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bannedbooks“‘American Psycho’ is Bret Easton Ellis’ story of a sadistic murderer. ‘Unfriendly Fire’ is a well-reviewed empirical analysis of military policy. But it’s ‘Unfriendly Fire’ that does not have a sales rank — which means it would not show up in Amazon’s bestseller lists, even if it sold more copies than the ‘Twilight’ series. In some cases, being de-ranked also means being removed from Amazon’s search results.

“Amazon’s policy of removing ‘adult’ content from its rankings seems to be both new and unevenly implemented. . . .

“Our research shows that these books have lost their ranking: ‘Running with Scissors’ by Augusten Burroughs, ‘Rubyfruit Jungle’ by Rita Mae Brown, ‘Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic’ by Alison Bechdel, ‘The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1’ by Michel Foucault, ‘Bastard Out of Carolina’ by Dorothy Allison (2005 Plume edition), ‘Little Birds: Erotica’ by Anais Nin, ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ by Jean-Dominque Bauby (1997 Knopf edition), ‘Maurice’ by E.M. Forster (2005 W.W. Norton edition) and ‘Becoming a Man’ by Paul Monette, which won the 1992 National Book Award.

“Books that remain ranked include: ‘Naked’ by David Sedaris, ‘Tropic of Cancer’ by Henry Miller, ‘American Psycho’ by Bret Easton Ellis, ‘Wifey’ by Judy Blume, ‘The Kiss’ by Kathryn Harrison, the photobooks ‘Playboy: Helmut Newton’ and ‘Playboy: Six Decades of Centerfolds,’ ‘Naked Lunch’ by William Burroughs, ‘Incest: From ‘A Journal of Love” by Anais Nin, ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ by Jean-Dominque Bauby (2007 Vintage International edition), ‘Maurice’ by E.M. Forster (2005 Penguin Classics edition). . . .

“But as troubling as the unevenness of the policy of un-ranking and de-searching certain titles might be, it’s a bit beside the point. It’s the action itself that is troubling: making books harder to find, or keeping them off bestseller lists on the basis of their content can’t be a good idea.” (more @ LA Times)

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PD*27902069“A German pastor who sought to teach children the Easter message by fashioning bibilical scenes out of specially adapted Playmobil figures has been ordered by the toy maker to dismantle his creations.

“Rev Markus Bomhard, 38, an evangelical preacher from Eschborn, Hesse, glued breasts on to his ‘Eve’ character and even recreated the Passion in plastic, depicting the Crucifixion by using a hairdryer to melt and mould the Christ figure’s hands to a cross.

“But the montage attracted the wrath of Germany’s favourite toy company, which produces the Klicky figures used by the pastor, after a series of pictures were published on the internet.” (more @ Daily Telegraph UK)

Meanwhile . . .

In Great Britain, “A nightclub leaflet showing the late Pope John Paul II holding a bottle of beer and dancing with a blonde woman has been banned.

“The Advertising Standards Authority branded the flyer offensive and ordered it to be removed [sic] a complaint by the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) on behalf of angry Poles and Catholics. . . .

“It was distributed to promote a night called Berserk at Club Fire nightclub in Ipswich.” (more @ Daily Telegraph UK)

[Update: (4/9/09) I’ve decided to leave empty the now-broken link where the image of the lecherous Pope leaflet appeared in my post. When the Daily Telegraph updated the article yesterday they apparently deleted the image, no doubt at the request of some “higher authority.” Commentary enough, I think, on the power of  “angry Poles and Catholics.”]

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“Short, lucid writing is needed in these uncertain times, according to the Booker prize-winning Nigerian author Ben Okri, who is releasing a new poem line by line on Twitter. . . .

“‘I sing a new freedom,’ Okri Twittered yesterday, following it up today with the second line of the poem, ‘Freedom with discipline’, today. The poem was written to mark the release of Okri’s new book, Tales of Freedom, in April. The book brings together short stories and poetry in what Okri’s publisher described as ‘a fascinating new form, using writing and image pared down to their essentials, where haiku and story meet’. The entire poem will be posted on Okri’s Facebook and MySpace pages once it is completed.” (more @ The Guardian)

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Timely advice from Matt Gross, the New York Times’ “Frugal Traveler,” for “Staying in Touch Internationally, on the Cheap” using SkypeIn and SkypeOut with iPhones or unlocked cell phones.

