‘British science fiction writer Sir Arthur C Clarke has died in his adopted home of Sri Lanka at the age of 90.
The Somerset-born author achieved his greatest fame in 1968 when his short story The Sentinel was turned into the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
His visions of space travel and computing sparked the imagination of readers and scientists alike.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse paid tribute, hailing the writer as a “great visionary”.
Since 1995, the author had been largely confined to a wheelchair by post-polio syndrome.
He died at 0130 local time (2000 GMT) of respiratory complications and heart failure, according to his aide, Rohan De Silva.’
Heathcliff, it’s me! Kathy!
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‘The Sixties were an era of extreme reality. I miss the smell of tear gas. I miss the fear of getting beaten.’
‘Karl Marx, who complained of excruciating boils, actually suffered from a chronic skin disease with known psychological effects that may well have influenced his writings, a British expert said on Tuesday.
Sam Shuster, professor of dermatology at the University of East Anglia, believes the revolutionary thinker had hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) in which the apocrine sweat glands — found mainly in the armpits and groin — become blocked and inflamed.
“In addition to reducing his ability to work, which contributed to his depressing poverty, hidradenitis greatly reduced his self-esteem,” said Shuster, who published his findings in the British Journal of Dermatology.
“This explains his self-loathing and alienation, a response reflected by the alienation Marx developed in his writing.”‘
‘Space is limited
In a haiku, so it’s hard
To finish what you’
‘A monumental Bible rumoured to have been written with the help of the Devil has been returned to Prague for the first time in 350 years.
The 13th century Codex Gigas, which is 3ft long and weighs 165lb, is thought to be the biggest book in the world and is known as The Devil’s Bible due to a supposed satanic bargain made by its author.
It was looted by Swedish soldiers from Prague castle at the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648 and taken to Stockholm, where it is the prize exhibit at the Royal Library.
But until now Swedish authorities have refused to lend it to the Czech Republic, which regards the Bible as stolen property, for fear they would not get it back.
The priceless manuscript is housed in a vault-like room behind bullet-proof glass.’
‘Sotheby’s will auction off one of the earliest versions of the Magna Carta later this year, the auction house announced Tuesday.
This will be the first time any version of the Magna Carta has ever gone up for auction, according to David Redden, vice chairman of Sotheby’s.
The Magna Carta is expected to fetch at least $20 million to $30 million, Redden said.
Redden, who has also sold dinosaur bones, space race artifacts and a first printing of the Declaration of Independence, called the Magna Carta “the most important document on earth.”
The charter mandated the English king to cede certain basic rights to his citizens, ensuring that no man is above the law.’
‘Welcome to the home of the Robert A. and Virginia Heinlein Archives.
The Heinlein Archives is a cooperative project between The Heinlein Prize Trust and the UC Santa Cruz Archives.
The Heinlein Archives presents digital copies of the entire collections of Robert A. and Virginia Heinlein in downloadable form for research and academic purposes. Heinlein’s OPUS manuscripts is the first complete collection presented. These manuscript files include Heinlein’s files of all his published works with his notes, research, early drafts and edits of manuscripts, to the final published form. These files provide both a look at Heinlein’s creative process and add insights into his intent and the meaning in his stories.’
‘International travelers concerned about being labeled a terrorist or drug runner by secret Homeland Security algorithms may want to be careful what books they read on the plane. Newly revealed records show the government is storing such information for years.
Privacy advocates obtained database records showing that the government routinely records the race of people pulled aside for extra screening as they enter the country, along with cursory answers given to U.S. border inspectors about their purpose in traveling. In one case, the records note Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Gilmore’s choice of reading material, and worry over the number of small flashlights he’d packed for the trip.
The breadth of the information obtained by the Gilmore-funded Identity Project (using a Privacy Act request) shows the government’s screening program at the border is actually a “surveillance dragnet,” according to the group’s spokesman Bill Scannell.
“There is so much sensitive information in the documents that it is clear that Homeland Security is not playing straight with the American people,” Scannell said. ‘
‘Fans of hit ’70s sitcom The Brady Bunch have been shocked by claims clean-cut TV sisters Marcia and Jan were real-life lovers.
Actress Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia, has reportedly revealed the lesbian love affair in a tell-all autobiography. [..]
“The most explosive comments will be how the then blonde, blue-eyed cutie developed a crush on Eve Plumb, which led to some sexual play,” a source told America’s National Enquirer magazine.
“This book will certainly come as a shocker. While Maureen is not a lesbian, she reveals there were some sexual high jinks going on behind the scenes.”‘
Lots of pictures of cool libraries.
‘The hidden content in ancient works could be illuminated by a light source 10 billion times brighter than the Sun.
The technique employs Britain’s new facility, the Diamond synchrotron, and could be used on works such as the Dead Sea Scrolls or musical scores by Bach.
