Saturday, 31 August 2013

Not As Good As I Remember


When I first read this book I was a 20 year old playing guitar in a punk band and I loved this book to death. Fast forward 18 years and I am working for the "man" as a Correctional officer and yes the shine has worn off this book for me. 

Why I still enjoyed the ranting’s of this drug crazed gonzo reporter and his lawyer, I found myself getting annoyed and angry at them during the book. Their lack of respect of others and lack of any moral responsibility drove me to distraction. The voice of Mr McKay from South Park kept popping into my head, and I had to agree with him that yes drugs are bad. 

The book still represents a great snapshot of the times and drug culture of America during the late 60's and 70's. But with a more mature head the book has lost the grasp it once had on me.

3 Stars


Thursday, 29 August 2013

The Mother Of All Viruses




I really enjoyed this book but I would not label it a Zombie novel. Why there is a fair share of dead people coming back alive, the book concentrates more on the virus causing it. 

What was clear to me is that the author has a firm grasp on virology and this lends to the realistic hue to plot, this for me added to the horror of the tale. The story starts with the spread of the virus throughout the world and the devastation it brings.

From this the story evolves into two distinct narratives, one being that of a military group and refugees trying to stay one step ahead.  The other group includes a Morning Star expert, journalist and a rogue NSA agent. Their tales run parallel to each other intertwining ever so slightly.

Plague of the Dead will have me coming back for book two and I hope it delivers as much action and suspense as this one. 

3.5 Star




Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Sad Humble Paint Roller

One day while I painted the walls in our house a thought dawned on me, and that thought was who was the genius that invented the humble paint roller. I mean how much would it suck to paint a wall without one let alone the ceiling. So I headed to Google with this question and this is what I discovered. In future posts I hope to bring you some more  history of everyday items.

The origins of the paint roller make for a sad story. Around 1940, a Canadian named Norman Breakey devised a time-saving painting tool that allowed anyone to produce a smooth finish. He peddled his invention to local hardware stores and painters, but neglected to patent it. The result: plenty of imitations, patents that benefitted others, and the disappearance of Mr. Breakey into the mists of time.

Prior to the invention of the paint roller, house painting was a chore best left to professionals who had the time and dexterity to create a smooth finish with their brushes. Early do-it-yourselfers may have enjoyed a painting experience like the one outlined in The Canadian Inventions Book:

"Take a paint brush in your right hand, or your left hand if you are left handed, or both hands if it is a big brush. Dip the brush into a can of paint and raise it above your head, being careful not to let the paint roll down your arm. Dab it on the ceiling, repeat the process hundreds of times. Then—take a bath."

Breakey devised a cylinder covered in fabric that picked up more paint than a brush. He approached A.B. Caya Fabrics executive Tom Hamilton for advice on what type of fabric to use, an encounter Hamilton recalled for the Globe and Mail in 1984:

"He was a white haired gent who was full of purpose. He wanted my opinion on the best kind of fabric that offered a stiff bristly nap. I asked for what purpose, and he said “For rolling paint.” I scratched my head at that but he resolutely went on and described to me something with a handle shaped like a “7” that would hold a cardboard, fabric-covered cylinder. “If my theory is right this thing will revolutionize painting in Canada,” he said.

Well, the best thing I could think of was that bristly green mohair velour that was used to cover railway touring coaches in those days. So I sold him a bolt of that, told him how to cut it on the bias, suggested some glues and away he went, beaming out the door. Later he came by and thanked me for my advice. He gave me one of his original rollers and a tray that had been hammered out by a local tinsmith. Neither of us knew then how big his invention would get to be."

Left: advertisement, the Toronto Star, April 27, 1945. Right: part of an advertisement for Aikenhead's Hardware, the Toronto Star, May 30, 1946.

Unfortunately, Breakey lacked the money to produce a significant supply of rollers on his own. Attempts to persuade investors to back him failed. Meanwhile, other manufacturers seized on the idea and produced their own versions of the product. Other inventors who tinkered with Breakey’s design secured patents. In fact, south of the border, engineer Richard Croxton Adams, a descendent of two presidents, received a patent for a device he claimed to have developed in his basement in 1940 while working for paint giant Sherwin Williams. Coincidence?

