Saturday, February 28, 2004

Law grinds the poor, and rich men rule the law.
-- Oliver Goldsmith

Rich the most eager to grab welfare
Ronald Reagan memorably complained about welfare queens, but he never told us that the biggest welfare queens are the already wealthy. Their lobbyists fawn over politicians, giving them little bits of money -- campaign contributions, plane trips, dinners, golf outings -- in exchange for huge chunks of taxpayers’ money. Millionaires who own your favorite sports teams get subsidies, as do millionaire farmers, corporations, and well-connected plutocrats of every variety. Even successful, wealthy TV journalists.
That’s right, I got some of your money too.

· Confessions of a Welfare Queen

The benefits of a world economy are bypassing those who most need them, writes Charlotte Denny.
· Winners and losers of globalisation

Friday, February 27, 2004

A Publishing Best-seller Miracle Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? sold 11.3 million copies in 2003, making it one of the biggest best-sellers of all time

The Plug Fest: literary episode of Scooby Doo
Last week it was revealed how easy it is for authors to praise their own books anonymously in online reviews
· Price we pay for the freedom of expression which the internet offers us [link first seen at Quest for the fool's gold of turnover ]

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

There are some journalists who have not adjusted to pop journalism. They have not adjusted to soundbite, ratings journalism. Jeff is of that tradition. And so we thank him for his service...
A little solidarity on behalf of the truth, please. My favorite. It’s time for journalists to get mad, to unify against restrictions on the press and the flow of public information, and to openly resist – with words and actions – those who would redefine the First Amendment for their personal or political interests.

Going after Key Political Stories
If journalists demonstrated the kind of tenacity in going after key political stories that they did during that brief shining moment, well, America will have an election worthy of the world's oldest democracy, and reporters and editors alike will be able to speak proudly of the charge given to them by its oldest written constitution: to protect and defend the public's right to know its leaders -- and to choose them wisely
· Facts Fashions [ via Why Journalists Should Blog]
· Ana Menendez has the kind of face and coloring that allow her to slip easily into a number of cultures
· See Also Telegraph editor admits morale problem

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Everybody's had a few
Now they're talking about who knows who...
My brother knows where the best bars are
Let's see how these blues'll do
in the town where the good times stay
Tu le ton temps that's all we say
We used to dance the night away
Me and my sister me and my brother
We used to walk down by the river
A song where everything's still the same

A Small Victory: The King
If I had tried to write with those things in mind, I believe I would have sold my birthright for a plot of message, as the old pun has it. Either way, Tabby and I would still be living in a trailer or an equivalent, a boat. My wife knows the importance of this award isn’t the recognition of being a great writer or even a good writer but the recognition of being an honest writer.
Frank Norris, the author of McTeague, said something like this: What should I care if they, i.e., the critics, single me out for sneers and laughter? I never truckled, I never lied. I told the truth.
And that’s always been the bottom line for me. The story and the people in it may be make believe but I need to ask myself over and over if I’ve told the truth about the way real people would behave in a similar situation.
If I happen to be the writer of such a death bed scene, I’d choose “Son of a bitch” over “Marry her, Jake” every time. We understand that fiction is a lie to begin with. To ignore the truth inside the lie is to sin against the craft, in general, and one’s own work in particular.
But the storyteller cannot afford to forget and must always be ready to hold himself or herself to account. He or she needs to remember that the truth lends verisimilitude to the lies that surround it. If you tell your reader:
Sometimes chickens will pick out the weakest one in the flock and peck it to death.
The people who speak out, speak out because they are passionate about the book, about the word, about the page and, in that sense, we’re all brothers and sisters. Give yourself a hand.
· Agents of Literature
· Making Light

Monday, February 23, 2004

In the Grub Street of the twenty-first century, books are traded on less and less material, and almost never on complete manuscripts. First novels are sold on sample chapters; translations snapped up on hearsay (...) The synopsis has become the curse of the business in so many other ways. You don't have to be Roland Barthes to see that such puffery has little, or nothing, to do with real writing.
· See Also Robert McCrum: The curse of the synopsis

Publishing turns page with print on demand
A burgeoning number of authors are putting out books on their own as digital technology improves and small press runs become less expensive
This Chicago Tribune article about self-publishing covers most of the traditional bases. The interesting part comes towards the end; it's one of a number of stories picking up on the POD product line from Florida's InstaBook Corp. They are the first to provide one-at-a-time book manufacturing and binding through machines that are about the size of a photocopier. The company has targeted libraries, retailers, and government markets.
Studies show that most book purchases are made on a whim," said publishing analyst Thad McLeroy:

