Thursday, February 24, 2011

amongst the shit stirred up by the Christchurch earthquake

is this vitriolic rant.
"If you don't want to be in the firing line next time, then do something about it now . . . put a stop to the organised lesbian and poofter tourism into the South Island.

"The Christchurch earthquake was a warning -- God has decided to clean out NZ of its wickedness, perversion, prostitution, bullying, gangs, drugs, violence, paedophilia, and of its witchcraft and black magic. Either the people heed the warnings and change, or God replaces them with someone else -- China is already buying up much of the country, and is desperate to get South Pacific naval and port facilities. If an "act of God" destroys New Zealand's three major cities, and bankrupts the country, how many countries have the cash, and the motivation, to pay for the repairs, and buy what is left of the real estate? One? two? Whichever way you do your sums, China is the nation that comes out cashed up, and motivated to acquire a big slice of NZ."

It comes from a site which, despite its name, was registered in Utah yesterday.

Friday, February 18, 2011

3 final quotes on bookselling in Australia

"These days, the big discount department stores sell around one-third of the books that are sold in Australia, and because they buy in bulk, they can sell them on to the consumer at prices far lower than any independent bookseller could ever hope to."
ABC News

"I’m not sure whether you’ve been into an A&R store the last couple of years. Jesus, talk about depressing. They became giant dump bins for failed remainder copies imported directly from the US. Shit books by no-name authors, poorly printed on cheap stock."
John Birmingham, author & columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald

"The silliest argument advanced for book industry protection is that it subsidises publishers so they can bring more Australian works into print. Bullshit. No publisher has ever been able to nominate a single work that has been printed on non-commercial grounds. And if there has been a flourishing of Australian literature as this protection has been enforced it has escaped me and most Australian readers."
Bob Carr, former NSW premier and Dymocks (bookstore chain) board member

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The day after

Borders filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S., the private equity group that runs Borders — same name, these days only little relationship — & Angus & Robertson in Australia, & Borders & Whitcoulls in New Zealand, applied to be put into receivership.

Between them the book retailers operate about 260 stores and are believed to employ around 2,500 staff in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Borders expanded into Australia from the US in 1998, but the first Angus & Robertson bookshop opened in Sydney in 1886. Whitcoulls was formed in 1971 as a merger between Whitcombe & Tombs (founded 1888) & Coulls (founded 1871). There's an awful lot of history about to go down the gurgler.

One franchisee said "The book Companies also have to be held responsible for this collapse as they are selling books to Australia book stores at significantly higher prices than they do to the likes of Amazon and European and US bookstores. This is going to have a devastating impact in Australia if the chain is not acquired and is closed down."

The Australian Publishers Association claims allowing parallel imports of books — that is, allowing bookstores to bring books in from, say, the U.S. or the U.K., where the size of the market means they would be significantly cheaper, instead of being forced to buy the same locally-printed item at a higher price —would have had a far more damaging impact on the publishing industry than the collapse of Angus & Robertson and Borders.

"If you opened up the market then you would immediately see a depletion in the number of publishers and the offering from publishers into the market space," a spokeswoman said.

These days, with the $AU worth roughly the same as the $US, you'd be a fucking fool to buy popular fiction from a bookshop here. The department store chains generally sell at a 33% discount, & will often special new titles with even more off, which, when you allow for the cost of shipping & handling, brings those titles to parity with the U.S. price. Problem is, you can't always guarantee that the authors you like will appear in the limited range that the department stores carry; in a small place like Rockhampton, you also can't guarantee that they will make it onto the local bookshop — two stores, both Angus & Robertson — shelves; &, when they do, they're at exorbitant prices.

I bought the latest book by Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø at a department store the other day. Recommended retail price in Australia around $38, price at Big W $21.74. Discovered that I hadn't read the book that came before it so went looking on line. Hardback available from Amazon at $14.52 with p&h probably about $10. But would take some time to get to me so I looked it up at the Angus & Robertson on-line store. $15.95 plus, let's say, $6 postage. My thinking then was that if it's available from A & R on-line, then it might just be available at one of their local stores. It was. Price? $24.95. With the on-line store price, I'm guessing at least a markup of 50%, so the upper limit wholesale price would be $10. Which means that on the local shelves, I was looking at a markup of at least 150%. Thought about having an argument but passed. Bought the book because I really needed to read it before I read the one that came after. But a slight bitter taste accompanied my purchase.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Today the
postman brought
me The Shorter
Oxford English
Dictionary. Such
generosity! I was
lost for words.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Bigger / than Texas. / Much much bigger!