At least one account claims Breakey, a Manitoba native who moved to Toronto as a child, died poor and unsung. No histories of the paint roller list the date of his death. He went without public recognition until 1967, when he was listed in both the inventors volume of McClelland & Stewart’s Canadian Centennial Library and a Maclean’s feature called “Who’s Who of Canadian What’s His Names.”

Breakey may have been under-heralded in life, but his work has aided generations of painters.

Sourced at Torontoist

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The Fantastic Reads Roll On


This book is so twisted and wrong that is so so so right. Mark Tufo reigns supreme yet again delivering another spectacular book in his unique style. Tim the clown is back with his side kick Hugh the zombie, and what's this they have a fat geek called Clarence coming along for the ride as well. The only problem is they all occupy the same body, or should I say their consciousness do. As you can imagine there is not much room in there and Tim and Hugh do not play well with others.

Tim makes the clown from IT look like a Granny in a knitting circle. He is more than happy to help Hugh find food, that is people, and eat them. Tim is one of the most deranged and psychotic characters ever to be put on paper. What do I like so much about Tim? Tim is so politically incorrect that it is hilarious, he is so sick and demented that you cannot help but love him. This book is not for the squeamish but if you can get past the gore you will be rewarded by one the most awesome characters ever. That's right trend setters I said awesome and I make no apologies for it. Mr. Tufo I take my hat off to you yet again.

If you have not checked out any of Mark Tufo's work I strongly suggest you do so. Mr. Tufo is getting the all new Lazy Book Reviewer Tick Of Approval!


5 BIG Stars

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Do Believe The Hype!


American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Finally a book that has lived up to the hype surrounding it. American Gods deliver on many levels from the shear originality and entertainment of narrative to the critique of the American psyche and it’s addiction to all things new.

A story of gods old and new and of an ex-con who travels through America with his new mysterious employee that takes him backstage to a battle as old as man. The author delivers a narrative that twists and turns itself into a story that will stay with you long after the book is back on the shelf. The characters are vibrant and mesmerizing and although many are gods they are painfully real.

This book had so many OMG moments that I times I was dizzy with the lack of oxygen and I had to remind myself to breath. From the opening chapter to the closing sentence American Gods had me captivated

5 BIG STARS


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Henry Martin Interview


Independent author Henry Martin has been kind enough to take part in an interview for this blog. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.

For those of you who have been following this blog for a bit you will be familiar with Henry Martin and his work. For those of you who are new to the blog Henry is an independent author and has recently finished publishing his last book in his Mad Days of Me Trilogy. I highly recommend this series to everyone. It is a refreshingly different trilogy that is hard to place into any particular genre. Reviews on this trilogy can be found on this blog just click on the Indie Author tag.

I will stop  prattling on and let you read the interview.


Each book has a completely different feel to them. Was this your intention when you started writing or did it evolve as you went?

 First, please allow me to express my gratitude to you for this opportunity to talk about my work, and for your great reviews of the entire trilogy.

As to your question, the answer will have to be a yes and a no. When I first started writing Rudy's saga, all I had in mind was a short story. That short story became the foundation of chapter one in Escaping Barcelona. About halfway through the first book I knew there would be more, and I set my mind on a trilogy. For me, there is a certain charm to trilogies, a certain closure ahead. At that point, I decided that I wanted each book to have its own distinct feel, its own emotional landscape. I have nothing against characters that retain their traits throughout an entire series, but I wanted to create something different. In Escaping Barcelona, the reader meets Rudy under duress, so the reader is offered only a limited aspect of his personality. Human beings are extremely complicated, showing different aspects of their personality under diverse conditions. I wanted to create a whole being, a multifaceted being with strengths and weaknesses. In Finding Eivissa Rudy becomes vulnerable, which is something he could not afford in Escaping Barcelona. Likewise, in Eluding Reality Rudy shows a character growth he could not experience had it not been for his encounters in both Barcelona and Eivissa. In reality, my goal was to create three separate books tied together only by their protagonist and his journey. So yes, it was my intention.


