Extreme to Reunite!

Billboard: “Boston-based rock outfit Extreme is reuniting for its first studio album in 13 years and world tour in 2008, Billboard has learned. The group, best known for the 1991 No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit ‘More Than Words,’ disbanded in 1996 but reformed briefly in 2004 and 2006.”

Okay, speaking as a metal geek back from the early ’90’s and as someone who still listens to Poronograffiti from time to time, this is fantastic news!

December Comics Madness

Since the month of December is typically a slow month for the publishing industry, and since the wintry weather is conductive for this sort of thing, and since I have received several enticing graphic novels over the past few months, in December, I plan to devote these pages to investigating many of these volumes — while also gradually releasing the fifteen (!) podcasts I have in my backlog. In addition, I’ll also be covering the New York Anime Festival in a few weeks. If you are a comics publisher who would like to have your titles considered, feel free to email me or send me titles to the Flatbush address.


  • If you’re anything like me, your dietary habits have gone straight to hell courtesy of Thursday’s gorging, and you’ve taken up casual fasting and desperate walks to restore your metabolism to more modest pre-Thanksgiving states of ingestion. Which isn’t to say that this regimen is entirely successful or that the wintry chill has made any sizable impact upon the tendency to hibernate. But it is, after all, the intentions that count, even when laziness threatens to lambada dance with your appetite, which remains mystified that you had not one, but two giant plates of dinner. Yes, Thanksgiving is indeed the American way. But fortunately, no loved ones were harmed or screamed at on this end.
  • Temporal proximities being what they are, this means, of course, that toothless book lists, devoid of tomes that take chances or that make hard dips into genre, are par for the course. No doubt this ledger will be measured against better books in the days to come. But I must wonder what What is the What, published in October 2006, is doing on a list ostensibly celebrating 2007’s hot titles. Could this be a delicate stratagem to woo Eggers once again to the Review‘s page? A bargaining chip or a true sign that Tanenhaus is out of touch?
  • End of the year lists aren’t so superficial, are they? Mr. Mitchelmore lists a few reasons why he likes them.
  • This is why I slightly fear playing Guitar Hero 3. Bad enough that pounding power chords on an axe causes me to forget that I am not Yngwie. But when a trusty Stratocaster is replaced by fantastic plastic, there are considerably more ignoble maneuvers I will attempt in an effort to have fun.
  • If you thought David Hasselhoff’s days were numbered, it appears he might be on board the Knight Rider revival. Personally, I’m hoping that he shouts something along these lines for full effect. (via Smart Bitches)
  • I’m on the lookout for podcasts that don’t sound like FM radio (or people trying desperately to get on FM radio; thank you, Adam Curry, for spawning that plague upon this medium of possibilities), but that involve real people expressing their natural enthusiasm. Movies You Should See is a fun little podcast I’ve recently discovered. Not only does their dog bark in the background, but there is a good deal of arguments over the pedantic.
  • The beginnings of caffeine!
  • I sincerely hope that this isn’t the end of Grumpy Old Bookman.

Marvin Zindler, Eyewitness News!

New York Times: “Mr. Zindler, with his cheerfully admitted plastic surgery, closet of peacock fashions, blatant hairpieces and blue-tinted glasses, was best known for his first foray into investigative journalism, in 1973. He exposed a widely tolerated bawdyhouse known as the Chicken Ranch in La Grange. The case was the basis for the musical and movie ‘Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.’ Mr. Zindler was an early consumer advocate and action reporter, campaigning against scams, medical abuses and unsanitary food conditions. His regular Friday ‘rat and roach reports’ had the KTRK coffee shop closed for violations at least three times. Friends said he was quiet spoken and never shouted — until he was on the air. He was known for cheerfully stumbling over words, rendering ‘Voilà!’ as ‘Viola!'”

A lengthy documentary on Marvin Zindler, with clips of Zindler in action over the past several decades: [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6] [Part 7] [Part 8] [Part 9] [Part 10] [Part 11]

Winsor McCay

mccay.jpgI will have more to say at length about Winsor McCay and, specifically, Checker Publishing’s reissue of The Dream of the Rarebit Fiend later. For now, I direct you to Josh Glenn’s slideshow, depicting McCay’s influence upon other filmmakers, and this website for the book. And I must also direct you to this interesting tale concerning “Gertie the Dinosaur.” The story goes that, sometime around 1913, another newspaper cartoonist bet McCay that he could not bring a dinosaur to life. McCay then came up with this groundbreaking animation in 1914 (YouTube). Note the attention to detail in the movement and the very fluid detail in the way that Gertie investigates the elephant. There is also Derik’s tribute to McCay from last year, in which he examines McCay’s use of page layout and sequence in relation to Little Nemo in Slumberland. There is also this explanation from Ulrich Merkl, which explains precisely how The Dream of the Rabbit Fiend was restored for publication. There is also this odd audio dramatization, which attempts to render McCay’s universe into oral form. There is also lost McCay art found not long ago, with stunning colors and efforts at restoration. There is also McCay’s response to Clair Briggs’ 1926 questionnaire. If you are fortunate enough to be in Ohio, there is this McCay exhibit for your edification. There is also a DVD available of McCay’s animation.

