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Archive for February, 2009

marijuana11“Could Cannabis sativa be a salvation for California’s fiscal misfortunes? Can the state get a better budget grip by taxing what some folks toke?

“[Assemblyman Tom Ammiano] from San Francisco announced legislation Monday to do just that: make California the first state in the nation to tax and regulate recreational marijuana in the same manner as alcohol.” (via LA Times)

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texasborderbadge“In a controversial program aimed at enhancing border security, Texas sheriffs have erected a series of surveillance cameras along the Rio Grande and connected them to the Internet.

“Thousands of people are now virtual Border Patrol agents — and they’re on the lookout for drug smugglers and illegal immigrants.

“Robert Fahrenkamp, a truck driver in South Texas, is one of them.

“After a long haul behind the wheel of a Peterbilt tractor-trailer, he comes home, sets his 6-foot-6-inch, 250-pound frame in front of his computer, pops a Red Bull, turns on some Black Sabbath or Steppenwolf, logs in to www.blueservo.net — and starts protecting his country.

“‘This gives me a little edge feeling,’ Fahrenkamp says, ‘like I’m doing something for law enforcement as well as for our own country.'” (more @ NPR)

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typewriterAhead of their publication later this year of six new short story collections, Harper Perennial has kicked off promotion of its “2009: Summer of the Short Story” campaign by launching a new blog, Fifty-Two Stories.

As reported by Publishers Weekly, the publishing house announced “that each week in 2009 it is posting a new short story. Some are new stories from Harper Perennial’s original collections or from upcoming hardcovers; some are original contributions never before published anywhere; and some are backlist classics. . . .

“Harper Perennial’s editorial director, Cal Morgan, selects a new story each week and posts it Sunday night. In January, Fifty-Two Stories featured stories by Mary Gaitskill, Tony O’Neill, Simon Van Booy and Tom Piazza. Last week, it posted a previously unpublished story from Louise Erdrich’s new collection, The Red Convertible, which Harper published in January. This week there’s a story by Willa Cather from The Bohemian Girl, a forthcoming selection of Cather’s greatest short works. Future selections include works by Katherine Dunn, Jess Walter, Mark Twain and Dennis Cooper.”

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pessl2Writing in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Jacob Silverman denounces the “lazy and shallow tactic” of discussing an author’s looks in a book review. He recalls the often overheated commentary about Marisha Pessl‘s dust jacket photo in her 2006 debut novel, Special Topics In Calamity Physics, and takes Janet Maslin to task for her February 15th New York Times review of Miriam Gershow’s The Local News.

[Related: “The dust jacket photo remains a crucial promotional device. In fact, says Antonia Hodgson, the editor-in-chief at the publisher Little, Brown, it’s more important than ever.” (more @ Looking the part, 4/10/09, The National)]

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bookstore-sign1“Peter Olson, until recently the chairman and CEO of Random House, wrote in Publishers Weekly last month: ‘While 2008 ended on a disappointing and even discouraging note for many in the book industry, the outlook for the new year is even bleaker. One-time adjustments by retailers and underlying shifts in the structure of the book industry will make 2009 the worst year for publishing in decades.’” (via London Review of Books)

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richrain“One of the most persistent cultural tics of the early 21st century is Americans’ reluctance to absorb, let alone prepare for, bad news. We are plugged into more information sources than anyone could have imagined even 15 years ago. The cruel ambush of 9/11 supposedly ‘changed everything,’ slapping us back to reality. Yet we are constantly shocked, shocked by the foreseeable.” (via NY Times)

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upward“With Mr. Upward’s death, on Feb. 13 in Pontefract, England, the last living link was broken to writers like [Christopher] IsherwoodW. H. Auden and Stephen Spender who shaped English literature in the 1930s. In reporting Mr. Upward’s death, London newspapers said that at 105 he was Britain’s oldest author.

“His influence on his contemporaries was both literary and political, silly and serious. The Mortmere tales — for which biographers give the main credit to Mr. Upward — inspired Auden’s poetry. Isherwood sent manuscripts to Mr. Upward for judgment. Mr. Upward helped convert Spender to Communism.” (via NY Times)

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