Amazon vs. the World

Back on June 7 when I wrote about the fight over ebook prices between Amazon and Hachette, I had no idea that this story would become a giant, unfriendly octopus, reaching its tentacles far and wide.

A few updates:

  • Amazon has taken on the House of the Mouse by refusing pre-orders on its films, which at least one opiner thinks might backfire on the seller of everything


  • As in custody fights where both sides argue the child’s “best interests,” Amazon claims to protect authors, though 900 of them, many really, really famous, beg to differ
  • Hachette author Stephen Colbert gave the “Colbert bump” to Edan Lepucki’s California, which I bought from Powell’s Books. Its characters are so unlikable I forced myself to read the first one hundred pages, then gave up, I’ll wait for a library copy of Colbert’s next recommendation (via Lepucki), Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark
  • Colbert thought Bezos resembled Lord Voldemort, but his photos make him look more like Golum


  • small British publishers fear Amazon’s desire to print its own copies of books if the publisher runs out of stock. The publishers rightfully feel threatened that Amazon will simply usurp their function altogether. As David Streitfeld reported in a NYTimes piece on July 13, university presses in America have long felt Amazon’s pressure, but they don’t have the clout to muster the troops as Hachette seems to be doing

What I’m Reading Now

hitchAnother in an occasional series. Sorry to repeat the image.

As mentioned yesterday, I started John Waters’s Carsick last night. I recommend wearing a seatbelt and reading out of earshot of anyone who might be disturbed by guffaws and hysteria.

At fifty or so pages in, J.W.  has treated his readers to a reunion with one of his former stars, believed dead, who is selling half-used products including other people’s prescription medication in the middle of nowhere. Also, several illegal or questionable substances, including a rendition of Alvin and the Chipmunks with helium, and a really, really wild ride in at a demolition derby. Why do I have the feeling that about half this book is J.W.’s fantasy life reduced to print?

And why, oh, why, is this book considered nonfiction? It has library designations to prove it? Dewey decimal system number  791.4302 WAT, Library of Congress number 917.9 WATERS and a B designation on the spine. As a friend pointed out today, this is nonfiction in the way that David Sedaris writes nonfiction.

But it’s so funny, I’m not complaining.

Written Out Tonight

Today’s post lacks spirit because I’ve spent the day

  • mourning the death of Michael Brown, thinking that nothing has changed in more than four hundred years, and reflecting on the similarities between the events on Tomlinson Hill  one hundred years ago and continuing, and the events in Sanford, Florida, two and one-half years ago, and Ferguson, Missouri, three days ago
  • mourning the death of Robin Williams and contemplating the loss of one possessed by genius.  I do think a person doesn’t have genius. Rather, it has the writer, visual artist, singer, actor, and so forth
  • in aid of the above, making ineffectual stabs at the MS that has been eluding me for years
  • working on a presentation for the beginning of September
  • responding to emails, some of which should have been written weeks ago
  • contemplating the mountain of newspapers and magazines that never seems to shrink.

So I’m takin’ a break and diving into Carsick. 



What I’m Reading Now


Another in an occasional series. Chris Tomlinson has produced stellar reporting in war zones and other places of conflict across Africa and the Middle East. He has now turned his skills on his own family, and the family that his people owned.

Tomlinson Hill is the account of multiple generations of the extended family that occupied a small community in east-central Texas beginning in the 1850s, bringing with them or purchasing vast numbers of black and mulatto slaves to plant and pick cotton and other crops, drive cattle, build houses and barns, make clothing, and generally establish a community in the scrub land near the Brazos River.

With the exception of an occasional repetition and overly long battle descriptions, which smack of hurried editing, Tomlinson’s narrative is gripping. He puts the lie to the notion that the slaves loved the family so much they took the name after emancipation. (The choice was made under threat.) He lays out the complicity among law enforcement, the press, and the disenfranchised rebels who terrorized African Americans to regain supremacy and in turn disenfranchise and dispossess the freedmen.

I’ve only just begun to read the section on the black Tomlinsons, but a quick glance at succeeding pages indicates this is not bedtime reading: fifteen pounds of dynamite to blow up a cabin with corpses wrapped in flames, a woman staggering around with a “partly singed” infant in her arms.

So far this is not Slaves in the Family, but in some ways it hits its targets harder and more directly. Tough but absolutely necessary reading.

Happy World Cat Day


So I spent the time I usually devote to collection information for the blog just watching cat videos thanks to Poynter. I did learn one thing: Grumpy Cat’s real name was Tartar Sauce. No wonder she’s grumpy.

My friend Christy Billings posted this on Facebook, but I can’t find it.

So here’s my version, with the photo courtesy of a Twitter celebration of cats that was written in Chinese.

What’s the difference between a cat and a comma?

One has claws at the end of its paws, while the other is a pause at the end of a clause.


