A Canadian book blog: Publishing, marketing, books and technology from a Canadian perspective

Thursday, July 28, 2005

SFU Future of Publishing Conference

The world of paper and the web converged for me yesterday. I attended the SFU summer workshop on “The Future of Publishing.” It was an interesting panel discussion moderated by Robert Ouimet, the prinipal in At Large Media, and the founder and president of At Large Media Ltd. Emma Payne.

Janet Johnson of Marqui spoke about how Marqui worked with Marc Canter to find 20 A-list bloggers to write about Marqui and the controversay about that. Eric Karjaluoto from smashLAB talked about ways to build dialogue. He also showed off some rainbow creative. The vomit was my favourite. Arieanna Foley talked about being a professional blogger and consultant. She gave a quick demo of Qumana and talked about writing for Corante and on her blog Blogaholics.ca. Kris Krug, co-author of BitTorrent for Dummies with Susie Gardner, talked about Bryght. My favourite line was “we build the internets.” Kris I’d met before at a couple of blogger meetups and I liked his pot stirring techniques in the session. The panel did fall into a bit of a love fest for a while and Kris diligently persisted in pulling them out of group hugs. And Ben Garfinkel from Industrial Brand Creative was there. My favourite line of Ben’s was, “we’re not wired right.” He has a cool flash intro of a hamster in a wheel, but I can’t seem to find it. Ben?

What did they talk about? Blogs mostly. Citizen journalism and the impact of blogs and cellphones on reports of the London bombings, Live8, etc. The Cluetrain Manifesto was invoked and we talked about talk is cheap, silence is fatal, if you’re not part of the conversation it will continue without you.

I learned that Canada.com is relaunching its portal and Brian from CanWest was in the audience asking for feedback on what bloggers would like to see. Other than that it was mostly a lot of talk, we geeked it up. There were questions from the audience.

On the way back to the office, I was walking with my colleague and explaining RSS. Boris from Bryght walked past. It was that kind of day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Incongruous Proverbs

I read somewhere that people make sense of their world through narrative. I find this to be true in my own world. Often during conversations or meditation, I’m struck by the relevance of the proverbs and miscellany that inform my understanding of the world; the running narrative in my head. Here, however, are some of the incongruous proverbs I stumbled over recently.

Many hands make light work ... Too many cooks spoil the broth

No fool like an old fool ... With age comes wisdom

Great minds think alike ... Idiots seldom differ

Sunday, July 24, 2005

James Runs a Triathlon

Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France. No surprise. The big news today is that James did his first triathlon.

Time: 1:19:32

He did a Sprint Distance Triathlon, which is 750 meters swim, 20 km bike and 5 km run. James came in 14th overall.

I’m terribly impressed and to celebrate I took a 20 min bath, put air in my bike tires, and did a quick sprint across the street. I’m going to have a nap now because all the outdoor air and sunshine made me hot.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Paris and the Golden Apple

Paris was one of the fifty sons of King Priam of Troy. Fifty!

According to the Greeks, he was responsible for causing the Trojan War. Perhaps you recall this bit from the horrible movie Troy? In brief, Paris was handsome, wooed Helen so that she left her husband Menelaus, King of Sparta, and then she fled to Troy. Bad mistake.

The thing with Paris is that his handsomeness was a gift from Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Or perhaps Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, was his gift from Aphrodite? I can’t recall so let’s say he was gifted his looks in return for choosing Aphrodite as the fairest of goddesses.

Quite the gift regardless. But where there is love (lust, passion), there is war.

The story of the gift of handsomeness is the story of the golden apple. In the story a wonderful party was held and everyone was invited. Everyone except Eris, goddess of discord and strife, although you know she arrives at end of the night for the bar fights anyway.

As you can imagine Eris was annoyed and showed up. She brought with her a beautiful golden apple. And it was no party gift. Eris threw the apple into the room amongst Aphrodite (love), Hera (power) and Athena (wisdom). The apple was inscribed “to the fairest.”

Ho hum. All three beauties demanded the apple. It came to blows practically and Paris was hauled over to act as the judge.

Difficult choice wouldn’t you say? All three can wreck havoc on a mortal. Well Aphrodite won, and so did Eris.

I’m reminded of this story because Darren Barefoot has posted a funny note about Chris Pirillo being approached by the producer of “Beauty and the Geek.” The producer’s name is Eve, I thought of apples, you know how it goes ... another example of thought gymnastics.

Read Darren Barefoot on Chris or go straight to Chris’s posting of the voice message.


Who would you have chosen?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

What Time is it Mr. Bush?

The Americans are looking at extending daylight savings time, in an effort to save energy. I’m not clear on the details, but I assume energy would be saved in terms of less lighting during winter hours.

