A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘popular literature

[LINK] “What Is a Fringe Festival Anyway?”

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Mooney on Theatre editor Wayne Leung reshared today, on the first day of the Toronto Fringe Festival, a a Huffington Post article he wrote last year explaining just what it is about.

I’ll be covering some Fringe shows this year for this publication again, starting tonight in fact. I quite look forward to the experience again.

It costs a lot of money to produce and promote a show and because making theatre is so cost-prohibitive only a handful of professional and established not-for-profit theatre companies can afford to mount shows.

Fringe festivals are all about providing an accessible avenue for independent theatre artists to produce and perform their work in front of an audience. The Fringe is really the essence of theatre; virtually anybody can submit a show to the Fringe and the festivals place no limits on content so shows can be bold, raw and uncensored.

While the Fringe theatre movement started in 1947 in Edinburgh, Scotland, still home to the world’s largest fringe festival, the first Canadian fringe festival was founded in Edmonton in 1982. Since then the movement has spread across the continent and the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals currently boasts 23 member festivals across Canada and the United States.

Written by Randy McDonald

July 2, 2014 at 10:11 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • blogTO posts a history of the Toronto Islands, and how a peninsula became an archipelago.
  • Crooked Timber makes the argument that cross-national intelligence undermines national democracies.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that there may be a hundred million worlds in our galaxy capable of supporting life.
  • Imageo shows the startling depth of the drought in California.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that the victim of a gay-bashing in New York City allegedly by members of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish street patrol is suing them.
  • Language Hat announces that twenty previously unknown Pablo Neruda poems have been found in Chile.
  • Marginal Revolution notes the increasing walkability of Los Angeles.
  • Registan notes continuing issues for women in Azerbaijan.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog is skeptical of the possibilities that the Donetsk basin in the east could be reconciled to wider Ukraine after this war is over, raising the spectre of Catalonia in post-Franco Spain.
  • Spacing Toronto shares a story of an investigation to an unscenic pair of billboards placed at the intersection of Davenport Road and Bathurst Street.
  • Torontoist notes a local protest by migrant rights’ activists against the shutdown of the temporary foreign worker program.
  • The Transit Toronto blog commemorates the end of the 28 Davisville bus route.

[LINK] “How to Quit Amazon and Shop in an Actual Bookstore”

Blogging at Esquire, Stephen Marche makes a four-point argument in favour of buying books not online but in bookstores.

The movement to boycott Amazon has been picking up speed for several weeks now. In the wake of strong-arm tactics in its negotiations with Hachette publishing, Amazon has managed to offend the actual writers whose books Hachette publishes, including Malcolm Gladwell, James Patterson, and JK Rowling. That wouldn’t matter so much if one of them wasn’t Stephen Colbert. He has promoted stickers that viewers can download from his website, which read, I DIDN’T BUY IT ON AMAZON. Amazon has responded by telling customers that anybody inconvenienced by the battle with Hachette should buy books elsewhere.

Until publishers decide to start a competitor website selling books, which eventually they are going to have to do, anyone wanting to follow Colbert’s or Amazon’s advice ought to venture into actual physical bookstores. Unfortunately, by now, purchasing print books in a brick-and-mortar building is something of a lost art, like taking snuff or drinking brandy after dinner. Which is not to say that it’s not worth doing. Quite the opposite. Buying books in a bookstore is one of life’s great, quiet pleasures. It leads to the purchase of better books. It leads to a deeper relationship to reading. It is a joy in and of itself.

[. . .]

A good bookstore isn’t just a place to buy books. The really good ones are bespoke tailoring for your narrative impulse. And that experience, it’s worth pointing out, is available in every town, and it’s free. The real problem with Amazon isn’t that it’s strong-arming Hachette; it’s that it leads readers to buy books that they’ve already heard about. When you pick out a summer novel for yourself online, you’re going to pick the book that everybody else is reading, almost automatically. But the book that you want probably isn’t Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. It probably isn’t another James Patterson. A good seller in a bookstore is infinitely superior in every way to a personalization algorithm. Even by entering a bookstore, you’re faced with literally a thousand choices that you’ve never been faced with before. Somewhere in there is something that’s entirely fresh to you, and will reward your soul by exposure. That’s what good books do, and good bookstores, too. They let you step out of your algorithm.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 16, 2014 at 7:51 pm