Scallion Pancakes

Scallion pancake, credit NYC Chinese food
Scallion pancake, credit NYC Chinese food

When I lived in Philadelphia, there was a restaurant across from the office that served the most amazing scallion pancakes. The place, whose name I’ve long since forgotten, offered a more refined dining experience with table cloths, silverware, and cloth napkins. It was also more expensive than your average take-out place with the English-speaking woman yelling at the cooks in the back as the steam flew and the pots clanged. We only ate at the place for special occasions — a birthday, a retirement, that sort of thing.

I remember looking forward to those pancakes, which seemed both ethereal and substantial, delicate and savory.

It took a long time after I returned to Connecticut to locate places that served them. There was a restaurant in Cromwell, long since closed, and Great Taste in New Britain, which is entirely too far away unless I’m visiting the New Britain Museum of American Art.

I tried to make them — once. Don’t know what I did wrong. It’s just flour, water, salt, scallions, and oil. I’ve never had a problem with other variations — regular, buttermilk, even crêpes. But they were gummy and disgusting. The dipping sauce, tasted just fine, though, so I put it on a salad.

So it was with great elation that I discovered a place with the generic name Asian Restaurant, right down the street from the library where we do the veterans’ writing workshop. And tonight I revisited a dream — almost. The pancakes were not as ethereal as others, but the sauce! Oh, my! It tasted more Thai curry than ginger but it was spectacular.


Not on the Road Again

I’m continuing the thankfulness with one item at a time. Today I am thankful that most of my neighbors seem to be on vacation, so crossing streets and walking along main thoroughfares featured minimal traffic.vw

Now to the main event. The bad news arrived late this morning: My beat-up Passat needs at a minimum another $1,000 worth of work just to keep it safe on the road. Ideally it should have $2,800 in repairs.

This is on top of $1,000 for timing belt, water pump, etc., which I had expected, and $500 for a neutral safety switch, about which I was not consulted before the installation.

As mentioned earlier, my regular mechanic is back in town, so we’ve had two consultations since Monday. The operations will occur next Tuesday. Stay tuned.

Even More Thankfulness

momSo today is Day 5 of the thankfulness challenge. I’m devoting it to mothers.

mom momFirst to my own, the amazing Ann Petry, who was author, pharmacist, expert chef and baker, community leader, and most of all a spectacular mother, wife, sister, daughter, neighbor. I’m especially thankful today because I inherited the gene that keeps us from throwing away pretty much anything. As a result, I saved myself hours of research because of a few notes I’d tucked away in 2006 that will now become part of a lecture. For some reason the site won’t let me upload my favorite photo.

And I’m thankful for my friend Sylvia Minickene, who brought into sylviathe world three amazing children, who have kept me in their lives even though their mom is no longer with us. I will always cherish her warmth, compassion, and direct way.

And my friend Wendy Black-Nasta, a woman of boundless energy, who is in Africa at the moment bringing the gift of sight to hundreds. She’s been nurturing people there for years, but before that she gave the world two amazing sons. Jesse Nasta is a scholar who shares revives my passion for history every time we speak. And Miles, yes, he was named for the man, spreads his music across the country.

Thank you, Mother, Sylvia, and Wendy. wendy

Thankful Times Infinity

My dear sister-in-law Gisele Riley challenged her FB family to give thanks for three things over five days and to challenge two FB friends to do the same.

I got the “giving thanks” part but forgot to post the challenge until yesterday.


Peggi Comosci
Peggi Comosci

Here’s Day 4: I am thankful for my friend Peggi who gave me two of the three things I was grateful for on Day 3 and who is a gracious hostess, making  it look effortless even when she’s not at Tea Roses Tea Room. And she’s got potential as a juggler! Note: I did NOT manipulate this photo except to crop it, and none of the others taken from the same angle has that halo. I am thankful for my cousin Anna Bush who sent me this amazing flatware organizer, which will force me to start on the kitchen renovation! And I’m thankful for my friend Betsy McMillan, who has accepted the challenge and is the ideal person to share a writers’ weekend.

Here’s what I posted on Gisele’s timeline:

I am thankful that my friend Patti gave me three pieces of excellent advice, all of which will help other people. That should count for all three, but I’ll continue. I am thankful for my auto mechanic who returned from vacation because he can make my car stop sounding like a 13 y/o rust bucket, which it is. And mostly I am thankful that the universe gives me family like you. Here’s Day 1!

Today 8/2 I am thankful for my sister-in-law Sharon Riley with whom I shared a terrific lunch. I am thankful that the rain held off for my four-mile walk. And I’m thankful that I had enough food in the house so I didn’t have to grocery shop!

Day 3: 8/3. I am thankful for my friend Janet, a powerful Reiki master, who said I inspired her to return to the practice, which reinforced mine. I am thankful for my friend David, who identified this plant that has taken over our yard (it’s taller than the house!) and assured me it would not climb in the window and attack us as we sleep. And I am thankful the white roses that have continued to bloom outside my back door all summer long.