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Monday, December 5, 2022

Grim, grim, grim, and very disturbing TV series

 SEVEN SECONDS


Have I never been to New Jersey?  Surely I have.  I lived three years in New York, and visited on book business many times.  But nothing about this depiction of Jersey City rang a bell.  And I certainly don't remember the F-bomb being used as idly and frequently as the word "and" and losing all impact and meaning in the process.  At first faintly offensive, the dialogue became tedious.

And what a scene the series depicts. Black kids selling drugs in the gutters.  White kids selling their bodies for drugs. Crooked cops who are nevertheless doing a reasonable job. Violence in the police station, violence in the streets. Darkness in the extreme, lightened only by occasional glimpses of the Statue of Liberty.

This series is not a mystery.  Right at the start, you learn exactly what happened.  A white cop driving through a rundown park gets a phone call to say his wife is in hospital. While he is panicking and distracted he slams into something, and skids in the snow.  He gets out of the car, to see that he hit a bike.  There is also a lot of blood. Because of the force of the impact the rider of the bike was thrown into the air, and slammed into a deep ditch.

Actually, there is a mystery here -- why didn't the cop do what most of us would do, and simply call for an ambulance?  That is never explained.  You just have to take it on board. Because instead of calling for an ambulance he phones the other cops in his team.  These are effective (if foul-mouthed) drug-busters, partly because the sergeant -- who is very much in charge -- has an agreement with the crippled Black guy who runs the drug trade in his precinct.  As I said, he is a control freak, and as crooked as my elbow, but doing a reasonable job of keeping the drug trade within limits.

This sergeant sums up the scene, says the kid is dead, and because that kid is Black, it is not a good idea to call it in.  So they all drive away.

But the kid is not dead.  Instead, he lies there for 12 hours before a couple of dog-walkers find him.  He is rushed to hospital, and his parents notified.  And at this stage the parents' characters are strongly drawn, and never waver from then on.  Cardboard characters, but starkly painted.  Both belong to a Gospel church that is fundamental in philosophy.  (Note I do not say "Christian." More about that later.)  Dad is incredibly hardworking, doing double shifts in a slaughterhouse so he can keep up the mortgage payments on his house. Having a house (which we are told his hugely unusual for a Black man) is his great pride, though his long hours did mean that Mom, who doted on their son, was in charge of just about the total upbringing of the boy.

Doting Mom agitates over the hospital bed, and collapses into emotional bits when the boy dies.  And she wants REVENGE.  The vindictiveness is truly awful.  Believe me, it is cringe-making.

However, a young Black lawyer with a grubby past feels exactly the same. In her eyes, as in Mom's, this accident is a HATE CRIME that must be avenged in full.  A hit-and-run that deserves the ultimate punishment.  Mom even procures a gun to carry out the execution herself.  And this is where the series becomes repetitive and boring, because their vengeful, vindictive attitude never wavers. 

When the church backs Mom up, the series becomes truly disturbing.  This is the creed of retaliation found in parts of the Old Testament -- "The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked." (Psalms 58:10).  It is NOT the creed of forgiveness that men like Christ preached. "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.' " (Matthew 18: 21-22.)

Has America forgotten how to forgive?  If so -- and this series certainly indicates that this is so -- the future looks grim indeed.

The dead kid's uncle, Biblically named Seth, is an airforce man who had served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. At one stage he says, "This is not my country."  