Satellite image of Cyclone Yasi superimposed to scale on a map of the U.S.A.


Before we moved to Queensland

I don't think I'd ever visited the Bureau of Meteorology website, am not even certain that I knew it, & the incredible amount of information it carries, existed. These days it's a different story. Now the regular awareness of what's going on around routine is check email accounts, check the local radar weather map, check the news.

Much of the time, the search of the BOM site is reasonably mundane—is it safe to do the washing or is there rain around, or am I being a wimp for turning the air conditioners on? But there are times when it's critical to know what's going on or likely to happen, especially now, in an extreme La Niña period.

The modelling the BOM uses has become, like so many things mathematical in the technological advances of recent times, extremely sophisticated & precise. It still misses out on highly localized events—the severity of the rainfall in parts of the Lockyer Valley near Brisbane that led to flash flooding & loss of life was not predicted though the predictions for the area as a whole were otherwise accurate—but for major geographically-wide events, such as the recent floods & the current cyclone, the information it provides, & the constant updating & refining able to be done as more data comes in, is essential reading.

We knew, for example, how high the just-passed flood was going to reach, that access to supplies were going to be interrupted, what we needed to do to prepare. The initial reports of the extent of Cyclone Yasi (this morning's satellite image is shown above) had its watch area extending as far south as Yeppoon, slightly to our north & 40 kilometers away, which meant that though we wouldn't be in its direct path, the accompanying wind & rain would impact upon us, & there were things we had to do to minimize possible danger.

That watch area has now been reduced in coastline length, but the warning area now stretches inland far beyond the point where it will cross the coast. This cyclone is so intense—possibly the strongest cyclone to ever hit Australia—that, unlike most cyclones that tend to turn into tropical lows once they reach land, this is going to remain a cyclone for some time as it barrels inland.

There are unconfirmed reports on TV that the meteorological equipment on Willis Island—in the eye of the storm in the tracking map above—which was built to withstand such events, has just been taken out.

The latest notification from the BOM includes:


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Issue #20 of Otoliths is now live

Otoliths welcomes in the Year of the Rabbit with a powerhouse issue that's even more wide-ranging than usual.

Issue #20, the southern summer 2011 issue, contains work in many forms—text, visuals, even chapters from an asemic kinetic novel-in-progress—by nick-e melville, Jim Meirose, Satu Kaikkonen, dan raphael, Philip Byron Oakes, Barrie Darke, Dorothee Lang & Karyn Eisler, James Davis, Morgan Harlow, Tyson Bley, John M. Bennett, Raymond Farr, Matthew Johnstone, Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán, Jeff Crouch & Satu Kaikkonen, Theodore Worozbyt, Howie Good, Michael Farrell, Stephen Emmerson, B. T. Abrams, Jeff Harrison, Andy Frazee, Mariah Hamang, Reed Altemus, Andrew K. Peterson, Felino Soriano, Carlos Rowles, Robert Gauldie, Tom Beckett interviewing Joel Chace, Joel Chace, SJ Fowler, De Villo Sloan, Eric Hoffman, Cecelia Chapman, Wayne Mason, Jill Chan, Anatol Knotek & Márton Koppány, Paul Siegell, Peter LaBerge, George McKim, Carlyle Baker, sean burn, Chris Moran, Stephen Nelson, Alexander Batkin, Keith Higginbotham, J. Crouse, Orchid Tierney, Rachel J. Fenton, Ana Viviane Minorelli, Russell Jaffe, Vernon Frazer, Samit Roy, Sam Langer, Michael Jacobson, Heller Levinson, Mark Cunningham, Marco Giovenale, Charles Freeland, Clark Lunberry, J. D. Nelson, Susan Gangel & Terry Turrentine, Bobbi Lurie, Tim Wright, Bob Heman, Thomas Fink, Spencer Selby, & Richard Kostelanetz.

As what is rapidly becoming the Otoliths catchphrase goes, there's something there for everyone.