Intense light beams will enable scientists to uncover the text in scrolls and books without having to open – and potentially damage – them. [..]
The team now plans to use the Diamond synchrotron’s powerful X-ray source to penetrate many layers of parchment.
The synchrotron, which covers the area of five football pitches, generates light beams that can probe matter down to the molecular and atomic scale.’
‘George Orwell’s left-wing views and bohemian clothes led British police to label him a communist – but the MI5 spy agency stepped in to correct that view, the writer’s newly released security file reveals.
The secret file that MI5 kept on the author from 1929 until his death in 1950 is being declassified today by the National Archives.
It reveals that in contrast to the fictional “Big Brother”, the cruel and all-seeing secret police of Orwell’s classic 1984, MI5 took a surprisingly benign view of the writer.
Orwell savaged the totalitarianism of Stalin’s Russia in Animal Farm and 1984.
But he was also a socialist who railed against inequality in earlier works such as Down and Out in Paris and London and The Road to Wigan Pier. [..]
MI5 had already been watching Orwell since 1929, when he was a struggling journalist in Paris, attempting to write for left-wing publications.’
‘Like a novel written in the first-person voice of an unreliable narrator, If I Did It is not meant—by the publisher, anyway—to be taken at face value. It’s the self-portrait of a wife-abuser who somehow worked himself up into thinking he was a victim. To take O.J. Simpson at his word when he writes that “Nicole was on the fast track to hell, and she was determined to take me and the kids with her,” is like taking Humbert Humbert at his word when he describes as a romantic idyll his molestation of 12-year-old Dolores Haze. As Simpson relates the tale of how his wife gradually lost control and evolved into a menace, clues drop here and there that it is really Simpson himself who was losing control.’
‘Author Stephen King was mistaken for a vandal when he started signing books during an unannounced visit to a shop in Australia, according to local media.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said staff at the Alice Springs book store did not initially realise the writer was autographing his own novels.
Bookshop manager Bev Ellis said: “When you see someone writing in one of your books you get a bit toey [nervous].
“We immediately ran to the books and lo and behold, there was the signature.”
Ms Ellis later approached the author at a nearby supermarket and said he was “very nice, charming”.
“Well, if we knew you were coming we would have baked you a cake,” she told the writer.’
‘The legend was almost too good to be true.
For decades, a mysterious figure dressed in black, his features cloaked by a wide-brimmed hat and scarf, crept into a churchyard to lay three roses and a bottle of cognac at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe.
Now, a 92-year-old man who led the fight to preserve the historic site says the visitor was his creation.
“We did it, myself and my tour guides,” said Sam Porpora. “It was a promotional idea. We made it up, never dreaming it would go worldwide.”‘
‘Do you love Harry Potter, but think you’re too old and too awesome to be seen reading the books?
We have the solution, my friend. Print these out and you can safely read your Potter in front of all those ex Navy SEALS at the local strip club.’
I think I might have to start disguising my books as “Memories of a Shark Fucker”.
‘The 2007 Miles Franklin Award winner will be among hundreds of books no longer stocked by Australia’s biggest bookstore chain, Angus & Robertson, from the end of next week.
Tower Books, which distributes Alexis Wright’s novel Carpentaria, is among the smaller Australian distributors and publishers which have received a letter from A&R demanding a payment if they want their books to be sold by the company’s 180 bookstores around the country.
The letter from A&R Whitcoulls Group’s commercial manager, Charlie Rimmer, said “over 40 per cent of our supplier agreements fall below our requirements in terms of profit earned” and “invites” recipients to pay amounts said to range between $2500 and $20,000 by August 17.’
The response letter from Tower Books is absolutely hilarious.
‘A library patron suspected of selling hundreds of books, tapes and DVDs he had borrowed has cost Denver-area libraries tens of thousands of dollars, officials said.
Thomas Pilaar, 33, was suspected of using different names to obtain seven library cards from the Denver Public Library, then checking out 300 items per card and selling at least some of the items, KCNC-TV in Denver reported.
“It appears his intent was to sell 2,100 (items) from the Denver Library collection,” Denver Public Library spokeswoman M. Celeste Jackson told the station. She estimated the losses at about $35,000.’
‘A Wisconsin man whose blend of awkward syntax, imminent disaster and bathroom humor offends both good taste and the English language won an annual contest Monday that salutes bad writing.
Jim Gleeson, 47, of Madison, Wis., beat out thousands of other prose manglers in San Jose State University’s 2007 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest with this convoluted opening sentence to a nonexistent novel:
“Gerald began – but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them ‘permanently’ meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash – to pee,” Gleeson wrote.’
‘The last question was asked for the first time, half in jest, on May 21, 2061, at a time when humanity first stepped into the light. The question came about as a result of a five dollar bet over highballs, and it happened this way:
Alexander Adell and Bertram Lupov were two of the faithful attendants of Multivac. As well as any human beings could, they knew what lay behind the cold, clicking, flashing face — miles and miles of face — of that giant computer. They had at least a vague notion of the general plan of relays and circuits that had long since grown past the point where any single human could possibly have a firm grasp of the whole.
