23 December 2008

Coraline Movie- Enter The World Of Henry Selick's Coraline Movie

I have been very busy this past week prepping for Christmas, doing the usual shopping-cooking-wrapping routine. In the midst of this I picked up a copy of Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I was thinking of giving the book to my 8-year-old for Christmas, but I relish the prospect of solid nights of sleep too much to deal with the anticipated nightmares. This book is way spooky - a distillation and twist on every childhood nightmare I had, along with new ones I never dreamed. I stumbled upon a reference to the book on Carl's blog Stainless Steel Droppings, and love it from a marketer's perspective too - how excellent to think that the venture is sending out these inspired-inspiring boxes to dedicated fans such as Carl. Bravo.

The book will become a movie in February. Check out some preview info here -
Coraline Movie- Enter The World Of Henry Selick's Coraline Movie
and better yet, give the book a read beforehand. I'll never look at protective coloration the same way again.

Now for your further enjoyment, see Neil Gaiman's explanation of Koumpounophobia:

14 December 2008

Hunting along the Tumun

Sometimes, an anti-hero can teach us more about goodness than can a straight-up angel. The Ginseng Hunter
by Jeff Talarigo is an excellent profile of an anti-hero. The novel's main character lurches from event to event in his own life with a stubborn refusal to engage with the people around him; he is asocial and proud to be so. He enjoys his solitary existence harvesting ginseng along the Chinese side of the Tumen River and spares as little thought for the people around him as he can get by doing.

As the seasons change and The Hunter continues his steady pursuit of the hard to find Ginseng root, his ability to remain solitary is threatened. Refugees from across the river steal his harvest, interrupt him at his work, and occlude his single mindedness. Soon enough, he ends up intimate with one such refugee, a Scheherazade of a woman and a prostitute who tells him terrible and strange tales of her homeland in North Korea.

The Hunter's moral path is not instantly cleared for him; as with many people in real life, he acts in ways both reprehensible and laudatory. I did not find it easy to predict why in one case he acted nobly and another in a Hobbesian fashion; nor were his motives entirely explained. Still, the tale is satisfying in that the reader realizes that The Hunter does not completely understand his motives either.

In the conclusion, the book is sad and poignant; and the story of the refugees presented in the book is pitiful. I recommend this book, but don't expect moral redemption from it; instead it provides an accurate portrayal of a person thrust into heroic situations unprepared for them.

Scheherazade illustration by freeparking.

The situation in North Korea is terrible when it comes to human rights. I encourage readers to educate themselves, and consider supporting an organization that supports the cessation of human rights abuses in North Korea, such as Amnesty International.

13 December 2008

Religious studies for the admittedly damned

Recently I reread a book published at the brink of the Great Depression on the history and nature of religion. On the surface, this is a very odd choice for me, as I have no more religious impulse than an alley cat and what religious thought is today is of no more interest to me than the politics of UFO seekers. However, this particular book, Treatise on the Gods, was written by H.L. Mencken, one of my favorite authors. For me, only someone with Mencken's wry wit, lucid style, and cynical eye could make such a subject worth reading.

Mencken was best known as a cynic and critic, and I suspect he doubted his own doubts. Religion and the overly-religious were some of his favorite targets; he was one of the primary people behind the scenes at the Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee. (He was, in fact, the one who recommended Clarence Darrow for the defense.) One might suspect that Treatise on the Gods would be filled with some of Mencken's most fiery prose against the entire institution, but in fact it is quite cool and scholarly. He looks at religion as a force and an institution and a way of thought through a clinical eye. He starts with the best guesses and surmises of its murkiest beginnings, based on theological research and common themes and ideas in religions. Mencken also examines religions from around the globe, from all the continents and many times, to show that the commonality is far greater than the differences. The Spanish, for example, were shocked to find the Aztecs practicing baptism.

Ultimately he focuses on the Judeo-Christian forms of religion; no surprise, since this was (and still is) the dominant form of religion in the United States. It may also be the most-researched religion in the world, thus allowing keener insight into the workings and thought processes of theologians and the religious. Be forewarned, though, that Mencken does say some things about the Jews that are pretty unflattering, though in this they are no different than any group to whom Mencken turned his attention. Born in 1880 in Baltimore, he was unable to entirely escape the prejudices and tastes of his time (who is?) and anti-semitism was more common then, and more tolerated. (It is interesting to note that when Alfred Knopf, Mencken's friend and publisher and himself a Jew, was asked if Mencken was anti-semitic, Knopf's reply was "probably no more than many Jews"; it was a different world. And for all the discussion these last few years about Mencken's anti-semitism, his greatest invective was directed to the poor southern white, whose religion he examines closely and without positive results.)

On the whole, the book is well-researched, well thought-out, an easy read and very moderate in tone. Mencken being Mencken, though, there are a few barbs being hurled, all the more painful and funny for being so true. What stands out most is how little religion has changed. The outward forms and ceremonies have a tendency to drift and alter as time passes, but nothing at the core in any modern religion cannot be found, and documented, in some religion of 2000 BCE. The book may have been first published in 1930, and there may be whole libraries of books on the subject published since then, but in essence nothing has changed, except for new information based archeological research into the gods and religions of the ancients. Even here, from what I've seen, the basics are still the same and some ideas and what are seen as modern developments have proven to be older and more widespread among our distant ancestors than was previously thought.

It is, in fact, this clinging to ideals, some plainly wrong, coupled with a hideboud hyperconservatism, which marks all religions. They may change on the surface, such as the Catholic Church's recent opening up to groups in America it shunned earlier, but that was due to nothing theological, rather to finances: their membership and cashflow ebbed tremendously after the scandals of the late nineties and early aughts, and they needed new blood. In spite of being nearly eighty years old, Treatise on the Gods is still worth reading and still is, as far as I know, the best critical look at the whole field of religion and the religious available.

A Guest Blogger Post by Richard Burton

08 December 2008

2009 Audiobook challenge

I've been really parsimonious about signing up for any challenges lately, but given the length of my commute this one seems do-able. The gauntlet is down, and I'm taking on the 2009 Audiobook Challenge. Already, I imagine that my first set of recordings will be George R R Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series to refresh my memory of the characters and plot before the release of Dance with Dragons. Which is going to happen any day now. Really seriously.

Thank you Ex Libris for letting me know about he challenge, and good luck to you too!

22 November 2008

Bionicle Taxonomy

Elliot recently finished the Bionicle Encyclopedia by Greg Farshtey

What are the books about?
It gives the details of the bionicles and I really like it.

So there's different kinds of bionicles in the book?
Yes. There are piraka, visorak, inika and dark hunters

Who's your favorite bionicle in the book?
My favorite bionicle - I have lots of favorites - is Makuta and Karzahni. I don't have just one favorite. Makuta almost died creating Karzahni.

What was the most exciting part of the book?
You can see the bionicle pictures and look up information about the bionicles.

Are bionicles violent?
What do you think? They don't really fight each other. The bionicles can do tricky things together and building them is fun

Do you do play often with bionicles?
Yes. They are my top toy to play with. I hope to get some for Christmas

What's the next bionicle that you want?
LEGO Bionicle Takanuva. Because he's the Toa of light and has defeated the makuta twice.

19 November 2008

Typing in Kalahari

I recently read The Kalahari Typing School for Men. I saw it in the library, and recognized Alexander McCall Smith from his work on the The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency . I wasn't aware until after I read the The Kalahari Typing School for Men (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Book 4) that there was more than 2 books in the series; and although in was clear in reading Kalahari that there had been events transpiring since the first book in the series, I didn't feel I'd missed much.

While an interesting narration of Botswana, in many ways the place seemed idealized. Any difficulties the characters faced were trifling and the characters were in no hurry to address them -  although likeable characters, I didn't connect to them. Mma Ramotswe in this book faces her first competitor, and solves two difficult issues. The competitor is presented with little depth, and the cultural issues of having a person of Zulu origin interacting with the characters are only there by allusion. It seems in this case McCall Smith had the opportunity to discuss the racial/tribal divides of Africa from a Botswanan perspective, but shied away from that thorny topic. Great literature should heartily explore such issues and opinions, so that in doing so the reader is engaged with them and must come to an opinion also. The avoidance of this topic and reference to it in only oblique ways made me mindful of a Mill quote I saw today courtesy of Wordsmith.org:
The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. -John Stuart Mill, philosopher and economist (1806-1873) 

What this book did inspire me to do is find out a little more about Botswana. I  will be on the lookout for more reading on that country.

Photo by OxOx

17 November 2008

And the winners are...

Thanks for all your wonderful comments in response to the giveaway carnival! I decided to give away 2 books, as follows.

The giveaways were sent out this week:

Witch Child by Celia Rees (hardcover, teen fiction) goes to Popinfresh, stop by and say congrats at her blog, Popin's Lair. She got herself a copy of Witch Child by Celia Rees. Popsy, I like your explanation of how difficult it was to imagine how to live in that time; I think Rees' book does a good job with getting you into the head of the characters and can help you visualize what they went through. Prithee, read and report soon.

Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand. (paperback, non-fiction) goes to to Dixie, because it is a wonderful book and her blog A few of my favorite things is completely lacking in any sort of book review. I'm counting on Seabiscut's heroic story to inspire her to write one.

Note to contestants: I read all your entries and followed your profiles - thanks so much to each of you for the great comments. Unfortunately, some of you had no contact info on your profiles or your blogs, so even though your entries were great if I couldn't reach you to make sure you met the conditions, you couldn't win. Sorry.

11 November 2008

Time in a bottle

This Veteran's Day, thank a veteran for all that makes you proud to be an American. United States servicemen and servicewomen answer a calling to service of the American republic, so that we who do not serve can live in peace. Whether we as individuals support the government policies or oppose them, I believe our support for the soldiers should be unstinting, and that the commitment doesn't end when the soldier leaves the service.

Thanks Dad.

I have a lot to be proud of this year, as an American. This election year was extraordinary in so many ways, and for me as a mother I hit a milestone of having 2 children who are politically aware for the first time. 4 years ago for the last presidential election, neither understood what was happening very well. This year, both boys were full of questions about the process, they wanted to know about the issues, and they wanted to engage with it somehow. We wanted to do something important, something significant and immediate, that could commemorate the historic political event. I brainstormed with them for a bit while we were discussing how that might happen, and we then decided to make a time capsule and seal it - not to be opened until the next presidential election.

To start with, each of us in the family drew a flag. I had expected a few variations on the stars and stripes but instead they drew family flags, complete with beagles and coffee and bionicles. I then collected up some of the campaign materials I had available for the envelope and tossed them in. My elder son started a tic tac toe game challenging his future self; he made a move and now is eager to see if he can set a record for the Guinness Book of World Records for longest lasting single player tic tac toe game.

We'll see in 4 years what has happened to our time capsule, our economy, and the American status in the world community. I'm proud to be an American.

Time capsule photo by MShades.

03 November 2008

Giveaway Carnival - Book Giveaway

I'm participating this year in the Book Giveaway Carnival and am pleased to offer the following available book giveaways.

Please comment here regarding your interest and why you want what you want - I'll select at least one, and possibly more recipients depending on the quality of entries. I will be reviewing one of these books in November, and request that the winner respond to the review with comments on the book awarded.

Here's the 411 how to win -
  1. Comment below explaining which book you'd like to win and, most importantly, why.

  2. I'll review the entries and select the most compelling entrant to receive a book - if the quality of comments is high, I may award more than one book.

  3. Entries must be received by midnight EST on 11/9 and the recipient will be selected on 11/10.

  4. In November, I'll post a review of the book awarded - return to the review and post your comments.

Available giveaways include literature for a variety of readers:

Witch Child by Celia Rees (hardcover, teen fiction)Let's look at the planets (Poke and Look) by Laura Driscoll (hardcover, nonfiction, young readers)
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy - (paperback, science-fiction) Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand. (paperback, non-fiction).

The fine print: Winner receives the book free & clear and I will pay to ship the book to you. Entries from spammers, pornographers, and people unable to read or write in English will not be accepted. (If you are fluent in another language, that's great, but the giveaway books are in English.) If the shipping costs for the prize would be beyond a common-sense threshold, for example more than the value of the book, I may substitute an e-prize of some sort.

02 November 2008

I still hate daylight savings time

Again, I wake today afflicted by daylight saving time. The fall DST ending is at least a little less onerous than the spring DST beginning. But I'll still find myself wanting lunch at 10:30 am and having to leave for work in the dark.

DST is basically a collective action motivated by a misplaced and unproven idea that we can save energy by making better use of daylight. In fact, DST is recognized as increasing energy use and costs. A new perspective on my aggravation at DST has emerged this election season as I see how very powerful collective action can be. A motivated group can have tremendous impact towards achieving a shared goal. What a shame that we waste that collective effort on something with so ambiguously beneficial as DST. What if instead we had a national event to "pick up one piece of litter" or "take a 10 minute walk"? We'd probably make a big change towards a cleaner environment or reducing American obesity with that effort - much more of an impact on those issues than we see on our energy use with daylight saving time.

If someone could show me a well-vetted scientific study showing that DST actually did have significant quantifiable benefits, I'd line up and comply without complaint. But as with many lemming-like popular movements, DST has not demonstrated that it has a real, measurable benefit.

01 November 2008

Resources for Grantwriters on the Internet

I was at an internet marketing conference recently, and during the trip back home I had the opportunity to mentally reminisce about my past online efforts and wonder how I got from there to here. One thing I recalled was the messy early days of internet article publishing; rather than using hyperlinks to send users to an interesting article, articles would be mirrored, or republished entire, at other sites. I was pleased at the time when a page I wrote for a class at the University of Michigan got picked up and mirrored at the University of Miami. It was pretty difficult then to even tell when this had happened. This was back in the days when Google was still in alpha, and the simple interface we love today wasn't available; if I recall correctly, my page was optimized for display in Lynx. There are still a few scattered links in dusty directories online: Indiana State, the University of South Carolina, and Valdosta State University still have the link. After a bit of digging around, I found some of my early html and thought perhaps, with the magic of google docs, I should repost it.

So, from my own personal wayback machine, let's set the dial to February of 1995: Resources for Grantwriters on the Internet.

31 October 2008


Thanks to Blogdesignblog I heard today on twitter about a neat concept proposed by fellow twitterer cwestbrook : How You Can Help End the Problem of Blogs With Great Content and No Readers. It seems like a complementary idea to crowdsourcing with a collective action twist; cwestbrook is looking to develop a horde of bloggers who will commit in serial fashion to reading a selected blog of the group's for two weeks, and then move on to another. This reminds me of crowdsourcing, but in a twisted way - perhaps it is sourcecrowding? Where instead of throwing a problem out to the receptive masses for a solution to be generated, the seeking masses go roving around looking for a place to contribute. Almost like following the grateful dead from venue to venue, but way more geeky, like halloween socks complete with red flashing lights.Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

cwestbrook describes the benefit of this best in his own words:
"Imagine how it would feel to have those numbers and those people looking at your blog after it’s been frustratingly quiet for months. It would be tremendous. That blogger would be permanently bolstered, and it would all be because of the strength of their content, and anything that allows bloggers that focus fully on content to succeed is great for the medium."
I'm optimistic enough with a positive perspective on human nature to think this would be great.

Round crowd image by alex itin.
But those feet are all mine.

30 October 2008

Cream filled center of the marketing ├ęclair

Yesterday I attended the American Marketing Association Conference on Digital Centered Marketing. It was a smaller group than attended the last such event on search engine marketing, but as such the group was very active and participatory instead of just being quietly receptive. That was pretty neat.

Featured speakers included:
  • Bill Flitter, Founder of pheedo.com - Bill led a great discussion about how to leverage from one social site to another using connector sites, and explained persuasively why that was the right tact. He also provided an excellent case study re: Kryptonite locks and the power of social networks along with a very real dollars-based quantification of the impact. (One small criticism: his handouts made me feel a bit guilty - lots of 24-point font sentences on 66 pages of single sided paper. It presented well on screen but the handout wasn't designed as a handout, it was just a print of what was shown and not therefore as effective. I feel like I need to go plant a tree to make up for the gratuitous paper usage. Often presenters should consider providing multiple-slide per page layouts on double sided printouts to be more ecologically minded.)

  • Toby Bloomberg of Bloomberg Marketing - great material on how to sell what social marketing is based on building relationships. She covered the basic netiquette of getting started in the social marketing arena. One helpful take away she provided was information about corporate blogging policies; see her post on this, Corporate Blogging Guidelines for further info.

  • Dana VanDen Heuvel of MarketingSavant - Dana got closest to addressing the holy grail I was questing for by coming to the conference: how do I value social marketing efforts? Unfortunately, I don't think the medium is mature enough yet to start pricing it - or, the data is lacking for the analysis I want. Dana will be someone to check back with later though as I expect he'll take a swing at addressing this someday.

I twittered the event. Here's most of my tweetstream for the Digital Centered Marketing Event, excepting those posts I forgot to tag. Quick twitter lesson for online marketers - use the hash mark and a phrase to tag your tweets to group them for later indexing. (Hey twitter or twitter-analogues I have a feature request: how about an auto-tagging widget tag summary type tool?

  • The conference today was good, the AMA gives good Hot Topics. Thanks to the presenters! #AMADCM about 2 hours ago from web

  • checking out slide.com #AMADCM about 5 hours ago from web

  • now in the lab portion, we're assessing how today's lessons could be applied tomorrow. #AMADCM about 5 hours ago from web

  • talking about the book Groundswell #AMADCM about 5 hours ago from web

  • Currently Browsing: http://www.digitalcenteredm... is the event website. I love electronic handouts instead of paper. #AMADCM about 6 hours ago from TwitterBar

  • I won a book in a corporate bingo - Citizen Marketers. So, now I have another book to review. Thanks Dana! #AMADCM about 6 hours ago from web

  • Ok, I can hook this site to that and the other for updates. But what if one hook goes under? Better to keep the hub in house. #AMADCM about 6 hours ago from TwitterBar

  • Social Marketing analysis of the Obama campaign - very topical insights, kudos Bill. #AMADCM about 6 hours ago from TwitterBar

  • how to use rss to tie all the social networking sites together now. Write once post many. #AMADCM about 6 hours ago from TwitterBar

  • thinking about product images on flickr and google images. How'd they get there? How do I get more up and promote the brand? #AMADCM about 7 hours ago from web

  • Anyone else remember the the kryptonite blogstorm? Makes a good case study. #AMADCM about 7 hours ago from TwitterBar

  • there is a fan for every product. But does it make sense that hot wheels has a market cap higher than GM? about 8 hours ago from web

  • wondering whether the wii internet channel will support ads. Hmm. about 8 hours ago from web

  • Bill Flitter, founder of pheedo now presenting http://www.tinyurl.com/AMAD... #AMADCM about 8 hours ago from TwitterBar

  • wolfgang puck serves an awesome business lunch. #AMADCM about 8 hours ago from web

  • word of mouth recommendations from an person on the take is only 63% as effective as unbiased recommendations online. about 10 hours ago from web

  • Social marketing gives you answers to questions that you never asked. Yes, but how to separate the wheat from the chaff? about 10 hours ago from web

  • reviewing a recommended article http://tinyurl.com/trustand... #AMADCM about 10 hours ago from web

  • Now speaking at the AMA digital centered marketing conference: Toby Bloomberg of Bloomberg Marketing about 11 hours ago from TwitterBar

  • Over 63% of reviews on Amazon.com are positive. Maybe I shouldn't be so cynical. #AMADCM about 12 hours ago from web

  • A recent verified study for a Christian Women's group found only 3% of women age 33-50 were social networking. #AMADCM about 12 hours ago from TwitterBar

  • "We're in the beta economy." Awesome quote, given market conditions. about 12 hours ago from TwitterBar

  • doing digital centered marketing right requires a solid CRM strategy too. Well, of course! about 12 hours ago from web

  • there are 7000+ variations of the my coke rewards program emails, varied by behavioral heuristics. Dang. about 12 hours ago from web

  • Dana VanDen Heuvel of MarketingSavant is now presenting re: Assessing the impact of new media. I want numbers. about 12 hours ago from web

  • Jupiter research says: social network users are 3x more likely to trust peer opinions over advertising in purchase decisions. about 12 hours ago from web

  • Today I'll be live tweeting from the AMA conference Digital Centered Marketing http://www.tinyurl.com/AMAd... about 12 hours ago from web

  • Awake in Chicago. about 14 hours ago from twitterrific

I won a book in a corporate bingo (caught Bill saying 'target market' - ha! The book is Citizen Marketers by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba. So, now I have another book to review soon. Dana said they selected it as a good review of the evolution of the 'everyone is in the marketing department' idea. Thanks Dana!

I learned of a bunch of interesting sites I will soon check out. Top on my list is the digital centered marketing event website. I am very, very impressed that this was available immediately after the event with the slides and references. There was some great discussion going on with fellow students in the class; I wonder if that discussion will be able to continue on the site?

The majority of the sites discussed are bookmarked at http://delicious.com/digitalcenteredmarketing. And of course I will have to dive into their list of 24 books on digital centered marketing that they recommend.

29 October 2008

DailyLit and the Art of War

I recently subscribed to DailyLit based on a recommendation from fellow book blogger Sharon at Ex Libris. I'm starting out with a feed for Sun Tzu's the Art of War. I've never been able to connect with the text before, as I found the list approach to be stilted. But somehow it seems to fit very well as an rss feed. Just as Sun Tzu intended it, I suppose. It just goes to show that good content can work in any media.

One issue I'm having with it is that I usually post my progress status in the sidebar with a snippet of javascript such as showing how far I've read as a simple percentage of pages read. But the feed from dailylit doesn't let me do that easily; they do say how many episodes there are in a book, but I've no idea whether those are each of equal length or not. So, for example, I've read 2 of 16 episodes of The Art of War but I have no idea if that means I am 12.5% of the way through or not. My quantitatively oriented gray matter is quivering with frustration at this obvious oversight.

Photo of book by Nuno Barreto