Willy Lit Fest Part 2: eBooks

Well, okay. I had said this post was coming a day or two after my previous one. But I guess I hadn’t factored in driving to Canberra and back again, preparing to move house,  getting sick,  and a confounded devil named procrastination. But! This post’s subject matter remains relevant, I already had a draft written, and I just had to get it finished before getting down to my Emerging Writer’s Festival blogging. Anyway, excuses are lame, so enough of all that and on to eBooks!

The third and final panel I attended at Willy Lit Fest was named From the Quill to the Kindle, and up on stage was Torpedo editor Chris Flynn, Meanjin editor Sophie Cunningham, and Penguin Books senior editor Dmitri Kakmi. Again, before I begin, Ms Thuy Lin has a great roundup of this panel already, so I won’t go repeating everything. But I guess, along with some stuff from the panel, I had a few other things to discuss regarding eBooks.

One of the main questions the panel raised was whether books as we know them now will eventually ‘die’. I don’t see it happening any time soon and I think the two will coexist quite peacefully for a while yet. But will it, inevitably, eventually, happen? I know the comparison isn’t perfect, but if you look at the similar situation faced by the music industry, there remains a decent amount of people who still buy CDs and even vinyl, in addition to, or rather than, downloading. Maybe books will become something of a similarly fetishised or desirable physical object, kept alive by true believers. The arguments for physical books share similarities with those for CDs and vinyl: the ability to have an actual artefact that you can hold in your hands, show off to others, touch and smell. For many, these physical objects are more tactile and aesthetically pleasing, the cover/packaging/design looks better, or the experience may just be more ‘authentic’, more than ‘just data’ or, simply, it might be all about embracing a different but equally worthy medium. Like comparing a vinyl record to a folder of mp3s, a book is a different experience to an eBook, and both have their pros and cons. A page I bookmarked a while back, Books in the Age of the iPad by Craig Mod, explores something along these lines: the difference between Formless Content and Definite Content.

Another barrier I perceive to eBook adoption is the devices. If your paperback is lost, stolen, damaged, dropped in the bath or what have you, it’s not nearly as big a deal as the same thing happening to your new Kindle or iPad, along with any associated data you can’t retrieve. And if you’re not particularly well-off, mightn’t you just go to the library for all the free books you want, rather than purchasing a device worth hundreds of dollars?

For sure, when Sophie held up what must have been an imported iPad (a first for an Australian literary festival, she wondered?), I was a bit excited. I’ve only tinkered briefly with friend’s iPhones and I’m keen to play around some more with these new devices. However, none of them look like something I’d buy. There is definitely an appeal to their many features, but I feel like the eReader medium is still in its early transitional stages, and I won’t be as interested until there’s something like colour e-ink and a move away from both DRM restrictions and monopolisation, where only Apple and Amazon seem to call the shots.  Still, the fact of the matter is that in Australia we’re still lagging behind the USA and other countries when it comes to this sort of technology, so we do get an element of foresight to the developments.

One argument that Chris Flynn made for the transition to eReaders is an environmental one. To me, this is where the eBook option starts to look way more appealing. The proportion of books made with non-recycled paper really is disturbing (again, Thuy Lin’s got the stats). Indie publishers do better in this regard, I’ve noticed, but there are so many mass-market paperbacks, disposable magazines and bulky textbooks that would be much more environmental and sensible on an eReader platform.

I do wonder, however, what the environmental and social costs are if millions of people are always purchasing the latest eReaders, iPhones, iPods, iPads, smartphones, laptops, etc. Here are just two articles that at least begin to interrogate some of the other factors behind eReaders and the like: the costs, conditions and materials involved in manufacturing; whether ‘conflict minerals’ are used; and the huge amount of greenhouse gases involved in maintaining ever-expanding computer/server networks. I think, especially if these things are noted and start to be addressed, and we get eBooks and eReaders right, then they will be indeed be a far greener and greater option.

Someone on the panel made another interesting assertion: that publishing is always behind the eight-ball, and that tech companies are taking publishing from the publishers. This, so far, has not just meant a bypassing of the usual production and distribution channels, but lots of secrecy and Digital Rights Management.