The first chapter of the series and the last one are both extremely powerful pieces of writing. Were these chapters always in your mind from the outset?

Thanks for the compliment. The first chapter was in my mind from the onset of the story. I wanted an event that would shock without offending, that would make the reader care, while, at the same time, opening possibilities as to what comes next. I mean, had the opening been weak, why would the reader care? Had Rudy just decided to stay in Barcelona, there wouldn't have been a story. As for the final chapter in the trilogy, that one evolved along the way.


You mentioned something to me in an email about having to kill Rudy so you could move on. Does this mean that Rudy had become a part of your life during the writing process? If so do you miss him?

I have to watch out what I say in my emails. :)
Let me answer the first part first. When I mentioned I had to 'kill' Rudy, it was because I could not envision a closure without doing so. Not only a closure for the reader, but for myself as well. I believe that between writing and editing, I spent about six years working on the trilogy, not counting the break I took in between the books. For me, that's a very long time. Did Rudy become a part of my life during the writing process? Absolutely. I spent more time with Rudy in my head than conversing with actual live beings. That's part of the reason behind the ending. Not that I was attached, but spending all that time writing in a specific voice started to migrate into my other writing as well. Do I miss him? No, not really, although there are times when I think of him. It was a fun ride while it lasted, but it was time to move on.


Your choice of location for the books was an interesting choice. You seemed to have a great feel for the life of these areas. Have you spent time yourself living in these places?

Unfortunately, I did not live in all the locations where the trilogy takes place. Nevertheless, many years ago while I worked in the travel industry, I was fortunate enough to see most of them, and I've got to spend some time in Europe. I wish I would have seen them all, but the lackluster truth is that most of the little towns and places mentioned in the trilogy I just found on maps and subsequently researched.


I found the romantic arc in the book very realistic in the interaction between the two. Was this a hard part of book for you to right?

There were two continuous romantic arcs in the trilogy, so I'm not sure which one you are referring to. The obvious one was between Rudy and Dominica, but there is the other, subtler romantic arc between Rudy and Michael. The one between Rudy and Dominica was fairly taxing. I mean, their relationship was rather intense, and there were times when I found myself subconsciously comparing my real romantic life to that one. The romance between Rudy and Michael was easier to write because it was so subtle. Still, it played an important role in Rudy's development.


Is there any of you in Rudy?

Is there? There must be. The problem with writing in a first-person, stream-of-consciousness narrative is that the writer must think like the character. Given enough time, a part of the character migrates into the writer and a part of the writer migrates into the character. It's a weird relationship where the real and the fictional clash, no matter how separated you try to keep the two.    

As an independent author do you feel that the e-book revolution has opened up doors to aspiring authors?


Absolutely! I, myself, do not own an e-reader because I prefer the feel of a real book. However, looking at my sales e-books vastly outnumber regular books. Perhaps it is the ease of obtaining e-books, the instant delivery, or the price difference between e-books and paper books that allows readers to sample new authors without paying a premium. I'm not sure why, but it appears that many new authors benefit from the e-book market.


Can you see independent authors in the future grabbing a larger piece of the market?

I would like to, however, it depends on both the authors and the readers. What I mean is that authors must not take the reader for granted, and must do their best to provide the best content possible. At the same time, the readers should realize that they are the 'gatekeepers' with the power to weed out the bad seeds, so to speak. I do not want the readers to become the test ground for new books, but unlike in traditional publishing where books are edited and proofread by numerous professionals, the independent market does not have any set standards. There are many great authors who care about their work and produce books that are as good or better than traditionally published works. Unfortunately, there are also authors who put out sloppy work. The reader has the power to make or break an author by sharing his or her thoughts about the book that they just read. Review, share, and, most importantly, be honest. If the reader feels cheated, the author should know. Likewise, if the reader appreciates a book, the author should know as well. That's the only way the great books will remain available, and the author who may not yet be ready will take a second look.


