Oh Amber...

Thank god for google alerts. Without it, I never would have learned that my name, and my real name at that and not the initials I use when I publish, is like ash on Amber Tamblyn's tongue.

She is apparently unaware of the various six degrees connections between us that make me something more to her than just some random dude on the internet.

Some background: because I'm a poet that means I'm generally tapped into the poetry world at large. Dear reader, you may be shocked to discover that the poetry world at large is actually extremely small.

I first became aware of Amber Tamblyn qua poet when my friend Rachel McKibbens pointed me to a pretty ridiculous interview of Amber Tamblyn by Sage Francis. Sage Francis is most famous as a backpack rapper, and by most accounts is quite the gifted MC. Unbeknownst to many people who are vaguely aware of his records, he first made his name as a Slam poet in Massachusetts before he got "sick of waiting tables" and went into the music biz. It's this fact that made the interview particularly ridiculous. Tamblyn, who was dating Sage at the time, was represented as an authority on poetry slam in the interview in which Sage Francis fronted complete ignorance of the form. This of course presented a sort of cognitive dissonance to those of us who know that Sage Francis has been a member of slam teams representing his local slam at nationals, and that Tamblyn traded in her B list celebrity for D list poetry fame by first embarking on a career as a poetry slam dilettante.

The Nook's Most Important Feature is Epub Compatibility

I've seen a lot of articles on line about the various features of the Nook device, but most of them seem to bury the news that it's Epub-compatible, if they mention it at all. But Epub compatibility--and the fact that BN is converting its entire library to epub--is the single most important bit of news here, and the reason is simple. Sony now also sells its ebooks in the epub format. Which means if I bought a bunch of books for the Sony Reader, and then buy a Nook, those books are still usable. On the other hand, if I had a Kindle, my Kindle books would be unusable on the new device. In other words, the Nook and the Sony Reader allow me to create a library of books independent of whatever reader I have, where as the Kindle locks you into their format. That means that 10 or 20 years from now I might still have usable ebooks, for reference, for rereading, for referring to notes I might have taken. As long as there are still devices compatible with epub, I'm fine. That's huge.

Now if we can just get these ebooks off of DRM, we'd really have something...

"I lit a cigarette and walked free/beyond the red light of the exit."

The title of this brief essay quotes from Louis Zukofsky's poem "A". It is the couplet early in the poem that hooked me.

I was moved to make this quotation as a means of using the quotation within the fair use doctrine. I found that I had this particular motivation after discovering that Paul Zukofsky had posted a cranky letter of "copyright notice" on the website he runs dedicated to "making money" off his parents' copyrights.

Initially I found the tenor and attitude of the notice to be extremely annoying. First because Paul Zukofsky clearly doesn't understand what copyright is or how it works and that this lack of understanding seems to persist in the face of the extreme simplicity of learning more about the subject. I find such willful ignorance a sort of personal affront as it is contrary to the requirements of a free and open society, a form of civilization that I am very much in favor of and in which I would like to continue to live.

From that point, however, I came to the conclusion that such extreme crankiness must in fact be evidence of something else and I was instead moved to pity for Paul Zukofsky. The tenor of his notice, found here, sounds to me in the voice of someone deeply alienated from humanity, a condition that, were it my own, I would find extremely painful. In the end, "I lit a cigarette and walked free beyond the red light of the exit."

Mr. Zukofsky, if you can find an attorney that is willing file a valid suit against me for this use, which I fully admit is a use contrary to your wishes as expressed in the copyright notice, I will remove the quotation. I do not expect that I shall have to live up to this comment.

I suggest you lighten up a touch and consult with an attorney familiar with US copyright law about what your rights as a copyright owner actually are. Also, your father is an obscure objectivist poet mostly remembered because he was seen as a major influence by the Language poets. I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for the royalty checks.

It's Official: The Nook is a Kindle Killer

Lots of news churning out about the Nook, Barnes and Noble's new ebook reader. Long story short: it's got a touchpad screen, it's got wifi and free 3G, it's $259 and, most importantly for me, it supports epub and PDF natively. Which basically means it does basically everything the Kindle and the Sony Reader Touch and Daily editions do combined, but for less money. The Sony Reader Pocket edition still exists as a $200 ereader option, but frankly, $59 isn't a lot more to pay for always-on 3G and a touch pad.

(Also, yes the Sony Touch and Daily editions have full touch screens, while the Nook only has a touch-pad (with a screen), but as others have noted, the Sony touch screens create so much damn glare it isn't worth it.

So yeah, B&N really nailed this one. Game, set, match.

At least until something else comes along. Apple, what you got?

The Jungle is not for People

I've never been to Yosemite or Yellowstone, but I've been on quite a few hiking trails in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, and been camping a few times. I even once hiked down and up the Grand Canyon. I realize now how well-maintained these trails were, wide and relatively smooth and well marked.

