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

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Van “The Man” Porter

Van “The Man” Porter is selling an instructional video of the Orange-Coloured Sky routine. I have a copy in my possession and love it. It’s only $40 CDN for you dance fans out there, and you can buy it from www.vantheman.ca.

For non-tap dancers, there is also a cool clip of Van dancing with a jazz band at the Vancouver Tap Dance Festival.

Here’s the link:

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Dance On

When I was younger I used to watch Janet Jackson videos and imitate the dance moves. I wasn’t the only dancer to do that. My entire jazz class one year knew so many of the steps that we created an entire rip off of Miss Janet.

Now, I want to imitate this penguin:
Happy Feet on YouTube.com

My ShoesOn an unrelated dance note, I was just thinking my ballet shoes need to be replaced and wondering if there wasn’t an altar to lay them upon. They’ve been good shoes.

Darren posted these photos of Sergei Diaghilev’s Grave on Flickr. Maybe one day I’ll take them to Venice.


Monday, March 20, 2006

Book Publishing Business Article

U.S. News & World Report, http://www.usnews.com, had an interesting article on publishing in their print edition on March 13.

“Publish or Panic: The credibility of books is in a million little pieces. The Web is stealing readers. But publishers are fighting back.”

There’s a lot to say about this article. The first is that it is saying too much. The message of the article is a bit lost on me, there’s commentary on the “truth” of memoirs, there’s fear mongering about the loss of 20 million potential readers and the National Endowment for the Arts 2004 study, there’s a bit on print on demand, the Da Vinci Code lawsuit, the copyright lawsuit over Google digitizing the world, book sales and long tail hooha, an expose of Harper Collins’ giantess vs. Soft Skull’s blip on the radar, ebooks and ereaders, and blooks. That said, there were some interesting bits. Have a read.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Book Review of Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow

I just finished reading an advance copy of Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow. It is by Faiza Guene, a child of Algerian immigrants, who grew up in the public housing projects of Pantin, outside Paris. This is her first book and I believe she wrote it as a teenager, she’s now in university.

Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow was originally published in French and this is the translated version. There are a couple of references to North American TV that I hope are the author’s original references and not the translator’s attempt to Americanize it for a US audience. That aside, Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow is a brilliant insight into the teenage mind, the mind of a girl who is bullied because of her not-right, bargain sale clothes, her learning skills, and her poverty. This isn’t just the story of an immigrant experience in the Paris projects, it’s the story of growing up and the displaced teenage years. I particularly enjoyed the Paris references though. The current student protests and the riots last summer make a little more sense to me—the volatility, the insecurity, the pressure of those on the fringe.

Laila Lalami of MoorishGirl.com reviewed it and said, “moving and irreverent, sad and funny, full of rage and intelligence. Her voice is fresh, and her book a delight.”

Here’s an excerpted quote from Amazon.ca
He thought I’d forged my mom’s name on the slip. How stupid is that? On this thing Mom just made a kind of squiggly shape on the page. That jerk didn’t even think about what he was saying, didn’t even ask himself why her signature might be weird. He’s one of those people who think illiteracy is like AIDS. It only exists in Africa.
—from Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow

I really like the cover of this book, check it out on Amazon.ca.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ruckus Dance—77 Awesome Minutes

I was very excited about going to see Brock Jellison’s new work 77 Minutes. It is part of the Vancouver International Dance Festival, I saw him perform a similar style of piece last year, and Brock is one of my favourite Vancouver tappers. When he was running classes at Harbour Dance, I tried to make every Sunday. It was a physical and mental workout for me. The steps were fast and the music was hard. But Brock can also be a sweet guy and he’s fun to dance with, “lively” doesn’t do justice to describe his personality.

My first surprise of the evening was opening the program to find out that Brock also composed the lyrics and score for the evening, along with Kristian Naso. Holy cow. Brock is always chirping away some song, but I never thought of him as a singer. I recognize that all of my friends are talented beyond belief but it is starting to be a little daunting. What am I doing?

The Globe and Mail does a good job describing the premise of the piece.

The story goes like this: After the Third World War has decimated humanity and self-expression has been outlawed by the powers that be, a band of maverick artists proposes to “dance like it’s their last night alive, because it is,” Jellison says. The authorities arrive on site 77 minutes after the first illegal display of moxie, ready to kill.

