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Friday, December 30, 2011

Excerpt of "Games of Thrones" sequel published

"Game of Thrones" author George R. R. Martin just released a previously unpublished sample chapter from the upcoming sixth installment, "The Winds of Winter," on his Website.

You can read it HERE
At 6,100 words in length, the excerpt is substantial.
Martin also said another "Winds of Winter" sample chapter will be included in the paperback edition of "A Dance with Dragons," which is due in July. "A Dance With Dragons" was released in July 2011, 15 years after the first volume -- "A Game of Thrones" -- came out.
In an interview published in October, Martin said he had written 100 pages of "Winds," which will be published by Bantam Books. A release date has not been set for that book or its successor, "A Dream of Spring," which Martin plans to be the final installment in the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series.

Google and Facebook beat Yahoo

Google and Facebook top 2011's most visited sites in US

Yahoo email Yahoo could face problems if more young people turn away from web-based email

Google was the most popular website with US users in 2011 but Facebook was not far behind, according to market researchers.

Nielsen suggests more than 153 million visitors clicked onto Google branded pages each month, as Facebook attracted close to 138 million visitors.

Yahoo came third with about 130 million visitors each month.

But analysts warned Yahoo's tally might be at risk if young people continued to turn away from web-based email.

The study is based on data collected between January and October and included visits from home and work computers. It involved a sample from a global panel of 200,000 people.

Read the full story

Poet Jo Shapcott wins

From the BBC

Jo Shapcott wins Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry

Jo Shapcott 
Jo Shapcott has won the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, its judges saluting the "calm but sparkling Englishness" of her award-winning verse.

Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, chair of the judging panel, said the medal was "the true crowning of her career".

Shapcott won the Costa Book of the Year award in January for Of Mutability, a collection of poems partly inspired by her battle against breast cancer.

George V inaugurated the Gold Medal for Poetry in 1933.

Previous recipients include WH Auden, John Betjeman, Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes.

Duffy said Shapcott's work combined "accessibility with a deeply cerebral engagement with all the facets of being human".

Read the full story

The Spelling Checker

Well, it is the silly season ...

Eye halve a spelling chequer
  I have a spelling checker.
  It came with my pea sea.
  It plane lee marks four my revue
  Miss steaks aye can knot sea.
  Eye ran this poem threw it,
  Your sure reel glad two no.
  Its vary polished in it's weigh.
  My checker tolled me sew.
  A checker is a bless sing,
  It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
  It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
  And aides me when I rime.
  Each frays come posed up on my screen
  eye trussed too bee a joule.
  The checker pours o'er every word
  To cheque sum spelling rule.
  Bee fore a veiling checker's Hour
  spelling mite decline,
  And if we're lacks oar have a laps,
  We wood bee maid too wine.
  Butt now bee cause my spelling
  Is checked with such grate flair,
  Their are no fault's with in my cite,
  Of nun eye am a ware.
  Now spelling does knot phase me,
  It does knot bring a tier.
  My pay purrs awl due glad den
  With wrapped word's fare as hear.
  To rite with care is quite a feet
  Of witch won should be proud,
  And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
  Sew flaw's are knot aloud.
  Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays,
  Such soft wear four pea seas,
  And why eye brake in two averse
  Buy righting too pleas.
  -- Sauce Unknown

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Another poet backs away from TS Eliot Prize

 From the BBC
John Kinsella Kinsella said the sponsors are at the 'pointy end of capitalism'

John Kinsella has become the second poet to withdraw from the TS Eliot Prize in protest over its sponsorship by investment firm, Aurum Funds, which apparently specializes in hedge funds.

The Australian, who was shortlisted for his collection Armour, said he was withdrawing on "ethical" grounds.

Prize organisers The Poetry Book Society made the deal after losing its public funding earlier this year.

Alice Oswald withdrew from the shortlist on Tuesday saying she felt "uncomfortable" with the sponsorship.

In a statement, Kinsella said he was grateful to his fellow poet "for bringing the sponsorship of the TS Eliot Prize to my attention".

"I regret that I must do this at a particularly difficult time for the Poetry Book Society (PBS), but the business of Aurum does not sit with my personal politics and ethics.

"I am grateful to everyone at the PBS for all they have done to promote my work and that of poetry in general."

My own comment:  While I greatly admire ethical stands, I wonder what T.S. Eliot -- who worked in the finance industry -- would have thought about it.

Read the full story

The Mousetrap, 60 years old, and once adults-only

The Mousetrap: Agatha Christie’s adult masterpiece


About to enter its sixtieth anniversary year, "The Mousetrap" is steeped in gentility.  Yet it has a darker side, Christie's biographer, Laura Thompson, told The Telegraph.

When The Mousetrap premiered in Nottingham in October 1952, one month prior to its opening at the Ambassador’s Theatre, its author, Agatha Christie, took a modest view of its prospects. Despite the presence in the cast of Richard Attenborough, still the biggest name ever to feature in The Mousetrap, Christie believed that her play would run in the West End for about eight months.

So she would, undoubtedly, have been amazed by the fact that The Mousetrap is now sailing grandly into its 60th year, having transferred to the (admittedly tiny) St Martin’s Theatre in 1974. At the same time, she would have stood up to those who believe that the play now exists in a state of indefinite coma and should be put out of its misery.

The play that became a legend started life as a 30-minute piece for radio. In 1947 the BBC had the idea of presenting Queen Mary with a special broadcast for her 80th birthday. In staunchly middle-brow style, the Queen requested a new play by Agatha Christie.

The result was originally called Three Blind Mice (the stage title, that of the play-within-a-play in Hamlet, was the inspired idea of Christie’s son-in-law). Christie was always fascinated by nursery rhymes, by their lurking folkloric hint of the macabre: she herself, after all, wrote what might be called fairy tales for adults. So although her play was a classic thriller, its smooth surface concealed something deep and dark. Indeed that jolly joke The Mousetrap is underpinned by no less a theme than the catastrophic effects of childhood neglect.