The upshot is that if you have not heard of Winsor McCay, it would behoove you to check him out immediately.

Did Jonathan Franzen Cut a Censorship Deal with Terry Gross?

On October 26, 2001, Dennis Loy Johnson reported on the Franzen fiasco:


Three days later in an interview on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” he told host Terry Gross that he was still conflicted about Oprah because — well, “So much of reading is sustained in this country, I think, by the fact that women read while men are off golfing or watching football on TV or playing with their flight simulator or whatever. I worry — I’m sorry that it’s, uh — I had some hope of actually reaching a male audience and I’ve heard more than one reader in signing lines now at bookstores say ‘If I hadn’t heard you, I would have been put off by the fact that it is an Oprah pick. I figure those books are for women. I would never touch it.’ Those are male readers speaking.”

Thus does class meet boorish elitism. Franzen, through his publisher, issued an immediate sort–of apology: “I try to explore complicated emotions and circumstances as honestly and fully as I can. This approach can be productive on the page, but clearly hasn’t been helpful in talking to the media, many members of which used the occasion of my book tour to raise questions about Oprah’s Book Club and the supposed divisions among American readers. The conflict is preexisting in the culture, and it landed in my lap because of my good fortune. I’m sorry if, because of my inexperience, I expressed myself poorly or unwisely.”

So, as it turns out, it was Terry Gross’ fault; even though she started off the interview by gushing, “I read your book and I loved it!” and did not press him in the least or follow up on his blatantly chauvanistic take of Oprah’s audience, she was, apparently, out to get Jonathan Franzen . . . a poor, “inexperienced” lad with only two previous books and hundreds of previous interviews and public appearances under his belt.

And here is the quote reported by the Chicago Tribune and the Boston Review.

I remember hearing Franzen’s remarks. But if you go through the Fresh Air archive, you’ll find no trace of the full record, much less any indication that the broadcast was modified. There is, of course, this repeat of the October 15, 2001 interview in question, broadcast on September 6, 2002. But listen to the RealMedia file for this show and you’ll find only this excerpt at the 3:34 mark:

I mean, so much of reading is sustained, I think, by the fact that women read while men are off golfing or watching football on TV. Or, um, you know, playing with their flight simulator or whatever.

After this, we hear Terry Gross ask her next question. The other part of the quote, as reported by Johnson, “I worry — I’m sorry that it’s, uh — I had some hope of actually reaching a male audience and I’ve heard more than one reader in signing lines now at bookstores say ‘If I hadn’t heard you, I would have been put off by the fact that it is an Oprah pick. I figure those books are for women. I would never touch it.’ Those are male readers speaking,” is missing.

If Terry Gross is a journalist, then she has the responsibility to maintain the full record of this conversation, or at least apprise her listeners that the interview was modified. I do not yet know Ms. Gross’s motivations, but if she is willfully allowing her program to be pressured by authors and/or publishers, then it seems to me that the Literarian Award, which purports to “recogniz[e] the important contribution she has made to the world of books — and to our understanding of literature and the writing process — through her probing and intelligent interviews with authors” does not appear to recognize an interviewer who thoroughly probes her subjects. Indeed, the National Book Foundation has honored an ostensible “journalist” who has failed to preserve the historical record.

At the very least, Gross should have observed — both on the September 6, 2002 repeat broadcast and on the NPR page representing the broadcast — that the interview was edited or tampered with.

I have sent an email to Terry Gross asking for clarification on this matter. I will update this story if I learn any additional details.

[UPDATE: It would appear that Gross has a history of pulling punches. An interview with Village Voice reporter Robert I. Friedman was recorded on January 27, 1993, but Fresh Air never aired the interview, because they were looking for a “moderate” voice.]

[UPDATE 2: Terry Gross has responded to my questions.]

RIP Verity Lambert

“Just let me get this right. A thing that looks like a police box, stuck in a junkyard, can move anywhere in time and space?”

And Part 2 and Part 3. This version, incidentally, is the original pilot that was refilmed later because the Doctor was perceived as too unlikable. He became slightly less unlikable, but still very much an antihero in the final product. And it was this new version which aired forty-four years ago on this very day.

The person who produced this was Verity Lambert, who passed away this afternoon. One of the few women television producers working in the 1960s, Lambert envisioned an exciting program for children mixing a space adventure with an educational program. She was only 28 at the time. What she didn’t count upon was the Daleks becoming a major success in the second serial. The results go on to this very day. Not counting Spanish or Indian television or American soap operas, Doctor Who is the longest-running television serial that is still active today.

But it took Verity Lambert, who had a very forward-thinking and unusual vision of how to entertain, to make this happen. And this was only one of her many credits.

