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Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Holiday greetings and inspiration for the year ahead

Posted by E on December 15, 2012

happy hanukkah

Here’s my year-end wish to all friends near and far: Have a wonderful Hanukkah, Holiday or whatever year-end celebrations you have coming. I know I’ve been terrible not to update this blog in something like 2 months, but I’ve been swamped with various gigs and my own writing projects.

Nothing much else to report, other than last month I was able to meet with my old Creative Writing professor from the University of Ottawa, Seymour Mayne. He was in Toronto for a reading, and we went out together afterwards. A couple of weeks later, I had the opportunity to be in Ottawa and we met on campus for an afternoon of lively conversation, European pastries and bittersweet reminiscing.

Just being around him infused me with the sense of hope and excitement I used to have while in his class — the first and ONLY creative writing class I will ever take. I remember that feeling well — that all you have to do is believe, funnel your creative talents outwards into the world, and magical things would happen. An alchemy of words, energy and infinite muses would come together to show you a path to your destiny.

I got lost on that path over the last few years. Nonetheless, I must force myself to stumble forward, even when I absolutely hate it, even when I can’t see a foot ahead of me, in the hopes that the dark forest will part one day and I will reach a destination where I will feel that I belong.

And on that note, I wish the same for all of you. May we all find kinship and love among one another, even when the howls of loneliness and doubt howl at our backs. May we all find a glowing hearth to rest besidem even when the worst of Arctic winds nip at our heels and the winter feels like it will never be over.

Posted in inspiration, technology, writing | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Small Press vs. Self-Publishing in the New Millenium

Posted by E on September 25, 2011

Ten years ago, if I couldn’t sell my book to a Big Six publisher I would gladly have taken the small press route. Heck, even as far back as five years ago I’d gladly have signed on the dotted line, and bragged to all my friends that at least I got a “real” publisher. I’d have used words like “legitimate” and “prestigious”, and snubbed my nose at the yucky self-published vanity “authors” who used to lurk in the gutter alleyways of imprints like Lulu.

But now, with the possibilities offered by Amazon and Smashwords, I wonder if any small publisher can come even close to the advantages offered by self-publishing. Not that self-publishing is a radically new thing. It’s basically what writers used to do for hundreds of years before established imprints took hold in the last century. So I asked this question on Twitter: If you can’t sell your book to Big Six publishers, would you go to a smaller press and get small/no advance OR self-publish?”

One person managed to give a nearly mono-syllabic answer: “small press”, but when I questioned whether splitting my royalties with a press who doesn’t have the marketing dollars to launch me (and thus force me to do my own marketing) is even worth it, she didn’t respond.

The answer seems obvious to me. I don’t begrudge the efforts of small presses and their editorial teams, but the fact of the matter is, most books published by small presses rarely sell more than about a thousand copies. Small presses do not have the budget for premium spots in bookstores, for massive advertising, and do rely heavily on authors marketing their own books. Which is something I already do every single day. And when my earnings are so small to begin with, I’m not sure I really want to split my royalties 85-15 (or worse) with a small press. I’m just being honest here.

Some may argue that small presses add an indispensable value to one’s book by providing expert editorial services and cover design. What I’d suggest is that if a writer so wishes, they can easily hire out editorial, formatting and graphic design services for a flat rate / one-time fee, rather than entering into contract with a publisher who cannot pay you an advance higher than four figures.

I believe we are living in the gold rush age of publishing. For the last couple of years, Big Six traditional publishers have bemoaned what they call a new evolution of the Guttenberg Press, an electronic Golden Age that they hope to survive unscathed. Hatchette and Random House executives have flown (no doubt first class) to meet Steve Jobs in the hope that Apple can somehow squash the Amazon revolution that precipitated a system in which Gatekeepers are being eliminated faster than one can say “Tyrannosaurus Rex.”

 I had a little laugh when I read about it, imagining all those execs in their crisp name-brand suits and ties, oiled briefcases in hand, walking pompously through Apple’s doors, thinking they have anything to leverage their arguments on. It was all the funnier, knowing that in the next five years, those New York penthouse residents will be lining up at their local Unemployment Office. Unless they package themselves out first, as several NY top editors already have been – and starting self-publishing consulting firms. Ah, the irony.

