A quick dash round the blogosphere

I have taken a quick dash round my bit of the blogosphere, and have a few links to report:

Problogger (at length) and Google (briefly) both post about a year of blogging, complete with the highlights and the "most read" posts.

Google blog search has now overtaken Technorati as the site of choice for people looking for blogs. Good, it would be nice to stop all this Technorati keywording in favour of an automatic, full-text Google-style search.

Norm/Uriah of Crimescraps writes about the beauty and inspiration of blogging. There are links in the post (via Crimeficreader) that advise on how to start a "reader" blog, in case it is not self-evident. Norm’s post itself is a thing of beauty (courtesy Chicago 1920). Crimeficreader herself, at her own blog, It’s a Crime! , provides information about a summer course in Wales for writers.

Here is another Anita Shreve book to read, over at Reading Matters. At the same blog, Kimbofo also posts about a nifty Waterstone’s widget for instant recommendations of what to read (if you should be short of ideas).

Galleycat picks up on reports comparing and contrasting the book and film of Children of Men (P. D. James). I read this book too long ago to remember it, but I expect I enjoyed it. I missed the film as it was out for about a week (only) in our local cinema, and is not yet available on DVD on Amazon UK. I bought the book for Cathy for Christmas, so may quite soon either read it again, or see the DVD when out, or both. Phil at Brandywine books here posts about P. D. James’s opening sentences. Impressive.

Last time I linked to a Susan Hill post I got rather told off, but I’ll risk it again for this excellent post of hers, on celebrity autobiographies we will never get to read (but would sell). Thank you, Susan! Glad to be spared some of these, and will rather miss others.

Karen Chisholm of It’s a Crime (no exclamation mark) here reviews Shame by Karin  Alvtegen. "SHAME is challenging and sometimes harrowing. It is also compelling, taut, intriguing and, ultimately, uplifting."

That’s it for tonight. A very happy new year to everyone. I look forward to seeing you all in 2007.

The long tail of DVD boxed sets

One of the many modern inventions that I love, but mainly only in the guise of my alternative-universe parallel, fantasy version of myself, is the DVD boxed set. In my real life, I "enjoy" TV entirely vicariously, in other words, I see odd moments of it when my daughters are watching something, or I read about it in the media. Hence there are TV series I would love to watch, but my real persona knows that I am never going to actually watch even one TV show, let alone a series.

The wonderful invention of the DVD boxed set is the answer, together with Amazon and the enabling economic power of "the long tail". On Amazon you can just watch the price drop and drop until you can get a whole series of something for peanuts. Then you buy it and wait for life to change so that you have the time to watch it. Occasionally, circumstances allow you to watch a series, eg when I had a foot operation two summers ago and could not walk for a few weeks, I watched 24 series 3. (Naturally, this was before I discovered blogging, or I would have been doing that instead.)

Dave Lull sent me a fascinating article by Mark Lawson in the Guardian Unlimited about this topic. At the end of his article, Mark Lawson lists his ten best DVD boxed sets ever. Obviously I haven’t seen most of them but the list is not bad. 

I would like to collect some recommendations of DVD boxed sets to buy for the parallel me. I’ve already got some of the 24 series and (as yet unwatched) CSI series 1. Please let me know your favourites.

Dave Lull’s holiday selection

During my quiet phase over the holidays, Dave Lull has been his usual creatively active self. I have pretty much caught up with him now over at Librarian’s Place. Many of the articles he has sent are worth more than simply putting up over there, but realistically, I don’t have time to comment on them all. So let me instead urge you to go over there to look at the articles. Here are some of the highlights:

For all these and more, please visit Librarian’s Place and partake of the feast of articles and links provided by our ever-vigilant OWL.

Common sense from Susan Hill


Susan Hill has efficiently dispatched a person who wrote a letter to the Times complaining about publishers’ advances. Susan’s post is, as usual with this author, well worth a read for its characteristic mix of common-sense, experience and upfront phraseology.

An additional point to Susan’s is that publishers who pay huge advances to celebrities recoup them before any copies of the book are sold, via serialisation rights to the large newspaper corporations.