The Mist

While the majority of the American moviegoing public took in family fare like Enchanted, our humble party was compelled to check out Frank Darabont’s adaptation of The Mist. We figured that Darabont would once again mine Stephen King’s humanism for benign and competent cinematic fare — a la Shawshank and The Green Mile — and that all this would once again make us feel relatively sanguine about the human spirit. How wonderfully wrong we were!

What we experienced instead was an unexpectedly feral allegory of post-9/11 America set, like Dawn of the Dead, in a consumerist center (no accident perhaps that it’s one of those supermarkets with a late-1970’s aesthetic) and once again reminding us that the horror genre, by way of its speculative format, may be more capable in revealing truths about the human condition than some of the forthcoming squeaky-clean Oscar contenders. There were vicious tendrils, giant monsters that dwarfed even my imagination when I read “The Mist” years ago as a teenager, fundamentalist nuts, graphic lacerations, and one of the most brutal finales I’ve seen in a Hollywood horror film in quite some time. That such a brass-balls flick came not from the capably savage hands of Eli Roth or Guillermo del Toro, but from the warm-hearted Frank Darabont — never particularly known for his gore — was especially admirable. If the intensity wasn’t on the level of Cronenberg or Argento, The Mist put The Majestic, that naive and dreadful stab at the Capraesque, well out of my mind. As the body count continued to tally up, as good people were killed (including children!), and as King’s novella was wryly recontextualized for our terrifying modern age, I couldn’t help but wonder if the violence had been coaxed out of Darabont by executive producer Harvey Weinstein, who told Darabont that if he did not go the distance, he was a coward.

mist1.jpgWhatever the circumstances, The Mist may very well be one of the most quietly subversive movies of the year. Roger Ebert is wrong to pooh-pooh the absurd storyline. The explanation for the titular fog is as convincing as a bad pulp tale from the 1940s, but this is not why one watches this movie. Aside from his usual stock character actors (including William Sadler), Darabont has, for the most part, cast second-tier actors who are not so easily identified. There isn’t a big name actor here to distract us from Darabont’s inverted take on populism. The movie is, instead, a portrait of Americans who want to be good and kind to each other, but who remain incapable of such basic decency without material comforts. Respect for other differences, however loathsome, are the first to go when presented with a terrifying threat and when the true nature of military conquest is revealed. And consider the way in which the audience’s expectations are tampered with. Darabont, knowing full well that the audience is screaming “Get the fuck out!” at the top of their lungs (the audience I saw this with certainly did), keeps his characters lingering in ghastly scenarios about twenty seconds longer than the audience expects them to leave. This is cheap but effective suspense, but it has the added symbolic value of revealing a slow and stigmatized America incapable of reacting smartly to trauma. There is also the manner in which one of the main human antagonists is disposed of. Yes, we’re all cheering the death. (Indeed, each gunshot was cheered on by the audience, myself included.) But in doing so, I couldn’t help but feel that I was proving Darabont’s point. Watching this flick, we think that we’re civilized by way of being removed from the fantastic environment. But I felt deeply ashamed at celebrating the slaughter. However execrable the character, is this not the same savage instinct that we’re seeing portrayed on the screen? In light of the casual manner in which a television audience applauds Kiefer Sutherland willfully breaking the Geneva Convention in waterboarding a suspect, Darabont’s clear awareness of the audience here is striking.

The Mist is a major step forward for Darabont. In addition to finding his cojones, Darabont, known for his static shots, has not only shifted his cinematography to a more shaky Battle of Algiers milieu, but his camera frequently zooms in on the people, suggesting that we’re incapable of examining our own inadequacies. The enemy, it would appear, is us. Sure, it’s ultimately something of a replay of the Twilight Zone episode, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” but Darabont has injected some class prejudice. (I particularly liked how the attorney character was African-American and how he’s the one to call the others “hicks.”)

He’s also merged an old-fashioned sensibility with a carnal and contemporary one. Aside from his decision to go ten more intense steps beyond the novella’s finale, he is also, at times, resolutely faithful to the text, even reproducing some of King’s more ludicrous dialogue (“There’s something in the mist!”). The tentacle does indeed smash a bag of dog chow upon its first appearance. This was one of the more absurd touches in King’s novella, but in Darabont’s hands, it manages to work, in large part because Darabont has made the tentacle a large and imposing thing that will rip out your guts in seconds.

mist2.jpgI was also impressed by the attention to the mist monster ecosystem. Large and beautiful insects affix themselves to the supermarket window, attracted to the glass the way that moths flock to light, only to be snapped up ruthlessly by gargantuan winged beasts. Nothing here is quite what we expect, which is saying a good deal in light of the fact that the story is essentially a familiar one.

Perhaps I’m particularly crazy about The Mist because it doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. Frankly, I’ve seen a lot of bullshit at the movies this year. But The Mist is an old-fashioned horror movie, eliciting convincing performances from most of the cast. But, most importantly, it’s a movie in which the acting and the atmosphere is prioritized over the effects. As Hollywood attempts to extract twelve dollars from your wallet for movies that are nothing more than style over substance, I find it amazing that it’s come to B-movies like The Mist instead of well-intentioned misfires like Rendition to get us to feel frightened and all too aware of contemporary horrors. Sincerity, it seems, has become a groundbreaking commodity in the cinema.

