The Bat Segundo Show: Mike Edison

Mike Edison appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #226. Edison is the author of I Have Fun Everywhere I Go.

Condition of the Show: Reinvestigating the purported death of Bat Segundo. (See also Show #199.)

Author: Mike Edison

Subjects Discussed: Writing a memoir predicated upon shit-talking, sticking with the details, the lack of composite characters, compressed chronology, Heeb editor Josh Neuman vs. Screw art director Kevin Hein, Tom Cruise’s ass, The Passion of the Christ, the ground rules for satire, Martha Stewart, being married to ideas, High Times‘s Steven Hager, reality TV vs. YouTube, patience and publishing, the Chronocaster, Tommy Chong, attempting to assemble the film High Times Potluck, marijuana bribes, the cult of personality, sexual harassment, being in the gutter with Al Goldstein, the roots of High Times, editorial backstabbing, the appropriate conditions in which to get stoned, Robert Altman, stoners and color separation, Ozzy Osbourne, Edison’s career trajectory, working for a beer and soft drinks magazine, dropping out of Columbia and working as a porn novelist and getting burned out, on being bored easily, the business of High Times, magazine readership, early ambitions, Bill Hicks, the Beatles and John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, Ringo Starr’s first album vs. Steve Miller, and the unpredictability of life.


Correspondent: First off, you have a lot of critical things to say about a lot of people.

Edison: I name names, brother!

Correspondent: Yeah, I know. But there’s a lot of shit-talking going on.

Edison: You think?

Correspondent: And I’m wondering if this book was written out of revenge or what?

Edison: Absolutely not. I mean, you know, I feel sorry for the people who weren’t nice to me in the last twenty years of my career. But, no, this was not written from a point of view of malice. That’s not a place to write a book from. The book’s a celebration. And, of course, a few people crossed me over the years and I do kind of take joy in sticking pins in them now. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there weren’t. But success is the best revenge. And history is written by the winners.

Correspondent: You consider yourself a success? You’re writing your own history here?

Edison: I’m on your radio show. I think there’s no greater sign of success than that.

Correspondent: (laughs)

Download BSS #226: Mike Edison (MP3)

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The Bat Segundo Show: Peter David

Peter David appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #225. He is most recently the author of Tigerheart and the Incredible Hulk novelization.

Condition of the Show: Investigating claimed nemeses of Goliath.

Author: Peter David

Subjects Discussed: On being prolific, producing work quickly, writing stories set in expansive universe, reacting to a universal construct, working with mythos, the Fallen Angel universe, the Star Trek: New Frontier books, Joseph Campbell and Star Wars, Willow, fundamental tropes in storytelling, whether or not all stories are derivative, retinkering the Peter Pan formula for Tigerheart, the advantages of pastiche, James Barrie, Don Quixote, the Great Ormond Street Childrens Hospital’s litigious actions towards Peter Pan adaptations, emulating Barrie’s voice, the unproducable nature of Barrie’s Peter Pan play, the advantages of dream narratives, the conversational nature of the comic book script medium, cameo appearances and throwaway side characters in Tigerheart, verisimilitude, managing numerous characters in a universe, story elements that originate from the protagonist, speculative double entendres to George Bush, adjusting comic storylines as sales figures come in, spicing things up in Fallen Angel, keeping a comic book marketable and other commercial demands, David’s twelve-year run on the Hulk, boosting sales, the role of the comic book editor, David’s exclusive Marvel contract, Tennessee Williams, unique stories and salable stories, and coordinating storylines on other comic books.


Correspondent: I’m wondering though if there has ever been an instance in your comic career, in which an editor has come to you and said, “Hey, Peter, the sales for this particular title are flagging. What can we do to raise things up?” Has this ever an influence?

David: Sure. Of course it’s an influence. I mean, look, when it comes to — particularly my work-for-hire material — my job at the end of the day is to do two things. As far as the publisher is concerned. This is purely my job as far as the publisher is concerned, okay? Number one: Turn in a publishable script. And number two: Do everything that is within my power to write a book that will sell. Okay? Because I could turn in absolutely kickass scripts that aren’t going to sell for crap. But I feel to a certain degree that part of my job is to try and do everything I can to keep the book marketable. I’ve been doing that my entire comic book career. When I was writing Hulk, during my initial twelve-year run, I regularly had access to sales figures ahead of time. Three, four months ahead of time. Because that’s how far ahead we were soliciting. And they were incredibly instructional. Because what would happen is, I would be aware of a sales drop months ahead of time. Months ahead of time. So that I would have the Hulk in a particular incarnation going through a particular series of events. If I saw sales starting to flag, I’d say to myself, “Okay. That incarnation of the Hulk seems to be running its course. Time to come up with something else.”

So if you want to have an idea of when sales were starting to drop during my twelve-year run, at any particular time, look to a point where the Hulk undergoes some kind of transformation, backdate yourself about six months and that’s when I was looking at the sales figures, going, “Okay. We have a drop.” The problem nowadays is that we don’t know sales figures until after the book is already on the stands. So instead of having a three to four month early warning system, so that I can course correct ahead of time, we are always behind the curve by three to four months. Because we don’t know the sales numbers until at least two months after the book has come out. I mean, you know, we see the sales numbers on ICv2 or whatever it is. That’s when I see the sales numbers. We see those sales numbers come out two to three months after the book is on the stands, plus we’re soliciting three months down the line. So you can find yourself in free-fall before you’re aware of the fact that you’ve got any kind of attrition problem. Because every book’s always going to have attrition. Every book. Every book. There’s no stopping it. There’s always going to be. You’re going to get a build. And then it’s going to level off. And then it’s going to start to drop. Always. No matter what the book is. Always. The thing I was able to do on Hulk is, when I saw it start to drop, I would say, “Okay. Time to do something different.” And I could come up with a new angle on The Hulk that would boost sales. Because we’d have people going, “Oh, they’re doing something new and different with The Hulk? Let’s see.” As it is, I can’t course correct. And it’s incredibly frustrating.

Correspondent: But I’m also wondering if some of the stuff that you do with, say, Fallen Angel — I mean, you had a post on your blog recently in which a gentleman couldn’t purchase it from his neighborhood comic store. Because he was the only person purchasing the issue.

David: Buying it, yeah.

Correspondent: So for something like this, is Fallen Angel more of an unfettered territory to write in?

David: It’s unfettered territory. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to see sales be brought up.

Download BSS #225: Peter David (MP3)

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Racism and Copyright Games: The Fallacious Position of William Sanders

Transcriptease offers a very helpful summation on the racist shenanigans of Helix editor William Sanders. For those who missed out on this piece of news, writer Luke Jackson sent Sanders a story. The story featured Muslim characters. Sanders rejected it, noting in his rejection letter, “You did a good job of explaining the worm-brained mentality of those people.” The email then made the rounds on several science fiction sites. And several Helix contributors asked for their stories to be removed from the Helix archives.

Rather than perform the gentlemanly act and apologize for his mistake, Sanders issued an ultimatum to his contributors. If they wished to remove their stories from the archive and did not express their wish to do so within a month, they would be forced to pay $40 to have it removed later. Soon, Sanders retracted this offer and declared that nobody could have their stories removed at all.

Assuming that there is no written instrument, Sanders is in no position to make such demands of his contributors.

The question that nobody has asked here is whether any of the Helix contributors ever signed a contract or another written instrument upon having their stories appear in Helix. Sanders’s magazine lists all of the contents as falling under the copyright of Helix. This itself is fallacious, because according to Helix‘s website, Helix is published by the Legends Group, which is described as an unincorporated association. Since Helix is based in Maryland, according to the Maryland Business Regulation Code, § 19-201, it can therefore be described as an organization. Therefore, if the copyright notice on the site is valid, should not the copyright read “©2008 The Legends Group” instead? And if The Legends Group has performed due diligence, then surely this would be reflected at the Register of Copyrights, right? After all, § 409 of United States Code, Title 17, states that each application for copyright must contain “(10) in the case of a published work containing material of which copies are required by section 601 to be manufactured in the United States, the names of the persons or organizations who performed the processes specified by subsection (c) of section 601 with.”

But over at the Library of Congress’s public catalog, we discover no such notices for these stories by either Helix, The Legends Group, or William Sanders. Searches for “Legends Group” and “The Legends Group” reveal no registered copyrights. And searches for “Helix” or “Sanders William” do not match up with any of the stories listed on the Helix site.

If the Helix contributors simply sent in their stories into Sanders and he agreed to publish them, and there was no contract, then this means that they retain the unregistered copyrights for their stories, and Sanders is in violation. If Sanders did not have a written instrument in place specifying that there was a transfer of copyright to Helix, then the copyright belongs to the author. Which would mean that the author controls whether or not the story appears on the website. To cite the specific code section under §204 of Title 17:

(a) A transfer of copyright ownership, other than by operation of law, is not valid unless an instrument of conveyance, or a note or memorandum of the transfer, is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or such owner’s duly authorized agent.

Of course, to uphold Sanders’s numerous copyright violations, the stories would need to be registered. If the writers who wish to have their stories removed from Helix were to register their stories with the Copyright Office, then Sanders be in clear violation of copyright and damages could be pursued.

Either way, Sanders does not come out of this looking well at all. The best thing for him to do is to remove any stories that authors wish for him to remove. And if Sanders cannot perform this basic courtesy, then the writers have the obligation to register their stories with the Copyright Office and take up the dispute in court to collect the dutiful damages that come from being associated with a racist editor.

NYPD Police Brutality

WCBS: “Cephus said he was bringing ice into a park, when he encountered two police officers checking for liquor. He dropped his bag, and says he was hit 10 to 12 times on the shoulder and upper arms, before a bystander’s camera even started.”

Amazingly, Police Union President Patrick Lynch claims this to be an appropriate amount of force. And while the officer involved has not been suspended, he has been confined to desk duty.

This violence comes only a day after a NYPD officer assaulted a Critical Mass cyclist, brutally pushing him from his bike while he was simply riding down the street.

The officer who assaulted Cephon is Michael Harrington. The officer who assaulted the cyclist is Patrick Pogan, and even Mayor Bloomberg believes Pogan went over the line.

Patchett Up Your Pity Party, Ann

Proving once again that its editorial team now prefers thoughtless and narcissistic essays over writing that chronicles the human condition, the Atlantic has commissioned Ann Patchett to throw a pity party about book tours. Look, if you’re an author and you can’t be bothered to have a bit of fun with a book tour, then you should either (a) insist on no book tours (as Denis Johnson and John Twelve Hawks have) or (b) stop bitching and moaning. Unless you suffer from Asperger’s or a Napoleon-like hubris, it takes exceptionally little skill to listen to someone and to remain patient even when a person has a predictable question that you’ve been asked four hundred times. (And besides, people are damn interesting, even when they ask obvious questions.) If you have any kind of brain, you can turn that question around into something complex and get the reader to think differently. A novel of yours from six years gets discussed? Tough titty, sweetheart. Once you’ve released the books to the public, they are no longer yours. Works you may deem greater or more significant won’t necessarily be what the audience deems greater or more significant. And what’s wrong with that? I don’t care if you’ve won the PEN/Faulkner or the Nobel. If you can’t appreciate the privilege of a literary life, then you deserve all the flack you get.