The imponderable fate of unwanted children, a question that is taken to an extreme in The Mousetrap, always nagged away at Christie. Almost certainly this was because her own mother, the person whom she loved more than any other, was given away to an aunt at the age of nine and suffered a lifelong sense of rejection.

Nobody now thinks of The Mousetrap in terms of this central theme. Nevertheless for the first 10 years the play was billed as “for adults only”, and in truth its subject matter – interred though it is within the country-house murder genre – is extremely powerful.

This is typical of Agatha Christie. She is dismissed with tedious regularity as a mere purveyor of “animated algebra”, yet what really lies at the heart of her work is a clear-eyed understanding of the human condition, especially its baser side. She had no desire to parade that knowledge – her style is deceptively concrete – but it is there, all the time, guiding the geometry of her plots.

Even in The Mousetrap.

'The Mousetrap’ is at St Martin’s Theatre (0844 499 1515).
'Agatha Christie: An English Mystery’ by Laura Thompson (Headline, £8.99)

Read the full story

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Keri Hulme tells her story

The lagoon, the bluff -- the story of us all

There’s a bluff at the south end of this place. It looms. It’s iconic. It just is.

A glacier pushed it out here, plus ten thousand years ago, and every year since, it has been eroded, nibbled by the sea round its toes, enduring landslides and waterfalls from the top. But it endures. It has variant bush on it, but it doesn’t seem to like gorse or truly foreign stuff on it. And there are some very precious rare wee plants it shelters (won’t even tell you where they are).

It is called Te Kohuamaru.

There have been mutilations of its name, and I willingly acknowledge that earlier people could’ve meant something different (if, indeed, they called it that) but for me, it is Te Kohu a Maru – Maru’s Mist. (Maru is that extremely interesting character, of whom we all need to learn more about.)

A lot of mornings, you look to the bluff, and there is this mist – makes sense: it is quite high –
but sometimes, when there is a full moon, there is also a mist webbing, clinging, all round the bluff.

Not anywhere else.

There is a photograph, of a couple of late Victorian gents, hats on, sticks in hand, halted by the bluff –
I don’t have it to hand immediately – a lot of my library has gone over the hill – but I even seen it on teatowels … nobody likes images on teatowels but – I am hoping – these ones were for framing –

South end of Ōkarito is the Bluff – and the north end is that wonderfully changeful edgy great water mass – ta-ra! The Lagoon! Biggest salt-water lagoon on the West Coast. Home to kōtuku! O, actually not: kōtuku breed up an arm of the Waitangi-taona, frequently feed here in the Ōkarito lagoon (and areas at the 3-mile and 7-mile) and there is always one over-wintering here – but that’s it –
between those pou, I have lived for nearly forty years …

So: now I have to leave Big O.

I neither have money or resources to continue to live in a remote area.

And the place has changed so much! So dramatically!

We have people who fly in, planes, helicopters, to their very ugly mcmansions.
About o, so few times a year, baby –

This used to be called the *settlement* of Ōkarito. It has been a sort of village. When I came here, v. early 1970s, and won a Crown Land Ballot, it was with the expectation
I would contribute to the place.

There were nine people living here then – a family of six (who left within two years) an alcoholic who whittled himself off, after a year, and me.

So, I did. I built my home, loved the place and the birds, and the other people who came and – truly, deeply enjoyed the fishing/baiting myself! And knowing one of my great-great-grandmothers came from this area, felt thoroughly at home.

Little by little a lot has been eroded: most of the places (can’t call them homes) have been holiday places, in an area where very few people take holidays. So the people who fly in doubtless have their contacts and their local enjoyments – BUT

Local people must live in a local place. Must caretake that place. Must caretake each other.
What happens to a place, when – as it is happening now – many of the people are exiting? And the original commitment to conservation/preservation of the truly original inhabitants (Ōkarito brown kiwi? Our rather especial mudfish? Our fernbirds? Our tui with their own lingo?) and the truly loving people of this place – go – away?

Because I can no longer afford to live in Big O – because in the Aotearoa I live in now – living in a truly especial place is made impossible because of local body rate demands (which have absolutely NO effective returns to me in the most part) and because the general tenor of this place has changed to being a nasty mcmansion village – I’ll exit very soon.

And I’ll look to the bluff – see the two people I love in their beautifully, sensitively refurbished and newly rebuilt home – and think, Yeah, the – place still attracts the people –


I am sure a person will want to buy – whatever my home is, whatever my place is –

Then again: the bluff was actually the site of at least two rūnaka.

When Kāi Tahu moved south, several high ranking people came to Ōkarito to learn stuff.

They learned it on the bluff.

One of my long-ago neighbours built up there.

While he was digging foundations, he dug a small nasty mere, and hei.

When I heard he was keeping both, I suggested he didn’t.

When I heard that he’d chainsawed into his breastbone, accidentally, I strongly suggested he give them to the Hokitika museum.

They reside there now. He died years ago.

I’d really urge all of us – who come to the Coast – to visit the Hokitika Museum. Look at those wee relics from the bluff.

And then – same place – go visit the Hokitika Whitebait Exhibition – beautifully curated, and the First Time In The World There Has been A Whitebait Exhibition. You’ll see me there – and maybe many of your olds

catch you next time, this side or that side of the hill –

Reproduced from Te Karaka with the kind permission of Keri Hulme

Robert Scott's farewell letter to be auctioned

They made a pledge to "die like gentlemen"

Farewell Letter by Explorer Robert Falcon Scott to be Auctioned at Bonhams

By Monami Thakur

A goodbye letter, which Royal Navy officer and explorer Robert Falcon Scott wrote when he realized that he would not be able to survive his ill-fated expedition to the South Pole, will be sold at Bonhams.

