: views from the Hill

Monday, July 31, 2006

Who should play Saddam Hussein in the made-for-TV biopic?

My vote for a couple months has been, and still is, this guy.

Beware the bloggerwock, my son.

Private I's?: Should the law protect us from kiss-and-tell bloggers?
By Dahlia Lithwick
[SLATE] Posted Saturday, July 29, 2006, at 1:24 AM ET


And that's where Robert Steinbuch and Jessica Cutler come in.

Steinbuch was counsel to Sen. Mike DeWine when he started sleeping with staff assistant Cutler in May 2004. What he didn't know was that the young woman was "blogging"—detailing on her Web log, Washingtonienne—every detail of their encounters. She regaled her friends with tales of his intimate sexual behaviors (as well as those of the five other men with whom she was sleeping) in a semiprivate Web diary that exposes Capitol Hill as a sad cross between seventh grade and Melrose Place.

Cutler identified Steinbuch only as RS. But when her blog was picked up by Wonkette—an Internet gossip behemoth read by everyone who was anyone inside the Beltway—Cutler joyfully nabbed her 15 minutes' worth of limelight, including a $300,000 publishing deal, an HBO contract, and a feature in Playboy. Aided by the Internet, readers quickly deduced the identity of RS. And Steinbuch, according to a complaint filed in a 2005 civil suit against Cutler, was subjected to "humiliation and anguish beyond that which any reasonable person should be expected to bear in a decent and civilized society."


A Man Scorned: His private life was made shockingly public. So why does he want to go through it all again?

By T.R. Goldman
Legal Times
May 22, 2006

I don't know why we're in federal court to begin with. I don't know why this guy thought it was smart to file a lawsuit and lay out all of his private intimate details in an appendix to the complaint.
U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman — April 5, 2006

It's your worst dating nightmare. You meet someone, the attraction is immediate, the sex is scorching, and — hold on — you think you might be falling in love.


Privacy cases are notoriously fact specific, and in this case there are several elements to the privacy tort of "publicity given to private life" that Steinbuch must prove.

First he must show that Cutler's actions provided publicity to her blog. Cutler, who declined to comment for this story, has responded that she gave the URL of her blog to just three friends. She flatly denies giving the Web address to Cox.

"The key is to distinguish between the gossip you whisper to friends and something that's more indelible and more broad," says Daniel Solove, a George Washington University law professor. "When you put something on the Internet, it often changes the whole dynamic; it oftentimes won't go away, and it won't fade with memory."

"I haven't seen much about the publicity element for stuff on the Internet. That's not been fleshed out by the courts," Solove adds.

Steinbuch must also convince the court that his acknowledgment of his affair with Cutler to others in DeWine's office — which happened before the story broke on Wonkette — was not the sort of waiver that would nullify an invasion of privacy claim.

In addition, he must show that the facts in Cutler's blog are indeed private, despite joking about some of them in the office.

Steinbuch further must convince the court that Cutler's blog is not newsworthy, something Friedman has already explicitly agreed with.

And he must show that the contents of Cutler's blog are highly offensive to reasonable people.

Steinbuch is also suing under the so-called false-light invasion of privacy tort, which holds a person liable for publicly exposing false and humiliating information about someone else.

Friedman has already ruled that each of these torts has a one-year statute of limitation, which raises a particularly nettlesome question for both sides: At what point in a blog's life does the statute of limitations begin to run?

Steinbuch filed his lawsuit on May 16, 2005, and, according to Cutler's lawyer, Umana, that means actions relating to almost all of her blog, which began more than a year before, on May 4, 2004, are time-barred and off-limits.

"Only the May 18 posting in the blog is within the one year, and all that says is that they had sex in a missionary position," says Umana, a D.C. solo practitioner. "The fact that they were having an affair already was public knowledge; the plaintiff was joking about it."

Rosen, naturally, disagrees. "Every time you make an entry in a blog, you open the whole document," he says. "Each posting is a new document," he adds, that incorporates all of the previous postings on the blog. "We're going to have substantial expert testimony on that," he says.


So what's the scoop here? What gives above and beyond prurient interest?

I'd like to know what I can and can't write about on my blog. I've always been Ms Sweetness 'n' Discretion, but what if I weren't? If I'm writing the truth of my life, does someone have the right to tell me I can't?

Steinbuch is suing over invasion of privacy, despite the fact their fling wasn't a secret in the office. He's added "false-light invasion of privacy tort, which holds a person liable for publicly exposing false and humiliating information about someone else."

He says the stuff Cutler wrote about him was false.

Some of it, anyway.

Cutler claims she didn't mean the blog to be public, that she'd only given the URL to three friends and she'd made sure it wasn't a "public" blog on Blogger. She doesn't know who gave the URL to Wonkette.

Steinbuch's willing to drag all the blog bits that he claims were so damaging through public courts and rile up the bottom feeders and Web wonks again just to defend his reputation.


Depositions 'r' us.

The Steinbuch-Cutler mini tempest has turned into a perhaps career-busting hoohah. How did less than two weeks' (05May2004 - 18May2004) worth of blog posts warrant this?

Interesting times, and the click-clicks in the articles head off to interesting places. ...

[n.b. Cutler yanked the blog off the Web as soon as the fit hit the shan. Some kind soul archived the content of the original Washingtonienne so peepers could see what the rustle in the courts is about. ]

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


I can't remember. ...

Did I mention that I won a lifetime membership to Library Thing in a contest Rosina Lippi ran on her blog?

I didn't? Well, I did. I am so pumped. There was a mixup in the process and my lifetime membership didn't show up, but after I dropped a note to Rosina recently, she resolved the problem.

