Friday, December 30, 2005

On Loving an Anarchist.....
Melissa N. Warren challenges media stereotypes in this "First Person" article in Nashville Scene:
" The best kiss I’ve ever had was with an anarchist."

Tucked away in the Larne Times report mentioned in the previous post is a reference to the closure of small libraries - and its not the only place where local libraries are closed or down-graded to transfer funds to fewer central libraries. The most recent case is Buckinghamshire which seeks to axe 8 libraries - in spite of local opposition. Here's a short report from the Bucks Free Press:

Novelists John Mortimer and Terry Pratchett have spoken out against the cuts. Pratchett, author of the famous Discworld novels, grew up in Beaconsfield one of the communities that would be hit by the cuts and credits the library as his main source of education, telling the Bucks Free Press:
"Libraries seem to have gone out of fashion and there has been a big expansion in bookshops. But not everyone can afford books, and they are the ones who really need access to them. I know I couldn't afford them."

The Larne Times reports on the redundancy of Librarian Pamela McAuley. After 40 years of working in public libraries Pam is starting a new career in banking - the loss will be the Library's, and is symptomatic of the way restructuring is used to change the internal culture of libraries as libraries are being transformed into "Ideas Stores" forming part of the leisure and entertainment industry, or "one-stop shops" that provide access to a variety of local and central government services, and tag the library on as an afterthought.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Reading as a Subersive Activity
Reading Connects is a National Reading Campaign funded by the Department for Education & Science - and you can now download the December issue of Celebrating Reading Connects which includes some good background information about promoting and supporting reading skills. Its a beautifully produced and well-written 32 page magazine but... I can't help but think that there is something missing. Certainly it presses all the right buttons in its advocacy of reading - but it lacks the excitement that comes with learning to read - not the learning to read which comes from parents, or from school, but the excitement that comes with reading for yourself, when you first begin to devour every single printed word you come across - the back of the rice crispies box, comics, and books that are far too old for your school-determined reading age. If you've read Barry Hines' book A Kestrel for a Knave (made into the film Kes by Ken Loach), you will recall how Billy (who could hardly read) suddenly became so desperate to lay his hands on a book about training kestrels that he stole it from the library, and how he taught himself how to rear and train a young bird from that stolen book. Billy's desire to read, to educate himself developed in opposition to a schooling system that labelled him as too thick to read, a library system that wouldn't let him borrow the book without a ticket, and a shop that wouldn't let him have a book without payment. That is the real power of reading - that it always threatens to break out from its institutional limits and change the world.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A new issue of Mute: Culture & Politics After the Net is available - a special issue entitled "Underneath the Knowledge Commons" raising a number of relevant topics, including "Freedom's Standard Advanced?" (about the Creative Commons License) and "Charters of Liberty in Black Face and White Face: Race, Slavery and the Commons", which examines "The Charter of the Forest".

From the introduction: "The Magna Carta is renowned as the 'Charter of Liberty' which inspired modern constitutional safeguards against the power of the State. But its smaller companion, the Charter of the Forest, enshrining the customary rights of the commoners to land and resources, has been overlooked. Cutting between the political struggles of the early 1970s and the 1720s, Peter Linebaugh shows how the struggle against enclosures in the woods of England is inextricably linked with the struggle against slavery in the Atlantic."

Site Feed
A quick note to mention that I've added a site feed to Booksurfer.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Wikipedia Vs Britannica
The current issue of the international weekly science journal, Nature, has a special report comparing the accuracy of science articles in Wikipedia with the accuracy of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Their conclusion is that the "accuracy of science in Wikipedia is surprisingly good: the number of errors in a typical Wikipedia science article is not substantially more than in Encyclopaedia Britannica, often considered the gold-standard entry-level reference work." Wikipedia also attracts an editorial comment arguing for scientists to become more involved in generating content for Wikipedia.
Special Report: "Internet encyclopedias go head to head":

Editorial: "Wiki's wild world":

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Fine Art of Obituary
The Times Literary Supplement includes historian Keith Thomas on "The Fine Art of Obituary" as part of its free online content this week - read it quickly because it will disappear when the next issue comes out.

Google: Search or Destroy?
Open Democracy has provided a forum for a discussion on copyright issues and kicks off with some key contributions from people on both sides of the debate: "The future of copyright is being fought out between two polarised factions. Music and film producers like Jack Valenti are looking for harsher ways to deter digital copying: the users and programmers, like Richard Stallman, say copyright has no place in a digital age. In this debate we work towards defining practical solutions for the future, with contributions from Siva Vaidhyanathan, Brian Zisk from the Future of Music Coalition, Jason Toynbee, and 9-time Grammy nominated singer, Janis Ian."