 This new age spells the end of MFA programs ran by greedy writers of the old generation, many of them mediocre writers in their own right, but who lucked out at a time when publishers would print nearly anything legible passed up the chain through nepotism and tapped favors. I mean, who in their right mind (aside from a trust fund baby) would spend $100K to get an MFA when there is no more Random House or Doubleday?

In the future literary universe, you’ll never get a huge advance. You’ll never have publishing execs speculate over your future success over endless luncheons. No, the only thing you will have to produce is a work that is good. Translation = that sells. That audiences, rather than editors and studio execs, will love.

 No more nepotism. No more favours. Of course, if you’re rich and can afford thousands on marketing, you’ll probably still manage to launch yourself out there. But without the gatekeepers, the world becomes a much more even playing field. Any hipster with a stack of flyers and a penchant for podcasting can generate the kind of grassroots buzz that can turn a coffee-stained manuscript into a bestseller.

In the new age we are entering, the ultimate gatekeeper will be the public. Only the AUDIENCE and the power of their mighty dollars will decide if your book has a future. NOT a nail-filing twenty-five year old acquisitions editor who’s rejecting anything on her desk that isn’t vampire teen porn.

 We are in a time of golden rushes. Thousands of new writers enter the self-publishing stampede with tin pan in hand, hoping to make their fortunes. Most will fail, in the same way that most authors in bookstores will fail to earn out their advance and never get anywhere.

But a few WILL succeed. Their ideas and manuscripts WILL strike gold, and when the dust settles they will enjoy the knowledge that they did it all on their own. That their success was entirely in their hands, and the profits they earned are not going toward paying for a Big Six publishers’ Fifth Avenue office suites and expense accounts, but in their own pockets.

We need to embrace this time of revolution, rather than cower and cling to sinking ships that are too bloated to sustain anybody. We need to remember that we at least have our talents and our fresh ideas, but agents and publishers, without their 15-90% cuts, have nothing. And that it was only a matter of time, in an industry that is barely a couple hundred years old, for things to change. For the unwashed masses on the outside of the palace gates to break through, behead anyone in the way and torch the whole bloody place down.

 Allons enfants de la Patrie! Le jour de gloire est arrive!

Posted in art, artist, books, commentary, culture, freedom, innovation, literature, publishing, technology, thoughts, writer, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Science uncovers the secrets of levitation

Posted by E on August 6, 2007


Soon, my darlings, soon we will all move through the air instead of operating vehicles. Wouldn’t that be grand?

Check out the articles below:

Scientists reveal levitation secrets talks about how British scientists are publishing a study in the New Journal of Physics that reveals how they were able to levitate micro-objects.

Reading this is bound to make you question that skeptical bone in your body – and whether all those yogi’s and buddhist masters had it right all along – that by instituting change at the molecular level, they can lift themselves and other objects.

Scientists levitate small animals is another great article that details how Chinese scientists are now able to levitate small animals and fish, using only a special frequency of ultrasonic sounds. Their most recent achievements were a whole collection of small insects, a tadpole, fish eggs and even some fish.

Apparently the real purpose of these tests is to develop a method of handling dangerous compounds without the risks introduced by using a container which could potentially corrode or react badly with the compound. We can’t say as much for the industrial applications of levitating fish 🙂

The Casimir effect was first proposed and formulated in 1948 and is part of the larger theoretical network of Quantum field theory, which is a fascinating aspect of physics that I have recently began to explore. Quantum Field Theory, incidentally, is also related to the exploration of the time-space continuum – in laymen’s terms, the search for time travel possibilities.

Fascinating stuff, isn’t it?

If you haven’t heard of String Theory, look it up sometime. It’ll blow your mind.

Posted in innovation, news, physics, press, science, technology, thoughts, time travel | 4 Comments »

Losing our memories and our past because of digital photography

Posted by E on August 3, 2007


I own a couple of digital cameras and use them at every opportunity. A camera phone too, but I don’t take too it seriously.

Unlike a lot of people I know, I try as much as I can to print out my photos – and when there are special occasions, I create beautiful photo books that everyone praises and wows over. (Incidentally, the best software/photo book providers I have found for myself are MyPublisher and Shutterfly – the first is really good but very complicated; the latter is a lot simpler to work with, and recently has also adopted full-bleed pages, which make it serious competition to MyPublisher).

But photo books printed on acid-free paper cost money. Sometimes a lot of money when you’re doing a book of every trip or major occasion. And how often do you actually get all your digital photos printed out, anyway?

Maybe you will sift through and print the best ones (in your opinion) rather than everything, to save on ink cartriges and cost of photo paper. After all, that is why we all switched to digital photography, right? So we wouldn’t have to go to the trouble and expense of having to take our film rolls to the lab, pay a processing fee, wait an hour or a few days, and discover that out of 22 pictures, only half came out properly – well-lit, positioned, and where you actually were not yawning, blinking, or yelling at someone to come into the shot.

Pre-screening what you print is indeed the luxury of digital photography. You become the editor, selectively deciding which memories will remain, and which .jpgs will be zapped at the click of a button. The process reminds me of my writing process – and how often I will get ready to put away a piece that I didn’t think was appealing or particularly good, when someone will grab it, read it, and go on about how it “speaks” to them. These occasions taught me a lot about being careful not to edit too much, not to “zap” away what others may see as a treasured item.

I recently came across an article that made an intriguing assertion about digital photography – that it is creating a hole in our memories.

Joanna Wane wrote: “Slipping into the past used to be a magical journey through the cobwebs and mothballs in grandma’s basement…boxes of old photographs and family albums that reached back in time to another world…Even if the pictures of long-lost relatives and distant childhood were faded or torn, beautiful new prints could be taken from negatives often decades old…For the millennium generation… they’ll revisit the past by flicking through digital images on computer – if any survive.

Concern is being raised that our pictorial history is at risk. Few of the images taken on digital cameras are ever printed out, which means many are permanently lost when the file is deleted or damaged.

At the professional level, the more critical problem is digital storage. The fear is that as technology evolves, any storage medium in use today will eventually become obsolete and the material it holds lost to future generations…few are thinking much beyond immediate use. ”

Jim McGee, a US photographer and publisher of online Vivid Light Photography Magazine recently highlighted the plight of a reader who lost four years’ worth of images when his hard drive crashed and a new computer wouldn’t read his back-up CDs.

“The digital era is a threat to memories”, wrote Lorna Edwards of The Photographic Council of Australia (PICA). “Historical records as well as family albums may suffer, with less than 20 per cent of pictures making it into print.

But instead of printing pictures when memory cards fill up, most digital camera owners store them on hard drives, which are at risk of being lost in computer crashes or virus attacks, or may not be printable in years to come due to technological changes.
Those photographs that are printed at home are often not on photographic-quality paper and are therefore destined to fade.”

“The tragedy is we may well look back on this period as a time when very few photographs were printed.”

Douglas Rushkoff wonders in Photographs and Memories that “our evolution from digital cameras to camera phones” endangers “the way in which we relate to images, the memories they evoke, and perhaps even history itself.”

Having gone all the way from analog photography to the digital photo era (and he feels to have lost the quality in his photographs, the value, the memory and the meaning) he wonders “instead of elevating the events in our lives to ´memories` as we did in the Kodak era, we are simply grabbing some visual data points or a momentary sensation. The intentionality is gone. And unless the image is spectacular (not in execution, but in its content) we’ll trash it without printing. Who can be bothered filing all those little jpegs?”

He concludes: “As photography becomes less time-consuming, less crafted, less intentional, and less expressed through physically realized artifacts, it will lose its ability to elevate the moments and subjects its captures. Just as monarchs established their nobility through time-consuming portraiture (for which they, themselves, were required to sit), people with film cameras could sanctify their loved ones, and – perhaps more importantly – measure and even control the passage of time by subjecting the moment to a carefully organized and meticulously processed exposure.

The immense popularity of the cameraphone may ultimately signal – like the ascendance of reality TV – a victory of content over art, or message over medium. Sure, we’ll get a whole lot more well-documented car crashes. But our experience of photography may be reduced from moments of inspired awe to ephemeral voyeuristic gaping.”

What will happen to our JPEGs and TIFFs in the future? Will they physically survive? How long will these digital file standards exist? The life cycle of image file formats is limited in time, digital storage devices pass off, some people even lose many years’ worth of memories when hard drives crash, are stolen, or malfunction.

We must take action today.

