Friday, November 16, 2018

Musings on Australian literature

I’m looking at those billionaires who hoard wealth their whole lives to ‘philanthropically’ give it away with their impending deaths. 

I should like to understand myself properly before it is too late 

What single word best captures the tone of the past year? Oxford Dictionaries says it's "toxic". Oxford University Press monitors changes in the English language and each year selects a word that catches the annual mood. Its lexicographers said on Thursday that "toxic" grew into "an intoxicating descriptor for the year's most talked about topics"

       This year the (American) National Book Foundation added (back) a translation category to their National Book Awards (which will be announced this week), and at The Atlantic Liesl Schillinger takes the occasion to suggest The Hottest Trend in American Literature Isn't From the U.S.. 
       There certainly has been a resurgence of interest in literature in translation, but Schillinger doesn't note the previous waning (until ca. 2000) before the current waxing -- which included the National Book Awards previously having atranslation category, discontinued in 1984. And for all the Knausgaard-Ferrante excitement, aren't there books like this -- more or less 'serious' literature that sells well and/or gets a lot of coverage -- every decade or so ? Ten-twelve years ago the craze was all Bolaño, in the late-1990s Sebald, in the mid-80's it was The Name of the Rose

       In the  'Meet The Translator'-series at Urvashi Bahuguna has a Q & A, Only a fraction of worthy modern Tamil books have been translated, says N Kalyan Raman -- the translator of the JCB Prize for Literature by Perumal Murugan,Poonachi. 
       He notes: 

Right now the selection of books for translation is guided by good intentions on the part of all concerned -- publishers, editors and translators -- but it is also haphazard to the extent that there is no invisible hand behind this process to ensure that the best works in a particular language are translated on priority. Even among contemporary writers, some are pushed forward through contacts with publishers and others, equally meritorious, are ignored. [...]

There is another flaw in the current process which needs conscious correction. Selection of texts for translation is highly skewed in favour of well-known books by famous authors, in other words, modern classics published at least a few decades earlier
.  Michael Cart

Exploring The Intellectual Dark Web (How Far Will It Go?)

Over the past year, the IDW has arisen as a puzzling political force, made up of thinkers who support “Enlightenment values” and accuse the left of setting dangerously illiberal limits on acceptable thought. The IDW has defined itself mainly by diving into third-rail topics like the genetics of gender and racial difference—territory that seems even more fraught in the era of #MeToo and the Trump resistance. …Read More

Comic book tells tale of post-1948 Czech emigrés

Thank you for the good times,
The days you filled with pleasure.
Thank you for fond memories,
And for feelings I'll always treasure.

- Karl Fuchs

You don’t drown by falling in the water.  You drown by staying there.

Marvel super-writer

The list of superheroes created by Stan Lee is staggering. Let's take a look back at some of his creations as we remember the iconic writer who died aged 95.

When a reader asked if I would write a memoir, I was appalled. What a terrible thing to say. I remembered “First Person Singular,” an essay Joseph Epstein published in The Hudson Review in 1992. It begins: “The best time to write one’s autobiography, surely, is on one’s deathbed.”  He identifies “only a handful of splendid autobiographies,” and goes on to identify them:
“Odd, but very few of these really splendid autobiographies have been written by novelists, poets, and playwrights. Saint Augustine, Cellini, Rousseau, Gibbon, Franklin, Mill, Alexander Herzen, Henry Adams, the men--and there have thus far been almost no women--who wrote the monumental autobiographical works were none of them primarily imaginative literary artists.”

The article appeared in Perth’s Western Mail on 11 August 1906 and concerned the visit to Australia of one Dr Hill, Master of Downing College, Cambridge. It commences by describing at some length Dr Hill’s “hobby” – the National Home Reading Union. He was one of the original founders in England and, he tells “the interviewer”, it had spread through various parts of the Empire, including Canada and South Africa. But what of Australia?