Brock describes it as a “dance-ical” and the show certainly was dance opera, dance rock show, dance musical. I still can’t believe that Brock sings most of the show.

Here are the highlights that I recall, and I’d certainly like to watch the show again:

1. Brock does a great job. I’m incredibly happy for him. It’s been many many months of work. And the show kicks ass. James and I agree that it is the best dance we’ve seen in Vancouver in a long time. I know many of the dancers also dance with The Source, which is fine dancing too. My only small critique, because I want to balance my gushing, is there are a couple of moments where I wondered if Brock’s voice could have been a little stronger, but those moments were few and far between, and the raspy, rocker sound in those moments really worked anyway. Overall, his singing was great—little bits of Weakerthans, Martin Sexton, the score from Rent ... if I was more musical, I could draw better comparisons. My point is that it was a professional performance.

On to the choreography. There were big wow moments in the show, and magical, soft, oooo, moments too. Brock’s choreography in particular is hard-hitting and the style is instantly recognizable to me. There are signature steps where I think, yes, that’s true Brock Jellison. He has a distinct style, it is beyond Tap Dogs and I don’t want to compare it to anyone else. It’s Brock and it’s loud and rhythmic.

2. Deanna Teeple is the other vocalist and is utterly amazing. She belts it out, and the moments when the vocals are the most prominent part of the show, she stands as the star.

3. The band. Also very strong. A cool little bass riff in one of the early numbers. Awesome and eerie guitar in the siren/bomb scenes. The music fit with the show and pulled the audience along—not that we were kicking and screaming, but in the scenes where the dancers are being repressed and are kicking, the music is really screaming. There’s also one number with the whirling tubes that the Weakerthans use. That was one of my favourite pieces. It is mostly a grungy, body percussion piece, but that human music mixed with the instrument music is great.

4. There were lots of numbers that I loved. In particular the ones that were high energy and had all the cast on stage. But there were a couple duets and solo pieces that stood out as well. I don’t know all the dancers, but these are the songs I recall enjoying: Welcome to the Rest of Your Life, Mr. Devilman, Freedom Song, Goodnight my Love.

Mr. Devilman was a fantastic tap number with one guy and a group of girls. He was all pimped out and they do him in in the end. But the tap was fast and the dancers certainly caused a ruckus. Loved it.

Freedom Song, I remember thinking this song sounds really good.

Goodnight my Love was a beautiful duet. Very soft and magical.

I wish I knew the names of all the dancers and could call them out properly because there were some huge jumps and turns that the guys performed that were incredibly strong. The women were also really powerful. There was a baton section. Who knew baton would come in handy. It was one of my favourite parts of the show. This one girl in a circle of body percussion performers, twirling this baton. It was not cheerleader/sequined in any way. It was tough. Sasha and Melissa are two people who I’ve taken classes with, I love watching them dance. There was a cirque du soleil type of piece that displayed incredible strength. A bomb goes off and throws all the dancers to the ground and they are all piled up. Out of the rubble appears this tiny girl, lifted into the air. The balance was so controlled. For those who watch ice dance and pairs figure skating—there are those moves that defy gravity, where the female is balanced over head or her entire weight is supported on the guy’s lap. These were the moves. One of the best was a pause where the dancers looked like the letter “K”. The guy was holding the girl off the ground. Her top foot was hooked around his neck and the other was hip level. Both her arms were outstretched. (James and I are going to go home and practice—although I shouldn’t joke, the strength of both dancers was amazing. And there were these gymnastic moves—handstands and flips—that she did all on the palms of his hands. WTF.

Amazing amazing amazing.

You can see why I’m not a dance critic. Full gushing, and too many uses of the word “amazing”. Find another adjective!

Congratulations Brock. You rocked.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

SFU Master of Publishing

I’ve spent a couple of intellectually stimulating days with the SFU Master of Publishing students this week. I’m an alumni of the program and was invited to chat with the technology class. The discussion Monday was on this article by J. Esposito called “The Processed Book”.

It’s interesting from a theoretical point of view. The processed book is defined as the electronic text of a work that is published in a network environment. It acts kind of like a wiki, whereby users can annotate the text or run scripts off the text to generate reports on patterns, such as word frequency. The original text remains intact, but the user can add on.

