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Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008
There is no better time than now for Cliff Johnson to release his long-awaited sequel to The Fool's Errand.

The time is right.  The time is now.

Please, Cliff Johnson, won’t you release A Fool and His Money?

Hell yeah Speedball was awesome.

Hell yeah Speedball was awesome.

Once upon a time, I bought an Amiga from a friend of mine for $300.  It seemed like an incredible deal at the time, given that he threw in something like 60 games for the thing, including some impressive technology show-off type games like Dragon’s Lair and Speedball.  Damn, I loved me some Speedball.  What I was coming to realize was that computers could do things that consoles at the time could only dream of, and the possibilities intrigued me.

Of course, finding out that I had to go to a specialty store to buy my Amiga games was kind of a buzzkill.

Regardless, one of the first games I ever came home with from that very store was The Fool’s Errand, which I mostly bought because its cover said it won some kind of award and my dad thought it looked good (and because it was one of the only new-ish games at the time that my Amiga, maxed out at a piddly 512K of RAM, could handle).  It turned out to be one of those games.

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Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008
Steven Vander Ark

Steven Vander Ark

Judge in Potter case isn’t a fan
Judge Robert Patterson, heading up the case involving J.K. Rowling’s attempt to stop publication of a Harry Potter lexicon guide, thinks Rowling writes gibberish.

The Age reports he was overheard telling a witness he found the books “complex”.

I’m adoring this story more and more. I’m absolutely on Ms. Rowling’s side—these are her creations and if she doesn’t want Steven Vander Ark to put out what she considers a great plundering of her work, that’s up to her. Still, this whole case is just becoming a bit of a comedy.

In this article, Vander Ark is reported as sobbing as he spoke of being a “pariah within the Harry Potter community”, and almost no news source can resist comparing Vander Ark to Potter himself. The comparison, truth be told, is rather unsettling.

And then there’s the melodrama of the whole thing. The Wall Street Journal recently carried this quote from Rowling: “Should my fans be flooded with a surfeit of substandard books—so-called lexicons—I’m not sure I’d have the will or heart to continue.”

I wonder why she’s up in arms about this one, when there are already heaps of these books around—field guides, idiot guides, trivia books, etc. I’d say the flood is already beyond her control.

Dan Barker likes choice
Barker discusses the amount of books published per year, and how he decides which ones to read:

Of course, nothing says we have to read every book, and we should remember that most of those are aimed at specific niche markets like business industries, come from little-known or even disreputable publishers or are the result of self-publishing. Their value may be limited or nil, although there are some great self-published books out there.

Apparently, Dan can speed read, and is going to discuss the pros and cons of that process in a future column. I will be looking out for that. I’m wondering—is speed-reading like watching movies in fast-forward? You get the gist, but not the meat? I guess we’ll find out soon.

Joanne Harris like anchovy toast and Korean horror films
Harris, author of Chocolat, reveals other wacky things in the Independent‘s mini-interview.

Karen Joy Fowler likes Jimmy Smits and Veronica Mars
Fowler tells Reuters she enjoyed the film version of The Jane Austen Book Club, and based her latest book, Wit’s End, on her experience traversing Veronica Mars fansites and blogs.

I was struck with how unhappy the fans were with the writers. The fans were outraged when the writers who made the characters up didn’t seem to have the same sense of who those characters were. I thought it was fascinating how much ownership the fans felt over the characters, and their need to protect them from the people who’d actually made them up.

Wit’s End features a novelist concerned about the levels to which her fans are directing her stories.

The book’s plot reminds me of the time Aaron Sorkin got so pissy at a website that criticized elements of his The West Wing that he wrote the site into the show (episode “The US Poet Laureate”), and bashed it.

Interestingly, the same website was embraced by Veronica Mars creators who apparently used it to find out exactly what the fans wanted from the show. I don’t know what I think of that. It’s interesting on the one hand, but who wants to put the fate of these beloved characters into the hands of some forum posters? Imagine if movie producers asked the same thing on posters at the IMDb? It’s the stuff of nightmares.

At least, I guess, the blogs stop fans from kidnapping and hobbling authors to get what they want.

Bill Bryson hates litter
Bryson is heading up the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which wants tougher penalties for litterbugs. The BBC quotes Bryson:

I think what’s happened here is that people are leading different lifestyles. People are eating on the run now and increasingly dispensing of the packaging out of the car windows but we are clearing it up as if it was 25 years ago … Litter is becoming the default condition of the countryside. It is time that we—all of us—did something about it. The landscape is too lovely to trash.

James Patterson likes giving new authors a chance to make money, but not necessarily to be creative
Patterson tells the Palm Beach Daily News all about his new book, Sunday at Tiffany’s, co-written with children’s author Gabrielle Charbonnet. We’ve discussed before at Re:Print how Patterson “co-writes”—he comes up with an outline, describing exactly what must go into each and every chapter. Then he passes that outline along to a new or aspiring writer and has them flesh it all out.

In this article, the author reveals how the new writer will do one draft, hand it back, and Patterson will complete the final drafts before submitting to the publisher.

So, what does that other writer do exactly?

On criticism of this method, the Daily News report continues:

“We’re hung up in this country about individualism,” said Patterson, who compares his collaborative process for writing novels to the traditionally accepted manner in which film and television writers develop their products. “Why can’t a book be created this way?” Of course, with his celebrated status and reputation for enormous sales, it’s also a means for Patterson to give a lesser-known or aspiring writer an opportunity to break into the best-seller league — and earn what he describes as a “nice” amount of money.

He wants me to hate him, right?

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Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008

“Come on Baby Say Bang”
by Jane Vain and the Dark Matter

All You Pretty Boys and Girls are all breaking my heart/ They all look so cool that I can hardly tell them apart/ They’re all looking for a little love, power, and control

Let’s stamp the night with vigor/ Whose guns are bigger?/ You can put yours right between my eyes honey/ If you promise to pull the trigger

There are so many admirable turns of phrase and mood in this song that it’s hard to pare them down to a just a few. The nihilistic confidence of the female narrator seethes with equal parts flirtation and crosshair curses. “Stamp the night with vigor” has to be one of my favorite ways of saying “let’s have a good time” because it’s so territorial and domineering as if to say we should cattle brand the evening so that every claim to joy has our signature at its root. Vigor also sounds like such an aristocratic adjective, reeking of equestrian competition and absinthe poured through a slotted spoon onto a sugar cube. As a curmudgeon, I love songs that manage to be blow out clouds of toxic disdain while keeping the rhythm hip-swiveling, finger popping, the very portrait of antiseptic coolness. I reminded of the Kills in the way that the song’s narrator undercuts each compliment with an insult, noting the beauty of the crowd, the homogeneous, robotic beauty. She also impugns any motives that they might have for being fans in the crowd in the first place, noting that the admiration we have for musicians is just as much love as it is a desire to see them fail for failing to fulfill us as passive participants in the performance. Top that off with some good old fashioned suicidal ideation, in the line begging for someone to show the depth of their bravado by putting a bullet hole between her eyes and you have a track that’s a tangle of seduction, snare and psychosis. For a song that sounds like a lilac strewn stroll through a Renaissance Fair, it is indeed a dark and disturbing world.

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Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008
by Robin Cook

Chicago’s Smog Veil prides itself on its catalog of “underground, challenging, unknown, and/or bombastic rock ’n’ roll.” (Label artists include the legendary Pere Ubu.) Now Smog Veil has a new challenge: becoming an eco-friendly record label and setting an example for the rest of the industry. Co-owner Frank Mauceri tells more.—Robin Cook

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Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008

I’d been mulling over this Idolator story about Vanity Fair editor Lisa Robinson and her publicists’ memo about ‘no more promos’ (even if the memo itself isn’t recent).  I’ve seen reactions range from ‘when did VF really care about music?’ to ‘good for her for going green’ to ‘everything’s going digital anyway…’  I think all these responses are legit actually though from the tone of the memo, it does sound like she’s being an elitist crab who’s using ‘green’ as a cover for her decision. 

I get lots of promos too and while I’d love to listen and write about every single one of them that I find interesting, there just isn’t the time to do that.  I wouldn’t go so far to say ‘no more promos’ though.  Even with all of the music blogs out there plus MySpace plus P2P sites plus Last FM plus Pandora plus Napster plus E-Music plus mailing lists plus dozens of other ways to discover music, I still get surprises from promos.  I’d hate to give that up, not just because I wanna get off any gravy train but because the music nut in me wants to keep discovering music I didn’t know about or appreciate before. 

I’ve got no beef against downloads if they’re listenable- I received a recent one from a label for a great R&B band that was all tiny and fuzzy to hear, really distracting a lot from the music.  For streams, they’re not the same as accessing music the way you want and when you want so that’s not as convenient to hear and appreciate the music.  If labels can overcome these hurdles, I’m all for digital promos.  I have enough problems with finding shelve space for my CD’s and the price for external hard drives has dropped so much (500GB for only $100??) that it makes sense to go this way. 

On the external HD tip, I’d recommend getting one regardless if you’re filling up your old hard drive or not- do you really wanna lose all that music that you ripped or downloaded for months or years now?

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