At The Margin
Vol. 3, Issue 4 (Whole Issue #30)
May 29, 2002
Matters, many bizarre and obscure, from the world of books.
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1. Guest Article: Unfinished Business by Tom Owen
2. Category Management in Book Retailing
3. The Curse of Sophie Kerr
5. E-Mail to the Editor
6. Do You Know Me?
7. Blue Underlined Words
by Tom Owen
Maybe a year or so ago, you went to see A.I., the Stanley Kubrick film, or was it a Stephen Spielberg film, or a Kubrick/Spielberg movie? The thing of it was, Kubrick had, as was his practice, been thinking and planning the movie for years. He had discussed it by phone, fax, and email with Spielberg at great length, so when Kubrick died before ever starting the film, the Kubrick estate just naturally thought Spielberg should shoot it for Stanley. You can judge the result, but this sort of thing is not unheard of in Hollywood where projects of great expense and much preparation are sometimes started or finished even when a major participant dies in the midst of it all. They even plan for it when someone is elderly or in poor health, having a substitute in the wings.
On a much smaller scale it can happen sometimes in literature. There are a lot of unfinished books in the world. Unfinished because the author lost interest, had other work, or in some cases died. But being unfinished by the original author doesn't mean they're left undone. Witness all the solutions to Charles Dickens's Mystery of Edwin Drood, and Arthur Quiller-Couch's Castle Dor was finished by family friend, Daphne Du Maurier, who may have stood as Spielberg to Couch's Kubrick. A bit fitting when you consider that Quiller-Couch did the same for an unfinished book by Robert Louis Stevenson, St. Ives.
The urge to finish may be the reluctance to let go of a favorite work or character, or maybe just hunger for money. In some cases it may be a mix of both. H.P. Lovecraft died in 1937. His devoted fan, August Derleth, started the publishing company, Arkham House, to put and keep Lovecraft and similar writers in hardback and in print. All praise for that laudable goal, but for years Derleth kept issuing "stories" by Lovecraft that were questionable. They might have been based on Lovecraft's notes or nothing more than a single sentence that Derleth expanded into a whole story. A similar mixture occurs with Robert E. Howard's Conan stories. The explosion of popularity for Conan in the 1960s is due in great part to the herculean efforts of L. Sprague de Camp and some by Lin Carter. Both of them wrote new Conan stories from material left by Howard. However, in some noteworthy cases what happened was an earlier and already published story by Howard with a different setting and characters was taken and changed into a Conan story. That's a little much.
Then there's the completion for love of money. Robert Ludlum recently died but the publisher has said there are four or five works in various states, and as soon as they find the right writer, those books will be completed and published even though Ludlum is dead. But will anyone be able to tell the difference from the quality of the writing?
Thank God that Arthur Conan Doyle didn't leave any uncompleted Sherlock Holmes stories. It's bad enough with all the "new" adventures. The mystery field nevertheless abounds with pinch hitting authors. Margery Allingham's last Mr. Campion mystery was completed by her husband after her death, and then he wrote more books in the series as well. Recently a Lord Peter Whimsey that Dorothy Sayers set aside to work on more "serious" projects like translating Dante and Chaucer was finished from her notes and outlines by Jill Paton Walsh and published.
Lest anyone think this only happens in lowly genres, I point out that Jane Austen's Sanditon was completed by two 20th century admirers and published some years back, and they even made a movie based on Jack London's The Assassination Bureau, which was finished by Robert L. Fish -- and London originally bought the idea for the story from Sinclair Lewis.
Anyway this leads me to consider other possible unfinished works that might be awaiting the right collaborator. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was interrupted while working on Kubla Kahn ("In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/A stately pleasure-dome decree...") by a stranger from Porlock, so it's just a fragment now. Also Stephen Vincent Benet's Western Star was intended to be only the first of a number of book- length poems spanning the westward movement of America, but he worked slowly and then stopped work on the series entirely to devote himself to patriotic efforts in WWII, finally dying before ever writing any further books in the series.