The Future of Newspapers and Litblogs: A Thought Experiment

In yesterday’s Huffington Post, publicist Lissa Warren expressed her dismay in “the seemingly widely-held notion that these book sections are being adequately replaced by blogs.” She complained that blogs “don’t actually review books” (emphasis in original) and that bloggers are nothing more than helpful cherry pickers ferreting out the best content.

This, of course, is poppycock. Scott Esposito continues to turn out issues of The Quarterly Conversation and is now making efforts to pay his contributors. Aside from the almost two hundred hours of podcasts available at The Bat Segundo Show, this website has featured many lengthy roundtable discussions of books, running during the week of pub date, including T.C. Boyle’s Talk Talk, Richard Powers’s The Echo Maker, and Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke. (Powers and Baker both joined in during the final installments of their respective roundtables.) The Human Smoke discussion alone generated some 20,000 words of commentary among fifteen people, with asides on second generation Holocaust historians, World War I history, and sundry topics. This week, Talking Points Memo is featuring a lengthy discussion on Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland. Meanwhile, Mark Sarvas has been allowing his readers to see what goes into the writing of a review. This summer, Colleen Mondor helped to organize the Summer Blog Blast Tour (far from the first of this type), which featured a comprehensive series of helpful discussions about contemporary YA titles that even the purportedly best book review sections have not broached because of innate genre prejudices.

Do these efforts represent a replacement for book review sections? Well, if one hopes to find a facsimile of book review sections online, probably not. But it would take an exceptionally rigid and incurious mind to settle merely on a clone. If one wishes to discover forms of literary commentary that serve the same function as a book review section, it is extremely difficult not to find online exemplars in alternative forms.

Warren’s complaints about litblogs fall into the same tired explanations that have been bandied about by the likes of Sven Birkerts, Michael Dirda, and numerous other myopists who are incapable of accepting an alternative that has been carrying on for a good five years. The objections are less about function, or even the content (conveniently, examples of the litblogs’s inadequacies are never cited by the naysayers), and more about form and especially control. Impulsive thought cannot be accepted because it remains impulsive. Never mind that many newspaper book sections, because of the deadline-oriented nature of the business, remain somewhat impulsive and often fail to include numerous examples from the text when considering a book. (Consider, for example, Charles Taylor’s review of Uwem Akpan’s Say You’re One of Them, which appeared in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. We are afforded a summary of Akpan’s offerings. But despite having 1,200 words of space, Taylor only cites a few sentences from the novella, “Luxurious Hearses.” Taylor prefers generalized speculation about the book, rather than the kind of rigorous dissections of text that one expects of a critic.)

The print boosters remain hostile to the idea that an online medium can not only modify the manner in which critics and readers approach a book, but generate innovative methods of expanding one’s relationship to a text. So litblogs are deemed inferior not necessarily because the content is inferior, but because there are doubts about the methods and manner in which litblogs transmit information.

I will agree that if one is looking for the online equivalent of the New York Times Book Review, it’s simply not going to be found on litblogs. And that is because most litblogs, on the whole, aren’t interested in perpetuating a form of literary journalism that, while often quite valuable, has grown tiresome and often predictable. And it is the unpredictablity and spontaneity of litblogs that offer both a literary renaissance and a threat to those who wish to uphold print’s humorless and oft passionless status quo.

On Monday, I posted a lengthy lexicon of very specific Yorkshire dialect terms used in Ross Raisin’s novel, God’s Own Country (known in the States as Out Backward). It was an effort not only to aid my own understanding of Raisin’s book, but also to assist other readers in negotiating the fascinating linguistic terrain of a novel that, according to a recent Google News search, has only been reviewed in one American news outlet: a 200 word “verdict” and “background” in the Library Journal. The book was a finalist for the Dylan Thomas Prize. This failure on the part of American print outlets to include Raisin’s novel in a timely manner suggests considerable print deficiencies.

The Raisin example also suggests that litblogs are not only covering books that are ignored by the seemingly impeccable vanguard, but that litblogs are presenting new forms of coverage that are inconceivable to Sam Tanenhaus and, yes, even a dutiful reformer like David Ulin. Unprohibited by length and unhindered by house style or crazy billionaires who don’t know how to run a newspaper empire, litblogs are in a position to change the journalistic terrain, possibly usurping freelance reviewers if a comparable revenue model can be established.

While I disagree with Kassia Krozser’s assertions about gender imbalance at the Los Angeles Times Book Review for reasons similar to Carolyn Kellogg’s (disclosure: I am an occasional contributor to the Los Angeles Times), Ms. Krozser is correct to point out that the hand-wringing about book review cuts has indeed represented a sense of entitlement. Not a single books editor, litblogger, or freelance reviewer is entitled to the lives they lead. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of generating content that will ensure that the writer can carry on writing. But if one operates on a smaller scale, then the financial obligation is seriously reduced (assuming that one wishes to make this sort of life one’s center) and the writer’s freedom to write in any fashion is greatly augmented.

So perhaps what we’re really seeing here is a situation in which the leading online voices will carry on doing what they are doing, with the unusual and passionate voices prohibited by the constant scrutiny of newspaper executives, precisely because the financial demands of supporting one individual are lesser than the costs and overhead of running a large newspaper or magazine. As Howard Junker observed yesterday, ad sales for the Atlantic have declined 11% in the last month. For Vanity Fair, the sales were considerably more severe, dropping a whopping 49%. With print advertising starting to dip, the onus now falls upon newspapers and magazines to either (a) increase advertising to support current operating costs or (b) reduce operating costs to bring the outlet in line with the reduced advertising. But if newspapers and print boosters will remain obdurate about these apparent online yahoos, the onus also falls upon litbloggers to find sustainable revenue models that will permit them to operate independently.

I should observe that the cost of a full-page advertisement in People Magazine is $250,000. I cannot speak for other bloggers, but it is safe to say that I could live off of this sum for a good five years and be relatively happy. I think it’s also safe to say that the money could also be allocated to other writers to turn in high quality freelance reviews for this site. Now imagine if a People advertiser wised up to this idea and decided to sponsor me (or another blogger) for five years. The People full-page advertisement fades away from public consciousness in a week, but the advertisement would run here for five years to a more limited, but very specific niche audience. Because there is only one sponsor, my editorial integrity would be fairly well preserved and I wouldn’t have to fear upsetting many sponsors who keep a big newspaper operation afloat. I would not need to always pander to a mass audience by reviewing the latest by a big name author. Small press and genre authors tossed out with the galleys deemed extraneous could be included with the same rigor that a newspaper grants the celebrated big names. Gender imbalances, whether genuine or perceived, could be greatly remedied.

If enough bloggers were to initiate an advertising scenario along these lines, it is safe to say that blogs could adequately replace newspaper book review sections, adopting both the form of the well-considered essay featured in book review sections as well as many alternative forms now practiced and conjured up by current litbloggers. I don’t know if the newspapers have discussed this possibility, and I don’t know how many litbloggers have truly considered this ambition. But the time has come to set a precedent. If this does occur — and it just might — then it may very well be the print contributors who begin coming around to the online venues. Let us not respond with the same snobbery and entitlement.

The Bat Segundo Show: Sen. Mike Gravel & Joe Lauria

Senator Mike Gravel and Joe Lauria appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #224. Gravel and Lauria are the co-authors of A Political Odyssey. Gravel was a candidate for the 2008 U.S. presidential race. Lauria is an investigative journalist who writes for The Sunday Times.

Condition of the Show: Delving into the complexities of the military industrial complex.

Authors: Senator Mike Gravel and Joe Lauria.

Subjects Discussed: Whether Sen. Gravel and Joe Lauria share the same brain, The National Initiative for Democracy, Article VII of the Constitution, rules that prevent people from participating in the electoral process, the military industrial complex, the Civil War and the defense budget, Eisenhower’s transportation system, Harry Truman and Communists, Iran’s missile defense, living in a culture of fear and a culture of information, X-ray machines at airports, Gravel’s involvement in the celebrity culture of politics, “Rock,” involvement with Obama Girl, whether or not Senator Obama or any of the Democratic presidential candidates have been in touch with Gravel since the debates, whether or not Gravel is done with electoral politics, leaving out details of Gravel’s life between 1981-2006 in A Political Odyssey, political visibility, balancing substance and celebrity, the semiotics and audience reaction to “Rock,” the “unnecessary” nature of war, Woodrow Wilson, war as an endless continuum, whether or not Americans deserve the government that currently represents them, Colin Powell and false threats, Daniel Ellsberg, Dick Durbin, Frank Wuterich and Murtha’s defamation suit, the Speech or Debate Clause, morality and collateral damage, Scoop Jackson, Gravel standing up against the ABM, working with hawkish Senators, and political peer pressure.


Correspondent: A question to both of you. The modifier that frequently ripples, so to speak, throughout this book in relation to war is “unnecessary.” You question Woodrow Wilson’s motives for getting us into World War I, writing that America was not threatened. Yet I must bring up the bombing of the Lusitania. And I must also point out that there was the Kingsland Explosion. The Zimmerman telegram. I mean, what is a necessary war? Was America really not at threat in World War I? Is this what you’re saying?

Gravel: Of course it was not.

Lauria: Well, I’ll just say briefly that the idea of the Zimmerman telegram was absolute nonsense. Why did Wilson send ships into the areas where they could be sunk?

Gravel: Right. And there was an argument that it had munitions. I mean, Woodrow Wilson didn’t have to go into the First World War at all. In fact, had he not gone in, there’s a chance that we never would have had the Second World War. Had we let them, that was their war, bleed themselves out. Well, you realize that after the First World War, the democracies of the world were in command of the world. And who screwed up the 20th century but the democracies? Clemenceau and the British and ourselves were the ones that set up the tobacco of the 20th century. Does it get any worse than that?

Correspondent: Okay, that clarifies…

Lauria: There wouldn’t have been Versailles. There wouldn’t have been a settlement to the war.

Gravel: There wouldn’t. Because…

Lauria: You would not have had Hitler.

Gravel: No, you wouldn’t have had Hitler. Because the Germans could not have refielded their armies that had left. The French could not have refielded their armies. So there would not have been Versailles. This was like the movie, The Last Man Standing. Well, the American troops! The British were not standing. The French were not standing. The Germans were not standing. So there we were. The Americans were standing. And we were the heroes. And old Woodrow Wilson was basking in this light. Woodrow Wilson was not the great President we made him out to be. Believe me, he was not.

Correspondent: I thank you for the clarification, but back to the other question. Is war necessary in any sense? Can you cite specific conflicts? Specific battles?

Gravel: I know of no war in history that did not beget more war.

Correspondent: But that kind of dodges the question very skillfully.

Gravel: No, that doesn’t dodge the question. I know of no war that has not begotten more war.

Correspondent: Is it necessary though?