Who’s to say, but the US Congress is quietly pecking away at the details.

It seems like the plan was a bit of a surprise to the PMO and the Ontario premier’s office. The push of course from the financial sector is to be in step with America. But does Saskatchewan care? Hell no.

The proposal is that daylight savings would start in March and run until the last weekend of November. Currently it is from April through October.

I’d be happier with more light as I drive home at dusk in October. The rain days are most dangerous because pedestrians are difficult to see. Do I honestly think I’d use less lights during that time? Likely no. Is it good to investigate and consider this option? Why not.

Publishing News

Couple of notes from the publishing world:

I read yesterday on quillandquire.com that the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, which has apparently generated $1.3-billion in revenues in North America, is getting into magazines.

The Chicken Soupers tend to be too warm and fuzzy for my cynical soul, but I am curious about how they’ll produce content for the mag. I assume it will be from reader submissions so will the contributors be paid? Are they paid for contributing to the books? I know someone who contributed to Chicken Soup for the Chiropractors Soul. I’ll have to pose those questions to him, unless any of you know.

And is there a Chicken Soup for the Naysayers Soul? There must be an equivalent.

In other news, I read that one of my favourite publishing houses, Anansi, has just hired Lynn Henry. Anansi has some fantastic books on its list, including The Big Why, which I’ve fawned over before. Well, technically I fawned over Michael Winter because I have yet to read the book.

Anansi has a fantastic website by the way.

I’m off now to Shebeen for a Hemingway evening. Shebeen is a Vancouver whiskey bar, accessible from the Irish Heather. It is only open for private functions, and for those willing to creep out the back door of the Irish Heather into Blood Alley.

In the early days of Vancouver, Blood Alley was the location for a number of butcher shops. Public executions were also held in Blood Alley Square. Your choice on the roots of the name.

Speaking of doors, you go through the alley and look for the red door. Unmarked.

It should be interesting getting into Gastown tonight because the Tour de Gastown is running.

“The bicycle riders drank much wine, and were burned and browned by the sun. They did not take the race seriously except among themselves.”—Ernest Hemingway

“The Tour de France is the greatest sporting event in the world.”—Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Hemingway’s grandson will be in attendance tonight, and James is reading from Up in Ontario.

My plan is to not get run over by bicyclists, especially after I’ve been into the whiskey.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Cartographer’s Daughter

I may have mentioned my enjoyment of the BookLust website before, but the post today got me thinking about my own roots in books and my mom.

BookLust entry, “BilblioQueria 7”

My mother was a cartographer when I was growing up. There were maps and books and pens and T-squares everywhere. I didn’t realize that the number of books we had was unusual until I was old enough to have sleepovers and to wonder where the bedtime stories were. Here’s a story I once wrote about my mom.

The Cartographer

She is sitting hunched over and I can see the light of the drafting table reflecting in her glasses.  She pulls a nib out of the circular tray and fastens it to the open end of the holder. The pen tip is wiped across a coarse paper cloth, down, twist, across, back, blotted. The lines are drawn, they give birth to rivers, streams, tributaries. The pen is reassembled with a thicker nib, the cloth scored a second time, black ink bleeding deep into the page. Boundaries are marked. She looks up and adjusts the lamp, leans back from the table, stretches her back and shoulders. She stands and walks to the window. It is dark outside and in the reflection of the glass she sees the drafting table, the lamp, the map. Careful. 

She moves back towards the light. A drawer is pulled open.  She shifts through page after page of Letraset.  One in particular she looks for. The letters are then organized, rubbed out to stick on, marking, naming, displaying rivers, towns. A map. Last is the compass, angling towards the left.  The top lefthand corner. N. North. 

That is how I watched my mother make maps. Slouched, blotting, leaning, rubbing, signing.


Monday, July 18, 2005

Yahoo to you, Mr. Gulliver

I was thinking about Yahoo today and how competitive it is with Google, and how good competition drives creativity. Which led me to think about creativity instead of competition, which in turn started me thinking about Gulliver’s Travels. Gulliver’s Travels, being my first encounter with the word Yahoo ...

Yahoo is not a particularly flattering term. Yahoos are a strange sort of animal. But then again my reminiscence on yahoo was cut short when I remembered that I was once nicknamed Lilliput.

Like Gulliver, there was a time when I was surrounded by little people. I coached grade one soccer. I was rubbish at soccer but I did manage to keep my charges from bloodying each others’ noses. Little boys are strange sorts themselves.

A fellow coach gave me the name when he looked over one day to see me towering above a mass of thigh-high gaffers. Much like Gulliver I was hoping my gentleness and good behaviour would secure me my liberty.