Happy Thanksgiving

There are still deadlines and books to read and emails to answer. And I’m sorry if I haven’t yet returned your email just yet, but I hope to get back to you well after the gorging. I’m stepping away from this crazy little thing called the Internet for some much-needed Thanksgiving R&R, only to return to work not long thereafter, although well away from these electronic backwoods.

turkey.jpgHave a fantastic Thanksgiving. If you’re on KP duty, take deep breaths and realize that there is an end in sight and that the guests you are hosting will be especially appreciative of your efforts. If the immense intake of food is overwhelming, take deep breaths and realize that the postprandial floor plop is likewise an end of sorts — the kind of physical maneuver that offers an entirely unexpected form of gratitude and that doesn’t even involve a deity. And if the five pounds you’ve gained is enough to make you shed more tears than a casual viewing of Terms of Endearment, reject the consumerist impulses on Friday and go for a long walk instead.

Alas, many turkeys have been massacred for this holiday. But, it’s a hard and cruel world. And you can justify the bloodshed with the fact that turkey is pretty tasty.

Thanksgiving also presents us with the beginning of the Oscar movie season. There will be many long and ostensibly meaningful movies for you to enjoy in theaters. If the messages often come across as heavy-handed, cut Hollywood some slack. This is the best they can do.

More important than any of this, be kind to your family and friends. Even the ones who annoy the hell out of you and who you only see once or twice a year. They are often misunderstood and probably aren’t nearly as bad as you think. Take this opportunity to try and understand them, even if it means sitting through the conversational equivalent of a long and boring slideshow. You may be surprised by what you find out.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Cory Doctorow’s Kindle Hypocrisy

Cory Doctorow, one of the few bloggers who didn’t return emails during my Kindle investigations, has posted his thoughts on the Kindle at Boing Boing. Doctorow says that he won’t be buying it because “it spies on you, it has DRM…, it prevents you from selling or lending your books, and the terms of service are nearly as abusive as the Amazon Unbox terms….”

Well, that’s all fine and dandy. But it still doesn’t explain why Boing Boing is listed as one of the Kindle blogs. It would appear that Doctorow prefers profit over principle. If Doctorow truly wanted the information to be free, then why did he sign on for Kindle in the first place? Based on all the evidence dredged up, it appears that the participants had at least nine months to say yes for this thing. In one case, a blogger was able to negotiate a private agreement. Further, Boing Boing was in a very close position to determine information, seeing as how John Battelle, the founder and chairman of Federated Media, is also the “band manager” for Boing Boing. So it’s not as if Doctorow didn’t have rampant opportunity to examine the Kindle’s specs, much less negotiate an airtight agreement.

Further, Doctorow remains conspicuously silent about Amazon stealing content from other blogs and distributing it and selling it without permission from bloggers. You have to wonder how Doctorow would feel if the roles were reversed or if he weren’t collecting a small sum of cash. While it’s true that Doctorow hasn’t shrieked, “Thanks Amazon for all the cash!,” I still find his “contrarian” post diffident and supremely hypocritical.

doctorowtattoo.jpgA true activist stands by his principles. For the record, a few major publishers have offered me considerable money to advertise on Segundo, with the proviso that I only interview their authors. One even suggested that I could download leftover audio snippets of authors from their digital archive and I could edit my questions in. I found this to be quite unsavory, and I politely declined these offers.

Doctorow is clearly a technological enthusiast, and it saddens me that he would rather use his position in the blogosphere to uphold corporate hypocrisy. It seems that Boing Boing isn’t about looking out for the little guy. It’s about looking out for Number One.

(Thanks, Christopher, for the head’s up.)

More Bloggers Weigh In On Kindle

[For more on these Kindle investigations, see ten arguments against the Kindle, the initial query concerning blog content being redistributed without permission or compensation, the first wave of Kindle blogger responses, and the the second wave of Kindle blogger responses.]

New emails have arrived and this post serves as an addendum to the previous report. First off, I should note Kassia Kroszer’s quibbles, which led to this report from Joseph Weisenthal, who pointed out that the only way one can access blogs through Kindle is through the page-flipping option. There isn’t the ability to scroll. (There is, however, a built-in browser — something that Weisenthal describes as “fairly clunky and prone to error messages.”) Then there’s Levi Asher’s thoughts: “They have got to be insane.” Levi insists that nobody will buy the Kindle at the $400 price. And I suppose we’ll have to wait a month or so to see if the momentum breaks down faster than the Segway.

kindle2.jpgHoward Rheingold, the man behind Smart Mobs, was likewise a Federated Media participant, and insists that Amazon won’t be preventing anyone from getting the feed for free. He views this as “an interesting experiment.” John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing negotiated a private agreement with Amazon, but sees this as “integrating and creating without judgment. The market does a pretty good job of that.”