I point out that F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon, despite the big Hollywood movie made from it, was never finished by FSF, and nearly a whole book of uncompleted stuff by Mark Twain was published some years ago. And of course, Ernest Hemingway produced and squirreled away so much in desk drawers that finding stuff by him is like shooting fish in a barrel.
In fact finding material may be easy if you want to try it yourself. Check out some of the definitive biographies of major writers to learn of never completed or even started works. Of particular use might be the collections at universities of papers and manuscripts by many writers. Who knows, somewhere there may be Herman Melville's notes for Moby Dick 2: Ishmael's Revenge.
In other fields, if you read The Big Knockover, you'll find a portion of an unfinished novel by Dashiell Hammett. Hey, if Robert Parker can do it to Raymond Chandler... Finally, what's with the heirs of C. S. Forester? Didn't they notice the sales of Patrick O'Brian? Why is the last Horatio Hornblower book still unfinished?
Well it's just a suggestion.
Tom Owen has worked for decades at Avenue Victor Hugo Bookshop on Newbury Street in Boston. He is also the proprietor of Lazy River Books, a mail-order bookseller of unusual fiction and nonfiction "in every field and genre" (http://www.abebooks.com/home/LAZYRIVER/ ).
Category Management in Book Retailing
Book retailers, especially the large chains like Borders and Barnes and Noble, know exactly which titles are selling in their stores, when they are selling, and in what quantities. You might think that would be enough information on which to base their buying and inventory decisions, but Borders, the large U.S. chain, says it needs more market research. Borders management wants to know why books are bought: which ones are impulse buys, which ones are gifts, which ones sell better as a result of different kinds of displays, which ones sell better when they are placed among which other books.
Borders calls this arcane science "category management," and it recognizes that it may need outside help to master it. Accordingly, it is inviting publishers to furnish "captains" for its 250 book categories. These captains will make decisions (under Borders supervision and subject to Borders veto) on which books are displayed in the category and how they are displayed. But in order to furnish a captain, a publisher must first furnish a payment: $110,000 per year, plus $5,000 for each employee Borders trains in the science.
It may not be as corrupt as it sounds. Borders needs the money to finance information-gathering necessary to this new approach: focus groups, exit interviews, polling, and so on.
"Category management" is the brainchild of Borders's CEO (since 1999), Gregory Josefowicz, who learned it at Jewel/Osco, a grocery and drug retailer, where he started as a grocery bagger at the age of 16 and had a 22-year career including the presidency.
So far, HarperCollins has purchased captaincies in the cookbook and romance categories. Random House has bought the early reader category.
Is this really any different from what's been going on since the first appearance of the chains? Publishers are already used to giving big sackfuls of money to bookstore chains for window displays, in- store displays, and who knows what. And while category management SOUNDS like it could mitigate some of that, it may just substitute its own evils. It is unlikely (to say the least), that a captain from a large, commercial publishing firm will recommend premium placement for the products of Shoestring Press no matter how well they do as impulse buys or gifts. That is, of course, Borders's principal problem in the new undertaking, since they have promised to focus on the interests of readers (and since they don't want to lose sales just because some of their captains have conflicts of interest). On the other hand, it's Shoestring Press's problem, too.
But, hey, it works for aspirin, doesn't it?
If you want to know more about this, there isn't much free information in the U.S., but the Financial Review (Australia) has a story: http://afr.com/companies/2002/05/21/FFXS9M4RF1D.html.
The Curse of Sophie Kerr
Does it make sense to give cash to a promising writer to help him or her develop? On May 19, a young writer named Sarah Hanley Blackman was awarded $65,522 at her graduation from Washington College, a liberal arts school on the eastern shore of Maryland. She is the latest winner of the Sophie Kerr Prize, the richest undergraduate literary award in the world. If the experience of the previous 34 Sophie Kerr winners is any guide (the prize's history goes back to 1968), the prize is likely her ticket to oblivion.
