concept to publication

Month: September 2011

Links for Friday, September 30

“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil

More on the “alt” tag


I recently lamented my belated discovery that “alt” text was not being displayed on mouseover of my images.

The estimable Peecay of Bibliodyssey has replied by e-mail with a description of his system:

I try to abide by the pure description (for a blind person, is how I understood it) to approximate an image with alt tag (eg. “woodcut of cat in colour from Japan, 16th cent.”)

But then I try to put something specific to the book or author or illustrator in as the title tag.

I’ve always worked under the assumption that – when including captions as well, below the image – I was priming those images as best they could be to be open to image search engines.

What I hear from the “SEO” types is that alt tags seem to help with search engines but title tags less so. That’s hearsay, really, and I haven’t tested it.

According to SearchEngine Journal, it is indeed important to keep the various tags different. Ann Smarty, speaking of the alt and title tags, says, “include your main keywords in both of them but keep them different. Keyword stuffing in Alt text and Title is still keyword stuffing.”

Wily Michael Gray has a helpful guide to optimizing images for search engines.

All good advice. But kind a lot of work to provide three different kinds of unique nonrepetitive text for all your images.

Another boring blurb post

evan s. connell

evan s. connell

“Outstanding book. Tom Christensen’s scholarship is meticulous. The reproductions are beautiful. 1616 is a treasure.” — Evan S. Connell, Jr.

I got this nice blurb from Evan S. Connell (and to me that’s not boring at all). It’s great to get recognitions from a distinguished author not just of fiction (Mr, Bridge, Mrs. Bridge, etc.) but also of histories (Son of the Morning Star,etc.). Among his other honors, Evan was nominated for a Lifetime Achievement Man Booker Award.

I was a little anxious about blurbs for this book. I’ve been in museum publishing for so long that my literary rolodex had got pretty stale. But the blurb process has actually gone pretty well. I’m expecting one or two more to come in (I probably overdid it and should have left some for next time).

Right now the blurbs are looking something like this:

“Shakespeare may have died in 1616 (as incidentally did Cervantes—on the same date!) — but here we have Love’s Labour Found. A brimmingly generous intellectual feast, lavishly curated by Mr. Christensen — on every page a fresh marvel — the catalog, as it were, of a show just asking to be mounted, and the Show of the Year at that.” (Lawrence Weschler, Pulitzer Prize ­Finalist for General Nonfiction for Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder)

“With its stories of restless spirits and restless feet and its truly amazing images from Japan to Persia to Rome, this book will surprise and delight every reader and provide new insights into an interactive early modern world.” (John E. Wills, Jr., author, 1688: A Global History)

“Outstanding book. Tom Christensen’s scholarship is meticulous. The reproductions are beautiful. 1616 is a treasure.” (Evan S. Connell, Man Booker International Prize Nominee for Lifetime Achievement, author, Lost in Uttar Pradesh)

“With a masterful command of facts and data, Christensen shows how separate threads affected one another, transformed discourse, and contributed to the development of a truly global culture fully four centuries ago.” (Emily Sano, director emeritus, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco)

“Unforgettable characters and stories that illuminate many of today’s global aches and joys.” (Peter Laufer, James Wallace Chair in Journalism at the University of Oregon, and author, The Dangerous World of Butterflies)

“A brilliant creative examination and interpretation of the developed world’s recent history:  east, middle, and west. Christensen documents the main civilizations of East Asia, South Asia, the Near East, and Western Europe and the significant colonial civilization in Central and South America. A treasure of plates of art and maps alone.” (Gary Snyder, Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Turtle Island)

The Danish Poet

The Danish Poet is a animated short film written, directed, and animated by Torill Kove. It is narrated by Liv Ullmann. Via Jason del Arroz.

liv ullman

Liv Ullman

torill kove

Torill Kove

John E. Wills on 1616

1688: A Global History“With its stories of restless spirits and restless feet and its truly amazing images from Japan to Persia to Rome, this book will surprise and delight every reader and provide new insights into an interactive early modern world.” — John E. Wills, Jr., author, 1688: A Global History

I received this lovely blurb for 1616: The World in Motion from the distinguished historian John E. Wills, Jr. (University of Southern California). Wills wrote a book called 1688: A Global History, which is perhaps the closest in spirit to mine. In fact, once I remembered having read reviews of that book it sort of hung over me while I was doing mine, and I scrupulously avoided looking at it to make sure my approach wouldn’t be influenced by it. (Now that I’m done and I’ve had a look I’m relieved to say that the books turned out to not that much alike.)

I don’t know Prof. Wills, and I approached him cold, and not without a bit of nervousness. Professional historians are often condescending to amateur historians like me. But Prof. Will was generous and gracious, and I am immensely thankful to him.

John E. Wills’s masterful history ushers us into the worlds of 1688, from the suicidal exaltation of Russian Old Believers to the ravishing voice of the haiku poet Bash?. Witness the splendor of the Chinese imperial court as the Kangxi emperor publicly mourns the death of his grandmother and shrewdly consolidates his power. Join the great caravans of Muslims on their annual pilgrimage from Damascus and Cairo to Mecca. Walk the pungent streets of Amsterdam and enter the Rasp House, where vagrants, beggars, and petty criminals labored to produce powdered brazilwood for the dyeworks. Through these stories and many others, Wills paints a detailed picture of how the global connections of power, money, and belief were beginning to lend the world its modern form. “A vivid picture of life in 1688…filled with terrifying violence, frightening diseases…comfortingly familiar human kindnesses…and the intellectual achievements of Leibniz, Locke, and Newton.”–Publishers Weekly

Productivity secret

abandoned telvision

With a couple of forthcoming books and other projects in the works, I’m sometimes asked how I manage to do this considering I have a day job, and a long commute to boot. So now — drumroll — I’m finally going to reveal my secret (but you might not like it).

I don’t watch much television. I’ve never seen American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Jersey Shore, Mad Men, The Sopranos, Real Housewives of Wherever, Two and a Half Men, Lost, or a lot of other popular shows.

In her recent Sunset magazine article “Time Lost and Found,” Anne Lamott writes, “Time is not free—that’s why it’s so precious and worth fighting for…. Fight tooth and nail to find time, to make it. It is our true wealth, this moment, this hour, this day.”

One interesting thing about people is how they use their time. If watching television or playing computer games fulfills your needs, then great, go for it. But if you’re compelled to engage in some kind of creative expression, then you have to make time for it. And that is probably going to mean giving something up.

It’s your choice.


Image of a television left out in the rain from striatic’s photostream.

Links for Friday, September 16

“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil

“Alt” text not displayed on mouseover


Man, I guess I’m late coming to this realization but I just noticed that in my default browser, Chrome, my images’ “alt” text was not being displayed on mouseover on a page I was working on. A little investigation revealed that nowadays you’re supposed to use the “title” tag instead. I’ve got seventeen years of web pages that use the “alt” tag. My older version of Dreamweaver has a field for “alt,” but I would have to insert “title” manually. Color me bummed.


Nope, that’s not me. The image is from jugbo’s photostream.

Links for Friday, September 9

“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil

Links for Friday, September 2

Every separation is a link. — Simone Weil

UPDATE: C. E. Petit has e-mailed to let me know that he commented on “What killed American lit?”  here:

Richard Nash in Boston Review

In many respects we’ve got a real Stockholm Syndrome around the model of publishing as it’s existed up until now. We just take for granted that it is the way it is because that’s a good way for things to be. And when something diverges from it we look for proof as to why it should diverge. But I’m interested in trying to reframe questions. Why do we think that a person won’t buy a print book because in theory they could read it for free online? What is it that people are buying? What is it that people want?

From an interview with Richard Nash,  former head of Soft Skull Press. Read the rest here.

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