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • The Dragon’s Gaze examines the very complicated history of the formation of the trinary system of Fomalhaut.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a report on the study claiming to find chemical evidence of the impact that created the Moon out of moon rocks.
  • Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that no plausible American intervention could have prevented the fall of Mosul to ISIS.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen notes the predictions of economists that Brazil will win the World Cup.
  • Out of Ambit’s Diane Duane shares a photo of people scavenging from a hundred thousand books dumped out of a bankrupt bookstore in Ireland.
  • Livejournaler pollotenchegg maps fertility rates in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
  • The Transit Toronto blog notes the arrest of a half-dozen TTC workers on charges of embezzling from their organization.
  • Towleroad notes opposite-sex married but bisexual Anna Paquin’s Twitter posting for pride.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy’s David Bernstein takes issue with the idea that Jewish Republicans are rare. (Representation is, as a consequence of their distribution.)
  • Window on Eurasia links to an analyst’s concern that the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine, currently seeing fighting, might end up becoming alienated from the rest of Ukraine on the model of Northern Ireland.

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto Library offers store-quality book printing to customers”

CBC observes that the Toronto Reference Library now offers a book printing service. While I don’t see any indication that the library will offer more technical and non-prining services like registering an ISBN and the like, this is a decided advance.

You typically go to the library to take out a book, but now you can go to a Toronto library and make one.

The Toronto Reference Library unveiled its newest form of technology at its Digital Innovation Hub — a book printing machine.

[. . .]

What’s new is the ability to self-publish books – whether your own piece of literature, a cook book, dissertation or whatever you choose for a relatively reasonable price of $145 for 10 copies of a 150-page book.

“It’s like watching a birthing,” said Toronto author Nina Munteanu. She was one of the first people to use the machine.

The Asquith Press, costing about $68,000, sounds like a photocopier while it works, but the Plexiglas sides reveal each stage of the book making process.

“You can literally see the cover being made and all the pages being trimmed and glued together and being bound,” she said.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 12, 2014 at 7:29 pm

[LINK] “Grant Morrison’s 9/11: New X-Men’s ‘Ambient Magnetic Fields'”

Sequart’s Julian Darius revisits an issue of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, November 2002’s issue 132, “Ambient Magnetic Fields.” In a well-illustrated essay, Darius makes the compelling case that this one-issue story, set on a former mutant island of Genosha after it had been devastated by a Sentinel attack, is one of the most thoughtful responses in comics to the September 11th terrorist attacks.

In the wake of 9/11, Morrison raised the fact that he’d already dramatized the limits of violence. But as a writer of stories that prominently featured violent action, violence inevitably continued to appear in his work. Of course, this speaks more to the limitations of the genre than to any inconsistency on Morrison’s part. You certainly can’t devote a full issue to everyone who’s killed, and repeating this device would obviously lessen its impact. Morrison is indisputably aware of the dangers of depicting violence as entertainment, and he’s been quite articulate on the subject. But just as indisputably, widescreen mass violence is part of the appeal of the Genosha destruction sequence.

You can read “Best Man Fall” as an apology for so casually killing people, in order to add drama or make the hero look tough. And given the obvious parallels between the Genosha attack and 9/11, you can read “Ambient Magnetic Fields” as an apology for turning genocide into an entertaining cliffhanger.

A sense of unfathomable sadness permeates “Ambient Magnetic Fields.” The story opens with a full-page shot of the ruins of Genosha, as a character says, “I remember when all this was fields and spires and monorails.” Later, Storms speaks of “charred bones and ashes of children.” The story manages to convey the sort of reverence and hushed silence you might feel inside you at a concentration camp, or on the Normandy beaches, or on a Civil War battlefield. The sense that something terrible happened here — a tragedy too large for a single human brain to comprehend, in its fullness.

That the story is somehow able to convey this owes a great deal to the artwork of Jimenez and Lanning. One of the faults of Morrison’s New X-Men is its frequent artistic changes, and many complained that some didn’t measure up to the others. No one could say this about Jimenez and Lanning. Everything looks beautiful, yet this somehow only enhances the plaintive feel of the devastation. The pages’ black backgrounds reinforce the sense of mourning. The juxtaposition of utopian X-Men technology and debris is particularly effective, as when characters stare out of futuristic windows on what might as well be a ruined planet.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 9, 2014 at 7:36 pm

[LINK] “Marvel, Fox and the fantastic fracas”

MacLean’s‘ Jaime Weinman describes an unfortunate, but plausible, rivalry between comic publisher and movie powerhouse Marvel and 20th century Fox.

It sometimes seems like the Marvel Comics characters from the 1960s are the driving force of the entire U.S. movie industry, what with Marvel Studios’ own films, the X-Men movies from 20th-Century Fox, and the Spider-Man franchise from Sony. Marvel probably wishes it could have the movie rights to all its characters, given how lucrative they are, but the company sold off a lot of those rights in the 1990s when business was bad. Would Marvel actively sabotage its own comics in order to deny free publicity to another studio’s movie? That’s what the comics gossip site Bleeding Cool claimed last week when it claimed that Marvel was planning to cancel its long-running Fantastic Four comic, and had already given orders to some artists to omit the Fantastic Four characters from promotional material. The reason? Marvel sold Fox the movie rights to Fantastic Four years ago, and the studio is going into production with a new, hip and edgy version of the four-person superhero team. Any promotion of Fantastic Four by Marvel will benefit Fox’s attempt to bring the team back to public attention, and make it harder for Marvel to get the film rights back (they revert to the owner if Fox goes long enough without using the characters). So, Bleeding Cool argued — and the Internet, being the Internet, instantly believed — Marvel might not think it’s worth its while to feature them too prominently.

Bleeding Cool sometimes gets inaccurate or only half-accurate scoops, but it’s one of the few sites that has any dirt at all on what goes on in the comic book industry (a business that is infamously cozy with a lot of the sites that report on it). While Fantastic Four may not be cancelled, the idea that it was at least in danger of cancellation was partly backed up by the less gossipy Comic Book Resources. That site checked with some sources and found that “a hiatus for the property is planned, at least as of recently. Plans can change, something that’s potentially more likely now that the situation has been made public.” In other words, the controversy might scare the company out of cancelling the book, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t on the table.

Whether that story turns out to be true or not, the report sparked enough interest that it began to call attention to other things going on with Marvel properties whose film rights are held by Fox. The X-Men comics, unlike the FF’s, are too popular to cancel. But fans of the X-Men books have been complaining that Marvel wasn’t doing very much promotion for the new movie, Days of Future Past, that X-Men characters were rarely at the centre of big company-wide promotions, and that there wasn’t much in the way of official tie-in merchandise for the film — the sort of thing that you normally expect is part of the very reason for doing a big blockbuster movie. (There is official Spider-Man movie merchandise, but that’s because Marvel bought back the merchandising rights several years ago.)

Written by Randy McDonald

June 9, 2014 at 7:30 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Antipope Charlie Stross argues that the publishing industry, beset by consolidations, is trying unsuccessfully to move from an artisan model of literary production to something new. Would that something new could be found and made to work.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper that tries to model the atmosphere and climate of the exoplanet Gliese 581g, potentially Earth-like but tidally locked.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the ongoing events in Ukraine.
  • Geocurrents’ Martin Lewis maps the political divides of the south India state of Kerala onto caste and religious boundaries.
  • Language Log links to a paper analyzing big data in linguistics.
  • Languages of the World’s Asya Perelstvaig notes that California is exceptionally diverse language-wise.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money’s Erik Loomis notes that the ability of journalist Nicholas Kristof to be fooled by an alleged anti-prostitution activist in Cambodia prone to making things up fits in a long Progressive history of being easily fooled about things Progressives care about..
  • Torontoist introduces the new Fort York branch of the Toronto library system.
  • Towleroad’s David Mixner interviews GLBT activists in Italy about their challenges.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy’s Eugene Volokh notes, in discussing the underemployment of many minorities at Google relative to their shares of the American population, the ways in which Asians are assimilated to the white majority, at least rhetorically.
  • Window on Eurasia links to a Russian journalist’s analysis of the consequences of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. It’s bad for Russia internationally, he concludes, but a good way for the state to consolidate its control domestically.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • Antipope Charlie Stross examines the myth of heroism and its origins.
  • blogTO comes up with ten fun things to do on the Toronto Islands this summer.
  • Crooked Timber’s Corey Robin doesn’t think much of the American tendency towards charging criminal defendants the costs of their case.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that the viral MERS epidemic in Saudi Arabia has killed 173 people and infected more.
  • The Financial Times‘ The World blog doesn’t think Russian-Western relations will improve.
  • Geocurrents’ Martin Lewis notes the extent of the BJP’s electoral success across India.
  • Language Hat links to a new online archive of Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts.
  • Steve Munro, again, is unimpressed with the political short-termism in Toronto that keeps sabotaging subway lines.
  • Torontoist warned us of the fragility of the cherry blossoms of High Park.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that the autonomy of Washington D.C. is limited by Congress in that it can’t pass its own budget laws backed by citizen referenda.
  • Window on Eurasia links to a Russian writer who suggests that while many on the European right might support Putin opportunistically, few support Russia’s ideological vision.

[LINK] “The slow, tragic death of the LGBT publishing industry”

‘Nathan Burgoine linked to Steve Berman’s Salon article decrying the death of specifically queer bookstores and publishers. Starting with the impending closure of Philadelphia’s Giovanni’s Room, Berman makes the argument that physical bookstores play a critical role for queers as a physical space where they can interact freely with each other and with their literatures. Without them, allusiveness drops.

At a bookstore, you can browse the shelves, open a book, sample its pages as well as those of its peers shelved in the same category or by the same author. With Amazon, if you do not know the author or the title or a great deal of the plot; your chances of finding that book you overheard friends talking about is like a pricking yourself while rolling in a haystack. Good luck. Oh, and during your online hunt, you’ll be forced to look at so many lurid covers — because isn’t gay publishing about sex, sex, sex? — that searching for a book has become, at times, not-safe-for-workplace.

[. . .]

Some argue that the need for “gay” retailers is disappearing thanks to assimilation — that I am an American first and foremost, who just happens to act a bit fey, so I should just go to a normal bookstore and find the latest Christopher Rice or Sarah Waters. Ahh, the assimilation argument. I would love to walk into a generic bookseller and see LGBT authors prominently shelved. And the major authors, who are published by major presses, already are. David Sedaris. Val McDermid, one of the most read mystery authors in the world. These individuals are assimilated into whatever genre they write in and unless you knew they were gay, you could pass over their books without a second thought. Thank you, America, for hiding the authors’ and the characters’ sexuality. (I promise that none of these covers will be lurid — don’t tell me David Levithan’s “Two Boys Kissing” is lurid. Young adult literature is growing more accepting of LGBT themes, but how many stores have Levithan’s latest spine out?)

In Barnes & Noble, the “gay” shelf is often a single shelf of mixed erotica and university presses with maybe a memoir or a book about Matthew Shepherd. If you wanted to read a gay book — assuming you are not so assimilated that you only want to read about everyday Americans, the vast majority of whom are somewhat favorable to your “lifestyle” and enjoy laughing at fey or butch minstrel characters on television — you have to special-order the book. Which means you are essentially coming out to the busy clerk at the help desk. Can you? Will you? Or will you retreat back home and search again and again for something on Amazon that sounds like a book you want.

Then there’s the argument that the community has failed the local bookstore. Alas, this comment is almost always true. I remember working the front counter of Giovanni’s Room and men and women entering the store at all hours asking to hang posters or leave fliers for their LGBT event or cause. We always agreed and gave them space. And how many of these individuals would then walk around the store. None. We would get people associated with functions and charities and socials approaching Ed for gift certificates to offer as door prizes or silent auctions. And he would never refuse. And after he handed the certificate over, out the door they went.

I question Berman’s assumption that these bookstores played a role for anyone other than a small minority of non-heterosexuals out there, but his wider point is quite worthy.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 8, 2014 at 8:07 pm


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