Did Hitler have a base in the Antarctic?

Link: news @ nature.com - Did Hitler have a base in the Antarctic? John Whitfield wonders why fringe fantasies get attracted to the edges of the Earth..

"After the initial flurry of interest, International Polar Year (IPY, launched this March) seems to have gone a bit quiet. I propose pepping things up with a good conspiracy theory. Handily, a recent paper in Polar Record (ref 1) describes one. The Nazis, some believe, established a secret base in Antarctica to which they spirited Hitler at the war’s end, fought off British special forces and an American military taskforce, partly by shooting down US planes using flying saucers. The Americans eventually destroyed the base with nuclear weapons in the 1950s. Since then, various governments have striven to conceal this."

I was thinking of John’s article when the eagerly, even in some quarters desperately, awaited witching hour struck: 1900 hours, Saturday 30 March 2007. Doctor Who! Would the "new companion" measure up to the late lamented (by some) Rose — who has fled to Hollywood via Sally Lockhart and Fanny Price? Can Dr Who ever recover from being Barty Crouch Jr? Would I be able to stand watching a whole episode?

Answers: (1) yes (companion more than OK); (2) Oh, Ok then Michele, yes; and (3) yes. The new "companion" has a brain, independence, sex appeal and beauty. David Tennant is doing his level best to being as un-Barty Crouch Jr-like as possible: my heart warmed to him slightly when he shook himself like a rockhopper penguin so that several hundred million Roentgens of radioactivity fell down into his toe, causing his shoe to overheat to the extent he had to drop it in the bin. And yes, I could indeed sit through the episode without retiring to my computer or book. Well done to all concerned.

Ian Hocking has also provided independent confirmation that the episode passes muster. He’s a bit troubled by the wonky science, but to my mind you can’t expect proper science in science fiction, you are better off just suspending belief, with a gin and tonic if necessary. If it is hard to accept, just remember Hitler at the Antarctic. 

Is Google Too Powerful?

There is a good article in Business Week here: Is Google Too Powerful?. As it says on the can, it is a useful summary of the concerns from various quarters that have been expressed recently about Google’s global activities. I am not sure for how long the article is free, but for the time being, you can read it without a subscription. Here’s a quote:

THERE’S LITTLE EVIDENCE that users have any problem with the company’s power, even if they don’t all take its informal motto, "Don’t be evil," at face value. These fans might be excused for tossing back their own question to the whiners: Too powerful at what? Helping me find things, get work done, connect with friends? Bring it on!

I’m one of those who thinks that life has improved tremendously since Google, professionally and personally. Just one small example: see how inaccurate Amazon search is nowadays, since they parted ways with Google as their search engine and went for their own, A9 — I am sure for what seemed to be sound commercial reasons — but will it turn out to be the decision that allows another site to challenge its market domination?

panlibus on Revish, a book community site

At this link: panlibus (kindly sent to me by Dave Lull) is a podcast interview with Dan Champion, founder of Revish, a book review community site launched yesterday (Friday 30 March 2007).  In the interview you can find out about how the idea of Revish took shape and developed in to a reality, and how it "differs from other book sites such as Shelfari and LibraryThing".

For those who are not into podcasts, here is a direct link to the Revish site (also courtesy Dave Lull). At a glance, Revish looks very good indeed. Scream. Too many book discussion groups, too little time to read (hence nothing to discuss, so all that happens is that I wander round these sites and pick up yet more recommendations of books I’d like to read….).

(I’ve also posted about Revish and panlibus on Librarian’s Place.)

Mansfield Parked

I feel compelled to add my comments to the many others that have been made about the new "Mansfield Park", shown on ITV a week or two ago, and watched by me and the rest of my family last night via recorded DVD.

The production as a whole is the usual sincere, respectful but somewhat glossed-over (for time constraints) interpretation of a "classic" novel that one sees so often these days. Sometimes, when watching the formidably detailed set design or costumes in these productions, I wonder if people in those days really were as conscious of their own period’s constraints as are today’s film designers. The acting is good, particularly Douglas Hodge and Jemma Redgrave as the parents, though some characters barely appear after the first third, and the play scenes were truncated ruthlessly.

But the core of it is Billie Piper, and I am very sorry to say this, but I just have to: hopeless. She is no more Fanny Price than Kevin Costner was Robin Hood. She is the "star", so the production orbits around her, exactly counter to Fanny’s character. Her hair is golden, curly, long and free; in almost every scene she is running– down or up stairs, along leafy avenues, among the fancy furniture, etc. Her neckline is plunging; her bosom heaves attractively and constantly. Her accent veers between extremes of posh diction enunciated slowly and carefully, and cockney aitches or dropped "ts". Her dialogue, actually, is safely kept minimal (as in the recent Philip Pullman adaptation), though of course she is given a line at dinner to indicate her emancipated disapproval of the practice of slavery. Most gratingly of all, she laughs out loud all the time to indicate joie de vivre , giggles, stares knowingly and adoringly at Edward for the entire duration: in sum, she is a thoroughly modern young female who has been beamed down intact, unchanged and unchangeable, into nineteenth century England. Fanny Price, she most definitely is not.