· People like to thumb through books they find interesting (Rego Required) [ No Rego here Dual Loyalty: InstaBook's Smaller POD Solution]

Give me back the Berlin Wall
give me Stalin and St. Paul
I've seen the future, brother:
it is murder.
Leonard Cohen, The Future, 1992

Empires and the Modern Premiers
The great scandal of Lenin was that he taught realpolitik to the lower classes and backward peoples. If the working class was ever to become a ruling class it had better start thinking like one, and for a ruling class there are no rules. There is only the struggle to get and keep power. This is not to say that the Leninists and the imperialists are without moral feelings. Individually they are for the most part perfectly normal. Their compassion for their enemies' victims is absolutely genuine. So is their outrage at their enemies' moral failings and blind spots. In the 1980s I found it very difficult to regard supporters of the Chinese Communists' consistently anti-Soviet international policies as anything but scoundrels and scabs; but they were merely applying the same criteria as I was, to a different analysis of the world; and their indignation at my callous calculations and selective sympathies was just as real. I had the same sort of arguments with Trotskyists who supported the muj.
'How can you ...?' 'How can you ...?'

· How can you ...? How can you ...?

First it was the Aussie Molly...Now artists from all over the world are being refused entry to the US on security grounds

Land of the brave and the free
No one, it seems, is exempt. Last week, at the Grammy awards, the Cuban guitarist Ibrahim Ferrer was supposed to have received an award - but he couldn't get into the country. The 77-year-old was cited as a security risk. A Peking Opera company had to cancel an 18-city tour because the American consulate in China claimed not all of the musicians could adequately prove that they intended to return home after the tour ended. The South African anti-apartheid leader and singer Vusi Mahlasela had to cancel a good chunk of a US tour because his visa took months to get approved, as did the Spanish guitarist Paco de Lucia.
· Soviet Granny Tactics [ courtesy of Technorati ]
In the New Economics: Fast-Food Factories? Bush administration troubled they are losing too many manufacturing jobs? Just call flipping burgers at McD's a manufacturing job. Seriously. Are we at war with Oceana yet?
· Truth is the Parody

Soldier for the Truth: Exposing Bush’s Talking-Points War... Iraq Hawks Put WMD Cart Before Horse...
[SEE Also Re-dubbed with the Orwellian name of the Office of Special Plans ]

Sunday, February 22, 2004

There are basically two kinds of censorship, but most people only notice the harmless kind that involves trying to hide naughty words or pictures once they’re already out there in plain sight. This kind of censorship is what brought down the Soviets. It just doesn’t work, and ain’t worth the trouble of trying. It just ends up as a joke.[...]
The other sort of censorship is harder to spot and much more cruel...

· Poet Hugh MacDiarmid famously and foolishly said he would kill a million men for one glorious lyric [link first seen at Ken McLeod]

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Nothing is so beautiful and wonderful, nothing is so continually fresh and surprising, so full of sweet and perpetual ecstasy, as the good. No desert is so dreary, monotonous, and boring as evil. This is the truth about authentic good and evil. With fictional good and evil it is the other way around. Fictional good is boring and flat, while fictional evil is varied and intriguing, attractive, profound, full of charm.
Simone Weil

Powerhouse Aussie Lit
Time was that Australian literature was considered lesser than the Englis variety. But in the last 50 years, Australian literature has become a force to be reckoned with; now it is the motherland's turn to feel insecure. Australian novelists are outwriting us, they tweak the Booker prize out of our hands (Peter Carey has won it twice, Thomas Keneally once, Tim Winton has been shortlisted twice and 2003's winner, DBC Pierre, is Australian by birth). And there is a flotilla of younger Antipodean writers coming on stream.
· Double Prospect 02/04 [ courtesy of Double Dragon]

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Public servants speaking publicly: the Bennett case
What should a public servant be able to say publicly about government matters? In August 2001, both civilian and military arms of Defence issued new instructions severely restricting staff contact with the media. Even tighter restrictions were imposed on Operation Relex, which interdicted people-smuggling operations on Australia’s northern borders. Concern was expressed at the time that the new restrictions were not appropriate in a liberal democracy.They were relaxed in February 2002, to the apparent relief of some within the defence forces, as well as more broadly.
· Operation Relex
· To death and taxes, add lies
· The Australian Senate [ courtesy of Information and Research Services, Department of the Parliamentary Library ]

An article in the Guardian about authors writing glowing anonymous reviews for their own books at This only further confirms my feeling one shouldn't evaluate books on reader reviews alone.First of all, we have Harriet Klausner who typically rates books no less than One Star Reviews :=) Just one star thrills Jozef Imrich His Star, Lucy, is a diamond in the sky
Apparently I'm only a second-rate cynic. How about you? A cynic is someone who habitually questions the motives of others, believing them to be selfish by nature.

