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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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