I was curious what effect such a cash award might have had on the people who had received it, so I spent a morning with a list of Sophie Kerr winners at BookFinder (http://www.bookfinder.com/ ). [Disclosure: I am the author of six books and the co-author of one, and have not made anywhere near $62,000 on all my books put together, and I am generally envious of and pissed off at anyone who does.] I searched for each person by first name and last name, and then I searched by first name, last name, and middle name, if I had it. The BookFinder search engine, which searches an of both new and used books from a large number of sellers, returns hits if it finds any of your search terms. For questionable results, I searched Google (http://www.google.com) as well.
My tally, which is admittedly imprecise and informal, is eight books for 34 Sophie Kerr prize winners. Five of these books were written by Peter Turchi, who since 1982 has published at least two novels, one book of stories, and two nonfiction books (one on writing fiction). Of the other three books, two were compiled by Robert Burkholder, an English professor who compiles bibliographies of essays about Ralph Waldo Emerson. The last one, by William Chapman Bowie, was an 88-page book of poetry. In addition, I found a reference somewhere else to a book by William L. Thompson, the 1970 winner, which apparently eluded BookFinder.
Sophie Kerr (1880-1965) was a self-professed author of "light fiction" whose work was fairly popular in the 1930s. She is often regarded as a writer of romances. But her books were sometimes reviewed in The New York Times, and one reporter who fetched a collection of her novels from the Library of Congress (they are all out of print) discerned a genuine feminist slant to them (see http://www.citypaper.com/2000-05-17/feature.html ). But she certainly had commercial success as a writer -- enough to be able to endow the Sophie Kerr Prize, which she did because she loved Maryland's eastern shore, and she thought Washington College was a nice school. The important point is that she started writing in 1904 and wrote until she died in 1965, and in 61 person-years, she created 23 published novels and one produced play (as well as over 500 short stories and a bunch of other stuff).
The Sophie Kerr Prize has been awarded annually since 1968, which means that if the prize winners are all still alive, it has supported 528 person-years of writing. At Sophie Kerr's standard of productivity, this should have produced over 207 book-length works. But it has apparently produced nine, two of which are bibliographies.
The students at Washington College themselves believe the Sophie Kerr Prize is cursed. Apologists for the prize, on the other hand, point to these successes: one winner founded a literary magazine, one became an English professor, one reviews books and writes poetry, one directs an MFA program. In other words, the most successful of the prize winners are, like most writers, doing the kinds of things one does to avoid writing.
It could be that the prize committee is somehow not selecting the candidates who are most likely to become working writers. Maybe that's not what they care about. Sophie Kerr's will, after all, merely specifies that the prize should go to the one "having the best ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor." And "literary endeavor" can mean starting a literary magazine or chairing an MFA program as well as dirtying your hands with actual writing.
Or it could be that giving $50,000 or more to a young person, no matter how well chosen, is an effective way to divert him or her from a writing career. Nobody ever gave Sophie Kerr a pile of cash (except perhaps as an advance), and I was able to find 17 of her books at BookFinder.
An article last year about the prize's "curse" (see http://www.washcoll.edu/wc/news/washmag/spring1999/page24.html) quoted Professor Richard Gillin, chair of the Washington College English Department and of the Sophie Kerr committee: "Sophie knew what she was doing. She wanted to buy time for a young writer to develop the craft."
In 500 person-years of such development, she has bought nine books. I don't think she got her money's worth.
Last month, when writing about George Eliot, I said, "Most sources say she adopted the pseudonym because 'writing was a man's profession,' indicating she may have been prevented from publishing because she was a woman. But Jane Austen had a successful run as a novelist almost 40 years before..." I found out that Jane Austen's novels were all published anonymously, and it was not until after her death that her authorship was disclosed by her brother. Please accept my apologies for unwarranted skepticism of "most sources."