The law of diminishing monopoly: Amazon reviewers brought to book
The five-star review on Amazon, one of the world's biggest online booksellers, was attributed only to 'a reader from Chicago'.
· Star Wars [link first seen at Google ]
· Another long look at life in the age of Google.

Shorter Washington Post editorial page
Senate Democrats are bad people who have strategies and constituencies and stuff, but the Republicans shouldnt have stolen a really lot of their files like that (just a few would have been OK), although the people the bad thief lawyer guy worked for clearly knew nothing about it at the time and really the Republicans are the heroes of this story for not stonewalling after they were publicly busted by the Sergeant at Arms.
[ via Thief Memo]

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Secrets and Spies
Two stories of emigration to Australia from behind the Iron Curtain have highlighted a diverse shortlist for this year's National Biography Award.
· Tales of the dark side vie for award

Sunday Is Back: Some call it a Cold War
The killings are good for business because in any criminal enterprise there has to be that element of extreme fear in order to give that criminal enterprise its claws and teeth. This "claws and all" portrait of Melbourne's underworld is the ultimate inside story
· Ultimate inside story: Jana

Like All the President's Men, to which it's inevitably been compared, Shattered Glass has been enthusiastically received by its own constituency — which is perhaps not so surprising. Journalists are only human and they enjoy the spotlight as much as anyone.
Film: Shattered Glass... A free press is one of the hallowed pillars of democracy and yet, in the real world, the media often fall short of our expectations

It's not exactly Oprah's Book Club, but the German ZDF-show Lesen !, hosted by Elke Heidenreich, seems to be an influential book-show.
· Lessen: German Oprah

Is your sofa new enough? Are your teeth white enough? Is there enough fat in your arse to inflate your head in case of emergency? And are you spending enough? Because if you're only spending what you've got, that's not enough - you need to be IN DEBT. Not just a little bit overdrawn, I mean proper, wake up screaming, selling your underwear, Russian roulette in Soho basements to win back your kidneys debt.
[ View Debt]

Saturday, February 14, 2004

What does the love of your life want for Valentine's Day? Poetry beats roses in Valentine top 10. World's Most-Borrowed Poet...

Romeo and Juliet: Software listens for Love Detector
Does she love me? Does she even care? Voice-analysis software based on Israeli counterterrorism technology professes to tell you in an instant whether that special someone is interested. And just in time for Valentine's Day!
· ST Valentine's Day Pulls at Heart Strings and Purse Strings Alike, ... [ via Hollywood at home: Apple's iMovie application changed the world for ordinary people with digital video cameras ]

Friday, February 13, 2004

THE GOOD PARENT: A Herald Series
Re-educating young John and little Mark
Politicians have started telling parents how to behave. Mike Seccombe, in the final part of this series, wonders if the pressure shouldn't go the other way
· Point of Order
· Point of disorder

Thursday, February 12, 2004

I have never been yachting
or on a boat
I imagine it
a passionate bath
with an older brother
gentle then turning
as he studies
for the bar
Jeff Tweedy (Bezos) Amazon growth burst puts brake on global warming

What makes the interview worth reading are its non-fiction qualities. These interviews are as warm and hospitable as High Tatra Mountain Chalets.
· Writers
· Players
· Poets [ courtesy of BBC]

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Cold War
Did David Hasselhoff help bring an end to the Cold War? No, I think this is just a joke.
· Gollaja (sic)
· Press Power

Monday, February 09, 2004

We stood for the dignity of the working man
We were, of course, of the left. We were socialist. We stood for the dignity of the working man. We stood for the dignity of distress. We stood for the dignity of our island, the dignity of our indignity. Borrowed phrases! Left-wing, right-wing: did it matter? Did we believe in the abolition of private property? Was it relevant to the violation which was our subject? We spoke as honest men. But we used borrowed phrases which were part of the escape from thought, from that reality we wanted people to see but could ourselves now scarcely face. We enthroned indignity and distress. We went no further.
I am not sure that the wild men of our party did not speak more honestly than we did. They promised to abolish poverty in twelve months. They promised to abolish bicycle licences. They promised to discipline the police. They promised intermarriage. They promised farmers higher prices for sugar and copra and cocoa. They promised to renegotiate the bauxite royalties and to nationalize every foreign-owned estate. They promised to kick the whites into the sea and send the Asiatics back to Asia. They promised; they promised; and they generated the frenzy of the street-corner preacher who thrills his hearers with a vision of the unattainable rich world going up in a ball of fire. We disapproved, of course. But what could we do?"
V.S. Naipaul, The Mimic Men