And that, indeed, sums up the message of this very one-sided story.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

 From the Authors Guild




Nonfiction Contests

J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award
Eligibility: Writers with a contract with a U.S.-based publisher to write a nonfiction book
Prize: $25,000
Deadline: December 8, 2022

J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize
Eligibility: Writers with a nonfiction book published in 2022 on a topic of American political or social concern
Prize: $10,000
Entry fee: $75
Deadline: December 8, 2022

Mark Lynton History Prize
Eligibility: Writers with a book-length work of history published in 2022
Prize: $10,000
Entry fee: $75
Deadline: December 8, 2022

Poetry Contests

Alice Fay Di Castagnola
Eligibility: All poets
Prize: $1,000
Entry fee: free for Poetry Society members; $15 for non-members
Deadline: December 31, 2022

Robert H. Winner Memorial Award
Eligibility: Poets 40+ years old who have published no more than one full-length collection of poetry.
Prize: $2,500
Entry fee: free for Poetry Society members; $15 for non-members
Deadline: December 31, 2022

Dorset Prize
Eligibility: All poets
Prize: $8,500 + week-long residency
Entry fee: $30
Deadline: December 31, 2022

Multi-Genre Contests

Chautauqua Prize
Eligibility: Writers (fiction & some nonfiction) with a book first published in the U.S., in English, in 2022
Prize: $7,500
Entry fee: $75
Deadline: December 15, 2022

Writing Fellowships & Residencies

Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown Writing Fellowship
Eligibility: Writers and poets who have not published a full-length book of creative work
Prize: 7-month residency + monthly stipend of $1,250 + $1,000 exit stipend
Entry fee: $40–65
Deadline: December 15, 2022

Thursday, November 24, 2022

WWW thoughts for the day

 








VENUS RISING

 



No, this is not an astrological blog; it is a review of VENUS RISING, the latest offering by the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

It features three contemporary ballets that simply celebrate the joy of dance and youth.  No deep messages about the troubling state of our planet, just perfect movement.

The first is AURUM, which features two of the principal dancers, pictured above, Sarah Garbowski, and Paul Matthews.  Paul retired recently after seventeen years with the company, and last night his replacement was the very well qualified British dancer, Damani Campbell Williams.

Choreographed by RNZB alumna, Alice Topp, and created for the Australian Ballet in 2018, Aurum is inspired the kintsugi, the Japanese art of healing cracks in porcelain by filling them with pure, molten gold. The lighting and set design were perfect for this imagery, absolutely brilliant.  The mirror effect was mesmerising, and the streaks of gold just wonderful.

The music was composed by Ludovico Einaudi. It's a name unfamiliar to me, but I find he is very popular, an Italian pianist who experiments with modern musical forms to create his own voice.  The score for this ballet with up there with the best of Philip Glass.  Wonderfully danceable, and the dancers gave their all for it.  Even if there had been just this one ballet, the evening would have been memorable.

The second ballet was THE AUTUMN BALL, which was commissioned by the Wanaka Festival of Colour, and choreographed by Sarah Foster-Sproull.  It premiered there in autumn 2021.  The theme is falling leaves, and the colours that come with the close of summer and the dawning of winter, and again the lighting design -- this time by Daniel Wilson -- was perfectly in sync.  The music was composed by Eden Mulholland, a local (Ngati Uepohatu) and very prolific composer for theatre and dance.


The third offering was WATERBABY BAGATELLES, choreographed by the illustrious Twyla Tharp, and which had its world premiere in April 1994 at the Wang Center, danced by the Boston Ballet. 

Spiced with a great deal of humour (which the dancers very obviously enjoyed) it is a lighthearted play on the fun enjoyed by boys and girls. Apart from being watery, there is no overriding theme, so it really a collection of images of young people having fun.  The music, which appears to have been composed by a whole bevy of names, is an equally moveable feast.  All good stuff, highly enjoyable.

It was a marvellous evening.  Go to the ballet.  You will not regret it.


Saturday, November 19, 2022

Z-Library seized, Russian operators arrested

 


The Authors Guild makes a sensational -- and very satisfying -- announcement

New York (November 16, 2022): The Authors Guild, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit advocacy group for published authors and journalists, welcomed news of the arrest and indictment of Russian nationals Anton Napolsky and Valeriia Ermakova for their role in operating the massive, notorious ebook piracy site Z-Library. The Z-Library network of domains was seized by the U.S. government and taken offline on November 3, 2022, the same day that its two principals, Napolsky and Ermakova, were arrested in Cordoba, Argentina, upon the request of the U.S. government. The pair faces charges of criminal copyright infringement, wire fraud, and money laundering. The court order was unsealed today.