The five aspects of a processed book are described at length in the article but their use or validity is unexamined. The rest of this post is about my thoughts on the article and the author’s statements. Feel free to bail out now.

Here’s my summary of the five aspects of the processed book:

1. book as portal: User is able to click through to other source info, i.e., a dictionary, footnotes, bibliographies.

2. book as self-referencing text: Computer is able to generate for the user reports on word frequencies, for example, or develop thought clouds or other patterns in the text.

3. book as platform: The book can “call” other resources, for example, a mention of Ariel Sharon could link to a set of web sites with further information. I’m not clear on the difference between portal and platform here, but the idea is book as platform eliminates the need to investigate other source materials independently.

4. book as machine component: Book is written for a machine-audience, is readable by search engines, could generate sales data and future sales predictions and other reports based on word frequencies or popularity of similar texts.

5. book as network node: The processed book is plugged into a network—a network that equals all the parts, such as the tools or add-on services—i.e., word frequency reports—which make the processed book appear more valuable than a regular ebook, which does not allow the user to annotate the text or run reports off the text.

There are a couple of huge holes with this article but I understand and see the value in theory. Scholarly research could benefit from this type of model. Various contributors to scientific journals, for example, could contribute research or peer review reports. I also see an application for text in this format for publishers who produce electronic catalogues. A team of sales reps could annotate book descriptions with their sales handles or key points they want to express to a client.

But the holes. The holes.

Who will invest the resources into producing a processed book? What’s the business case for doing so? What value does a processed book really offer to a user?

I kept thinking of Neil Postman while reading this article—“what is the problem this technology is trying to solve?” Why do we attempt to turn human nature into an efficient, countable machine?

I thoroughly enjoyed the high level discussion this article generated about ebooks and processed books, user/reader experience, the future of books in general. In that respect, this article does it’s job. It generates discussion.

There are a couple of authoritative statements in the article that are unaddressed, mind you. Rhetorical glissades, as I like to call them. Rhetorical glissades are those wide-sweeping statements humans like to make, those unqualified or unquantified statements, like “property crime is on the rise.” Oh yes, we think. Heard something about that in the news ... must be true.

So here are the things I take issue with in the article:

Esposito describes the traditional notion of a book as the “primal book”, an embodiment of a thought, generally by one author, typically bound in a physical package or 4” x 6” or 7” x 9”. What data supports this? Are there are more books by single authors than by multiple authors? Are most books printed 4x6 or 7x9?

Esposito, in pitching the value of book as portal, suggests that in a processed book you could look up every entry in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. Who determines what source materials are referenced? Can there ever be an unbiased selection? Would it ever be necessary to look up every entry? Does that really provide value?

In book as platform, Esposito says that a book placed in a library’s collection has the potential to cannibalize retail sales. What? Why would anyone think that library sales cannibalize retail sales? Where’s the data to support that notion?

In book as machine component, he suggests that text to speech technology could give the reader of a processed book the choice of reading or listening and that TTS could destroy the $2 billion US audio book business as the rights to a book’s text and audio will converge. Really? Would that happen? I don’t know anyone who’d like to listen to the Bell Mobility computerized sales agent—putting em-pha-sis on the right syl-la-bles—read them a novel vs. a person reading with spirit and intonations.

He also suggests that publishers could make predictive decisions about what to publish based on book sales or titles with popular word frequencies. Would publishers really use that type of data to drive decisions? Think of all the Da Vinci Code by-products that already exist, do we want to replicate that on a larger scale?

Ok, so it goes on like this, there are more things to pick apart, and of course I’ve done exactly what Esposito has done and I have not linked to the pages in the article with these references or linked to supporting data for my queries. Sloppy academic, that I am. I’d like to go back and do that for you so my arguments are solid but the article appears all on one page and I have no clue how you reference quotes within a long scrollable web page. Here’s the article link again. And, blog-time is Monique time. I don’t want to interfere with my work-life balance to debate the merits or demerits of this article any longer than I already have.

I’ll leave you with this parting quote from the article, the ultimate goal of the processed book is “to inform a generation of robots, not to make the world more machine-like but to make machines more human.”

I’m sure there are many good reasons to do that, and many examples of how that could work for books, but they’re not leaping out at me. If you made it this far down the ramble, please let me know if you have any follow up thoughts. Tap the inner academic. Go for it!