Gravel: I don’t know if it’s necessary. I don’t know if it’s necessary. You attack me. I gotta kill you. Then your brother says, “Well, you killed me.” It’s the famous American cowboy story. You know, vengeance wreaks more vengeance. What kind of question is it? Maybe the question you ought to ask is to take the question from Jesus. Turn the other cheek and maybe you won’t get the other cheek lopped off.

Download BSS #224: Sen. Mike Gravel & Joe Lauria (MP3)

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The Bat Segundo Show: Faye Flam

Faye Flam appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #223. Flam is most recently the author of The Score.

Condition of the Show: Attempting to contend with gender generalizations.

Author: Faye Flam

Subjects Discussed: Boot Seduction Camp as the prism with which to approach evolutionary science, the Mystery Method, crude philosophical rules vs. scientific rules, the SRY gene, masculinity’s backup gene, genetics and the delineation between gender, Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex, bonobos and bisexuality, biological pair bonding, Alan Alda and testosterone poisoning, the decline of macho actors, oxytocin, Andrew Sullivan’s testosterone injections, certain oversights Ms. Flam made from John Tierney’s article on the correlation between shorter men and money, Alfred Kinsey and the human heterodoxy, Joan Roughgarden’s Evolution’s Rainbow, Dr. Peter Hurd’s studyon finger length and aggression, the differences between humans and sparrows, Rachmaninov’s hands, evolutionary science and other species, homosexuality and “sexually antagonistic selection,” risk-taking behavior and attractiveness, biological clocks, young men and very older women, and whether scientists or cultural pundits set the terms for human behavior.


Correspondent: But not every man, Faye, is going to sit down and slap thousands of dollars wanting to get laid like this.

Flam: (laughs) No.

Correspondent: I mean, this isn’t the archetypal man. It’s almost as if this is an extraordinary, almost cartoonish construct on which you respond with science and examples with other species and the like. So I’m wondering why this was the one. Why you couldn’t just have some schlumpy guy in a bar who isn’t paying thousands of dollars?

Flam: I guess so. Well, these classes are pretty popular. There are a lot of guys who are into this. And The Game was a bestselling book. So it was a pretty big phenomenon. And it was a little extraordinary, which is what made it interesting. I wanted to start with something that was human and yet not totally mundane. And it caught my interest. It did sort of reflect this idea of the male sex working at just getting sex. Women will put a lot of effort into their hair and makeup, but not really to get sex. I mean, You can walk into a bar without makeup and still get some guy to go home with you.

Correspondent: Depends upon what types of bars you frequent.

Download BSS #223: Faye Flam (MP3)

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George Orwell’s Diaries Remixed as Blog

The Diary Junction reports that, as of tomorrow, George Orwell’s diaries will be available to the public. With the exception of a few diary entries contained in the four volume Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell published in 2000 by David R. Godine, Orwell’s diaries as a whole have not been published in collected form. Like Samuel Pepys’s diary, Orwell’s diaries will be published as a daily blog. It remains unknown whether The Orwell Trust will see fit to introduce an Andrew Keen or Sven Birkerts-like antagonist who will tsk-tsk the late author from offering his work in blog form.

Bat Segundo: Technical Issues & Some Developments

Because IE and Safari users were having difficulty accessing the Bat Segundo site, I’ve temporarily disabled podPress. I’ve tested the site on Firefox, Seamonkey, IE, Safari, and Opera, and you should be able to stream the files during this transition. The podPress developer had pledged that he would fix the “Operation Aborted” problem by Sunday, but, sadly, he still has not offered an update. And regrettably, due to my failure to backup the database when caught up in the geeky excitement of upgrading, I cannot downgrade from WordPress 2.6 to 2.5 to make the current version of the plugin work.

The show is still appearing on iTunes, and you can play the shows and still download them to your iPod. But we’re not going to have specific metadata available until either (a) podPress is updated or (b) I adopt an alternative. I have momentarily activated a barebones Audio Player plugin so that those who listen to the show on the main Segundo site will be able to hear it.

For any podcasters who are currently using the podPress plugin, my advice is to not upgrade to WordPress 2.6 until the podPress developer has worked out the kinks. And for any WordPress user who is upgrading in general, be sure to make a backup of your database before you upgrade. WordPress 2.6 is experiencing problems with its image editor and several Flash-related plugins cannot operate under the current code. Since many of the plugins originate from hobbyists who are doing all this all on their free time, this creates a situation in which one must be especially cautious.

I’m going to have some additional news about the Save Segundo campaign in a few days. I am making efforts right now to keep the show running through the end of the year at its current level of prolificity. I also managed to squeeze in another eleventh-hour interview before the hiatus, which I am trying to cut down from unspecified months to a few weeks at most. The interview relates to the lexicon unveiled yesterday.

In the meantime, you can now access the show directly at I’ve also made the site W3C complaint. There will be more this week. Bear with me.

Booker Longlist

The Booker longlist has been announced. There are many predictable names, but a few surprises, including Steve Toltz and Tom Rob Smith.

Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger
Gaynor Arnold, Girl in a Blue Dress
Sebastian Barry, The Secret Sculpture
John Berger, From A to X
Michelle de Kretser, The Lost Dog
Amitav Ghosh, Sea of Poppies
Linda Grant, The Clothes on Their Backs
Mohammed Hanif, A Case of Expanding Mangoes
Philip Hensher, The Northern Clemency
Joseph O’Neill, Netherland
Salman Rushdie, The Enchantress of Florence
Tom Rob Smith, Child 44
Steve Toltz, A Fraction of the Whole


  • Hitotoki, which merges fiction with a Google Maps-like interface, has unveiled a Paris version. This website seems to me a more purposeful use of location than the steady stream of middling noir books (Wichita Noir! Peoria Noir!) from Akashic, where rough and tough regional voices who have gritty things to say about the cities they know have been overlooked by “literary” names who not only lack a feel and understanding for these locations, but who are not familiar with the most elementary components of genre. Then again, when one considers the collective hubris of Johnny Temple, a snotty dunderhead more resembling Bernard Black than Frank Black who wears the constant look of a man incapable of balancing his checkbook, and Johanna Ingalls, a dour and humorless shrew as ungrateful as a Williamsburg hipster, one is not surprised by this onslaught of mediocrity. Oh well. At least this insufferable duo publishes Elizabeth Crane and Joe Meno. Too bad they can’t be bothered to maintain the most elementary professionalism, which one finds from smarter indie houses.
  • Now wait just a minute here! We’re not supposed to speak ill of the indies! The indies represent a true alternative to the corporate oligarchy that controls the publishing industry. Well, yes and no. Let us not forget that the publishing industry is a business, and that indies need to generate revenue just as much as the majors. Recall the AMS bankruptcy snafu of early 2007. The indie publishers did not control the cards. The distributor did. Indeed, AMS was unable to pay monies due to many of the publishers. Books in production had to be repackaged so that the books could sell. And while Jonathan Karp was forced to confess that indies have access to the same resources as the big boys, and that non-generic books were the wave of the future, the ability of major publishers to distribute books far and wide that keeps them ahead of the game. And the indie reliance on tenuous distribution might just have an effect sometimes on their ostensible iconoclasm. One must not necessarily judge a book by its publisher, for all publishers are beholden to the invisible thumb.
  • One can have no privacy on Twitter anymore. When big publishers begin to follow your ostensibly “private” thoughts and little personal asides, the time has come to abandon Twitter. So no mas for me! It was fun while it lasted though!
  • Jules Feiffer interviewed at The Onion. (via Bookshelves of Doom)
  • What a load of fucking nonsense. One of the thing that distinguishes “fucking” as an adverb (and you’ll get no asterisks here from me in discussing the words; I trust readers to be adult — well, mostly adult — about cunning lingua franca) is the magical manner that it stands out without that “-ly” (in Middle English, it was “-lich(e)”) just before a modifier. English speakers, recognizing the innate dissonance of of “fucking” and “ly,” rejected “fucking”‘s deployment in our vernacular as a typical adjective converted to an adverb. Perhaps because “fucking” serves as a kind of spoken forbidden fruit, there was some compulsion to make it slightly idiosyncratic. Roy F. (“Fucking” or “Fuckingly?”) Baumeister misses the important fact that the English language is often quite flexible about converted adverbs. We can use adjectives like “slow” or “quick” and say or write that we “drove slow” or “drove slowly.” Both are acceptable adverbs and both are, suffice to say, without suffixes! Indeed, Baumeister is so unimaginative about adverbs that he hasn’t even considered the more intriguing “fuckwise” as an adverb: “fuck” as a noun and the suffix “-wise.” “Fuckwise ridiculous” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, but it’s certainly more interesting than “fuckingly ridiculous.” But maybe there’s an adverbial application for “fuckwise” at the end of a sentence. “I was in a fucking huff” is okay. But “I was in a huff fuckwise” does not. Perhaps one should accept no substitute for “fucking.” Nevertheless, I will attempt to find usage for “fuckwise” in future posts.

The History of Verizon, Part Two (August 2000)

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a continuation of my ongoing history of Verizon. Part One, which covers the months of April through August 2000, can be found here. Part Three, which covers the months of September through October 2000, can be found here.]

James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader, became the voice of Verizon. Jones had proved popular as the voice of Bell Atlantic and his services were extended to talking up this new brand with his instantly recognizable baritone. But the Baltimore City Paper‘s Joe MacLeod was having none of this. “You never once in your whole entire life said the word, ‘Verizon,’ I’ll bet, unless you knocked back too many highballs or were wacked out on that Special K or Vitamin C or one of those other letters, but now you’re going to say ‘Verizon’ all the time like it’s a real word, and you’re going to write checks to Verizon and call Verizon, and say stuff like, ‘The goddam Verizon’s on the fritz again.’ But it’s not. There’s no such thing as a Verizon. Don’t believe James Earl Jones. It’s a made up bullshit word, and they (and you know who ‘they’ are) probably paid James Earl an ass-load of money to pitch the Verizon on the teevee.”

Whatever “ass-load of money” was paid to Jones, eight years later, Verizon’s name now trickles across the cochlea without cognitive dissonance, thanks in part to Jones’s efforts. The campaign, overseen by Bozell, ensured that the last dregs of Bell Atlantic would be cast asunder for this great leap forward. Jones would later use his position at Verizon to siphon off a hearty combo of Verizon and NEA money for a Magna Carta exhibit, present a $25,000 literary-tech grant to a San Ysidro school, present literary grants, and hand off awards to Russian cinematic talent. In 2002, Jones, testifying before a House Subcommittee on Education Reform, would declare, “I could not be more proud to be associated with an exceptional company like Verizon.” Even when speaking at the 2007 Buffalo Book Fair on literacy, Verizon was indelibly attached to Jones’s words.

In 2007, Jones walked away. While Jones served as a pitchman, Verizon’s contract had restricted Jones from any long-term commitments. Jones’s contract kept him off the Broadway stage until 2005. Jones, in fact, would not appear in any films between 2001 and 2004. In an interview with NWA WorldTraveler, Jones explained, “[Verizon] let me be silly for 15 years on camera — breakdancing and all that. I was as silly as I dared get. They understood that this guy usually is taken as dignified, with a big voice, so they said, ‘Let him be silly,’ and it’s worked!”

