The Desolate Wilderness

27 November 2014

For visitors from outside the United States, today is Thanksgiving, a national holiday.

Days of thanksgiving and special thanksgiving religious services arose as part of the English Reformation during the reign of King Henry VIII. In the United States, the tradition began in 1621 following a good harvest in the Plymouth Colony located in modern-day Massachusetts. The only other English colony in North America was Jamestown, located in present-day Virginia, over 600 miles to the South.

The Colony was founded by a group of English religious separatists that had suffered religious persecution in England. After first moving to Holland, the separatists eventually decided to settle in that part of North America that was nominally controlled by England.

Of the original 102 passengers that embarked for the New World from Plymouth, England, on the Mayflower, only two died during the voyage, but, after landing in December, 1620, approximately half of the company died during the first winter. The climate and topography were much different than those found in England and Holland and, as the following passage indicates, their new home was an intimidating place.

Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford , sometime governor thereof:

So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits.

When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love.

The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other’s heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.

Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.

Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.

If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.

Jack Webb

26 November 2014

From Word Around the New:

Before Dragnet, before everyone knew him, Jack Webb did several other radio shows.  The best of them was called Pat Novak for Hire, about a boat owner and general odd jobs guy who kept getting involved in various pulpy adventures.

What set this show apart was the writing, which was noire hard boiled writing at its absolute best.  The primary writer Richard L. Breen who went on to write such films as State Fair, Niagra, and PT 109.  And his work was poetry.  The interaction between Novak and his nemesis on the police force Lieutanant Hellman is classic and usually hilarious, and the philosophical monologues and musings of drunken ex-doctor Jocko Madigan is unique to the show.

. . . .

“Around here a set of morals won’t cause any more stir than Mother’s Day in an orphanage. Maybe that’s not good, but that’s the way it is. And it wouldn’t do any good to build a church down here, because some guy would muscle in and start cutting the wine with wood alcohol. All you can do is try to make the books balance, and the easiest way to do that is to keep one hand on your billfold and the other hand on somebody else’s.”

“Down in the waterfront, in San Francisco, you always bite off more than you can chew. It’s tough on your windpipe, but you don’t go hungry.”

“Pat Novak, for hire. It’s about the only way you can say it. Oh, you can dress it up and tell how many shopping days there are ’til Christmas, but if you got yourself on the market, you can’t waste time talking. You got to be as brief as a pauper’s will, because down in the waterfront, in San Francisco, everybody wants a piece of the cake, and the only easy buck is the one you just spent. Oh, it’s a good life. If you work real hard and study a little on the side, you got a trade by the time you get to prison.”

. . . .

“I watched her as she turned and walked out the door. She was wearing a flowered print dress, and as she walked, the roses kept getting mixed up with the daisies. She walked with a nice friendly movement, like the trap door on a gallows.”

. . . .

“I crossed over and knocked at the door. The guy that opened it had a face like three pounds of warm putty. It was moist and pink, and you got the idea they put the color in with a spray gun. And if his heart was made of the same stuff, they drained the oil out first.”

Link to the rest at Word Around the Net and thanks to Karen for the tip.

But your reprisals are too severe!

26 November 2014

Cadmus: But your reprisals are too severe!

Dionysus: Yes, because I am a god, and you insulted me.

Cadmus: Gods should not resemble men in their anger!

Dionysus: Long ago Zeus my father approved these things.


Fight Over Yahoo’s Use of Flickr Photos

26 November 2014

From The Wall Street Journal:

About twice a week, someone asks Liz West ’s permission to use one of the nearly 12,000 images the amateur photographer has uploaded to the photo-sharing site Flickr over the past decade.

Ms. West is usually happy to comply. One woman in England created notecards using her floral pictures and sent her 100 cards in appreciation, she said. Vermont Castings, a stove and fireplace maker, used one of Ms. West’s photos on its website and shipped her a small stove as a gift.

But she’s not happy about a recent move by Yahoo Inc., Flickr’s owner, to make canvas prints from the photos she and others post to the site, sell them for up to $49 apiece and keep all of the profits.

“It ticked me off that somebody else is selling them when I was giving them away,” said Ms. West, a retired writer in Boxborough, Mass., who goes by “Muffet” on Flickr.

