Notes from underground

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Archive for the tag “writing”

Medium and Niume — what are they?

For some time now I’ve been hearing about web sites called Medium and Niume, and I’ve been urged to join them. The trouble is, I don’t know what they are, or what they are for.

Today I saw an article that gave at least some information about Medium — ‘The Internet Is Broken’: @ev Is Trying to Salvage It – The New York Times:

Medium was supposed to be developing its business around advertising, which would have paid for writers like Ms. Norman and made the site viable. Then it abruptly pivoted in January and laid off a third of the staff, or about 45 people. Advertising was suddenly no longer the solution but the villain.

“Ad-driven systems can only reward attention,” Mr. Williams says. “They can’t reward the right answer. Consumer-paid systems can. They can reward value. The inevitable solution: People will have to pay for quality content.”

But it doesn’t look good.

I went to the Medium site to find out more, but the main menu was unreadable — designed by web designers who firmly believe that illegibility provides an enhanced “user experience”. Holding a magnifying glass up to the screen enabled me to read enough of the low-contrast text to see that there was no “About” page that would tell you about the site and what its purpose was and how it worked. The NY Times article gives some hints at the thinking behind it, but doesn’t actually tell you what “it” is.

Niume is even worse. You have to join it before you can even see if there is an about page and decide whether you want to join it or not. How’s that for buying a pig in a poke? Whatever advantages it might have, that’s enough to put me off right there.

So my question is: Can anyone who has actually used either or both these sites tell us something about what they are and what they are for, and, if they are blog hosting sites, how they compare with other such sites like WordPress or Blogger?

 

 

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It’s a good thing that no one is reading this

… so why do I bother to write it?

Pointless, my favourite TV show

Pointless, my favourite TV show

It seems that when I post a link to a blog post on Facebook lots of people comment on Facebook (never on the blog itself) and haven’t read the post anyway. It sometimes worried me and made me think sometimes that blogging was a pointless activity.

Here was I taking all this trouble to write something, but nobody was reading it. And anyway the people whose opinions I was seeking never responded because Facebook never showed it to them. Facebook’s algorithms seem pretty pointless too. I have something like 470 friends on FB, and Facebook only shows me stuff from about 15 of them. I become friends with someone on FB, and Facebook shows me their posts for 3 days and then stops. So what’s the point?

But then I read this (from a link from Twitter), and thought I’d better stop worrying about it Why it’s a very good sign that people don’t read your content:

When I started out as a blogger, I had no idea what I was doing. I was working so hard, and creating content that was pretty darn good. And yet, nobody was reading my posts, commenting, or sharing. I was frustrated.

Pointless-3But if it’s all pointless anyway, what does it matter?

As that article points (oops!) out, it doesn’t matter whether people read it or not, so why bother to try to write anything coherent when no one is going to read it anyway just random stream of consciousness stuff will do and writing a blog post will be like a dog scratching itself to get rid of flees but why is my doing still scratching himself when I just put Frontline tick stuff on him three days ago? Ah, Frontline there’s a brand, and brands are the most important thing nowadays. Content is nothing, brands are all. I’ve seen web sites that ask you what you’re interested in and one of the important things to be interested in is brands not brands of anything — cars, shampoo, antitick stuff for dogs it doesn’t matter the important thing is brands. Not art literature books or anything just brands.

TelkomQuotaActually I haven’t been reading many links on Facebook myself lately either. I “like” it or not based on the headline, because if I go to the article itself this will happen –>

And waiting for web pages to load becomes like watching paint dry. Telkom does have a thing where you can buy more bandwidth and speed it up again, but it hasn’t been working for a week now, which makes Telkom Internet pretty pointless too.

So I’m not reading your content and you’re not reading my content, but that’s a good thing, according to the quoted article, which I bet you haven’t read either.

And so life is reduced to pointless click bait.

 

A who’s who of writers and scurrilous gossip column

Palimpsest: A MemoirPalimpsest: A Memoir by Gore Vidal
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not quite sure why I took this book out of the library. I sometimes find that I like literary biographies of authors more than the books they wrote, and I’ve never read any books by Gore Vidal.

After reading this one, I’m still not sure if I’ll read any others, but I found this one quite interesting, and in many places, especially the earlier part, witty and humorous. As the title suggests, he jumps backwards and forwards in time, sometimes writing over what he has already written, and sometimes the chronology is a little confusing, especially when discussing people he had known for a long time.

As a writer he met lots of other writers, and the book is a cross between a literary who’s who and a scurrilous gossip column. On the whole, however, he didn’t much like the company of other writers, even though he had met quite a lot of them, and he seems to have had fallings out with those he knew quite well, among whom were Tennessee Williams the playwright and Truman Capote the novelist. I was most interested in what he said about Beat Generation writers, as I have been particularly interested in them, and he knew Allen Ginsberg quite well, and had met some of the others, including Jack Kerouac, in whose book The Subterraneans he appeared as Arial Lavalina.

There is also quite a lot of political gossip, which throws an interesting light on American politics in the early 1960s. Vidal and Jackie Kennedy Onassis shared a common stepfather, whom both of their mothers had married for his money. Vidal himself even stood (or ran) for election at the time that Jack Kennedy was running for President, though he did not have a high opinion of most of the other members of the Kennedy administration, or of Kennedy himself, whom he regarded as a warmonger.

Concerning his own life, Vidal hated his mother, and had only one true love, Jimmy Trimble, whom he met at school, and they were lovers from the age of 12 until the age of 19, when Jimmy Trimble was killed in the Second World War. Thereafter Vidal had a preference for casual anonymous sex, a preference which, he says, he shared with Jack Kennedy, and thought sex was inimical to friendship. He did have a lifelong companion, but according to Vidal their relationship was premissed on “no sex”.

Vidal was also involved in film and television, and wrote several plays, some for television, some for the stage, and he also wrote the screenplay for several films. As a result quite a lot of his personal reminiscences involve actors, directors and producers in the film industry, and it is only his acerbic wit that keeps the parts of his book that deals with them from being a standard celeb gossip column.

An enjoyable read, and quite illuminating, but I’m still not sure if I’ll try to read any of his fiction.

View all my reviews

Youth and exile: writing a memoir

Having discovered (with a little help from my friends) where WordPress had hidden its old user-friendly editor, I’m posting this here rather than in my old Notes from Underground blog.

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed this book:

YouthYouth by J.M. Coetzee My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You can read my review here.

There I noted that Coetzee’s book was almost the story of my life, and mentioned some of the possibly interesting bits that he had left out, and someone left a comment to the effect that if I wrote my own version of the story, he would definitely buy it.

It’s a bit risky to start writing a book on the strength of one promise to buy it, but that’s exactly what I’m doing, with a provisional title of Youth and exile. You could say that my review of Coetzee’s book also contains the outline or summary of my own.

I’m also writing it using a tool I haven’t used before — Papel.

Papel is a kind of writer’s editor, where you can write stuff as you feel inspired to do, then move it around and link it later, and finally pull it into a word processor for polishing. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, things go quickly, and, as promised, it lets you just write, and leave the sorting, formatting and arranging for later. I find that creative writing goes better when you separate the writing and the editing processes, and Papel does that rather well.

Unlike Coetzee, I won’t be writing a fictionalised account. That would be too difficult, but it does entail certain limitations. Because some of the other people mentioned in my story are still living, and might possibly even read it, one cannot go into all the details of personal relationships that Coetzee does, even if only from the protagonist’s point of view.

But, Dana Ames, if you are reading this, and get impatient for me to finish it, you can always have a go at my fiction set in the immediately preceding period. You can find more about it here:

Of Wheels and WitchesOf Wheels and Witches by Stephen Hayes

or here.

View all my reviews

 

Apartheid and racism in children’s literature

A couple of years ago I reviewed a book on Apartheid and racism in children’s literature, and commented on how I had tried to deal with that theme in a book I had written, Of wheels and witches.

wheelscovSince my book has now been published, I thought it might be good to link it with the blog post that deals with how I tried to deal with those themes in writing it. If you’re interested in reading it, you can get a free 20% sample at Smashwords, with the option of downloading the whole thing if you haven’t already been bored by it.

There is at least one review of it on Good Reads here, and I hope others may be moved to post reviews of it there or elsewhere, either before or after reading the linked post on apartheid in children’s literature.

There’s one other thing.

Good Reads has lists of books of various types, and there didn’t seem to be any list for children’s or young adult books set in southern Africa, so I created such a list, and added this and a couple of other books to it. Please feel free to add more books to the list, and to vote for this book if you liked it, or for others in that category that you have liked. Please add it to any other lists on Good Reads that you think it may belong to.

 

Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian

Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian: Who are the most ruthless capitalists in the western world? Whose monopolistic practices make Walmart look like a corner shop and Rupert Murdoch a socialist? You won’t guess the answer in a month of Sundays. While there are plenty of candidates, my vote goes not to the banks, the oil companies or the health insurers, but – wait for it – to academic publishers. Theirs might sound like a fusty and insignificant sector. It is anything but. Of all corporate scams, the racket they run is most urgently in need of referral to the competition authorities.

I write like WHO?

I think I’ve tried this before, but the previous time I tried it with text from my journal. This time I thought I would try it with some text from a novel.

I write like
George Orwell

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!


That was with fairly straightforward text.

With more action oriented text, it said I wrote like Harry Harrison (who’s he?) or James Joyce.

Well, let’s try with another sample, also action oriented. Again it says that I wrote like James Joyce. Well, I suppose it’s at least consistent.

Third time lucky. A bit more pedestrian this time, the opening paragraphs, setting the scene. So what does it say?

I write like
James Joyce

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

OK, scratch George Orwell and Harry Harrison, james Joyce it is. Stay us wherefore in our search for tighteousness, O Sustainer!

That, in case anyone didn’t recognize it, is a quote from Finnegan’s wake

Still, I’m not sure it’s a compliment. I ploughed my way through Ulysses a couple of years ago, and one of my English profs told an honours student not to read it, as it would blunt his critical faculties. But the English department thought that English literature began and ended with D.H. Lawrence, with just one exception, one of their own number, Cake Manson, who was indubitably the greatest playwright since Shakespeare. Even Harry Harrison was easier to find with a Google search than Cake Manson.

Perhaps I should send my unpublished novel to Joyce’s publishers, and see if they are impressed.

Book review: The memory collector

The Memory CollectorThe Memory Collector by Meg Gardiner

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book started off OK. There was a mystery about what had caused an airline passenger to go berserk on board a plane, and whatever it was seemed dangerous and possibly contagious. But after the first fifty pages or so, the plot seemed to come unravelled.

It reminded me of a book I had bought to read on a plane a few years ago, Temple by Matthew Reilly. Reilly was quite frank about his aim to write an action novel where the action never lets up, and so one improbable scene follows another until it descends into mind-numbing tedium. Well Meg Gardiner writes a little bit more articulately than Reilly (not very difficult) but after one or other character jumped the shark for the fifth or sixth (or was it the seventh?) time, I found myself nodding off to sleep in the middle of some exciting action-packed scene with no clear indication of how or why the characters got there. They simply move from one action scene to another.

Well, you get the picture. If you’re on a long plane trip and don’t mind dropping off to sleep in the middle of what you’re reading, it will do.
___
Oh, and while I’m writing about books, NaNoWriMo started yesterday. I’ll be giving it a miss this year… again. I’m too busy with non-fiction to spare writing time for fiction. The book I wrote with two co-authors on healing ministry in Zimbabwe is getting closer to publication. And I’m working on another book, on the history of the charismatic renewal movement in southern Africa with Prof John de Gruchy, so my writing time is already pretty fully occupied. I still read trashy novels to unwind, though.

View all my reviews

I write like WHO?

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

That’s better!

I’ve never heard of David Foster Wallace, but the first time I tried it it told me I wrote like Dan Brown. Oh the embarrassment! Oh the despair! I nearly died of shame.

Ok, but those attempts were with blog posts. Let’s try some of my fiction:

I write like
Edgar Allan Poe

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Well, at least it wasn’t Dan Brown!

Hat-tip to Aquila ka Hecate: A Blog By Nabokov?

Even unpublished authors need literary executors

It seems that even unpublished authors need literary executors these days.

The Girl in the £20m Inheritance Battle – partner of late novelist Stieg Larsson fights for share of fortune | The Guardian:

As the author of three dark and violent crime novels, Stieg Larsson was at home in a dysfunctional landscape of simmering resentments and rancourous family secrets. But the Swedish writer cannot have foreseen how, almost five years to the day after his death, the novels’ success would lead to bitterness and paranoia in his own family.

And I still haven’t made up my mind about whether Larsson’s protagonist is a Mary Sue or not.

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