I am now the proud proprietess of a lifetime LibraryThing.

Go look at what I've got.

When I'll find time to put the 10s of Ks of books I have into the system, I don't know, but just the possibilities have given me a much needed bliss fix.

Annual membership is $10. Lifetime membership is $25. The app is soooo cool.

I may have a separate post on it later. 'til then, go check it out on your own.

Thank you, Rosina!

Heaps! Mountains!

[URL][WRITING] TileZ: Book trends, data, and insight ... easy, fast, affordable

TileZ is still in beta and FREE! but plans to start charging a teensy weensy tiny almost infinitesimal price once they go live.

Here is their description:

TitleZ provides:

* Data: Instantly retrieve historic and current sales rankings from Amazon and create printable reports with 7-, 30-, 90-day and lifetime averages
* Trends: Easily see how topics or titles perform over time; measure the competition; understand what's hot
* Insight: Improve decision-making; know what to publish and when

How it works:

"TitleZ makes it easy to see how a book or group of books has performed over time, relative to other books on the market. Simply enter a search phrase, book title, or author, and TitleZ returns a comprehensive listing of books from Amazon along with our historical sales rank data."

Info is ripped from amazon.com data.

Sounds boring and marketing and all, doesn't it?

But NO! TileZ is where you can compare how your book is doing against how your archenemy's book is doing and it's where you can peek and see where your ex-husband's latest book is ranked on Amazon -- 2,678,954 hahahahaha.

Here's your chance. It's free! Did I mention?

Register and tap in.

Search: Keyword Title Author Publisher
Let's pop in Po Bronson, our local boy who showed up in an article I was reading today. His oeuvre includes

What Should I Do With My Life (pub Dec 2003) ranked 4,799.
Why Do I Love These People (pub Nov 2005) ranked 22,363
Bombardiers (pub Mar 1996) ranked 246,242
The Nudist on the Late Shift (which is in the driver's side pocket of my Mini Cooper for when I get stuck somewhere and need something entertaining to read) ranked 394,549


I popped in Sue Hough's name (Susan E. Hough) because she has her entertaining book about Richter coming out in five months or so, but the only item listed is "Writing on the walls."(Macroscope; petroglyphs): An article from: American Scientist which was published in July 2004. The article is available for $5.95, TileZ sez, and is ranked 3,696,548.

What happened to Sue's books?

So I popped /hough/ into the app and found out that Sue is listed as "Susan Elizabeth Hough".


So I popped /susan elizabeth hough/ in and pulled up her records with all four books she currently has in the running.

EARTHSHAKING SCIENCE (pub Mar 2004) is doing best with a rank of 155,458, but her Richter book (est Dec 2006) is not doing so shabby at 619,160.


Pop in some author names, titles you know. Click on the green arrow next to the name and you'll get a sales rank history including best rank, worst rank, 7-day average, 30-day average, 90-day average, lifetime average, with a line graph showing ranking and everything.

Save your searches to return at a later date with MyTitleZ.

Compare titles.

I popped /diet/ in as a key word and then asked to compare the top five sales-ranked titles. Here's the result. (I think you'll need to be registered and logged in to see results.)

Fun! Go!


[found the link at Joe Wikert's blog]

E-mail and read receipts

There's an interesting discussion continuing on over at MissSnark's that was triggered by someone asking whether they should be using read receipts when they send something off to an agent.

Miss Snark hadn't realized such a thing existed. Her mail client, obviously, doesn't provide that annoying "The sender has asked to be notified when you read this e-mail. Do you want to send a read receipt?" message.

So the comments are flying about how annoying read receipts are and other people replying well, how else are you going to be able to tell whether someone got your mail? Tech types say that the read receipt means nothing. Doesn't mean the person has actually read your mail.

Someone said, Frankly, I've never had this problem of lost email, and if I were to lay received email end-to-end, they'd extend into the thirtieth century.

That may be true, or he may just not know he has a problem with lost e-mail.

I get more e-mail than is good for me. I've setup my e-mail so that sal@ sally@ self@ go to my Comcast mail account and everything else -- all the e-mails from timemag@towse.com or tribune@towse.com or pge@towse.com -- goes to a gmail account.

I recently discovered that things that should be showing up at the Comcast account weren't. Sure, I'd had some inkling. His Nibs would ask me what I thought of something he'd e-mailed from work and I'd never received it. Something quirky from his end, we thought. Maybe the corporate e-mail mavens were hijacking his notes.

His Nibs and I share an office with facing desks when we're home and one afternoon he said, "I'm sending you an interesting URL." Well, the URL never arrived. This happened a couple times in a single afternoon. I even went online to check my spam folder at Comcast, nothing.

So I changed my mail settings to send the sal@ sally@ self@ mail not only to my Comcast account but also to a separate gmail account from the one that all the general mail falls into.

Surprise. Surprise. Comcast was dropping mail on the floor. The mail wasn't getting to me. The mail wasn't caught in their spam filter. Nothing.

I've set things up with Thunderbird now so it picks up the Comcast mail and tucks it into one folder and picks up the gmail for sal@ sally@ self@ and tucks it into another folder. My rough estimate over the last few weeks since I made the change is that Comcast is dropping at least 10% of my incoming mail.

And there's been one mail that came to Comcast and never made it to gmail.

Go figure.

Update:Found it! I was looking in the wrong gmail account's spam folder.
[end: Update]

I still hate read receipts -- don't return them and don't ask for them.

If someone tells me they never received something I sent these days, I don't automatically assume that something happened in transit or the mail got caught up in a spam trap. Could be, I now know, that the mail servers at the ISP end might just be dropping the incoming e-mail into /dev/null, never to be seen again.