RelatedAs Airfares Fall, Save Even After Buying

Update: Frugal Traveler: Skype Midterm Report

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bobguskindBob Guskind, the legendary Brooklyn blogger and founder of Gowanus Lounge, has died:

“After days of speculation inside and outside the blogosphere, much-liked journalist Robert Guskind died on Wednesday, the city Medical Examiner confirmed this morning. . . .

“In his prime, Guskind’s blog focussed a keen eye on city development projects with an objectivity and a level of reporting rare in the blog world.” (via The Brooklyn Paper)

The following video of Bob Guskind is via newyorkshitty, a blog about Greenpoint, Brooklyn:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Memorials to Guskind on other Brooklyn blogs can be found at: Dumbo NYC, Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.

Guskind’s “flikr” photostream, featuring numerous sets of Brooklyn neighborhoods, can be found here.

Flatbush Gardener is maintaining a running list of online tributes to Guskind. The list gets longer by the hour.

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PD*4001807“Rather than killing it off, modern technologies like email, social networking sites such as Facebook and online media players are helping poets reach new audiences.”

Signs of growth, by the numbers:

  • The number of entries for the Foyle Young Poets Award more than doubling from 2003 to 2008 to almost 12,000.
  • The number of pamphlets sent to the Poetry Book Society for publication rose from 37 to 90 between 2006 and 2008.
  • Websites like Poetry Archive, which enables people to listen to recordings of poets like TS Eliot and Allen Ginsberg reading their work, are now enjoying unprecedented success. Poetry Archive . . . now receives 135,000 visitors a month and a million page hits. (via Daily Telegraph)

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orwell“The longlists for the 2009 Orwell Prize for Political Writing were announced today, and for the first time the award includes a category for bloggers. Along with the traditional Book and Journalism submissions, this year the judges received entries in the form of YouTube videos and Twitter tweets. From eighty-three entrants for the Blog Prize . . . the judges selected a choice twelve, mixing the professional with the amateur, the politically affiliated with the politically free-wheeling:

“Alix Mortimer’s ‘The People’s Republic of Mortimer’; Andrew Sparrow’s Guardian Politics Blog; Chekov’s ‘Three Thousand Versts of Loneliness’; Hopi Sen’s Blog from the back room; Iain Dale’s Diary; Jack Night’s ‘Night Jack’; Mark Easton’s BBC News blog, ‘Mark Easton’s UK’; Neil Robertson’ ‘The Bleeding Heart Show’; Oliver Kamm’s Times Online blog; Paul Mason’s ‘Idle Scrawl’; The Heresiarch’s Heresy Corner; and Tom Harris’s ‘And another thing…’.

“While the Books and Journalism prizes have taken as their mantra Orwell’s ambition to ‘make political writing into an art’, the Blog Prize has looked to the day-to-day reflections in Orwell’s diaries for its criteria.” (via Granta)

[The March 12, 2009 issue of The New York Review of Books includes Julian Barnes’s essay, “Such, Such Was Eric Blair,” on George Orwell’s political writings. On his blog today, Andrew Sullivan writes of Barnes’s essay: “I’ve read a lot of Orwell and almost as much about him. This essay captures his Britishness – and avoids hagiography – as well as any I’ve read.”]

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porn-computer“Americans may paint themselves in increasingly bright shades of red and blue, but new research finds one thing that varies little across the nation: the liking for online pornography. . . .

“‘When it comes to adult entertainment, it seems people are more the same than different,’ says Benjamin Edelman at Harvard Business School.

“However, there are some trends to be seen in the data. Those states that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption, the study finds.

“‘Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by,’ Edelman says.”

For example:

  • Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year’s presidential election
  • Residents of 27 states that passed laws banning gay marriages boasted 11% more porn subscribers than states that don’t explicitly restrict gay marriage.
  • States where a majority of residents agreed with the statement “I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage,” bought 3.6 more subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed.
  • A similar difference emerged for the statement “AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behaviour.” (via New Scientist)

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googleUpdating my January 31st post, Google & the Future of Books: I received the following email today from Nancy Dolan at Kinsella Media, LLC, regarding the Google Book Search settlement –

“Thank you for your blog post about the Google Book Search settlement.  The process of notifying authors and publishers about the settlement has begun.  If you would like to update your readers with the court-approved Notice, which summarizes the settlement, important terms, claims process, and key dates, it is available at http://www.googlebooksettlement.com/notice.html.  Rightsholders may now claim their works at http://www.googlebooksettlement.com.”