In ATM #28, I had a short piece on the Booker Prize and how its current sponsor had asked the prize committee to come up with a new sponsor. A May 25 article in The New York Times has noted that the committee has found a new sponsor in a five-year deal with the Man Group, an investment house. The deal would allow the committee to more than double the size of the prize, but the Booker Prize is well-regarded in the U.S., and the Man Group believes the publicity of sponsorship may be a way to reach an American clientele. The Booker committee, therefore, said that the prize may be open to American writers starting in 2004. This sparked a hue and cry in Britain, where many people fear American "cultural imperialism." The Times article said the committee has begun to backtrack and now the issue of American eligibility for the prize is undecided. Thanks to reader John Applegath for spotting the item in the Times.
E-Mail to the Editor
Editor's Note: The messages we receive here at ATM often take on the character of a dialogue or conversation with the previous issue. You can find that issue on the web: http://www.thirdlion.com/ATM29.html.
Authors As Characters
Your piece on authors making themselves characters reminded me immediately of a book I read a couple of years ago, Immortality, by Milan Kundera. He opens the book with a description of how he created the heroine of the story, named Agnes, and then the next chapter proceeds with a whole story built around her. It is much in the style of his other novels, but halfway through the story, Agnes' lover is talking with an old friend who turns out to be Mr. Kundera. He has not only incorporated himself into the world of his heroine, but he proceeds to talk about the latest book he is writing as the very one we are reading. From his comments it seems like he might have added himself in for the pure fun of it. He says the title of his book will be The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and when his friend points out that somebody already wrote a book by that title, he explains that he did, but he had been wrong and that this book deserved the title. I also think he added himself to make sure we read the novel in a certain way. He wants us to see it more as the exploration of an idea than a story, and adding himself in disrupts the ether of the narrative and forces us to think more on the ideas. But he must have also had fun with it.
[Floyd's Response: I think "disrupts the ether" is a great way to say what is probably going on there. Good to hear from you, Elisabeth.]
Harmful to Minors
As usual At The Margin was interesting and provocative, but as a paid up member of the vast right-wing conspiracy, I take (slight) issue with your comments on hate-books. Levine's book (I haven't read it either) attracts anger not just because it contravenes Rush Limbaugh's faith in the purity of little children but because (as you intimated) it is the latest missile in an on-going battle of the culture wars. Also, there is that on-going and horrible scandal in the Catholic Church about pedophilia; if you condemn the criminal acts of the priests, then you more or less accept that adult-youth sex an ipso facto case of child abuse.
Also, the other books you mention were not the victims of right wing hydrophobia, at least three of them weren't. Orwell's Homage to Catalonia was attacked by Communists because he revealed the duplicitous and deadly power grab by Stalin's minions during the Spanish civil war; Nat Turner came under fire because it was a novel about a black slave written by William Styron who is white; Arendt's Eichmann came under attack because of its view that evil was "banal" which seemed to some to reduce the inherent evils of the Nazi death camps. As you know, hate-filled reactions come from all sides because books about ideas have the capacity to anger folks who pursue a wide variety of agendas -- just ask Herrnstein and Murray about reaction to their book The Bell Curve.
I thought your paragraphs on the disappearance of data was very interesting and a little scary. I threw out my 5 and 1/4" floppies some time ago, but why are even 3 and 1/2" floppies disappearing?
More on Harmful to Minors
During all the discussion about pedophilia and the Catholic Church (One assumes the shit will hit the fan when similarly inclined scout leaders are discovered.), an authority said that there is a strong probability that pedophiles come from homes with overly strict restrictions on sex and sexual matters. I can't quote the source except that he was on All Things Considered on NPR.
[Floyd's Response: When I prepared that piece, I didn't infer that all the literary lynchings were conducted by right-wing hydrophobes, but I can see that the way I wrote it implied a connection. It was a case of imprecision (for which I apologize!) rather than an attempt to spin it. Thanks for the correction. Three and a half-inch floppies are disappearing because in these days of broadband, it is often faster to transfer files over the Internet than it is to stick a diskette into a drive. Good to hear from you William, and John.]