Added Update: I just counted. ... so far Thunderbird has picked up twelve e-mails from family members today from the gmail account. Comcast only had seven of those e-mails.

Has this always been going on? How much e-mail have I missed out on?

Miss Snark asked why I just didn't change ISPs. I told her that Comcast has a sole source franchise deal with the cool, grey city of love. If I want broadband, Comcast is the only game in town. And who's to say that other ISPs don't have similar issues with e-mail?

How many people are really so cockeyed they'd start forwarding their mail to two different servers to see if there's a difference in throughput?
[end: Added Update]

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Lovely stuff at Ephraim Faience Pottery

Lovely stuff at Ephraim Faience Pottery.

Now, if I could just convince myself that $198 for a vase that looks like this, isn't a lot when you're buying something that you'll keep forever.

I liked nearly every piece they had on their Web site, some more than others. Oh, would that I had the wherewithal and the space to pickup a handful of these.

Beautiful, eh?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

New Brand Agency shares successful queries/proposals

New Brand Agency, founded by Mark David Ryan, has a collection of queries and proposals for work they decided to rep. Check out their submissions section to see what successful queries/proposals look like.

The agency bills itself as "an innovative management firm for authors of bestselling fiction and nonfiction."

New Brand Agency only takes e-queries and promises a response within 48 hours if they are interested.

[URL] Jackson Pollock

Thanks to Miltos Manetas whose work it is for this Jackson Pollock flash exercise.

Thanks also to Dave Kuzminski (who mentioned it in a comments tail at Miss Snark's).

n.b. Change paint buttons colors by clicking mouse button. Hit reload to clear and start over again.

This is a major fixer ...

Ah, San Francisco's real estate market. Ain't it grand?

Listing description: "This is a major fixer (contractor's special) suitable for contractors only. Property to be sold in it's present AS IS condition. Property needs lots of work from brick foundation to roof. 2 vacant units and one being occupied by tenants (Please do not disturb tenants)."

2134 Steiner (at California). Built 1900. Three units. Two parking spaces. ~2880/sq ft.

Asking: $1,490,000
Price/SqFt: $517.36

And look down there at the bottom of the listing!

Contingent! Someone's made an offer!


We saw a house on Marina Boulevard last Sunday. Probate sale. Needs loads of work.

Listing description says, "Location, Location, and Views! Sensational opportunity to restore this Marina Blvd. gem, originally built for the Gump Family."

What the listing doesn't say is that there is obvious dry rot and leaks as well as damage from 1989 that was never repaired. A front balcony had signs warning not to open the door to it.

We walked through. Loads of work to be done to fix damage caused by neglect over the years. If the house were in good condition, it would be a gem. Nice spaces, antique front door, other classy features.

The views, such as they were, weren't spectacular. Fairly nice view of the Marina Green and the yacht harbor. No sweeping Golden Gate views or anything like that. The partial view of the bridge could only be seen from the front living room window.

After we got back outside, we were walking to the crosswalk so we could get back over to the Marina Green when I saw something odd.

I walked down the east side of the building to check it out. Yup, there's a real nice bulge or two in the east facing wall that look like souvenirs of the 1989 quake.

Looks rather serious.

I'm sure whoever owned the building decided after 1989 that if the place wasn't red-tagged, it was safe enough for them and rather than go through extensive rehab work, they'd let the heirs and assigns worry about what to do with the place later.

Well, now it's later.

I don't know how much the neighbors would squawk if you wanted to take down a building built 76 years ago for the Gump family to build something new on the lot, but they'd probably squawk a lot. This is San Francisco, after all.

Buyer may be in for lots of fun repairing bulgy, cracked walls in situ.

Fixer-upper for $2,450,000!


And last but not least this one:

599 Vallejo & two other contiguous lots -- just a block or two from The House on Grant, one of our favorite nosh places.

"Development opportunity with soon to be approved plans. Three lots 559 Vallejo St.(APN: 0145 036),567-569 Vallejo St.(APN: 0145 035), & 66 Fresno St.(APN: 0145 027),total lot size 4,616 per tax records.Plans for five residential units plus parking, & separate enclosed parking lot included with sale. Top floor unit:2200+ sq.ft. 3BR/3BA,1400 sq.ft. terraces,Lower 4 units: two 2,100+ sq.ft. 3BR/3BA, & two 1,900+ sq.ft. 2BR/2.5BA. Permits have been thru Planning, Building, & Telegraph Hill Dwellers."

$5,900,000 for three lots with a combined total lot size of .10167 acre.

BUT! There are plans that are "soon to be approved" and those plans have already been vetted by Planning, Building, AND Telegraph Hill Dwellers.

Shoot, that approval from THD is probably worth at least an easy million in value add-on.

Just make sure you don't decide you want to change the plans.

Why bother with Patrick White? -- the failure of genius to be recognized

Here we go again.

Jennifer Sexton gives us yet another attempt to show that the work of a genius (the nation's [Australia's] most lauded novelist, our only Nobel prize-winning writer, twice a winner of the Miles Franklin award and three times the Australian Literature Society's Gold Medallist) wouldn't be picked out of the slush if his award-winning work was re-submitted anonymously today, thirty-three years after he wrote it.

The work? Patrick White's The Eye of the Storm.

What's wrong with this experiment?

Why wasn't White's genius recognized?

Here's a clue.

Nicholas Hudson, of Hudson Publishing, found the work perplexing. "What I read left me puzzled. I found it hard to get involved with the characters, so it was not character-driven, nor in the ideas, so it was not idea-driven. It seemed like a plot-driven novel whose plot got lost through an aspiration to be a literary novel. It was very clever, but I was not compelled to read on," he wrote.

