names for which I drew a blank. Who, for example, are Jacklyn Green, Stephen Bankier, Anne Dorsey, Janet Fries, Ken Frith, Cecile Kaufman, Jack McClosky, Ben Ragner, Julian Monsarrat, Tony Reveaux, and Anne Roipe? In some cases the names sound familiar, and I feel I should be able to remember these people, but in others it’s as if I had never heard the name
before. In either case I tried to be ruthless and take them out.

How do you keep your rolodex lean and up to date?

Windmills

Over at Frisco Vista I’ve posted a photo of a windmill in Golden Gate Park and, for comparison, one in Bruges, Belgium.

Well, I guess I’m on a windmill kick. (After all Cervantes and I share a birthday . . . the day, not the year, smart ass!) So here’s a picture of the inside of one of the Bruges windmills:

bruge windmill workings

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