“The arrest and indictment of Z-Library operators is one of the biggest breakthroughs in the fight against online criminal ebook piracy to date,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and to the FBI for all of their hard work in not only shutting down the site but also finding and apprehending the perpetrators. We also thank the U.K. Publishers Association and international authorities who assisted in the investigation, as well as the authors who assisted us by filing statements reporting piracy of their books on Z-Library.”

Z-Library, which had been operational since at least 2009, was perhaps the most visible and high-traffic ebook piracy site in the world, with some of its domains ranking among the top 10,000 most visited websites on the internet worldwide. The site claimed to host 8 million pirated ebooks and 84 million articles through a vast network of “mirrors,” or identical versions hosted on different servers, and had recently gained particular notoriety after trending on TikTok as a source for free ebooks. Substantial traffic to Z-Library domains originated from the United States.

Over the past year and a half, the Authors Guild worked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI to assist their investigation and indictment of Z-Library principals. Among other things, the Authors Guild provided testimony and examples of substantial harm that Z-Library’s activities were causing working authors. The Authors Guild also alerted the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) about the scope of Z-Library’s pirate activities in its comments in response to the USTR’s annual Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

“While we are heartened by the takedown and the resulting reduction in harm to authors,” Rasenberger continued, “we are not unsympathetic to the plight of those college and other students who have perhaps felt forced to resort to such illegal pirate websites and other free sources of textbooks to help them manage the extremely high cost of higher education. However, these students’ anger is misdirected. The exorbitant cost of education should not be borne by authors and publishers but by the universities, and it should not be used to justify reliance on foreign criminals for textbooks or to trivialize the immense personal and economic harm Z-Library was causing authors who are trying to make a living under increasingly difficult and hostile economic circumstances.”

The Authors Guild will continue to follow updates in this case.

About the Authors Guild

With more than 12,000 members, the Authors Guild is the nation’s oldest and largest professional organization for published writers. It advocates on behalf of working writers to protect free speech, freedom of expression and authors’ copyrights; fights for fair contracts and authors’ ability to earn a livable wage; and provides a welcoming community for writers and translators of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and journalism. Through its educational and charitable arm, the Authors Guild Foundation, it also offers free educational programming to empower authors in the business of writing, as well as organizing events that highlight the importance of a rich, diverse American literary culture and the authors that contribute to it. For more, visit www.authorsguild.org.



Friday, November 4, 2022

Merger of Penguin-Random and Simon & Schuster blocked

 

Authors Guild Celebrates Court’s Decision to Block Penguin Random House-Simon & Schuster Merger in DOJ’s Antitrust Suit

New York (Nov 1, 2022): The Authors Guild, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit advocacy group for authors, celebrates the D.C. District Court’s decision to block the merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster in an antitrust action initiated by the Department of Justice last November. In a summary order rendering her decision, U.S. District Court Judge Florence Pan wrote that the DOJ had successfully shown that “‘the effect of the proposed merger may be substantially to lessen competition’ in the market for the U.S. publishing rights to anticipated top-selling books.” The full order is under seal pending the parties’ redaction of confidential information.

“This decision is a major victory for authors,” said Authors Guild president Doug Preston. “This is the first time a court has recognized what authors and the Authors Guild have been arguing for decades: that consolidation among publishers hurts authors. It leaves authors with fewer potential buyers of their manuscripts, which restrains their power to negotiate advances and other terms.”  

If successful, the merger would have drastically cut competition in the publishing market. According to the economist Nicholas Hill, who testified as the DOJ’s expert witness during trial, the merged entity would have had a 49 percent market share, far greater than its next biggest competitor HarperCollins’ 22 percent. The Authors Guild has cautioned that this degree of market power concentration makes competitive bidding and auctions less likely and drives down what agents are able to negotiate in advances. Publishers also have a greater incentive to spend on book marketing when they must recoup a large advance, which has a substantial impact on visibility and authors’ earning potential.

