Historical Photos on Flickr

One part of the presentation I did for my recent job interview was about how libraries and other institutions are using Flickr to attract attention to their photo archives. The Library of Congress has been doing this for a while and now, via Xeni at Boingboing, news that George Eastman’s House has put over 200 historical pictures on Flickr, including several handcolored autochromes.

I should have the text of my presentation and the slides ready to go in another day or two.

Where Are Blogs Bred? In the Heart Or In the Head?

Last night, I was searching Amazon for something completely unrelated* and happened upon this book, Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change, by Walt Crawford. The author is trying to find the middle ground between the old school library way and the new fangled Web 2.0 way of doing things, which is commendable. What really knocked my virtual socks off though, is that he cites me as a source. Specifically, this post from Friday, December 8, 2006, in which I talk about the use of Netflix in libraries.

The book is available for search on Amazon and so I was able to read pages 114-115, where I’m quoted. Since I haven’t yet read the book or even the whole chapter, I can’t really speak about the context in which I’m cited. Once I get my hands on a copy, I’ll have a more informed opinion.

But one thing I am, is uncertain about how I feel about being cited in this or any other book. At first go, it’s a little flattering to have my opinions taken into consideration, even if, as I gather from the few pages I’ve read online, that Walt Crawford is criticizing me. That’s fine. Healthy debate is great and I’m a big boy and can handle it. But what remains uncertain at this point (because again, I haven’t read the whole book yet) is the context.

Continue reading “Where Are Blogs Bred? In the Heart Or In the Head?”

Jane Espenson Is: The 5th Beetle

Just a reminder that real Life is still stranger than fiction:

Remember how I was just in Vancouver? Well, instead of checking luggage, I had a box of clothes FedExed up there and then back down here when I left. It avoids the hassles of baggage claim and I totally recommend this plan. When you’re ready to head home, you just scoop your unlaundered clothes into a box and ship it off, neat as you please.

Except that they do some sort of operation at the border in which the shipping labels are removed and sometimes switched. Fun!

This means that when a box arrived at my home yesterday, it didn’t contain my clothes. It contained someone else’s clothes. Luckily, this person was savvier than I about the hazards of international shipping labels, and had included a piece of paper with his name and (business) address. I have the property of a “Mr. R. Starkey.” Those of you who know stuff about stuff are now freaking out. A little checking re: the address and the business name has verified: I have Ringo Starr’s clothes. Okay, now everyone can freak out. Please notice that according to any system of logic, this makes me the fifth Beatle.

Some things just couldn’t work in fiction because they are too real.

The Machine Of The World

After three and a half years of work, I have published my first book.

Now available from Lulu.com

As the world succumbs to a slow death, choking on mushrooms and poison, a young servant girl is caught in the last attempts by human hands to thwart fate and the destiny of all living things. The King of Ruhleheim made a deal for immortality but not longevity. 1500 years later, his mummified corpse keeps his descendants up at night. But Prince Laslo and his twin sister, Princess Lydia have a plan to rid themselves of the king once and for all. Inez Vespertine, Lady’s Maid to Princess Lydia, overhears this scheme. To get her out of the way, the royal twins send her to visit their cousin, the Marquise, who lives deep within the Ergot Forest, a vast swatch of poisonous fungus that is overtaking the world. But when Inez returns not just alive and well but with a scheme of her own, the conniving twins are befuddled. Who will survive to rule a dying world?

Hardback $20

Paperback $12


Download for Free (PDF)


The Revolution Will Be A Dinner Party

I had never heard of the Slow Food Movement until I read this Bruce Sterling piece (link via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing) but I love the idea:

The Cornish Pilchard. The Chilean Blue Egg Hen. The Cypriot Tsamarella and Bosnian Sack Cheese. You haven’t seen these foods at McDon­ald’s because they are strictly local rarities championed by Slow Food, the social movement founded to combat the proliferation of fast food. McDonald’s is a multinational corporation: it retails identical food products on the scale of billions, repeatedly, predictably, worldwide. Slow Food, the self-appointed anti-McDonald’s, is a “revolution” whose aim is a “new culture of food and life.”
Slow Food began as a jolly clique of leftist academics, entertainers, wine snobs, and pop stars, all friends of Ital­ian journalist and radio personality Carlo Petrini. Their galvanizing moment, which occurred in 1986, was an anti-McDonald’s demonstration at which Petrini and his dining buddies brandished pasta pans while folk-dancing in the streets of Rome. This prescient intervention predated Jose Bove’s violent wrecking of a French McDonald’s by some 13 years. While the anti-WTO crowd was politically harassing corporate globalizers, Slow Food was methodically building constructive alternatives. Today, Slow Food is well-nigh as “glo­­bal” as McDonald’s but networked rather than hierarchical. Year by methodical year the Slow Food network has stuck its fingers into a host of pies.
As a nonprofit heritage organization, the Slow Food empire retains a mere 150 full-time employees with a modest budget of $37 million a year. Yet Slow Food has invented the modern Italian food-heritage industry. Today it is a thriving ganglion of local chapters, called convivia, which number about 83,000 people in more than 100 countries. It’s also a publishing house specializing in tourist guidebooks, restaurant recipes, and heritage reprints.

The whole concept is just brilliant. You popularize things– not just food, but fashion, literature, art– all the totems of culture that, by their nature, can’t be scaled up to a global market and encourage other people in other areas to do the same with their favorite things. Using the Internet, you network, getting information out to the world, spreading the knowledge of the existence of these fun, unique concepts to other people who might like them or be inspired to do something similar. Viral marketing of the homespun, rather than the hyped marketing of the mass produced. A globally networked cottage industry. This is part of a larger Slow movement that seeks to curb the stress inducing speed traps of modern life without stifling pleasure, innovation and joy.

Here’s a Utopia for you: imagine a handcrafted, do-it-yourself world comprised of a loose network of neighborhood cultures, all sharing information and ideas, inspiring one another through cooperation rather than competition, making a living rather than a killing, chasing the Long Tail rather than the immediate profit, all for the love of being creative rather than the crass desire to make a quick buck at the expense of beauty and meaning. With windmills and solar power and free range livestock, backyard gardens, boutique couture, free municipal wifi. And no ponies. Maybe it’s a little over-optimistic or naive but we can dream.

This won’t save us in the short term from the worst excesses of Capitalism run amok, which we’ll be dealing with for years to come, as we rebuild our wrecked economy. But this could give the future a shape free of the cycle of boom and bust economic models that drive countries to war and depredation, just to enrich a few corporate shareholders and drive millions of people to an early grave from stress, depression and the general malaise of mental and emotional emptiness caused by the pursuit of ever more pointless mass produced stuff.

It starts with the basics: food. Then moves on to encompass the basic necessities of life: shelter, companionship and expression. All that which is at the core of what it means to be human. Expanding from there into the arts and infrastructure of the world is a bit more of a challenge but something that is worthwhile. People reclaiming not just the means of production but the meaning in producing.

All this navel gazing about economic models and do-it-yourself sustainability leads directly into the upcoming news about my book, The Machine of the World. Watch this space.

Hay You Kids, Get On My Lawn!

Stephen Fry on the much vaunted Web 2.0 and it’s Social Networking Voodoo:

I am old enough to remember Prestel and the original bulletin boards and “commercial online services” Prodigy, CompuServe and America Online. These were closed communities. You paid a subscription, dialled in and connected. You made new friends and you chatted in “rooms” designated for the purpose according to special interests, hobbies and propensities. CompuServe and AOL were shockingly late to add what was called an “internet ramp” in the 90s. This allowed those who dialled up to go beyond the confines of the provider’s area and explore the strange new world of the internet unsupervised.