The F-word test: first class or feeble?

Link: Take the F-word test that can sort out the first-class from the feeble – Newspaper Edition – Times Online.

According to today’s Times, the following question is "doing the rounds of the e-mail universe, often seemingly targeted at aspirational workers and would-be intellectuals". (The preceding quote is a typical Times quote, meaningless, uncheckable, and lazy, i.e. copied out from somewhere. And, Frank and Bryan, they don’t even say "failed" intellectuals, tut tut, I ask you.)

Whinging aside, here’s the question. Please follow the instructions honestly and look in the comments to see if you got it right at first read.

"Read the following sentence — just once, at normal speed, with no looking back — and say how many times the letter F occurs: “Finished files are the result of years of scientific study combined with the experience of years.”  "

Absolute balderdash

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a new family game. This year’s offering is one called Absolute Balderdash, which I have just spent the last hour playing instead of the more edifying pursuit of catching up with my rss subscriptions.

The game is a combination of trivial pursuit and moving counters round a board. Each turn one player asks a question from a card, which the other players have to answer as convincingly as possible on a piece of paper. The other players have to pick the one they think is correct. The questions involve movie plots, laws in various regions, books and people. The shortest is word definitions, two of which I include here.

What is the definition of cartophily?:

1. The love of maps

2. A word used to describe the cart o’phil, a term used in medieval times. The ‘y’ on the end was just for fun.

3. A person who fills up cartons of drinks.

4. The collecting of bubble gum cards depicting famous people.

Here’s another one — define "sackbut":

1. An insult often used by children.

2. An ancestor of the trumpet.

3. A container made of animal skin, filled with beer or "sack", drunk in historical times.

4. When a person is thrown into a sack and screams "but" as the process is happening.

The correct answers are in the comments. Let me know if you got them right.

Betting on Harry’s ending

Link: Books | Punters back Voldemort to kill off Harry Potter.

Dave Lull has sent me a link (above) to a Guardian/Press Association report saying that most people believe that Harry is the final Horocrux and hence will have to die to ensure Voldemort dies.

There is no further link or reference in this one-paragraph story. I will venture a prediction that the theory is completely wrong. Harry will not turn out to be a horocrux and he won’t die in the final book. The ending might be bittersweet, but I don’t think it will be a tragedy.

Quite apart from the logical sense of my view, please note that the source for the Guardian/PA story, in the absence of any other information, seems to be William Hill, bookmaker.

Small Press Exchange

There seems to have been quite a lot going on in the world while I have been away from my blog, at least according to Bryan Appleyard: naked cleaners, invading skyscrapers, prime minister’s plane overshooting, and an earthquake in Dumfries.  However, with great respect to Bryan and his informative, engaging blog, the best news I’ve read so far is that Books, Inq. has been made the Small Press Exchange pick of the week. Congratulations, Frank.

The Small Press Exchange aims to provide authors, booksellers, publishers, librarians and "general book enthusiasts" (aka "readers"?) with the resources they need. As well as providing industry news and directories, the site also allows people to make connections to other members via social networks.

When to go to the cinema

How do you decide whether to devote two hours of your valuable time to going to the cinema? There’s a pretty good method here: The Dilbert Blog: Downer Ratio.

I think he needs to factor in the outrageous (about equal) admission and popcorn (etc) costs.  The more awful the film, the more I resent paying for it and its edible accessories.

Of course there was a time when I went to the cinema at least once a week, didn’t have to fork out for popcorn, and didn’t mind if I saw a few duds. Now, however, when time is so precious, I need to key in my general preferences to Scott Adams’s general formula before my next vist to the movies.

Another set victory

Setduelwinner A mere five days late, I see I won last Saturday’s set challenge, by the skin of my teeth (3 seconds). So here is the flag again.

The flag is good for another two days, until next Saturday when a new winner will emerge. Unless I pull off a hat trick.

For more information about this addictive and mercifully quick game, head on over to the deblog, from whence you can do the daily set (and other puzzles) and meet up with the other addicts/participants.