Such was not the case.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Harry Potter Arrives by Owl Post

I just Harry Pottered. Vancouver Kidsbooks fed through hundreds kids. The street was blocked off, there was a parade with stilt walkers and musicians and three white vans rolled down Broadway with Owl Post labels. Mayor Larry Campbell was up on stage making bad jokes, dressed as Dumbledore.

My most favourite part is when the kids get their books and there is this look of awe in their eyes, they’re walking down the street and they’re already cracking the book open, or clutching it to their chests. It is exciting. And the kids are not just little people, I’m including the young at heart. Now I’m going to read a chapter and go to bed.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A Comedy of Errors

I was talking about geese last night. Geese fly in a V-formation so that they have more time to glide. Gliding allows them to conserve energy. This is the same reason why cyclists in the Tour de France ride in teams and have a “draft zone.” According to James, knower of all things I forget, this is 30% more efficient.

Because I’m an editor, I look these things up.

The efficiencies actually increase the farther back you are. According to Outside magazine, at race speeds, it is 17% easier for the second rider, 38% for the next and 40% for the fourth position on the back. Even the guy at the front uses 3% less energy. (Outside magazine)

Geese and cyclists. One difference is that when one cyclist goes down, the rest of the team keeps going. One geese goes down, and two go down with it. The two will stay with the injured one until it dies or heals. This is advantageous for all. Two can still create efficiencies in flight if the third dies. Three is even better.

A gaggle of geese.

A rascal of boys.

A mustering of storks.

An exaltation of larks.

A miscellany of thoughts.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Canada Day Comes Round Again

Canada Day seems like a long time ago. I’ve tried to be steadfast in posting the answers to the quiz, but the day job is getting in the way. Read the original quiz

Here’s the skinny:

1. Arnason
“Jerry was fifty years old when his daughters denounced him, as he had always known they would.” David Arnason, King Jerry

[This is a great satire of King Lear. In some ways the writing reminds me of David Lodge, perhaps that is just because the setting is a university campus, but I don’t think so. Arnason is a fantastic storyteller. His collections of short stories are my favourites, If Pigs Could Fly and Fifty Stories and a Piece of Advice.]

2. Brand
“Marie Ursule woke up this morning knowing what morning it was and that it might be her last.” Dionne Brand, at the full and change of the moon, Full post

3. Davies
“My lifelong involvement with Mrs Dempster began at 5:58 o’clock p.m. on 27 December 1908, at which time I was ten years and seven months old.” Robertson Davies, Fifth Business, Full post

4. Findley
“All night long, Hooker Winslow’s eyes were open.” Timothy Findley, The Last of the Crazy People, Full post

5. Kroetsch
“The pizza man.”
Robert Kroetsch, The Puppeteer
[A great novel. Like Fifth Business, the master of magicians wrecks havoc with the reader’s sense of truth. Crazy characters, murder, madness, what else could you ask for?]

6. MacLennan
“Northwest of Montreal, through a valley always in sight of the low mountains of the Laurentian Shield, the Ottawa River flows out of Protestant Ontario into Catholic Quebec.” Hugh MacLennan, Two Solitudes

[This is a sad book for me. First published in 1945, MacLennan’s novel deals with the events of the First World War to the Second, in particular the drafting of French Canadians. Some similar themes as The English Patient: self-realization, betrayal, national identity and social conflict.]

7. MacLeod
“‘We’ll just have to sell him,’ I remember my mother saying with finality.” Alistair MacLeod, The Lost Salt Gift of Blood, “In the Fall”
[MacLeod’s collection of short stories, The Lost Salt Gift of Blood, is one of my all-time favourite collections. The stories are little windows on a big world. They seem to be self-contained worlds, but I think about these stories long after I’ve closed the book. MacLeod is a natural storyteller and you can hear his voice, the cadence of it, in the writing.]

8. Ondaatje
“She stands up in the garden where she has been working and looks into the distance.” Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient, Full post

9. Purdy
“He was going into the house through the woodshed when he heard his name mentioned.” Al Purdy, A Splinter in the Heart
[Al Purdy is best known for his poetry, but this is his only novel. It is set in the town of Trenton, which lies in the shadow of a dynamite factory, and well, guess the rest.]

10. Schoemperlen
“Looking back on it now, I can see there were signs.” Diane Schoemperlen, Our Lady of the Lost and Found, Full post

11. Tefs
“Hank Peterson went into the bedroom of his house one Friday morning about 6:30, carrying a shotgun, and when he came out the lives of everyone in Red Rock had changed forever.” Wayne Tefs, Red Rock
[Wayne Tefs is a great writer. Red Rock is a mystery set in a small mining town. Literary mystery I suppose. I really liked it, and I don’t often read mysteries.]