Three Follow-Ups and a Question
Another great issue! I've been meaning to write and thank you for the good read every time ATM hits the mail-box. Belatedly, this thank you covers issues 25-29.
Good to see that you've written up a piece on literary lynchings; although a UK resident, I'm a member of the American Library Association and continue to be horrified by 'these people' who think nothing of criticising books that they haven't read...when they burned Harry Potter books there was only one image in my mind. Frightening...
Great piece on electronic preservation: here's another URL that you may, or may not, have seen http://www.niso.org/presentations/niso-bisg-rpt.html It's pretty up-to-date; Dale Flecker always worth a read.
Loved the piece on Author as Character. Have you read anything by JG Ballard? Several of his literary works have as their central character a Jim Ballard (J = James, G = Graham), of which Crash is the most notorious. (A major candidate for book-burning in many countries, i.e., not just Utah).
I've read the novel that begins "It began with..." but cannot for the life of me remember either author or book; guess I'll have to wait for no 30.
Lastly hoaxes on the web... a site from the US govt: http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/ Is it for real?
Thanks again for a good read!
[Floyd's Response: Yes, the Hoaxbusters site is for real. It is run by the Computer Incident Advisory Capability of the U.S. Department of Energy. I don't know the background of why this arose in the Department of Energy, but that site performs a great service and ought to be in every Internet user's bookmarks. Thanks for the URL on preservation. Good to hear from you again, John.]
Thomas Jefferson Shows John Adams How It's Done
Your comments about John Adams in ATM#29 reminded me of a story I came across years ago involving Thomas Jefferson as President. I don't remember my source; it might have been Paul Boller's Presidential Anecdotes, but I don't have a copy at my fingertips to look it up.
As I remember it, a visiting statesman from France saw a newspaper in the Whitehouse with an article very critical of Jefferson. He (the visitor) was astounded, and astonished that Jefferson was not so outraged as to have something done about it. Jefferson picked up the paper, handed it to his guest, and said, "If anyone ever says there is no freedom in America, show him this and tell him where you got it."
I always thought this was an example of our Constitution in action. Perhaps it was more -- perhaps it was #3 reversing a course for the nascent Republic laid out by #2.
Keep up the good work.
[Floyd's Response: I don't know the source of that story, either, but I am confident it wasn't McCullough's biography of Adams. Good to hear from you, Tom.]
At The Margin has 1,210 subscribers, most of whom are interested in what you have to say about books or items you have read in ATM. Send a message to the editor and get those thoughts out to 1,209 others. Please limit your comment to 200 words and send it to ATM's editor, Floyd Kemske (firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Do You Know Me
For those who like puzzles as well as books, this department brings you the first sentence of a book by a famous writer that is at least 10 years old. The name of the author and title of the book will be in the next issue, so write your guess down. If you want to send me your guess, email it to email@example.com. Please include your name (so I can congratulate you in this space if you're correct) and let me know if you recognized the writer's style or if you know the book, or both.
This Issue's Sentence
One day in the June of 1844 Madame Sophie Duval, née Busson, eighty years of age and mother of the mayor of Vibraye, a small commune in the départment of Sarthe, rose from her chair in the salon of her property at le Gué de Launay, chose her favourite walking-stick from a stand in the hall, and calling to her dog made her way, as was her custom at this hour of the afternoon every Tuesday, down the short approach drive to the entrance gate.
I'm waiting for your guesses.
Last Issue's Sentence
It began with an advertisement in the Agony Column of The Times.
Three readers guessed this time, two of them suggesting Arthur Conan Doyle, which is not correct. The third, Barbara Haven, correctly answered Brazilian Adventure by Peter Fleming. I am impressed she knew it, particularly since I suspect there are probably dozens of books that begin with the sentence "It began with an advertisement in the Agony Column of The Times."
