SHAUN SMITH'S SUNDAY SUNDRIES

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A WEEKLY ROUNDUP OF INTERNET CURIOSITIES FROM THE BOOK WORLD

In the realm of the thugs
It seems a classic example of two divergent mentalities coming into conflict: the police mentality of "obey" vs the authorial mentality of "question". Numerous outlets reported this week that Canadian sci-fi writer Dr Peter Watts was incarcerated by US border guards on his way back from Nebraska and now faces felony charges. Boing Boing has a decent round-up of the coverage, which includes the following from Watts' own blog: "Along some other timeline, I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario's first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.

"In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face."

A fund has been started by Bakka Books to help Watts pay his legal bills.

Speaking of thugs...
Mobylives has an excellent roundup of the current issues surrounding e-books. It is a gawd-awful nest of snakes that has erupted into a Battle Royale between publishers and Amazon (what else is new?) and is threatening to undermine the fundamental structures of the publishing industry, with Amazon dictating prices in the same way that iTunes dictates prices to the music industry. Has anyone noticed that that arrow in the Amazon logo looks like a smug little smirk?

A real tomato
A guy in Minnesota reportedly pitched tomatoes at Sarah Palin during a book signing missing the target and hitting instead...ooops!... a cop.

"BOOM! Taste my night stick!"
Shatner did Palin and Palin did Shatner in a tit-for-tat autobio read off, if you will, on The Tonight Show last week. Anything with Shatner is always fun, right? As for Palin, I always get the feeling watching her in such bits that she doesn't know how funny she really is. The NYT's Media Decoder has the video.

This is SO MUCH FUN!
From William Shatner to outer space. Honestly, I have no idea who or what the University Corporation for Atmosphereic Research is, but it is clear that they are major nerds, in a very good way. I mean, who aside from mad geniuses would think up an interactive solar system colouring book that lets you colour Uranus blue (or whatever colour you want)?

Speaking of nerds...
We'll have to trust The Independent on this one. Apparently The New Journal of Physics has released a report which finds that an author's lexicon use is akin to a fingerprint and can be used to identify work by that author. Here's the report's head-scratchingly impenetrable abstract: "Evidence is presented for a systematic text-length dependence of the power-law index γ of a single book. The estimated γ values are consistent with a monotonic decrease from 2 to 1 with increasing text length. A direct connection to an extended Heap's law is explored. The infinite book limit is, as a consequence, proposed to be given by γ = 1 instead of the value γ = 2 expected if Zipf's law is universally applicable. In addition, we explore the idea that the systematic text-length dependence can be described by a meta book concept, which is an abstract representation reflecting the word-frequency structure of a text. According to this concept the word-frequency distribution of a text, with a certain length written by a single author, has the same characteristics as a text of the same length extracted from an imaginary complete infinite corpus written by the same author."

The "best of" roundups continued this week...

Holiday baking, yes HOLIDAY
The newest edition of my CBC.ca column Cookbook Club went up last week. It's about holiday baking, so if you are looking for some treats to cook, check it out. I have to mention a reader comment that was posted at the bottom of the article by someone calling herself "mayfairgirl", which runs: "Can we please get over the 'holiday' word. Yes, I am all for multiculturalism, but stop taking away CHRISTMAS!" That embarrassing crap posted on the first night of Hanukkah. Thankfully other readers have pounced on this boorish and uncharitable sentiment. Now, I'm not a Christmas fanatic, but my reply here to mayfairgirl is: Have you gone outside or turned on the TV in the last two weeks? From my vantage point there seems to be no decrease in Christmas activity or promotion this year, so I'm not sure who you think is taking away your Christmas. If generosity of spirit has anything to do with Christmas, perhaps you might look to yourself, unfairgirl.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Shaun Smith

Shaun Smith is a novelist and journalist living in Toronto. His young adult novel Snakes & Ladders was published in January 2009 by the Dundurn Group.

Go to Shaun Smith ’s Author Page