Well, you might also remember from my first post that the Australasian Home Reading Union started in Tasmania? Here is what Dr Hill says: 

“When Bishop Montgomery first went to his See in Tasmania, I asked him to try to establish an Australian branch of the N.H.R.U. His efforts were only too successful. Why, in New South Wales the then Governor, Lord Jersey, took the chair at an inaugural meeting, and the Premier and several bishops were on the platform. The movement started with such eclat that the committee felt themselves strong enough to establish an Australasian Reading Union, with their own book lists, their own magazine, etc. But they did not reckon that whereas we in England can obtain an unlimited supply of scholars to write for the magazines the conditions are not equally favourable in Australia. After a short, though meteoric existence, the Australasian Union came to an end. Had it remained as it started – a colonial branch of the N.H.R.U. – it would still be flourishing. We have strong centres in Canada and South Africa, and in other parts of the Empire, and I should greatly like, before I leave, to see a branch established for Western Australia.”

Interesting, eh? Sounds like we, unlike other parts of the empire, decided to go it alone. Good on us for being independent! Anyhow, he goes on to suggest how to go about organising a new WA branch: 

“It has been strongly borne in upon me since I came to Perth … that it is far less easy here to find men of leisure in need of a congenial occupation of this kind than at home. But this work is, perhaps, rather ladies’ work than men’s. It is the ladies who have the leisure to read, and they have their children to encourage in habits of reading. Many of our strongest committees at home are composed chiefly of ladies. If some of the ladies of Perth would organise themselves into a branch of the N.H.R.U., they would, I think, find that it not only immensely increased their interest in reading, but that it afforded them an effective means of advancing the cause of civilisation.”

Well, actually, it’s not quite “and now” because booktubers have been around for a while – apparently. Or, so I read in an article, sent to me by occasional commenter here Neil. (Thanks Neil.) The article is from ABC RN’s The Hub program: it contains a link to the segment on the radio program, as well as a written article about booktubers. One of the booktubers has been posting videos for 9 years! Fascinating.

Here is the link on the ABC’s website, if you are interested.

It’s probably not surprising, however, that this corner of the book-internet has escaped my notice because, firstly, booktubers seem to come, primarily anyhow, from a younger generation than mine, but secondly, and probably more significantly, booktubers apparently tend to be lovers of fantasy and YA fiction, neither of which are big (as you’ll know) in my reading diet. However, we are ecumenical here at Whispering Gums in our interest in book and reading culture, hence today’s post.

So what or who are booktubers? Well, firstly, booktubers are, if I understand correctly, a subset of vloggers (ie video-loggers). In other words, they are book reviewers who, instead of writing their reviews on a blog, present them orally via a video service like YouTube.

Some Australian booktubers

  • G-Swizzel Books(Grace): Commenced 2015, with nearly 5,000 subscribers. Marvel Books, are among her special interests.
  • IsThatChami (was Read Like Wildfire): Commenced in 2014, with nearly 20,000 subscribers. She seems to do more than books, but books feature in a significant number of her vlog posts.
  • Happy Indulgence (Jeann Wong): Commenced in 2014, with nearly 2,000 subscribers. A recent vlog post of hers was about a book haul. Her audience is comparatively small, but she told the ABC that she also blogs and Instagrams about books, and has a good relationship with publishers.
  • Little Book Owl (Catriona Feeney): Commenced in 2011, with over 181,000 subscribers. According to the ABC, she’s our most popular one. Fantasy fiction is apparently her specialty. An example is her recent vlog post on unboxing book boxes.
  • Noveltea Corner (Stef): Commenced in 2014, with nearly 2,000 subscribers.
  • Piera Forde: Commenced in 2011, and now has over 32,000 subscribers. earlier this month she posted a video on setting up bookshelves in her new home. She also likes fantasy, and the ABC report quotes her as saying that “Apart from BookTube, I rarely see reviews of fantasy fiction in newsletters or in the paper.” She needs to check out the Australian Women Writers Challenge, and our Speculative Fiction Round-ups. There are many many fantasy fiction book bloggers – not newspaper reviews I know, but they are written form reviews.
  • Tilly and her Books: Commenced in 2014, with over 14,000 subscribers. YA and Fantasy seem to be her main interests.