But was this really a position for an actor of Jones’s dignified stature to be in? How many dramatic presentations or Broadway performances were lost because Verizon required his services? With a strike heating up in August 2000, the Workers World News Service went further: “Who’s on the board of directors? Not James Earl Jones.” The WWNS proceeded to name names. “Your may not see these folks in the Verizon ads. You may not see their faces on your telephone bill. But these corporate interests are part of the system of exploitation that dominates our lives from telephones to political offices.”

But was Verizon really maintaining a system of exploitation? Or was it just practicing the most ruthless business practices necessary to get ahead?

With the Bell Atlantic-GTE deal receiving FCC approval, Verizon began making quiet payments to ensure its continued expansion. GTE paid $2.7 million to end an inquiry concerning allegations that it had refused to let local phone equipment in GTE offices without the construction of special facilities. Even though the FCC permitted local phone companies to place equipment at their central offices, GTE had insisted upon special equipment cages. The FCC had permitted the local phone companies to place their equipment in COs without the cages, but that hadn’t stopped the phone companies from complaining. Thankfully, money was one of those magical mechanisms that helped end such gripes.

Meanwhile, the forthcoming strike threatened to halt Verizon operations. More than 86,000 telephone workers from Maine to Virginia planned to walk out. On August 4, 2000, Verizon submitted a proposal to the unions. Verizon agreed that it would increase wages by 3 to 4 percent a year for union employees and improve pension plans. But with the income disparity between union and nonunion workers still unaddressed, and the details on job security and very specific demands still unclear, the unions balked. As one particularly prescient Verizon worker said, “Because the company would rather farm out work, this means one company installs the line on the outside of the building, which is us, and another on the inside, which is them. This results in a big headache for the customer, who has to be at home for two days instead of one, and a loss of income to a nonunion company.”

There are other interesting figures to consider here. In 2000, Verizon’s wireless operations generated $532 a year in revenue from each customer. A telephone company customer earned a meager $324 a year. Verizon’s wireless employees were nonunion and its telephone company employees were union, thus resulting in considerably more revenue from its wireless operations. In other words, Verizon had a vested interest in ensuring that its wireless employee basis would remain nonunion. In a competitive market and a declining economy, profit was king. And one Wall Street analyst, speaking to the New York Times under anonymity, suggested that if Verizon’s wireless unit were completely unionized, it would cost the company $300 million a year.

On August 7, 2000, with no negotiations in sight, the workers walked out. Basic services were not affected, but repairs and installations were. Verizon created a stopgap by deploying 30,000 managers — all working 12-hour shifts — to cover services that were normally performed by employees. One technician opined of the managers, “‘I think none of them are qualified to do what we do. Most of [the managers] were educated in college, but they’re not technically inclined.”

The union members were dressed in red, picketing in solidarity. One customer service reporter told the New York Times that she was “tired of being treated like a second-class citizen within the company,” but declined to give her name. Verizon had informed employees that they would be fired if they discussed joining the union at work. Most of the striking workers were former Bell Atlantic workers. The GTE units were not directly involved.

News of the Verizon strike hit many outlets, but some overlooked the company’s considerable expansive efforts. As The Motley Fool‘s Chris Rugaber reported, “While that story is important, investors interested in the telecom sector should pay just as much attention to the company’s announcement yesterday that it has already signed up 1 million long-distance customers in New York.” The company’s goal was to reach the one million mark by the end of 2000, but Verizon was five months ahead of schedule. Verizon pledged to donate $1 million to New York charities to celebrate this achievement.

By August 8, 2000, the strike had gone on for three days, with neither side coming to an agreement. “We continue to frankly plug through some of the more difficult issues that confront us,” said Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe. “It’s become sort of an intense, exhausting sort of a process.” Rabe claimed that there had been 455 acts of vandalism, violence, and harassment of Verizon managers over the previous six days. Eggs and bottles were thrown at those who crossed picket lines. Verizon offered a $250,000 reward. These acts went further. On August 8, 2000, the New York Times reported that vandals had begun slashing telephone cables in New York, causing thousands of New Yorkers to lose service. But Communications Workers of America vice president Al Luzzi declared, “We don’t condone vandalism; we never did, we never well.” Luzzi suggested that Verizon managers might be responsible for the cut cables. Nevertheless, two striking Verizon workers were nearly electrocuted when they confusedly cut through a power cable that they believed to be a phone line.

James Henry, a Bear Stearns analyst, observed that if the company could maintain service without its 85,000 employees, this would be an effective marketing tool. One that would give the company solvency, so long as the strike didn’t last beyond a week. Indeed, in the early days of the strike, Verizon customers did not experience considerable disruptions in phone service.

That same day, Verizon announced that it would be teaming up with NorthPoint to build a new broadband company. The move was on to shift broadband services to DSL. Lawrence T. Babbio, Verizon’s vice chairman and president, boasted that he was putting in 3,000 DSL lines a day. With the new company under NorthPoint’s name, Verizon was looking at a service capacity of 600,000 DSL lines. With Verizon making an $800 million investment in the new company, with $450 million of these funds allocated to network expansion and product development, NorthPoint only needed federal approval, which was expected in mid-2001. NorthPoint was an appealing acquisition because of its business customer base. Business customers could be counted upon to generate more revenue than the garden-variety consumers that Verizon had within the Bell Atlantic network.

But in November, Verizon decided to pull out. Verizon claimed that it terminated the deal because it didn’t care for NorthPoint’s deteriorating business and operating conditions. NorthPoint, counting upon the $800 million, was apoplectic. Said Liz Fetter, NorthPoint’s Communications President and CEO, “I am stunned to get the news after months of conversations with Verizon on the strong business opportunities available to the combined entities. Verizon was not entitled to terminate these agreements, and we are exploring all our options, including funding options and legal remedies.”

There was no breakup fee for terminating the deal.

NorthPoint had seen its stock decline from $39.12 a share to $2.50 a share in just under a year. The Verizon setback caused NorthPoint stock to plunge to a mere 75 cents per share. Verizon’s stock, by contrast, gained 81 cents that same day. Brown analyst Michael Bowen said to CNN, “If they lose Verizon they don’t have much of a future.” Sure enough, Bowen was right. After a round of lawsuits that NorthPoint had filed against Verizon, a NorthPoint shareholder sued NorthPoint about accounting malpractice. Because of these circumstances, 19% of NorthPoint’s workforce was laid off just before Christmas. In March 2001, NorthPoint would eventually file for Chapter 11.

Did Verizon have every intention of backing out of the NorthPoint deal? It is difficult to say with any accuracy, but I do intend to investigate this.

It should be pointed out that NorthPoint enjoyed a great success between 1999-2000, with its stock rising 68% on its first day of trading (like many dot coms) and alliances brokered with the likes of Microsoft. Led by CEO Elizabeth Fetter, a 41-year-old antique collector with a penchant for restoring historic homes, NorthPoint had relied on the Baby Bells to install DSL, but was often dissatisfied with the speed at which it could roll out its service. And although the future looked bright for NorthPoint (and fellow competitor Covad) in light of recent regulatory advantages, NorthPoint had been hit, like many, by the downturn in the economy. Verizon’s cash influx was just the kickstart that would help NorthPoint expand. But NorthPoint, expecting a fair deal, relied on the money instead of questioning it.

So why did Verizon go after NorthPoint? Did it make similar overtures to Covad? Was NorthPoint simply too hungry to expand? And why didn’t NorthPoint’s counsel ensure that the Verizon deal was airtight? Did Verizon see NorthPoint as a competitor it could whittle down? Or did it have even some intention of cooperating with Verizon all along? These questions will require investigation.

On August 9, 2000, the New York Times reported that Verizon and the unions were nearing a negotiation that “might make it easier for the unions to organize workers” at the Verizon Wireless unit. But the strike had heated up. Verizon reported 455 strike-related incidents of assault, harassment, and vandalism to the police in twelve states. With the New York summer heat rising, tempers were too. A Verizon maintenance truck run by a nonunion Verizon contractor was battered and remained stuck under a maintenance gate when a striker gained access to the gate’s remote control. New York State Supreme Court Judge Louis York granted a temporary restraining order that barred picketers from preventing workers and managers from conducting their work. Verizon increased its $10,000 bounty to $25,000.

On August 8, 2000, Verizon’s shares plunged, dropping 14%. It was Verizon’s sharpest one-day freefall since 1987. The NorthPoint deal hadn’t helped. Nor had Verizon’s bid to acquire OnePoint Communications. The terms of the OnePoint sale were not disclosed, but OnePoint was known for the DSL services it provided to apartments and office buildings in nine major U.S. metropolitan markets. Unlike NorthPoint, OnePoint had remained private.

Back on the picket lines, the struggle remained tense. 24 union members had been arrested. Waste and birdshit were tossed upon five Midtown South Precinct officers monitoring picket lines, dumped from the top of Verizon’s 41-story headquarters. The police did not plan to rule out management or strikers. And the 8,000 workers protesting outside Verizon’s headquarters participated in a rally the next day that spilled over into Bryant Park. Even presidential candidate Ralph Nader made an appearance on the Fall Churchs, Virginia picket line. Meanwhile, one advertisement featuring a Verizon worker in a hardhat with the slogan, “Bell Atlantic has a new name,” remained in circulation.

Some commentators, such as the New York Times‘s Mary Williams Walsh, suggested that the customer-service complaints had become a new labor issue. Walsh pointed to Verizon’s requirement by CSRs to ask customers, “Did I provide you with outstanding service today?,” which made at least one feel like an idiot. But if the CSR did not answer the question, then a supervisor listening into the call would deduct points from the performance score. Was the burden of having to be nice all the time something to fight over? Walsh depicted the typical Verizon worker working four hours in the morning, four hours in the afternoon, with an hour off for lunch and two 15-minute breaks. But the stress arose because a supervisor kept track of every workstation using a color-coded grid. In one glance, the multihued squares would reveal whether a CSR was keeping someone on hold for too long and when a CSR signed on and off. One CSR named Patti Egan pointed out that there was only a two-second window between calls, without time to type up the order of the last caller. Often, unfinished orders were set aside, to be presumably completed during one spare two-second moment. Factor in the pressure for CSRs to upsell callers on features and the incentive for a call center to sell $60,000 worth of products a month if the CSRs want to move out of customer service and into jobs without sales duties, and the pressures that the workers were fighting for became all too clear.

By August 14, 2000, Verizon had made a new offer to the unions. But Communications Workers of America spokesman Robert Master declared it “old wine in new bottles.” But the picketeers has started to thin. The thousands of workers who had struck in the previous week had been reduced to 750. Nine days into the strike, employee Danny Marino remarked, “I didn’t think that it would come to this, definitely; I thought this would last only two or three days.” He had been married the previous month. Meanwhile, managers continued to take care of the 80,000 requests Verizon was receiving each day.