Here, for example, is the first line of Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim: "It began in a woman's club in London on a February afternoon -- an uncomfortable club, and a miserable afternoon -- when Mrs. Wilkins, who had come down from Hampstead to shop and had lunched at her club, took up The Times from the table in the smoking-room, and running her listless eye down the Agony Column saw this: 'To Those who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine. Small mediaeval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be Let Furnished for the month of April. Necessary servants remain. Z, Box 1000, The Times.' "
Please excuse the digression. At any rate, when Barbara Haven sent me her answer, she said the sentence sounded familiar and she needed only a little searching to run it down ("googled around the Internet," as she said). Congratulations, Barbara.
Peter Fleming (1907-1971), the older brother (by one year) of Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, is generally known today as "the other Fleming." This is one of fate's reversals, for when he and Ian were young, it was the younger one who was "the other Fleming." Before 1953 (when Casino Royale was published), Ian was a reasonably well-regarded journalist, but Peter was famous and had at least seven books to his credit.
Both writers were sons of Valentine Fleming, a landowner of Oxfordshire, member of Parliament, and hero in the Great War, where he lost his life when the boys were nine and ten, respectively. Valentine Fleming's obituary in The Times was written by Winston Churchill.
Ian Fleming had lived in the shadow of his hero father, and after his father died, he lived in the shadow of Peter, who excelled at Eton and then Oxford. Ian, on the other hand, left Eton before graduation as a result of an incident involving a girl. Peter's success as a student, athlete, and head of the family was so inhibiting to Ian's own growth that it was not until the younger brother went to live in Austria with friends of the family that he was able to become his own person.
But this story is about Ian's smarter, older brother, Peter. He was, in the words of one of his dust jackets, "the epitome of the enlightened English gentleman adventurer and explorer." His books (as near as I can tell, they are all nonfiction) include Brazilian Adventure (1933), Variety (1934), One's Company (1934), News from Tartary (1936), A Story to Tell (1942), The Sixth Column (1952), A Forgotten Journey (1952), My Aunt's Rhinosceros (1957), Invasion 1940 (1957), With the Guards to Mexico (1957), The Gower Street Poltergeist (1958), The Siege at Peking (1959), Bayonets to Lhasa (1961), Goodbye to the Bombay Bowler (1961), and The Fate of Admiral Kolchak (1963).
It is not particularly easy to find information about Peter Fleming, if for no other reason than because there are at least a half dozen Peter Flemings of some distinction, so every web search turns up a good deal of noise. But I did find two interesting things about him unrelated to his books. The first is that he once worked for British Intelligence. This, of course, generated a rumor that he was the inspiration for the character of James Bond. I don't know whether that is true. The other interesting thing about him is that he was happily married for 36 years to the actress Celia Johnson, famous for her film roles in Brief Encounter and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
The advertisement that caught Fleming up in a Brazilian adventure read, "Exploring and sporting expedition, under experienced guidance, leaving England June, to explore rivers Central Brazil, if possible ascertain fate Colonel Fawcett; abundance game, big and small; exceptional fishing; ROOM TWO MORE GUNS; highest references expected and given. -- Write Box X, The Times, E.C.4."
Colonel Fawcett had been lost with two companions in the summer of 1925 in an "almost entirely unexplored region" of Brazil. (These were still the days that a populated country could be described as "almost entirely unexplored.") There was some thought that Colonel Fawcett and his companions had actually been eaten by locals. The expedition had a lot of hair-raising adventures and found some clues about Colonel Fawcett. But its great claim to fame was the success of Brazilian Adventure.
Perhaps one reason for the book's success was the corrective it supplied to Europe for its image of Brazil. "I had meant, when I started," wrote Fleming in the foreword, "to pile on the agony a good deal; I felt it would be expected of me. In treating of the Great Unknown one has a free hand, and my few predecessors in this particular field had made great play with the Terrors of the Jungle. the alligators, the snakes, the man-eating fish, the lurking savages, those dreadful insects -- all the paraphernalia of tropical mumbo jumbo lay ready to my hand. But when the time came I found that I had not the face to make the most of them. So the reader must forgive me if my picture of Matto Grosso does not tally with his lurid preconceptions."
