Sunday, January 31, 2016



   I have written before about my dislike of free books here, for example.  Writers deserve to be compensated for their time and effort like other artists and tradespeople.   I try to be diplomatic in my posts and comments because everyone is entitled to their opinion, right? Some authors advise that making the first book in a series free has boosted their sales considerably.   Readers get a chance to try out the author's style and story-telling without risk.   I only wish I could do the same for a new restaurant in the area.

    I was interested to come across this youtube video done in response to the emergence of crowd funding which I learned involves people like artists, architects, personal trainers and framers, doing work for nothing in the hope that if the customer likes it he will buy more.   A variation on that theme involves doing a set piece, for example, logo design, in a competition with other applicants.   If the business/employer likes one, they will pick and pay for that one.   The others can go home.  It is explained as part of the job application process.  Something like a logo is probably a one use item, not able to be re-used by the artist for another purpose.

    As  states:

"Apart from promoting free labour, you impede the designer from earning a proper salary. Would you work for free with the hope of possibly being compensated?"

In this on line post in the Independent it is detailed how the Society of Authors in the United Kingdom is calling on payment to be made when authors are asked to  give workshops or speak at literary festivals.   The author typically gets lunch and not much else but the promise of 'exposure' and perhaps the right to put out their books for people to purchase is considered sufficient inducement.   The festival expects to pay for catering or people to set up the stands and tents not to mention bring in the portable toilets but somehow authors, the people who make the entire event possible, are considered above petty concerns like compensation.   It seems like a throwback to the English class system in some ways.   Proper ladies and gentlemen don't discuss matters as crass as money.

Sunday, January 24, 2016




     We are sometimes advised to move beyond our comfort zone, whether in love, employment or travel.  Indeed, to fail to do so on a regular basis can be lead to one being castigated as weak or cowardly.  We must stretch ourselves!

     Doing something different or taking a chance sounds like the right thing to do.  How boring, after all, to continue on the same cozy track.  Adventure awaits if we would be step up to the plate -- now there's another homily often quoted.

     I suppose it is a question of degree.   Standing on the precipice of a bridge with a rope tied around your ankles and some hurried advice about bungee jumping may be a step too far.  Some of the hikers rescued off the North Shore mountains recently may have been heeding the same well meaning advice about stepping out of their comfort zone.

     As the hikers shivered through a chilly night enduring an empty stomach, they may have pondered on a comfort zone that would be greatly preferred:  A comfortable armchair in front of the fire with a warm dog on their lap, a cup of coffee at their side table and their favourite mystery program on the television.

     Are most of us are looking for something a bit in the middle of these two choices?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Return to the Past


Often, when watching or discussing a period drama like Downton Abby, someone will comment that life was so much simpler then or wouldn’t it be nice to live back in those times.   Inevitably, another person will agree with the proviso:   Except for antibiotics . . . or dental care . . . or anesthesia.   That stops the discussion because none of us want to live life without those now considered essential elements.   We might consider life without the internet or cell phones.   Some  of us can vaguely recall that time.   You could always take the good bits and leave the rest.

We had the Yellow Pages and telephone books delivered recently.   Straight into the recycling box with a remark about the waste of paper.   Today we can not only look up the contact information for the business on-line but also read some helpful (or maybe made up or bought)  reviews attesting to the efficiency and reliability of the service.   The Yellow Pages never gave us that.

Some of the things we enjoy about period dramas take a lot of work behind the scenes.   The costumes, the room decor, the glorious table settings would have resulted, in real life and on camera, from a lot of work behind the scenes.   Set decorator and costumers are much better paid than the kitchen maids and footmen in the past.   The long lingering, civilized conversations that took the place of screen time today.   The repartee at the dinner table where much was hinted at but little actually said.

Maybe it’s just the novelty factor.   We’re easily bored today and eagerly await the invention of holograms a la Star Trek to move our entertainment to the next level.   How could mere conversation compete?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Reading serialized novels from the Victorian era


Mysteries are one of the favoured fiction genres.   Sherlock Holmes, depicted above in silhouette, has had at least half a dozen iterations in film and television.    Many of Agatha Christie's books--think of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot--are eagerly watched and even translated across the globe.   I recently read that a favourite of mine, Murdoch Mysteries, is now viewed in 120 countries.

The Victorian Reading Project from Stanford University 'seeks to reanimate . . . the Victorian encounter with serial novels, one issue at a time.   You can down load and read for free the work covered so far, Dickens and Sherlock Holmes completed with annotated guides.

This is an era that fascinates many with the Gothic steampunk novels that stretch the reality of the Victorian era to many novels set at a time of  scientific invention and unfamiliar morality. 

Monday, January 4, 2016



I wrote about my 2013 visit to Skellig Michael here.   I don't know if plans were already in motion to use this 6th century site for the new movie but if so I had no knowledge of it.   When I heard of this plan, I wondered how it would work.   This island is about 11 kilometres off Ireland's Atlantic coast and about a half hour's rough ride on a fishing boat which was the only way to access the location.   There was a helicopter landing pad on the small island but I understood that this was for private use by authorized and official visitors.   Interestingly, no charge was made to visit the island although we paid $50 each to the fishing  boat captain who provided transport only; no food, drink or anecdotes.

I have read that after a couple of incidents where tourists were injured or killed, guides on the island were put in place and a mandatory twenty minute talk about the island and warnings of the dangers and difficulty in accessing of the main top part where the stone beehive homes were located.  Six hundred slippery steps must be ascended.   There is a daily limit on how many visitors can come each day; something like 200, I believe, and going there is also dependent on the weather.    The slate stone steps were the original ones placed by medieval monks and the small area at the top of the island was fragile.    There wasn't really much supervision or restriction on walking around the area.

I suppose more people will now hear of the spot and more will want to visit.   I suspect  that Skellig Michael may follow in the footsteps of Stonehenge, which now has a boardwalk that visitors traverse around the circumference of the enormous stones at a fair distance away.   I've also heard that Machu Pichu, which has a limit of 400 people a day and is similarly overwhelmed with visitors, plans to phase out access in the next few years in an attempt to preserve the Heritage site.