Monday, March 13, 2006


Last night I went to see Beowulf and Grendel. There was some disappointment in the movie amongst my friends. The dialogue was lacking in many places. The variety pack of accents was misguided. Sarah Polley’s talents weren’t used to their full potential. But this dismayed movie goer—not someone I knew—took home top prize for

“Oh, I thought it would be a romantic ... thing.”

So misguided.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Savion Glover’s Improvography hits Canada March 11

There’s amazing tap dancing for those of you in Ottawa too.

March 11 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa:
Tap-dance genius Savion Glover makes his only Canadian appearance. This is hoffer heaven.

Live jazz, amazing and fast tap work.

National Arts Centre website has a little audio clip about him—no tap dancing though.

Don’t know who Savion Glover is? Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk? Black and Blue? Gregory Hines was his mentor?

He’s more than amazing. If you can still get tickets, go for me.

Tap Dancing Legend Jeni LeGon

Vancouver Public Library presents Jeni LeGon and Nancy Haver ...

Friday, March 31
7:30 pm
Alma VanDusen & Peter Kaye Rooms

Saturday April 1
2:30 pm
Alice MacKay Room

Lower Level
Central Library
350 West Georgia St.
Admission is free

All are welcome.

Jeni LeGon began dancing and performing for audiences on the sidewalks of Chicago. As a solo dancer with the Count Basie Chorus Line, she set her sights on Hollywood. There she landed a role with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in Hurray for Love, followed by over a dozen other films.

Jeni’s heartwarming story and inspiring career are celebrated in What Tap Dancing’s All About, a picture book for all ages illustrated with vibrant watercolours by Nancy Haver.

[Roland, this is for you.]

The Shebeen Club Meets March 21

(Press Release)

The Shebeen Club:
Tax Tips for Literary Professionals

When: 7-9pm, Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Where: the Shebeen, behind the Irish Heather, 217 Carrall Street, Vancouver BC Directions

How: Reserve by emailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

How Much: $20 to March 17th, thereafter $25 space-available; limited to 40

What: Mingling, presentations, and a special literary-themed light dinner & drink combo: Po’ boys?

Who: Why not you? Our presenter this month is author and tax specialist Sylvia Lim.

This month the Shebeen Club welcomes two-time author and tax specialist Sylvia Lim for an educational presentation on tax tips to help practicing writers, editors and publishers get ready for T-Day. Can you deduct the laptop? Maybe. The Editor’s Association Membership? Probably. The blonde wig and sunglasses? Sorry, JT.

Potted bio: Sylvia Lim, CFP, CGA, is the author of two books - the “Personal Budgeting Kit ” (2nd edition, 2005), a step by step guide to methodically organize one’s day to day finances; and “Finances After 55”, a retirement and eldercare planning guide to help people live a full and successful retired life.
You can reach Sylvia through her website: www.sylvialim.com

Meet and Mingle 7-7:30
Listen and Learn 7:30-8
Frantic receipt-hunting and drunk-dialing your agent   8-9

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Harry Potter DVD Sell 5 Million Copies in One Day

Bang Zoom.

The DVD release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire sold 5 million copies in the first day—not sure if that’s worldwide or just English-speaking countries.

Some random source quoting a press release

Accio—the bring it to me spell.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Ruckus Dance Performs March 17 to 18

Ruckus Dance is a new twenty member company led by BC choreographer Brock Jellison who toured the world with the internationally acclaimed Tap Dogs production.

Brock is absolutely amazing. I used to take classes with him Sunday mornings at Harbour Dance. I think he frightened off a couple of people by having us dance full blast to Korn. It was Sunday morning after all. Nevertheless, Brock is no “jazz hands” tapper. He is rock hard and choreographs a mean number. I recall times in class thinking “so I jump over that foot, how?”

If you’re interested in tap dance and live anywhere near Vancouver, you must come see this production. There is not a bad seat in the Centenniel Theatre. It is an intimate space without been crowded.

For more information click here

Ruckus Dance Performs

Where: Centennial Theatre
2300 Lonsdale Ave
North Vancouver, BC

When: Mar 17-18, 2006 7:30 pm
Details: For Tickets call: (604) 984-4484
Buy tickets online

The performance is part of the Vancouver International Dance Festival.