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“Some insightful, primarily web-based record labels have found success in the rediscovering and re-issuing of lost vinyl classics, and in the process, they’ve resurrected some of the finest music ever forgotten. Forgoing major label methodology—mediocre “best of” anthologies and remastered big hits—these labels have instead done what true vinyl junkies have been doing for decades: They’ve sought out the unknowns, those songs and artists that somehow got caught and lost in the cracks.” (via GOOD)

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affluenceorg-logoIn fairness to the members of the Affluence.org community, I want to balance the impression left by my previous post that the organization is nothing more than a social network for rich people snubbing their noses at the poor or middle class.

From the Affluence.org “About Us” page, a description of the network’s membership and philanthropic mission:

“Affluence.org is an exclusive online social network for the affluent and influential aimed at forming a socially conscious, elite, and exclusive community that helps wealthy, influential, and affluent people make life better for both themselves and others. . . .

“Affluence.org conveys a strong sense of philanthropy and social responsibility demonstrated by featuring a detailed charity section where members can direct donations, RSVP to fund raising events, watch videos relating to the cause, or indicate that they support the charity.   Affluence.org also donated 15% of their monthly media, both print and online, to selected charities.”

From the “Promote Your Charities” page:

“All of the Organizations featured on Affluence are registerd 501(c)(3) non-profit. What does that mean? It means the organizations we feature took the time to make sure the IRS and the government know that they are committed to working for change, and are willing to be transparent and responsible for the sincerity of their actions and transactions. In short, they put the money where their cause is.”

Organizations include: Refuge House; Helping Kids in Poverty; NextAid; Charity: Water; Urban Resource Institute; and New Hope for Kids, among others.

[Thanks, Ken]

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money-duckTo join the exclusive online community at Affluence.org applicants must earn over $300,000 a year or have a household net worth of more than $3 million.

“A whole segment of internet entrepreneurs are working hard at building exclusive communities like this, online worlds that strike a balance between openness to new members and a hostility to the great unwashed.”

(via The National)

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dvd“Because of widely available broadband access and a new wave of streaming sites, it has become surprisingly easy to watch pirated video online — a troubling development for entertainment executives and copyright lawyers.”

(via NY Times)

[Earlier this week, for the first time, I watched a pirated movie, a DVD copy of a current-run Academy Award-nominated film apparently reproduced from an advance review video (during an early scene, for a few seconds, a message appeared on the bottom of the screen warning against reproduction or distribution of the video). I must admit to having had some misgivings about watching the DVD, yet what I mostly thought about was how commonplace it is to find for sale legally in bookstores, uncorrected proofs or review copies of new books sold to the stores by editors and reviewers, often in advance of the books’ release. Review copies of new books, not intended for resale, are so ubiquitous in New York City that it has become hard for me to justify paying full price for new titles.]

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Book Review Widows Of EastwickWhile searching the web for articles on John Updike I was amused to learn that Updike’s “The Widows of Eastwick” had been shortlisted for this past year’s Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award (he did not win, although he did receive a Lifetime Achievement Award).

One link led to another, which led to my thinking about the ubiquity of “pornography,” especially on the web. Shannon Rupp asserts that “the ubiquity of porn has rendered it invisible for most adults” and asks “why has pornographic imagery become such an acceptable part of public culture?” Bob Guccione, Jr., founder of Spin magazine and son of the founder of Penthouse magazine, opines on the future of pornography here.

Finally, here is a video clip from a November, 2008 interview of John Updike by Charlie Rose in which the author considers his “feminist detractors.”

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google

“How can we navigate through the information landscape that is only beginning to come into view? The question is more urgent than ever following the recent settlement between Google and the authors and publishers who were suing it for alleged breach of copyright. For the last four years, Google has been digitizing millions of books, including many covered by copyright, from the collections of major research libraries, and making the texts searchable online. The authors and publishers objected that digitizing constituted a violation of their copyrights. After lengthy negotiations, the plaintiffs and Google agreed on a settlement, which will have a profound effect on the way books reach readers for the foreseeable future. What will that future be?”

(via The New York Review of Books)

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facebook-logoAs a relatively new member of the Facebook community, I am continually fascinated by the myriad ways — good, bad and ugly — that individuals, groups and organizations utilize this far-reaching social network.  A few recent examples:

 Revolution, Facebook Style

 

On Facebook, Sicilian Mafia Is a Hot Topic

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