Little did we suspect the ordeal that was to follow when we ventured into El Yunque Rain Forest in Puerto Rico.

All I Have to Say About the Nobel

The Nobel Prize for Literature will be announced tomorrow and, as usual, a lot of people are getting their panties in a knot about it. And I hear people complain all the time about the Nobel never having been awarded to such greats as Kafka, Joyce, Nabokov and Borges. As if the Nobel Prize matters, as if it means something. As if the list of past winners wasn't full of the forgotten, the unnotable and those whose cultural esteem has long since fallen into disregard. I can't imagine getting all that emotional about who wins and who doesn't. (In fact, there are very few awards I have any kind of strong feelings about.) Or, as Doris Lessing summed up so deftly when she was told she had won, "I couldn't care less."

FTC vs. Bloggers

So the FTC apparently has come out with new rules (PDF) where they can fine you up to $11,000 if you don't reveal any money or "freebies" you might have gotten in "exchange" for a review. Ed Champion does some pretty stellar reporting in interviewing a person from the FTC about this and explaining the problems with the new rules. Basically, there's a double standard; if a reviewer for a traditional newspaper get a free book as a review copy and then reviews it, that's okay, but if a blogger does the same thing suddenly he's treated as if he's being bribed. The interviewee also talking about having direct links to the product being a problem. But so what if I have direct links to where you can buy a book I've reviewed from IndieBound? And so what if I get a commission from those links? I can link to any book that's in print. No one's paying me to pimp their book, I'm pimping (or smacking down or whatever) any book I want to.

In other words, these new rules represent yet another example of clueless people in government making clueless decisions that favor old media over new because they just don't understand the new media. And it's bullshit.

Are we all going to have to wait until the people in government die off and are replaced by younger people who grew up with the new media before we get anything resembling clued-in legislation? How long are we going to have to deal with the type of folks who think the Internet is a "series of tubes" before we get people who actually know what they're talking about?

Very frustrating.

Weekend Reading

Some reading to keep you busy this weekend:

Crazy Friend by Jonathan Lethem — Lethem's essay about Philip K. Dick and the writer's effect on his life.

Starship Stormtroopers by Michael Moorcock — an essay from the 70's in which Moorcock picks apart the political subtext of science fiction up to that point, analyzing both rightest, imperialist themes of writers like Robert Heinlein and Rudyard Kipling and the leftest themes of writers of his generation.

Queen of the Iron Sands by Scott Lynch rather surprised by how much I'm enjoying SF novelist Scott Lynch's serialized tribute to the pulp Mars stories of the 30s, like those of Edgar Rice Burroughs. I know in the past I've complained about SF writers rehashing the old rather than doing anything new, and nothing here is particularly new, but it is fun.

What Roman Said

Here's some fun stuff for the Polanski apologists claiming he was railroaded.

From the transcript of Polanski's plea hearing:

Mr. Gunson [The Prosecutor]: . . . Mr Polanski, before you can plead guilty , you must understand the possible direct consequences of your plea. Do you understand you are pleading guilty to a felony?

The Defendant [Polanski: Yes

Mr Gunson: What is the maximum sentence for unlawful sexual intercourse?

The Defendant: It's one to fifteen -- twenty years in State Prison.

. . .

Mr Gunson: Mr Polanski, who do you believe will decide what your sentence will be in this matter?

The Defendant: The Judge.

Mr Gunson: Who do you think will decide whether you get probation?

The Defendant: The Judge.

Mr. Gunson: Who do you think will decide whether the sentence will be a felony or misdemeanor?

The Defendant: The Judge.

Mr. Gunson: Do you understand that at this time, the court has not made any decision about what sentence you will receive?

The Defendant: [No Response]

Mr. Gunson: Do you understand that the Judge has not made any decision?

The Defendant: Yes.

. . .

Mr. Gunson: Do you understand that a legal defense to this crime of Unlawful Sexual intercourse is that the perpetrator believed the female to be 18 years of age or older? Do you understand that?

The Defendant: Yes.

Mr Gunson: On March 10th, 1977 the day you had [unlawful] sexual intercourse with the complaining witness how old did you believe her to be?

[Pause in the proceedings while a discussion off the record ensued at the counsel table between the defendant and his counsel.]

The Defendant: She was 13.


Scum begets scum part II

Here's the list of the scum defending Polanski:

(note: as of this posting, the site is crashed; my hope is that it's a result of technoactivism)

Some big names on there who really ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Again, boycotting these people is pointless. Art and Morality barely intersect and the fact that these people are naive idiots, amoral scum, or both has nothing to do with the quality of their work.

But if you ever get a chance to meet one of them, I wouldn't shake hands if I were you. And a sneer and an insult would be in order.