Kevin Aylward, the publisher of Wizbang, sees the licensing deal as “no different than the type that Yahoo has done for other blogs’ content. It’s specific to the Kindle device. As far as I know there is no other way to access our RSS feed from that device.”

Nevertheless, two additional bloggers have witnessed their content redistributed and sold with neither permission nor remuneration. Mr. Faded Glory, the proprietor of High and Tight, tells me that, “I have never been informed of what the Kindle system is.” Glory does not profit off of his work and he doesn’t “want others to do so at my expense.”

Then there’s Jason Avant of Dadcentric, who faced a different scenario. Avant had been with Federated Media, who, as we have established, had been approached by Amazon for the Kindle experiment. Avant signed off back in April, “then promptly forgot all about it, and thus was surprised to see DadCentric listed among Kindle’s syndicated blogs.” But Amazon did have his permission, albeit in backdated form.

I still was a bit miffed, as I had ended my agreement with FM about two months ago. I did contact FM about that, and they have informed Amazon that I’m no longer with FM, but am entitled to any revenues that are generated via DadCentric. I’m in the process of determining what that means, and frankly I haven’t decided whether or not I’m going to continue with the whole Kindle deal.

Avant has no plans to endorse Kindle on his site, but he does “wholeheartedly agree that Amazon should be sanctioned if they have used people’s blogs without express authorization. There does seem to be a bit of that going on, and that is certainly going to determine whether or not I continue to do business with them.” Avant has requested Amazon to pull Dadcentric from their list of Kindle feeds. We will have to wait to see if his request will be honored.

So beyond Amazon angering bloggers by appropriating their content, consider how poorly such a tactic reflects upon them as a business. Consider how this great opportunity to present an alternative revenue stream is overturned by an inability on Amazon’s part to cross their Ts. When taken with the failure of Amazon to inform major rollers like Glenn Reynolds of the new developments, it seems that Amazon may very well care more about Amazon.

I have a few emails into Amazon to get their thoughts about all this, but, since it’s Turkey Day Week, I suspect I won’t be hearing back until next week. Nevertheless, I will determine who the primary contacts are, so that the four bloggers (and anybody else Amazon attempts to shanghai) who saw their content used without their permission can have some means of restitution.

[UPDATE: Jason Avant informs me that Amazon has removed Dadcentric from the Kindle directory.]


Brian Farnham, The Biggest Deadbeat Editor in New York

brianfarnham.jpgAs Choire Sicha reported back in September, Brian Farnham, the editor of Time Out New York is not a big fan of paying his freelancers. And that includes me. I wrote a profile piece for them in July, but didn’t get payment for it until four months later. And the only reason I was able to effect payment that quickly was through persistent emails and phone calls, going directly up the ladder to Farnham. I did, after all, have rent to pay. Farnham made repeated promises about the check coming from Chicago. This never happened. And after several communications from me, his staff had to cut a check from the New York office — something that the TONY cronies had previously told me was “impossible” — and I had to go down there and pick it up at their office. Because given the constant misrepresentations, I didn’t trust them to get my address correct.

A few weeks after another piece I wrote for them ran, I sent an email to find out what the status was on this second payment, thinking I might experience the same four month return time and receive similar misrepresentations from the TONY offices. I never received a reply. I followed up two weeks later. The Editorial Coordinator wrote back telling me that she was “checking in with our accounts payable department to find out when your check will be cut.” I left a voicemail asking for more specifics. The Editorial Coordinator hadn’t bothered to inform me in her email that, oh actually, “the financial director is on vacation this week.” I fired back a forceful but reasonable email, telling them that I would call their office “every day from Monday on — with equitable and reasonable intervals, I assure you — until we resolve this dispute, until we have a definite answer, and until there is a check in my hands.”

This afternoon, I got a phone call from Farnham. It was an effort to try and shake me up. I had experienced this approach before by bullies in high school, but hadn’t seen much action in my adult life outside of bars and law firms. “How dare you!” he screamed at me repeatedly over the phone. “Who do you think you are?” These were lines out of a bad melodrama. I responded with facts. I pointed out that I was not the one who had allowed four months to pass before the last check. I pointed out that I was not the one to let two weeks pass before replying to a payment query and repeated that I was completely understanding of a delay in payment, if only the efforts were communicated in a forthright manner. “You’ll get your check,” he seethed, sounding like a frat boy who can’t get a new pledge to hand him his beer bong.

When it was clear to Farnham that I could not be shaken up, that I would be polite but not kiss his ass (apparently, I was the asshole for being a professional and following up on payment), this infuriated the man. So he followed up with an alpha male threat that I “would not write for Time Out New York or any other magazine I edit.” Perhaps because of his Everest-sized ego, it apparently hadn’t occurred to Farnham that I’m not a fan for writing for publications that don’t honor communication, much less timely payment. Every place I have written for has always communicated with me in precise and reasonable terms, communicating to me when a check is late and being honest in every way. Most people, I believe, are kind and reasonable. “That’s fine,” I said, “I have no interest in employing my professional services for fucking deadbeat douchebags.” He hung up. A coward and a bully to the last.