The Authors Guild has opposed consolidation among publishers going back five decades to the 1970s. Over the decades the Authors Guild has issued reports and statements and testified before Congress in response to the growing trend of large publishers acquiring smaller firms. When the merger between PRH and S&S was announced in 2020, the Guild called for the Department of Justice’s antitrust intervention, pointing out that “the history of publishing consolidation has also taught us that authors are further hurt by such mergers due to editorial layoffs, canceling of contracts, a reduction in diversity among authors and ideas, a more conservative approach to risk-taking, and fewer imprints under which an author may publish.” The Guild voiced its support for the DOJ’s lawsuit and consulted with DOJ attorneys on the merger’s impact on authors. Many of our arguments to the DOJ were reflected in its complaint.

“The consolidation of publishers decreases the overall diversity—in the broadest sense—of books that get published,” stated Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger. “As the DOJ recognized in its complaint, it means that fewer authors will be able to earn a living writing, which impacts their ability to write books. Moreover, every publisher has a unique personality, taste, and risk tolerance. The fewer publishers there are, the fewer ideas and voices are reflected in what gets published. We lose out on authors that present unusual or controversial ideas, those from overlooked and marginalized communities, and literary writers who challenge the status quo both in content and style.

“The decision is particularly exciting for us because it shows that the court understands that monopsonies—the concentration of power among one or a few large buyers—are as harmful to competition as monopolies where sellers control pricing,” Rasenberger continued. “This is particularly true where the suppliers are authors or other creators who have almost no ability to negotiate most terms of their contracts. And in the case of books, it is particularly important since books are so crucial to the exchange of ideas necessary to support democracy.”

The Authors Guild looks forward to reading the full order when published.


Sunday, October 16, 2022

Grim disappointment

 

I found Dark Matter such an interesting book that I wanted to read more of this author. I should have been warned by the fact that it was lingering in the stacks of the city library, unloved and unread.

Very easy to put down, and I doubt I will finish it. I dislike serial killer books, as the murderer never has a motive, and is just a faceless monster. Books in this awful genre are just horror porn.

What I found most annoying, however, was the protagonist. He is such a gormless wonder, no fight or resourcefulness at all. At one stage he has a loaded gun in his hand, with instructions to murder a bound and helpless victim. Considering the horrors he has witnessed, the obvious move is to shoot the killer, and then shoot himself. But no, he tamely carries out the murder, as ordered.

Whatever nastiness is awaiting him in the rest of the book, he fully deserves it.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

DARK MATTER


Blake Crouch is a new writer for me. I picked this up after reading a rave review of his latest - which is not out in New Zealand yet - as I felt curious.

As the review hinted, the writing style is interesting.  I am a fan of Simon Kernick's thrillers, which are written in short sentences, with short chapters, along with non-stop action that keeps the pages turning.  I also love Hugh Howey's wildly imaginative dystopia novels (Wool, Shift, Dust, Sand) which are brisk, compelling reads, too.  Well, Crouch is a blend of both.  

Not a bad thriller writer at all -- if one can forgive the use of "like" where "as if" is a lot mor logical and elegant. ("Like" is a preposition, and should be followed by a noun and nothing else, as in she slept like a baby; "as if" is a conjunction and is followed by a clause -- he ran as if pursued by a thousand devils). And, on the whole, the imagination isn't lacking, either. If his style is Kernick meets Howey, his theme is Stephen King meets Michael Crichton.

It is hard to write a review of this thriller - mystery - fantasy novel without spoilers, but if you have ever thought back on your past and wondered what would have happened if you had taken a different turn in your life's journey, this book is perfect for you.  

Jason, the protagonist, is faced with exactly that situation -- but with no control over the turning whatsoever.  He is a helpless victim of a metaphysical experiment.