Cathy and Jenny loved her and the whole caboodle. Malcolm and I felt a strong common urge to immediately read the book again — for me, on the "wash your mouth out" principle, I think. If you want to watch a production of Mansfield Park (as opposed to reading it), see the American feminist "hint of lesbiana" reworking, or see the ancient but worthy BBC production, both of which remain true to the essence of  Austen, but don’t see this. 

Escape from Cubicle Nation on Clear Blogging

Link: Escape from Cubicle Nation: Resource for new and experienced bloggers: Clear Blogging.

Escape from Cubicle Nation highlights Clear Blogging, a new book by Bob Walsh. EFCN writes (from her foreward to the book):

For wannabe or new bloggers, Clear Blogging offers an efficient, easy-to-understand, and compelling overview of what blogging is and how you can quickly jump in and participate.  For more seasoned bloggers, it offers multiple ways to more efficiently plan, research, write, connect and promote the ideas contained in your blog.  When I started Escape from Cubicle Nation a little over a year ago, I had never even read another blog, and I set most of it up in a wildly inefficient way.  As I read Bob’s multiple technical tips and tricks for blogging more efficiently and effectively, I only wished that I had this information a year ago!  It would have saved me a lot of grief.  The multiple case studies and interviews highlight what I have found my tripping all over the blogosphere:  There is much wisdom in the everyday insights of men and women around the world.  You just have to know the right places to find them. The act of blogging changes your status from passive observer to active participant and expert witness.  While the medium is still relatively new, the potential for your personal and professional growth through writing about what you deeply care about is without limits.

Divorce, Publishing Style on Crimespace

Link: Divorce, Publishing Style – crimespace.

Continuing the POD (print-on-demand) theme, Elizabeth Zelvin started a discussion on Crimespace (link above: anyone can comment, but you have to join first– which is free), asking:

Best-selling series, 25 books with the same house, beloved by tens of thousands of fans: none of it counts in the age of computer modeling and the almighty bottom line. It is a lot like a loyal and productive worker being laid off one year shy of the gold watch and the pension. But it occurs to me that it’s also a lot like a late-life divorce. You’ve been doing your job, doing it well, and all of a sudden, not only is it over, but you’re dating again. In the writer’s case, the "dates" are agents and editors rather than divorced and widowed singles. It must be weird in very much the same way. "How do I do this? I haven’t had to market myself for 20 years. The rules have changed. I feel like a teenager, and it sucks."

Here is a response, from P. B. Smith:

This is where digital self-publishing comes in handy. An established writer with a loyal fan base can continue his or her series in cyberspace, and make a ton more money doing it. Say their hardcovers sell for $24.95 and they get a 10 percent royalty or $2.49 for every book that’s sold. After their publisher drops their series, (take care to make sure you own your characters) they can sell the next book in the series online on ebay or their own website for ten or twelve dollars or more and keep most of the sales price. The key to this being a money maker is to have a proven reputation in the print world.
I truly believe this will be the next big trend in publishing, Elizabeth. I’ve just heard too many horror stories from frustrated mid-list writers who’ve been dropped by their publishers. Readers still want them, but if publishers don’t think they can make enough money on them, out they go.
That’s why I’ve spent the last several months learning all about digital publishing, from the most arcane technical info to Internet marketing tips. Smart authors will jump on this bandwagon in a big way because it gives them a viable path to pursue even if they’ve been dumped by their publishers and/or agents.
And we all need to get over this, "Self-published authors are no good," thing. That may have been mostly true in the past, but as more and more established authors adopt digital publishing as a way to extend or even save their careers, it will no longer be true.

Some of the subsequent discussion has got a bit side-tracked onto e-books, which is another aspect and another ballpark. But the POD route for "proven reputation" authors makes sense to me, not least because of the little effort some publishers put into marketing of the category of author described by Elizabeth and P.B.

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So the rise of the number of new blogs is slowing. Does this mean the death of blogging, as many articles I’ve read in the past few days have suggested? No. it means that blogging is becoming integrated into other online activities: it is maturing as a medium. Read Steve Rubel on the topic here. I think he’s right. (Twitter, however, is still too popular for its own good. Its makers have had to slow it down to the point where it may be quicker to blog than twitter. If you haven’t heard of Twitter yet, it is a service for people who think 5 minutes of fame is for wimps — and that 5 seconds is about right. Which has its own peculiar appeal, if only it had the capacity to let users to find out for sure.)

Talking of integrating online activities, did you know that Israel has an official MySpace page? "It’s part of the Israeli government’s efforts to reach out to young Americans" and "disarm the conflict-centric image so prevalent in the Western media." The Israeli government also has its own blog.

Hastily moving away from the contentious, "What’s your permanent age?",  asks Scott Adams. Mine, as regular readers know, is 150. Anyone else care to venture a number for themselves?

Karen of Eurocrime discusses the economics of publishing: another argument, in my view, to take POD into the mainstream. Seems as if Andre Agassi and Bill Clinton would not agree with me. But, if publish bestsellers we must, why, asks M. J. Rose, have Oprah’s last seven "picks" all been books written by men? Apparently, Oprah has picked 13 titles since 2003, 11 of which have been by male authors. Yet her audience, again according to M. J. Rose, is "overwhelmingly female".

Theodore Dalrymple here has a go at my friend Lyn Gardner because of her (in his opinion) overly revolutionary comments in her review of Chekhov’s "The Cherry Orchard". I know the Cherry Orchard is thought by many to be Chekhov’s masterpiece, but it is the only one of his plays, or indeed any playwright’s plays, that I left at the interval (National Theatre production of some years ago).  Somehow I just can’t identify with it, unlike Three Sisters or Uncle Vanya, say. Be that as it may, even if I were not Lyn’s friend and know her for the kind and unstintingly generous person that she is, I would think that Mr Dalrymple has gone ludicrously over the top on this occasion, even for him.

It is all too easy for the likes of Mr D. to go to extremes in the blogosphere, where there is no calming influence of an editor. Climate research (global warming) brings them all out too, which is why I smiled at the post by Adam Rogers on Wired Science in which he summarised all too aptly the standard of "comment and debate" on this topic. Says Mr Rogers, after deconstructing a typical global warming critic’s comment: " There’s no shame in saying "I don’t know what to think about this; it sure seems complicated." There’s a little shame in ad-hominem attacks on Al Gore and the environmental movement, but I guess some of you are just into that kind of thing. That’s cool. But when your main argument that global warming isn’t real goes something like, "scientists are wrong about stuff sometimes, who are these IPCC guys anyway, and couldn’t the real answer be something completely unknown," well, you aren’t doing science or journalism. You aren’t even thinking clearly. You are cheating."

I need to end on a serene note. All this aggression — its a bit much for us 150 year olds to take. So, here is Adele Geras on a precious resource: a new centre for children’s literature.  A couple of book recommendations: The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey, via Steve at Sand Storm; and The Fourth Man, Norwegian noir by K. O. Dahl, via Glenn of International Noir Fiction. Finally, Brian Sibley, who has been on an real roll blogwise for the past couple of days after his health scare (thankfully he’s OK), quotes Mary Sarton: "Loneliness is the poverty of self….solitude is the richness of self".

Fast and slow lanes on the Internet

From yesterday’s Times:

Cheese web frenzy: More than 400,000 cheese lovers have visited the website www.cheddarvision.tv to watch the maturing process of a round of cheddar cheese. Viewing is expected to reach a frenzy tomorrow (i.e. today, 29 March) as the 44 lb (20 kg) cheese is subjected to its first quality check. The project is based at a farm in Shepton Mallet, Somerset.

Stunt man films himself skiing down Underground escalator: A man who filmed himself skiing down a London Underground escalator is being investigated by police. The 60-second film, which has been viewed by more than 100,000 people on the internet, shows the man hurtling down the 100 m (300 ft) escalator at Angel station in North London at a speed of more than 30 mph. In the footage, shot from a camera in the man’s helmet, passengers can be seen strolling past as he fixes his skis at the top of the escalator. He then launches himself down the stairs, arriving to applause at the bottom seven seconds later. British Transport Police said that the "naive and reckless" skier was liable for prosecution. John Spelman, who produced the Norwegian DVD, insisted that passers-by were not put at risk because friends of the skier had warned passengers away.

Moral of the story? Maybe it is that a maturing cheese is four times more popular with viewers than someone skiing down an escalator. Oh, and the Times needs to sort out its house style for imperial/metric conversions — is it metric first, imperial first, or imperial with no metric conversion; units and quantities spelled out or not?

Mary Scriver at Lulu and Librarian’s place

I’ve alrady mentioned this post: Mary Scriver at Lulu.com « Librarian’s place previously on Petrona, but thought I’d mention it again. The reason? Because there is an informative dialogue in the comments about POD publishing: economics, marketing, copyright, and predictions about where it might all go. I highly recommend reading it, and please add your comment too, if you wish.