Friday, February 28, 2014

Copyright and fair use

Publishing Perspectives has a piece by Adelaide bookseller Simon Collinson on proposed changes to Australian copyright law, specifically about “fair use”.  He claims that Australians’ disrespect for copyright is “arguably the most intense in the world” but he would say that, wouldn’t he. Typical Aussie, bigging themselves up. Everybody knows that New Zealand is the real champion here.

He compares and contrasts US and Australian law, and is good on the balancing act required between the interests of users and owners of copyright material. Quote unquote:
There is a parallel debate about whether making ‘transformative’ but fair uses of copyrighted works – such as Google Book Search – should be open to all, or just copyright holders. While transformative products based on publishers’ property, like Google Book Search, have the potential to increase discovery of backlist titles, many publishers see them as intrusions on their right to exploit their copyright. As the Australian Publishers’ Association pointed out in its submission to the ALRC review (PDF), discussion of ‘text mining’ and other transformative uses of copyrighted property tends to suggest that the works involved are somehow just a passive or natural resource – raw materials – from which others (including large, privately owned for-profit corporations) may extract value without sharing that value.
So here (fair use?) are the Moody Blues in 1970 on The Lulu Special performing live the new single “Question” from their album A Question of Balance. Yes, television was like that then:

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mug of the month: twerking

You can buy it online here. There is also a T-shirt

Both are from the same folk in Stockport who brought us the MAKE BONO HISTORY T-shirt. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Guardian quote of the day

Georgia’s former president Mikheil Saakashvili on Ukraine’s ousted president Viktor Yanukovych and corruption:
Even when he was not president, at the time when he was still an opposition leader, we were trying to buy a plane from the Ukrainians for government use, it was a particular type of plane but they did not have them in stock. When I met with him, he offered to sell me one, as a private deal. He said he had a few of them.
Monitor: AD Miller

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On chairing a literary panel

On Sunday I went to Hamilton Gardens to chair the event “Men Behaving Bookishly”. The panellists were, in reverse alphabetical order, novelist Tim Wilson, noir novelist Chad Taylor, poet Kevin Ireland and true-crime writer Scott Bainbridge

Three of them had connections with Quote Unquote the magazine: Chad was on the cover for this interview in May 1995; Tim wrote for us in 1993, our first year, including this piece on Shonagh Koea; Kevin was nominally the assistant editor but was much more than that. I learned many good lessons from him about writing and editing but chiefly about the importance of a really good long lunch.

The programme said: “They will be talking about writing their books and the books they enjoy reading.” So that’s what we did.

One of us was massively hungover from a stag party the night before. One of us was in the last stages of making a movie from one of his novels. One of us had got back the night before after a long trip to the South Island to fish for trout. One of us had lost his voice a few days before after a long trip to Taiwan. So we were all a bit distracted, but it seemed to go well.

Asked from the floor how we relaxed, one of us said, “I find going to Mass relaxing.” One said, “I have a day job so for me writing is relaxing.” One said, “I drink a lot.”

The session went really well, everyone said afterwards – audience members, organisers, participants. And that’s because of the preparation. I learned quickly when I was a musician that the more work you do in rehearsal, the easier the performance, and vice versa. So when I would do a one-hour session at the Auckland Readers’ and Writers’ Festival with a writer (e.g. John Freeman and Vincent O’Sullivan) I would spend a week prepping. Which made the hourly rate less than $5 but meant that the audience got their money’s worth and the writer was comfortable so gave a good performance.

I have been on panels where the chair does not do this prepping and I get a bit ratty. Chairs too often think they can wing it and get by on charm (or, as happened once at the Auckland Readers’ and Writers’ Festival, drunkenness). Well, I can’t. I have to work for it. Charm, that is.

So four days before this event I emailed the panellists with the potted bios with which I would introduce them, and also a list of questions I thought we could all discuss, ranging from “Why do you write, given that it is so hard?” to “What did you read when you were young that got you started?” (My answer to the first question was “Money” and to the second, “Biggles.”) Thing is, on the day they all knew who the others were, and what they were expected to have an interesting opinion about.

All of our panellists could have got by on charm – I mean, Kevin Ireland! – but the paying audience would have been short-changed had we not prepped and just fallen back on our stock routines, which all performing authors have.

