Musings on Place, Travel, Books, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts

Archive for January, 2011

January 29th, 2011 • Posted in Authors and Books

Where do Amazon, Visa, Mastercard and Paypal get off pulling the plug on WikiLeaks?

Henry Porter in a piece entitled ‘The elite howl when hit by light of truth‘ in the Guardian Weekly suggests that ‘unseen affinities of the powerful’  may be:

"…responsible for the unforgivable behaviour by Amazon, which pulled the plug on hosting WikiLeaks, and PayPal, Visa and MasterCard, which unilaterally stopped customers making donations to WikiLeaks. There was not the slightest consideration of principles about free information or the freedom of their customers to make up their own minds. What next? Will these corporate giants be blocking payment to the New York Times and the Guardian? It is hard to feel much regret over the cyber attacks on their websites because, in the end, they did not seem much better than Shell and Pfizer, the companies that appear to be running so much of Nigeria like the worst type of imperial powers."

I wonder if Amazon, Paypal, Visa or Mastercard have given their customers or publics a rationale for their behavior? Perhaps they felt it their patriotic duty to pull the plug on WikiLeaks…perhaps they agree with Sarah Palin that Julian Assange should be treated like a member of the Taliban? It would be nice to get some explanation of why they treated Wikileaks differently than The New York Times, or The Guardian; just as it will be nice to see how the U.S. government plans to prosecute WikiLeaks and not the aforementioned media companies.

January 27th, 2011 • Posted in Authors and Books

Four Versions of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto ll. Adagio, on his birthday

I used to drive James Last’s American Gigolo soundtrack version of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto II. Adagio into the ground when it first came out. Couldn’t find it on Youtube. There is one note in Last’s solo that goes down, where most other versions go up…Perhaps he made a mistake. No doubt it’s because Last’s effort is the one most familiar to me…but, ironically, all others somehow seem wrong, slightly off. Anyhow, give these four a listen today, on Mozart’s birthday. Which do you prefer?

Andrew Marriner

Sabine Meyer

Michael Frost

Julian Bliss

January 26th, 2011 • Posted in Authors and Books

Robert Burns’ beautiful Highland Mary

Robert Burns met Mary Campbell – a nursemaid who worked for a friend – in 1786 shortly after he was ‘deserted’ by Jean Armour. They had an intense relationship lasting barely a month, exchanged matrimonial vows according to Scottish Law (something to do with bibles and waterfalls) and parted company to make arrangements to emigrate to Jamaica.  This was not to happen, for Mary died in Greenock in October 1786, possibly in premature childbirth, induced by typhus. Burns wrote four poems about her. Here is the beautiful

Highland Mary

Ye banks, and braes, and streams around
The castle o’ Montgomery!
Green be your woods, and fair your flowers,
Your waters never drumlie:
There Simmer first unfauld her robes,
And there the langest tarry;
For there I took the last Farewell
O’ my sweet Highland Mary.

How sweetly bloom’d the gay, green birk,
How rich the hawthorn’s blossom,
As underneath their fragrant shade,
I clasp’d her to my bosom!
The golden Hours on angel wings,
Flew o’er me and my Dearie;
For dear to me, as light and life,
Was my sweet Highland Mary.

Wi’ mony a vow, and lock’d embrace,
Our parting was fu’ tender;
And, pledging aft to meet again,
We tore oursels asunder;
But oh! fell Death’s untimely frost,
That nipt my Flower sae early!
Now green’s the sod, and cauld’s the clay
That wraps my Highland Mary!

O pale, pale now, those rosy lips,
I aft hae kiss’d sae fondly!
And clos’d for aye, the sparkling glance
That dwalt on me sae kindly!
And mouldering now in silent dust,
That heart that lo’ed me dearly!
But still within my bosom’s core
Shall live my Highland Mary.

January 25th, 2011 • Posted in Authors and Books

That Beautiful song on the soundtrack to Restrepo…

…is called “Izlel e Delyo Haidutin”, and it’s sung by Valya Balkanska. A Bulgarian song used in the must-see documentary movie “Restrepo”, which depicts close-up the hellish existence of a group of young American soldiers on assignment in Afghanistan.

January 25th, 2011 • Posted in Authors and Books

Theme to that iPad commercial…

is Never Stop by Chilly Gonzales

first 60 seconds is about all we need I’d say.