On August 16, 2000, the unions declared that they would break off negotiations with Verizon if they could not reach an agreement by midnight the next day. Mandatory overtime and job security remained the two 900 pound gorillas swinging in the room. But the next day, the workers continued talking past this deadline

As the strike took a considerable toll on Verizon’s stock share and federal rules prohibited companies from owning more than one license in a metropolitan market, Verizon unloaded wireless franchises in Chicago and Cincinnati to an investment group led by J.P. Morgan.

Finally, Verizon and the unions reached a tentative agreement. Nonunion wireless employees were permitted to organize. Two-thirds of the strikers settled on a contract two days later. The workers agreed to a three-year contract, procuring a 12% wage increase over three years. And Verizon had imposed a condition upon wireless union organization: if 55% of the employees at a work location agreed to sign cards, they’d have a union. Union telephone workers won the right to conduct more work, such as the installation of high-speed Internet lines. Mandatory overtime would be reduced, but it would still be mandatory. On the work stress issue, the unions were given five 30-minute periods each week whereby the CSRs could perform work that didn’t involve calls. But the two-second window between phone calls had gone unacknowledged.

Three years later, when the contract ran out, there would be another strike. But the next time around, Verizon would not cave. Verizon and the unions would agree to a new contract in September 3, 2003, with a one-year wage freeze, new hires not covered by the job security provisions, and one that would last five years. Five years. The precise length that Verizon had insisted in 2000. The precise length that had worried the unions because of the rapid changes in the telecom industry.

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the unions were preparing to strike again. The numbers now? 86,000 in 2000. 65,000 in 2008. I will examine how this workforce figure was reduced and go into the 2003 strike in forthcoming installments. But for now, I’ll simply observe that the renegotiated five year contract expires on August 2, 2008. Whether the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers will learn a few lessons from these previous two strikes remains to be seen.

Clarification at the Los Angeles Times

David Ulin has offered some clarifications about recent changes at the Los Angeles Times. In addition to talking with the decidedly more trustworthy Sara Nelson at Publishers Weekly, he also specified the changes that are in store in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times.

[UPDATE: Ulin has appeared on KPCC. Meanwhile, the books coverage at Not the L.A. Times appears pretty dire and Kassia Krozser offers more thoughts.]

A Supplemental Lexicon to Ross Raisin’s Fiction

Between reading Sarah Hall’s three novels earlier this year and Ross Raisin’s debut novel, I’ve found to my astonishment that I’ve become more than a bit obsessed with the Northern English dialect. One striking quality of Ross Raisin’s quite disturbing debut novel, God’s Own Country (known in the U.S. as Out Backward), is its reliance on very specific slang to advance the novel and to occlude the reality of what’s happening before us. I became so wonderfully caught up in the words that Raisin pulled a fast one on me, and I ended up abdicating my own common sense. The book’s nineteen-year-old first-person narrator, Sam Marsdyke, lives in a small town in Yorkshire and clings to a vernacular in an effort to assert his frequently misunderstood and often besmirched individualism. The effect becomes one in which the outside reader hopes to understand this troubled character, lest the reader be IDed by Marsdyke as one of the superficial “ramblers” (or tourists) invading his home turf. And the prose’s close association with the Northern England landscape creates a fascinating dilemma for anyone attempting to masticate upon this book on multiple levels.

The verb “gleg” is the neologism that is most frequently used throughout the book. “Gleg” is more commonly used as an adjective in Scotland and means “alert and quick to respond,” but, in Raisin’s hands, it’s often used as a gruff surrogate for “look.” To gleg is to retreat in some sense. But glegging also involves the only place where Marsdyke can maintain his identity. Glegging may be somewhat good for all of us, provided we do not glog in the process.

But because I had the reaction that I had, what follows is an effort to track the many interesting words throughout Raisin’s novel, which may prove of help to readers tackling this interesting novel. Standard British slang terms like “sod” and “tosspot” are ignored. I’m hoping to provide more additional information about specific words as I learn more about them. Page numbers refer to the American edition of the book. Readers are invited to comment upon any additional findings or clear up any etymological mishaps.

aflunters: Yorkshire term for “in a state of disorder.Usage in Book: “the ew was all aflunters” (95), “my head was too aflunters” (157)

bairn: Scottish term for “child.” Usage in Book: “When I was a barin I’d kept…” (28, ref. to Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore?) “a list of bairns, couplings and dead” (41), “I’d gave him that mug as a bairn” (99)

barmpot: A clumsy idiot. Var. of barmy. Usage in Book: “You barmpot, it’s the middle of the bleeding night.” (23), “laughing together like barmpots” (143)

babby: Often used in Northern dialect as a noun for baby or child, Raisin has his narrator sub in a noun for an adjective. Usage in Book: “a babby little feller” (10) “looking like a babby” (50), “I just lay there like a babby with my lids shut” (89), “feel for the babby” (95), “The ewe was licking at her babby” (114), “the rustle of a babby too full of dander to sleep” (123), “my babby, my babby, you’re alive” (126)

beltenger: A Hungarian term for enclosed or inland sea. Usage in Book: “a beltenger of a storm on the ocean” (33)

blatherskite: A Scottish noun for a noisy talker of blatant rubbish. The usage in the book sees Raisin again using a noun in verb form. Usage in Book: “and blatherskite about that rude Marysdyke boy” (66) Also, the local newspaper is referred to as The Blatherskites’ News.

bogtrotted: Originally, a bogtrotter was an offensive term for an Irishman. But it also means one who trots around bogs. Usage in Book: “to show all the places they’d bogtrotted over” (134), “gone off bogtrotting” (168)

brazzent: Yorkshire for “inadvisably generous.” Usage in Book: “a brazzent-looking farmer in a raggedy jacket” (149)

budgerigars: An Australian parakeet. (Perhaps the fact that Mum keeps many budgerigars in one of the farm’s rooms is a wry allusion to Australia’s origins as an English prison colony? Or does this have something to do with the budgerigar’s ability to survive in very dry parts of Australia?) Usage in Book: “That, or she was talking to the budgerigars.” (3) “She thought her buderigars were bonny and all” (47), “the buderigars chattering bollocks at each other” (99), “I was sure the budgerigars would start chattering” (127), “chattering away like budgerigars” (175)

buffit: Stool. Another term used in Wakefield. Usage in Book: “who’d take over his buffit in the corner” (29), “bar buffits reeking with fifty years of smoke” (102), “hunkered over on a metal buffit” (120), “using our bags as buffits” (153)

bummelkite: An obscure 19th century word for blackberry. From an 1895 article, “The Cumberland Dialect,” The Gentleman’s Magazine: “a very puzzling word, and the glossaries do not explain it. Some vocabularies treat it as a corruption of bramble-kite, only to make that darker which was dark enough before, because it leaves the final syllable unexplained.” Usage in Book: “The drone of the brummelkite filled my brain” (145)

charver: Var. of chava. Unruly youth. Usage in Book: “like my old charver on the pier” (193)

choiled up: Pent up, guarded. Don’t know precise etymology, but it’s definitely a Northern English term. Usage in Book: “She was proper choiled up a long while” (116)

chunter: to grumble or grouse mildly or tediously. (Again, like “gleg,” what’s striking is the way that Raisin often uses this verb as a noun.) Usage in Book: “a chunter of talk came through the door-crack” (4) “chuntering in his corner” (31), “chuntering to some old cloth-head at the counter” (57), “I heard him chuntering, fuck off, or something like that” (63), “leaves chuntering with the wind” (71), “She chuntered off to the cupboard with the tins” (92), “she was chuntering to herself” (98), “You’d hear the moles chuntering” (115), “I’d hear him chuntering” (149), “no lasses chundering in the deep-fat fryer” (164)

clog-poppers: Those who have recently died. (Related site.) Usage in Book: “But I marked toward the other end the paper, near the clog-poppers….” (42)

collywobbles: Stemming from the Latin term for cholera, usually in reference to a rumbling stomach. Colly is English dialect for dust. Usage in Book: “for she had the collywobbles” (82, which comes shortly after “a smudgy coal-cloud” seeps around the house)

crambazzled: A very specific Northern word for a man who is old before his time, generally due to illness or drink. Usage in Book: “I hadn’t crambazzled myself half to death with drink as yet.” (32)

crammocky: “Crammocky creel” is a Yorkshire term for a wooden framework hoisted to the ceiling, generally used for drying oatcakes or clothes. Usage in Book: “my joints all crammocky from lying still so long” (59), “I stood up and paced crammocky circles” (143)

crozzle: Yorkshire use. To dry out and become crispy due to burning heat. Usage in Book: “the skin underneath all crozzled with drowsiness” (176)

daffled: Baffled. You’ll probably remember this one from Bram Stoker’s “We aud folks that be daffled” in Dracula although I can’t seem to find a specific etymology. Usage in Book: “She looked daffled then” (104)

doylem: Yet another Yorkish word for idiot, of which there are quite a lot of in this book! Usage in Book: “Talk to her, you doylem…” (50), “for he was a doylem” (101)

ferntickle: A Northern dialect word for freckles. Comes from ME farntikylle — resembling the seed of the fern. Usage in Book: “I could see the little brown ferntickles speckling her nose and the tops of her cheek.” (14)

fizzogs: From “physiognomy.” Shorthand for face. Usage in Book: “some by the looks on your fizzogs” (33)

flowtered: Yorkish folk term for in being in a state of trepidation or nervousness. Usage in Book: “my brain had been flowtered by those gommerils in the car” (43), “No, I said, flowtered…” (57), “I didn’t know what they were so flowtered about” (73), “The ewe will start to get flowtered first” (94), “she got flowtered when she saw it” (124), “I got flowtered then” (138), “I started getting something flowtered” (164)

fratchen: Yorkshire. To argue. Usage in Book: “she didn’t fratchen with me” (153)

gawby: A baby, a dunce. (1913 Webster, provincial in some sense, but what province precisely?) Usage in Book: “If I’d not been such a gawby forgetting about maggots….” (17), “turned into a gawby” (188), “a herd of gawby sergeants” (194)

gleg: See introduction. Usage in Book: “I went for a gleg in the freezer….” (4) “a quick gleg past him” (11) “When I glegged in…” (27) “I glegged in at him…” (32) “A few of the other sheep glegged up.” (40) “I was itching for a gled across at her.” (51), “too far yet to gleg inside” (65), “I never got to gleg what he’d written” (92), “Father glegged up at her” (100), “I glegged an eye up” (103), “I was worried someone else might gleg the message” (113), “I glegged another look at my watch” (123), “I glegged round to see if she was watching” (125), “glegged up an instant from their crossword puzzle” (136), “glegging an eye at me over the top” (137), “He had a gleg round once” (142), “I glegged over the stump top” (144), “glegged me gaining” (172), “I glegged the four-by-four” (175), “I tried to gleg the entrance pool” (181), “He’d always gleg over at me” (202)

glishy: Sticky. And while there are many usages of this adjective which can be found on Google, I can’t seem to determine where the word originated from. A Verdurian term? Is Raisin an RPG enthusiast? (This may explain the many references to board games, including Monopoly and Scrabble, throughout the book.) Usage in Book: “glishy magazines of horse arses jumping over a fence” (10), “all bright and glishy like a piece of flesh with the skin torn off” (100), “the glishy black stones” (184)