First problem?

Inquirer submitted the third chapter of the work to the editors and agents. Sure, the editors and agents might have failed to recognize good writing or maybe they recognized good writing but just couldn't make sense of the chapter as a stand-alone.

Wouldn't the first two chapters help make sense of the third? Is it wise to just leap directly into the third if your Nobel-winning author had himself thought the first two chapters were needed?

"I found it hard to get involved with the characters," said Nicholas Hudson. Maybe the failure to get involved with the characters was because the first two chapters were there for a reason.

Second problem was best expressed by Lyn Tranter of Australian Literary Management.

In response to the first unsolicited submission, she said she couldn't take it because she didn't believe in it. "I'm sure you can appreciate that an agent must be totally committed to a work to sell it enthusiastically to a publisher; to do otherwise is not in the best interests of the author."

On being told that she'd turned down Patrick White, how stupid and undiscerning (my words, not the article's) is she?

Tranter says Inquirer's experiment is "piss weak", in particular because White is not generally read and doesn't sell today. "I am looking at one thing and one thing only: can I sell it? And the answer is no, I can't sell The Eye of the Storm. As a literary agent my job is to secure the interest of the public."

The article's a good peek into agents' and editors' reasons for turning down an unsolicited submission sitting in their slush pile.

I was not discouraged by the reasons given for turning down Patrick White AKA Wraith Picket. I was more heartened by the commitment expressed to finding good, fresh, new novelists (just not those who write like Patrick White) than, I'm sure, the perps of this age-worn prank were intending.

Nicholas Hudson, quoted previously as finding the work perplexing, on being told whose work he'd turned away had this to say.

Hudson has since told Inquirer he recalled reading the manuscript and was being kind in his letter. "I was trying to be polite. I thought it was pretentious fart-arsery. I don't like White".

He could've added, "... and if you're planning on sending me a proposal, send me the first chapter of your novel, not the third, you numbskull."

[via kitabkhana]

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

PocketMod - Fed up with that folded notepaper you carry around in your back pocket?

People who hang with me know that I wander through life with folded 8x11 papers (or 3x5 notecards, depending on the day) and a fountain pen in my back pocket to jot down notes, to-do lists, wine and food notes, whatever.

Only problem is, I wind up with disorganized scraps of paper with scribbles going N->S W->E and all points in between which I then have to make some sense of when I get back to the aerie.

Check out Chad Adams' PocketMod.

This app is one of the coolest things since butter cubes.

Needs Flash Player. Download here, if you don't have a copy on board.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bookyards.com -- Library to the World

Came across Bookyards.com just now. Looks to be a keeper.

Our goal is to be 'The Library To The World', in which books, education materials, information, and content will be provided freely to anyone who has an internet connection.

Bookyards has a total of 10,180 books, 22,825 web links, 3,944 news & blogs links and access to hundreds of online libraries (200,000 eBooks) for your reading pleasure.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

[MKT] Updated link to Kate Harper Designs

Updated link to Kate Harper Designs at Internet Resources for Writers in the Markets section.

Harper's "Kid Quote Greeting Cards" uses quotes from children 12 and under.

"IF CHILD'S SUBMISSION IS SELECTED, THEY WILL RECEIVE a payment of $25, name credit (Author's name will be printed on the card), $40 worth of free greeting cards, and with the parent's permission, press releases will be sent to child's parents. Submission ideas must have been originated by child (either written or spoken), and not from any other published source. Age limit 12 years and under"

Has a kid you know said something along the lines of the samples shown on the site? Send in the quote.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

allconsuming.net and how the world turns

Back when I wrote about allconsuming.net. At that time allconsuming.net was "a website that watches weblogs for books that they're talking about, and displays the most popular ones on an hourly basis." In addition, you could pop a title into AllConsuming.net and find the blogs that have referenced it. That bit of code was pretty interesting. Enter /pride and prejudice/ and the site hared off to see what titles matched /pride and prejudice/ at Amazon. Taking those titles, AllConsuming checked the blogs it covered for references.

No more. Now allconsuming.net is yet another social network where you can

1 - Catalog your books, music, movies, meals and more.
2 - Get suggestions on what to read, watch or eat from people who share your tastes.
3 - Share your excitement about a great book, album, movie, meal, or gadget.

Talk about all the stuff you've read or eaten or watched. Note whether you'd recommend (or not recommend) something you've consumed to others. Keep a list of things that you'd like to consume in the future. Ask others for suggestions.

What had been an interesting app back two years ago is now bleh.

Oh, well.

Friday, July 14, 2006

[WRITING] Stephen King on Imagery

Wordplay, mentioned in the immediate past post, has an article by Stephen King: IMAGERY AND THE THIRD EYE which begins thusly

Some critics have accused me -- and it always comes out sounding like an accusation -- of writing for the movies. It's not true, but I suppose there's some justification for the idea; all of my novels to date have been sold to the movies. The assumption seems to be that you can't do that sort of thing without trying, but as some of you out there will testify, it's the sort of thing you very rarely can do by consciously trying.

So, you're saying, why is this guy talking about movies when he's supposed to be talking about writing? I'll tell you why. I'm talking about movies because the most important thing that film and fiction share is an interest in the image -- the bright picture that glows in the physical eye or in the mind's eye. I'm suggesting that my novels have sold to the movies not because they were written for the movies, but simply because they contain elements of vivid image that appeal to those who make films -- to those for whom it is often more important to see than it is to think.

Novels are more than imagery -- they are thought, plot, style, tone, characterization, and a score of other things -- but it is the imagery that makes the book "stand out" somehow; to come alive; to glow with its own light. I'm fond of telling my writing classes that all the sophistries of fiction must follow story, that simple caveman invention ("I was walking through the forest when the tiger leaped down on me...") that held his audience spellbound around a fire at night -- and perhaps he even got an extra piece of meat for his efforts if the story was a good one, the first writer's royalty! But I also believe that story springs from image: that vividness of place and time and texture. And here the writer is always two steps ahead of the film director, who may have to wait for the right weather, the right shadows, or the right lens (and when the real world gives way, as it so often does in my books, he must then turn to the special effects man).

Where does good imagery come from?

Good question.

King answers in his inimitable style.

[URL] [WRITING] Wordplay for writers

Wordplay is a site not only for screenwriters but also for writers who don't necessarily write screenplays. Loads of information on both the creative process and the nuts and bolts.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

[WRITING] Library of Congress, National Book Fests, and author Webcasts

The LOC has over 300 thirty-minute Webcasts of authors who gave talks at the National Book Fest in past years.

E.L. Doctorow
Marcia Muller
John Irving
George RR Martin
Neil Gaiman

150 hours-worth. ... have fun.

Berkeley campanile from across the Bay at sunset

  Posted by Picasa

And Yerba Buena and Oakland behind, glowing in the sunset.  Posted by Picasa

Rustbuckets 'r' us


Notice tug, tugging. No name on bow visible. Surprised it floats. Posted by Picasa

£2.808m for a First Folio

We had the catalog for this Sotheby's auction and I'd thumbed through it looking at what was for sale.


Sale price estimate: £2.5m-3.5m.
Final price (hammer plus buyer's preminum): £2.808m

Auction catalogs are great entertainment. This auction of "English Literature, History, Fine Bindings, Private Press and Children’s Books, including the First Folio of Shakespeare" included not only the First Folio of Shakespeare (which sold for the second highest price ever realized for a First Folio) but also items such as letters signed by Edward VI and by Mary, Queen of Scots, an assortment of Richard Burton (he of 1001 Nights) writings and books, &c.

(Lot 23) A silver snuff box that Winston Churchill gave to William Robert Brimson, the principal Doorkeeper of the House of Commons, who'd lost his in the bombing of the Houses of Parliament, was expected to sell for between £5-8K but sold for £14,400.

The things you can buy at auction, if you only have the wherewithal and want to spend that wherewithal for ... for something like ...

Something I would've liked ...

LOT 200 BECKETT, SAMUEL. SIX AUTOGRAPH POEMS. (These were pictured in the catalog, blown up so you could read the poems).

DESCRIPTION: one of them apparently unpublished, in French, each one written on the back of a torn Craven 'A' cigarette packet, together with an autograph copy of a slightly modernised early seventeenth-century poem by Mathurin Régnier ("J'ai vécu sans nul pensement...") and a pen-and-ink sketch plan of the area around Beckett's house in Ussy; the poems on 7 cards, each one between four and twelve lines in length, 12mo size (85 x 75mm.), annotations in another hand chiefly recording dates of composition, large autograph envelope, [1974-80].

Three of the poems, "Octave", "Imagine si ceci…", and "Nuit qui fait tant…", were first published as "mirlitonnades" in Poèmes suivi de mirlitonnades (1978), the only textual variant being in "Imagine si ceci…", the published state of which lacks the seventh line of the present version ("si ceci"). The fourth poem, "Hors crâne seul dedans…" was also published in Poèmes suivi under the title "Poème". The fifth, "Qu’à lever la tête", was written in July 1980 (according to the annotation below it) and appears in Poems 1930-1989 (2002), as an additional "mirlitonnade". The last poem, of six lines, beginning "Resolutions / Double Point", appears to be unpublished.

Beckett composed most of his "mirlitonnades" (or "bird calls") during 1977 and 1978, and would use any handy scrap of paper, such as a beer mat, an envelope, or in this case a cigarette packet, to jot down the words as they occurred to him. "The apparent slightness and playfulness of form of these late 1970s 'poèmes courts' (miniature poems) should not disguise the seriousness and, to use Beckett's own word, 'gloom' of their themes…they offer startling insights into the darkness of his private moods at this time" (James Knowlson, Damned to Fame: the Life of Samuel Beckett, 1996, p.646).

Beckett gave the present poems to Josette Hayden, the widow of the Polish-born French painter Henri Hayden. Their lifelong friendship with Beckett began in 1943, while they were all taking refuge from the Gestapo in Roussillon d'Apt. Beckett contributed greatly to the renaissance of Hayden's reputation after the war, chiefly by helping to arrange exhibitions in London. The Haydens had also bought a house in Reuil, near his own cottage at Ussy. The annotations beneath each poem would appear to be in Josette's hand.

"The Mirlitonnades…reveal the late Beckett, often filling in time on his own in cafés, and finding words for a random thought. Sometimes playful, often sombre, they catch, with a total economy of words, the same process of insights into the human soul that can be found in the novels and plays" (Foreword to Poems 1930-1989).

Estimated price: £2,500—3,500. Sale price £6,000.

Ah, well.

Morning fog and ...

Morning fog this morning and ...

a photo taken a bit later Tuesday evening than the moonrise photo...

   Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

2006 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest winners announced

Jim Guigli of Carmichael, CA, is the winner with,

Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung ... [continued on site]

Category winners, runners-up and also-rans can also be found there.

The deadline each year is April 15th or some time thereafter. Cash prize. Fame.

What is the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest?

Since 1982 the English Department at San Jose State University has sponsored the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels. The contest (hereafter referred to as the BLFC) was the brainchild (or Rosemary's baby) of Professor Scott Rice, whose graduate school excavations unearthed the source of the line "It was a dark and stormy night." Sentenced to write a seminar paper on a minor Victorian novelist, he chose the man with the funny hyphenated name, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who was best known for perpetrating The Last Days of Pompeii, Eugene Aram, Rienzi, The Caxtons, The Coming Race, and--not least--Paul Clifford, whose famous opener has been plagiarized repeatedly by the cartoon beagle Snoopy. No less impressively, Lytton coined phrases that have become common parlance in our language: "the pen is mightier than the sword," "the great unwashed," and "the almighty dollar" (the latter from The Coming Race, now available from the Broadview Press).

Moon rise. San Francisco.

  Posted by Picasa

A little blurred, but that will have to do. The instant is gone.

Another entertaining time waster



Received from Auntie K, a link to the obit for Frederic Arthur (Fred) Clark.

She was told, "The son of the man was interviewed on the radio last night in Richmond. His father died in an auto accident on Father's Day. He said his father was a family man with a sense of humor. He said the newspaper edited the obituary, but the family was glad it was published - it was written by Mr. Clark."

Reminds me a bit of this obit notice for Dorothy Gilman Cully, written by her son. I read about the Cully obit in the comments tail of a Miss Snark post.

Thanks, K.

Father Luke

I hadn't realized that Father Luke had returned to the interweb thingy.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Walked along the Bay's edge

  Posted by Picasa

Walked along the Bay's edge last Wednesday, near Crissy Field.

Beautiful days we've been having.

The evening of the Fourth was clear as could be for the fireworks. Today, we enjoyed the sun with a walk into Chinatown to do some banking, bumping into friends on the way. Then over to the Ferry Building for the Saturday Farmers' Market, then back up the Steps.

Planted New Guinea impatiens in the front forty after lunch. Soon I'll be back to the piles of clips and magazines that need sorting.

Summer in the City.


  Posted by Picasa

For our Boston University alum: a picture of your school mascot, encountered at the Bay's edge near Crissy Field last Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Carmen Sandiego

Update: Disabled the map 'cause the blog was just spinning and spinning, looking for the image.

First seen at Lily's, then at um. Kos', elsewhere.

Here's a nifty tool that creates a visited countries map. Click on countries you've been to and the tool creates a world map that shows where you've been and not been.

Unfortunately, there's no saying how much you've seen of a place. For me, India and Thailand were only airplane stops on my way somewhere else. Australia was an emergency stopover in Sydney thanks to a flaky Garuda aircraft. I didn't claim Uruguay although my passport's stamped. The passport control is on the Argentinian side of the Rio Plata and a storm kicked up and halted ferry transport for over a day. With our schedule, we couldn't manage to rearrange the trip.

Some glaring ommissions, eh? Australia and New Zealand, I'd really like to see. I'd like to see India. Huge place. Variety of people and places to see. We were booked for a trip in Sri Lanka a couple years back, but it was cancelled when things started heating up. Now things are heating up some more. I'd love to see Sri Lanka. Ireland. So many places. And there are places I'd love to go back to. So much of Canada I haven't seen. So much of the States. Never been to Alaska. Yet. The younger sprog is up there right now, working in the parks, building trails for the summer. He's having a blast. Some day.


I have seen the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, and the Permian Basin Oil Museum in Midland, TX.

The map's a kind of fun way of seeing where you haven't been and where you might want to go next. This fall we're back to China again with a foray into Pakistan. Next summer Japan.

All Dressed Up For The Fourth

  Posted by Picasa

The USS Cleveland is decked out for the Fourth of July.

Have a safe and sane celebration, folks.

Here's hoping the fog stays lifted and we can see the local fireworks.

Update: So far, so good, as of 7:40 p.m.

The USS Cleveland looks colorful in the setting sun.

  Posted by Picasa

His nibs came up with a couple of Web sites that covered U.S. Navy Signal Flags and International Code Signal Flags and proper flag etiquette and how to dress a ship (up at 0800, down at evening colors) and, by golly, they just rolled up the flags at eight sharp.

His nibs thought I should check to see whether we wanted to watch the municipal fireworks from the rooftop instead of walking down to our top sekrit spot (known only by the cognoscenti and not as crowded as the lot gets at Coit Tower).

I got as far as the top of the ladder and onto the roof above the shed on the deck. From there I would've had to go onto the neighbors' roof than cut back over onto the part of the roof over the building proper.

Never mind the well that's a four floor drop over there to your left and the scamper up and over the roof edge with a four floor drop on that side as well. The roof itself is flat behind the façade. If you don't step on the solar panels and bust them, that section of the roof is a safe place with a good view to watch the fireworks. Ah, but afterwards there'd be the scamper back over and across and down again after dark.

Um. No. Not this year. Something I need to work on for next year. Maybe.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Obits as a cost center at your local paper. Penny wise. Pound foolish?

When Dad died in April, one of my responsibilities as the family "writer" was to write his obit and submit it to the local paper, the San Jose Mercury News.

Obituary notices: These paid notices announce services and let family members write their own remembrances. Information is accepted from mortuaries only. The Classified Advertising Department handles obituary notices for a fee based on length. Photos may be delivered 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Call 408 920-5276, fax (408) 288-9972 or email obits@mercurynews.com weekdays for details.

Obituaries: These are stories written by reporters at the Mercury News. Because these are news, we aim to publish them within a week of a death. We judge each potential obituary based on news value and other factors. If you think you have a story, tell us about it briefly at (408) 920-5256. Both types of obituaries can be found at www.mercurynews.com/obituaries.

First hurdle was getting around the issue that all obits had to be submitted by a funeral home. Well, Dad died unexpectedly off Panama and his ashes were shipped home, after an autopsy and cremation. We had no funeral home to submit the obit through. I sent e-mail to the SJMN obit department explaining our circumstances. I received this in reply.

Hello, this e-mail has reached the paid classified obituary department, we are not in the newsroom where news stories are written. I will forward this to them, and they might contact you if they feel the story is news worthy. I cannot speak for them.

If you would like to submit a paid obituary to us in the classified dept., you may do so by sending it to obits@mercurynews.com. We would need your full name, address and phone number and a credit card before running. We charge $9.75 per line, per day, with approx. 31 letters per line, photos are an additional $117.00 per day. Thank you

I wrote the obit. Rough draft first. Found the word count. Gulp. Cut it down, cut it down, cut it down. Ran it by my sibs. Changed a few things. I had the announcement as spare as it could be while both giving a gist of the remarkable guy Dad had been and mentioning the family by name, including his brothers and grandchildren. We decided not to include a photograph.

Even as it was, in its shortened form, it ran three hundred words. Dad had five brothers, six children, nine grandchildren. Should I name the three living children and leave off the three who died as adults? Should I forget about naming his twin? Those two were as close as any two people I've ever known. If I name his twin, how about the other brothers? Of course they belong there too.

So, yes, there were a lot of "wasted" words, words wasted by naming his close kin. We decided to make sure that the obit ran on Sunday, with a day or two on either side for maximum exposure. Three days. The total cost to run the obit for three days was mind boggling.

Whatever happened to the local paper running obits -- short ones -- as a public service? Short ones to be sure. Three lines, maybe. Remember those? Six years ago, when my brother died, the Mercury News was still providing free short obits. I'm sure you paid extra if you wanted something longer. Somewhere, some time, along the way, someone realized that all those free obits could generate a steady, very steady, stream of income if the paper started charging for them. Add in families like mine who want more than a short notice for their pater familias and charge even more and ...

Did the papers' coverage areas get too big? Were there too many people dying and wasting space that had no offsetting ads. Wait. Didn't all those ads from florists, funeral homes, cremation services and other death-related businesses bring some money in?

Was charging fees for any and all obits one way of discouraging obit notices and cutting down on the space needed, or was the paper just looking for another steady stream of income?

How could a family not submit an obit notice when a family member died?

After we submitted Dad's obituary notice, the Merc decided to run a news obituary, but we didn't know ahead of time they would. Cost for our paid obituary notice? $994.50 to run the notice for three days. The news obituary was "news" and, hence, free.

We put the bill on our credit card. Mom reimbursed us after the fact. She felt the obit notice was important to run, but she couldn't believe the cost. I couldn't believe the cost. Mom's memory is pretty ephemeral these days. I'm hoping she forgot the cost as soon as she was told. I haven't and it still sticks in my craw.

The long news obituary that the Mercury News ran covered aspects of Dad's life that I hadn't been able to and included a picture. Dad's news obituary assuaged some of the anger I felt when the Merc quoted its prices for obituary notices, but I still feel our hometown paper routinely, as a matter of business, takes advantage of folks who are in tough shape and a bit numb after the death of a family member. How heartless and bottom line is that?

If I were selling a rug, I could get the paper's special classified advertising package deal: up to three lines of description and five days in the paper for $21.

At obit notice rates, that wee ad would cost $146.25, a 600% markup.

Ah, I can hear the people in the paid obit department saying, but look what you get beyond your in-print obit notice. We keep the notice online for a year with Legacy.com! We let your friends and family leave messages in the Guest Book.

Yes, you do, and Legacy.com makes money along the way. Why, for a mere "one-time, $79 fee, you can sponsor the Guest Book of Donald Frederick Towse to remain online at MercuryNews.com permanently. A sponsorship will allow family and friends to visit and sign the Guest Book on holidays, anniversaries - any day of the year." Isn't that grand?

People can send condolence flowers using Teleflora or funeralflowersusa.com with a simple click from the Legacy.com site. People can send condolence gifts, care baskets and more from The Gift Shop at legacy.com with a simple click from the Legacy.com site. Isn't that great?

I think it's ghoulish to charge for obit notices. I think it's especially ghoulish to charge a 600% markup over classified ad rates if you must charge anything at all. Families are hammered when a family member dies. They are especially prone, as is well known, to overpay for funeral services and caskets and flowers. Why would a newspaper take advantage at this time? Because they can?

Oh, and that obituary the Merc reporter wrote? It's now in the archives and it'll cost you $2.95 to get a copy, if you use the archive search to find it. If you have a direct link? Here you go. ...

When did obits become a cost center? When did they stop being a public service? When did we start paying for wedding announcements, anniversary announcements and death notices? Is the extra money brought in worth the negative vibes that linger on in people who have to pay outrageous prices if they want to get a family member's death notice printed?

When did our hometown paper decide this was a good idea? Is it?

All the extra obit income in the world couldn't save the paper, though. Nothing could stop the inevitable. Tony threw in the towel and sold the Mercury News and the rest of Knight Ridder to McClatchy at the end of June.

RIP Knight Ridder.

Update: His nibs asked, what does the Chron charge?
Answer: Even more ...

$86 per inch per day. There are approximately 7 printed lines per inch. A line consists of approximately 30 spaces.

Discounts are available on consecutive publications.

Note: A fee of $25 will be added to every obituary notice to be on our web site, www.sfgate.com/chronicle/obituaries, including the printed photo, an online Guest Book, and more.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Public Art and Public Transit

Last Monday was a "Spare The Air" day and we took advantage of the free transit offered by the more than two dozen public transportation agencies in the Bay Area counties. We hitched a ride over to Sausalito for lunch and some nosing around. (Usual full fare price is $6.45 one way or a 20-ticket frequent rider set for $69)

The Sausalito ferries coming and going were packed with daytrippers. I'm sure the Sausalito merchants were thrilled with the boost in business.

Unfortunately, Monday was the third "spare the air" day this season and, hence, the last with free public transit for all.


If I were Queen, public transit would be free, or a minimal charge. More people ride when the cost is nil. Ridership on the various means of transport was up to 300% higher, depending on the route and the method. Ferries to Sausalito topped the bill.

Why do we keep raising fares to cover the costs of public transit and then seem stunned when ridership drops off as a result?

Why do people drive their own cars? Well, because public transit has its inconveniences and when the costs of using public transit reach a certain level, the inconveniences are too much on top of it.

If public transit were free or a token charge, more people would get around without cars, and we could pour our funds into better public transit instead of using our funds to build more roads. We'd need less funds for policing and ticketing and meter reading and maintaining our roads and highways. We'd get the positive benefits from a drop in air pollution, a drop in gasoline demand.

If public transit were free and better, more people would ride and that would be a good thing.

But it's not, and ... I'm not Queen.


We returned from Sausalito and walked down to Pier 14 to get a closeup look at Passages, a sculpture by Dan DasMann and Karen Cusolito. We'd spotted the new art from the Embarcadero (yes, from a car) a week or two ago but hadn't had a chance to stop by and see it.

The artwork is up to celebrate the long-awaited opening of the public pier at Pier 14. Unfortunately, the Chron sez that the installation is just temporary. Would that it could stay for much longer than temporary.

  Posted by Picasa (Click the pic for more pics.)

Passages is a 30' tall, striking piece of work. Up close and personal, it's fascinating. Whoever installed it, though, wasn't thinking of the skateboarders who were using the base as part of their performance art.

San Francisco has a long tradition of public art. Back in 1969, the public art ordinance mandated that 2% of the construction cost of "civic buildings, transportation improvement projects, new parks, and other above-ground structures such as bridges, to be allocated for public art." That art is overseen by the San Francisco Arts Commission.

Later legislation mandated that private construction in the downtown C-3 zone needed to set aside 1% of construction costs for public art. That public art is overseen by the Planning Department, which makes sure that 1% of the budget is set aside and that the public art is accessible to the public (duh!) and is "acceptable."

There are hits. There are misses. There is some of very cool public art because of these requirements.

Cupid's Span by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen just down the Embarcadero from Passages is a favorite.

  Posted by Picasa

This piece at the Joe DiMaggio North Beach Playground is another.

  Posted by Picasa

The "piece" is a 9' cold-cast aluminum barrier which shuts off the playground restrooms when the playground closes down for the day. The metal barrier is a topographical relief map of our end of the city, with Telegraph Hill evident at the bottom and the piers sticking out into the Bay.

One of my least favorite pieces of public art in the city (and I just spent a good part of an hour looking for a picture in my photo archives but looks like I've never taken a snap of it) is the hideously ugly (but much loved by someone, I guess) fountain that Canadian sculptor Armand Vaillancourt designed for Justin Herman Plaza.

Hideously ugly doesn't even begin to cover it. For years it had no water running through it either. Now, it has water running, but the improvement in negligible. My favorite piece of criticism is that of San Francisco Chronicle architecture critic Allan Temko, who wrote that the "literally insipid concrete blocks" seemed to be the product of a "giant concrete dog with square intestines."

See for yourself.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A tiny house makeover on Telegraph Hill

Taking a break from sorting through papers and magazines.

Found a lively article in a year-old (June 2005) Dwell magazine that I hadn't got around to reading before.

(Yes, that is why the papers and magazines stack up ...)

The article by Deborah Bishop, Worth The Wait, focused on the makeover of a tiny little house on the south side of Telegraph Hill and all the travails the owners went through to work their plans through the planning process.

The house grew from 806 sq ft to 903 sq ft and in the process, the owners knocked down walls, excavated into the hill, poured a concrete retaining wall, and repurposed available square footage. The process was painful and took almost six years.

Some pulls from the article
  • ... Although the house had survived the great quake of 1906, its future was nearly undone by litigious neighbors who used their favorable easements to try to stymie construction: the local Telegraph Hill Dwellers association, whose members never met a bay window they didn't like (despite the original house's having none); and a backlogged planning commission.

    [Added note: As a member of THD, I can testify that THD is not the group-think "whose members" would imply. Honest! But I understand the perception. In fact that perception is probably the major problem THD faces as it tries to grow its membership from 600+ members (of which 50 or so live outside the boundaries the Dwellers claim) to something more representative of the number of people who live within the boundaries the Dwellers claim. But that's another story ...]

  • When architect Nilus de Matran's trilevel plan for a modern makeover came up against the obstructionist politics that defines construction in San Francisco, the house sat in limbo ...

  • After the original architect was ground down by the friction that met his plans for demolition and a radically modern makeover ...

Couldn't find the article at the Dwell Web site. Finally tracked down a PDF version at the architects' Web site, Holey Associates.

The article is worth a look, if only to get a feel for what people go through and how negative vibes can hang in the air, even after a project is finished.

Getting your pad profiled in Dwell complete with backhand swats at the people you think gave you such grief during the process must have some sort of nyaaah value.