I should point out that I think Michael Miller is a fine and demanding books editor. Because of this, I was happy to arrange the Sacks profile with him on short notice, getting a copy of the book the day before I had to interview the man and staying up during one twenty-hour stretch to read and prepare and ask Sacks questions he hadn’t been given before. So on this note, I regret the developments.

But if you are pondering writing for Time Out New York or any publication Brian Farnham is involved in, I present this anecdote to reveal just what you might be in store for.

You see, a writer is as much of a professional as a plumber, a barista, a lawyer, or a doctor. They have rents to pay and mouths to feed. Why is it then that so many want to screw them over?

[UPDATE: Emily Gould is a sweetheart. And for what it’s worth, Farnham had his deputy messenger me the check this morning.]

Responses from the Kindle Bloggers

[For more on these Kindle investigations, see ten arguments against the Kindle, the initial query concerning blog content being redistributed without permission or compensation, the first wave of Kindle blogger responses, and the the second wave of Kindle blogger responses.]

The upshot is that Amazon did indeed approach bloggers to participate in the Kindle Store. Mac Thomason tells me that Amazon approached him “either late last year or early this year.” Other bloggers, like Deane Barker, were approached largely because of their connection with third party outlets. In Barker’s case, it was Federated Media. (This is similar to what Glenn Reynolds told me about Pajamas Media.) In the case of bloggers who had a third party conduit, they don’t seem to be aware of the terms or even compensation specifics. The general consensus for high-traffic sites, however, is that advertising revenue will dwarf Kindle revenue. Thomason tells me that he’s “not expecting much.”

bezoskindle.jpgVinography‘s Alder Yarrow feels that “the fee covers the cost of making the content available via wireless access (since there is no monthly access fee). Yes it is a double standard, but some people are willing to pay for convenience.”

If the information wants to be free, at least one Kindle blogger has taken steps to remedy this. Bags and Baggage‘s Denise Howell, whose blog is licensed under Creative Commons, says that she generated “a separate, specific license to Amazon for their project.”

As to whether these bloggers see charging for a freely available RSS feed as a double standard, Barker notes, “I guess I don’t care if someone pays for my feed. I’d let them have it for free if Amazon would let me,” but expresses doubts that the operation will take off. Thomason suggests that because this is a different delivery system, these distinctions aren’t a double standard. “If someone were going to bind my postings up into a book, I’d expect compensation for that as well,” he said. And Thomason observes that his advertising revenue “basically only covers expenses.” So for bloggers in Thomason’s camp, Kindle may be an attractive option to boost revenue.

Howell, who hasn’t had advertising on his site in six years of blogging, begs to differ about this double standard. She wrote to me:

Your argument is like saying that simply because a musical artist makes some material available for free on the Web or as a “download of the day” in iTunes, it’s “a double standard” to ever charge for that work again. Doesn’t hold water. The creator maintains full control over uses (free or otherwise) of the work.

Howell likes the idea that “anyone who wants to can read it on the device.” And while the Kindle presents new possibilities for content delivery and revenue generation, the problem with Howell’s position is that Amazon has, in at least one case, screwed over the creator.

Daniel McGowan, the blogger behind Dan’s Take, tells me that had no idea that Amazon was doing this. McGowan tells me that he was never contacted by Amazon and that he was certainly never compensated by them. But there’s his blog at the Kindle Store.

So it appears, in at least one case, that Amazon has every intention of charging for content that they do not have consent for, and that, in McGowan’s case, they intend to leave him out in the cold while they collect 100% of the revenue. Apparently, not everybody can shout, “Thanks Amazon for all the cash!”

UPDATE: McGowan isn’t the only one being whose content is being sold through Amazon without his permission. Cork Gaines of Ray’s Index just responded to my email. He had no idea that Amazon was doing this until I contacted him. He had this to say:

Maybe two months ago, somebody from Amazon contacted me to tell me there was a problem with my RSS feed. At the time I ignored it, because my feed appeared to be working fine and had never heard any complaints (turns out it was just a quirk with Feed Validator). I wondered why Amazon would want my feed and just assumed they were going to integrate a feed reader on their site someplace in the future. I forgot about it and never followed up to see why. So to answer your question, NO, they never asked permission.

He says he isn’t gaining any revenue from Kindle, but he believes that it could generate new readers for his site, “but my thought is that the only subscribers will be people that are already familiar with my site.”

So that’s two bloggers who Amazon has left out in the cold. How many others are there?

Is Amazon Screwing Over Bloggers?

[For more on these Kindle investigations, see ten arguments against the Kindle, the initial query concerning blog content being redistributed without permission or compensation, the first wave of Kindle blogger responses, and the the second wave of Kindle blogger responses.]