. . . .

More than 300 million publicly shared Flickr images use Creative Commons licenses, making it the largest content partner. Yahoo last week said it would begin selling prints of 50 million Creative Commons-licensed images as well as an unspecified number of other photos handpicked from Flickr.

For the handpicked photos, the company will give 51% of sales to their creators. For the Creative Commons images, Yahoo will keep all of the revenue.

Yahoo says it is complying with the terms of Creative Commons by selling only images that permit commercial use. The licenses “are designed for the exact use case that we’re enacting through our wall-art product,” Bernardo Hernandez, vice president of Flickr, wrote in an email.

. . . .

Yahoo’s plan to sell the images appears “a little shortsighted,” said Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield, who left the company in 2008. “It’s hard to imagine the revenue from selling the prints will cover the cost of lost goodwill.”

The Wall Street Journal contacted 14 photographers with Creative Commons-licensed works on Flickr. Eight said they didn’t object to Yahoo’s move and are happy to get additional exposure for their work. “Any amateur photographer would love to have his or her photos hanging on walls around the world,” Andreas Overland, a Flickr user in Oslo, Norway, said in an email.

Six others objected to the company profiting from their works.

“When I accepted the Creative Commons license, I understood that my images could be used for things like showing up in articles or other works where they could be showed to public,” Nelson Lourenço, a photographer in Lisbon, Portugal, said in an email. Yahoo “selling my work and getting the full money out of it came as a surprise,” he said.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

PG says pay attention to the Terms and Conditions whenever you submit your creative efforts online.

Copyright Office posts DMCA exemption petitions

26 November 2014

From Chris Meadows via TeleRead:

A few weeks ago I discussed the need for a DMCA exemption for e-books, in light of the US Copyright Office requesting petitions for such exemptions. The Copyright Office has now posted all 44 petitions it received as PDFs.

. . . .

I was mildly disappointed to see that my petition is the only one which directly addressed the matter of bypassing e-book DRM for personal fair use and backup—or at least, the only one that follows the Copyright Office’s template.

. . . .

The new author advocacy group Authors Alliance (whom we first mentioned a few months ago) has a petition in as well. It starts off promisingly enough, with Authors Alliance saying it “promotes authorship for the public good by supporting authors who write to be read.” (As opposed to those who write and then stick it under their mattress, I suppose.) But then it veers off into serious what-the-heck territory by requesting the right to break DRM on movie discs and Internet streams in order to “[permit] authors to make fair use of excerpts of motion pictures embedded in multimedia e-books they create.”

. . . .

That the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions cause a lot of problems for a lot of people. All these uses that people are asking to be able to make used to be perfectly legal. They’d still be legal, if not for that pesky law and a pesky little digital padlock it’s illegal to break. Maybe someday that portion of the law could be repealed outright…or maybe publishers will follow the music industry’s example and drop DRM.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

The Rise of the Seven-Figure Advance

26 November 2014

From Publishers Weekly:

Seven-figure book deals are nothing new in corporate publishing. But lately, these deals seem to be happening more frequently. During the run-up to this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair in early October, three seven-figure deals for debut works were closed by Big Five houses. Shortly after the fair, the New York Times ran an article about a waitress who landed a high six-figure advance. The streak continued with news that St. Martin’s Press had paid seven figures for a debut novel by New York Times reporter Stephanie Clifford. And, two weeks ago, word broke that indie author Blake Crouch landed seven figures at Crown for Dark Matter, his science fiction novel. For some in the industry, the flurry of big advances is simply business as usual. Others, however, attribute the run to a dearth of great material, along with the ever-pressing need on the part of the big houses to publish major bestsellers.

George Gibson, an industry veteran who is now publishing director at Bloomsbury USA, warned against reading too much into the latest round of big deals, noting that they happen “fairly regularly during the year.” Nonetheless, Gibson acknowledged that the business has changed. For the Big Five, especially, the highly sought-after projects have become essential. “The game plan to make your budget, or exceed it, relies on having bestsellers. That’s always been the case, but it’s the case now more so than ever.” Because both midlist and backlist titles aren’t selling as well as they once did, Gibson explained, the big books, “are more important.”

. . . .