Multivac was self-adjusting and self-correcting. It had to be, for nothing human could adjust and correct it quickly enough or even adequately enough — so Adell and Lupov attended the monstrous giant only lightly and superficially, yet as well as any men could. They fed it data, adjusted questions to its needs and translated the answers that were issued. Certainly they, and all others like them, were fully entitled to share In the glory that was Multivac’s.’
There’s quite a few short, interesting and amusing sci-fi stories on this site. Most of them are pretty good.
The Ed stories are some of my favourites.
‘Most Harry Potter fanatics have read the new book by now so these spoilers should be old news. However by the looks on their faces it was not old news to these people waiting to buy the book on Friday night.’
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‘”The FBI is here,”Mom tells me over the phone. Immediately I can see my mom with her back to a couple of Matrix-like figures in black suits and opaque sunglasses, her hand covering the mouthpiece like Grace Kelly in Dial M for Murder. This must be a joke, I think. But it’s not, because Mom isn’t that funny.
“The who?” I say.
“Two FBI agents. They say you’re not in trouble, they just want to talk. They want to come to the store.”
I work in a small, independent bookstore, and since it’s a slow Tuesday afternoon, I figure, “Sure.” Someone I know must have gotten some government work, I think; hadn’t my consultant friend spoken recently of getting rolled onto some government job? Background check, I think, interviewing acquaintances … No big deal, right? Then, of course, I make a big deal about it in front of my co-workers.’
‘The story is about a boy who lives in a cupboard (i.e. “in the closet”). His Aunt and Uncle are ashamed of him because his parents were quite eccentric (i.e. “flaming”) and they are deeply concerned and afraid that he will turn out just like them. On his 11th birthday (i.e. roughly at the onset of puberty), the boy discovers that he is actually a “wizard”, different in both style and substance from normal people, or “muggles” (i.e. “breeders”). The boy is groomed into his new existence by a large, hairy bear of a man who shows Harry a hidden underground community of “wizards” living right under the noses of the general population (i.e. the gay subculture). Harry’s first trip to this subculture involves traveling through “Diagon Alley”, a play on the word diagonally (i.e. not straight).’
‘A children’s book about life in Cuba has parents and school board members demanding its removal from district libraries even though it only features wholesome topics.
To many in this heavily Cuban-American community, “Vamos a Cuba” (“A Visit to Cuba”) is extremely offensive because it lacks any criticism of the country’s dictator
Fidel Castro or his communist government.
That’s why the Miami-Dade County School District will ask a federal appeals court Wednesday for permission to remove all 49 copies of the book from its libraries.’
‘Bradbury still has a lot to say, especially about how people do not understand his most literary work, Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953. It is widely taught in junior high and high schools and is for many students the first time they learn the names Aristotle, Dickens and Tolstoy.
Now, Bradbury has decided to make news about the writing of his iconographic work and what he really meant. Fahrenheit 451 is not, he says firmly, a story about government censorship. Nor was it a response to Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose investigations had already instilled fear and stifled the creativity of thousands.
This, despite the fact that reviews, critiques and essays over the decades say that is precisely what it is all about. Even Bradbury’s authorized biographer, Sam Weller, in The Bradbury Chronicles, refers to Fahrenheit 451 as a book about censorship.
Bradbury, a man living in the creative and industrial center of reality TV and one-hour dramas, says it is, in fact, a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature.’
‘Teenagers who identify as “evangelical” or “born again” are highly likely to sound like the girl at the bar; 80 percent think sex should be saved for marriage. But thinking is not the same as doing. Evangelical teens are actually more likely to have lost their virginity than either mainline Protestants or Catholics. They tend to lose their virginity at a slightly younger age–16.3, compared with 16.7 for the other two faiths. And they are much more likely to have had three or more sexual partners by age 17: Regnerus reports that 13.7 percent of evangelicals have, compared with 8.9 percent for mainline Protestants.’
‘It wasn’t until the six-year-old boy shouted, “Geronimo!” that I realized what he meant when he said he wanted to play Superman.’
‘A group of American aerospace engineers have written a book on how to defend the earth against alien invasion.
Travis Shane Taylor, Bob Boan, Charles Anding and T Conley Powell hold a variety of PhDs and other degrees in hard sciences and technology. All have worked on weapons and aerospace programmes for defence contractors, NASA and various parts of the US forces. Taylor and Boan also claim expertise in various kinds of technical military intelligence-gathering.
Their book An Introduction to Planetary Defense: A Study of Modern Warfare Applied to Extra-Terrestrial Invasion is out now in paperback, and getting a fair bit of play in the media.’