You can find more Australian booktubers at The Noveltea Corner. I haven’t checked them all out, and some seem to have not posted for some time, but it’s a start if you are interested.

As well as talking about books, these bloggers seem to talk about their reading lives – about unpacking book boxes (their book hauls), for example, or setting up their book shelves. Apparently, according to the ABC, “book haul” posts are a “sub-genre wherein BookTubers name-check recent yet-to-be-read acquisitions.” Like book bloggers, they’ll do posts on top reads, or recommending books on a theme. Little Book Owl, for example, produced one last week for Halloween. Indeed, in my quick survey, I saw more of these general vlog posts, than ones specifically reviewing one or two books.

Interestingly, the three identified by the ABC are all young women. Most of those on Noveltea’s list are women (just a couple of exceptions) and another list I found of ten favourite international booktubers seemed to be all women too.

The ABC noted that publishers are recognising the influence of this “new wave of digital-native bibliophiles.” Digital natives they may be, but I’m loving that they love the printed book. Many of them, when describing their book hauls, comment on the physical book – on its feel, its look, its size and weight. And they do so with obvious passion and delight. They don’t seem to be heavily into e-books – which corresponds with some recent research which suggests that younger readers still prefer hard copy for their recreational reading.

Anyhow, back to the publishers … the ABC quotes Ella Chapman, who is head of marketing and communications at Hachette Australia. She says that the booktubers enable them to “tap into a readership that perhaps we haven’t been able to reach via traditional means.”

I’ve enjoyed my little introduction to this booktuber phenomenon, and love that there’s an enthusiastic bunch of younger readers out there communicating about books. Their focus seems to be different to mine, and their presentations tend to be a bit too fast and excited for me. I think I’ll stick to blogs, but supporting diversity in how we share and engage in literary culture can only be good for us all.

Why We Fall for Toxic Leaders

Why We Fell for Toxic Leaders

Why We Still Fall for Toxic Leaders - Oxford Dictionaries: “The Oxford Word of the Year 2018 is… toxic. The adjective toxic is defined as ‘poisonous’ and first appeared in English in the mid-seventeenth century from the medieval Latin toxicus, meaning ‘poisoned’ or ‘imbued with poison’. But the word’s deadly history doesn’t start there. The medieval Latin term was in turn borrowed from the Latin toxicum, meaning ‘poison’, which has its origins in the Greek toxikon pharmakon – lethal poison used by the ancient Greeks for smearing on the points of their arrows. Interestingly, it is not pharmakon, the word for poison, that made the leap into Latin here, but toxikon, which comes from the Greek word for ‘bow’, toxon.
The Oxford Word of the Year is a word or expression that is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and have lasting potential as a term of cultural significance. In 2018, toxic added many strings to its poisoned bow becoming an intoxicating descriptor for the year’s most talked about topics. It is the sheer scope of its application, as found by our research, that made toxic the stand-out choice for the Word of the Year title. Our data shows that, along with a 45% rise in the number of times it has been looked up on, over the last year the word toxic has been used in an array of contexts, both in its literal and more metaphorical senses.
Drawn from our corpus, the top 10 toxic collocates for the year – that is, words habitually used alongside toxic – are indicative of this…”

Defense One: “At a time of rampant executive branch corruption and large increases in defense spending, Americans are rightly concerned about the need for governmental transparency. People deserve to know how their money is being used, and what life-or-death decisions the Pentagon bureaucracy is making in their names. As President Trump asks for more defense dollars and relies more than ever on the military to conduct the country’s business, his administration should be taking commensurate steps to increase openness and strengthen accountability to the public. Instead, the Defense Department under this administration has been doing the exact opposite. Its current leaders declared war on transparency in their earliest days on the job. On issue after issue, they have made conspicuous decisions to roll back transparency and public accountability precisely when we need it most…”
See also via Secrecy News – the following CRS updates for the new members of Congress:
Defense Primer: Geography, Strategy, and U.S. Force Design, CRS In Focus, updated November 8, 2018
Defense Primer: Department of the Navy, CRS In Focus, updated November 8, 2018
Defense Primer: Naval Forces, CRS In Focus, updated November 8, 2018
Defense Primer: United States Airpower, CRS In Focus, updated November 7, 2018:
Defense Primer: The United States Air Force, CRS In Focus, updated November 7, 2018


The shower isn’t just a place to sing. Separated from our cellphones, standing under running water often allows people’s minds to run free.

Polish Pope Paul II, Czechoslovak playwritter Havel and Hungarian Soros were the key enablers who tore the Berlin Wall as we know success has many fathers, but this holy troika of saints and sinners made it happen ... The mud that is thrown at Soros is unprecedented even the communists were not as ruthless in their execution of his character ... Almost on L... Scale ...

Washington: Liberal philanthropist George Soros has called on Facebook to initiate an independent, internal investigation of its lobbying and public relations work.

The call comes after The New York Timespublished a report claiming the company had hired an opposition research firm to discredit critics by linking them to Soros, a frequent target of conservatives and anti-Semitic vitriol from the far right

Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis - The New York Times: “…When Facebook users learned last spring that the company had compromised their privacy in its rush to expand, allowing access to the personal information of tens of millions of people to a political data firm linked to President Trump, Facebook sought to deflect blame and mask the extent of the problem.

Another Facebook vulnerability could have exposed information about users and their friends The Verge

Students in Brooklyn protest their school’s use of a Zuckerberg-backed online curriculum designed by Facebook engineers Business Insider

'An orchestrated political hit': NSW Greens party room in turmoil - 

Home Affairs, Crime Commission flag suppression for audits

Auditor-General Grant Hehir revealed the department, and the criminal intelligence commission, were the first two agencies to signal they could try having sections of his reports blacked out. The national auditor has revealed which agencies have warned they could seek to black out parts of his reports.

AFP seize cars, wine, allege Chinese buying homes with crime proceeds

Jewellery, cars and high-end items worth $8.5m have been seized by federal police, with Chinese nationals allegedly using proceeds of crime to buy property.

'I'll get you': NSW Libs hit by allegations of verbal abuse

The party's federal vice-president is threatening to report a NSW Upper House MP to the police over the alleged abuse.

Ministers quit May government as Brexit deal threatens to fall apart

The senior minister in charge of Brexit describes his own government's deal as a threat to the integrity of the UK.

'Paranoia': NSW government denies gagging critics of feral horse plan

The Berejiklian government rejects claims it gagged scientists due to address a conference on the damage in the Kosciuszko National Park from feral horses.

Books by Bloggers - In Association with -

Reddit has an entire “Shower Thoughts” subreddit dedicated to “the miniature epiphanies you have that highlight the oddities within the familiar.” In honor of those weird, wonderful and sometimes profound musings ...

University of Pennsylvania: “Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram may not be great for personal well-being. The first experimental study examining use of multiple platforms shows a causal link between time spent on these social media and increased depression and loneliness.
The link between the two has been talked about for years, but a causal connection had never been proven. For the first time, University of Pennsylvania research based on experimental data connects Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram use to decreased well-being. Psychologist Melissa G. Hunt published her findings in the December Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology..”
Melissa G. Hunt, Rachel Marx, Courtney Lipson, Jordyn Young. No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and DepressionJournal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 2018; 751 DOI: 10.1521/jscp.2018.37.10.751

The Future Library — books that will not be published until their authors die (NYT)

What you do every day matters more than what you do every once in a while.  Read The Power of Habit.

Slain Mobster Whitey Bulger's Career Advice To Students: 'If You Want To Make Crime Pay, Go To Law School Independent, Career Mobster James Whitey Bulger's Surprising Advice to Three Schoolgirls:

In the years leading up to his death in jail last week, notorious Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger wrote about his regrets in life.

Bulger, imprisoned for life for his role in 11 murders, wrote a letter to three teenage girls in 2015, telling them he was "a ninth-grade dropout" who "took the wrong road". The former mobster said he was among "society's lower, best forgotten" members. He told the students, who had first written to him for a school history project, not to spend their time on him. "My life was wasted and spent foolishly, brought shame and suffering on my parents and siblings and will end soon," he wrote.

The US Bureau of Prisons confirmed that Bulger (89) died last Tuesday at the jail in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia.

TOXIC MASCULINITY: ‘Multiple Men’ Were ‘Ready to Take a Bullet For Any Single One of Us,’ Says Woman Who Survived California Shooting.

Workplace rumours: how should organisations respond?
CORPORATE COMMUNICATION: Rumours are a normal part of workplaces in times of change, but when handled poorly can be damaging.

Thursday, November 15, 2018


Kassabova, was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1973. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, she emigrated with her family to New Zealand in 1992, where she studied French and Russian Literature at university. In 2005 she moved to Edinburgh and now lives in the Scottish Highlands. She is a writer of poetry, fiction and narrative non-fiction.

" Kassabova has written an extraordinary book, an important contribution to the urgent debate about global cultural understanding. Border has an original, compelling narrative which explores the notion of the border, not just as a frontier but as a psychological and cultural dynamic. The book is a description of a meeting place between past and present, peoples, culture and nature, written in a mesmerising style, peopled with vivid characters and full of sharply drawn encounters. Border invests the theme of cultural understanding with a magical quality, mixing observation, biography and lyricism"
Border by Kapka Kassabova wins British Academy’s £25,000 Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize

Czech communists confront bitter legacy of Prague Spring

What We Do Not See

I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn't, than live as if there isn't and to die to find out that there is.
— Albert Camus, born in 1913

 When the Berlin Wall came down...

Making a hundred friends is not a miracle.  The miracle is to make a single friend who will stand by your side even when hundreds are against you.

$1.4 million award against CRA for malicious, high-handed, and reprehensible conduct – Samaroo v. Canada Revenue Agency, 2018 BCSC 324

NICK MCCALL: Foxes, Hedgehogs, and Leading Dueling Lawyer Personality Types.

Monumental Hypocrisy Current Affairs

Enjoy the honeymoon, it will outlast the marriage

Five projects that are harnessing big data for good
The first "bottom-up" history of the worldresides in an Austrian salt mine. "It's a global project — and its history is written by everyone" Bottom UP 

CNet – Traffic got rerouted Monday through ISPs in countries known for internet surveillance. “Google suffered a brief outage and slowdown on Monday, with some of its traffic being rerouted through networks in Russia, China and Nigeria. Incorrect routing instructions sent some of the search giant’s traffic to Russian network operator TransTelekom, China Telecom and Nigerian provider MainOne between 1:00 p.m. and 2:23 p.m. PT, according to ThousandEyes, an internet research group.

Nicholas W. Allard (Former Dean, Brooklyn) & Heidi K. Brown (Brooklyn), The Future of Training Powerful Legal Communicators, NYSBA J., Sept. 2018, p. 10:
Twenty years ago, lawyers communicated through lengthy client opinion letters or settlement demand letters transmitted via fax or FedEx, briefs filed with the court (often hand-delivered by couriers), and perhaps the occasional press release carefully crafted for high profile cases. Today, in our fast-paced, media-saturated, and tech-driven world, we see lawyers like Michael Avenatti advocating for his clients through Twitter soundbites. Pleadings and briefs – once buried in dusty court filing cabinets – are electronically accessible for the world’s review and “Monday-morning quarterback” scrutiny. Attorneys conduct negotiations, conferences, and depositions with their national or even international counterparts over Skype, GoToMeeting, or Zoom. Lawyers establish permanent digital footprints through LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Legal communication is rapidly changing because of technological advances, disruptive business models, and globalism – forces that are transforming the 21st century world of law. The legal profession and legal educators – famously slow and often resistant to adaptation – must evolve with the times. Standing still, clinging to the “business as usual” status quo is not a luxury we can afford. ...