[…] My point is this: what an irony! For what is this much-trumpeted social networking but an escape back into that world of the closed online service of 15 or 20 years ago? Is it part of some deep human instinct that we take an organism as open and wild and free as the internet, and wish then to divide it into citadels, into closed-border republics and independent city states? The systole and diastole of history has us opening and closing like a flower: escaping our fortresses and enclosures into the open fields, and then building hedges, villages and cities in which to imprison ourselves again before repeating the process once more. The internet seems to be following this pattern.

If MySpace and Facebook are the walled in citidel’s, I suppose blogs (at least this one) are the equivalent of the tumble-down shack in the woods with the weird, creepy person standing on the porch, ranting into the wilderness, heard only by the odd passing stranger or concerned friend who, like Red Riding Hood, comes by fortnightly to see if we’ve been devoured by some wolf yet. Which is fine by me. I see little point in FaceBook type networking sites; seems like an awful lot of work just to let poeple know what you’re doing. If I want people to know what I’m doing, I’ll let them know with an email or phone call. Why would anyone want to know how often I visit the organic produce store or when I’m at work, which is where I usually am? I thought we were all hyperventilating about the Government tapping our phones because it meant they were keeping to close an eye on us and now we want to let every damn fool “friend” we met on the internet know when and where we took a shit last?

Networking’s great and all, if you’re trying to make a movie or sell the Middle Class up the creek to Corporate Republicans. But in general, if people want to find you, they can pretty easily. Google makes sure of that. And Ma Bell. So what I’m saying is, call your mother because she worries and doesn’t know how to log on to your MySpace page. And would be scared if she did.

Throw the Horses Overboard!

The doldrums are upon us and I’m hankering for a good, meaty novel that’s still fun to read, to get me through the long tepid winter. Any suggestions?

It doesn’t have to be high brow; I’m staring at the copy of Love In the Time of Cholera sitting beside my desk and wondering if Gabriel Garcia Marquez knows he’s taunting me. The genius bastard!

But nothing too light weight either. Any good middlebrow stuff on the radar that maybe I’ve missed? I’m not opposed to Serious Literature. Just because I rant and rave about science fiction all day long doesn’t mean I’m only interested in space ships and monsters. In fact, I’m kind of over space opera. Having recently read Lathe of Heaven for the first time, I’d love something that was as wild, woolly and still somehow down to Earth.

Does that even make sense? I mean, it’s about a guy whose dreams rewrite reality and so he’s afraid of falling asleep. Not exactly what you’d call realistic fiction but it’s written with such heart and respect for human dignity that it feels realer than most of the classic Serious Fiction.

And what’s the deal with serious Fiction? Why is it so serious? Must important thoughts about the human condition be bereft of the occasional fart joke or snarky aside? Maybe I should just read Jeeves and Wooster? I’ve been meaning to pick one up and see if it’s as good as everyone says. so much for the serious weight thing.

Boldly Going Where We’ve Been Before

Gawker’s new sci-fi blog, io9 has six reasons why Star Trek should stay dead. I agree with all of them and then some.

As much as I enjoyed watching TOS with my dad as a kid, (and still like some of the old episodes, even if they do creek a bit) there’s really no new business to be had in the Star Trek Universe. It always was and always will be a straight up Cold War fable. But the Cold War’s over; turns out we won and the Klingons Soviets weren’t all that scary, more deluded and sad and, wait, what was the cold War all about again? Something about Capitalist Imperialism vs. Communist Dictatorships with a gooey heart of Socialism as the supposed compromise that would settle all problems. Except that, as history proves time and again, dictatorships are notoriously short lived, Capitalism unrestrained by social obligations is even worse and pure, unadulterated Socialism is about as realistic a political philosophy as a future with no drugs or alcohol is plausible. The future is Democratic Socialism and unmanned space exploration. There’s no need for intergalactic daring do when robots work just fine. Pretending otherwise just makes everyone look stupid, what with their moon boots and matching leotards.

I say we let JJ Abrahm’s Star Trek movie (“It has been confirmed that a tribble will make an appearance in the new film”) be the whipping boy of the Writer’s Strike; let it sink under the weight of contractual obligations unfulfilled and die, finally so we can get back to new episodes of Battlestar Galactica before 2009.