Fleming was also well known for his books about China: One's Company (1934), News from Tartary (1936), and The Siege at Peking (1959). The first two are travel books. The third concerns an incident in the Boxer Rebellion, when foreign legations in Peking were attacked by both rebels and Imperial Chinese troops and subjected to a 55-day siege.
Fleming appears to have been a remarkably good-natured person. Instructions for his funeral read: "If there is a memorial service, I would like it to be at the Guards Chapel; the parking facilities are unrivalled." He also left this instruction: "No mourning." He was buried in Nettlebed, where he was squire of the village, under a tombstone with his own verse carved into it:
He travelled widely in far places:
Wrote, and was widely read.
Soldiered, saw some of danger's faces.
Came home to Nettlebed.
The squire lies here, his journeys ended.
Dust, and a name on a stone.
Content, amid the lands he tended,
To keep this rendezvous alone.
There is a biography of him (Peter Fleming: A Biography) which was said to have been commissioned by his widow to writer Duff Hart- Davis. It was published in 1974. The book is listed for sale at the following URL: http://www.bondian.com/books/book.jsp?id=20437918. I haven't read it, but that page bears a photo of the jacket, and it has a picture of Fleming. Here's a biography of Dame Celia Johnson CBE: http://www.retirement-matters.co.uk/celiaj.htm. Here's another biography of Celia Johnson, which is where I got the epitaph: http://www.staff.ncl.ac.uk/nikolas.lloyd/celia.html. Here's a listing of Fleming's books: http://www.catharton.com/authors/816.htm.
Blue Underlined Words
I follow a lot of links in the course of compiling this letter, and some of the pages I visit look like they may be interesting or useful to you. I have only visited them and know nothing about them beyond what I could gather from the visit. So unless I say otherwise, I'm not endorsing anything, just bringing it to your attention. Click at your own risk.
The 101 Dumbest Moments in Business
As you might expect, this page, which lists the 101 dumbest moments in business, puts Enron's overstatement of its earnings at number one. But some of the others are pretty funny, like number two, in which a dozen marketing executives from Burger King suffered burns (first and second degree) from walking over hot coals as part of a team-building exercise. http://www.business2.com/articles/mag/print/0,1643,38604,00.html
When Elephants Dance
The so-called Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA), which the entertainment industry is trying to ram down the country's throat, looks increasingly as if its intent is to outlaw personal computers. This article intemperately explains what's going on. http://www.farces.com/stories/storyReader$414
The Creative Commons
This site (established by a nonprofit organization) is attempting to set up a clearing house for creative people who wish to share their work. The site is developing metadata that will identify files based on rights available, so if you're looking for a certain kind of image or story, you might be able to do a web search based on your requirements as well as the subject. It is also creating a web-based application that will allow creators to license their works for use under specified conditions, so you can put something into the public domain without sacrificing its copyright. http://www.creativecommons.org/
Exercises in Ad-Blocking
Do you hate those pop-up and pop-under ads you see at certain commercial web sites? Most of those ads come from a handful of advertising agencies. If you modify the hosts file on your computer by adding the names of the servers operated by those agencies, your computer thinks it is already connected to those servers, and it doesn't display the ads. This site shows you how to do it and supplies the entries you need for about 90% of the web's ads. http://ssmedia.com/Utilities/hosts/
Give Me Fair Use, or Give Me Death
If you're worried about the principle of Fair Use in the age of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (and you ought to be), you may be interested in this article, "Give Me Fair Use (Or Give Me Death)." The author, Dana Blankenhorn, isn't trying to be funny. This is serious business. http://www.a-clue.com/archive/02/cl020520.htm
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