That a number of the major deals of late have been for debut works—five of the six aforementioned acquisitions were for books by first-time authors—is also not surprising. One editor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that since the advent of BookScan (which gives editors, sales reps, and retailers approximate print sales for any given title), having no track record is usually a plus.

Other insiders, who also spoke off the record, theorized that there is less of everything, which drives up the price for the most coveted projects. “The whole pool of talent is shrinking,” explained one source. “There are fewer publishers, fewer slots, and fewer submissions so… the higher the quality of the project, the more you’re likely to get.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to W.E.S. for the tip.

How an eBay bookseller defeated a publishing giant at the Supreme Court

26 November 2014

From Ars Technica:

Sometimes all it takes to alter the course of history is one pissed-off person. Supap Kirtsaeng wasn’t a crusader or lone nut; he was just an eBay trader who got backed into a legal corner and refused to give up.

To help pay for grad school at USC, he sold textbooks online—legitimate copies that he’d purchased overseas. But academic publishing behemoth John Wiley & Sons sued Supap, claiming that his trade in Wiley’s foreign-market textbooks constituted copyright infringement.

The implications were enormous. If publishers had the right to control resale of books that they printed and sold overseas, then it stood to reason that manufacturers could restrain trade in countless products—especially tech goods, most of which are made in Asia and contain copyrightable elements such as embedded software.

Intent on setting a precedent, Wiley slammed Supap with a $600,000 jury verdict and all but buried him on appeal. But the grad student hung tough, arguing that as lawful owner of the books he had the right to resell them. Eventually he convinced the US Supreme Court to grant review.

Once Supap’s struggle hit the spotlight, powerful supporters such as eBay, Public Knowledge, Costco, and Goodwill Industries joined the fray. But the forces pitted against Supap were arguably more powerful: the movie and music industries, publishers of books and software, and even the US Solicitor General.

Defying the odds, Supap won, and the case that bears his name has become a landmark.[1]  But as the saying goes, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

Throughout 2014, Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has been holding hearings about copyright reform. Wiley and other prominent copyright holders have been pleading for legislative restrictions on Kirtsaeng.

. . . .

Publishers charged more in the affluent North American market and less in other regions. They called this practice “market segmentation,” but to many it seemed like price-gouging. Supap discovered this himself: a textbook priced at $50 overseas might cost $100 in the US.

Starting in 2006, Supap enlisted his family to make the rounds at Bangkok bookstores, buying titles like Organic Chemistry and Fundamentals of Physics. They shipped the textbooks to Supap’s apartment in LA, and he posted the books for sale on eBay.

Over the next two years Supap imported about 500 different titles and generated sales of around a million dollars. His profit of approximately $100K over the venture’s lifespan helped fund his school expenses.

But Supap didn’t take into account that Wiley might be watching.

. . . .

In Wiley’s global empire, market segmentation was a revered practice. In the US market, Wiley sold premium-priced textbooks with glossy hard covers and sewn-ribbon bookmarks. In overseas markets, Wiley sold economy versions—the same content but with cheaper materials and a warning banner stating that the books couldn’t be sold in North America.

Link to the rest at Ars Technica and thanks to Paul for the tip.

The Uncomfortable Trail-Blazer

25 November 2014

From TPV regular MCA Hogarth:

Maybe it seems strange that reading an article about my own career might help me see patterns in it that I didn’t necessarily understand before… but the PW article crystallized a theme for me. Did you sense the same one too? Here’s my takeaway: most of my leaps have been inspired by frustration. Frustration with people throwing obstacles between me and my readers; frustration with the industry, for making it difficult for me to navigate it; frustration with how much things cost and how that prevents me from taking advantage of them. If I had to summarize my mode of operation, it’s this:

1. Identify Obstacle
2. Tear Out Hair/Weep/Despair/Howl with Rage
3. Find Way Around It

I will point out Step 2 there, because from offhand comments I hear from many people about me, it’s plain that there’s a myth that I don’t have one. A Step 2, I mean. Over and over I hear ‘self-publishing is a path that only works for some people—people like you! But not everyone has your [insert noun of choice here, commonly personality, skill, luck, energy, desire, ability]!’

I hate to tell you all this… but I really don’t have the personality, skill, luck, energy, desire, ability that you think I do.

. . . .

I don’t know if you can imagine how hard it was for me to turn my back on The One True Way of publishing, when all my life I’d dreamed of being One of the Chosen Ones who made it into a bookstore. It’s constitutionally contrary to my entire personality, to embrace something so avant-garde. Doing it required me to be pushed to my last limits of endurance with an intolerable situation.

That intolerable situation was the art not reaching its audience.

My experiences with traditional publishing gradually made some things clear to me, which I will offer to you. I do this because one of the other facts of my personality is that I’m bad at math, and it took some beating to get this into my head. But I now have that understanding, so here it is.

Say you are a Traditional Genre Publisher with the budget to publish 100 books a year. (This is ridiculously high, but stay with me here). Of those 100, 50 are coming from midlist authors you’ve bought before and are incrementing series, or serving existing fans… so that’s half your line-up done already. Let’s say 5 are bestselling authors you’ve got in pocket to help pay your expenses for all the books this year that won’t earn back the money you bought them for.

That leaves you 45 slots to fill.

You get 10,000 manuscripts.

Let’s be harsh and say that of those 10,000, only 10% are worth publishing. That’s 1000 books, and you only have 45 slots. How on earth do you choose? Out of self-preservation, you decide only to receive manuscripts from agents, figuring they’ll comb through the top 10%. They do, and they present you with 100. You still only have 45 slots. Now how do you choose?

. . . .

And that leaves us at the very unpalatable truth about publishing, which is that in the absence of a way to guarantee that we’re going to win the lottery, we tell ourselves it’s possible. But there’s no way to guarantee a lottery win. None. People who tell you that you have a viable choice between traditional publishing and indie publishing are assuming that you can win the traditional game if you try hard enough, and if you fail, then it’s your fault. They’re assuming you always have the choice at all, when sometimes you don’t. Sometimes the only path to your readers is the path you have to hack out of the jungle yourself… and if you think I’m a jungle-hacking kind of girl at heart, you have no idea how much I long for a cup of hot chocolate, a civilized sofa with an afghan, and someone else to Take Care Of All Those Details For Me.

But I am not a princess willing to wait for rescue. If Prince Charming decides I’m not worth saving because my aliens are too strange and my gender presentation is too flip-floppy and I dress oddly and he isn’t sure he could sell our marriage to his parents, I’m not going to stay in the tower and cry about it. I’ll cut my own hair off for a rope and save myself.

Link to the rest at MCA Hogarth and thanks to Liana for the tip.

Harper Collins to provide Content to Jet Blue Customers

25 November 2014

From a HarperCollins press release:

HarperCollins Publishers today announced they will offer a selection of bestselling titles to JetBlue customers as the exclusive book content partner for the launch of JetBlue’s Fly-Fi content platform. Beginning today, customers on JetBlue flights equipped with Fly-Fi, the inflight Wi-Fi, will be able to read excerpts from more than twenty bestselling books published by HarperCollins, includingFlesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell, Yes Please by Amy Poehler, Endgame: The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton and Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses by James Dean.

Each e-sampler will include buy buttons to allow customers to purchase any of the available titles from a variety of retailers. This offer will continue throughout the next year, and serve to further market the HarperCollins authors involved to a new audience.

. . . .

At launch, JetBlue customers will be able to choose from excerpts of books by Daniel Silva, Martin Short, Anthony Bourdain, Patti Smith, Joyce Carol Oates, Carine McCandless, Paulo Coelho, Patricia Cornwell, Dorothea Benton Frank, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Dick Couch, Amy Poehler, James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton, Peter Lerangis, Herman Parish, James Dean, Nate Ball, Dan Gutman, Lauren Oliver and Erin Hunter. Titles will change monthly.

Books from these HarperCollins authors will be available to customers as e-samplers via JetBlue’s Fly-Fi Hub, which is currently accessible on 35% of their fleet.

Link to the rest at HarperCollins

The soldier’s greatest fear

25 November 2014

They carried the soldier’s greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing. Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to. It was what had brought them to the war in the first place, nothing positive, no dreams of glory or honor, just to avoid the blush of dishonor. They died so as not to die of embarrassment.

Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

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