Thursday, November 15, 2012

US and UK English Word of the Year

The Oxford American Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary have selected their respective word of the year.

Let’s start with US English.

The winner is GIF (Graphics Interchange Format). Katherine Martin, head of the U.S. dictionaries program at Oxford explains that “the GIF has evolved from a medium for pop-cultural memes into a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace.”

GIF was originally released by CompuServe in 1987 and has become popular in recent years for its ability to have users make humorous commentary on topics ranging from sports to political elections.
Two other words battled GIF for the top spot: YOLO which stands for “You only live once” and “Superstorm” after the major storm that affected the Eastern U.S. during the first week of November 2012.

Not surprisingly, UK English has a different word of the year. The winner is “omnishambles“, which is defined as “a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations.”

A runner up was the word “Pleb“, taken from the Roman word “plebs“. It is used as a derogative term to describe “a member of the ordinary people or working classes.”

Funny enough being the word of the year does not guarantee that those words will actually be included in future editions of the Oxford English Dictionary!

A word that took the top spot is previous years is “egosurfer” to describe a person who keeps googling him/herself.

No matter if these words will be included in official dictionaries; they speak volumes about our pop culture!

Which word would you choose to be the word of the year? My favorite is “Fiscal Cliff”!

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Linguistic Connection between a Dragon, Draconian Law and a Constellation

No, it’s not all Greek to me! The Greek word “Drakōn” means “snake, monster” and hence entered many Western languages such as dragon (English, French), Drache (German), dragón (Spanish), dragão (Portuguese), dragone (Italian), and draak (Dutch). It also inspired names of fictional characters such as Dracula and Draco Malfoy.
But Δράκων (Drakōn or Draco) was also a Greek legislator who was notorious for his severe laws. He lived in the 7th century BCE. He wrote laws that allowed liberal use of the death penalty, even for minor offences.  Due to its harshness it became know as “draconian”, which is used nowadays to refer to similarly unforgiving rules or laws.

And for the stargazers among you –Draco is also a constellation in the far northern sky! Dragons in Greek mythology quite likely have inspired the constellation's name, including Ladon, the dragon who guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides, and was killed by Hercules as part of his 12 labors. According to Greco-Roman legend, the dragon Draco was killed by the goddess Minerva and tossed into the sky upon his defeat.

Furthermore, in the 1620s, the French word “dragon” referring to a carbine or  also made its way into the English language as "dragoon" since the guns the soldiers carried "breathed fire" like a dragon.
It makes you wonder – would Draco the Lawmaker be amazed at the impact he had on so many languages for millennia? We will never now…

Sunday, October 14, 2012

George Takei’s ebook – a great read! Oh Myyy!

George Takei might be best known as Sulu in the original Star Trek, but he is one heck of a wordsmith!
He recently published his eBook “Oh Myyy! On Life, the Internet and Everything
To give you taste of his delicious tongue-in-cheek humor:

Somewhere along the way to the digital age, somebody decided that cats conjugate improperly when speaking English and love to eat cheeseburgers. For some other mysterious reason these assumptions stuck, and a new breed of cat memes made their way onto the Interweb.

I do love cats, but my fans love them even more. Factoid: There are something on the order of 86.4 million pet cats in the United States alone. This explains the success of the musical “Cats” (It certainly wasn’t the non-existent plot). Whenever I post an image with a cat in it, I can count on a baseline of tens of thousands of likes and shares. Even if the cat is really ugly.

You probably know that some of the most popular videos on YouTube are cat videos. If you haven’t seen the “Ninja” cat and the “Paddy Cake” cats, you aren’t very good at surfing the net. There are even YouTube videos about how popular cats are on YouTube.

A cat-based video is so much more likely to be played and shared that I’ve considered creating YouTube promotions for my show “Allegiance” with cats playing all of the internment camp guards and internees. Apart from being in highly questionable taste, I’ve never successfully figured out how to make some of the cats look Japanese—besides putting cute little rice paddy hats on them.
Right now at least half of you have an image of a cat in a rice paddy hat.

I’ve lately asked myself what the fascination with cats is. Much of the attraction derives from their highly “human”-like expressions and the rich variation in their size, color and, often, girth. We humans can all see our own exploits, frustrations, and failures in their eyes and their efforts, more so than almost any other creature.

By contrast, dogs are commonly portrayed as “one-note” creatures that have more unconditional, simpler expressions. It also explains why there is no musical called “Dogs”.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

The Arrow and the Song by Longfellow

I shot an arrow into the air,

It fell to earth, I knew not where;

For, so swiftly it flew, the sight

Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,

It fell to earth, I knew not where;

For who has sight so keen and strong,

That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak

I found the arrow, still unbroken;

And the song, from beginning to end,

I found again in the heart of a friend.

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Monday, October 01, 2012

RJ Elliory's Blatant Self-Promotion - Clever Marketing?

Amazingly enough, RJ Ellory, a bestselling British crime writer, wrote fake reviews to market his work. He used pseudonyms to pen glowing reviews about his “magnificent genius” online.

In the process, he also criticized his rivals. For those of you who are not familiar with Ellory, he is 47 year-old writer, based in Birmingham, West Midlands, UK.

His full name is Roger Jon Ellory. He lauded his own novel A Quiet Belief in Angels as a "modern masterpiecee" and said that readers should "just buy it, read it and make up your own mind".

Amazingly enough, Mr. Ellory, who is a bestselling British crime writer, wrote fake reviews to market his work. He used pseudonyms to pen glowing reviews about his "magnificent genius” online.

"All I will say is that there are paragraphs and chapters that just stopped me dead in my tracks," he wrote. "Some of it was chilling, some of it raced along, some of it was poetic and langorous and had to be read twice and three times to really appreciate the depth of the prose … it really is a magnificent book."

In the process, he also criticized his rivals. "

Ellory has admitted posting the reviews on Amazon, and apologized for his actions.

He issued a statement saying: "The recent reviews – both positive and negative – that have been posted on my Amazon accounts are my responsibility and my responsibility alone. I wholeheartedly regret the lapse of judgment that allowed personal opinions to be disseminated in this way and I would like to apologize to my readers and the writing community."

The Crime Writers Association has issued a statement condemning the practice of using fake identities on blogs, Twitter or Amazon to promote a writer's own work and give bad reviews to others, calling it "unfair to authors and also to the readers who are so supportive of the crime genre", and adding that it is looking to set up a membership code of ethics.

What do you think? Clever marketing or deplorable promotion?

Clash of the Billion Widows – a Dream Come True for Writers and Lawyers Alike!

It’s the stuff authors and lawyers can only dream about – the clash of the billionaire widows.

Ingrid Flick, the widow of one of the members of the Flick family, a wealthy German industrial and political dynasty. The family owns an industrial empire that formerly embraced holdings in companies involved in coal, steel and a minority holding in Daimler AG. The Flick family is one of the richest industrial families worldwide.

The widow Flick wants to move the coastal road of Lake Wörth (located in Austria) at her expense, so it would not cut across her estate and therefore allow her more privacy.

Her neighbors are ticked off, including fellow billionairess Heidi Horten, who inherited an estimated $1 billion fortune upon the death of her husband, a German entrepreneur who founded and owned Horten AG (the fourth-largest chain of department stores in Germany).

According to ORF, Ms. Flick would be willing to spend 4m Euro for labor as well as a purchase price of 1.5m Euro to purchase the abandoned track, which would be a nice additional to her current real estate.
The local authorities are in favor of the purchase; it would solve the problem of the current traffic jams. 

According to Mr. Gerhard Dörfler, the sale of the around 900 meters road would be invested in infrastructure. He stated that this is an "amazingly positive story" and a "true windfall". The new infrastructure would enable public access to the lake.

However, local residents are not that excited, and protested publicly. At least 100 people demonstrated with signs stating: "Stop the coastal theft" and "We own the lake".

A representative of Ingrid Flick stated that "Any new infrastructure will only endanger the drivers, and all it does is granting the Flick family more privacy.”

Due to the very public battle of the billionaire widows, local authorities are currently taking a more prudent approach.
How will it end? Only time and political cloud will tell....stay tuned!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Review of Feign by T.L. Curtis

Since I like poetry, I jumped on the opportunity to review "Feign" by T.L. Curtis.

Her poetry is like a chocolate box - there is a flavor for everyone. Some poems are quite graphic and might offend sensitive souls (e.g., 'Carnal" and "Hags to Bitches") , while others are PG.

She also cleverly uses layout to entice her readers, which I did not see for a long time... Just read "The She Beat" and "Homme" to get the picture.

My personal favorite?


When I look into you
All the words I want to say
Seem to disappear [...]

T.L. Curtis is a social worker residing in Louisville, Kentucky. She can be reached at

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rowling heavily promoting her The Casual Vacancy – but will it cast a spell on adult readers?

JK Rowling is heavily promoting her latest novel “The Casual Vacancy”.

According to her interview with the Guardian, she dreamed up the idea for on a plane: "And I thought: local election! And I just knew. I had that totally physical response you get to an idea that you know will work. It's a rush of adrenaline, it's chemical. I had it with Harry Potter and I had it with this. So that's how I know."

The Casual Vacancy is set in a fictional town of Pagford, written from multiple perspectives. It is supposed to be "a story of class warfare set amid semi-rural poverty, heroin addiction, and teen-age perplexity and sexuality."

In writer Ian Parker's assessment, "within a few pages, it was clear that the novel had not been written for children.... But reviewers looking for echoes of the Harry Potter series will find them. The novel describes young people coming of age in a place divided by warring factions, and the deceased council member, Barry Fairbrother (who dies in the first chapter but remains the story’s moral center) had the same virtues, in his world, that Harry had in his: tolerance, constancy, a willingness to act."

From a marketing and legal standpoint, the terms of the embargo have become part of the story. The Guardian reporter described being "required to sign more legal documents than would typically be involved in buying a house before I am allowed to read it, under tight security in the London offices of Little Brown. Even the publishers have been forbidden to read it, and they relinquish the manuscript gingerly, reverently, as though handling a priceless Ming vase."

Good legal practice, but silly marketing? You are the judge!
Will Rowling be able to cast her spell on adult audiences? I have my doubts...Let’s wait and see!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

About An Ax-Murderess in the 17th Century, Rembrandt and a Determined Archivist in the 1960s

It all started when Baruch, a good friend and avid reader, told me that he just finished reading “The History of Amsterdam”. Since he knows that as lawyer and writer I love a good murder mystery or cause célèbre, he told me about a famous murder that took place in the 17th century and was eternalized by Rembrandt in two drawings. Fascinated, I started to research and found a compelling story that spans several centuries and involves three women and one painter. 

The story starts as follows. 

Around April 14th, 1664 Danish Elsje Christiaens came to Amsterdam at the age of 18. She was born in “Sprouwen”, which is quite likely Dutch for the island of Sprogo.

She wanted to work as a maid (or servant girl) and rented a place to sleep in the cellar of a boarding house. At the end of the first month, the manageress of the establishment came to collect the rent of one “daalder” (€ 0,68 or US$ 0.89). However, Elsje was not able to pay, since she had not been able to find any work yet.

The next day, the manageress asked again. At that point, the women started to argue. The manageress threatened to confiscate her chest containing her (meager) belongings. Their fight became physical when the manageress hit Elsje with a broomstick. Elsje then grabbed an ax that was near the cellar and hit the manageress on the head. The woman fell down the cellar stairs and died.

Elsje panicked, ran outside and jumped in the Damrak (at that time the mouth of the Amstel River). She was dragged out of the water and arrested. After two interrogations, she was convicted on May 1, 1664. The execution was considered to be fitting the crime: she was hanged in front of the town hall and the executioner hit her several times with the murder weapon on her head.

The body was then transported to Volewijck (at that time moor land that contained a gallows field). Her body was tied to the gallows with the ax hanging next to her head “in order for air and birds to devour her”. When Rembrandt learned about the faith of Elsje Christiaens, he rowed over to Volewijck where he made two drawings of the executed girl.

Centuries later, in the 1960s, archivist Ms. I.H. van Eeghen became fascinated by the two drawings. Although art historians dated the drawings around 1655, she realized that none of the Rembrandt experts had ever bothered doing any research in law archives to find out more about the subject of the drawings.
She started to go through 25 years of recorded confessions and found out that the only woman ever to get the death penalty at that time was a Danish maid called Elsje Christiaens.

Based on her findings, she was able to accurately date the drawings at the beginning of May 1664. She was pleased as Punch that the lauded Rembrandt experts erred 8-10 years with their dating, stating: “Elsje Christiaens, who once served as an example to deter others from committing crimes, is now once again serving as an example for art historians to be careful with their dating solely based on style criteria!’

I find it amazing how a young immigrant that was executed two weeks after entering a country in search of employment is talked about and blogged about almost 450 years later......Furthermore, this story involves three women: the murderess, the victim and the archivist.

I wonder....would Rembrandt have been amused?

Let me dedicate this blog post to another amazing woman who encouraged me to write this post: Gita Sterenson.

(Image: Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669, Elsje Christiaens pen- en pencil drawings (17 × 9 cm) 1664)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

My Love Affair with Silk

We European women have a love affaire with silk. It goes back centuries. If you look at European fashion throughout the ages, you will notice that only the aristocracy was able to have garments made out of silk.

Silk was revered for many reasons:
1) It was a status symbol
2) It came in far more vibrant colors than cotton or linen
3) It had a beautiful shine that was similar to satin
4) It was light in weight and therefore easier to wear
5) It was exclusive and expensive

Personally, I love wearing silk. It is especially wonderful in summertime, when it's hot. It feels like a whisper on your skin, in contrast to cotton that sort of sticks to your skin. Linen wrinkles like crazy, so you cannot wear it in business meetings or at work.

Apart from that, I love wearing silk because it gives me a feeling of luxury and rests on my skin like a whisper....That’s the reason why it’s also so popular for undergarments.

Another reason why silk is popular in Europe is due to regulation. To state that a garment is 100% silk, it must be made out of silk; no shortcuts as with certain food items! You therefore get what you buy.

There is a growing tendency to check labels. Consumers are smart and want to know what the garment is made of and how to wash it. Silk is also great that way – just gently wash it in lukewarm water using a gentle soap (I use baby shampoo!), and Bob's your uncle! Hang it up when still wet and you do not even need to iron it!

As you can tell, I am a fan of silk. I had a beautiful blouse in gorgeous hue of blue that I had for ages. I also have a blouse in shocking pink and a top + blouse in several shades of pink and purple that I have been wearing and complimented on for 10 years! In contrast to what many people think, silk garment have a long lifespan.

My list of favorite materials:
1) Silk ( my favorite)
2) Viscose (also great, especially in summer)
3) Cotton (nice, but heavy to wear)
4) Linen (I just hate the wrinkles and the material feels quite coarse)
5) Synthetics (I try to avoid them; they stick to my skin)

I still have to test bamboo......I am planning to buy a T-shirt made out of it soon in my fitness center Holmes Place. I wonder how it will hold up. Unfortunately, they are only available in black and green, which excludes my favorites colors (vibrant red and blue).

As "NO EASY DAY" Publishes, New Account Says Book Written When Author Was "Slighted" By Other SEALS

Despite ongoing controversy and the threat of a government lawsuit (and Navy SEALS being pulled off active duty as a consequence), Dutton is publishing No Easy Day by "Mark Owen" (the pen name for the retired SEAL Mark Bissonnette) today as scheduled. 

But things got weirder over the weekend when a group of former Special Operations veterans released a short ebook of their own, "No Easy Op: The Unclassified Analysis of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden, as a $4.99 KDP exclusive. 

It claims Bissonnette (the Times, and the ebook, use his real name throughout) was "willing to break the code of silence honored by many commandos because of 'bad blood' with his former unit, the elite SEAL Team 6," according to the NYT.

The discord began when Bissonnette expressed a desire to leave the SEALS after more than 14 years to start a consulting business. "How was he repaid for his honesty and 14 years of service?...He was ostracized from his unit with no notice and handed a plane ticket back to Virginia from a training operation." 

The ebook authors didn't say whether Bissonnette provided information for NO EASY OP, though the ebook's account is apparently sympathetic to him and said it was "highly unlikely that Mr. Bissonnette released any vital information about SEAL tactics and procedures," though they also criticized him for not submitting "No Easy Days" for review by government agencies.

"No Easy Days"  also warns: "Members of the Special Operations community are well known for eating their own...If Bissonnette's relationship with special ops was in danger when he left the unit, it's dead now. It is likely that Bissonnette will be not only ridiculed and criticized, but ostracized from the military completely: Some of these authors are considered personae non grata by their former units: members are instructed to never talk to the author and the author is never to be allowed to participate in unit functions again."

(Source: Publishers Lunch 9/4/2012)

Sunday, September 02, 2012

The Ongoing Mystery of the Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript is a detailed 240-page book written in a language or script that is completely unknown. It is named after the Polish-American antiquarian bookseller Wilfrid M. Voynich. He acquired it in 1912.

The pages are filled with colorful drawings of strange diagrams, odd events and plants that do not seem to match any known species. The appeal of the manuscript is impossibility to decipher it.

The original author of the manuscript remains unknown. Carbon dating has revealed that the pages were made sometime between 1404 and 1438 in Western Europe. Needless to say, it has been dubbed "the world's most mysterious manuscript."

There are legions of theories about the origin and nature of the manuscript. Some believe it was meant to be a pharmacopoeia with the purpose to display topics in medieval or early modern medicine. This is founded on the illustrations and descriptions of herbs and plants.

It has also been implied that it is some kind of alchemist textbook. This theory is based on the fact that many diagrams appear to be of astronomical origin, as well as the unidentifiable biological drawings.

Needless to say, it has also been stated that the book might have an alien origin. The book is quite likely not a hoax. It would involve too much time, money and effort to produce it, since every page contains botanical, figurative, and scientific drawings of a provincial but lively character. Each page is drawn in ink with vibrant washes in various shades of green, brown, yellow, blue, and red.

The content of the manuscript falls into six sections:
  1. Botanicals containing drawings of 113 unidentified plant species;
  2. Astronomical and astrological drawings including astral charts with radiating circles, suns and moons, Zodiac symbols such as fish (Pisces), a bull (Taurus), and an archer (Sagittarius), nude females emerging from pipes or chimneys, and courtly figures;
  3. A biological section containing a myriad of drawings of miniature female nudes, most with swelled abdomens, immersed or wading in fluids and oddly interacting with interconnecting tubes and capsules;
  4. An elaborate array of nine cosmological medallions, many drawn across several folded folios and depicting possible geographical forms;
  5. Pharmaceutical drawings of over 100 different species of medicinal herbs and roots portrayed with jars or vessels in red, blue, or green, and 
  6. Continuous pages of text, possibly recipes, with star-like flowers marking each entry in the margins.

Will anyone ever be able to decipher it? In the mean time, it remains one of the unsolved mysteries of our time.

Monday, August 27, 2012

How a Plastic Surgery in Caracas Uses Fairy Tale Characters for PR

Venezuelan Clinica Dempere is a plastic surgery clinic in Caracas. It promotes its
services in a clever, tongue in cheek, way. Ad agency ZEA BBDO produces clever ads based on the makeovers of fairy tale characters.

Under the slogan “We Make Fairy Tales Come True”, the frog is turned into a prince, and the ugly witch in a sexy vixen. But their latest ad might get them in hot depicts the makeover of the Andersen’s mermaid into a buxom, stiletto wearing, beauty.

The problem? She closely resembles Ariel of the Disney movie.] The ad created a storm in a teacup in the USA. Many critics were not happy with Disney’s portraying of princesses, claiming that they have the impossible figure of a Barbie doll and are therefore sending the wrong message to young girls about the definition of beauty. But worse, the ad might infringe on the IP of Disney.

That company is notorious for going after any infringement. Personally, I do not see the problem. The ads are clearly meant for discerning adults with a cheeky sense of humor. I doubt if any little boy or girl would take them seriously.

As a parent, I would be far more concerned about the original fairy tale by Andersen, where the op is performed with a sword (and no anesthetics a far as I remember!)

Disney’s legal eagles might take action, but ifor now, Clinica Dempere is enjoying its free press! Beats the hell out of issuing press releases and having a PR company promote your services for lots of $$$$.

It I would work for Clinica Demere, I would say “bring it on”, and contemplate which fairy tale to use in my next ad...Cinderella springs to mind!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Columnist and TV host Fareed Zakaria admits to copying parts of Lepore’s article

Again, a famous columnist admitted of copying someone else’s writings. FareedZakaria is a Washington Post columnist, TV host of CNN’s foreign affairs show GPS, as well as an editor-at-large at Time.
Mr. Zakaria has apologized for using several paragraphs in his column in Time magazine that were written by another writer saying that he made "a terrible mistake. It is a serious lapse and one that is entirely my fault." As a result, his column has been suspended for a month.

In a separate statement, Time spokesman Ali Zelenko said the magazine accepts Zakaria's apology, but would suspend his column for one month "pending further review."

He stated: "what he did violates our own standards for our columnists, which is that their work must not only be factual but original. Their views must not only be their own but their words as well.

Media reporters noticed that passages in Zakaria's column about gun control that appeared in Time's issue 20 of August issue closely resembled paragraphs in an article written by Harvard University history professor Jill Lepore. Her assay was published in the April 2012 issue of The New Yorker magazine.

Zakaria's column "The Case for Gun Control" starts with a paragraph containing the following text: “Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA, documents the actual history in 'Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America.' Guns were regulated in the U.S. from the earliest years of the Republic."

Jill Lenore's New Yorker "Battleground America" assay starts with: "As Adam Winkler, a constitutional-law scholar at U.C.L.A. demonstrates in a remarkably nuanced new book, 'Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,' firearms have been regulated in the United States from the start."

In his statement, Zakaria "unreservedly" apologized to Jill Lepore, the Time’s editors and his readers.

Was it enough? Obviously, since  both Time and CNN have reinstated Fareed Zakaria after conducting their plagiarism investigations, stating that it was "an unintentional error and an isolated incident". 

Yeah, sure, and I am a supermodel! 

(Image courtesy of TalkoftheTown)

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Prends-Moi Eau De Minceur – the Sweet Smell of Swindling?

The first time I heard about “the scent that makes you loose weight” on Fox News, I checked my calendar. Nope, it was not April Fool’s Day. So I decided that it was time to check out this strange bit of news.

Turns out that the French perfume house Robertet has created a fragrance claiming that it helps weight loss. The quite improperly named Prends-Moi Eau De Minceur or Take Me (in the sexual meaning of the word) Slimming Scent. How very French.

According to the Daily Mail, over 6,000 women in the UK alone have subscribed to a waiting list for the fragrance that will set each one of them back for around $50 for 100 ml.

According to the manufacturer Veld’s, the scent contains Betaphroline which stimulates the release of B-endorphins in the skin. This is supposed to trigger "an immediate sensation of well-being, a reduction in stress and an increase in contentment reducing the need to overeat."

This “amazing” (and absolutely unproven) chain of events is supposed to result in weight loss. A mix of other ingredients, such as Spirulina, Caffeine and Carnitine, should help to breakdown body fat.

The Centre of Biological Research and Cutaneous Experimentation claims that 70% per cent of women in a trial said that the perfume did indeed have an effect on appetite, influencing eating habits and 75% found their well-being boosted.

There are two problems with this lab research:
  1. The Centre is a private French laboratory that tests beauty products for paying customers to substantiate their claims. Thee results are based on statements of users. 
  2. No measurements of e.g., weight or body mass index were performed. In other words, all are results are subjective – placebo effect anyone?

Dr. Kim Bell-Anderson of the School of Molecular Bioscience at the University of Sydney found that there are "absolutely no peer reviewed publications to support this product." She could also not find even one shred of research suggesting that a product could permeate the skin to increase endorphin release.

It this product is really successful, should it not carry a warning for women that have eating disorders? Why are there no supermodels toting the fragrance? Well, we do know why......

Veld’s obviously has a great marketing and legal team. They are very clever with their wording by stating that “people feel as though their appetite is reduced" rather than making solid claims.

If you want to spend money of weight loss, please change your diet and go to a fitness center.  Please note: women that ordered the fragrance also tried to buy the Brooklyn Bridge.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Clever Book Marketing or Ripping off a Bestselling Author’s Brand?

Jeffrey Eugenides is bestselling author who won a Pulitzer Prize. His trademark image is vest, similar to Steve Job’s black turtle neck. He promoted his latest bestseller, The Marriage Plot, on a billboard in Times Square.

Jennifer Weiner, author of several Chick Lit novels such as In Her Shoes, is launches her latest one: The Next Best Thing. She promoted her novel copycatting Jeffrey’s ad. She appeared in an ad featured on various literary sites wearing a vest against a yellow background – eerily similar to the billboard of Eugenides. 
Since his vest is so famous, it even has its own Twitter account.  Weiner's ad boasts, "Jeffrey Eugenides doesn't have a book out this summer, but Jennifer Weiner has ... The Next Best Thing.

The similarity between the two ads is clearly intended; Weiner sports the same vest, the colors and layout of the ad are the same, and Weiner clearly copies Eugenides – outfit, posture, just look at the image!

Weiner tries to justify her rip-off as good old tongue-in-cheek fun. However, by cleverly leveraging social media, she uses viral marketing for personal gain – piggyback riding on a more reputable and famous author. 

Weiner claims: "I saw the billboards, thought, 'Wow, how brilliant (an ad in Times Square!)' and, 'Wow, those are interesting fashion choices!' (Vest, paisley shirt). From then, it was just a question of finding a vest that fit me (thanks, Men's Wearhouse!), and getting the right expression of un-smug, yeah-I've-got-a-Pulitzer, bitch confidence.

She added that she has no plans to wear the vest on her book tour but may "pass it along to the next female author who could use a little Jeff E magic." 

Eugenides himself has not responded yet. However, he might consider suing Ms. Weiner for her blatant rip-off….

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Poetry on Walls - Rimbaud's Poem on a Wall in Rue Férou

If you take a stroll along Rue Férou in Paris, you will see the poem Le Bateau Ivre (The Drunken Boat) by the French poet Arthur Rimbaud (1854 – 1891) painted on a wall. The location is quite significant; it is close to the location where Rimbaud at the tender age of seventeen recited it first.

Comme je descendais des Fleuves impassibles,
Je ne me sentis plus guidé par les haleurs :
Des Peaux-Rouges criards les avaient pris pour cibles,
Les ayant cloués nus aux poteaux de couleurs.

(When I was drifting along the calm Rivers,
I no longer felt guided by the bargemen:
The gaudy Redskins used then as targets,
And nailed them naked to the colorful totem pole)

It is the first mural poem outside of the Netherlands. The project “Poems on Walls” started in the university town of Leiden way back in 1992 with a poem of the Russian poetess Marina Tsvetajeva. It was the first of many poets written by i.e. Shakespeare, Lodeizen, Verlaine, Rilke, Yeats, Achterberg, Nijhoff, Claus, Szymborska, and Lucebert. The project ended in 2005 with the poem De Profundis by Garcia Lorca.

The Paris mural poem was painted by Jan Willem Bruins and unveiled on June, 14 as part of the annual Marché de la Poésie, where all French editors of poetry meet. The 30e Marché de La Poésie de St-Sulpice took place 14-17 June 2012.

If you want to read the full 100-lines poem (hand painted by Jan Willem Bruins) go to Rue Férou a small street that runs between the Place Saint Sulpice and Jardin de Luxembourg in the 6th Arrondissement de Paris

Always be a poet, even in prose
- Charles Baudelaire

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Social Media Spinning Out of Control in Sweden – The Sonja Abrahamsson Case

The Swedish government wanted to promote Sweden as a vacation destination, and came up with an innovative idea: let a citizen tweet on the official @sweden account for one week.

It all went well until the account was handed over to Sonja Abrahamsson. She can only be described as a train rack. May be she is channeling Chelsea Handler, but whatever the reason, it went sadly wrong. She tweeted about a lot of issues (most of them anti-Semitic and anti-gay), which made the whole well-intended social media experiment an international laughing stock.

She happily tweeted the following on behalf of the Swedish Nation:

“What’s the fuzz with Jews? You can't even see if a person is a Jew, unless you see their penises, and even if you do, you can't be sure!?”

“In Nazi German they even had to sew stars on their sleeves. If they didn't, they could never now who was a Jew and who was not a Jew.”

“Where I come from there are no Jews. I guess it’s a religion. But why were the Nazis talking about races? Was it a blood-thing (for them)?”

After bashing Jews, our Sonja went on to tweet (under the influence of vodka or illegal substances?):

Oh strawberries… dripping with milk and urine. So tasty… “

“I found some pics I've shopped on da computer. This pic I call "hungry gay with aids"

It seems that Ms. Sonja Abrahamsson (Twitter name Sonja Abraham) is a mother. (Social Services anyone? Please save her kids!). She tweeted on the official Sweden twitter account about her kids: “Sometimes I just look at my children and think about the time when they had my vagina round their neck.”

And when she did tweet something positive about her native country, it went like this:
I seriously need to get some eggs before I starve like an African child. Even if it’s not possible. In Sweden we have great social security.”

Ms. Abrahamsson (Judasson would be a better name!) describes herself as a “27-year old womanlike human being from Northern Sweden. . . In the autumn we had to pick up potatoes, in the winter we shoveled snow, in the spring we were confused and the summer forced us into growing thick skin and made us the bad motherf*ckers we are. Because of the big swarms of mosquitoes [sic] that will drain you on blood until death unless you can take it.”  Charming.Reminds me of a person I once met from Luleå.

She claims to be a columnist at Nyheter24. describes itself as “a modern news site with relevant news coverage for a target audience of 15 - 39 years of age”.  If so, I strongly advise them to fire her on the spot. There is no excuse for this kind of hate tweets.

Lesson to be learned: never let anyone tweet on your behalf without supervision!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Don't Mess Around With The Medical Profession!

The NZ Medical Association has weighed in on the Prime Minister's prescription fee increase.

The Allergists voted to scratch it, but the Dermatologists advised not to make any rash moves.

The Gastroenterologists had a sort of a gut feeling about it, but the Neurologists thought the Administration had a lot of nerve.

The Obstetricians felt they were all labouring under a misconception.

Ophthalmologists considered the idea short-sighted. Pathologists yelled, "Over my dead body!" while the Paediatricians said, "Oh, Grow up!"

The Psychiatrists thought the whole idea was madness, while the Radiologists could see right through it.

The Surgeons were fed up with the cuts and decided to wash their hands of the whole thing.

The ENT specialists didn't swallow it, and just wouldn't hear of it .

 The Pharmacologists thought it was a bitter pill to swallow, and the Plastic Surgeons said, "This puts a whole new face on the matter...."

The Podiatrists thought it was a step forward, but the Urologists were pissed off at the whole idea.

The Anaesthetists thought the whole idea was a gas, but the Cardiologists didn't have the heart to say no.

In the end, the Proctologists won out, leaving the entire decision up to the law makers in Wellington!

(Note: the author is as yet unknown. If you are the scribe of these clever words, please let me know so I can give you the credit you so deserve!)

Monday, May 14, 2012

It all started with a big bang...

If you are a The Big Bang Theory fan, then you quite likely love the title song  by Barenaked Ladies.
But singing along it not that easy, so to help you out, below are the lyrics. It is definetly a clever song!

So here we go.......

Our whole universe was in a hot dense state,
Then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started. Wait...
The Earth began to cool,
The autotrophs began to drool,
Neanderthals developed tools,
We built a wall (we built the pyramids),
Math, science, history, unravelling the mysteries,
That all started with the big bang!

Since the dawn of man is really not that long,
As every galaxy was formed in less time than it takes to sing this song.
A fraction of a second and the elements were made.
The bipeds stood up straight,
The dinosaurs all met their fate,
They tried to leap but they were late
And they all died (they froze their asses off)
The oceans and pangea

See ya, wouldn't wanna be ya
Set in motion by the same big bang!

It all started with the big BANG!

It's expanding ever outward but one day
It will cause the stars to go the other way,
Collapsing ever inward, we won't be here, it wont be hurt
Our best and brightest figure that it'll make an even bigger bang!

Australopithecus would really have been sick of us
Debating out while here they're catching deer (we're catching viruses)
Religion or astronomy, Encarta, Deuteronomy
It all started with the big bang!

Music and mythology, Einstein and astrology
It all started with the big bang!
It all started with the big BANG!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Clooney’s Crowdfunding Caper

It’s no secret that George Clooney is a staunch supporter of President Barack Obama. To support the Prez with his reelection plans, he came up with a Clever Plan.

The President confirmed that he is having dinner plans at the Cloonster’s Hollywood mansion coming May 10. 150 of Hollywood’s elite will fork out $40,000 each to attend this event, dubbed: “Dinner with Barack.”
But now comes the clever part. There are two seats reserved for Obama supporters. For a sum starting at a mere $3, you can put in a bit to join the Golden Lads. (If you want to know more, you can find details on the Barack Obama website).

Basically, Clooney is crowdfunding with the goal to raise $6 million for his pal Obama.
Clooney has his own political agenda; he recently met with Obama to speak with him about a humanitarian crisis in the Sudan. Obama needs the funds; he burned through  $745 million during his 2008 campaign.

Is Clooney’s crowdfunding clever?  It will do Brand Clooney a world of good. I predict that many women will happily fork out $3+ for a dinner date with dreamboat Georgy.But he might overshadow his pal Obama and therefore not secure the votes the current President desperately needs. As for Brand Obama, being associated so strongly with Hollywood’s liberal elite might alienate voters that are struggling to survive in a harsh economy faced with crippling debts and soaring gas prices.

It will be interesting to see how much Clooney will be able to crowdfund.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Infamous Cosgrove Interview

Major General Peter Cosgrove, an Australian, was interviewed on the radio recently (or so the story goes).

A female interviewer from ABC was asking him about his headquarters' sponsorship of a visit by a local Boy Scout Troop and threw him a spin on the old "have-you-stopped-beating-your-spouse" question.

Here's how he handled it:

INTERVIEWER: So, General Cosgrove, what things are you going to teach these young boys when they visit your base?

COSGROVE: We're going to teach them climbing, canoeing, archery and shooting.

INTERVIEWER: Shooting! That's a bit irresponsible, isn't it?

COSGROVE: I don't see why, they'll be properly supervised on the rifle range.

INTERVIEWER: Don't you admit that this is a terribly dangerous activity to be teaching children?

COSGROVE: I don't see how. We will be teaching them proper rifle discipline before they even touch a firearm.

INTERVIEWER: But you're equipping them to become violent killers.

COSGROVE: Well, Ma'am, you're equipped to be a prostitute, but you're not one, are you?

The station then went silent for 46 seconds. When it came back on the air, this interview was over.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

No Pulitzer Prize For Fiction This Year

Pulitzer Prizes are awarded yearly in twenty-one different categories for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. Each winner receives a certificate and a US$10,000 cash award.

The Pulitzer Prize was established by Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian-American journalist and newspaper publisher. Upon his death in 1911, he left money to Columbia University in New York City, which administers the prize. The first Pulitzer Prize was granted in 1917, and continues today as one of the most coveted awards in the world.

Famous recipients of the Pulitzer Prize include President John F. Kennedy, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Robert Frost, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Rodgers & Hammerstein. David McCullough, Eugene O’Neill, Edward Albee, Norman Mailer, and John Updike.

The Pulitzer Prize for fiction is awarded for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life. Traditionally, the judging committee picks the finalists and the 20-member board reads those books and decides the winner.

This year’s committee consisted of Chairperson Susan Larson, book critic Maureen Corrigan, and past Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham. The board was not able to pick a winner.

Prize administrator Sig Gissler confirmed that the board "failed to reach a majority" and thus did not award a fiction prize. "Whenever you do not give a prize, you have disappointment, so we understand that. We're sorry for the disappointment. The three books were carefully considered and the process was what it was."

Larson and her fellow judges stated that they were "shocked, angry, and very disappointed" by the Pulitzer board's decision.

The nominated finalists were:

"Train Dreams," by Denis Johnson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
It is a novella about a day laborer in the old American West, bearing witness to terrors and glories with compassionate, heartbreaking calm.

"Swamplandia!" by Karen Russell (Alfred A. Knopf)
It is an adventure tale about an eccentric family adrift in its failing alligator-wrestling theme park, told by a 13-year-old heroine wise beyond her years.

"The Pale King," by the late David Foster Wallace (Little, Brown and Company).
It is a posthumously completed novel, animated by grand ambition that explores boredom and bureaucracy in the American workplace.

Awards were however given in all other book-related categories, including repeats for National Book Award winner Stephen Greenblatt and NBCC winner John Lewis Gaddis.

In addition, the late Manning Marable was a finalist in the biography category, but the board decided to move him to history, which he won.

Ah well, better luck next year!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Beautiful Art of Doggerel

Doggerel is an old and underestimated art form. According to the official definition, a doggerel is “a light verse which is humorous and comic by nature”. It is however often viewed with disdain as containing "little literary value".

In "Eating Your Aunty is Wrong", Stephen Arnott writes: "Groups of young men in Sussex and Devon used to go "apple howling", visiting local orchards and spouting *doggerel* to encourage the trees to be fruitful. In return the men expected drink or money from the orchard's owner. If they didn't get it they'd return to the orchard and shout curses at the trees."

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, one of the earliest uses of the word "doggerel" is found in the 14th century in the works of Geoffrey Chaucer. He applied the term “rym doggerel” to his “Tale of Sir Thopas,” a burlesque of the long-winded medieval romance.

John Skelton, caught in the transition between Chaucer’s medieval language and the beginning of the English Renaissance, wrote verse long considered being almost doggerel. He defended himself in Colin Clout:

For though my rhyme be ragged,

Tattered and jagged,

Rudely rain-beaten,

Rusty and moth-eaten,

If ye take well therewith,

It hath in it some pith.

Since then, doggerel has been employed in most English comic verse, from that of Victorian poet Samuel Butler and Gulliver's Travels author Jonathan Swift to the contemporary American poet Ogden Nash.

The doggerel even has a German counterpart, called Knüttelvers (literally “cudgel verse”). It was popular during the Renaissance and was later used for comic effect by such poets as J.W. von Goethe and Friedrich von Schiller.

Doggerel verse is still commonly heard in limericks and nonsense verse, popular songs, and commercial jingles.

All in all, the doggerel is a fun form of poetry and not so easy to write. So I invite all writers and poets, try your hand at the beautiful art of writing a doggerel!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Will ReadMatter Really Matter?

Two enterprising journalists, Jim Giles and Bobbie Johnson, decided that it was time for an innovative online magazine - Matter. The format will long-form investigative narrative journalism about science and technology. “No cheap reviews, no snarky opinion pieces, no top ten lists,” they promise. “Just one unmissable story.”

Both journalists have an impressive resume: Jim Giles wrote for Nature and The Economist) and Bobbie Johnson for The Guardian and The New York Times. Not too shabby.

They decided to use Kickstarter to raise $ 50,000 in funds. They were more than successful – they raised over $140,000. People gave way more than I thought they would,” said Jim Giles. “We have tapped into frustration with the way the internet has promoted quick and cheap journalism and bashed longer-quality stuff, or at least undermined the business model that used to support that sort of thing.”

Matter tweeted on April, 4: “We don't have a set launch date, but it will probably be in a couple of months”. Once Matter is alive, readers will have the option of buying individual stories for 99 cents each or opt for a subscription. The magazine will be monthly at first, and then weekly, assuming everything goes according to plan.

The 99 cents model is clever. Readers can purchase an article and read it on Kindle and iPad. Giles and Johnson leverage the ebooks hype. Some journalists and writers make money via Amazon and news sites such as with stories that are too long to be published in a newspaper or magazine, and too short for a book.

Matter wants writers to approach them with vague ideas. The writer then gets matched to an editor very early on — before the piece is even formally commissioned — and the final article comes together as a collaboration between the writer, editor, and publishers.

However, Matter is quite narrow in what it wants to publish. It is focusing on long-form, narrative, investigative news stories about science and technology. To overcome this hurdle, the founders are looking at different models e.g., cooperating with newspapers.

Let’s wait and see if it lives up to its promise of “gripping exposes of online crime, untold tales of environmental threats, inside stories about revolutionary technologies and exclusive reports from the most controversial research labs.” Time will tell.......

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Horrible Lyrics of Hilton’s Latest “Song” – K-clan: Listen and Learn!

Thirty-something Paris Hilton, whose claim to fame was the release of a sex tape made with ex-boyfriend Rick Salomon, recorded a new “song”.

"Drunk Text" video clip features photoshopped Hilton parroting sentences such as: "I went out to the club the other night, to you know, dance with my b---s."

(really, PH went out to a club? Hold the presses!)

From this one on, the lyrics continue to become even more absurd.

"It was just a drunk text, in my head I was writing a fiction of us," she continues. "Behind my eyes I was begging for things that my lips would never ask. My mouth kept pouring desperate calls with random intent. He asked me if he could text me later. And I say, 'Sure.'

(So a guy tried to chat her up and she was too drunk/stoned/stupid/whatever to give a reply)

"I'm too lazy to type, so I sent a photo I took up a dancer's skirt and I tell him to come and get it."

(Did she send the KK Twitter image?)

"I'm sorry, it was just a drunk text," sings the chorus.

(Collective shudder of all Greek choruses around the world)

"Take the word sex and mix it with texting/ it's called sexting," she says. "When you add drunk sexting, the words just don't make any sense/ It's a hot mess of misspelled obscenities, body parts, and run-on questions."

(Just mix dreck with texting and you get drexting, which is what she has been doing most of her life)

"No one is safe in the Twittersphere anymore," she goes on.

(But where would she be without Twitter?)

I'll be damned if I end up in some late diner after this with last night's lingerie in my purse".

(The good news is that she wears knickers – at least once in a while!)

"She's like, 'this guy wants you to wet your lips with this bottle.'"

(I hope the writer of this gem was paid very, very well!)

"Are you f***ing kidding me?"

(Yeah, are you kidding us with your stupid "song"?!)