12. Winter
“Lydia leans back to laugh at something Wilf Jardine says.” Michael Winter, This All Happened, Full post

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Tall Ships Come to Vancouver

Sea Vancouver is on July 6-10. This means Tall Ships are coming to Vancouver, along with other seafaring events. The parade of ships is supposed to be tomorrow from 12 to 3 pm. I will be at work, not at the beach enjoying the sunshine and tall ships. But I was released from the shackles of the home desk this morning. My little neighbourhood is littered with white tents. They are everywhere, in particular around the sea wall and at the Maritime Museum.

I saw lots of tents, but no ships, until lo and behold, there was a ship on the horizon.

It is pretty crazy how tall it looks.

I had to go back to my desk, but I returned 20 minutes later hoping to get a closeup. I don’t know if this is the same ship, but here’s what was at the beach this morning.

Crazy? I was crazy once: Timothy Findley

“All night long, Hooker Winslow’s eyes were open.
“Around the room, the first shadows of morning began to lift themselves out of the corners and up from behind the chairs. The curtains—or something in the curtains—motioned and moved and waved. Hooker watched.” Timothy Findley, The Last of the Crazy People

The Last of the Crazy People is Timothy Findley’s first novel, originally published in 1967, not by a Canadian publisher (it was passed over several times). It is the story of an 11-year-old boy who commits a shocking crime. I can’t tell you what it is because it happens in the last pages of the book, but the lead up is the bizarre tale of a brooding boy and the things that push him to take matters into his own hands.

Timothy Findley is one of my favourite authors, although I didn’t like any of his later novels. The Wars was my favourite, then You Went Away, The Last of the Crazy People, and his book of short stories Dust to Dust.

I have several of my books signed. One I bought pre-signed at a now-defunct bookstore in Winnipeg called the Heaven Art and Book Cafe. You could buy a marriage license in Heaven. Another I got signed at a reading in Vancouver and the third signed in a back office where he was signing books for a wholesaler.

Timothy Findley’s longtime partner was Bill Whitehead, who is a fantastic storyteller in his own right. If Bill ever writes a book about Findley, I’d be the first in line to buy a copy.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Full Moon: Dionne Brand

“Marie Ursule woke up this morning knowing what morning it was and that it might be her last.
“She had gathered the poisons the way anyone else might gather flowers, the way one gathers scents or small wishes and fondesses ... she had been diligent and faithful the way any collector would be, any fervent lover ... she had even felt the knowing sadness, the melancholy that lovers feel, the haunting not-enough feeling, the way one covets the flight of swifts and terns and nightjars.” Dionne Brand, At the full and change of the moon

At the Full and Change of the Moon is one of those lilting tales, full of great beauty and even greater sadness, the type of tale where the cadence of the narrator’s voice can carry you farther into melancholy than any rocket can carry you into space.

The novel reminds me a lot of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude. There is a map of characters at the beginning, the story is long and loops in on itself—an epic, you might call it—and there are characters named Ursula. Maybe I’m stretching but read the two sections aloud and see if you see the similiarities.

One Hundred Years of Solitude: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs.”

Hypnotic is the best way to describe this type of prose.

At the Full and Change of the Moon, according to the back cover, is set in 1824 on the island of Trinidad. Marie Ursule, queen of a secret society of militant slaves, plots a mass suicide—a quiet, passionate act of revolt. But she cannot bring herself to kill her small daughter, Bola. Bola survives and her children and grand-children and great-grand-children spread out around the world. The novel is the interconnected stories of six generations of Marie Ursule’s descendents.

Hmm, sound familiar? One Hundred Years of Solitude, the finest epic of modern time, chronicles the lives of six Buendia generations, starting with Jose Arcadio and Ursula.

These are two very fine novels.

Be Patient: Michael Ondaatje

“She stands up in the garden where she has been working and looks into the distance. She has sensed a shift in the weather. There is another gust of wind, a buckle of noise in the air, and the tall cypresses sway.” Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

Be patient. I’m sure you suffered through the movie. But the movie is not the book. There are whole plot lines missing in the movie. I think this book is about communication, storytelling, cultures, love and lies. I suppose most of the books I put in the Canada Day quiz are about lies of some form. Not sure what that says about the books I like, but ignoring that, the truth is The English Patient is a fine novel.

In case you missed the movie hype, the characters are a Canadian nurse and a Sikh bomb-disposal expert (who have a love affair), a thief turned spy, a man burnt beyond recognition, and the characters in the burnt man’s mind, in particular his love Katharine.

There are fantastic stories within the story, and lots of great quotes. Like “there are betrayals in war that are childlike compared with our human betrayals during peace.” I know out of context it drips melodrama, but I still like it.

I’m going to have to read this one again.