The letter was found in November 1912 on his body and was written to Sir Edgar Speyer, American-born financier and philanthropist.

In the letter, Scott expressed concerns for his family and the family of his companions. He wrote that they "must go...but we have been to the Pole and we shall die like gentlemen - I regret only for the women we leave behind.

If this diary is found, it will show how we stuck by our dying companions and fought this thing out to the end."

He further wrote that they very nearly "came through and it's a pity to have missed it but lately I have felt that we have overshot our mark - no-one is to blame and I hope no attempt will be made to suggest that we lacked support."

Read the full story

Turner may have applied overheard science to his paintings

From the BBC

Artist Turner 'eavesdropped for ideas'

The Festival of the Opening of the Vintage at Macon exhibited 1830, oil on canvas. © Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust Biographer James Hamilton says Turner used Sir William Herschel's discoveries about the sun in Festival of the Opening of the Vintage at Macon

Artist JMW Turner's work may have been influenced by scientific theories that he overheard, new research suggests.

While the painter was in the Royal Academy, he was in the adjacent rooms to where scientists of the Royal Society held regular meetings.

Turner biographer James Hamilton says the thin walls would have allowed the artist to overhear their discoveries.

He believes one of Turner's works makes use of Sir William Herschel's theories about the sun.

In an essay written in new book Turner and the Elements, Mr Hamilton looks at the artist's treatment of the natural world.

He writes that as Turner was in close proximity to the scientists at London's Somerset House, now occupied by the Courtauld Galleries, "cross fertilisation" would naturally have occurred.

Mr Hamilton also notes that two years after Sir William Hershel lectured the scientists on the "ridges, nodules and corrugations" he had observed in the surface of the sun in 1801, Turner was also creating the effect within a painting.

In the 1803 painting The Festival of the Opening of the Vintage at Macon, the artist appears to have painted the sun in the way Sir William had described it.

The biographer adds that Turner was fascinated by science and was also friends with mathematician Mary Somerville and scientist Michael Faraday, who helped him test the durability of his pigments.

The new book comes ahead of the upcoming Turner and the Elements exhibition which will open on 28 January 2012 at Turner Contemporary in Margate, Kent.

Man sued for keeping company twitter followers

Good lord, I had no idea that tweeting could be so valuable

From the BBC

A man is being sued for keeping Twitter followers that he attracted while working for a US mobile news website.

Noah Kravitz tweeted for Phonedog as @Phonedog_Noah, but later changed his username when he left the company - taking 17,000 followers with him.

The company is now seeking damages of $2.50 (£1.60) per user, per month - a total of $370,000.
Mr Kravitz said his former employer had given him permission to continue using the account after he left.

He told the New York Times that Phonedog had allowed him to make the account personal as long as he agreed to "tweet on their behalf from time to time".

The 17,000 followers, which have since risen to 22,000, had been built up by Mr Kravitz during his four years at the company where he worked as a blogger.

However, eight months later the company filed a lawsuit claiming that the account's followers were a customer list, and that it had invested "substantial" resources into building it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Booker Prize-winner flees paradise turned "McMansion"

From the Greymouth Star

Author Keri Hulme exits Okarito

By Laura Mills
Booker Prize-winning author Keri Hulme is leaving her remote Okarito home of almost 40 years, saying it has become a “nasty mcmansion village”.

Her novel The Bone People won the international Booker award in 1985.

Okarito, a former goldmining village on the coast near Franz Josef Glacier, has been her home since the early 1970s, when she won a Crown land ballot and built her own home in a unique octagonal design.

Writing in the Ngai Tahu magazine Te Karaka, the reclusive author said only a handful of people lived at Okarito when she arrived — a family of six, who left within two years, and “an alcoholic”.

She said she was leaving because she could no longer afford to live there, while also firing broadsides at the changing nature of the place.

“We have people who fly in, planes, helicopters, to their very ugly mcmansions,” she wrote.

“Little by little a lot has been eroded: most of the places (can’t call them homes) have been holiday places, in an area where very few people take holidays.”

Local body rates demands made living there impossible, she said.

She still “loved the place and the birds” but the truly loving people of the place had gone away.

With thanks to Simon Nathan for pointing out this story. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pen still works after 25 years in woman's stomach

This must be the oddest written word item of the year

And I'd love to know what brand of pen ...

A 76-year-old British woman recently had a pen removed from her stomach, and doctors were amazed to discover that after 25 years of gestation the pen still works.

The British Medical Journal Case Reports chronicled the medical case of the woman (not identified), who was sent to a GI specialist after various symptoms, including weight loss.

When doctors scanned the woman's intestinal tract, they discovered, "A linear foreign body in the stomach."

After the discovery, the woman said she remembered accidentally swallowing a black felt-tip pen, more than a quarter century ago.

While the pen was corroded after two decades of exposure to stomach acid, it still contained usable ink and could be used for writing.

The woman, it seems, was probing a spot on her tonsils with a pen, slipped, fell, and swallowed it.  When she told her GP husband, he thought she was making it up.

As the writer of the report, Dr. Oliver Richard Waters, observed, "Occasionally it may be worth believing the patient's account however unlikely it may be."

Personally, I would NOT suggest swallowing a pen as an alternative to dieting.

Bestsellers from Publishers Weekly

The names are so familiar ....

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stephen King's "11/22/63" held on to the top spot of the Publishers Weekly best-sellers list on Thursday for the second week.