So here are the Smiths with “This Charming Man”, live in Hamburg in 1984:

Friday, February 21, 2014

What I’m reading #113

Hugh Howey, Wool author, has been spectacularly successful and is a big advocate for self-publishing. This promises to be a lengthy debate, as not everyone in the industry agrees. Well, they would say that at Publishing Perspectives, wouldn’t they. Links there galore. Quote unquote:
Nevertheless, as eyes glaze over and pie-charts turn into metric meringue, it’s possible to wonder whether a debate so heavily focused on unavailable numbers (sales data held secret by the major retailers) is leading us toward author advocacy or into ever deeper arguments about competing suppositions. Sometimes it sounds like this: He said: You’re misinterpreting the estimates! She said: No, you’re mis-estimating the interpretation!
Toby Young proposes a luvvie tax. Well, it makes as much as sense as a Tobin tax. Quote unquote:
I’ve never understood why showbusiness types think their political views should be taken seriously simply by virtue of their fame and fortune. What insight do members of the entertainment industry possess that members of the financial services industry lack? What’s the chain of reasoning here? I’m on telly a lot, therefore I’m wise? You may disagree with the Chancellor’s views about the Financial Transaction Tax, but at least he’s a member of the elected government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Who elected Bill Nighy to speak for the people of Britain? I mean, apart from Richard Curtis?
Matt Nolan on the Great Supermarket Controversy, initiated by Shane Jones – most relevant Labour MP of the month? – and picked up by the Commerce Commission. Good to hear from an economist on this issue, especially as politicians and journalists never talk about trade-offs. Matt does. Quote unquote:
We feel bad for the wholesaler being bullied by these big companies – understandably! However, if we look at the issue more broadly, their bullying activity may well be reducing the price of some goods and services for the consumer. If we force them to give up their bullying, the consumer then pays a higher price. There are always trade-offs, let’s at least make a slight attempt to remember that – instead of pretending that government ownership will somehow come in and make everything magically better.
Cognitive dissonance alert: I wonder how many people who object to Countdown in Australia giving preference to Australian ingredients and so we should boycott Countdown in New Zealanders (which employs New Zealanders) also argue that in New Zealand we should buy local.

An author interviews his copy-editor. Quote unquote:
Creating style sheets is the secret to catching small errors. I am obsessed with my style sheets. I keep a word list, a character list, a list of places (fictional and real), a chronology, a general style sheet, a list of hyphenated modifiers, and any other list that helps me keep track of everything. I usually fact check as I go, although when I’m pressed for time I make a list of items to look up later, sometimes after I’ve returned the manuscript to the publisher. In those cases, I send a list of corrections that can be added by the production editor to the first pass. (Ha-ha, if someone else wrote this paragraph, I’d query the repeat of “list” — I used it seven times in five sentences.)
Vincent O’Sullivan, Poet Laureate, blogs again. Quote unquote:
One of the luxuries of living in a decent democracy is the liberty to be embarrassed by most contemporary political poetry. […] Mohammed-al-Ajani, a thirty-eight year old Qatari, the father of four children, did not respect the regime that governed him, and that he had no part in choosing. He said so in a poem, a straightforward statement that had none of the subtlety say of Mandelstam's famous poem on Stalin that took him to the camps. In one sense it was the broadest kind of ‘banner poetry’. But he read it aloud, and was sentenced to fifteen years solitary confinement, for conspiring against the state.
Ashleigh Young on the inner voice. Quite unquote:
One of Vygotsky’s theories took shape when he observed children talking to themselves while playing (and I watched my four-year-old niece doing this too, talking to herself with two voices that sounded a lot like Gollum/Smeagol; this was actually quite frightening). Vygotsky proposed that this ‘private speech’ branches out of the dialogue that children have with their parents and caregivers and other kids – but over time, that private speech goes deeper, becomes internalised, to form an inner voice. The outward mutterings turn inwards. As they do so, they become abbreviated, condensed, fragmented. They may not even resemble language at all.
My mother, who will be 89 in a few weeks, says that getting old isn’t for the faint-hearted but the alternative is worse. In the New Yorker, Roger Angell, 93, says:
 “Most of the people my age is dead. You could look it up” was the way Casey Stengel put it. He was seventy-five at the time, and contemporary social scientists might prefer Casey’s line delivered at eighty-five now, for accuracy, but the point remains. We geezers carry about a bulging directory of dead husbands or wives, children, parents, lovers, brothers and sisters, dentists and shrinks, office sidekicks, summer neighbors, classmates, and bosses, all once entirely familiar to us and seen as part of the safe landscape of the day. It’s no wonder we’re a bit bent. The surprise, for me, is that the accruing weight of these departures doesn’t bury us, and that even the pain of an almost unbearable loss gives way quite quickly to something more distant but still stubbornly gleaming. The dead have departed, but gestures and glances and tones of voice of theirs, even scraps of clothing—that pale-yellow Saks scarf—reappear unexpectedly, along with accompanying touches of sweetness or irritation.
On the after-school run earlier this week I stopped at the pedestrian crossing outside the optician's. Miss Nine glanced left and said to Miss Eleven, “See that poster? I would NOT wear THAT lipstick with THOSE glasses.” Fair to say that she doesn’t get her sense of style from her father.

