— Mark Barrett
— Mark Barrett
Thinking about my reluctance to recommend an e-reader to anyone, I realized over the weekend that it’s not simply a belief I have that e-reader technology isn’t ready. That’s part of it, but there’s another issue for me — a more global concern that I tend to mute because I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it.
Twenty or thirty years ago, products were rated in two basic ways. How well they did the job they were designed to do, and how reliable or long-lasting they were. Between then and now, however, the question of reliability has changed. It no longer refers to a product’s ability to perform over time, but rather to a product’s ability to perform at all.
I have no proof of this, but I believe the change took place as the products in our lives became predominantly electronic, as opposed to mechanical. Where physical mechanisms used to power most of our devices, those devices are now controlled by circuitry that is inherently more complex, if not unfathomable. [ Read more ]
More links of interest for your weekend reading pleasure:
If you want to try making snowflakes with your own scissors and paper, origami paper works best because it’s very thin. You should be able to find it at any craft store.
— Mark Barrett
In a post about the Beatles in early November I wrote this:
A week later I’m listening to I Am The Walrus again and it’s just genius. It’s over forty years old and it’s as relevant and good and insane and perfect as anything anyone is doing today. It’s not just holding up. You can’t name a better song. There are no better songs. Goo goo gajoob.
Last night I listened to I Am The Walrus again, and I stand by what I said. I think it’s the greatest song ever. I don’t have a massive analytical treatise to back me up, or sales figures if that’s the only thing that matters to you, but on every level that a song is supposed to work, I Am The Walrus works transcendentally.
Update: a link to a YouTube clip of Walrus from Magical Mystery Tour. I think the song has outlived the images, so feel free to look away.
Later Update: I found myself wondering where I Am The Walrus ranks in the various all-time great songs lists, and after a while I found myself reading through the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time (full list archived here). The first thing that caught my eye was the fact that Walrus isn’t listed, meaning Rolling Stone doesn’t think it’s one of the 500 greatest songs of all time. They do have Rick James’ Super Freak at 477, and Sonny and Cher’s I Got You Babe at 444, and Don Henley’s Boys of Summer at 416, but no Walrus.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that a list like this has to spread the wealth around, and you’re right. There are 4 Beatles songs in the top 20, 7 in the top 30, 10 in the top 100, and 21 in the entire list. By Contrast, the Rolling Stones have 4 in the top 100, so you know the Beatles are getting their due.
But here’s the problem. The last Beatles song on the list is Ticket To Ride at 387. For 1965, maybe it was head-turning stuff. But forty years later, it’s simply another catchy pop tune from the pre-Martin Beatles era. Whereas I Am The Walrus was and still is the kind of timeless musical statement that transcends its own context. (Look at the dated clip of the song from the movie Magical Mystery Tour and you’ll see what I mean.)
Any Top 100 Songs of all Time list that doesn’t have Walrus on it is a fail. Any Top 10 Songs of all Time that does include Walrus is a list I would pay attention to.
— Mark Barrett
Fully one short day after I questioned the utility and validity of crowd-sourced product reviews, the New York Times and PC Magazine post contradictory assessments of the Nook — Barnes & Nobles’ e-reader.
The NYT reviewer finds the Nook…
buggy. In four days, my Nook locked up twice and displayed an “Android operating system has crashed” message twice.
The PCMag reviewer finds the Nook…
might just be the most sophisticated e-Book reader on the market.
PCMag reports no bugs, but does not state whether the device was used for a prolonged period or merely tested for feature compliance.
Read the two reviews and you’ll come away thinking they’re talking about completely different products, with one exception. [ Read more ]
Bear with me — this comes back to publishing…
There was a rule change just prior to the start of the National Basketball Association season, and I think the NBA’s decision sheds some light on the options the publishing industry has for increasing interest in books.
The new rule reads, in part: “A player who receives the ball while he is progressing or upon completion of a dribble, may take two steps in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball.”
It is believed to be the first time any league, at any level anywhere in the world, has explicitly allowed two steps.
As the article notes, the rule has always been one step, and that’s been true at every level of basketball. However, as the article also notes, the NBA has been allowing two steps for years, so this rule change only reflects reality. Or at least reality as defined by an unenforced one-step rule, which may be a great deal different than an enforced two-step rule. (Predictable NBA double-speak denial here. Phil Jackson on the obviousness of the sham here.)
Why did the NBA allow two steps against their own rules, and why have they now written this admission into the rulebook?
Enforcement of the one-step rule has been hit-or-miss at every level of basketball. Archival footage shows NBA greats, from Magic Johnson and Pete Maravich to Bob Cousy and Julius Erving, getting away with two steps. Borgia, whose father was also an NBA official, said he cannot remember a time when NBA referees did not allow two steps.
Others insist allowing two steps represents an NBA strategy to aid scorers and make the league more exciting. Legendary point guard and current Knick broadcaster Walt “Clyde” Frazier says the league relaxed traveling standards some time ago to increase scoring.
Enforcement may be hit-or-miss at every level of play, but that’s partly because the traveling call is inherently hit-or-miss. Unlike, say, a missed basket, which is obvious to everyone, a traveling call requires assessing multiple moments which play out in various ways. Did the player pick up his dribble early, but still only take one step (or, now, two)? Precisely because referees have to wait until a player completes a series of moves to know it’s an infraction, it’s not clear a player is traveling until fully after the fact. Even a foul — which is also a tough judgment call in many cases — has only one inciting incident. Traveling is now a multi-step judgment call, which, at the professional level, plays out at blinding speed in a forest of giants.
Enforcement is also not proportionately hit-or-miss when comparing the NBA with major college basketball. You can watch whole NBA games and never see a traveling call, while college games regularly feature such calls. (More proof that the NBA has been lax about the one-step rule for some time.) As to whether the rule has been relaxed in order to increase scoring and excitement (you get better power dunks off a two-step stampede to the rim) I don’t think there’s any question that that’s the case. And I don’t think the NBA is alone in this regard. [ Read more ]
Apple has removed 1,000 apps from its online store in the wake of a large-scale ratings scam perpetrated by a Chinese developer:
This scam was so effective that the applications regularly rose to the tops of charts. One, called ColorMagic, even made it into the Staff Favorites section of the store (which brings some doubt as to whether these are actually staff picks at all).
Apple is to be congratulated for taking action. It’s also to be condemned for failing to have controls in place that were capable of discovering and exposing this wide-spread fraud. Whether Apple is faking its own “Staff Favorites” picks or not, Apple has an obligation to police its own marketplace for the sake of Apple’s users. [ Read more ]
Standing at the top of a snowy hill you pack a handful of snow into a tight little ball. You put the snowball on the ground and give it a nudge, and as the snowball rolls it gathers more snow, growing in mass with each revolution. By the time it reaches the bottom your little snowball is an unstoppable force.
Right now, around the internet and around the world, most of the people involved with the creation and distribution of content are looking up hill for a snowball. They’re waiting for someone else to come up with the magic business model, for that model to gather mass, for the venture capitalists to fall all over each other trying to profit from it, and for the net-trend opinion makers to wax breathless about the NextBigThing.
Everyone is sure a snowball is coming. Nobody is sure when.
I mention this because it snowed Saturday night. It was the first snow of the season, and it was also a wet snow. Which is why I got up Sunday morning and made this:
(That’s a snow-covered basketball in the lower-right corner of the frame, for scale.)
I’m a big believer in traditions. I don’t believe some traditions have more inherent merit than others, and that’s true no matter how sacred those traditions are to believers or how goofy they seem to outsiders. What I believe is that traditions are meaningful to us as individuals, whether we share those traditions with others or not. [ Read more ]
When I first started this blog I would haphazardly store useful links and articles I wanted to comment on here and there, like a squirrel burying nuts. Then, also like a squirrel, I would promptly forget where I’d put them.
I recognized the problem inherent in this work flow after only a few head-banging evenings and did a little research on solutions. This led me to pull down a copy of Linkman, which I still barely know how to use, but at least all my blog fodder winds up in one place. I think.
Despite this handy means of tracking my nuts, however, I still don’t seem to have a lot of time to go back and dig them up and give them a proper Ditchwalk thumping. So the links keep building up, and I keep saving them, and you keep missing out on the content, and the squirrels bounding around my yard keeping talking about me in ways that are less than complimentary.
So today I’m going to start posting links to items that didn’t make it into an individual post, and in coming weekends I may even go back and dig up some of the stuff I buried two months ago. If only to feel the thrill of victory. [ Read more ]
Jessica Faust’s great post re: editing/queries/synopses aren’t fun, but they’re your job: http://bit.ly/1aI0XF
Life and getting published is not about easy. It takes work and I’m willing to do the work to help you build a successful career. Since it’s your career I would think you’re willing to do the work too.
Now, I don’t know what you think about a literary agent dressing writers down in public, but I’m not sure Ms. Faust is exhibiting the kind of professionalism that lends credibility to her advice about professionalism. I say this because one of the things agents have to deal with is the fact that writers come in all shapes, sizes, neuroses, flavors, vintages and intellectual capacities. It’s baked into the business.
If they don’t know it in advance, all agents learn this during their first full business day. So when I see an agent go off the deep end about how writers make that agent’s life difficult, or about writers being inept, or about writers being vain, or whatever else an agent might appropriately bitch about over drinks with other agents, that rant sounds like someone telling the world to be different from the way the world is.
Even your average agent knows that a good part of their job is trying to take feral square-peg writers and hammer them into trained round-peg authors that fit the publishing pigeon holes of the day. That’s the whole game from an agent’s point of view: connect products with markets, and massage both until they fit. Unfortunately, writers themselves are notoriously uncertain about how all this works, so they either do the wrong things or write the wrong things or ask stupid repetitive questions until the agent goes mental. [ Read more ]