Walking back home at night, thinking of nothing much but the dinner and glass of wine with his beloved family that awaits, but simmering a little because a past classmate has won the great scientific award that should rightfully be his, Jason is captured,  and forced to turn that different path.

Many different paths, in fact, each leading to a different apocalypse. There is contagion, there is famine, and there is war.  Pollution and global warming should be there, too: this is the one and only part of the book that lacks imagination.  But the book is otherwise great, with a slam-dunk conclusion.

Read it, and see what you think.  Definitely different.  And definitely readable.


QUARTERDECK WATCH

 

Quarterdeck Watch logo

A new supplement to Quarterdeck magazine, featuring the latest in nautical fiction, sailing and boating, maritime history, and more from:

Globe Pequot * McBooks Press * Mystic Seaport Museum *

Sheridan House * Lyons Press * Muddy Boots

Hot off the Press

Cover of book Night Boat to New York by Erik Hesselberg

Night Boat to New York
Steamboats on the Connecticut, 1815–1931
Erik Hesselberg

A portrait of the vanished steamboat days, when a procession of stately sidewheelers plied between Hartford and New York City, docking at Peck’s Slip on the East River in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge.

A Spy in Casablanca
Riley Fitzhugh Novels, #5
Terry Mort

Riley Fitzhugh, former Hollywood private detective turned US Navy lieutenant, is recruited by the OSS for temporary duty as a naval spy in Morocco during the planning for Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa. His assignment? Kidnap a French river pilot and extract him from Casablanca.

Cover of book A Spy in Casablanca by Terry Mort
Cover of book Shanties from the Seven Seas, collected by Stan Hugill

Shanties from the Seven Seas
Collected by Stan Hugill

This book contains not only more than 400 sea shanties but also as much of their history as Stan Hugill could collect in his extraordinary career as sailor, scholar, author, artist, and inspiration to new generations of sea-music enthusiasts and performers.

Book covers of Kydd, Artemis, and Seaflower by Julian Stockwin

Upcoming Releases

Cover of book Trafalgar: The Fog of War by Seth Hunter
Cover of book A Troubled Course by David Donachie
Cover of book The Falmouth Frigate by James L. Nelson

Trafalgar: The Fog of War by Seth Hunter

~ Nathan Peake #8 ~
1803, on the eve of war: This is the story of the murders and intrigues, the myths and mysteries—and crucially the naval encounters—that preceded the most famous battle in nautical history. This is Nathan Peake’s Trafalgar, the true story of the events leading up to the campaign.

A Troubled Course

by David Donachie

~ John Pearce #17 ~
In night actions, outnumbered on land and sea, John Pearce and his crew must fight the Francophile Corsicans, who are arming themselves for an insurrection. Will he succeed, or will he, HMS Hazard, and the Pelicans pay the ultimate price of failure?

The Falmouth Frigate

by James L. Nelson

~ Isaac Biddlecomb #6 ~

Biddlecomb and the men of the half-built frigate Falmouth manage to slip through a British blockade, only to find themselves trapped in a desolate harbor on the New Jersey coast and menaced by outlaw bands that terrorize the countryside and see the ship as a valuable prize.

Cover of book Sailing by Starlight by Rod Scher
Cover of book Every Second Counts by David Donachie

Sailing by Starlight

by Rod Scher

In the early 1980s, retired geography professor Marvin Creamer set out to do what hadn’t been done for a thousand years—if indeed ever at all: sail around the world without the use of any instruments. There was no sextant aboard. No compass. No chart-plotter. No GPS. No radar. Not even a stopwatch. Travel with Creamer and his crew as their 35′ sailboat Globe Star ventures around the perilous Horn, across the tumultuous Tasman Sea, and into an active war zone. This is the story of a man who was taken prisoner by an idea, a man obsessed with proving a point, and who would let neither 40-foot waves nor fractious crewmembers deter him.

