Thursday, June 29, 2006

John Cage

This site features the autobiography of modern American composer John Cage (1912-1992), covering his early life, his collaboration with other musicians, dancers and choreographers, including Merce Cunningham. He briefly recalls his time at Black Mountain College, the influence of Zen Buddhism on his work, and some of his other interests (printmaking and mycology). The site also features links to other websites about Cage.

[link via Librarians' Internet Index]

Leonard Cohen - a Dangerous Man?

"I never thought of myself as a poet, to tell you the truth. I always thought that poetry is the verdict that others give to a certain kind of writing. So to call yourself a poet is a kind of dangerous description. It's for others; it's for others to use."
Leonard Cohen interviewed for PBS:

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Open Peer Review

Information World Review
recently reported that "the Royal Society is to charge authors £300 per page to use its new open access journal service" citing the cost of "peer review" as one of the main reasons for the charge. Hopefully theRoyal Society will take note of an article recently published in Nature: "Technical solutions: Wisdom of the Crowds" that argues for a re-definition of "peer".

Pointing to the rise of co-operative projects such as Wikipedia and "peer-to-peer networks" as the basis for a new model of peer-reviewing academic publication, Chris Anderson writes:

"Every day, thousands of researchers and students are discussing the latest papers, but their insights and opinions are not recorded and shared widely. This information needs only to be collected, organized and distributed to become far more useful. It's now possible to tap such collective intelligence online by doing to scientific publishing what the web has already done to mainstream media: democratizing it."

To read the full article in Nature:

The World Information Review article on the Royal Society can be found here:

Nature is currently operating an open peer review trial for 3 months, full details and discussion on open peer review can be found here:

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


"Can a cultural commons in the digital age free us from the "mystifying power" of genius?" Rosemary Bechler investigates a creative legacy linking Samuel Johnson, the Romantics, and Paul McCartney" on Open Democracy:

Sexual Fables

Martin Blythe offers an "alternative history of Western Arts & Literature", including studies on Anais Nin, Jane Asten and Casanova:

[Link via the Literary Saloon]

Angela Carter: Glam Rock Feminist

Michele Roberts re-assesses the work of Angela Carter in the Independent:

"One of Carter's distinctions was not to win any of the major literary prizes. She was too quirky, too original, too avant-garde, too subversive ... Our culture only makes space for one woman writer per generation to be hailed as avant-garde. We seem very uncomfortable still with the idea of women as intellectuals. Carter didn't fit into the middlebrow slot reserved for women writers. She writes in a European rather than an American tradition, drawing on writers as diverse as Italo Calvino on the one hand and Georges Bataille on the other."

"You need never worry about me turning into a walking dead"

The Telegraph reprints a personal letter by journalist Martha Gellhorn to Ernest Hemingway:

"... if such as me did not write, far worse people would do so. "

"I feel and act like a hard-working stenographer and I feel kind of happy about it in a grubby hard-working way. I do not think you need ever worry about me turning into a walking dead: on occasion, when with shits, I try very hard to throw weight around, since that is all they are impressed by, but am never very successful at it. And I'm not a walking dead, because it is a great big world and I love to walk about it and look at it..."

Monday, June 26, 2006

Collect Britain

The British Library's Collect Britain website now features over 90,000 images and sounds from the UK and beyond, including many interesting map collections. The site also features an online edition of the Penny Illustrated Paper published between 1861-1913 based on the British Library's holding of the only complete set:

How to Change Libraries

Library non -users have negative perceptions of libraries are fairly deeply entrenched and a strong sense that libraries are ‘not for me’. As a first step to changing this perception the Department of Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) and the Museum Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) have published the findings of a "comprehensive qualitative study involving 15 group discussions with 14-35 year develop full understanding and provide evidence for potential future strategies for the public library service that will result in increased usage amongst the 14-35 age group."

The report notes a number of key findings:

"The most modernised libraries within the research come close to requirements but others require further development still, on aspects such as:

• transformation in the range and quality of stock in terms of media, subject matter and currency, as well as reform of its presentation, accompanied by proactive support by library staff (and potentially collaborative work with partner agencies to stimulate interest in bringing stock alive to the interests and motivations of users)

• increased accessibility via electronic access (e.g. to resources across the whole of the UK and direct delivery to the home or work, networked access to support through websites and other emerging communications systems)

• dispelling the culture of predominant quiet and replacing it with optional areas for quiet reading or dialogue and discussion between users and with staff who are active around the library interacting with users on a free and easy basis

• introducing a growing range of activities in the library and elsewhere to create
in the library a destination as well as an outlet

• Clearly, such developments will bring benefits to the wider library-using audience

• For libraries to become truly compelling to this 14-35 audience, however, and a
destination of choice, developments also need to take into account the specific
needs of five different segments2 within the target audience.