On Saturday, Matthew Ingram noticed this about the Kindle:

The second thing that hit me was the part where Steven Levy says that users will be able to download books, newspapers and magazines, and will even be able to “subscribe to selected blogs, which cost either 99 cents or $1.99 a month per blog.” That one made me do a double-take. Pay a monthly subscription fee to read a blog? Either Levy and/or Bezos have been smoking something, or they have found some magical way to get people to pay for something that has historically been free.

So wait a minute here. Do any of these blogs get a cut here? I’m going to conduct some investigation and confirm if this is indeed the case.

[UPDATE: Here is a list of Kindle blogs. This blog does not appear to be listed, but Galleycat, Overheard in New York, Jossip and Boing Boing are. It appears quite likely that arrangements have been made with these respective outfits. But I will dig up more info and find out for sure.]

[UPDATE 2: Emails have been sent to many of the bloggers at the Kindle Store. If I find out anything for sure, I will post my findings here.]

[UPDATE 3: Jason Kottke has additional links, including the revelation of bloggers getting “a revenue share with Amazon, since it costs money to get those publications.” Nothing, as of yet, confirmed with anyone from Amazon. Hopefully, I’ll have some more answers later this afternoon about what’s going on.]

[UPDATE 4: Glenn Reynolds has emailed me back, telling me that his syndication rights are owned by third party Pajamas Media. He believes they cut this deal. I will follow up with them. Of being informed of the Kindle, he writes, “I’ve heard nothing from Amazon myself. I don’t mind being on Kindle at all, but it seems surprising that I haven’t even gotten a PR email from them.” I plan to assemble another post based on the responses I get.]

[UPDATE 5: Robert Scoble writes:

Because then I’ll get a few bucks back for each one you buy. If I read my email right, Amazon is paying bloggers $40 for each one sold. That’s pretty darn cool.

The price to you doesn’t change. But, if you don’t want me to get some money, then visit Amazon’s home page by typing http://www.amazon.com into your browser window.

It’s not the only way I’ll get paid, though.

If you buy a Kindle and you buy my blog. It looks like I get 30% of that fee.

Anyway, thanks Amazon for all the cash! (I’ll need it, cause I just bought my own — it will be here tomorrow).

“Thanks Amazon for all the cash” indeed. If Amazon is indeed paying bloggers $40 for every Kindle sold and many of the top technology bloggers are on board for this, can we count upon these bloggers to be critical of the product?]

Cassavetes, Gazzara and Falk on Dick Cavett

[Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

This isn’t available on DVD, folks. They’re all promoting Husbands. And they’re all quite drunk. And this is such a train wreck that Cavett flees the set.

Cassavetes: “So we’ll stand up here on this show and we’ll do anything we have to do to make it clear that we don’t care really what you think of us, except that we want to express ourselves the way we want to.”

Alec Baldwin: Stylistic Innovator?

November 18, 2007: “I miss all of the 30 ROCK cast and crew, who I don’t see anymore because of this motherfucking, motherfucking, motherfucking strike.”

Well, you have to give the man points for the serial modifier. I certainly haven’t seen anything like it in print. (Conversation, on the other hand, is a different mother altogether.)

I put forth this query: Is there anybody in the history of letters who has banged that word out three times in a row? From Denis Johnson’s National Book Award-winning Tree of Smoke: “Everything that’s got it’s shitty fingerprints which I can see smeared all over you and glowing like a motherfucking, Bozo-the-Clown goddam target.” Another close contender is Robert Bolano’s The Savage Detectives: “Motherfucking hemorrhoid-licking old bastard, I saw the distrust in his pale, bored little monkey eyes right from the start, and I said to myself this asshole will take every chance he gets to spit on me, the motherfucking son of a bitch.” That’s two, but they’re not close together and it certainly doesn’t equal Baldwin’s holy trinity. (There is, of course, Aimee Bender’s delightful story, but it doesn’t quite have this context.)

Is it possible that Baldwin is making new efforts at stylistic expression through his blog? Or does the motherfucker only have “motherfucking” on his mind? (I likewise wonder, given his fixation for mothers, how he would have responded to the Voight-Kampff test.)

Just Imagine If He Had Read Updike’s Last Novel

Independent: “Mr Chalk was reading The Unknown Terrorist, the latest novel by the Australian author, Richard Flanagan….Mr Chalk, a teacher who was in town for an education conference, had not even ordered a drink when a security officer asked him to leave. ‘He said several customers had complained about the literature I was reading and I’d have to move on,’ Mr Chalk told the Cairns Post.”

What’s hilarious is that Flanagan responded by saying, “Far from being far-fetched, my novel correctly predicted the future of Australia.” It seems these days that no matter how crazy or outlandish a comic novel, there is some ridiculous truth that comes to fruition. (via Quill & Quire)

Books for Me, Thanks

[For more on these Kindle investigations, see ten arguments against the Kindle, the initial query concerning blog content being redistributed without permission or compensation, the first wave of Kindle blogger responses, and the the second wave of Kindle blogger responses.]