So here are Postmodern Jukebox with Miche Braden on vocals performing Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine”, New Orleans style:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Someone left a cake out in the rain: Taipei edition

In Taipei, young people will queue for an hour and a half in the rain – in Taipei it rains a lot – to get a Krispy Kreme. I have no idea what a Krispy Kreme is but it is obviously disgusting. So why, in this city of great food,  do they queue?

One young person explains: “We like queuing, and this is the latest thing. It is the only store in Taipei – when there are three, we’ll move on to something else.” Ah, the careless rapture of youth.

The Grimethorpe Colliery Band is possibly the best brass band in the world: greatest living composer Harrison Birtwistle has written for them; I bet Ross Harris loves them; you might have seen them in Brassed Off. So here they are  performing Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park”:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

John Drinnan: largely irrelevant

John Drinnan, “business writer and media commentator” in the Herald, posted this online today at 1:50pm. It still stands unaltered at 10.30pm:
With the profit focus at TVNZ the Maori unit has been cut of from the rest of the news operation is largely irrelevant to corporate bosses.
I can’t understand why this stuff has to be rushed into, not print, pixels perhaps, without going through the usual process of sub-editing and proofreading. It would take only 30 minutes max. And I can’t understand why something so sub-literate can be allowed to stand visible for our derision for more than eight hours. I bet tomorrow’s print edition gets it right – but it will still have this triumphant concluding sentence:
Now at the start of an election year TVNZ is wallowing in a quagmire of its own making. 

In praise of: Oneroa and Ponsonby Road

The Feb 8-9 edition of the Financial Times has this from Tyler Brûlé, editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine, in a column about “a few inspired businesses spotted on my recent travels”:
Pizza on the beach Those who have always wanted to launch their own food venture but don’t have the capital to secure a lease might want to take a page from the clever Argentines who run a wood-fired pizza truck that pulls up beachside at Oneroa Beach, Waiheke Island, New Zealand. Dragonfired serves an array of pizzas with excellent dough. Not only does the whole operation get around many problems with licensing and assorted overheads, it also has the ability to show up at festivals, follow the sun and, perhaps most importantly, easily scale up if the business properly takes off.
Record store/restaurant One of the best retail businesses I have come across is the little Conch Records enclave in Ponsonby, Auckland. It is a mixture of CDs, vinyl, good coffee and excellent food served in a tiny covered courtyard. Having gradually spread the risk by moving from physical music to excellent food, Conch is a business I’ve always thought should spread around the Pacific Rim and beyond.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Happy birthday, Madama Butterfly

Home Paddock reminds us that today is the 110th anniversary of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, which had its first performance at La Scala on 17 February 1904. It wasn’t well received then, but is now one of the ten most performed operas in the world.

When I was a child, television was different from how it is now. As was childhood. One rainy afternoon I was home alone, aged maybe 12, and  Madama Butterfly was on TV. Black and white, obv. It was a black soprano in the title role, so must have been Leontyne Price. Life-changing. A year or so later I heard Tina Turner, and then Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight. It is still all the same to me.  

I can’t find anything on YouTube from that movie but here is Mirella Freni in the title role with Placido Domingo, Christa Ludwig and Karajan conducting.  I prefer Freni with Sinopoli conducting but, hey, internet thieves can’t be choosers.      