A somewhat recent post on Mobylives outlines a few of the problems with DRM. At the other end of the argument, of course, are people worrying about piracy wrecking the book business. I’m still not sure where a balance lies so that artists and publishers see rewards for their efforts, without placing unnecessary burdens or restrictions on their audience. I like Cory Doctorow’s thoughts on the matter (here’s a good three-part interview with him), but I’m not sure his approach can apply to everyone. But still, any DRM that is applied can and will be broken: Kindle’s DRM was broken last year. In the end, I’d like to think that if you offer high quality, assured, open, flexible and beneficial content for a reasonable price, a good amount of people, especially your loyal fans, will be happy to pay for it. And at least those who don’t are still reading and sharing your stuff.

Interlude: relevant webcomic!

Another related interesting point that arose in the panel: I’d never considered the legal deposit issues that come with eBooks. When a work like a book is created in Australia, the publisher is required to send copies the State and National Library for archiving and such. But if you’re only giving away DRM-locked licenses to books (as with the Kindle) rather than actual copies, it makes legal deposit rather difficult. Libraries can’t actually store a lendable copy, because Kindle eBooks can’t be shared and loaned, thanks to their DRM. It’s very odd to think that when you buy a book, it still doesn’t belong to you, and that the provider can actually alter or remove it from your device remotely.

Beyond all of that DRM stuff, I was interested in what Sophie talked about concerning changing mediums, and how they change the reading and writing process. From speech to handwriting, to redrafting over and over on a typewriter, to the cut and paste of computers, and on to the podcast/audiobook/eBook/multimedia situation we find ourselves in now, with all the associated multitasking distractions and possibilities. (Meanland has been exploring this stuff in more detail). Compare all this to the more fixed text of a book. But we have to remember: the novel is only 200 years old. Novels may well become rarefied, kept alive only by true believers, and maintain an old-fashioned status, akin to opera today. But people will always want stories, and many will want long-form narratives. So really, there’s no need for concern.

Finally, I believe Dmitri Kakmi mentioned this video to illustrate the merging of reading with play; it’s a fusion between iPhone and Book: the PhoneBook!(?):

I guess after all this rumination (I really need to write some shorter posts), I’ll finish with a link to a recent post by Emmett Stinson, who hopes, as I do, that with the arrival of the iPad, the launch of Kobo and other imminent developments, we can stop talking about the future of digital publishing in Australia and start talking about what’s actually happening in the present.

And with that, I think I’ll end my rambling about eBooks and Willy Lit Fest. But as one festival passes, another emerges. Thus, the Emerging Writers Festival began on Friday night, with The First Word. I went along, and I’m planning to get as involved as I can in the rest of the festival. In the spirit of that, I plan to get my blog on harder than ever. Starting today!

Willy Lit Fest Part 1: Being Frankie and Talking Blogs

Last weekend I ventured along to the Williamstown Literary Festival and checked out a couple of panels:  Let’s Be frankie, Literary Blogging and From the Quill to the Kindle. All in all, it was good stuff, and it was nice to experience a different part of Melbourne, one that’s more like a coastal town, with the sea breeze, fish n chips and hordes of seagulls, along with some good literary company.

Thuy Linh Nguyen has already written about her experiences going to two of these panels, and Lisa Dempster has expanded on some of the stuff covered in her blogging panel, which I’ll get to later. But first, Let’s Be frankie.

I was drawn to this one because, while I don’t mind the odd look through a frankie mag if I see one,  I really wanted to see Marieke Hardy and Benjamin Law. The former, still jetlagged from an extended holiday in volcano-wracked Iceland, I’ve long been a fan of, thanks to First Tuesday Bookclub, JJJ Breakfast, her blog and her numerous other writings.  The latter I recently became a fan of, upon reading his hilarious story about murdering cockroaches en masse in the latest Brow. And I’m really looking forward to his first book, The Family Law. PLUS he just did an interview with Virgule, the newish Voiceworks blog. Check it.