• The extent of change and development for these different user groups vary. Some
groups (such as ‘Borrowers’ and ‘Students’) require little beyond the baseline requirements above. Other groups (‘Family Activity Seekers’ and ‘Functional Dabblers’) require more effort but their needs are in line with what libraries currently offer. ‘Teenage Space Seekers’ require more radical developments and thus further consideration needs to be given as to the best way to accommodate them in the future, e.g. through general or more dedicated facilities, based on
strategy objectives."

If this study is taken seriously then the government must halt the current programme of library closures in order to ensure that communities are properly served. They must also kick-start a massive programme of building refurbishment to ensure that libraries are clean , welcoming and well-equipped. They also need to ensure that the library book stocks are over-hauled and upgraded, and reverse the decline in staff moral that has stemmed from continuing job-losses that have over-stretched staff as they have been assigned increased additional workloads.
The full report is available on the MLA website as a pdf download:

Please note the url for this page has been shortened using digbig

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Online

A useful online reference tool from publishers Longmans: the search box and brief descriptions appear in a small pop-up box that can be kept open on the page without covering other pages you are using. Many of the words are illustrated, and entries commencing with the letters "D" & "S" allow the user to turn on a speaker and listen to alternative US and English pronunciations. Not as fully featured as the paid-for CD version.

Radical Innocent

A new book about the life of author Upton Sinclair is reviewed in USA Today. Radical Innocent by Anthony Arthur examines the life and writing of the man who wrote The Jungle:

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Bird Extinctions - Numbers Underestimated

The IUCN Red List records 131 bird species that have become extinct since 1500 - but a new study suggests that the recent extinctions documented on the Red List are likely to be "a significant underestimate".
The study by Stuart Butchart, Alison Stattersfield and Tom Brooks is published in the Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club - unfortunately not online. For more on this story visit the BirdLife International website"

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Libraries - The Key To Community Regeneration?

According to an article in Managing Information, the Minister for Neighbourhood Renewal, Phil Woolas MP has just identified Libraries as an important means of creating sustainable communities: "therefore it is a priority that libraries are included in our work to combat social exclusion and promote neighbourhood renewal across the country." How does this square with the theat to close over 100 libraries across the country? Many of them in rural areas where the opportunity to travel to an alternative library is limited by the appalling state of public transport. Currently planned closures include Cumbria (20 libraries threatened), Northumberland (14 threatened with closure) Dorset (13 threatened with closure) and Devon, which is considering closing 12.

Community libraries are important in rural communites which lack many of the services and facilities found in larger towns and cities - closing these these libraries will create large pockets of social exclusion and do nothing to make the communities that rely on them sustainable.
The Managing Information article can be found here:

Monday, June 19, 2006

Northern Children's Book Festival 2006
Sometime ago Peter Bolger used to run an official public library blog for Gateshead libraries - a wonderful mix of library news, new publications, information about new services for the public, and suggestions for books and music based on Peter's own wide-ranging tastes. Alas the blog is no more, but Peter has moved on to run other blogs for Gateshead including this well-designed site for the Northern Children's Book Festival which includes lots of author profiles:

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Some Booksurfer readers may have noticed that the two previous posts have shortened url's - this was done with help from digbig - a useful website that was created for that purpose:

The Complete Orwell

Also in the Telegraph is a good review of Peter Davison's The Lost Orwell just published by Timewell Press. Davison compiled the 20 volume Complete Works published in 1988, and the Lost Orwell is comprised of essays and articles that have turned up since then :

A Little Less Conversation?