· Troppoarmadillo [link first seen at An absence of months and Ken Parish still can't tell the difference between left and right, or perhaps simply prefers not to bother: Roadtosurfdom ]

Sunday, February 08, 2004

· NicMoc links to Korea

Saturday, February 07, 2004

We shake our heads self-righteously, certain that if we'd been there, liberation would have come earlier -- all the while failing to see that the present is no different. Quite a lot has changed in 60 years, but the ways in which information about crimes against humanity can simultaneously be known and not known hasn't changed at all. Nor have other interests and other priorities ceased to distract people from the feelings of shame and guilt they would certainly feel, if only they focused on them.

All the While Failing to see that the Present is No Different
Nearly 60 years ago last week, Auschwitz was liberated. On Jan. 27, 1945, four Russian soldiers rode into the camp. They seemed wonderfully concrete and real, remembered Primo Levi, one of the prisoners, perched on their enormous horses, between the gray of the snow and the gray of the sky. But they did not smile, nor did they greet the starving men and women. Levi thought he knew why: They felt the shame that a just man experiences at another man's crime, the feeling of guilt that such a crime should exist.
· The Shameless [ via Google]

Politics at a price
Big companies are still giving big donations to political parties. So do we need to worry about what they get for their money?
· I just think the public interest is not served by such large donations
· We'll destroy you, sacked mayor told
· It's a power grab
· Parliamentary Bowlers received free beer from Carlton United Breweries

Spy witness
The StB gathered comments on 62-year-old former dissident Petr Uhl, some of which have been destroyed.
Radek Schovanek put in a request with the Interior Ministry Sept. 16, 2002, to view the files of Czechoslovak secret police (StB) collaborators.
He is still waiting for a reply.
Schovanek should have received a response within 90 days under a 2002 law that covers public access to the files. He said there are hundreds of people who have made such requests in the last two years. "Not a single one of them was answered within 90 days," he said. Schovanek and others are pushing for a nongovernmental organization or newly created state institution to oversee the StB files that embody the faceless terror of totalitarian rule. They say the Interior Ministry's inadequate handling of the files prevents Czechs from fully comprehending -- and thus coming to terms with -- the past half-century.

· Czechs from Coming to Terms with Past: It is unbelievable. These requests are from victims of the regime, and now they are being victimized all over again [ courtesy of Irresolute Rule: There is a complete Lack of Political Leadership in the developed world today ]
· Meciar amateur boxer; Shameless Professional: Corruption remains rampant, according to a Transparency International Slovakia report released Feb. 3. 2004

Small esoteric note that probably isn't worth reading:
The thing that tears people apart is money. The reason they are unhappy is money. The boss is so important in people's lives. He's more important than your spouse because he's the one who provides your PayCzech. Compared to that, love is just about procreation... How can you complain about things when you know that the life span in Botswana is 32 years old? Life can be really hard, and almost anyone's life in America is pretty easy.

The End of Happy Endings: Cold Reality
Happy endings are presumed to belong to the realm of fantasy. In real life, after all, even a thumping electoral victory is generally more a first act than a last; what ensues, much too often, is disappointment, broken promises and even murmurs of a recall. When the believer, in any faith, tells us that the reward for bloody sacrifice is eternal joy, the nonbeliever is often tempted to think that the believer is merely trying to justify the ways of God to man. On earth at least, the end of life is death.
America, though, is the spiritual home of new beginnings, which may be why it has always had a soft spot, a special gift, for happy endings. We speak brightly of ''closure,'' as if the most difficult things in life could be wrapped up as neatly as a gift package; we speak of people ''passing on,'' as if the end of life were just a passing phase. America, in fact, could almost be defined as the place that chose not to root itself in the tragic cycles of the Greeks and others from the Old World (even Shakespeare, after all, in his early comedy Love's Labour's Lost, ensures that we leave the theater with the memory of a sudden death uppermost in our minds, and the central courting couples failing to pair off as comic convention decrees).