Ten arguments against the Kindle (one against the promotional video):

1. A book does not require a battery. Let’s say you’re on the second to the last page and the battery goes out. Then you have to hunt around for the damn charger. But where did you put the charger? In the same time, you could have finished a compelling book.

2. If you lose the book, you can borrow it from a library or buy another copy or read it at a bookstore before they kick you out because you wore the wrong T-shirt or you slept with the wrong bookstore employee (but that’s a side issue). If you lose your Kindle, you have to pay $400. Oh sure, it’s always “backed up online.” But you’ll have to pay $400 to use it again. (I’m assuming likewise that the specific text use here is proprietary, meaning that you can’t view a Kindle text in another format on your computer. Hackers will almost certainly crack this and who knows? Maybe we’ll see a piracy problem for publishers.)

3. Thirty hours seems like a lot of battery life. (“You can read for days without having to plug in,” my ass. Thirty hours is thirty hours.) But let’s say you want to read Against the Day or The Recognitions in one long sitting. And what if you fall asleep reading? Will the Kindle stay on?

4. Can you really read with the Kindle in the bathtub? If you drop the Kindle into the tub, will it survive? Or will the LCD screen be toast? How durable is this little bastard anyway?

5. This whole business of flipping the page is rather arrogant of Amazon, isn’t it? In one fell swoop, Amazon wants to usurp the reading experience by having the page buttons on each side of the display. But what if you want to flip back? Well, that glorious sense of the index finger and thumb clutching the right corner of the page is now gone. You don’t feel that palpable sense of being one with a book. It’s more like a game of Bioshock.

6. What about those of us who enjoy looking up arcane words in the dictionary? Is the Kindle Dictionary an unabridged? Or is it one of those yuk-yuk high school dictionaries? OED plug-in? Can you highlight a specific phrase or just a line? (The video skips through the “highlighting” part quite rapidly, suggesting that we shouldn’t pay attention. But, dammit, it’s important.) How will this compare with highlighting or flagging a specific passage with a Post-It? All we get here is an option to dog-ear a corner. This is eminently unsuitable for reference. (I will say, however, that finding all citations of a word in a book is very helpful, although will this discourage people from memorizing poetry or specific passages?)

7. The font size option seems nice, but what of specific typesetting choices? How, for example, can a book like Only Revolutions or The Raw Shark Texts or even Alfred Bester’s enneagrams be enjoyed this way? And what of the juxtaposition of illustrations with text? There is sometimes a specific reason for why a photo or an illustration appears in relation to a particular page.

8. “The same wireless technology as advanced cell phones?” Great. Guess I’ll have to turn the Kindle off then during a transatlantic flight and waste twelve hours watching that shitty in-flight movie. Thanks, Amazon!

9. The ability to hold a mere 200 books for $400 (plus extra for books)? I can buy a 4 Gig Compact Flash card for $80.

10. This guy in the blue shirt looks like he sells insurance or some kind of corporate mercenary. I wouldn’t trust him to buy me a beer if I gave him the money. He’d pocket the Lincoln and then ask me for the five bucks I “didn’t give him.”

Another Roundup From the Past!

  • Why stop at one pre-rigged roundup? Here’s another one for Monday. I know what you’re thinking. Did he fire two posts or only three? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is WordPress 2.3, the most powerful web app in the world, and would blow a newspaper clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself a question. Do I feel lucky? Well, yes and no. In large part because I’m the punk and you’re not.
  • Except in this case, I’ve timed this second roundup to go up at sunrise in New York. Which makes you wonder when these roundups were written, or whether the first roundup is appreciably better than the second. One of many strange mysteries here at Reluctant.
  • Atwood revisits Brave New World (via Maud)
  • No, not the actress or the books editor. Is Elizabeth Taylor one of the most distinguished practitioners of the art of the short story from 1972? In other words, could this be a John P. Marquand figure that has been needlessly forgotten here?
  • “And always wet your hands before you handle a trout!”
  • Lindsey Gardner has been seeing her children’s books censored by publishers in some pretty odd ways. Sharp objects were removed in one book and another book banned youngsters from walking alone. If this keeps up, pretty soon any illustrated depiction of a human will be airbrushed out. Because really, you never know if their thoughts could be misinterpreted by a young reader! A little subconscious ambiguity here and a misperceived line there and eventually you’ll have yourself a corrupted young mind! Then again, to paraphrase Jack Burton, son of a bitch must pay!
  • From the lively link collector Michael Orthofer, who I presume isn’t prerigging his roundups, comes this profile of New York Review of Books curator Edwin Frank — another of the Literary Eds You Can Trust in New York. If Mr. Park is “The Other Ed,” then I suppose Mr. Frank will be referred to as either “The Third Ed” or “The Curating Ed” or possibly “The Win, Place or Show Ed.”
  • I’m with Gwenda on this. Why should fairy tales be confined to a specific century? Sounds to be like a temporal form of Jim Crow or apartheid, if you ask me.