Here’s the performance description:
77 Minutes imagines a desperate vision of a possible future where a national disaster—think nuclear war, terrorism, or earthquake—results in a despotic government that imposes extreme censorship on individual expression. Suspected trouble makers “disappear” under the guise of emergency measures. A group of dancers and musicians decide to take a stand against this repression. In seventy-seven minutes, through hip hop, tap, and contemporary dance driven by a five piece rock band, they sing and dance as though it were the last night of their lives … because it will be.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Coffee-Sleeve Quilt

The amazingly talented Siobhan has constructed a quilt out of coffee sleeves. The finished quilt is a traditional design and measures 4’3” x 5’6”. She used close to 200 used coffee sleeves. About 80% came from Starbucks. Reduce, recycle, reuse.

I guess the main point is the reduce part right? Reduce your waste. Siobhan collected 200 coffee sleeves from coworkers in a couple of weeks. I admit the recyle and reuse part of the project is very cool, but I’m taking my own mug down to the coffee shop today.

If you want to see more of the coffee-sleeve quilt, check out Flickr.com or if you live in Vancouver the quilt is on display at the Seamrippers Quilt Show.

Seamrippers Quilt Show
March 3 to 18, 2006
436 W. Pender Street

From the press release: The Quilt Show is a collection of various textile pieces that expand from the traditional notions of quilt making and the one of a kind hand-made object.Using these notions artists explore ideas such as: gentrification, cultural identity, queerness, hairdos and geometry.

Friday, March 03, 2006

What’s Up in Canadian Publishing

As my friend John says, “it was a week from hell.”

Actually it wasn’t too hellish, it’s just that my dear friend is moving back to London, UK. I’m happy that she’ll be happy but I’m sad that I’ll be sad.

So for the sake of tossing down a blog post and moving quickly into the weekend, here’s a round up of the very interesting things going on in Canadian publishing.

Atwood’s LongPen
Margaret Atwood demos the LongPen at the London Book Fair. The LongPen is Atwood’s invention, which lets authors autograph books long distance. She’ll demonstrate at the fair by signing upstairs a book that is downstairs. Then her pen will cross the Atlantic and autograph a book at the Book Shelf in Guelph. Very cool. If anyone attends the event, please take photos.

That guy Craig Ferguson
Craig Ferguson, host of the Late Late Show has written a book. I’ve just finished reading an advance copy of his novel Between the Bridge and the River. Absolutely hilarious and quite beautiful. Craig Ferguson is obviously a smart guy. The clever and slapstick humour that works on The Late Late Show is present in the book, but at times I thought he was channeling Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

The story is about two friends and two brothers. The friends are both Scottish and they’ve since grown up. One has become a late night tv evangelist, who gets blow jobs before he goes on camera to preach the word of the Lord. The other is a fuddy-duddy who’s just learned that he’s chronically ill. He decides to commit suicide in style, ends up in Paris, falls deeply and madly in love—which is where many of the most beautiful passages of writing are in the book—and, well, I won’t tell you if he goes or not.

The brothers of the story are also evangelists, but they start out in Hollywood. The sexually perverted brother is the talented brother’s agent. Things go horribly wrong, as they often do, but they find redemption in tv evangelism, and happen to invite the Scottish religious guy to one of their conventions.

Ferguson pokes fun at the Scottish, Catholics, Protestants, terrorists, Hollywood, religious fanatics, and pretty much everyone in the first chapter. Definitely one of my top reads of the year. It’s suppose to arrive mid-April but you can pre-order on Amazon.

New consumer website for independent bookstores
BookManager, which is an inventory system for many Canadian independent booksellers, is now offering bookstores an online presence, bookmanager.com. It’s a group website. About 50 stores have created pages. Customers can look up books and their availability, find info on local stores and place orders. I haven’t tried it out yet, but I think anything independents can do to “get in the game” is great. Maybe they should all come to the SFU Summer Workshop in New Media.

Boyden brings home the gold
Joseph Boyden won the Writers’ Trust fiction honour on Wednesday, cbc.ca article. The prize is $15,000. James just finished reading his novel Three-Day Road. It was actually my copy, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, which is shameful considering that I’ve met Joseph several times in the last 2 years.

That, my friends, is this week’s snapshot of Canadian publishing.