Friday, September 26, 2008

Blog Insurance and a new MBA

Poynter Online announces that the Media Bloggers Association has created BlogInsure, a liability insurance plan to protect bloggers. Here's the press release.

I tend to think of blogging as I do it--an isolated activity with little recognition. I can't get my best friend to check in, so why would I need insurance? However, not every blogger wallows in obscurity. As we know well. There are people who do indeed need insurance to defend themselves against charges of invading privacy, libel, defamation, and all that nasty stuff.

As for Media Bloggers Assoc., it costs $25 a year to join. Besides access to the insurance plan, you get legal referrals, a free course in the law as it applies to bloggers and... some coming-soon stuff, such as newsletters. You also get to apply for accredited membership, which can get you media credentials to events.

All in all, worth checking out.

Stonehenge Video

Not to beat the topic to death, but here's a two and a half minute video from Yahoo UK that sums everything up very nicely.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Stonehenge for Healing

The new excavation at Stonehenge (the first since the 1960s) has led to this theory from archaeologists Geoffrey Wainwright (any relation to Loudon?) and Timothy Darvill:

It was a healing center, they say, and pilgrims chipped of bits of the blue stones to take home with them. The blue stones are the 80 or so brought from the Preseli Mountains in Wales, which had to be a major undertaking 5000 years ago.

My post from April (and its links) give the background of the dig. Here's the new Smithsonian article and photo spread on the progress made so far. An item that didn't make the headlines, but which I find interesting, as that some charcoal in the area dates back to the eighth millennium BC--ten thousand years ago. Which means people were camping there ten thousand years ago.

Being partial to the liberal media, I rarely cite Fox News. Let me correct that imbalance now and point you to their coverage of the event, as well as their photo collection--which includes this AP shot of two archaeology students (Steve Bush and Sam Ferguson) at work.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Stories Can't Always be Vetted

Cola's Journey is the story of Sudanese boy soldier Cola Bilkuei, who escaped his life by journeying to South Africa and telling/selling his biography. Sadly, it's not available outside of Australia yet, but here's an essay from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Essay author Malcolm Knox was asked to verify Cola's story, and makes observations that the historian-in-me treasures:

Ultimately, though, between what could be verified and what lies on the pages of Cola's book, there will always remain a margin where we must simply take his word. Some will ask why any author's word should be trusted. My answer is that if we take such a hard line, we will deprive ourselves of all oral history, of every story that is one person's recollection.

If we did that, winnowing history to what is documented on official records, swathes of human experience would be lost.

Bravo. We will always have charlatans, and we will always hate them because they make fools of us. But let's not deny ourselves rich tales--fiction and non--because we're so afraid of being taken.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Magazines CHEAP!

In Arizona, a small chain of used bookstores (warehouse-sized, not little hole-in-the-wall storefronts) sold used magazines for fifty cents each. The store put them out on racks like any Borders or B&N would, in alphabetical order.

For a freelance writer always looking for markets, this was heaven.

In Los Angeles, there's nothing like that. Libraries have popular titles, but there are few surprises. Used bookstores don't have the space or time to stock magazines. I suspect that's true in most cities.

Maghound to the rescue!

"Netflix for magazines" is how one person described it to me. One monthly fee, depending on how many mags you want ($4.95 for three, $7.95 for five, etc.) AND you get to change the magazines whenever you feel like it.

Happy Happy Joy Joy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Oh, the humanity...

I love Bitch Magazine, if only for the name.

The heavily tatted Andi Zeisler and Debbie Rasmussen present a plea to save their mag by raising $40,000 by October 15.

I'm not making fun. Writers suffer when the markets for their work dry up. But unless the writer's last name is King or Dunne (hey, there's my problem! My name's too long!) chances are they can't do much to keep Bitch or any mag in business--other than write well, that is.

So imagine the catch in my voice, the barely-held-back-tears brimming out of my eyes, and . . . and . . . screw the other charities. . . help the weiner dog grow!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hurricane Ike Uncovers Civil War Ship

I love this stuff, not that it in any way makes up for the lost neighborhoods, lives, and incredible destruction. But Ike swept so much sand from a spot six miles from Fort Morgan Rd in Fort Morgan, Alabama that a Civil War ship was unearthed. Here's the CNN Ireport from V. Boozer.

From the responses, it seems this may be the same ship exposed briefly in late 2006. It was seen, reported (here) then sand covered it up again. A video of that ship was made on Halloween, 2006, and can be seen at the Alabama Gulf Coast Video site. Sure looks like Vickie Boozer's picture, but I'm not too discriminating.

Hurricane Camille uncovered a ship at the same rough location in 1969, and it's been seen off and on since. Orange Beach Website has the best pictures (I borrow one here, but they have over a dozen closeups) and says the ship was revealed by Ivan in 2004.

Speculation in 2006 suggested that the ship was the Monticello, a two-masted schooner en route from Cuba in 1862. The Union Navy was blockading the port of Mobile and its gunship Kanewha reported pursuing and burning the Monticello at this location.

More gold from Pella

To follow up on discoveries in Macedonia (see an earlier post), even more golden artifacts are being found near Pella. The count is now 43 graves dating from 650 to 279 BC, 20 of them warrior graves from the period 580 to 460 BC. Some warriors were buried in the bronze helmets, with swords and knives at their sides, and their faces and chests were covered in gold foil decorated with drawings.

