Month: December 2004

The Awkward Dead

A few days ago I mentioned the novel that Zapatista leader Sub-Comandante Marcos is co-authoring with Mexican writer Paco Ignacio Taibo, and which is being serialized in the Mexican paper La Jornada. The Guardian has translated a portion of the extracts.

Bye Bye Library?

Last week, Google announced its plans to partner with major libraries in order to give access to millions of books to its users. The plans raises issues of copyright, and yesterday’s editorial at the NY Times spelled them out:

At the outset, this project will be limited to books that are old enough to no longer be under copyright. This is as it should be. It will serve as a demonstration of the immensity – and the immense cultural value – of works in the public domain, and could well kindle a new appreciation of the significance of the public domain.

Beginning with older books will also give Google, the libraries and book publishers time to sort out the problem of creating a comprehensive digital library of books that are currently under copyright. As always in negotiations over intellectual property, the trick will be to balance public utility, corporate profits and the welfare of writers, scholars and editors, and to do so, if possible, without the intervention of Congress.

While I’m all for digitizing information and propagating it by the simplest means possible, I’m also concerned that some people on Capitol Hill might use this as a further excuse to cut funding for libraries.

The Case for the Sarcasm Point

Over at Slate, Josh Greenman makes his case for sarcasm punctuation.

The English language must evolve. Not with emoticons or lol or brb or l8r or GRATUITOUS all caps used for emphasis, not with Spanglish or bumbling Bushisms or even cryptic Kerryisms. We don’t need more quotation marks that “hedge” or try to make the same “old” thing sound “fresh.” What we need is an honest effort to incorporate the way we live today. My fellow Americans, we need to embrace a new punctuation markone that embraces the irony and edge of contemporary conversation and clarifies rather than condenses or confuses.

It is time for the adoption of the sarcasm point. Why the sarcasm point? We have a mark that conveys that we mean or know something. We have one that says it with volume and force! We have one that communicates that we don’t know something, don’t we? We need one more: to do for language what shade did for drawing, what color did for television, and what eyebrows did for expressions introduce finesse.

Believe it or not, the world we’ve landed in is not only more image-obsessed than we’ve ever seen. It’s also more text-based than ever. We finger-type and we thumb-type. We e-mail, we IM, we blog. And the forms cannot contain the content. There’s a dastardly disconnect. Among other things, it makes Dave Barry columns somewhat difficult to read. Someone must step into the sarcasm chasm

George Bernard Shaw would be so proud

Take That, OFAC

The Association of American Publishers is offering grants to publishers interested in releasing three Iranian novels in translation here in the U.S.

The association announced recently that it would give $10,000 each to publishers who would release “The Drowned” by Moniru Ravanipur, “The Empty Palace of Soluch” by Mahmoud Dawlatabadi and “Christine and Kid” by Houshang Golshiri. Money would be divided among translation costs, promotion and publicity.

“We got the idea a few years ago when some Iranian writers visited the United States and complained that works from Iran were not available in translation,” Jeri Laber, a human rights activist and consultant to the association’s International Freedom to Publish Committee, said Monday.

The grant is funded by the Open Society Institute, which is part of billionaire philanthropist George Soros’s foundation.


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