Monday, May 28, 2012

Apple and Textbooks

As I am in the early stages of researching and writing an academic, university level textbook [which I hope will have some interest among general readers too] on the complex relationship between religion and society in the Atlantic world - and as I intended from the outset to publish this as a multimedia eBook - Apple's iBook Author is an unmitigated good for me.....but here is an early review focussed on its impact on the publishing world....

The Bookseller

Monday, May 21, 2012

Inspiration Part 2

I cannot remember where I read this: " inspiration is for amateurs, I just get to work." I agreed with this at first as I was teetering on the edge of the Black Pit - and I had not been there for a while. But now that I have drawn back after being doused with a pail of metaphorical cold water by a friend, I wonder if professional artists dispense with inspiration. I cannot imagine the good ones do - or at least I hope they don't. Maybe that is why there is so much forgettable art, including writing, around these days.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


She shimmered in the night
Sending sparks into flight
Her eyes were dark seeing deep
Her hands fashioned limpid mystique
She turned and vanished
Leaving scented petals
O so fair that floated gently
In the air

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tech Troubles - Avoid iCloud!

Apple's iCloud service sounds great and for me it was until March 25, 2012. I had difficulty setting it up initially as I discovered that my Apple ID I set up for iTunes a long time ago would not work with Apple's iWork suite because I had that linked with MobileMe - for which Apple had given me a separate account. But I managed to get it working nicely (despite the annoyance of calendars not syncing).

Last night I reworked a poem. When I woke up this morning I picked up my iPod to work on it before an idea vanished. The poem was not there! I wasted a goodly chunk of the morning trying to get my three IOS devices to sync with my macBook - no luck - some of them said files were 'updating' ( and still are as I write this at 2:17 p.m.).

So it seems Apple is having server problems? Who knows? Who cares?

I don't have the time or patience to bother. So what I will do from now on is send new versions of docs, or new docs as email attachments to myself, then upload to Box and use Box in place of iCloud.

Even should Apple get their crappy cloud system back up I no longer trust it. By using emails and Box my files will be backed up on the device, my MacBook and on Box.

March 25, 2012 UPDATE

By fiddling and a bit of intuition, I have managed to get iCloud to work again - but only by turning off iCloud for Pages and Keynote on my iPhone - it now works for the iPod, iPad and my MacBook Pro - which is annoying, but at the least I needed it to work on my iPad and MacBook where I do most of my writing. I still don't trust it, of course - so after each document revision on my iPad, I email to myself, then open the attachment on my iPad which causes a menu to pop us asking me where I want the doc - and one of the choices is Box... so I choose that and it then asks which folder in box I want the doc.  Then if I need to do revisions, I can move them easily from Box to Pages.  Annoying but iCloud needs fixing!  I don't know if the problem was caused by my iPhone, or whether iCloud was just down for a week and my turning the cloud off on my phone and iCloud coming back online was just coincidence.  Doesn't really matter which as I cannot trust the service anymore.

May 16, 2012 Update

Reading through MacForums I found many others with the same problems - especially with the calendars. In the Apple official help forums I found a 'sort of' work around - you can send individual documents to iTunes to back up there, and retrieve them from there.... so this can operate as a kind of secondary backup to I don't know how many files and what size you can store on iTunes... and they won't be organized in any fashion that makes them easy to find....As for iCloud, I kept trying as above - but for about 20% of my docs it still does not I will make sure everything is on Box and then turn it off on my iPod and iPad and ignore it on my MacBook. I wonder if anyone at Apple knows or cares? I grit my teeth whenever I see their ads! To paraphrase an old ad campaign of their's "It just does not work"

Monday, May 14, 2012

Experimental Writing

Recently I created a new Facebook page I call Experimental Writing. On it I am displaying some of my attempts to write in non-linear, multimedia style, from the ground up - not enhanced writing which I see as someone writing a standard, straight text piece, then enhancing it with music or videos or photos or fonts. Rather, the multimedia aspects are intrinsic to the work in progress. Tangent Alert! Tangent Alert! Tangent Alert! [all alerts should come in threes - that mystical number] Work-in=progress because one thing cyberspace removes is the necessity to have anything 'finished' some work can be left as is... for minutes, or hours or days or years - but is always there to be revised, expanded, shrunk or deleted or redone wholly. Ok! Back to my main thought..... So far I have posted only poetry - and also have added a new poem to my Book of Dreams web site Book of Dreams It is this latter that prompted me to write this blog post - I experimented with adding music to one poem in there already, but I am not satisfied with the outcome. To add a music file, iWeb allows you to drag from iTunes - but it wants a picture to go with it... so I picked one and did that - and the file sits there incongruous to the rest of the poem. So... with the new poem, I will add sound... but instead of dragging a photo to the music files place holder, I will use a jpg version of the poem as the place holder and see how that works... so a participant reader/viewer/listener will utilize both at the same time.... Tomorrow though... I am tired and it is late for an old guy

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Slogans and Thinking

I am going slightly off topic for the general thread of my blog today... but feel impelled to set these inchoate ideas into print. And perhaps it is not actually far off my blog's theme - as I am in the early stages of writing a multimedia academic eBook investigating the relationship between religion and society in the Atlantic world - which will in its early stages take me into fields afar - everywhere from the British Isles and North America to the rest of the Americas, France, Spain and Italy.

In the final exam for one course, I set a common 'think-piece' question for all to answer that requires the student to 'cogitate' on the necessity (or not!) of religion as a component of society - drawing on a quote from the political philosopher George Grant “…unassisted reason is able to know that without religious beliefs and actions no society whatever can last”. I have just finished giving full marks to a student whose answer to this question was badly structured, somewhat incoherent, and not too grammatically elegant (to put it mildly) ..... but...... he was thinking!!!! You could almost smell the black smoke coming out his ears, and almost hear the grinding noises as his brain clunked into life. But the purpose of this question is to do just this - the primary goal of any teacher in the Humanities - to counter the all-embracing modern culture of the slogan. We are today in the West, a people content to shout slogans at one another - and he who shouts loudest and longest wins the game. Here I saw a student who, with difficulty, did in fact, weigh the different sides to this question in his mind. He thought!


Wisdom from John Ruskin

you have been so created as to enjoy what is fitting for you, and a willingness to be pleased, as it was intended you should be. It is the child’s spirit, which we are then most happy when we most recover; only wiser than children in that we are ready to think it subject of thankfulness that we can still be pleased with a fair color or a dancing light. And, above all, do not try to make all these pleasures reasonable, nor to connect the delight which you take in ornament with that which you take in construction or usefulness. They have no connection; and every effort that you make to reason from one to the other will blunt your sense of beauty, or confuse it with sensations altogether inferior to it. You were made for enjoyment, and the world was filled with things which you will enjoy, unless you are too proud to be pleased by them, or too grasping to care for what you cannot turn to other account than mere delight. Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; peacocks and lilies for instance; at least I suppose this quill I hold in my hand writes better than a peacock’s would, and the peasants of Vevay, whose fields in spring time are as white with lilies as the Dent du Midi is with its snow, told me the hay was none the better for them.

Monday, May 7, 2012

What is an eBook?

I don't think eBooks have been defined yet. It is still the wild west in this new form of writing, comparable to the first years of print technology. I would argue that an eBook is any work presented online for someone to read. To be even more open about my position on this, I hope that eBooks are never defined closely - I would hate to see a return to the days where a single group - publishers - function as gatekeepers, deciding whose work is available to readers and whose is not. As it stands now, writers and readers have seized the day from publishers. I can put something on Scribd, a blog,, a website, amazon, the iBookstore, kindle, kobo, the nook, even an app... I've probably forgotten something ....

In some you will be paid, in others not - sometimes you offer a work free on one format, and this generates sales in another...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Ethnographic Notebook

Ethnographic Field Notes [grandchildren]:

Grand-daughter: immersed in A: Bruno Mars videos. B: curious device? construct? - appears to be paper bound in sheets with ink markings on each page - I believe it is a ancient form of reading known as a 'book'

Grand-son: stumbles about house battling Angry Birds on iPod touch, surfaces occasionally to ask for cake [for breakfast]
Sub note: The 'ink markings' in the 'book' are writing! Apparently with these artifacts the orientation must be on a particular and individual plane! One cannot simply 'open' the leafs of paper and read.... the entire device must be in one orientation! Curious! I wonder at that - was this a result of a lack of technological sophistication? Or was it a part of a religion-cultural mentality?
religio-cultural - note to autocorrect bureau: please input social science jargon! Which makes me wonder too how producers of these 'book' devices corrected text? Was it an automated process? Some think this was done by people! [Jones & Martin, 2311]. They did some archival research and found cryptic references to 'editors' and 'copy editors' - and some sense that these were not software, but actual persons. Maybe. I would have to see more evidence before deciding.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


house with yellow doors
did you put mustard
on your people
when you swallowed them

Friday, May 4, 2012

Inspiration and the Writer

Another 'on the run' post, I am afraid.....

I was just googling around the artwork of Frida Kahlo after seeing a post on Facebook where she was quoted as saying:  "I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration."

This got me thinking about 'training' - as she was self-taught.  I write - and was trained, in a sense, in elementary school where I learned to write and to read - and by my father and mother who created a household of readers, and in my father's case, an occasional writer.  I began writing at the age of 13 with an essay on the relationship between religion and society - and wrote many essays over the next few years while in High School.  In Latin class in my second last year of High School I discovered the real poetry of Catullus [not the expurgated variety used in class] and at the same time Leonard Cohen and Margaret Atwood [then known as a poet].  I much preferred Cohen to Atwood - I like the raw emotion and sexuality of his poetry versus the word pictures of Atwood - and continue to prefer raw exploding poetry to the descriptive.  I wrote my first and only play - actually a long free verse poem, now that I think of it - for a last year of High School English lit class [High School in Ontario in those days was five years] - and received a super high grade on it.... 

What was my inspiration then?  It was the love of words connected to emotions to make things soar and dive and perform the way words in straight lines never do...... My poems then and my attempts at prose, were surreal and divorced from this world.

What is my inspiration now?  Beatrice. Beatrice is of course, gone.... and was perhaps never here... except where it matters...... Can I still write without Beatrice, is the question? I have tried circumspect, controlled poetry - not bad, but not full and deep. As for the novel... who knows? But I must as I must. Ahhh... Beatrice... if you are interested do some reading on Dante and his Beatrice, or Petrarch and his Laura....

Writing the old way

For some reason I can no longer fathom, I entered into a hot discussion on the Writers' group on Linkedin - not my usual eBooks group, but one for writers.  The moderator was lashing out at self published books, and praising old line publishing.  A side debate over commas was also ongoing.  I stupidly mentioned it all seemed so, well, out of step with what was actually happening in writing - that self publishing no longer had a stigma since the advent of eBooks.  This set off a firestorm of protest.  I am still shaking my head, thinking perhaps I had stepped through a black hole and had been transported bace to 1951 or even 1971.  People there actually believe that old style print book publishing will continue on as though nothing has changed..... I guess in the way that music stores didn't bother with iTunes, or typewriter manufacturers worry about word processors...... It was instructive, this visit to the past....

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The essence of art

Geary Jones
I just stumbled across this artist who sculpts [?] tapestries... and who writes poems too... but here I will post only this quote from him: "Art is not a choice for me. It isn't just something I do. Without it I don't think I could breathe."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

eBook readers

I was just reading a DBW article on the new partnership between Microsoft and Barnes & Noble. This does not affect me directly as the Nook reader is not available in Canada.

What it does remind me is the fractured and inappropriately so eReader market. No one will own all the eReaders so it is necessary to remove DRM from eBooks to make them device agnostic. Competition should properly be only on the level of the books themselves, not as it is presently. If one prefers a certain eReader over others, that seems a sensible level of competition - but the eBooks themselves should not be restricted to a single device.

Writers will overcome this to some extent by preparing their work in several formats - I've heard good things about Smashwords in that regard.

But, for now it is still the Wild West in cyberspace for writers and readers and the Marshall has yet to ride into town....or perhaps a better metaphor would be Prince John has yet to be humbled by the barons at Runnymede.