January 24th, 2011 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio Interview with Richard Charkin, Bloomsbury’s Executive Director, on the Challenges of Book Publishing, and the Publishers who have best met them


Richard Charkin began his career in 1972 as Science Editor of Harrap & Co. He has since held many senior positions in the publishing world with companies such as Pergamon Press, Oxford University Press, Reed International/Reed Elsevier, and Current Science Group. At Macmillan Publishers Limited he served as Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck. He was also Chairman of Macmillan India Ltd.

In 2007 he was appointed Executive Director of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.  with responsibility for operations worldwide, and focus on spearheading growth through acquisitions, new publishing areas and international expansion. He’s also a damned fine blogger, and a captivating raconteur.

I met with Richard recently at his home in London. We talked in his garden – in competition with the occasional helicopter, police siren and airplane – about what he considers to be the biggest challenges facing book publishing, and those publishers who he thinks have best met them.

Please listen here:

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

Copyright © 2011 by Nigel Beale.

January 24th, 2011 • Posted in Authors and Books, On Book Collecting

Now, more than ever, Books are like Diamonds

Friends of the Thompkins County Library Booksale, Ithaca, N.Y.

I’ve been hanging, far too long, onto a hopeless notion: that the books I own are worth something – they’re not. O course I do have some valuable titles, but many more, acquired over the past decade – first editions in fine/fine condition – aren’t worth as much now as they were when I paid for them. Sure I’ve enjoyed having them on the shelves around me, even enjoyed reading a few of them. But now it’s time to clear space for another collection focus, and I wont get anywhere near what I think they’re worth. Not even in trade.

Sadly this makes it very difficult to do what many authorities used to point to as one of the most enjoyable aspects of book collecting. Trading up, as painful as it is to admit, just doesn’t work anymore – too much supply. With Kindles and iPads, Kobos and Nooks, too many are clearing house. No longer can you scout book sales with much hope of profit. No longer can you enlist your gargantuan biblio knowledge of what’s good, what’s great, to spot winning titles and turn them into gold – not unless you’re 100 times luckier than normal.

Books I’ve reluctantly come to conclude are like diamonds: they’re beautiful. You can be proud to own them; you can spend many rich hours admiring them, showing them off even, but when it comes to unloading them, trading them in, beware, you wont make your money back. Now more than ever, if you love books and want to develop a collection that’s worth something you must think very, very hard not only about the content, but also about the container.

January 23rd, 2011 • Posted in Nigel Beale Photos

How French Executioners got the blood off their hands

Legend has it that the executioners in Le Mans used to wipe their hands on this pillar (Le pilier rouge) to get the blood off them.


and here’s what they did with the guys whose necks were too tough to chop through…


note at the bottom of the Pilier Rouge the big stones jutting out of the ground


they were used by pedestrians to hide their tootsies behind when horse carriages came lumbering through the narrow streets


January 22nd, 2011 • Posted in Nigel Beale Photos

Pastries on a Saturday morning


January 21st, 2011 • Posted in Authors and Books

Iranium and the right to air propaganda

The Free Thinking Film Society hit the jackpot last week thanks to cancellation of its showing of the documentary film Iranium at the National Archives of Canada. The showing was called off by the Archives after it received phone calls and ‘suspicious’ letters, apparently threatening violence. The Iranian embassy also filed a formal complaint, objecting to the showing (not to mention the content).

The result of this is:

  • way more exposure for the Free Thinkers’ message than it might ever otherwise have received; 
  • opportunity for Ministers of the crown to both (1) Espouse raison d’etre principles -  upholding ‘freedom’ and ‘free speech’ in the face of  violent denial of it – and (2) To lord it over a public institution that may well only have been operating according to the book, where public safety concerns take precidence over less immediately discernable, measurable threats to such things as freedom of speech
  • following on the first point: sold out crowds at future showings of the film.

Here’s the trailer:

Of course the point here is not to proclaim the veracity of Iranium’s message – from the trailer alone one can tell that it’s a skilled work of propaganda complete with Hans Zimmer-like background music and inherent hypocracies – but rather the right that everybody – and given how inexpensive it now is to produce films I do mean everybody-  in our country has to express his or her own version of the ‘truth,’ however warped, propagandistic or inaccurate it may be.