So with Susan Bird as chair, and plenty of  audience interlocution, their casual discussion covered all kinds of things, from freelancing to Twitter to Ben’s mum’s vagina.

Ben, who often writes somewhat ‘personal’ stuff about his partner, parents and siblings, mentioned that family is such an interesting subject for writing because it’s one of the basic social units, like a microcosm of society. It’s true, your family shapes who you are and how you relate to people. Plus everyone’s got one, so it’s always at least somewhat relatable.

They discussed how important it is to run your material past the people you’re writing about if you think there’s the slightest chance they might have issues with it. Plus, it really helps to flesh out your work and get a new perspective on it.

They went on to discuss that, sure it can be good to be honest and lay everything on the table when you write, but have you really thought about the consequences of putting what you’re writing out into the world? Have you considered your audience and the context and how it could be received? Some boundaries are important. Sure, external censorship is something to take a stand against, but it’s interesting to think about how important self-censorship can be, for good or ill. And all of this applies not just to stories, articles and essays, but to blog posts, status updates and even microblogging/tweets (hello Catherine Deveny). They also touched on the idea of ‘the illusion of intimacy’, which I’ll get to later.

Ben discussed the life of a freelancer. He always strives to find something interesting in any dull freelance gig he takes on, and noted how easy it is to get overloaded, because you always think every assignment is going to be your last. He also recommended that, when you’re writing, you should keep a template of ‘good writing’ close by (or perhaps at the back of your mind), so that you’ve got something to aim for, no matter how high you’re aiming.

Marieke mentioned how handy she found News Ltd. lawyers, as dull as they might sound, and how they kept her out of trouble 99% of the time when she wrote for the Green Guide. Still, she was a little surprised that the people she’s writing about actually read her columns and sometimes take offense. It was similar back when she was writing her blog. She saw it as a place to vent, and didn’t really consider any potential offense, defamation or other trouble she could face. It’s funny, I guess when you’re a lone blogger, most people aren’t going to bother taking you to court, whereas a huge organisation like The Age with a reputation, stakeholders and circulation necessitates the team of lawyers.

She also discussed how it’s easier writing about crap TV, because writing about programmes you love just turns into celebratory, masturbatory drivel. Finally, she compared her scriptwriting to her blogging, and discussed how writing for TV doesn’t get much personal response when the finished product finally emerges, whereas writing online has the benefit of immediacy and instant feedback.

*

Speaking of writing online, the next day, satisfied but eager for more, I went along to the Literary Blogging panel, with Lisa Dempster and Angela Meyer (aka Ms LiteraryMinded), both of whom have blogs I follow and enjoy reading, so I was interested to hear their thoughts. There were plenty of questions from the small but engaged crowd and it gave me a lot to think about.

They both agreed that blogging can help you find your voice, build your style and help you grow as a unique writer. Lisa reckoned writing her book Neon Pilgrim was easier because she’d been blogging for so long. She didn’t have to struggle to find a writing voice; she already had that part mostly sorted.

They said that blogging is a discipline to stick to, and that you have to want to stick to it, then it builds its own momentum, just like other forms of writing I guess. But it’s unique in that it’s a good way to test ideas and see what others are thinking. You can admit that your ideas aren’t fully formed and open them up for discussion.

Angela says she still questions her role when she’s blogging: is she a reviewer? A cultural commentator? ‘Just a blogger’? Or, simply, a writer? It’s part of the necessary constant process of self-reflexivity.

And again, they touched on this idea of self-censorship. They wondered about ‘stepping on toes’, especially in such a tight community like that of Australian literary bloggers. You want to be honest, but there is always a degree of self-censorship. The question is where to draw the line. Personally, I want to be able to critique art, literature, media and the world around me, but at the same time, it can be damn hard to really call out perceived major flaws in something, or someone’s work, especially if they’re just starting out or you know them personally. So do you tone down your critique, not put up a review, or be bold, harsh but fair, and give an open opportunity for anyone to reply, refute and defend?

They also discussed this ‘illusion of intimacy’ idea that Ben and Marieke touched on. Sometimes these writers have been accused of being not just honest, but ‘oversharers’. But the fact is, people often don’t know about all the stuff that they’re not sharing. It can seem like they’re telling readers everything about their life and readers might feel that they know everything about them. But like all art, blogging is a constructed representation, and while you may be getting an honest picture and feel you know all about the author, you only know about them from what they give you. Three quarters of their life, or more, might not even be hinted at.

Is this ‘illusion’ a bad thing? Not really. Unless you want to go, warts and all, publishing the minutiae of your life, while alienating everyone you know and possibly facing legal action, it’s hard to have it otherwise. The boundary has to lie somewhere. In the end, of course, it has to be a personal decision. As long as you strive to be honest and fair in what you do reveal, and seriously consider what to publish and what to hold back, then it’s all good.

When asked about whether one should try to blend a large variety of topics in one blog , Lisa replied that cross-over is fine. The blog is your blog, so its topic is always going to be you and your interests. Other people have cross-over interests too, and if your blog is good enough, people will keep coming back for the stuff that they’re interested in, and won’t mind the odd uninteresting post.

There were a couple of other tidbits to think about:

  • A blog evolves over time and has its own narrative. So in a sense, a blog is a story.
  • Before the rise of Facebook and Twitter, people used online ‘handles’ more often. But now with such sites we’re commonly going by our real names online, or our real names are not so hidden anymore. Interesting point.
  • How is blogging perceived? How do you perceive it? Is it for your ‘best’ work? Does it really distract you from other writing? Or is it just a part of the broader spectrum of writing?
  • Finally, they mentioned two interesting things I’d never really heard of: blog tours, where someone hops along onto various blogs from all over the place, providing guest posts on each. Then there’s blog carnivals, where various bloggers all riff on a chosen topic, and they can engage with each others ideas on that topic.

Essentially, this panel built on what I already knew about blogging, gave me a lot to consider and gave me a good kick in the rear to blog more. All in all, blogging is experimental: it’s an experiment for each individual and also because the internet is a medium in flux, all of this stuff is still changing and being negotiated.

Speaking of emergent mediums: eBooks!

But that final panel will have to wait for Part 2, in the next day or two. This time I’m not going to go away for a week or so; I’m going to get some of that momentum happening with this blogging thing.

W+E4DM Web Feature Portfolio Part 4 – Junglist Out

This is part 4 of my Web Feature Portfolio for Writing and Editing for Digital Media. My articles are for ‘the Australian online magazine of culture and the popular arts’, The Enthusiast. My fourth and final article is a feature for their ‘TV’ category.

When casual fans tuned in to ABC’s Good Game several weeks ago, they may have been a little confused. The video game programme’s co-founder and co-host, Junglist (Jeremy Ray), was gone. In his place was a new host, Hex (Stephanie Bendixsen). It was only at the episode’s end that a quick farewell was given to Junglist, without further explanation. Casual fans may have been somewhat perturbed and puzzled by Junglist’s abrupt mid-season disappearance. But for the hardcore Good Game fans, an uproar had already begun.

Three days before the show aired, the decision was announced via an impersonal press release on the Good Game forums, followed by numerous posts back and forth, and finally a slightly more personal follow-up announcement nearly a week later. The lack of openness was galling enough, considering this is a show tagged as being “by gamers, for gamers”. But then Junglist commented on the forums that lies were circulating, only part of the story was being told, and in fact, his axing was forced on him from above, in a stated effort to gain “mass appeal” through a female presenter. Apparently, Junglist had also been contesting the lack of time allotted for reviewing games, or had ‘performance issues’, depending on who you listen to.

The story spread, with articles from gaming websites, mainstream commercial media and the ABC itself. Everyone had their side of the story (as far as possible within confidentiality agreements) and fans voiced their opinions at every opportunity. Amid the secrecy, speculation and internet chatter, the truth is elusive. Of course, a website was also created to redress the problem, or just provide a gathering place of support. In the end, the main issue is that ABC management made another bungle in their handling of this and they neglected their established fanbase. A familiar name shares the blame: Head of Arts and Entertainment, Amanda Duthie, the same woman dumped as Head of Comedy after she gave that Chaser sketch the green light.

Still, the ire has died down somewhat. Hex has been on for three weeks and after a bumpy start, it looks like there may be hope for the show yet. It’s just a shame they chose two ‘casual’ gamers, and removed the differing perspective of an established ‘hardcore’ gamer. This week marked the first time Hex and Bajo even had a significant disagreement about a game; even they felt it was noticeable enough to point out. Bajo and Hex would have been perfect for the upcoming children’s version of the programme, Good Game: SP on ABC3, with Junglist and Bajo remaining for the original and its subsequent increase in ‘mature’ content. Instead, we’ll have to wait and see how it all progresses, and whether ABC has learnt their lesson and will listen to the show’s fans, or at least talk openly with them, before any other drastic decisions are made.

Still, the show is worth watching. Whether you’re a casual gamer, semi-fanatic, or even a non-gamer, there’s plenty to keep you interested. Bajo and Hex even live-tweet the show as it airs every week on ABC2. For anyone who wants an idea of the show, a fond reminder of things past, or, just maybe, a sample of the madcap antics and nerdy enthusiasm that the show could reach again soon, there’s this lovingly made video montage: a tribute to Junglist and the show he helped to create.

Final words (for now)

Well, besides the pending Part 4 of my Web Portfolio, this is the last thing I’ll be putting up on this blog. But not forever.

Although it was undertaken as an assignment for my Writing and Editing for Digital Media class, I’ve taken a bit of a shine to working on this blog. Once I’ve finished my other assignments, had a bit of a break and received marks that confirm I indeed will qualify for graduation, I’ll be back. The focus of the blog might be a bit more casual, maybe a bit more serious, experimental, diverse, random, focused, who knows! I have a few ideas, but by the new year, I’ll be trying my hand at blogging here anew.

Before then, here’s a list of eight comments, thoughts, musings and things I’ve learned through the W+E4DM class and through my my blog so far:

• I’ve really enjoyed reading a diversity of blogging I otherwise might not have read, on topics from Facebook to fashion to kung fu. It’s great to read things outside my usual bubble of activity. If anyone in my class keeps blogging, I’ll keep reading and commenting.

• Blogging is pretty fun and addictive. I didn’t realise what a sad little thrill it would be to check out my blog stats thingo every day. People visited! People linked to my blog! People clicked my links! People searched for ‘peter bakowski blog’ and found mine instead! (it’s here btw). And best of all is when people read and comment and it seems like they’ve genuinely engaged with what I’ve written, even if it’s just in a small way. Or when your blog opens up opportunities to interact with people you’ve only briefly met, people you’d only heard of, or even total strangers. I didn’t think this blog would have an audience outside the class, let alone get visits from other acquaintances, established writers or a random dude from Copenhagen! All of this kind of stuff can be great motivation.

• The areas of writing, editing and publishing are changing alongside emerging digital media and technology. I’m keen to continue being involved in all of this, because there’s a lot of possibilities when everything is in a state of transition, uncertainty and experimentation. And I’m interested to see what role the internet and other related technologies will play in the ever-more unpredictable future of the planet and its inhabitants.

• Hardly anyone on the internet seems to pay much attention to copyright and I don’t really blame them. But I figure if you’re going to publish something for the entirety of the interwebs, you’d better make sure you can stand by all of it. And embrace Creative Commons and the like, because it’s awesome.

• I think my blog already needs a redesign. What do you think? The column layout seems a little off. And apparently white text on black is bad. I kind of like it, but maybe not as much as I used to.

• I think there will always be a need for people who can write well, think creatively, see things differently, speak the truth, or just make awesome things, be they stories, songs, visual art, games, articles, or software. The internet can help with all of this of course. But don’t forget that no matter how ubiquitous it seems the internet and all the latest newfangled iGadgets seem, there’s always the rest of the world. Instead of refreshing your Facebook feed again, try starting a garden, riding your bike, making something tangible and tactile with your hands, travelling somewhere new with some friends, attending a protest for something you believe in, practicing an instrument, or writing a letter to a friend. Yes, a real letter. They’re actually pretty special.

• A huge proportion of the world’s population do not see digital technology as an all-pervasive thing. There is a significant digital divide. The Internet has a long way to go before it’s a truly global and egalitarian network.

• Above all, remember: the internet is crazy.

CRAZY.

And that’s that! Thanks to everyone who has visited and read and commented and clicked my links and everything! Please do come back when I come back. Keep me on the good ol’ Google Reader! Until then, this is Duncan at DuncanWritingEditingPublishing clicking Publish and signing off.

Book Clubs

I’ve noticed a rising trend: online book clubs. My first real sight of it was Infinite Summer, a website dedicated to spending the breadth of the US summer reading the 1000-odd pages of Infinite Jest, by the late great David Foster Wallace. They followed that up with reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and that’s just wound up too. Anyone across the world who wants to join in can, reading a set amount of pages each day, supplemented by commentary, blogging, forum discussion and a huge, collaborative, social-media-fuelled exploration of the texts as everyone else reads along. The very idea of it pushes my booknerdy buttons.

Now there’s The Cork-Lined Room, a similar project but for reading Marcel Proust’s utterly enormous (3000 pages or so?) In Search of Lost Time. I think I’ll leave that one for a while, until I’ve finished War and Peace, Ulysses, Finnegan’s Wake and Moby Dick first. But heck, even one of the dudes from that hip young folk band Mumford and Sons has started a book club on the band’s website, with the first month dedicated to Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. Despite some people’s fears that the internet distracts people from reading books, the two mediums can coexist and, clearly, complement each other.

I was keen to undertake Infinite Summer (well, it would have been a winter for me), but it was far too tricky in the middle of Uni. I’m thinking I might attempt it this summer, or soon at least. Or maybe I’ll wait around for Infinite Summer’s next project, the also enormous 2666, by Roberto Bolaño.

But while I know I’ll be glad to finally have more freedom to plough into my own books soon, I’d also be keen to be part of a real life, face-to-face, genuine book club. I’m not sure how hard it would be to agree on a book or find enough people, but I’m keen. Anyone in Melbourne keen?

ACMI is Awesome

My girlfriend and I went to ACMI at Federation Square recently and their new Screen Worlds exhibition is not just fantastic, it’s free. And it’s a permanent exhibition, but I feel you should waste no time in checking in out.

The exhibition is all about the myriad forms the moving image takes, from cinema, to animation, to video games and beyond! Besides the free video games, some stunning displays, and futuristic-looking interactive exhibits, there’s a little thing called the Timeslice. You walk into a booth , press a button, and after a few beeps, a series of cameras films you from every angle as you throw yourself into action. Then, you watch the movie back: it’s like having your own Matrix bullet-time film shoot! And then you can have the video emailed to you! My girlfriend and I had several goes at it and this video was among the best. Yes, it does take a while for it to load, but I reckon it’s entirely worth it. It’s fun doing it too; I could go do this on a weekly basis, I’m not kidding.

Also, upstairs is ACMI’s other new thing, The Australian Mediatheque. There’s several viewing booths with comfy seats, high-quality headphones (though the cords were not quite long enough ) and wide-screen TVs. From their digital database you can choose to view a huge array of Australian movies, cartoons, TV episodes and more. Or, if you call ahead a few days, you can order in just about any piece of pre-2006 Australian moving image material, sourced from archives around the country. And again, for free! Mey friends and I watched the movies The Black Balloon and Home Song Stories, both recommended and enjoyed by us all!

And the cafe at ACMI sells off all of their delicious broken choc-tops for $1 each.

Yup, I’m a ACMI acolyte now.

‘Freemium’ and Free Verse

Thought I’d share two things I’ve read recently. Both demonstrate how there’s great possibilities for authors, poets and all varieties of writers and creatives to get their work out there, all using the free-flowing intertubes, while still making money.

 

First, via a post in Spike – the Meanjin blog, I’ve learnt that uber-nerd and Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow is conducting an experiment for his new book, With a Little Help. He’ll be releasing the book in myriad ways: from free Creative Commons-licensed digital copies, to a premium special-edition book valued at $10,000, and all sorts of stuff in between. Hence, the term ‘freemium’. This is somewhat similar to what Nine Inch Nails did with their music recently, but in a broader and more openly experimental way. This is all to explore what you can do when you give stuff away for free, but also self-publish and sell stuff via print-on-demand, or offer other freelance services. A big ol’ mixture. Check out his Publishers Weekly Column for even more detail. I’ll be reading his regular updates on the process with interest.

 

Cory Doctorow: experimenting with 'Freemium' for his new book

  

Second, PoetrySpeaks is a new website and a new business model, kind of like iTunes for poetry, or Facebook for poets. What’s especially cool about it is that it offers a combination of free and paid material from ‘classic’ or established poets, as well as both curated and user-driven spaces for less well-known poets to get their stuff out there, and even get paid for it. While the site still needs a lot of building up and a broader international diversity, it’s promising to see that the works of both established and emerging artists can stand side by side, giving everyone opportunities to spread their words and ideas and maybe make a little moolah.

 

So whether you write books or poetry, or whatever you create, it’s worth exploring the possibilities of the internet. Sometimes giving stuff away for free online can end up being very rewarding.

 

A Strange Way of Generating Buzz

Had to share this weird video from the Frankfurt Book Fair. It’s one of the biggest meet-ups of the year for publishers, agents and the like, but this is the first video I think I’ve ever seen from it. The Fair itself is not too far from what you’d expect, but I’ve never seen advertising like this before.

Yup, tiny little advertising banners attached to flies. The banners apparently were harmlessly stuck on with natural wax and dropped off after a while. The main effect is a whole lot of double takes and a lot of attention for Eichborn. But I wonder how many people remember the stunt rather than the name though?

Still, it’s a good reminder: there are always unique ways to get your stuff out there that simply can’t be done on the internet. We just get the YouTube’d version of it.

W+E4DM Web Feature Portfolio Part 3 – The Best Stuff On TV This Week

This is part 3 of my Web Feature Portfolio for Writing and Editing for Digital Media. My articles are for ‘the Australian online magazine of culture and the popular arts’, The Enthusiast. My third article is for one of the regular columns in their ‘TV’ category, The Best Stuff On TV This Week.

Celebrity Masterchef – Wednesday, 7:30pm, Ch10

I know, I know, but my pleasures are simple: celebrities attempting gourmet imitations, the comfortable dinnertime-viewing format and Matt Preston’s facial expressions. But if Peter Rowsthorn doesn’t out-chef Fuzzy and Alex Lloyd, there’s little else to keep me watching a semi-final full of C-grade celebrities next week.

Hungry Beast – Wednesday, 9:00pm, ABC

Kind of like curated channel surfing, or someone browsing the internet at random for you (and their website goes hand-in-hand with the show). Learn how the US military’s grim robot future is already upon us, then watch a funny sketch about vegetarianism, then an assortment of sobering factoids, then another funny sketch, and so on. Not every little segment hits the mark, but the next one probably will.

John Safran’s Race Relations – Wednesday, 9:30pm, ABC

Media outrage over this has been surprisingly subdued so far. Maybe this week’s show will get there. He’s stolen and sniffed Eurasian underpants, donned semi-realistic blackface before going speed-dating and wanked over Obama in the spirit of Jewish/Palestinian (Jelestinian) unification. It’s like a Jewish-Australian (Jewstralian?) version of Jackass, but intelligent.

Beauty and the Geek – Thursday, 8:30pm, Ch7

This week sees the geeks getting a makeover, but won’t this undo the entire premise? No! For this is manufactured and unchallenging, but an overall trashy and fun ‘reality’ TV staple.

Q&A – Thursday, 9:35pm, ABC

Last chance before summer! Watch party politicians trying to dodge meaningful questioning, see bold/awkward audience questions and witness principled rants from the one non-politician guest. You can do it, David Marr!

Can We Help? – Friday, 6:30pm, ABC

Pete Rowsthorn is great, and interesting answers to interesting questions are brilliant. Especially when they involve surprising linguistic origins for various words. Or just an explanation of why men have nipples.

Beached Az – Friday, 10:10pm, ABC

You either love it or you hate it. It’s time to pick a side, if you haven’t already. Or, if you will, “puck a side, eh bro”. Of course, you could just watch what ABC has put up on YouTube, but that would defeat the spirit of this column now, wouldn’t it?

Dexter – Saturday, 11:05pm, Ch10

Season Three of Dexter has been a slow build for me, and it was an unsettlingly welcome relief to find Miguel in the ol’ room walled with plastic wrap, ready to face death by Dexter. This season finale will undoubtably find Dexter dealing deftly with the consequences of murdering his best man. There’s definitely some loose ends to tie up before he ties the knot. You know it’s a special show when you’re morbidly drawn to the exploits of such a monster, especially when he’s David from Six Feet Under. Also: among the best opening credits ever.

Newstopia – Sunday, 12:35am, SBS

Shaun Micallef has hit the mainstream after the success of Talkin ‘bout Your Generation, but even on repeat, Newstopia is an underappreciated earlier gem. The Micallef Programme was possibly better and less reliant on then-current affairs, but when it’s Micallef, it’s all gold. Gems. Golden gems.

To tweet or not to tweet?

So it seems like Twitter is well and truly established in the interwebbertubertrons, at least for the time being, and I’ve actually started reading a few people’s feeds on a somewhat regular basis. The only problem is, at the moment I don’t even have an account. Yup, I’m pretty much a Twitter lurker, reading but not really interacting.

I think I will finally join up in a few weeks, after I’ve finished all of my Uni assignments and taken a bit of a holiday. It’s just that until then, I don’t really need another distraction. I know if I have a Twitter feed to check compulsively every 5 minutes, it’ll be like having seven Facebook accounts. Nothing will get done, at least not until I get past the novelty stage and I don’t know when or if that would end. So I’m not opening that Pandora’s Box just yet.

 

(Image:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/carrotcreative/ / CC BY 2.0)

I know it’s the whole Google Reader situation all over again for me. Before getting with the times and being introduced to Google Reader in class, I had a bookmarked list of blogs that I would check several times daily on lazy days and a mental list that I would check occasionally too. Now that I use Google Reader, I can go to one page and see exactly where my distraction lies, nicely summarised to show exactly how many posts  I can read when I choose to (621? Oh, that’s nice). Likewise, if I actually signed up to Twitter, I could just go to one website containing my feed, rather than remembering which separate pages I may want to check at any given time, whether or not they’ve been updated. But still, either way, I think I need to hold off on joining the tweeting hordes for now.

On a side note, it’s interesting how in several recent articles, on both The Age‘s website and various  culture/entertainment websites, Twitter posts are a way of both gathering and communicating a quick cross-section of community opinion. This seems to be applied to any topic, from TV shows to complex political issues, and not just the Iranian elections.

So of course, it’s not all distraction. As with all things online, I check out stuff from people who write entertaining things, who find really interesting articles, share mind-expanding stories or forward amazing videos. Twitter will help me do that too, and share back in return. It’s all part of the conversation. And there will, of course, be a few lolcats and inane posts about how delicious my sandwich was. That’s life. It’s just another part of a diverse multimedia-infused world that is constantly evolving, and involving everything: conversations, phonecalls, letters,  novels, poetry, websites, music videos, video games, a friendly wave and a smile, SMS, comics, and now tweets.

Having said all that, any recent converts, or maybe people who are Twitter Qwitters? Anyone who can convincingly sway me either way? Don’t worry, it’s a few weeks at least before I finally pick sides. And no matter which side you’re on, we’ll always have terrible Twitter puns to unite us. Because in the end, websites like Twitter are what you make of them. They can be fun, useful and edifying, depending on who you connect with, but always remember moderation, and most of all, remember: all that Twitters is not gold. BAM!