Breaking news: joke alert!

Download DublinPsychiatricAnsweringMachine.mp3

I’ve known Malcolm for 23, nearly 24 years. And tonight, he told me a joke. And it is funny. Please go to the audio link above if you would like to share it with us.

I’ll get back to you with the next one in another 23, or maybe 24, years.

Smoothie books

I walked up Kingston’s mean main street the other day with Jenny on her heelies to buy her a fruit smoothie, so naturally persuaded her to drop in on British Bookshops (previously known as Sussex Stationers) en route. Jenny recognises the Kingston danger zones, and knows that this is the only one between our house and the fruit smoothie stand, so she tolerated my request.

As usual, I am amazed by British Bookshops’ (as I must now call it) marketing speed and prices. John Connolly’s Book of Lost Things was the featured paperback right by the door at £3.99, billed already as the Times book group selection (as of the day before, so pretty quick off the mark, assuming no prior knowledge). Although I told myself I would not read another John Connolly after the disappointment of The Black Angel, on flicking through it, I was tempted. Then there was a big shelf of new hardbacks at half price: the latest Mary Higgins Clark (a favourite of mine) at £9.99 (list price £17.99, Amazon price £11.87), Nikki French (ditto) at £7.99, Lee Child at £8.99, quite a few at £6.99 and so on. Next was a vast shelf of latest paperbacks, mostly at £3.99. I did manage to tear myself away without buying anything, mainly because of the impatience of my companion, but also because of my three-figure TBR pile at home.

Library of Congress blog

The Library of Congress has just celebrated its 207th birthday with its first-ever public blog. The Library of Congress has long been a pioneer and leading provider of online content, with a website that makes 22 million digital items available at the click of a mouse and receives 5 billion hits per year. The LOC’s blogger is Matt Raymond, director of communications. He’s already picked up on the Dilbert pointy-headed boss’s blog, which has been making me smile for the past few days. There is lots of serious stuff there too, I write hastily.

Where next for newspapers?

From the WSJ (23 April):
"Even with all the grim news the newspaper industry has faced in recent years, publishers have consoled themselves that they have a lifeline. If they could switch content away from print and onto the Internet — bringing advertisers with them — they could save their businesses. Last week, that lifeline began looking frayed. New York Times Co. warned Thursday that online advertising growth this year won’t be as strong as the 30% it had projected. On the same day, Tribune Co. reported that the growth rate for first-quarter interactive revenue was sharply lower than a year earlier. "

Although the Washington Post and others have yet to report for the first quarter, there seems to be general agreement among analysts that there is a trend, exacerbated by recent acquisitions and figures from Google and Yahoo. " Underlining this pressure is a shift under way within Internet advertising. The ad formats that have so far proved strongest for newspapers — banner ads, pop-ups and listings — are losing ground to formats such as search marketing. Ad buyers say automotive, entertainment, financial-services and travel companies — all major newspaper advertisers in print and online — are aggressively shifting dollars into search marketing." 

But Google and Yahoo may clean up here also, as they gain contracts to provide search on publishers’ websites.


Ocado video recipies

I’ve been using Ocado, the online delivery arm of Waitrose supermarket, ever since day 1. I’ve only just noticed, however, that the Ocado website features videos of recipes and, I presume, how to cook them. If you are someone who, unlike me, has time and inclination to cook "properly", it might be worth checking out, as the recipes certainly sound nice — and based on my experience of those Waitrose recipe cards that you pick up when you actually go round the supermarket in person (long-ago days!), the end results will be good. I like the idea of watching the recipe video, then ordering the ingredients and having them delivered, all from the comfort of one’s own desktop. (Only theoretically, in my case, of course!) Some examples of the videos on offer:

  • Bangers with grainy mustard or horseradish mash
  • Children’s pizzas
  • Parma ham wrapped figs with raspberry dressing and a dolcelatte and rocket salad
  • Gremolata lamb rack with Hasselback potatoes
  • Butternut Squash Soup
  • Mediterranean Vegetable Lasagne
  • Traditional Greek Salad
  • Pasta with meat balls in tomato sauce
  • Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Rice and Mushrooms
  • Lamb burger in ciabatta with salad and relish
  • Simple chicken Caesar salad
  • Steamed smoked haddock, green beans and crushed new potatoes
  • Crêpes with flambéed caramel maple bananas
  • Fashion values

    From The Week:

    The point of celebrities — why it is pointless to complain that modern celebrities are only famous for being famous. " In fact, they’re famous because they represent things that are at the very heart of modern consumer capitalism: social mobility, fashion, the body, sex and the need for affirmation. It was Susan Sontag, who said that being a dandy was a way of being an individual in an age of mass culture. The problem today is being an individual in an age of mass individualism., when the usual means of status — clothes, cars, consumer goods — are within the grasp of the majority. The answer is: celebrity." (Via Cosmo Landesman in The Guardian — at time of writing, there are 70 comments to his article.)

    Richard Branson, the "publicity-mad boss of Virgin Atlantic", had a brief cameo in Casino Royale, the latest Bond film. But passengers on British Airways don’t see it, as the scene has been cut. "All films are screened", explained a BA spokesman. "We want to ensure that they contain no material that might upset our customers."

    Tim Coates calls a spade a spade

    Link: Publishing News – News Home Page – Batt to stand down at MLA.

    " CHRIS BATT IS to stand down from his post as Chief Executive of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council at the end of this year. Batt took up the post in December 2003, overseeing library reforms such as the ‘Framework for the Future’ document outlining long-term strategy for the service………. One of Batt’s most vocal critics, library campaigner Tim Coates, has said the vacancy now creates a great opportunity for the service. “It is a chance to put things right and take a different and better path which addresses what the public wants. Batt led the move to reduce the number of books in libraries and, along with an expected reshuffle by Gordon Brown later this year, it could mean a clean slate and a much needed fresh approach.”  "

    As regular readers know, Petrona’s longstanding advice to Tony Blair, when he decides to quit,  is to hand the country over to Tim Coates, and not to Gordon Brown or anyone else. But if for some unknown reason he doesn’t take up that sensible suggestion, this latest news might put another idea into his head. 

    The bloggers’ creed, or jumping the shark

    Well, is Peter of Detectives Beyond Borders right?

    "For sharks, the credo is keep swimming, or die. For bloggers, it’s keep posting, or die."

    What’s the one most essential principle of blogging?

    Publishers swimmingly; retailers haltingly

    From today’s Times (Saturday’s weekly books supplement), a note pointing out that publishers complain that booksellers charge them too much for book promotion. Jodi Picoult’s latest is cited as being on special offer at all the chains,  evidence that retailers are stifling variety? Well, Waterstone’s and WH Smith have recently announced flat results, and Borders is up for sale. On the other hand, Random House, Hachette, Penguin, HarperCollins and Simon&Schuster have all announced healthy profits.

    One book description that caught my eye is "Adverbs" by Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket). Adverbs is a set of linked short stories set in and around San Francisco, concerning the attempts by a group of characters to find love. Each story has an adverb as the title: Immediately, Soundly, Collectively, etc. According to the Times reviewer, "beautifully written and very funny, these stories are inventive as they are engaging." (UK price is £7.99 but presumably cheaper in your local Watertsone’s, Borders or WHS.)

    Brian Sibley’s winners

    BRIAN SIBLEY : my blog: BOOKED UP posts the hilarious winners to his competition to blurb the plot of a well-known book in less than 12 words. The winner is very clever, though the book described is not the most famous in the world:

    Orphans! Abortions! War! Incest! It’s all about apples and pairs!

    A much easier one:

    Abused child, madwoman, virgin bride, arson, religion and sex!

    This is cool, and a book you are bound to have read at least in part:

    Strong plot, original ending but maybe open to misinterpretation.

    Head on over to Brian’s blog if you can’t work out the answers — and to find out more of these talented mini-inspirations.