gommeril: A fool. Dialectical, common to Yorkshire. Origin unknown. Usage in Book: “still red from before with the gommerils” (35), “my brain had been flowtered by those gommerils in the car” (43)

heart-slufffened: Heartbroken. Unknown origin, but spoken in the 1860s. Usage in Book: “she was so heart-sluffened” (154), “sat sluffened” (173)

hubbleshoo: A Yorkshire term for commotion that can be traced back to 1855. Usage in Book: “a hubbleshoo of noise” (24) “the hubbleshoo of small boys spewing out the bus” (42), “a hubbleshoo of bleats” (68), “a hubbleshoo of activity” (112), (189)

jarp: To strike or smash. More spec., to crack a hard-boiled egg with another. This is an Easter game. Durham & Tyneside dialect. Usage in Book: “My hands jarped off from the vibration.” (38), “Wetherill’s shout jarped my attention” (145)

jipping: From A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English: “staining (part of a horse) with India ink to conceal a blemish. Usage in Book: “My neck, bag and legs were all jipping from stones and heather tangles…” (129)

kecks: Variation of the Yorkshire “kegs” for trousers. Usage in Book: “Blotchy wiping his hand on his kecks” (76), “the band of my kecks” (150), “dragged my kecks” (200)

ligged out: Yorkish term for “laid out.” Usage in Book: “with the pup ligged out between” (58), “Sal was ligged out retching in the stable” (83), “ligged out on the slope of the hollow” (107), “one of the sheep ligged out between the wall and the back of the pen” (123), “I ligged out on my belly” (133)

lugger-bugger: Mover. Marsdyke is quite taken throughout the book with singsong hyphenated nouns that rhyme. See also “mother-smothering” on 6. Usage in Book: “as if they feared the lugger-buggers might set it in the vegetable plot” (5), (7)

mafted: Yorkshire. Very hot or breathless. Usage in Book: “I was mafted from walking so quick” (164), “a mafting hot afternoon” (168)

mardy: See H2G2 entry. Usage in Book: “she wasn’t mardy any more” (156), “she was mardy again” (169)

mawnging: “Mawngy” is a Yorkshire adjective for bad-tempered, but Raisin has appropriated it for use as a verb. Usage in Book: “there was nothing any of them could do about it but for mawnging” (29) Another hint: “a mawngy crow sat in a tree gawping into space.” (68), “didn’t mawnge about it” (153)

nazzart: North East dialect for rascal. Usage in Book: “the bone-idle nazzart” (100), “Get back here, you old nazzart” (140, 143), “my brain was in a nazzartly mood” (168)

nithering: To shiver or tremble with cold. Scottish and Northern English. Variation of “blithering.” Usage in Book: “A month on and you’d stil be nithering cold if you came up there without a coat.” (96)

nobbut: Yorkshire adverb for “only.” An homage to Alan Titchmarsh’s Nobbut a Lad? Usage in Book: (42)

panacalty: I’ve heard of the Northern English dish panacalty, but I haven’t tried it yet. Here’s a recipe. Usage in Book: “I’ve panacalty on the go” (112), “fried up their bacon and their panacalty” (147)

parkin: A kind of ginger cake originating in Northern England. Usage in Book: “She was making the Christmas parkin.” (79), “I bolted another piece of parkin.” (81)

powfagged: Lancashire term for “tired.” Usage in Book: “powfagged and sleepy-eyed from the walk” (58), “we were powfagged after our adventures” (142)

raggald: A Norse term for “villain” used in Calderdale. Usage in Book: “That raggald — he pushed me over the side!” (33)

ramblers: hikers wandering the English countryside. In the book, Marsdyke speaks perjoratively of the ramblers and, at one point, gets into a violent skirmish with them. Although the term can’t be found in this helpful British slang dictionary, it is used in this 2003 BBC News article. Usage in Book: (1), “bright enough the ramblers needed their sunglasses” (56), “Ramblers’ pub other side of Felton Top” (56), “ramblers arfing and barfing about cuckoos and the like” (72), “I hadn’t caught on it was her at first, I’d thought it was a rambler” (99), “We were proper ramblers now” (131), “He must’ve stole it off a rambler” (134), “Well, ramblers, it’s a gradely day for it” (169)

sarnie: sandwich. Usage in Book: “She threw another piece of sarnie.” (108), “She’d even made sarnies.” (132), “punnets of sarnies” (146), “munching us sarnies in quiet” (153), “ate the rest the sarnies” (157)

scarper: to flee or depart suddenly; esp. without having paid one’s bills. Usage in Book: “I waited for them to scarper…” (3) “The whelps were scarpering.” (20), “I kicked the fallen sarnie at him and scarpered” (150)

scran: Slang for rations. Usage in Book: “She had a scran with her and all” (99)

sile: To rain heavily. Yorkshire. Usage in Book: “listening to the rain sile down” (154), “siling down like this” (156)

skittled: Skittles is, of course, a game of ninepins involving a wooden ball or disc knocking down pins. Usage in Book: “It was a job to keep from laughing as they skittled about…” (2)
Related: Interestingly, Raisin has Marsdyke use “skitter” in reference to the girl he’s mad about on 5. “Skitter” is close to “skittle,” both in sound and definition. But it is a less parochial verb. (There is also “skiffling for her bag” at 107 and “it skiffled about in the straw” at 125.) Thus, is this Marsdyke’s attempt at understanding the new neighbors? Another variation is “upskittled”: “I had an upskittled frame of the whelps cowering under Father’s chair” (20), “I wasn’t mighty upskittled to hear she wasn’t helping” (65)

snicket: Known predominantly as the surname of Daniel Handler’s pen name, “snicket” is actually a Northern term for a narrow passageway between two houses or an alleyway. And knowing the precise definition makes Raisin’s usage of the word particularly fun. Usage in Book: “I saw a thin snicket between two books cocked against each other.” (13), “except for a snicket where it wasn’t drawn fully” (136). Also snickleway: “down a snickleway between a house and the back the station” (140), “a snickleway path through the yellow” (147)

snitter: Snitter is not only a village in Northumberland, but it’s the name of a character in Richard Adams’s The Plague Dogs. Snitter was a fox terrier sold to animal research after his master had died. In light of the book’s emphasis on dogs and whelps, this usage has multiple meanings. Usage in Book: “a snitter of talk” (42)

spiceloaf: Is Raisin a Star Wars geek? I can find no trace of the word, but it was used in Aaron Allston’s Star Wars novel, Betrayal as a food consisting of dense meat ground, spiced, and heated to order. Allston is a Texan. I do not know if Allston appropriated the term from Northern England or if Raisin caught sight of the word in the Star Wars novel or invented it on the fly. (Aha, it is a Yorkshire term for currant bread. So where did Allston get it?) Usage in Book: “a look in her eyes that said, I’m a loopy old spiceloaf” (65)

sump-pool: There are two British-specific definitions for “sump” in my unabridged dictionary: “4. Brit crankcase 5. Brit Dial. a swamp, bog or muddy pool.” The usage of “sump-pool” refers to the latter definition, but perhaps foreshadows Marsdyke’s perception as a crankcase by some within the small town he dwells in. Usage in Book: (1), “mud-sumps around the gate” (96)

tantled: Yorkshire for “to waste time, to dawdle.” Usage in Book: “I tantled near the entrance” (148)

Tesco: A British supermarket chain. Used to delineate the difference between ramblers and countrymen in a humorous context at the beginning of the book. Usage in Book: “That is such nice ham. / Isn’t it? Tesco, you know.” (2)

tidgy: Variation of twitchy, but Yorkshire specific? Usage in Book: “stumbling about the place on tidgy twig-legs.” (94), “picking tidgy wooden forks into cartons” (182)

trull: Trull is known to be an affluent area in Somerset. But the usage here is likely to involve the female prostitute or harlot definition used by Joyce and Kipling. Usage in Book: “the whiskery old trull” (22), “you daft trull” (171)

trunklements: This is actually an obscure and regional word of slang that specifies “any other items, not specified.” “Trunklements” appear to be associated with the West Yorkshire city of Wakefield. Usage in Book: “I fetched a basket, cloth, and some other trunklements…” (9), “pictures and trunklements off the walls” (101), “all manner of trunklements in the window” (141), “some feckless trunklement no one would ever buy” (181)

unsneck: To unlatch or unfasten. Found in A Glossary of Words Used in South-west Lincolnshire (1886). Usage in Book: (10) Also “sneck” in “I snecked open the gate to her garden.” (80), “a sneck-lifetr” (169), “unsnecking the cord” (188)

The History of Verizon, Part One (April to August 2000)

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an experiment to see how blogging might be used to make sense of a rather enormous series of events. In an effort to understand why Verizon (formerly Bell Atlantic) became such a dominant force in the telecommunications industry, I am initiating the first in an open-ended series of inquiries that will be relying upon newspaper articles, public records, interviews, and any additional information I can get my hands on. My first step is to assemble a timeline with the available information. From here, I will then begin interviewing related parties to put these facts into perspective. I will be updating all of the posts as new information comes in. Please feel free to contribute any additional thoughts or leads in the comments section.]

[Subsequent installments: Part Two (August 2000). Part Three, which covers the months of September and October 2000, can be found here.]

In April 2000, Bell Atlantic was working out the details of a merger with GTE it had initiated the previous year. The deal was nearly done, awaiting FCC approval. But Bell Atlantic’s wireless communication unit needed a new name. Bell Atlantic’s wireless unit was in the process of merging with the wireless division of Vodafone AirTouch.

Bell Atlantic had been formed in 1983. It was one of seven Baby Bells that had been formed in the aftermath of an antitrust suit filed against AT&T by the Department of Justice. Seventeen years later, with the Bell Atlantic-GTE merger set to make the new entity the largest local telephone carrier in the nation, Bell brass believed that the Bell brand was too old school, too dowdy, to fit in with the then contemporary emphasis on cutting-edge technology.

“‘We believe that we need to separate ourselves on a going-forward basis from the tradition and the limited perspective that a Bell name assigns to us,” said Bell Atlantic executive Bruce S. Gordon at the time.

The new name was Verizon, a clever case of lexical blending between “veritas” and “horizon” that was to find its way in only a few short years onto millions of cell phones, the logo attached to the apices of many skyscrapers.

Bell Atlantic had been perfecting an ambitious advertising campaign over several months that hoped to convert both Bell Atlantic wireless customers and Vodafone customers over to the new Verizon brand. Bell had employed the services of the Bozell Group, part of True North Communications. Bozell was best known at the time for its milk moustache campaign, which had featured pop culture figures such as Austin Powers and Lisa Simpson smiling with a thin strip of milk just above their upper lip. (When True North purchased Bozell in 1997, the deal made True North the sixth largest advertising company in the world. Bozell had rejected an offer from Omnicom, but True North had pledged to respect Bozell’s autonomy. This purported autonomy, however, proved incompatible with economic realities. In 2001, Bozell laid off 6% of its staff and “restructured” the creative department.)

The early Verizon logo featured the “V” sign in red, an attempt to mimic the Nike swoosh symbol. Was it an accident that both Vodafone and Verizon began with a V? According to New York Times reporters Stuart Elliott and Seth Schiesel, one person close to the campaign revealed that it was not.

By June, Lucent Technologies was named the primary equipment supplier to Verizon Wireless. Its stock jumped up from 3 1/4 to 59 7/8 a share on June 15, 2000. According to a letter of intent issued by Lucent, Lucent would provide network equipment to Verizon. And this relationship would then help Verizon to expand from the wireless business to high-speed Internet services, among other telecommunications possibilities. Verizon hoped that the Internet access might be one way to encourage customers to use their phones more frequently.

Two days later, on June 17, 2000, the FCC approved the Bell Atlantic-GTE merger, with the proviso that GTE would agree to spin off its Internet backbone operations. Verizon became the nation’s largest local telephony company.

Numerous documents about the merger, including the FCC’s specified conditions, can be located here. In his statement issued after FCC approval, FCC Chairman William E. Kennard noted, “By requiring that the Internet backbone asset be spun-off and through the other merger conditions, we have preserved the fundamental incentive structure of the Act, sought to stimulate competition, and to promote more and better service offerings for consumers. For these reasons, I support this merger.” In light of recent Verizon developments that have called these “more and better service offerings” into question and Verizon’s current presence on the Internet (to say nothing about the way in which Verizon skirted around the GTE condition, described below), and notwithstanding Kennard’s competitive position as a member of the Board of Directors at Sprint Nextel, one wonders whether Kennard would still support this merger. I hope to contact Kennard and see if he might offer an answer.

However, it’s worth observing that Kennard joined the Carlyle Group as a managing director shortly after resigning from the FCC in February 2001. Carlyle purchased Verizon Hawaii for $1.65 billion. On May 22, 2004, Kennard was quoted by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin about this deal: “A big part of our plan is to return Verizon Hawaii to its roots as a local phone company, empowering local management. It’s sort of a version of ‘Back to the Future,’ if you will.” Whether this flippant comparison to a Hollywood blockbuster movie was intended to insult the journalist who posed the question is unknown. But the purchase did earn the endorsement of Verizon’s union, even if competitors and Hawaiian locals expressed dismay with the Carlyle Group’s inexperience and connections with high-level political contacts. By 2007, however, Hawaiian Telecom (the new name of the company) had experienced serious problems when BearingPoint, Inc. — the consulting firm hoping to overhaul Verizon’s systems — couldn’t make it work and was ousted in favor of Accenture, Ltd. — best known for its role in Enron. If this was a case of Back to the Future, perhaps Kennard was more accurate than he realized. Relying on outside consulting firms seemed decidedly against Kennard’s promise to “empower local management.” And indeed, earlier this year, Hawaiian Telecom’s CEO was ousted in favor of interim CEO Stephen Cooper (Kenneth Lay’s replacement), more than 100 positions were axed, and Hawaiian Telecom was still pursuing a decidedly nonlocal restructuring plan to recover from its problems.

Whatever Kennard’s current feelings are for Verizon, one thing is beyond dispute. The FCC’s approval of the Bell Atlantic-GTE merger made Verizon the 2nd largest telecom company (after AT&T), permitted it to become the nation’s largest wireless operation, and made it a local telephone juggernaut. Verizon now had 63 million landlines across the country. In its first day of trading, Verizon’s stock rose $4.625 to $55 a share.

On July 4, 2000, the New York Times reported that Verizon was trying to sell off its GTE cable systems in Florida, California, and Hawaii. And to get new customers hooked, Verizon cut the prices of DSL by 20% in some parts of the United States. So while the GTE cable backbone was, per the FCC condition, technically being cut off, Verizon managed to augment its Internet services through the phone lines. Verizon, in other words, was merely swapping one type of broadband services for another. (And, indeed, that same month, the New York Times‘s Seth Schiesel would report that Verizon hoped retake ownership of Genuity, the cable network in question, in a few years.)

But it wasn’t enough for Verizon to use its legerdemain to flaunt the deal of the Bell Atlantic-GTE deal. Verizon’s legal team also felt compelled to rail against the FCC. On August 21, 2000, William Barr, the top attorney for Verizon and a man who had served as the 77th Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush, fulminated against the FCC at the Progress & Freedom Foundation’s Aspen Summit 2000 conference. In a panel titled “Perspectives on the Future of Telecom Regulation,” Barr took issue with the language of the 1996 Telecommunications Act: specifically, the manner in which the Bells were instructed to charge competitors at affordable prices in order to use their networks and discourage monopolization.

“Rather than letting the market drive competition,” said Barr, “[the] FCC has issued a host of rules to try to manage that competition and, in doing so, they have preserved a siloed approach.” This “siloed approach” also extended to the FCC’s organization itself, which was divided into separate divisions devoted to wirelsss, broadband, and telecommunications. “This comes at direct expense of intermodal communications, and it is disfiguring the telecom landscape as it evolves into the Internet landscape.”

(Eighteen months later, Barr would get his wish. At the beginning of 2002, the FCC began a campaign to reorganize its bureau. A Wireline Competition Bureau was established, containing the vestiges of the Common Carrier Bureau. In March, additional structural changes were made. The impact of these internal structural changes at the FCC, as they pertain to Verizon and the telecommunications industry, will be revisited in a future installment.)

Meanwhile, with AT&T facing both the burgeoning success of Verizon, as well as SBC Communications’s entry into the long-distance business in Texas, AT&T chairman C. Michael Armstrong was starting to get nervous. The man who had made IBM shine was now fighting for his life, working 18 hours a day, trying to figure out a way to combat flagging revenue. But what Armstrong didn’t know was that long distance plans were about to change in a very big way.

But Armstrong wasn’t going down without a fight. In July 2000, AT&T filed a federal complaint charging that Verizon was steering its customers illegally to its own long-distance service. AT&T charged that Verizon had failed to offer new phone customers a listing of long distance providers, as required by law.

Adding insult to injury on the long distance front, on July 18, 2000, a Federal appeals court ruled in a case that has serious consequences for AT&T and granted Bell Atlantic a great victory. The court, overturning rules established by the FCC, ruled that outside long distance companies (such as AT&T) using copper lines owned by a local telephone company (such as Bell Atlantic) would have to pay an increased fee to the local telephone companies. Thus, with Verizon offering long distance service through its “local” landlines, it could evade the fees. But AT&T customers would have to pay.

Verizon was also looking to wireless data as a source of revenue. The company had observed the success of Sprint PCS’s Wireless Web, which had been in place since November 1999. (And while Sprint was then the wireless web leader, its wireless network ranked fourth behind Verizon, SBC, and AT&T Wireless. It did not help Sprint any when it was forced the next month to abandon its attempted $115 billion merger with WorldCom.) But how could Verizon get customers to pay a monthly fee of $7 to $10, along with a per-minute fee through wireless data? Web access? With the telecoms engaged in aggressive price wars, they were looking to any possible form of additional income to obtain some leverage. And the then snail-paced wireless web access was having difficulties catching on with consumers. The wireless data revenue would come later through an unexpected source that nobody had anticipated: text messaging. But this was still sometime away.

There was some concern over the relationship between third-party vendors offering products to Verizon and Verizon’s dominance in the telecom industry. In July 2000, the New York Times reported that Audiovox, a mobile handset provider, was selling 80% of its handsets to Verizon. “When you have one customer that controls 80 percent of your revenue, they’re basically telling you what to price it at,” said a portfolio manager who had sold 50,000 of her 300,000 Audiovox shares. Sure enough, this portfolio manager’s predictions proved true. In February 2004, Audiovox sold off its cell phone division to Curitel, a Korean manufacturer. Was Verizon’s advantage here one of the motivating factors that caused Audiovox to sell? It’s worth noting that Toshiba had a 25% ownership of Toshiba. One clue into the internecine struggle might be divined by this press release. David Kerr, Vice President of the Strategy Analytics Global Wireless practice, was quoted as follows:

Toshiba wished to be free to exploit its own strong brand with flow-through impacts from its high performance notebooks and other electronics product portfolio. Now, Toshiba is faced with bowing to the wishes of a threatening competitor targeting the same segment Toshiba has traditionally targeted. Toshiba, a minority interest holder at Audiovox, is likely to lose its opportunity for garnering a meaningful share of the 19 million units flowing through to end users at Verizon Wireless.

While Verizon expanded and earned more profits, its workforce was becoming increasingly unhappy. On July 28, 2000, the Communications Workers of America authorized its leaders to call a strike at 12:01 AM on August 6, if Verizon would not meet its demands.

With both Verizon and the unions unable to settle upon a new contract, telephone operators and line technicians walked off the job. Two unions — the CWA and the International Brotherhood of America — represented 33% of Verizon’s workforce. (The CWA represented 72,500 Verizon workers.) One of the major stumbling blocks for this strike involved the employees at Verizon Wireless, the majority of whom did not have union representation. The CWA’s Jeff Miller pointed out at the time that there was a staggering pay difference between a union-covered customer service representative (topping out at a $44,000 annual salary) and a non-union CSR ($33,000). There were also concerns by the unions about undue stress placed upon CSRs. The workers weren’t getting adequate breaks and were often working forced overtime. And the nonunion workers were paying out of pocket for their health plans. In the days before the strike, Verizon took steps to prevent pro-union literature from being distributed at call centers and further asked which of its workers supported the unions. Like the treatment that Verizon would extend to its customers, Verizon was insisting on a five-year contract instead of a short-term contract accounting for the rapid changes in the telecom industry.

Of course, just as it had eluded the FCC, Verizon also had a plan in place to deal with its workers that would eventually involve outsourcing its labor to India. And the exact way in which Verizon overhauled its workforce will be taken up in future installments of this series.

Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish

Rachel Donadio: “James Joyce was forever hard up for cash. Too bad he never thought of touring Europe to promote Plumtree’s potted meat or lemon-scented soap, notable items in ‘Ulysses.'”

If someone kicked Rachel Donadio in the teeth just on these two sentences alone, it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. Thankfully, Donadio is leaving the New York Times Book Review. Hopefully, for good.

Bat Segundo and IE/Safari Users

A few listeners have informed me that they are having difficulties accessing The Bat Segundo Show site using Internet Explorer and Safari. Unfortunately, the podPress plugin used to stream the programs has proven to be incompatible with WordPress 2.6. (And had I known this, I never would have upgraded.) I would downgrade to WP 2.5 to solve this, but then that would mean using an old backup of the database and losing entries. And the gentleman behind this plugin has yet to release a new version, although he has promised one in the next few days.

So we essentially have to wait this out until this programmer, who is working a very time-consuming day job, can find time to fix this.

However, after a bit of code tweaking, I’ve made everything operational under Firefox. So I would recommend using Firefox for the time being.


