Saturday 8 October 2011

some writers festival takeaways


I discovered some new authors at the Brisbane Writers Festival, as well as feeling concerned about the impact of the digital revolution on the delivery of quality journalism. I have been meaning to post this for ages!

Favourite sessions were local authours ~ Nick Earls (who is laugh out loud funny) and Kate Morton as well as scientist Bryan Gaensler at the Everything and Nothing session. And the two sessions that left a lasting impression were…

Almost Ordinary Stories: There is nothing extraordinary about a sex scandal, couples having perfect babies or the streets of India…unless, of course, the story is written by Rachel DeWoskin {Big Girl Small}Mridula Koshy {If It Is Sweet} or Tim Richards {Thought Crimes}. These writers discuss turning ordinary stories into evocative and thought provoking tales.

Beautiful writing – this was the common thread of each author, who read passages from their books and shared tales of life.  I now have all three books on my reading list!

However, it was Rachel DeWoskin, the author of Big Girl Small who intrigued me. She is an American and the daughter of a Sinology professor, who majored in English and studied Chinese at Columbia University in New York City.

She went to Beijing in 1994 to work as a public-relations consultant and later starred in a Chinese nighttime soap opera, the hugely successful Foreign Babes in Beijing, which was watched by approximately 600 million viewers. DeWoskin played the character of Jiexi. As the Reuters news agency noted, the show was a “sort of Chinese counterpart to Sex and the City revolving around Chinese-Western culture clashes.” At the time, she was one of the few foreign actresses working in mainland China and was considered a sex symbol. Read more here.

DeWoskin returned to the United States in 1999 where she began graduate work in poetry at Boston University. In 2005, W.W. Norton published her memoir of her time spent in China, Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China.

Mridula Susan Koshy is an Indian writer. She lives in New Delhi with her partner and three children. She is the author of a collection of short stories If It Is Sweet, which are poetically, sensually and powerfully written.

The Digital Revolution: Who Pays? Deriving an income from the online distribution of books, blogs, news and more remains elusive. Henry Rosenbloom, Jeff Sparrow and Sophie Cunningham discuss the opportunities and challenges of doing business on the net while using marketing automation  to support business growth efforts. (more on that here )

This session highlighted the challenge faced by writers and authors in a changing literary world of the internet. And when the thread is followed, the quality and ethics of journalism unravels.

The Huffington Post was sited as an example of the complex environment. Here is the story: The Huffington Post is an American news website and content aggregating blog co-founded by Arianna Huffington. It was launched on May 9, 2005, as a commentary outlet and alternative to news websites like the Drudge Report. The site offers coverage of politics, media, business, entertainment, living, style, the green movement, world news, and comedy, and has news, blogs, and original content. In 2008, the site launched its first local version,  HuffPost Chicago; followed by HuffPost New York, Denver and Los Angeles in 2009. The Huffington Post has an active community, with over one million comments made on the site each month. The Huffington Post launched its first international edition, HuffPost Canada, followed by the Huffington Post UK in 2011. On February 7, 2011, AOL acquired The Huffington Post for US$315 million. 

This excerpt from WebProNews identifies the complexities of producing web content.

The Huffington Post has taken a lot of criticism since the announcement of its acquisition by AOL. Much of this has been more aimed at Google as part of the whole content farm debate (though nobody is really saying the quality of Huffington Post’s content is as poor as some known content farms). It’s more about search results being saturated by content from a handful of companies.

But some of the criticism has been geared directly at The Huffington Post. For example, as we mentioned in a previous article, LA Times columnist Tim Rutten recently wrote:

To grasp the Huffington Post’s business model, picture a galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates. The media-saturated environment in which we live has been called “the information age” when, in fact, it’s the data age. Information is data arranged in an intelligible order. Journalism is information collected and analyzed in ways people actually can use. Though AOL and the Huffington Post claim to have staked their future on giving visitors to their sites online journalism, what they actually provide is “content,” which is what journalism becomes when it’s adulterated into a mere commodity.” 

Huffington Post political reporter Jason Linkins doesn’t like what he’s hearing, and has written a lenghty post defending the HuffPost’s practices, saying essentially that such criticism is coming from people that don’t know what they’re talking about (granted, he did not name anyone specific). In the post, he says:

It’s often written: “HuffPost does not pay its writers.” I assure you, they do! Somehow, I always seem to have money for food and shelter and stuff. That’s because I am an employee of The Huffington Post.

And there’s this article from AJR: Why high-profile journalists are leaving prestigious news outlets like the New York Times to join The Huffington Post. Posted: Tue, April 5, 2011. Here’s part of the story…

Huffington, who launched the site in 2005 and now oversees all of AOL’s media properties following that company’s $315 million acquisition of The Huffington Post in March, says the heightened emphasis on original reporting doesn’t mean abandoning the past. Huffington says the site had 148 journalists on payroll prior to the merger and is in the process of hiring dozens more, even as aggregation and blogging remain key parts of the site’s operation. “I really want to have everything. I don’t want us to move away from curation, aggregation or blogging,” she says. “I want what we’re doing to be additive, not subtracting.”

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Saturday 4 December 2010

This Side of Paradise + Zelda


    This Side of Paradise

    Anouck Lepere Plays Zelda Fitzgerald by Carter Smith for W

    Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald was an American novelist and the wife of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. She was an icon of the 1920s—dubbed by her husband “the first American Flapper”. After the success of his first novel, This Side of Paradise (1920), the Fitzgeralds became celebrities. The newspapers of New York saw them as embodiments of the Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties: young, seemingly wealthy, beautiful, and energetic.

    Even as a child her audacious behavior was the subject of gossip. Shortly after finishing high school, she met F. Scott Fitzgerald at a dance. A whirlwind courtship ensued. Though he had professed his infatuation, she continued seeing other men. Despite fights and a prolonged break-up, they married in 1920, and spent the early part of the decade as literary celebrities in New York.  While Scott received acclaim for The Great Gatsby and his short stories, their marriage was a tangle of jealousy, resentment and acrimony. Scott used their relationship as material in his novels, even lifting snippets from Zelda’s diary and assigning them to his fictional heroines. Seeking an artistic identity of her own, Zelda wrote magazine articles and short stories, and at 27 became obsessed with a career as a ballerina, practicing to exhaustion.

    The strain of her tempestuous marriage, Scott’s increasing alcoholism, and her growing instability presaged Zelda’s admittance to the Sheppard Pratt sanatorium in 1930. Increasing intake of alcohol may lead to addiction. Good thing, Sagebrush in Virginia can help people since they provide exceptional top addiction recovery centers treatment, in a beautiful setting.
    She was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

    F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise describes life at Princeton among the glittering, bored, and disillusioned—the post–World War I “lost generation.” Published in 1920, when he was just twenty-three, the novel was an overnight success and shot Fitzgerald to instant stardom as dauphin of the Jazz Age.

    Taking its title from a line of the Rupert Brooke poem Tiare Tahiti, the book examines the lives and morality of post-World War I youth. Its protagonist, Amory Blaine, is an attractive Princeton University student who dabbles in literature and has the book’s theme of love warped by greed and status-seeking.

    In the summer of 1919, 22-year-old Fitzgerald broke up with the girl he had been courting, Zelda Sayre. After being drunk for much of the summer he returned to St. Paul, Minnesota, where his family lived, to complete the novel, hoping that if he became a successful novelist he could win Zelda back. While at Princeton, Fitzgerald had written an unpublished novel called The Romantic Egotist and ultimately 80 pages of the typescript of this earlier work ended up in This Side of Paradise.

    On September 4, 1919, Fitzgerald gave the manuscript to a friend to deliver to Maxwell Perkins, an editor at Charles Scribner’s Sons in New York. The book was nearly rejected by the editors at Scribners, but Perkins insisted, and on September 16 it was officially accepted. Fitzgerald begged for early publication—convinced that he would become a celebrity and impress Zelda—but was told that the novel would have to wait until the spring. Nevertheless, upon the acceptance of his novel for publication he went and visited Zelda and they resumed their courtship. His success imminent, she agreed to marry him.

    This Side of Paradise was published on March 26, 1920 with a first printing of 3,000 copies. The initial printing sold out in three days, confirming Fitzgerald’s prediction of overnight fame. On March 30, four days after publication and one day after selling out the first printing, Scott wired for Zelda to come to New York and get married that weekend. Barely a week after publication, Zelda and Scott married in New York on April 3, 1920

    Title: This Side of Paradise
    Magazine: W November 2000
    Model: Anouck Lepère
    Photographer: Carter Smith

    {Images via Noir Facade}

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    Wednesday 17 November 2010

    A Luscious Tribute to Valentino


    silk serge gown with handpainted coral motif  by photographer Ruven Afanador

    For almost 50 years, Valentino created exquisite and coveted designs for both pret-a-porter and Haute Couture. Based in Rome, his was the first couture house outside of Paris to be recognized by the French government, and his contribution to fashion is recognized in a fabulous Rizzoli publication, Valentino: Themes and Variations by Pamela Golbin. It catalogues the designer’s most beautiful looks from all the way back to the 60s, to his last collection in 2008.

    Published in association with an exhibition at the prestigious Les Arts Decoratifs in Paris,Valentino: Themes and Variations explores the coutourier’s recurring motifs – variations on the ideas of line, surface, and volume, as well as geometry, pleats, and flowers – through photos, sketches, fabric samples, and striking editorial images.

    “I think a couturier must establish his style and stick to it. The mistake of many couturiers is that they try to change their line with every collection. I change a little each time, but never too much, so as not to lose my identity.” Valentino

    Francois Halard photographs from Spring 2008 document Valentino’s backstage fittings for his final couture collection and reveal the intensity and passion that contributed to making his shows so perenially popular with editors, socialites, celebs, and fashionistas. Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giametti reviewing dress rehearsal for Spring 2008 Couture Collection. Paris.

    Behind the scenes preparation for Valentino’s last collection.

    It’s about details, craftsmanship, and timeless design.

    This gorgeous hardcover coffee table book is a catalogue of Valentino’s most beautiful and famous dresses. The book has minimal text, which is entirely appropriate as the clothing speaks for itself. There are some great backstage shots with models like Natalia Vodianova and Sasha P as well as shots of seamstresses putting together the clothes. Some sketches of the dresses and the finished products are shown side-by-side.

    Valentino writes a short introduction and there is a biography of him at the back of the book, followed by photos of the designer’s numerous campaigns. The book features the designer’s work in chapters entitled “Themes” ~ Ornamentation; Technique and  ”Variations” ~ Line; Volume.

    It’s a beautiful book for anyone who loves Valentino or for anyone who appreciates haute couture.

    A young Valentino Garavani perusing his first collection (Spring/Summer 1959)

    The book spans Valentino’s entire career and is full of beautiful images of the designer’s exquisite creations over the years. It has a particular focus on the many intricate techniques employed by Valentino to embellish his gowns accompanied by crisp detail shots highlighting the fine craftsmanship that distinguishes haute couture frompret-a-porter. The book also chronicles Valentino ad campaigns over the years many shot by world class fashion photographers and featuring familiar faces such as a young Anjelica Huston (Spring/Summer 1972).

    The tomb of eye-candy features images by the worlds best fashion photographers who have captured Valentino’s dresses for magazine editorials and portraits of supermodels and Vals girls.

    “Christy-Valentino, Le Grand Hotel”
    Photographed by Walter Chin, Italian Vogue, March 1993

    There are so many beautiful images…..

    {Images & sources: fashion tribes; the peak of chic}

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    Friday 15 October 2010

    Library dreaming


    My perfect house would have a library ~ I’m thinking a black one.

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