Philip Hensher writes a perceptive article in the Telegraph about the dificulties writers on both sides of the Atlantic have in writing reported speech.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

UK Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Blog

I was attracted to this blog by the report that the Information Commissioner had served a notice under the Freedom of Inforamtion Act upon his own office. A useful summary of news, views and updates on the UK Freedom of Information Act and worldwide FOI and open government. Maintained by Steve Wood, Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Free Our Information

In this recent Guardian article FOI journalist Heather Brooke argues for the importance of government compiled information being freely available. The link below is to Heather's blog Your Right To Know:

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Surveillance State

According to an article in the Cambridge Evening News more than 3,000 schools in the UK now use fingerprint technology for tasks such as issuing library books. The claim was made to justify the introduction of that technology into another Cambridge Primary School.


"So, what's a toon? - A toon is a cartoon or cartoon character — "cartoon" referring not just to the animated kind, but also to such "still cartoons" as comic books, newspaper strips, magazine cartoons, etc." Check out characters such as Little Nemo in Sluberland, L'il Abner, Dick Tracy, the Katzenjammer Kids, or artists like Lyonel Feinenger and Tex Avery. Site created by Don Markstein

Science Fiction Fantasy & Horror Research Database

An online database listing over 60,000 historical and critical items about science fiction, fantasy and horror, based on the Science fiction & Fantasy Research Collection at the Cushing Library, Texas A & M University:

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Medieval Page

A good starting point for resources on Medieval studies on the Web - the sources included are primarily for Western Medieval subjects, with a few Late Antique and Byzantine sites.
[via Librarians' Internet Index]

British Library Warns Against Restrictions

The British Library's cheif executive, Lynne Brindley has warned against creeping restrictions resulting from Digital Rights Management systems that are quietly tightening copyright permissions.

“We at the British Library use DRMs to manage our collections and we recognise they can be a valuable tool,” said Lynne Brindley. “However, while protecting rights holders against infringement they can prevent copying of material for fair dealing purposes. Digital material generally comes with a contract, and these contracts are nearly always more restrictive than existing copyright law and frequently prevent copying, archiving and access by the visually impaired.”

From a small sample of 30 licences offered to the Library from publishers, only two were as generous in terms of access as statutory fair dealing. Other than these only two allowed archiving of the material and not one permitted copying of the whole work by the visually impaired.

Read the full account report, with links to two reports on the impact of digital rights management
in the eGov monitor:

Another Brick in the Wall?

Hot on the heels of a proposal to provide local government officials access to police data, the

Home Office has initiated a new consultation on the law enabling the police to insist that people disclose their encrypted data in an intelligible form or to disclose their keys to the data as Part III of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
The consultation documents are available as a pdf download:

Saturday, June 10, 2006

First Monday

OK I know I'm a bit late with this post, but as usual First Monday has some thoughtful articles. The May issue (which I should have mentioned before) includes a study on "Open source disaster recovery" - a series of case studies on networked collaboration by volunteers in response to major disasters by Calvert Jones and Sarai Mitnick:

OpenNet Initiative

The OpenNet Inititative is a collaborative programme between four academic insitutions "to investigate and challenge state filtration and surveillance practices."

"Our approach applies methodological rigor to the study of filtration and surveillance blending empirical case studies with sophisticated means for technical verification. Our aim is to generate a credible picture of these practices at a national, regional and corporate level, and to excavate their impact on state sovereignty, security, human rights, international law, and global governance."

The OpenNet website includes research publications, case studies, a blog, and a selection of useful external links. Recent research papers include investigations into the state control of information environments in the Republic of Yemen and Myanmar. (via the Scout Report)

F Scott Fitzgerald

Some of Scott Fitzgerald's best work can be found in his short stories, so try to catch Radio 4 this coming week when the "Afternoon Readings" (3.30-3.45pm) feature The Pat Hobby Stories. Fitzgerald's fictional view of Hollywood in the late 1930s, is seen through the eyes of hack screen writer Pat Hobby. At the time of F Scott Fitzgerald's death in December 1940, just as these stories were being published, he referred to them as "my last word from my last home". Many of his true feelings about Hollywood, and about himself, permeate these stories. Read by Alfred Molina.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Biofuels unsustainble?
There are no quick fixes for the threat to the environment posed by global warming. BirdLife International has warned that EU policies promoting biofuels may "cause more environmental damage than the conventional fuels they are designed to replace, particularly if important environmental safeguards are not put in place":

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Independent Users' Forum for the British Library?