The list is compiled from data from independent and chain bookstores, book wholesalers and independent distributors nationwide.
Hardcover Fiction Last Week
1. "11/22/63" by Stephen King (Scribner, $35) 1
2. "Locked On" by Tom Clancy with Mark Greaney (Putnam, $28.95) -
3. "The Litigators" by John Grisham (Doubleday, $28.95) 3
4. "Kill Alex Cross" by James Patterson (Little, Brown, $28.99) 5
5. "Death Comes to Pemberley" by P.D. James (Knopf, $25.95) 4
6. "The Best of Me" by Nicholas Sparks (Grand Central, $25.99) 8
7. "Red Mist" by Patricia Cornwell Putnam, $27.95 2
8. "Explosive Eighteen" by Janet Evanovich (Bantam, $28) 7
9. "The Drop" by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown, $27.99) 6
10. "V Is for Vengeance" by Sue Grafton (Putnam, $27.95) 9

Hardcover nonfiction

1. "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, $35) 1
2. "Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly & Martin Dugard (Holt, $28) 2
3. "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand (Random House, $27) 3
4. "Go the F**k to Sleep" by Adam Mansbach, illus. by Ricardo Cortés (Akashic, $14.95) 4
5. "Jack Kennedy" by Chris Matthews (Simon & Schuster, $27.50) 6
6. "Nearing Home" by Billy Graham (Thomas Nelson, $19.99) 14
7. "Being George Washington" by Glenn Beck (Threshold, $26) 5
8. "Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible" by Paula Deen with Melissa Clark (Simon & Schuster, $29.99) 15
9. "Guinness World Records 2012" (Guinness World Records, $28.95) 7
10. "Through My Eyes" by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker (Harper, $26.99) 10
(Editing by Patricia Reaney)

eBook sales figures still falling

From Publishers Lunch

The AAP announced their tabulation of sales for October from reporting publishers. In the closely-watched ebook sales category--where the AAP's monthly number is the only standing statistic we have to go on, the now 20 reporting publishers recorded sales of $72.8 million, down from $80.3 million in August. (Rizzoli is now among those contributing data.) It's the lowest monthly ebook total recorded since April, and lower as an absolute comparison since the matching results that month came from just 14 publishers.

Seasonably sizable shipments of print books and flat month-to-month ebook sales trends left digital books in fourth place, trailing hardcover and trade paperback adult sales as well as hardcover children's books. eBooks comprised just 12.6 percent of all recorded trade sales. (As a reminder, the AAP counts religious sales as trade; Publishers Lunch does not in calculating percentages, in part because their "religious" category includes both print and ebook sales.)

There was a decline in book sales overall, unfortunately -- by is much as $62 million.

The monthly trade sales total for October of $577.6 million was down almost 10 percent from $639.5 million a year ago.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

25 Worst Passwords of 2011

Is your password in the silliest list?

Internet security firm SplashData created the rankings of the 25 most idiotic passwords based on millions of stolen passwords posted online by hackers. Here is the complete list:
  • 1. password
  • 2. 123456
  • 3.12345678
  • 4. qwerty
  • 5. abc123
  • 6. monkey
  • 7. 1234567
  • 8. letmein
  • 9. trustno1
  • 10. dragon
  • 11. baseball
  • 12. 111111
  • 13. iloveyou
  • 14. master
  • 15. sunshine
  • 16. ashley
  • 17. bailey
  • 18. passw0rd
  • 19. shadow
  • 20. 123123
  • 21. 654321
  • 22. superman
  • 23. qazwsx
  • 24. michael
  • 25. football

In England, names of popular football teams (arsenal, liverpool) are also highly vulnerable.

SplashData CEO Morgan Slain urges businesses and consumers using any password on the list to change them immediately.

“Hackers can easily break into many accounts just by repeatedly trying common passwords,” Slain says. “Even though people are encouraged to select secure, strong passwords, many people continue to choose weak, easy-to-guess ones, placing themselves at risk from fraud and identity theft.”


Short words should be separated with symbols, eg. let##me%in/? is a whole sight stronger than letmein.  Underscoring the spaces works, too.

Avoid using info that is readily available, such as your address, your birthdate, or your social security number.

Make your passwords at least 8 characters long, mixing upper and lower case, and adding symbols if the site allows it

Don't use the same password for multiple sites.  H'm, that's a hard one for me ...  However, there are password manager apps to help you remember what password works for which site, and SplashData (of course) has one available.

Nielson's list of 2011 bestsellers

Nielsen Bookscan published top ten bestseller lists across a number of disciplines, including print fiction, print non-fiction, and print children's/YA (Bookscan, of course, still does not measure ebook sales, and accounts for somewhere in the vicinity of 75 percent of print sales, excluding Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, and other outlets.) Please note the lists do not include sales figures, and that they track data from January 3 through December 11. (A Nielsen spokesperson told us that complete year-end sales data will be available after January 4.) These lists also reflect Nielsen BookScan's practice of listing bestsellers by individual editions/ISBNs, rather than combining sales across multiple versions of the same work.

Adult Nonfiction

1. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, by Todd Burpo (Thomas Nelson, trade paper)*
2. STEVE JOBS, by Walter Isaacson (S&S, hardcover)
3. UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand (Random House, hardcover)*
4. KILLING LINCOLN, by Bill O'Reilly (Holt, hardcover)
5. STRENGTHS FINDER 2.0, by Tom Rath (Gallup Press, hardcover)*
6. A STOLEN LIFE, by Jaycee Dugard (S&S, hardcover)
7. BOSSYPANTS, by Tina Fey (Reagan Arthur Books, hardcover)
8. THE 17 DAY DIET, by Mike Moreno (Free Press, hardcover)
9. THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS, by Rebecca Skloot (Broadway, trade paperback)*
10. IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS, by Erik Larson (Crown, hardcover)

Adult Fiction

1. THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett (Berkley, trade paperback)
2. THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett (Berkley, trade paperback movie tie-in edition)
3. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, by Sara Gruen (Algonquin, trade paperback)*
4. CUTTING FOR STONE, by Abraham Verghese (Vintage, trade paperback)*
5. A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, by George R.R. Martin (Bantam, hardcover)
6. THE CONFESSION, by John Grisham (Dell, mass market paperback)
7. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, by Stieg Larsson (Vintage, trade paperback)*
8. THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST, by Stieg Larsson (Knopf, hardcover)*
9. THE LITIGATORS, by John Grisham (Doubleday, hardcover)
10. ROOM, by Emma Donoghue (Back Bay Books, trade paperback)


1. THE HUNGER GAMES, by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, trade paperback)*
2. CABIN FEVER, by Jeff Kinney (Amulet, hardcover)
3. CATCHING FIRE, by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, hardcover)*
4. INHERITANCE, by Christopher Paolini (Knopf Children's, hardcover)
5. MOCKINGJAY, by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, hardcover)*
6. THE SUN OF NEPTUNE, by Rick Riordan (Hyperion, hardcover)
7. THE THRONE OF FIRE, by Rick Riordan (Hyperion, hardcover)
8. THE UGLY TRUTH, by Jeff Kinney (Amulet, hardcover)*
9. THE WIMPY KID DO-IT-YOURSELF BOOK, by Jeff Kinney (Amulet, hardcover)
10. ELF ON THE SHELF, by Carol Aebersold (Cca & B, hardcover)*

*These editions were first published prior to 2010

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The reason for waves

It's a good day when one learns a new word (or term)

This amazing photo was taken by someone in Alabama.  It shows tsunami-like (or dinosaur-like) clouds marching over the horizon.

The photo, along with a lot of others, was sent to a weather station, as lots of people were very curious to know how it happened.

Well, according to Live Science, it is the Kelvin-Helmholtz effect.

In both the sea and the sky, Kelvin-Helmholtz waves form when a fast-moving layer glides over a slower, denser layer, dragging its surface and breaking it up.

That's why ocean waves break.

Good heavens, I've been watching waves all my life, and never knew that.  And I have used a new term twice, a definite plus.

A Gratifying Year for Random House

Mega-publisher doing well despite the economy

From Publishers Lunch

Year-end letter time continues with Random House ceo Markus Dohle's missive to staff, in which he highlights "another successful year" for the company at a time of "enduring change and challenges for our industry." He points to a culture and organization that's more "collaborative, team-oriented, flexible, efficient, and agile" and allows Random House staffers to implement strategies more effectively. "In short, we aren’t reacting to change, we are driving it."

Dohle called Random House's continuing success "all the more impressive in light of the prevailing weak economy." He highlighted "hundreds" of bestsellers in the US, UK, Germany, and Spain including Christopher Paolini's INHERITANCE, George R.R. Martin's SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series, Laura Hillenbrand's UNBROKEN, Kate McCann's MADELEINE, and Spanish and German-language editions of Walter Isaacson's STEVE JOBS. But Dohle also drew attention to debut fiction, "at an all-time high for Random House worldwide" as well as contributions from "every corner" of the company.

(I particularly like that "every corner" of the company -- it was Random House New Zealand who published a beautifully designed full-color edition of Tupaia this year.) 

"Random House is and will always be an editorially driven company, and now our authors are enjoying additional readership and revenue from our diverse and expanding digital reach and know-how," Dohle said. "From direct-to-digital publishing and app development to direct-to-consumer marketing and social-networking promotions, we are continuing to take every advantage of the shift to digital and the explosive boom in digital-device reading."

Next year, Dohle said, Random House will strive to do more for authors, retailers, and readers, be it "added services and an enhanced portfolio of offerings for our authors; increased support through ever-greater supply-chain efficiencies across all channels of distribution for retailers, particularly physical booksellers" and for readers, "closer connections with their favorite authors, and easier discovery of their page-turning stories––wherever they are, whatever format and platform they choose."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More on the burning library in Cairo

From the Egypt Independent

In the wake of the fire that destroyed much of the manuscript collection at the Institut d'Egypte on Saturday, scores of pro-democracy protesters have told of their efforts to salvage books and other rare documents from the smoking ruins.

Protesters began salvage operations later on Saturday, as fighting continued around them, removing books and manuscripts from the building and arranging them on the pavement outside. They made contact with officials at the Ministry of Culture, who arranged to collect the works and remove to the safety of the Dar al-Kutub building on the Corniche.

The first to enter the building and save documents did so while the fire was still raging. Several were shot at and pelted with rocks as they tried to rescue the books.

Thousands of rare books burned

Volunteers, ranging from academic experts to appalled citizens, have spent the past two days trying to salvage what's left of some 192,000 books, journals and writings, casualties of Egypt's latest bout of violence.

Institute d'Egypte, a research center set up by Napoleon Bonaparte during France's invasion in the late 18th century, caught fire during clashes between protesters and Egypt's military over the weekend. It was home to a treasure trove of writings, most notably the handwritten 24-volume Description de l'Egypte, which began during the 1798-1801 French occupation.

Read the full appalling story HERE

Finding new writing talent

For those aspiring novelists who are interested in competitions

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, along with Penguin Group (USA) and CreateSpace, announced the fifth annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) on December 6, 2011. ABNA brings talented authors, reviewers, and publishing experts together to find and develop new voices in fiction.

If you're a writer with an unpublished or previously self-published novel waiting to be discovered, visit CreateSpace to sign up for regular Contest updates. The entry period for manuscripts begins January 23, 2012 and runs through February 5, 2012. See the Contest Official Rules for more information on how to enter.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Downton Abbey, Mrs Miniver, and hissy fits

Revisiting the Competition for Best Rose
We watched the 1942 movie Mrs Miniver last night.
It's the famous WW2 movie that so moved President Roosevelt that he reportedly had leaflets printed with the final speech by the vicar with its "We will fight on the beaches etc." kind of message, and had them dropped over Europe.

It is a clever piece of work, definitely propaganda, with also with definite charm, particularly when the year of its first screening is remembered.  Though it was filmed somewhere in North America, there is an English "feel" about it, complete with haughty dowager who rules the riverside village with a feudal hand ... and Greer Garson (who got an Oscar for her role) is peerless.   The scene in the air raid shelter is particularly well done (watch the cat gradually get more nervous as the whistles and bangs of bombs get closer; fine acting, that).

Anyway, we were intrigued to see a whole scene from the hit TV series Downton Abbey played out before our very eyes.  Mr. Ballard, humble rose-grower and station master (Henry Travers) wants to win the Beldon Cup for his beautiful red rose.  The Cup, however, belongs by feudal right to Lady Beldon (Dame May Whitty; and yes, they do give her title in the credits), who wins it every year.  Mrs. Miniver, however, persuades Lady B. to weaken -- by sheer body language, apparently.  "You have that look in your eye," the grand dame complains, and lo, the prize is awarded to the station master, who goes all faint and overcome.
Remind you of an episode in series one of Downton Abbey?

We certainly blinked at the coincidence -- to the extent that we were almost reciting the lines before Mrs. Miniver and Lady Beldon.

Of course we weren't the first to notice the striking coincidence.  As far back as October 2010, Christina Jarvis from Essex wrote to the Daily Telegraph say she had been "slack-jawed" as she watched "the flower-show contretemps" in the latest episode of Downton Abbey, saying "precisely the same situation appeared in the film Mrs Miniver", which she had seen the previous week.

Well, people can be inspired by all kinds of books and films, often unconsciously (though the striking similarity of the rose competition scenario is stretching the word "unconsciously" a bit), and many of the situations in Downton Abbey go all the way back to Addison et al. 

What is really amusing is to find out that the creator of Downton Abbey has a really, really thin skin.  Julian Fellows has won all kinds of awards and has done extraordinarily well, so one would expect him to be quite airy about it, when challenged.  Instead, as the Telegraph reported on an incredulous note, when he was asked about the apparent similarities, "Fellowes accused this newspaper of being part of a left-wing conspiracy."  There is "a permanent negative slant" in the press, he snarled.

What a shame the term "hissy fit" is too modern for him to use in a script.

More gossip: Richard Ney, who plays Greer Garson's son in the movie, was only 11 years older than she. They fell in love, and married (disastrously) the following year. When he left her, such was her popularity that his Hollywood career was ruined.  But never mind, he became a very rich financial trader.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Joan Druett enjoys being all at sea"

From the Northern Courier, community newspaper of Porirua, on the northern outskirts of Wellington -- a largely Polynesian city, with wonderful warmth and spirit.  I was delighted to be interviewed by Colin Patterson, an amiable fellow who interviewed Ron some time ago.

If you can't read the above, you can download the paper HERE

The story is on page thirteen.

Aesop proved right about crows


A Greek slave who lived more than 2500 years ago, Aesop has gone down in history because of the fables -- or stories with a moral -- that he told.   Many writers, including Aristotle, are known to have referred to both Aesop and his stories, but over the centuries since then they have become popular reading for children.

Some of his best-known fables include The Tortoise and the Hare and The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Well, we all know those ones.  The tortoise proves to the hare that dogged persistence wins, and the boy who cried wolf proved that telling the same lie too often can rebound on the teller (politicians and financial hucksters, take note)

In the fable of The Crow and the Pitcher, a thirsty crow learns to raise the water level in a pitcher by dropping in stones. The tale concludes with the proverb: ''Necessity is the mother of invention.''

Well, a recent experiment in New Zealand has proved that crows really are that intelligent.

In a re-creation of the fable, Auckland University psychology researchers Dr Gavin Hunt, Professor Russell Gray and Dr Alex Taylor presented wild New Caledonian crows with a tall half-filled tube of water, which had a small piece of meat floating on the surface.

When given a collection of stones, each of the four birds – Pepe, Caesar, Mimic and Laura – quickly learned to drop them into the tube to raise the water level, allowing them to fish out the food.

They were even more clever than that, however. When given a selection of small and large stones, the crows picked out the large stones, which displaced more water at once and brought the food within reach more quickly.

"[The] crows showed an immediate preference for large, rather than small stones, with two crows actually discarding small stones the first time they picked them up and before they had observed their effect on the water level," the researchers wrote.

Read more and see a video of the bright birds HERE

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair writer, is dead

Chrstopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair writer, dies at 62
Christopher Hitchens, a sharp-witted provocateur who used his formidable learning, biting wit and muscular prose style to skewer what he considered high-placed hypocrites, craven lackeys of the right and left, “Islamic fascists” and religious faith of any kind, has died at age 62. He had cancer of the esophagus.

Vanity Fair, the magazine for which Mr. Hitchens worked, confirmed his death.
Mr. Hitchens, an English-born writer who had lived in Washington since 1982, was a tireless master of the persuasive essay, which he wrote with an indefatigable energy and venomous glee. He often wrote about the masters of English literature, but he was better known for his lifelong engagement with politics, with subtly nuanced views that did not fit comfortably with the conventional right or left.

Read more

Kissing poets' graves

Today, the inimitable Jacqueline Church Simonds, Small Press World blogger, posts an intriguingly Wilde item of gossip.

People are kissing Oscar Wilde's grave.  Goodness knows why (because the grave -- pictured -- is really rather intimidating), but they are.

Here is the background, from another intriguing site, devoted to poets' graves

Whilst in Reading Gaol Wilde received an ear injury which was not properly treated. Late in 1900 he developed further infections which led to meningitis, and his subsequent death at the age of 46.

He died penniless and alone in a Paris hotel.

On his deathbed he converted to Catholicism. By becoming a catholic he enacted one of his well known witticisms: The Church of England is the best to live in, but the Catholic Church is the best to die in.

He is also reputed to have said, on being presented with an expensive medical bill, ' I suppose that I will have to die beyond my means'.

(Well, I love those quotes, but if he died alone, who was there to write them down?)

He was originally buried in the Bagneaux Cemetery but his remains were moved to Père Lachaise - the French National Cemetery - on July 19, 1909. However, the famous tomb, sculpted by Jacob Epstein was not added until 1914. It is now visited by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year - many of whom are gay men who come to pay their respects. The tomb is covered in lipstick kisses.

The ashes of Robert Ross (a former lover) are also buried in the tomb.

Comment from me:  This indicates that the kissing marks were made by gay men (wearing lipstick?), but google images show a lot of young women kissing the tomb, too.

People are also writing little messages.  I asked JCS what she would write, once she was in Paris with an old lipstick.  A quote from the man himself, of course! Morality, like art, means drawing a line someplace.

I then wondered what poet's grave I would kiss, in the unlikely eventuality that I got the irresistible urge.  Accordingly, I had a quick skim through the list of poets (dead poets, of course) on the poets' grave site.  I guess, at a push, it would have to be John Masefield.

He is buried in Westminster Abbey (the last poet to get there), so the surroundings would be great. 

And which tombstone, dear reader, would you choose to kiss?

Friday, December 16, 2011

New Wellington millionaire is a blogger

His name is Richard MacManus
And he has just sold his blog on

The unassuming Wellington blogger says he has not had a chance to celebrate the sale of his technology website ReadWriteWeb to United States digital publishing firm Say Media for what is believed to be US$5 million (NZ$6.7 million), but reckons a new Volkswagen might be in order. "Mine is over 10 years old."

ReadWriteWeb, which is majority-owned by Mr MacManus, attracts 2.75 million unique visitors and 5 million page views a month, and is consistently named among the world's most popular blogs.

Its writers, most of whom are based in the US, cover innovation from new products to trends in social media. It has a mostly US audience but is edited from his home in Petone.

Read the full story by Hamish Coleman-Webb here

Children's publishing goes digital

Just last week Amazon increased the publishing world's attention to digital children's books with their agreement to acquire Marshall Cavendish's trade children's list, as color reading tablets from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo are exponentially expanding the audience for children's ebooks.

With amazing speed Publishers Lunch responded to this new challenge to publishers.  The next Publishers Launch Conference is a full-day show, Children's Publishing Goes Digital, that kicks off Digital Book World week in January. 

The event runs Monday, January 23, when those attending can check out the dozens of companies in the DBW exhibit hall and stick around for the Publishing Innovation Awards and DBW opening ceremonies reception. There is a packed schedule of nine different sessions.

Full program

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Scott Bainbridge, Cold Case Investigator

Scott Bainbridge, writer about unsolved murders and missing people

I was delighted to see in Craig Sisterson's great column Crime Watch (link to the right) that in the upcoming Hamilton Crime Festival, Hamilton's own Scott Bainbridge will be giving a presentation.

Scott is one of New Zealand’s foremost investigative and true crime authors. A self-employed journalist and investigator, he lives and works in Hamilton and has a close association to members of the New Zealand police.

He is regarded as the New Zealand expert on missing persons and is often asked to comment on cases by the media.

"There are murderers out ther who have gotten away with their crimes," he has famously said. "Any renewed publicity causes them stress. My aim is to keep these cases alive."

His first two books Without Trace and Still Missing led to several cold cases being re-opened and inspired the acclaimed TVNZ series The Missing. In his third book Shot in the Dark, Bainbridge accessed old murder files to examine unsolved New Zealand murders of the 1920s and 30s, dispelling decade-old myths and uncovering hidden truths.

One of the cases he has investigated as part of his research for his books was that of Sara Niethe, whose cold case was recently in the news after police arrested a man for her murder. Another is the Jefferie Hill cold case of a Tokoroa boy who disappeared in 1968, which led to a formal re-investigation. Even where mysteries remain unsolved, his books give insider information into the background of all involved, the searches, suspicions, police theories, photos and other evidence -- which may (who knows?) trigger memories and lead to a successful conclusion.

His presentation is guaranteed to be fascinating.  I had the privilege of meeting Scott and his lovely wife, Puna, at his  goodmate Alastair's house last month in Hamilton, and was impressed not just with what he has accomplished, but his obvious emotional involvement with the cold cases he investigates.

I asked him if he found solving these ancient crimes and missing persons cases satisfying.

Yes indeed, he said with a smile.

He was kind enough to give me a copy of his latest book, Shot in the Dark, and I look forward to reading it, once I have managed to pry it out of my husband's hands.
You can watch an interview with Scott here

TIME names "The Protester" the 2011 Person of the Year

NEW YORK (Reuters) - From the Arab Spring to the Occupy Wall Street movement, "The Protester" was named Time magazine's 2011 Person of the Year on Wednesday.

Time defines the Person of the Year as someone who, for better or for worse, influences the events of the year.

"Is there a global tipping point for frustration? Everywhere, it seems, people said they'd had enough," Time Editor Rick Stengel said in a statement.

"They dissented; they demanded; they did not despair, even when the answers came back in a cloud of tear gas or a hail of bullets. They literally embodied the idea that individual action can bring collective, colossal change," he said.

On almost every continent, 2011 has seen an almost unprecedented rise in both peaceful and sometimes violent unrest and dissent.

Protesters in a lengthening list of countries including Israel, India, Chile, China, Britain, Spain and now the United States all increasingly link their actions explicitly to the popular revolutions that have shaken up the Middle East.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Seal pup finds comfy sofa

Seal pup's antics featured in Wellington's Dominion Post

I can't resist posting this.  Maybe little or nothing to do with the written word, but it's definitely cute.

Annette Swoffer of Tauranga got the shock of her life when a seal pup popped in through her cat door, socialized with her cats in the kitchen, and then made itself at home on her sofa.

"I thought I was hallucinating," she said, so she called a friend to come and look.

"I said to him, what's that, and he said, a seal, so I knew I wasn't having a stroke."

It looked so beautiful that she wanted to give it a pat, "but I knew you aren't supposed to touch wild animals," so she phoned the SPCA.  The SPCA, in its turn, called the Department of Conservation, where they were on seal alert, because someone had already reported a pup ambling along the street.

Annette Swoffer was right not to touch the cutie, because seals have a nasty bite, and human hands look like fish.  Any New Zealander who happns to see a seal or other wild animal in similarly strange circumstances should call the DOC hotline 0800 DOC HOT.

Happy birthday Nostradamus

Creator of much debated prophesies was born today -- or maybe next week

The man we know now as Nostradamus was born on either the 14th or the 21st of December, 1503, in St. Remy de Provence, in the south of France.

All his life, he was haunted by plague (though he actually died of gout).

First, he had to leave the University of Avignon, because of an outbreak of the terrible disease.  So instead of studying grammar and logic, he roamed the countryside collecting herbs, and researching herbal remedies.

In 1529, after practising as an apothecary, he entered the University of Montpellier to study for a medical degree.  Then someone found that -- shock, horror! -- he had been engaged in the menial work of dispensing herbs, and he was expelled.  So he went back to fighting sporadic outbreaks of plague, losing his first wife and two children to the disease, and inventing a "rose pill" that was supposed to prevent it.

About 1550, after an advantageous marriage to a rich woman, he moved from herbs to the occult, changing his name from Nostredame to Nostradamus, and publishing yearly almanacs.  Altogether, these contained 6,338 prophesies (more or less), which became so famous that prominent people began to pay him to make predictions.  (He accepted the jobs -- on the condition that his clients supplied their own astrological charts!)

He then set to the task of rewriting his prophesies into 1,000 quatrains, divided into "centuries."  These were published as The Prophesies in three instalments, starting 1555.

One of his most successful predictions was of his own death.  On the evening of 1 July 1566 he told his secretary "You will not find me alive at sunrise," and lo, it was so.

Another was of the Great Fire of London in 1666.

The blood of the just will be demanded of London
Burnt by the fire in 66

(Century 2, Quatrain 66)

Portsmouth paper archives describe secret departure of Edward VIII

Touching details of the flight of an exiled king revealed

By Dominic Blake, for the BBC

It happened 75 years ago, when Edward VIII abdicated the British throne, leaving the making of history to his brother, the shy, inarticulate Duke of York.

The archives of Portsmouth's Evening News newspaper reveal the details of how the former king slipped silently away from Britain.

One eye-witness, George Hale, 36, told the paper how he was asked for directions to the navy base by one of the drivers.

The paper describes him as "the last civilian in England to be spoken to by the ex-king Edward VIII" as a voice in the back of the car thanked him.

The cars swept up to Unicorn Gate, the entrance to the navy base, with blinds drawn and headlights blazing shortly after midnight.

The paper records: "The ex-King was sad and pensive. Indeed he looked deeply moved. He scarcely spoke a word as he went up the gangway of the destroyer."

Downton Abbey actor joins Booker judges

Downton Abbey actor Dan Stevens joins Man Booker judges

Read the full story at BBC
Dan Stevens and Michelle Dockery in Downton Abbey 

Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens (who is also editor-at-large for the online literary magazine The Junket) will join the judging panel of the 2012 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

For once the whole of New Zealand (a country utterly hooked on Downton Abbey) will find a Booker judge a familiar face.  Best known to audiences as Matthew Crawley in the hit ITV1 drama, Stevens studied English at Cambridge and was a member of the Footlights drama club.

Academic and critic Dinah Birch, historian Amanda Foreman and writer Bharat Tandon will also join the panel chaired by Sir Peter Stothard.

The prize longlist is announced in July with the winner unveiled in October

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A female surgeon in the days of sail

Surgeon's Mate, by Linda Collison

Book Two of the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure Series

Patrick (aka Patricia) MacPherson has survived the horrific siege of Havana, and narrowly escaped death from yellow fever.

Now it is October, 1762, and Dr. MacPherson, surgeon's mate and female in disguise, is back on the frigate Richmond.

Those who have read Star-Crossed will know Patricia's history.  The bastard daughter of a high-born plantation owner in Barbados, she stowed away to get to the island and claim her inheritance, and was saved from starvation and seasickness by a handsome young seaman, Brian Dalton.  Somehow, she managed to get to the plantation, but only to find her father dead, and nothing to inherit.  Desperate and penniless, she married a ship's surgeon, and was too quickly widowed,  leaving her at her wits' end, again.  Dressing as a man, and passing off as a surgeon's mate on the frigate Richmond (where Brian is a gunner) seemed the logical way out of her dilemma.  Then came the siege of Havana.  And thus the first book came to a nail-biting conclusion.

Now, Patricia is back on the Richmond, and all goes well until the horrible moment when her true sex is uncovered.  What is she to do?  Marry Brian, and become a gunner's wife, one of the unrecorded females who lived on His Majesty's ships at the time?  The choice is taken away from her.  Called onto a smuggling craft to try to save the captain's wife, she is spirited away, and forced to live on her wits again, while she carries on with her deception of being male.

Linda Collison knows her ships and her sails.  She knows what it is like to haul on a line, and lean on the spokes of the helm.  She has also done her homework, and has deduced an astounding amount about the life of a woman in the lower decks of an eighteenth century man-of-war.  Anyone reading this book will learn more than he or she could possibly imagine.

I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of Patricia's adventures on board the little smuggling craft.  Not only was there a very good contrast between life on a small vessel and existence on the multi-layered decks of a frigate, but the feeling of "family" that Collison described is very evocative indeed.

With Fireship Press, Linda Collison has found a publisher with the enthusiasm she deserves.  I look forward immensely to the next in the Patricia MacPherson series.