· Love's Labour's Lost [Cool Exile Cold River]

Friday, February 06, 2004

One thing I think I think about the coincidences in life: Geez, let's read it again:
My grandmother had a name for moments such as this. She called them bashert. Like most Yiddish expressions, bashert is a tough word to translate. It means intended, pre-ordained, destined. Things that happen for the best, good things, strange things that aren't supposed to happen but do, things that so easily might not have happened but did, these are bashert.
Rabbi Whiman

Always the Mob
JESUS emptied the devils of one man into forty hogs and the hogs took the edge of a high rock and dropped off and down into the sea: a mob.
The sheep on the hills of Australia, blundering fourfooted in the sunset mist to the dark, they go one way, they hunt one sleep, they find one pocket of grass for all.
Karnak? Pyramids? Sphinx paws tall as a coolie? Tombs kept for kings and sacred cows? A mob.
Young roast pigs and naked dancing girls of Belshazzar, the room where a thousand sat guzzling when a hand wrote: Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin? A mob.
The honeycomb of green that won the sun as the Hanging Gardens of Nineveh, flew to its shape at the hands of a mob that followed the fingers of Nebuchadnezzar: a mob of one hand and one plan. 5
Stones of a circle of hills at Athens, staircases of a mountain in Peru, scattered clans of marble dragons in China: each a mob on the rim of a sunrise: hammers and wagons have them now.
Locks and gates of Panama? The Union Pacific crossing deserts and tunneling mountains? The Woolworth on land and the Titanic at sea? Lighthouses blinking a coast line from Labrador to Key West? Pigiron bars piled on a barge whistling in a fog off Sheboygan? A mob: hammers and wagons have them to-morrow.
I am born in the mob—I die in the mob—the same goes for you—I don’t care who you are.
I cross the sheets of fire in No Man’s land for you, my brother—I slip a steel tooth into your throat, you my brother—I die for you and I kill you—It is a twisted and gnarled thing, a crimson wool:
One more arch of stars,
In the night of our mist,
In the night of our tears.

· I slip a steel tooth into your throat, you my brother
· Stones of a circle of hills at Athens, [ courtesy of Steel Curtain: Hammers and wagons have them now ]

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Chilling stuff
Remote-operated cameras hidden in hollowed-out logs, school satchels and watering cans. Glass jars containing personal-ID body swabs, to be used by groin-sniffer dogs. Kombi-style Barkas B1000 prisoner transport vehicles with net curtains over the windows. Letter-opening machines. Wire-tapping devices. Bulky "microbugs". More hidden cameras
All five floors of Ruschestrasse 103 are filled with spooky surveillance equipment. Until 14 years ago, this austere, archetypically modernist building, hidden among similar anonymous boxes in the eastern suburb of Lichtenberg, was one of the most feared in Berlin. Which is really saying something.
It was the headquarters of the Ministry for State Security, otherwise known as the Stasi, the secret police force, which during its 40-year existence amassed files on some six million people, imprisoned more than 250,000 and arranged for the disappearance of countless others.

· Ministry for State Security [ courtesy of NicMoc: What remains true, as the region embarks on it present transition, is that it is still an endlessly fascinating place, caught bristling in its own tensions between the possibilities of the future and the shackles of the past]

3077 Amazon Ranking Reasons to Actually Read Virtual COLD RIVER: Literature of Secrecy

To Get Literary, Lay Low
The literary world is agog. Joanna Trollope has refused to do any press for her new novel, Brother and Sister. She wants the writing to speak for itself. Can this really be the same woman who posed upside down in a feather boa in the Daily Mail?
A guest columnist in the Sunday Observer says the new key to literary cache is laying low: "If you want to be taken seriously by the critics, secrecy is everything. Out goes Richard and Judy and Hay-on-Wye. In comes enforced literary purdah." A primary case in point is Joanna Trollope. "By taking a vow of silence, Trollope has elevated herself to the pantheon of authors who never do interviews. Welcome to the recluse club."
· The recluse club

The blogging community is terribly incestuous
This site exists to point out the hypocrisy of people taking out drama on the Internet and then whining when people notice:
Last night I cheated on my boyfriend, don't tell!

· Randomly Ever After

The threat to modern journalism is real, but it comes not just from without but also from within. It comes not just from the manipulations, favouritism and half-truths of the discredited, and partially abandoned, Labour spin culture, but also from the media's disrespect for facts, the avoidable failure to be fair, the want of explanation and the persistent desire for melodrama that are spin's flip side!
· We are paid to be cynical

Monday, February 02, 2004

Revealed: the Gas Chamber Horror of North Korea's Gulag
A series of shocking personal testimonies is now shedding light on Camp 22 - one of the country's most horrific secrets ...
The parents were vomiting and dying, but till the very last moment they tried to save kids by doing mouth-to-mouth breathing.

· CAMP 22