There is an Angela Merkel Barbie Doll

December 1st, 2009

More editing, not less

November 3rd, 2009

As further evidence that as an author becomes more successful, they require the services of a non-obsequious editor more than before and not less, we can apparently look to John Keegan's recent history of the Civil War.

John Keegan, author of the excellent The Face of Battle (1976) and many other books, is possibly the most widely-respected military historian alive. James M. McPherson is an eminent historian of the American Civil War; his Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom (1988) is often called the best single-volume history of that conflict.

Keegan has now published his own history of the American Civil War, and McPherson has reviewed it in the New York Times. And by “reviewed,” I mean “discredited it for the ages,” if even only a portion of the factual errors McPherson cites are in fact present in Keegan’s book.

(From Making Light)

The full review itself is over at the New York Times.


Detroit + Palestine = Brilliant!

October 28th, 2009

So neal just pointed me to this article about a huge land auction in Detroit going largely unsold. And it mentions that the amount of vacant land inside Detroit is almost the size of Boston; the properties for sale in the auction amounted to the size of New York's Central Park.

And I had an absolutely brilliant idea.

Give all that land to the Palestinians.

Bring them over here! Give them the land, let 'em build houses and shops and what have you. Sure, they can't grow olives, but Michigan is good for growing other stuff. Palestine is one of the few places where the unemployment rate is already worse than Detroit! And yet, it's not like importing a million Palestinians would make Detroit any worse than it is. (There are about 3.3 million Palestinians in the West Bank & Gaza).

I am so ridiculously in favor of this idea.

Free transport over for any family that includes a married woman over 35. Unattached young men and Hamas members need not apply.

The savings in aid to Palestine ($300 million), Egypt ($1.5 billion / year), Israel ($3 billion / year) - all of which should be cut dramatically - could pay for the whole thing several times over. And I have faith in the ability of the American Melting Pot to have them watching the Super Bowl and complaining about immigrants in only two or three generations.

I'm writing my Congressman.

Best... Downfall... Parody... Ever...

October 28th, 2009

I've enjoyed the various "Downfall" parodies that I've seen... the World of Warcraft one, the Burning Man one, others.

But now comes the very best "Downfall" parody of all, engendered by Constantin Films (the creators of "Downfall") DMCA takedown of the various other parodies from Youtube. Oh, the funny! Oh, the irony!

You Can't Get That Here

October 28th, 2009

I am temperamentally inclined to support independent bookstores. I like small business and small business owners and I dislike large corporations. I like creating a rapport, real or imagined, with the person I am buying things from. I root for the underdog. In theory, I should strongly prefer the small, independent bookseller.

However, in practice, I find that I simply like Borders and Barnes & Noble better than most of the independent bookstores I go to. There are two clear reasons for this: first, the staff are nicer, and second, Borders and Barnes & Noble actually have the books I want to buy. And I'm not talking about the latest Dan Brown waste-of-pulp nor some out-of-print rarity, I'm talking about major publisher recent releases in history or mystery or science fiction.

The only bookstore that's really within lunchtime walking distance of my office these days is City Lights. The last two times I have gone there, the guy working the counter was barely willing to make eye contact and gave me the distinct impression that whatever he was working on was far more important than assisting such a person as myself. And both times, the bookstore failed to have any of the books I wanted.

I could almost understand them not having either What Hath God Wrought: the transformation of America 1815-1848 or The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution 1762-1789 (both in the Oxford History of the United States series, the former a winner of the Pulitzer Prize). They have a fairly sizable history section but a good third of it is about Cesar Chavez. Of course, my local Borders had both - and as far as chain bookstores go, my local Borders is a dud.

But City Lights didn't even have All Souls' Rising by Madison Smartt Bell, and City Lights is essentially dedicated to stocking all possible versions of The Winter of My Despondancy, particularly The Winter of my Ethnic/Gay/Foreign/Female/Alternative Despondancy. That they did not have All Souls' Rising was startling verging on conspiratorial.

Nor did they have The Very Silly Mayor, by SF's formerly very-own Tom Tomorrow of Alterna-comic This Modern World fame, despite Internet reports that they did have it. The surly man at the counter glanced at the computer and mumbled something about the computer listing one copy, it would be around the wall on the left, and the books were not in any order. I have encountered the "one copy" phenomenon before, and as expected despite a methodical investigation of all shelves "around the wall on the left", the book did not exist.

So I ordered both of them on Amazon.

Nor is it just City Lights. When I lived in Santa Cruz I really wanted to be a fan of Bookshop Santa Cruz. But they also never carried what I wanted to read; nor did they ever seem particularly happy to have me shop there. When Borders moved in - despite legally dodgy tactics on the part of Bookshop Santa Cruz, including repeated vandalism, and that's another reason I don't like them - it was, frankly, awesome. They stocked the books I came in looking to buy, the staff were cheerful and happy to serve you, and, well, it was just a nicer place to be.

I do lament the passing of Stacey's here in downtown SF - they were ridiculously convenient for me, and although they also never seemed to have what I wanted to buy, at least the staff were pleasant. And Bay Books, which has a Concord location, has very nice people, but of course is a used bookstore and so makes no pretense of having the new releases one might want.

Which is okay - although I usually enter a bookstore seeking a particular book or books, I can change my outlook and enter the bookstore simply looking for something interesting. This appears to be the mandatory outlook when patronizing independents. But what really frosts me are staff who can't be bothered to even fake pleasure that you are willing to give them money.

What is it with independent booksellers that leads them to be run by pretentious douchebags? Or does it take that sort of douchebaggery to survive these days? I note that Stacey's is gone while City Lights lives on.