Sunday, February 16, 2014

What I’m reading #112

If you’ve spent most of your life cruising ahead on natural ability, doing what came easily and quickly, every word you write becomes a test of just how much ability you have, every article a referendum on how good a writer you are. As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good. Before you take to the keys, you are Proust and Oscar Wilde and George Orwell all rolled up into one delicious package. By the time you’re finished, you’re more like one of those 1940’s pulp hacks who strung hundred-page paragraphs together with semicolons because it was too much effort to figure out where the sentence should end.
The new issue of the Listener has an editorial about the book trade and where we buy our books. Quote unquote:
New Zealanders are buying fewer books, and when they do purchase a paperback, glossy art title or e-book, more are using overseas websites. The end of independent bookshops has long been predicted. Are we now in the middle of the end?
Lincoln Gould, CEO of Booksellers NZ, respondsQuote unquote:
Current evidence and trends, especially out of the United States, point to medium and smaller bookshops that focus on meeting the needs of their local communities and customers  are more likely to survive than big chains that have turned themselves into “gift shops”.
Bernard Porter in the Literary Review on Michael Booth’s The Almost Nearly Perfect People: The Truth about the Nordic Miracle:
Booth starts with Denmark because he lives there – his wife is Danish and their children study at Danish schools. That gives him an insight into the country that doesn't quite extend to the others, which he has merely visited and researched, his views of them perhaps coloured by his experiences of Denmark. (I would have the same problem. I live in Sweden; when I visit the other Nordic countries I see them through Swedish eyes, and behind them British ones.) He is at pains to point out how different they all are, and how scathing each nation is of the others. I can vouch for that. You should hear my partner on the Danes. She’s going to love some of the ammunition provided here. Can it really be true that ‘seven per cent of Danish men have had sex with an animal’? (Not the same one, surely.)
This could be the future: the University of Central Lancashire offers an MA in self-publishing. Quote unquote:
Williams said the self-publishing degree was created because of the intense demand for it, and prospective students are already applying. It will not be a creative writing course, she said, and will focus more on the production and business aspects of writing, through a mix of lectures and workshops with industry experts.
Fair enough, but an MA?

David Thompson on more agonies of the left, this time to do with serving dinner. Seriously, someone at the Guardian writes:
I felt like my wife was offering to perpetuate the very sexist ways that women have and continue to supply invisible and undervalued labour. And I wanted no part in that.
I'm not sure what my wife and I are supposed to do for each other based on prevailing gender norms and what the outside world expects of us.
I’m sure we all feel his anxiety about prevailing gender norms. I’ll raise it at the school drop-off in the morning with farmers Shane and Tommy, shearer Dean and Kelly the auctioneer.

Joe Hildebrand on Adelaide:
If Sydney is the girl who offers you a one-night stand and Melbourne is the girl you marry, then Adelaide is the special friend with whom you do crosswords on a Sunday afternoon and lazily wonder if maybe you might end up together one day.
Current listening, John Grant’s Queen of Denmark. Gloriously miserable, best gay break-up album I’ve heard. Sample lyric, from “Chicken Bones”:
I got out of bed this morning, noticed that it didn’t have a right side.
The chorus starts:
Some day is just chicken bones,
you'd better fuck off now,
you'd better leave me alone,
cos I'm about to explode
just like a Wonder Bread mom.

Also the chorus of his song “Sigourney Weaver” is to the tune of “Freebird”, so is 50 shades of awesome:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

JD Salinger and me in Taipei

Nihao. Am just back from a week in Taipei. Loved it. Can’t write about it here because contracted to elsewhere for money so am not giving it away, not even for you, but here is a photo from my new favourite bookshop, Eslite:

And this was the view from my window at the Home Hotel (totally recommend it) of Taipei 101, which at 509 metres was the tallest building in the world until Dubai built the 828-metre Burj Khalifa:

More to come in the Listener

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Gong Xi Fa Cai

No blogging for a week as I’m off in the morning to Taiwan for the Taipei International Book Exhibition, the Asia-Pacific equivalent of the Frankfurt Book Fair and the fourth biggest after Frankfurt, London and the one in the US. Sadly, my Mandarin is rusty and my Taiwanese is non-existent. Wish me luck.

I am temporarily to be a journalist for the Listener, if I can remember how to do that, and am also required to send back daily gossip items for PANZ. I knew that those years I spent at Metro on the Felicity Ferret column would pay off eventually.

So here, introduced by Kenny Everett, are Hot Gossip in the early 80s dancing to “Satisfaction” as recorded by the Rolling Stones in 1965. You know it makes sense and it’s all in the best possible taste: