Charles Cumming's The 21 Steps

The 21 Steps is a short story designed to be read while following the action on Google Maps. It's actually a lot more interesting (not the story, the experience of reading the story with the map integrated) than I thought it would be. It adds a "sense of immediacy" (in quotation marks because I suspect that's meaningless) I didn't expect. Getting the story in little, delayed bits heightens suspense and clarifies the charm of cell phone novels.

From CNN: "Euthanasia Debate Woman Found Dead"

This story is from France. Here's a guide to assisted suicide laws around the world.

I find laws against assisted suicide even more (far more, really) outrageous than laws against gay marriage. If I could see only one of these--assisted suicide or gay marriage--become widely legal in my lifetime, I'd choose assisted suicide. Especially if more damn places of work, including mine, would make health benefits available to unmarried long-term partners.

Nice Tool: DailyLit, Brijit, and Zamzar


Good news--a huge chunk of Cory Doctorow's oeuvre is now available for free at DailyLit. DailyLit has a brilliant premise: sign up, choose a book or two, and get a shortish segment of the book delivered to you each day (email or RSS). They have tons of free public domain books (and some Creative Commons ones, like Lessig's Free Culture), and more recent books are available for anywhere from $4.95 to $9.95. I'm all about the free, but there are some very useful selections (given the daily way you'll be receiving them) available for pay: language books, SAT review, etc. The poetry section is currently limited to dead, free folks. If you're a poet who makes your books (oop, outside of copyright, owned by you, etc.) available on the web, please consider contacting DailyLit. I'd love to see more poetry selections available.

This said, I have to admit that when I first found DailyLit last fall, I signed up for The Scarlet Pimpernel--available in only 105 parts, which seemed unambitious--but quickly fell behind, felt like I was drowning in backed-up Scarlet Pimpernel emails, and quit.


Brijit reads magazines--both print and web-based--so you don't have to--or, better yet, so you can choose which articles you want to track down and read in full. It's also free. Receive 100-words-or-less reviews/abstracts of articles in Slate, Salon, The Onion A.V. Club, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, The Believer, Conde Nast Traveler, The Economist, and so on, by email or RSS feed. Brijit pays writers 5 bucks per article to write the summaries/reviews. Some publications aren't reviewed as frequently or thoroughly as others (I haven't received too many from The Believer). I subscribe to about fifteen and read them in my feed reader. I love this tool, because I rarely read magazines even in waiting rooms (always have a book along), and it helps me get a feel for what's going on in magazine-reader-land. Brijit also offers summaries of a number of TV shows, including The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, and Meet the Press.


Zamzar offers free online file conversion. Convert an ancient WordPerfect doc to a Word doc, a doc to a pdf or docx, a jpg to a gif, etc. Super simple, done in an instant, and very useful to me at the library when someone brings in a document in a format our computers don't recognize. Can also convert music and video files in one format to another.


The VQR blog, which last September gave us a groovy list of the 10 most common titles of work submitted to the journal, now gives us a neat table of poems on cliched topics (percent submitted to and percent accepted by VQR).

The post begins: This was supposed to be a blog entry about how authors submit poetry to us covering cliched topics that there’s just no way we’re going to print. But then I did the math, calculating the percentage of our submissions and published work that contain any of a dozen mainstays of poetic terminology, and found that precisely the opposite is true...As it turns out, our editor is all about those dreaded paeans to cats."

(more here)


"Global Mourning"--Clive Thompson in Wired

I'm just now catching up with the January 2008 issue of Wired, and found this, from Clive Thompson's one-pager "Global Mourning: How the Next Victim of Climate Change Will Be Our Minds," interesting:

Australia is suffering through its worst dry spell in a millennium. The outback has turned into a dust bowl, crops are dying off at fantastic rates, cities are rationing water, coral reefs are dying, and the agricultural base is evaporating.

But what really intrigues Glenn Albrecht--a philosopher by training--is how his fellow Australians are reacting.

They're getting sad.

In interviews Albrecht conducted over the past few years, scores of Australians described their deep, wrenching sense of loss as they watch the landscape around them change. Familiar plants don't grow any more. Gardens won't take. Birds are gone. "They no longer feel like they know the place they've lived for decades," he says.

Albrecht believes that this is a new type of sadness. People are feeling displaced. They're suffering symptoms eerily similar to those of indigenous populations that are forcibly removed from their traditional homelands. But nobody is being relocated; they haven't moved anywhere. It's just that the familiar markers of their area, the physical and sensory signals that define home, are vanishing. Their environment is moving away from them, and they miss it terribly...

[It's a] fascinating new way to think about the impact of global warming. Everyone's worried about resource management and the spooky, unpredictable changes in the ecosystem...sea levels...clean water...species...that'll go extinct.

But we should also be concerned about the huge toll climate change will inflict on our mental health...

[italics Thompson's. Pg. 70, Jan 2008 Wired]


This is a Poem that Heals Fish

PEZ SWEET WORLD--a fantastic gallery of modified PEZ dispensers by ATYPYK.


The book's pretty good, but I'm especially taken with the title of a picture book I came across today:
This is a Poem that Heals Fish


Harriet the Spy: Lesbian Role Model? (NPR)


The Hello Experiment, in which a group of artists attempt to sculpt Lionel Richie's head while blindfolded


Can't write sestinas (me neither)? For their next issue only, McSweeney's is calling for senryu and pantoums.


Interesting: "Babies See Pure Color, but Adults Peer Through Prism of Language" at Wired: "When infant eyes absorb a world of virgin visions, colors are processed purely, in a pre-linguistic parts of the brain. As adults, colors are processed in the brain's language centers, refracted by the concepts we have for them."


Customer (male, mid-late 60s) at my library today, to me: Do you have any videos that show how to do the Hokey Pokey?

Me (searching): Hmm, doesn't look like we have any videos. We have CDs with the song on it, and the lyrics describe how to do it.

Customer: I have the song on CD. I just wanted to see how to do it.

Me: Well, the lyrics kind of tell how to do it--you know, "You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out..."

Customer: I wanted to see what it looks like.

Me: [seeing no real choice, obliges]