Every Second Counts

~ Brand-new historical fiction from

McBooks author David Donachie ~

July 1940: In this thrilling historical “what-if,” Churchill has resigned without naming a successor and Parliament leaders are calling for an armistice with Hitler. Meanwhile, the fugitive Billy Houston finds himself in possession of Britain’s plans to thwart the German invasion. No patriot, Houston is determined to help bring about a Nazi-run Britain. Soon, Adam Strachan, Deputy Director of Counter-Espionage at MI5, finds himself pursuing Houston through England in a desperate bid to stop the missing defense plans from falling into German hands. The clock is ticking, and Britain’s future is anything but secure.

New in Children's

Cover of book The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter by Arielle North Olson

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter
by Arielle North Olson; illustrated by Elaine Wentworth

On a rocky island outpost off the coast of Maine, a young girl once kept the lighthouse lamps burning for days while her father was held on the mainland by a violent storm. Illustrated in sweeping watercolors, this story will stir the hearts of readers as they watch Miranda struggle triumphantly against storm and rock and sea.

Joey Goes to Sea
Alan Villiers

Joey the ginger cat went to sea with Alan Villiers on the ship Joseph Conrad. He caught flying fish, got into trouble generally, and even fell overboard—just as he does in this book! He was a kitten of great personality and an adventurous spirit, and his story is full of humor. This family classic will appeal to children and cat-lovers everywhere.

Cover of book Joey Goes to Sea by Alan Villiers

Something for Everyone

Cover of book The Greatest Sailing Stories Ever Told by Christopher Caswell
Cover of book The Incredible Voyage by Tristan Jones
Cover of book Three Sheets to the Wind by Cynthia Barrett

The Greatest Sailing Stories Ever Told

Ed. by Christopher Caswell

A collection of 27 of the most compelling writings of the millennium, including Peter Goss's wrenching narrative of incredible courage in the world's most desolate ocean; Ernest Shackleton's understated account of one of the most daring small-boat journeys ever taken; and William F. Buckley Jr. on idyllic cruising.

The Incredible Voyage

by Tristan Jones

In a salty, slashing style, Tristan Jones unfolds his extraordinary saga: a six-year voyage during which he covered a distance equal to twice the circumference of the world, dodged snipers on the Red Sea, capsized off the Cape of Good Hope, struggled for 3,000 miles against the mightiest sea current in the world, and much more.

Three Sheets to the Wind

by Cynthia Barrett

An entertaining compilation revealing the maritime roots of 200 common English words and expressions, such as "slush fund", “turned a blind eye”, "pooped," and the "bitter end." This is the perfect companion for sailors, etymology lovers, factophiles, ocean dreamers, and the conversationally curious!

Cover of book Last Man Down by David W. Jourdan
Cover of book Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Started Sailing by John Vigor
Cover of book Doctor on Board by William W. Forgey, MD

Last Man Down

by David W. Jourdan

The USS Nautilus was the flagship of Submarine Division 12 operating out of Pearl Harbor throughout World War II. In 1942–45, she engaged the enemy in fourteen different patrols, from the Battle of Midway to the liberation of the Philippines, earning fourteen battle stars. Here, the historical events documented in deck logs and patrol reports are told through the voices of the men who lived them.

Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Started Sailing

by John Vigor; foreword by Don Casey

Aimed at sailboat owners of all kinds, this reference book contains 200 entries packed with solid practical advice and valuable tips. Each entry is categorized alphabetically and prefaced by an arresting statement, such as "People always lie about how fast their boats are." Cartoons by SAIL Magazine cartoonist Tom Payne enliven the text; a comprehensive appendix covers 50 technical topics.

Doctor on Board

by William W. Forgey, M.D.

This must-have book for the serious or weekend sailor or power-boater focuses on care for head trauma and management of orthopedic injuries, seasickness, issues relating to cold injuries (“cockpit foot”), illness, and burns (including exposure to the sun and/or boiling water in the galley). All these and much more are discussed, along with treatment options while on the water.