Freedom of Information campaigner Heather Brooke is hoping to establish an independent group to represent the interests of readers at the British Library. full story by Mark Chillingworth in Information World Review:

Heather's FOI blog Your Right To Know can be found here:

The User Is Not Broken

"A meme masquerading as a manifesto" from "free-range librarian Karen Schneider:

Monday, June 05, 2006

World eBook Fair

The world's first eBook Fair will be held between 4 July and 4 August - during which the organisers promise "absolutely free access to a variety of eBooks unparalleled by any other source. 1/3 million eBooks await you, all free of charge for the month from July 4 - August 4, 2006, and then 1/2 million eBooks in 2007, 3/4 million in 2008, and ONE million in 2009."
This figure includes publications from sources that normally require a subscription.
For full details:

Mute - Disintegrating Multiculturalism

The new issue Mute explores the disintegration of multiculturalism: "in the wake of 9/11, the rhetoric of tolerance is visibly breaking down. As state policy shifts from the celebration of difference to an anxious call for assimilation, the racial other (whether citizen or immigrant) is under renewed pressure to integrate herself into society.
In this issue of Mute, contributors read the crisis of multiculturalism – political, scientific and social – as both a neoliberal offensive and a challenge to rethink the relationship between particular identities and universal rights, evolutionary science and biopower."

Although occasionally sounding a little like a sociology text book Mute is essential reading for analysis that you will not find elsewhere.
The full text of all articles can be read online or as pdf downloads.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Idols & Insults: Writing, Religion, and Freedom of Expression

Writers and thinkers, including Tariq Ramadan, Aayan Hirsi Ali and Hans Magnus Enzensberger, debate religion and freedom of expression in the third audio feature from the PEN World Voices literary festival on Open Democracy:


Ever wonder what makes a book a best-seller? Well The Times has blown the secret, exposing the way in which the major bookshop chains charge publishers up to £50,000 a week to place books on "recommended" lists. "No authors appear on recommended lists unless their publishers pay the fees, and those refusing to pay may not even find their titles stocked":,,1-523-2200275-523,00.html

Friday, June 02, 2006

Rap Sheet

January Magazine's seven-year-old crime-fiction newsletter has been reborn as a blog. An emphasis on US crime novels, but not exclusively so:

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Adriano Sofri

The new Italian government has announced it will grant a pardon to Adriano Sofri, a founder member of the Italian Lotta Continua (Continuous Struggle). Sofri was one of three people accused and convicted of the 1972 shooting police inspector Luigi Calabresi.

Calabresi had been in charge of the police investigations into the horrific bombing that took place in Milan's Piazza Fontana in 1969. Only days later the anarchist railway worker Guiseppe Pinelli was thrown from a police station window following interrogation. It has gradually emerged that the bombing, was part of a deliberate "strategy of tension" in which rogue elements in the Italian security services combined with neo-fascists to carry out a series of bombings which would be blamed on the left, and justify a "crack-down" by the state. This "strategy" was intended to emulate similar events in Greece, which culminated in the coup by right-wing Colonels.

Pinelli's death became the subject of Dario Fo's play Accidental Death of An Anarchist, in which Calabresi became an object of ridicule. Calabresi was subsequently tried for Pinelli's murder but acquitted. In 1988 Sofri, together with Ovidio Bompressi and Giorgio Pietrostefani were accused of Calabresi's murder by a police infomer, and in spite of many inaccuracies in his testimony the three accused were sentenced to 22 years in prison. Sofri has always maintained his innocence and his case became a popular cause, and the subject of several books including one by historian Carlo Ginzberg: The Judge and the Historian. The guilty
verdict was overturned at appeal in 1993, but reinstated the following year, and legal proceedings continued until the year 2000.

Sofri, a respected journalist who reported on events in Sarajevo when the city was under seige, also helped negotiate the release of hostages in Chechena while in prison, and became a media celebrity, giving television interviews from his cell and writing about football. Here is a short piece he wrote about life in prison:

Librarians Without Borders

Set up in 2005 Librarians Without Borders is an organisation that seeks to challenge "the vast information resource inequity existing between different regions of the world. Our vision is to build sustainable libraries and support their custodians and advocates -- librarians." Their website provides background information about the work that they are doing, and about their first international project, the Biblioteca Tutangi, in Angola -a desperately needed nursing and medical Portuguese language library that will support the learning needs of university and college students in Huambo. Thanks to Peter Scott's Blog at Xrefer for the info: