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U of Iowa, I think I love you

The University of Iowa is digitizing its massive collection of fanzines and other fan works. As a fan, as a librarian, as an archivist, as someone who has been involved in six-figure digitization projects and knows just how complicated and expensive this is (and what a huge long-term commitment is involved), I am practically giddy with excitement. Best of all, they're going to open it up for crowdsourced transcription, so you can read fanfic and help future readers/researchers/fans all at the same time. Is that squee-worthy or what??

Thanks to ennyousai for alerting me to this project :)

...Peter Balestrieri, Curator of Science Fiction and Popular Culture Collections for UI Libraries, and his colleagues are working to preserve the writings and records of fan communities. While these fandoms have become increasingly accessible and well known since the advent of digital communication, they are nearly as old as the genre itself—and in some cases, nearly as storied.

“Our collecting emphasis on fandoms and fan-created/related materials is solid and ongoing, as is our connection to fan communities and our dedication to helping them preserve and provide access to their histories for research and pleasure,” Balestrieri [said]...Now, the pulps and passion projects alike will be getting properly preserved and digitized so they can be made accessible to readers and researchers the world over...Once the titles are digitized, they’ll become the basis of a searchable database that UI is counting on volunteers to develop through crowdsourced transcription...

Read the whole fabulous story ====>

A bit of ranting here on behalf of authors

A group of authors have banded together to petition the Department of Justice to investigate Amazon and its stifling of competition in the market for both physical and e-books. I'm very glad to see this and I hope it leads to action on the part of the DoJ.

The letter says, among other things:

In recent years, Amazon has used its dominance in ways that we believe harm the interests of America's readers, impoverish the book industry as a whole, damage the careers of (and generate fear among) many authors, and impede the free flow of ideas in our society.

The statistics they cite are pretty stunning: Amazon now controls the sale of more than 75% of online sales of physical books, more than 65% of e-book sales, more than 40% of sales of new books, and 85% of ebook sales of self-published authors.

It's more than a little worrisome that one single corporation has that much say over what is easily available to the general public. Not to mention their detrimental effect on small independent booksellers, who throughout history have been far more sensitive and responsive to local and non-mainstream interests. When the giant gorilla in the room only offers you best-sellers while sitting on and squashing everyone else, it's a little bothersome. Not to mention the fact that Jeff Bezos has admitted in so many words that he doesn't give a rat's ass about books; all those books are loss leaders to Amazon who just uses/sells the data thus gathered. As the longer version of the letter puts it:

The idea that Amazon would intentionally use its power in a way that vitiates the book industry strikes many Americans as counterintuitive, much like choosing to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. But Amazon's goal has never been to sell only books. On the contrary, Amazon executives from the first spoke of their intent to build what they called "the everything store." Amazon analyzed twenty product categories before choosing books as the company's debut "commodity."

The letter goes on to put the situation in historical context with the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, anti-trust laws going back to the 1866 Telegraph Act preventing a monopoly of that particular brand-new information highway, and the recent FCC Net Neutrality rulings.

While Amazon contends that its goal is to serve consumers by eliminating middlemen in publishing (which it calls the "gatekeepers"), Amazon's executives have also made clear they intend to make Amazon itself the sole gatekeeper in this industry. But what's at stake here is not merely monopoly control of a commodity; what is at stake is whether we allow one of the nation's most important marketplaces of information to be dominated and supervised by a single corporation...The conviction that antitrust law plays a vital role in protecting freedom of expression continues to this day. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the Turner Broadcasting case, wrote, "Assuring that the public has access to a multiplicity of information sources is a governmental purpose of the highest order, for it promotes values central to the First Amendment," and that, "[t]he First Amendment's command that government not impede the freedom of speech does not disable the government from taking steps to ensure that private interests not restrict, through physical control of a critical pathway of communication, the free flow of information and ideas."

So for myself, I'm boycotting Amazon and any possible way they might make money off me, including all their brands and subsidiaries. I'll still use abebooks.com to find used books, but I'll go straight to the seller and buy direct from them so Amazon doesn't get a cut. I'll still use goodreads (because damn it, I was there BEFORE the behemoth ate them) but I won't use any of their links to buy anything.

Now I just have to talk Mr Psmith out of renewing his Amazon Prime membership and get him to drop his Amazon credit card...

Talk to me, baby

Neil Gaiman's voice reminds me of Alan Rickman's. It makes me wonder if they grew up in the same part of Britain. (Also, y'know, he's talking about everything from fairy tales to quantum physics, so there's that.)

"What do you do when you've finished your quest? What do you do when you come home? And that's always the question that never gets answered properly in any fairy tale, and it's always the place where -- unless you can believe in happily ever after, and I've not seen one yet -- where you always have to go as an author."

Alan is still my One True Voicegasm, though :)

E.L. James gets p0wned

Some bright young marketer apparently thought it would be a good idea to have E. L. James, author of the (in)famous Fifty Shades of Grey, do a live Twitter Q&A.

It did not go well.

Here are my favorites:

How does it feel to have actually written a worse love story than Twilight? That is real skill.

If E.L.James asks for these tweets to stop, does that mean she really wants them to continue?

Sweet mecy, there's so much I want to #AskELJames Most start with "why" and end with the implacable howling of the damned.

See 'em all ===>

Just to be clear, I have no quarrel with her writing BDSM romances. I do however take issue with the fact that her books contain sentences like, "His eyebrows widened in surprise." Srsly? Strunk & White need a safe word with this woman.


We are all star stuff

From Lawrence M. Krauss, internationally known theoretical physicist. Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics, Professor of Astronomy, Chairman of the department of Physics and Director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University, author of over 300 scientific publications:

Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements - the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution and for life - weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way for them to get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.

Which of course makes me think of this:

Best home decorating choice ever

No, this isn't photoshopped. It's real. And I could not be happier for the many people for whom today's Supreme Court decision means so much :)

(Click for story)

And there's even a live feed, with the fountain playing and flag waving above. Yay!!

yes yes yes

Today I discovered the Multilingual Folk Tale Database. Not only does it have almost 5000 folk tales, fairy tales and fables from all over the place -- 5th century Greece, 13th century Holland, 19th century Germany -- you can view them in their original language or side by side with a translation, so you can practice your middle Dutch or your 5th c. Greek.

"Hvad vil du nu med det fyrtøj," spurgte soldaten. "What are you going to do with the tinderbox?" asked the soldier.
"Det kommer ikke dig ved!" sagde heksen. "None of your business," said the witch.

Don't you love that the Danish word for witch is "heksen"?

It also incorporates the Aarne-Thompson-Uther (ATU) classification system, with descriptions, so you can go from a classification to representative stories, or from a story to its classification type. For example, The Devil's Three Golden Hairs is ATU 461.

I know, I know, this is SO geeky, but I love it. The only drawback is it's heavy on Western Europe and Scandinavia (thank you, Jakob und Wilhelm Grimm). There are a scattered few from Africa and South America but not many, and nothing from China, Japan, Russia, or the Middle East. Not all the stories have an English version, either So if you know any folk tales from Japan, or if you speak Hungarian, Polish, Icelandic, or Danish, hop on over there and get to work!

Because I am a meme sheep

Everyone's doing it, so I might as well too. Since all the other questions were about movies and tv, I stuck with movie/tv characters for #3. Unsurprisingly, it was hard to limit myself to five (you'll notice that I cheated a bit on the first one...), although in the case of five favorite characters I actually had a tough time coming up with five. There are a lot of characters I like, but very few stand out above the others as favorites.

1) 5 Favorite Movies
(a) Gigi
(b) A Fish Called Wanda
(c) About Last Night
(d) The Heiress / Witness for the Prosecution (tie)
(e) Anne of the Thousand Days / A Man for All Seasons (tie)

2) 5 Favorite Television Shows
(a) Star Trek (original series)
(b) The Office (UK version)
(c) Buffy the Vampire Slayer
(d) M*A*S*H
(e) Twilight Zone (original series)
Note: I binge-watched both Mad Men and Breaking Bad recently and could hardly force myself to stop watching so as to get some sleep, but it's too soon to know whether they'll be long-term favorites.

3) 5 Favorite Characters
(a) Spock
(b) Spike
(c) Jean-Luc Picard
(d) Anya Christina Emmanuella Jenkins
(e) Sally Albright
Note: I wanted to include Stephen Colbert, but I wasn't sure if he's a character so much as a persona. Regardless, he's definitely one of my favorites.

4) 5 Favorite Stars
(a) Audrey Hepburn
(b) Michelle Pfeiffer
(c) Maggie Smith
(d) Patrick Stewart
(e) Alan Rickman

5) 5 Things that make you smile
(a) Unexpected gifts
(b) Christmas (even though I'm an atheist)
(c) John Cleese, in any role
(d) Puns/clever wordplay
(e) Kittehs being kittehs



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