January Magazine Crime Fiction
January Magazine provides a model for other publishers, with its interesting new book reviews, useful links and author interviews and profiles. One of its best features is the Crime Fiction section - winner of the 2005 Gumshoe Award for the best crime fiction website. Current features include: "The arresting fiction of Ed McBain." Lengthy articles from previous issues remain on the site and include features on Dashiell Hammett and Ross Macdonald.

The December edition of Statewatch News Online has just been published - essential reading if you want to understand what the bureaucratic grinding mill is getting up to!

Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature
From the US National Library of Medicine comes this neat well-llustrated online exhibition on the genesis of Frankenstein and the relationship between key themes in Mary Shelley's novel and the development of medical science. One small criticism, however, is that navigation of the website would have been made so much easier with the inclusion of a "next" button - one or two more links to other online resources would also have been useful. (Thanks to the Librarian's Index to the Internet "new this week" for the link.)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Georges Perec
The December-January edition of Bookforum is hot off the press, and its free online content includes an overview of Georges Perec and his work by James Gibbon: "The Letter Vanishes: Puzzlemaker and Polymath Georges Perec Wrote His Novels as if Literature Were a Game." Gibbon describes Perec as "that inimitable amalgam of Kafka and the daily crossword, whose sensibility spans opposing poles of profundity and artifice."

Also worth reading is Hazel Rowley's article on the way in which black writer Richard Wright was destroyed by the "50s culture wars".

Thursday, December 15, 2005

On reading...
Thanks to Mark Thwaite's Ready Steady Book for drawing my attention to this interesting post on reading, libraries and Georges Perec from Long Sunday:
I happened to read the post shortly after reading an article on Instant Messaging, in Reading Research Quarterly: "Instant Messaging, Literacies and Social Identity":

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Anarchists in Social Work
Anarchists in Social Work - Known to the Authorities
has just been reprinted, providing a fascinating insight into the practical application of anarchist ideas to contemporary social problems. It is the first book on radical social work for some 25 years, and reflects on aspects of social policy and ways in which they were seen between the 1960’s and the 1990’s. It also demonstrates how values, visions and ethical standards are squared with the demands of social work practice, and how the dead hand of bureaucracy is often a major part of the problem. Further details are available from a website set up to promote the book:
Note that the navigation links across the top of the page will give you access to reviews, while the links down the side of the page describe the contributors and contents of the book.

New Books
Publishers Serpent's Tail have a knack of seeking out good books from the continent. Among the latest is Juan Goytisolo's novel The Blind Rider. Goytisolo was described by Adam Feinstein in a Guardian article as Spain's "greatest living writer". His books were banned in Spain under the Franco regime, so it is good to see him getting the international recognition his work deserves for this interesting novel, in which an aging man looks reflects on key moments in his life following the death of his wife.,6121,1634669,00.html

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Pinter's Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech
The Guardian has printed the full-text of Harold Pinter's televised speech following his acceptance of the Nobel prize for literature.,14969,1662007,00.html

Friday, December 02, 2005

Cut and Paste
Also from the BBC this week, from Weblog Watch, is this good little article about the way in which mainstream journalism utilises information from blogs as the basis for many of the stories that appear in print...there is a nice touch of irony here given the widespread knocking of blogging that has been happening in the press lately.

Bad Sex Award
Giles Coren has "won" this year's award with his book Winkler.
Read more on the BBC website:
The Bad Sex Award has been successful in highlighting bad writing and the "crude and tasteless" use of sex in contemporary writing - it makes me wonder if another award could be established to do the same thing for TV comedy which has ditched a wide variety of themes to concentrate exclusively on sexual excess and excruciating bad taste as the only subject for most "comedy" programmes. The resulting programmes do not make people laugh just wince as they compete to be more outrageous than their rivals.

British Library Direct
The BL recently introduced an excellent new service called British Library Direct - which enables users to order and download from a database of over 9 million online articles. You will need to register and when using the site do read the FAQ carefully - in particular the section on copyright payment, or you could end up paying way over the odds for an article that is only 2 or 3 pages long. The site seems to be set up to charge the copyright fee by default, although in fact you only need to pay a copyright fee if you want to make commercial use of the article. "Personal research" does not require copyright payment and it is possible to fill in an online declaration form so you do not have to pay the copyright fee. Also remember to use the "advance search" option or you may have to wade through thousands of results - a simple search for "libraries" will return over 18,000 articles.

British Library Annual Report
The British Library has just published its 2004/5 Annual Report. It includes an interesting section on preserving digital publications.