2016 vs. 2018, misinformation edition

Two years after a presidential campaign defined by the explosion of viral fakes on social media, one question loomed over the misinformation beat ahead of the U.S. midterms: How bad would it be this time?

If we define the problem in the tightest possible manner — entirely fabricated viral stories published for economic gain — things seem to have gotten better. Serial offender YourNewsWire seems to have lost some of its reach on Facebook, Bloomberg reported, and its delisting by a sponcon provider seems to have led the website to relocate to a new domain. As the BBC reported, social media companies sighed a collective breath of relief.

That’s not to say that a circus of hoaxes didn’t surface during the campaign or on election day, which reporters at BuzzFeed News and The New York Times (among others) diligently tracked. We’re going to need to return to the question with data at hand, but at least qualitatively, this time felt different.

Facebook was more aggressive about removing voter fraud hoaxes. And so was Twitter, with more than 40 far-right trolls commenting in private chats that they struggled to get misinformation about the voting day off the ground, Ben Collins reported for NBC News.

One of the most-discussed, problematic viral videos of the night, which showed a malfunctioning voting machine, wasn’t fake, but rather miscaptioned and weaponized for political purposes.

This silver lining points to the remaining challenges. The blatantly bonkers and spammy fakes might be gone, but propaganda and partisan misinformation are alive and well, BuzzFeed News' Charlie Warzel wrote this week. There’s still plenty of work for fact-checkers, journalists and the platforms.

(AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

This is how we do it

  • Chequeado published a report on how the past two month’s of its partnership with Facebook have gone.
  • Two startups are building apps that could help journalists verify manipulated images and videos faster.
  • A new fact-checking site has launched in Portugal.

This is bad

  • LinkedIn is now the home of false memes and hyperpartisan content, BuzzFeed News’ Craig Silverman reported. Nowhere is safe.
  • Snapchat, which has largely avoided the misinformation problems that have plagued other tech platforms, might serve as an accessory to fakery elsewhere online.
  • According to Aos Fatos, misinformation was shared at least 3.84 million times on Twitter and Facebook in the lead-up to Brazil's election.

(Screenshot from CNN)

This is fun

  • A CNN anchor used jars of candy to display how many falsehoods President Donald Trump has said since he was elected, according to The Washington Post Fact Checker.
  • highlighted some “unique and unusual” U.S. midterm campaign ads in its 2018 FactCheck Awards.
  • Snopes’ website went down for some scheduled maintenance on Election Day in the U.S. It now has a new site design.

A closer look

  • Ahead of the U.S. midterms, Facebook removed 30 Facebook accounts and 85 Instagram accounts that may have been engaging in inauthentic behavior. MediaWise posted a short video explaining the move and the Tow Center’s Jonathan Albright wrote an in-depth blog post about the long-term gaming of Facebook’s engagement numbers.
  • Both NBC News and Wired published stories about why misinformation on WhatsApp is hard to stop in two of its largest markets: India and Brazil.
  • Who believes in online misinformation? Delusion-prone individuals, according to this new study.

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

If you read one more thing

Freedom House released a report on how authoritarian governments around the world are hiding behind anti-fake news laws in an effort to suppress free speech.

9 quick fact-checking links

  1. The Chinese government is now labeling Weibo posts that it deems to be rumors.
  2. Please, no more of these headlines. We’re begging you.
  3. Remember those deceptive news sites launched by American politicians over the summer? Daniel found that almost all of them stopped posting before the midterm election, and MediaWise explained how voters can avoid falling for them in the future.
  4. Nieman Lab reported that there was no big spike in misinformation during the U.S. midterms. But that’s not the whole story.
  5. After Snopes reached out to Breitbart about one of its stories, the latter published yet another story about the interaction.
  6. Facebook was referred to a European Union watchdog over the existence of false advertisements on the platform.
  7. Venezuela has launched a task force aimed at coming up with responses to “fake news.”
  8. It’s almost the end of the year, which means you should send us your favorite media corrections (especially from outside America!)
  9. The New York Times has a new documentary on disinformation.

via Daniel and Alexios