  • Giles Coren is an angry man. And his fury is focused on the elision of an indefinite article in one of his articles. I do not know whether or not Coren is currently enrolled in an anger management program, but I certainly trust this man to drive a cab in Manhattan.
  • Burroughs: the early days. (via Spike)
  • I’m skeptical about the two guys replacing Ebert and The Spastic Chipmunk Who Was Never One Tenth As Good as Siskel But Who Cannot Be Named Here.
  • Jenny Diski on sleep. I can only speak for myself, but dreams are a vital part of who I am. They unveil my inner prevaricator, cause me to dwell on fears and perversities that I sometimes choose not to discuss with others, and force me to reconsider why I glue together needless shards of propriety atop the ever-shifting china of the real. Dreams are certainly the most unreliable and fragmented of memories. They suggest for many minutes that they are real and they are often so persuasive that you must engage in something truly banal (making coffee, brushing teeth) in order to take in as many details as you can, which depart from your head like a train leaving a Roman depot in 1930. The dreams cannot be trusted, and yet they must be trusted. I sometimes forget about the wild and fierce qualities of my imagination, and I am reminded of where I sometimes do not go and must go because of a dream. Once some rational awareness has kicked in and I am fully ensconced in the waking world, I know that the dreams are not real. But I am also aware that the natural anarchy of the real has just had yet another barrier removed. So thank you, noggin, for the Kafkaesque nightmares, the great epics in which I fight off insect armies armed with ping pong balls, the talking buildings, the giant nostrils, the strange sounds, the amazing orgies, and the really crazy taboo-breaking stuff. There have been many wonderful mornings in which I’ve questioned my own sanity and become determined to paint more frequently outside the lines.
  • The 25 Most Modern Libraries in the World.
  • Jack Butler, motherfuckers!
  • The Hollywood Reporter‘s Borys Kit asks if Comic-Con’s geek chic is fading, pointing to appearances by Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. But what he really needs to understand right now is that geeks are the mainstream. If the $300 million that The Dark Knight claimed in the past week didn’t make this clear, then I don’t know what will. It’s quite likely that Hilton and Kardashian are heading to Comic-Con because, well, that’s where it’s at. They may have heard something about a save throw being a cant term for riches and opportunity. And frankly the notion of a Stormtrooper informing these party girls of certain geeky thrusting advantages and getting lucky while clad in full Lucasfilm-approved regalia amuses the shit out of me. For those of us who have been geeks all along, I suppose this is all a bit confusing. Suddenly, we’re a damn demographic? Suddenly, we’re being scouted? But have no fear, geeks. There will come a time in about five years when we’ll be as despised as we were fifteen years ago. Trends change. The way I see it, right now, geeks are about where hippies were circa 1968. Instead of the record labels scooping up the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane and hoping to cash in, the movie companies are scooping up anything that might carry a similar imprimatur on the comics front. Rest assured, there will be disillusion. Perhaps a geek version of Altamont that could prove deadly. And if that happens, well, say hello to a decade (perhaps the 2010s?) that will make all the bad stylistic decisions of the 1970s look like art nouveau. Honestly, the best thing to do is to enjoy this little fiesta while it lasts. And if things get too mainstream, well, there’s still plenty of crazed subcultures to join or form. (via The Beat)
  • For those who are keeping up with this James Wood silliness (which still has little to do with the book in question and still suggests to me that a People cover may not be as crazed a notion as conjectured yesterday), James Wood has now responded to Leon Neyfakh. Will Nikki Finke get in on this action?
  • I don’t really find all the summer romance titles particularly silly, but I certainly find Cathy Horyn’s attempt to understand a fairly predictable trend extremely silly. Consider these extraordinary sentences. “There is no question that certain brands, like certain summer resorts, have a talismanic effect.” “But this summer’s brand-flogging novels also reveal a kind of empty clink at the bottom of fashion’s well.” Fashion & Style, in case you were wondering, I can write sentences that are even more preposterous than this, and I can style them as acrostics and can figure out a way to tie Ralph Lauren and Wittgenstein together.
  • Choire learns yet another lesson about the diaphanous sausage factory.
  • Internet fame? Thousands of words? Seriously, Wired? (via Matt Staggs)
  • The cure to this (pretty clear, but not officially recognized) recession? Sure as fuck not the Recession Special at Gray’s Papaya, which I made the mistake of trying out tonight. (Hey, I was desperate.) But perhaps, just maybe, the giant pork.
  • Kindle vs. iPhone. (via Future of the Book)
  • Strange Horizons is having a fund drive. Throw ’em a few bucks if you can. (via Alan DeNiro)
  • An Onion article invoking John Cheever and alcoholism. (via Isak)
  • The gas prices have gone up, but here’s one interesting side effect: auto fatalities have gone down.
  • I agree with Stuart Evers. Bernard Malamud deserves better.
  • Derik Badman’s Notes for a Future Manifesto.
  • Ask Haruki Murakami Anything.
  • Darren Aronofsky and Robocop? Uh….wha….?
  • Ed Park on The Delighted States: “Some things cannot be blogged about!” Yeah, I’d say that’s the case for me too at the present moment. I hope to atone.
  • Galactica 1980 is available on Hulu. This is something that requires time I don’t have, lots of beer, and WordPress. Can anyone take up the challenge? (Related to this roundup: “The Return of Starbuck,” the episode commissioned out of desperation to save the flagging series, begins with a horrendous colloquy about whether dreams are significant. Perhaps someone might pay Jenny Diski to make sense of all this.)
  • Fantasy Cartography: maps from science fiction and fantasy books. (via Quiddity)
  • Finally, a summer hit that is more execrable than the entire Madonna backlist. This is utter shit. People Paula, as usual, nails it. Thank you, you mainstream bastards. I feel the overwhelming compunction to download sleazy porn.
  • All this suggests that I should end this longass roundup with zombie dating. Perhaps, one’s morning erection would be conducive to such rigor mortis scenarios. Perhaps not. This is, just like many other conceptual gimmicks, a simulacrum. One that will give a lonely soul momentary comfort in the night, but will have us crying in the tears of our own desperation in the morning. Why not liberate yourself from the computer, talk to that glorious geek a few feet away, and see where you can go to from there? It seems better to pretend in the bedroom, when there’s a better chance of nabbing even a vicarious piece of ass, then wasting these energies on fantasies that will either (a) not pan out or (b) result in a quite orgasmic Kleenex experience. Not that (b) isn’t so bad. But the unmarked road is sometimes worth traveling.

Misheard Lyrics — The New York Times Edition

New York Times Corrections: “Because of an editing error, the TV Watch Column on Wednesday, comparing coverage of Senator Barack Obama’s trip overseas with coverage of Senator John McCain, gave an incorrect title in some copies for a Frankie Valli song used in a video by the McCain campaign to mock reporters’ coverage of Mr. Obama’s trip. The song is ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ — not ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.'”

One can only imagine the 20-minute conversation that occurred because of this slip-up. A poor copy editor, no doubt feeling the vicious sting of too many twelve-hour days, received a terrible phone call at his apartment last night, just before placing his well-earned spliff between his lips.

OMBUDSMAN: You call yourself a copy editor! This is inexcusable!

COPY EDITOR: Wha…what?

OMBUDSMAN: The Frankie Valli reference, you cocky son of a bitch! It’s “Off You,” not “Off of You.” How old are you, son?

COPY EDITOR: Uh….twenty-eight. Look, can we talk about this tomorrow in the office?

OMBUDSMAN: The New York Times never sleeps! We’re journalists, you arrogant incompetent. Twenty-eight? Just as I thought! You’ve never even heard of AM radio, have you? You’re too young to know who Frankie Valli is! Well, this time, you’ve gone too far! Our readers depend on us for accuracy. And if you can’t be bothered to get it right…

COPY EDITOR: It wasn’t a Frankie Valli profile.

OMBUDSMAN: That’s not the point. You think you’re hot shit, son? Let me give you a two-word sentence to improve upon: You’re fired! Clean out your desk tomorrow.

COPY EDITOR: (sounds of crying) It was just a throwaway reference. Please, sir, I’ll download the top 500 Boomer hits on iTunes and memorize all the lyrics. It won’t happen again.

OMBUDSMAN: Only if you can lick my boots while you’re downloading.

COPY EDITOR: I’ll send a letter of apology and some flowers to Frankie Valli. Please, sir, anything!

OMBUDSMAN: We’ll talk about it tomorrow morning. I’m glad you understand the gravity of this situation. In the meantime, I’ll have another copy editor print up a correction for the morning edition.

COPY EDITOR: Thank you, sir! I’m sorry.

OMBUDSMAN: This is the 21st century, son. There’s no place for gratitude in journalism.


  • Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men? The Shadow knows!
  • So if I understand Sarah’s post correctly, James Wood and sheepshagging jokes represent a new kind of nonoverlapping magisteria, and someone needs to start uploading racy photos of James Wood in lewd positions at Cabo San Lucas damn pronto. Also, Mark Sarvas has read How Fiction Works six times. And that was just in the last week. It remains unknown just how many times James Wood has read himself. But all this talk of how one should read James Wood, and whether one should read James Wood, and how frequently one should read James Wood makes me wonder why nobody is actually responding to what James Wood has to say about books. To add further confusion, James Wood is also leaving comments at Vulture. I can only conclude that all this is a grand ruse to get James Wood on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, perhaps accompanied by Stephenie Meyer and two naked Dixie Chicks with post-structuralist buzz words printed on their naked bodies.
  • Tao Lin has posted some details on his second novel. And if he’s concerned about The Easter Parade being 54,000 words, consider also that The Great Gatsby is only around 50,000 words and would therefore fall into Tao’s organic cold-brewed iced coffee category. (As Shane observes, Tao’s post has been deleted.)
  • John Fox sings the praises of Small Beer Press, but neglects to inform us just how much beer he imbibed before writing his post.
  • Colleen collects a number of interesting reactions concerning class and YA literature.
  • Scott has a few ideas on where litblogs need to go in the face of declining newspapers.
  • Wyatt Mason talks with Adam Thirlwell. (via Orthofer)
  • Superhero motifs and book design. (via Slushpile)
  • The Watchmen trailer appearing with The Dark Knight has caused sales of the graphic novel to jump. But the Moore-Batman association is also boosting sales of Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke. What is the lesson to be learned here? Appearances of books on film and television (such as placing The Third Policeman on Lost) do help. But I believe these books sold because (a) the movie trailer is considered a respectful and relatively noninvasive form of advertising and (b) Lost, being a television show with numerous references, has led numerous fans to ferret out the meaning by any means necessary. In other words, it isn’t just the appearance of a writer’s name or a book that moves books. It’s the context. The way that a book’s appearance and relationship with the present material inspires curiosity on the part of the reader. The way that the context itself doesn’t treat audience members like morons or a generalized 18-34 demographic.
  • Speaking of which, Douglas McLennan has some interesting things to say on this topic. (via Dan Green)
  • According to Forbes, J.K. Rowling has been named the richest celebrity. And it’s certainly promising to learn that an author can trump a number of idiot actors. Sorry, Tom Cruise. Guess you’ll have to expand your dynamic potential through that Ponzi scam masquerading as a cult.
  • And I missed the news a few weeks ago, but Solzhenitsyn’s The First Circle is at long last coming out in English.