Here's the Los Angeles Times/Reuters story, with pictures so bright they hurt the eyes. And here's a link to the Daily Mail's article, with more pictures, including shots of the graves themselves.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Willi's Wine Bar Posters

Since 1983, Willi's Wine Bar in Paris has released an annual Bottle Art Poster by internationally recognized artists. Willi's is at 13 Rue de Petits Champs, a little north of the Jardin de Tuileries...if you're in the city.

The first edition (left) of their Bottle Art Series was actually a 1935 piece of art by AM Cassandre which had never been published before. The poster was probably part of an advertising campaign created in the 1930s for another wine shop, Nicolas--and for some reason was never used, at least until Willi's Wine Bar selected it.

This year's release (right) is by Jean Charles de Castelbajac, and you can buy it online for around $80 (or $450 for one of the 200 posters signed by the artist), here. Some of the out-of-print posters sell for close to a thousand dollars, so that seems a fair price. (Trivia point: Castelbajac's first Parisian store sat next to Willi's in the 1980s.)

Many of the past years' posters are available on line and they include art by photographer Lyu Hanabusa, scultor Alberto Bali, artists Tom Fowler, Wayne Ensrud, and others.

2nd trivia point: in the late 1970s, Mark Williamson, owner of Willi's Wine Bar, worked briefly for Steven Spurrier at Spurrier's specialty wine shop, Caves de la Madeleine. Spurrier was the instigator/organizer of the 1976 "Judgement of Paris" tasting that put Napa wines on the map, and is played by Alan Rickman in the movie Bottle Shock.

And--this is really trivial--I went to Napa and just missed the movie location filming. Dang! Would have loved to get a menu or something signed by Professor Snape.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Exercises for Developing Characters

Got to hear some great advice from Prof. Steven Wolfson yesterday.

The occasion? The UCLA Writers Faire, a free event held every September, offering four rounds of seminars in four hours. All you have to pay for is the parking. Those 40-minute seminars cover all aspects of fiction, non-fiction, screenplays, etc: writing, selling, inspiration, character development, markets, you name it.

The point is to get people to sign up for courses at UCLA (many are online) but there's no obligation to do so. Lots of people just come and enjoy the day and the advice.

So what was this great advice?

  • An exercise to help you understand your characters better: list and describe their daily habits. One full day--what do they do and why?
  • Characters should be in a constant state of want (you've heard this before, right?) Know the aches and wants of every character--and write in the margins of your manuscript a scene-by-scene running commentary of who wants what. Every scene!
  • When you're stuck, sit down and interview the characters. What are they going to do next? What have they done so far that troubles them?

Bear in mind that these tidbits are crunched into a dynamic, 40-minute presentation on the art of storytelling.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

2008 Hugo Awards

The biggest action in Denver last month may have been the Democratic National Convention, but Hugo Awards were announced August 9th at the 66th World SciFi Convention--called Denvention, of course. Two of my favorite authors now have shiny phallic statues:

  • Michael Chabon for the the novel, The Yiddish Policemen's Union,
  • Connie Willis for the novella "All Seated on the Ground"
  • Ted Chiang for the novelette "The Merchant and the Alchemists' Gate"

Do we all know the difference between a novella and a novelette? Me neither.


  • Elizabeth Bear for the short story "Tideline"
  • Stardust for best dramatic presentation, long form
  • Dr. Who "Blink" for best dramatic presentation, short form.

Connie Willis has been a favorite since Doomsday Book and probably has more Hugos than most aliens have digits.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Recommended Reading for September

The Road. Yes, I'm way behind the curve and most literary folks have read and reviewed it by now. I got on the ball and checked it out of the library because (shallow twit that I am) I heard that Viggo Mortensen was doing the movie. As with so many of his picks, this is about as unsexy a role as can be imagined.

Here's a sample of why this book is so worth your time:

In the evening the murky shape of another coastal city, the cluster of tall buildings vaguely askew. He thought the iron armatures had softened in the heat and then reset again to leave the buildings standing out of true. The melted window glass hung frozen down the walls like icing on a cake. They went on. In the nights sometimes now he'd wake in the black and freezing waste out of softly colored worlds of human love, the songs of birds, the sun.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

How do you say Boat Jousting en francais?

From the Los Angeles Times, which also ran an article on the boat jousting festival of Languedoc. in Sete, near Montpellier. Just to show that boys will be boys all over the world.

Alexander's Wreath-Time Band

A wreath of gold that dates back to the 4th century BC was found last week in the ruins of Aigai, where Philip of Macedonia had his royal palace.

I'm using the picture from a 2001 story from the site and hope they don't mind. How could anyone describe such an exquisite object without a picture? Unbelievably, a farmer ploughing his field unearthed this artifact, which dates to 450-425 BC.

The newly-found wreath was found in a copper vase that local workers mistook for a land mine, and it was found with bones. That's what AP says, and its story includes pictures of the copper bucket and the wreath in situ.

The AP article quotes experts from the University of Thessaloniki who date the find to the 4th century--close to when Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great's father, was stabbed to death in the marketplace. That event happened very near where the wreath and bones were found.

Since it was found so recently, I think the guess about its age is preliminary. How does one date gold, anyway? Or are they dating the bones or other organic material found in the copper vase, which was covered?