We can still save our memories – there is still time – but we have to create hard copies, we have to print good quality photos as much as possible, we have to make that effort. Or there will be little to share with the generations to come.


Posted in art, children, commentary, culture, family, life, media, photography, press, technology, thoughts | Leave a Comment »

Canada’s low rank in innovation – a culture of mediocrity

Posted by E on July 12, 2007

Last month an international study reported that when it comes to creativity and innovation, Canada ranks abysmally low when compared to other industrial nations.

When chalked up against 17 other countries, Canada ranked highest in complacency. Promptly upon the distribution of the findings, released by the think-tank Conference Board of Canada, waves were made and a lot of people began clucking and shaking their heads.

“This country is doing dismally in the critically important area of innovation,” wrote Anne Golden, board president of  the Conference Board of Canada. “And the implications of that failure . . . show up in the absence of creative policy and investment decisions across all the other domains.”

Although doing fairly well in the arenas of education and health care, when it came to the area of innovation, Canada scored 14th out of 17, behind the US and most countries in Western Europe.

“Canada’s scientists don’t keep up with their global peers in the number of articles published, and its inventors don’t keep up in the number of patents, the report shows. For its competitive advantage, it relies on natural resources, and adds little value to goods or services. Canada has a shortage of skilled labour and graduates a low share of science, engineering and trades experts.
The country doesn’t take advantage of high technology, or keep up in the commercialization of knowledge.

“Canadians are complacent and generally unwilling to take risks,” the report points out. “This culture holds Canada back.”

Hmmm, why does this sound so familiar? Could it be because I’ve been saying this for years?
Canada’s deplorable lack of innovation is nowhere more visible than in the Arts field. There is such resistance to anything new, fresh, and vibrant.

In literature today, if one can even call it that, there are very few noticeable talents. Most writers will not get published unless they copy the old style of the same snub-nosed literati who can be discerned by their penchant to stop by the Governor General’s residence for a mid-afternoon tea and a spot of ditty.

Innovation is not only unrecognized in the Arts, it is punished. The only rewards come from being rewarded for staying well within the ranks of a mediocre culture that doesn’t even recognize it has no culture anymore. It hasn’t for a long, long time.

For an in-depth analysis of this topic, please see my previous posts: Integrity vs. Literary Prizes, and Impending Downfall of the inbred Canadian literary world.

Posted in art, books, canada, canadian literature, commentary, culture, innovation, literature, news, press, publishing, technology, thoughts, writer, writing | Leave a Comment »

Video podcast becomes 6-figure Book Deal

Posted by E on April 16, 2007

Here’s a tidbit for all of you who still think stale old conventional publishing is the one-and-only, tried-and-true way to go:A recent quote from Publishers Marketplace:

“Internet sensation (and recent winner of the YouTube Video Award for Best Series based on viewer voting) creators Douglas Sarine and Kent Nichols’s THE NINJA HANDBOOK: A Guide for Non-Ninjas To Become More Ninja-like, claiming to be the first “video podcast to book” deal, to Julian Pavia at Crown, for six figures, at auction, by Joe Veltre of Artists Literary Group (NA). Ask a Ninja is represented by UTA and manager John Elliott at Mosiac Media.”

Indeed. There are thousands of people every year, from online bloggers to video podcasters, to unwashed-in-their-parents’-basement-nerd-geeks who operate fan-driven websites, who are offered hundreds of thousands of dollars, some millions, in publishing and take-over deals.

The young guys who created YouTube, the other people who started Television without Pity, and so many others on the web, have been bought out in multiple million-dollar deals by major corporations.  There are online bloggers with a bigger fanbase than most Canadian writers today. Publishers come to them, and not the other way around.

Wake up and smell the possibilities, people! A new world is on the horizon. If you want to wait around for a publisher to call you – guess what? He won’t. He’ll be too busy having lunch with me discussing my new book tour. He’ll be too busy calling up people who have a track record of generating their own publicity and their own success. 

There are countless possibilities to begin making a name for yourself, the very least of which involves peddling your manuscript inconsolably while doors are getting slammed in your face. You don’t need to kiss a publisher’s ass any longer.  

YOU are your own agent.

Get busy. Start today. 

Posted in art, books, canadian literature, commentary, literature, media, news, poetry, politics, print-on-demand, publishing, technology, thoughts, writing | 1 Comment »