How would you describe your experience of writing and publishing your work?

It was hectic, exhausting, tiresome...and it was all worth it. Writing is something I've done for as long as I can remember. The publishing part was all new to me. A small, independent publisher originally published Escaping Barcelona in 2007. Unfortunately, the business closed its doors only a few weeks after the release day. After some major rewrites and edits, I decided to try publishing it on my own because the traditional publishers were turning me away left and right. It did not matter to them that I was submitting new material, the most frequent response to my queries was, "Why should be publish a second edition if the first one did not sell a million copies?" OR "Why should we publish books two and three if we don't have book one?"
I used Create Space for my print books and paid someone to convert my print files to digital formats for e-books. Create Space was great to work with. It was fairly easy and their platform is very user friendly. I did all my own typesetting, formatting, and cover design, which was quite challenging. Nevertheless, I've learned many things I would not have learned otherwise, and for this, I'm grateful.


Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Find your own voice and don't try to be like someone else. Keep writing no matter what life throws at you, but listen to your critics. I was fortunate to have a friend who is also a writer. While rewriting Escaping Barcelona, I would send her whatever I wrote the night before, and she would look it over the next day. There wasn't a week I wasn't told that I could do better, that my grammar sucked, or that my story line needed improving. She was my harshest critic, but you know what, she was the best one as well. Had it not been for her, I would probably be still sitting on my behind sulking over the first book deal that went wrong.


Finally what can we expect from you next?

Well, there is the short story collection you haven't read yet :)
I'm currently working on a single volume novel with the tentative title 36 Days. It takes place in a detention center for illegal immigrants where the protagonist lands after he is mistaken for someone else. My writing process is somewhat complicated, so this may take me a while.

Thank you again for allowing me to talk about my work.

I would like to thank Henry for giving up his time and allowing me to pester him with numerous questions. As always I encourage everyone to get behind Indie Authors and give them the support they deserve.

Surfer Nazis.....Say No More!


Deluge of the Dead by David P. Forsyth

Deluge the Dead returns to the form shown in the first book of the series. Gone is all the nitty gritty details of the organisation of the flotilla that seemed to dominate book two. What we have here is the return of some good ole fashion Zombie bashing fun. I could literally see the pink mist as zombie after zombie lost their heads. Chuck in a bunch of surf Nazis who dream to pirates and what you have is a shining example of great Zombie yarn. The author uses the surf Nazis to show the dark side of humanity. It is all well and good of being afraid of the undead but I would not take my eye off that young gentleman with a Mohawk if I was you. Well done Mr Forsyth I look forward to the next instalment in the Sovereign Spirit saga

5 Stars

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Why QWERTY?



You spend hours with it each day. Your fingertips know it intimately. But how familiar are you with your keyboard's history?

When was the typewriter invented?

The first recorded patent for a typewriting machine was filed by a British engineer, Henry Mill, in 1714. It seems that Mr. Mill was more of a thinker than a doer, though, as there’s no evidence that the machine was ever built. The real history of the modern (QWERTY) keyboard begins in 1867, when American newspaper editor and printer Christopher Sholes built the first actual Type-Writer – in fact, that was the patented name of the invention.

What was the state of the art writing implement before the typewriter?

The quill.

That’s only a slight exaggeration. Since Gutenberg’s 15th-century invention of the printing press, not much had changed in the field of writing and printing. A portable pen that contained its own ink supply was not perfected until later in the 19th century, so the quill was still the standard writing implement when Sholes introduced his machine. In fact, Union Officers during the Civil War were issued 12 quills per quarter as part of their stationery ration.

Who came up with the QWERTY layout?

Christopher Sholes was primarily responsible for QWERTY, but it took years of tinkering to arrive at the layout we know today. The first model that Sholes built mimicked a piano keyboard, with the letters placed alphabetically. By the time the machines began to be mass-produced in the 1870s, the QWERTY keyboard was almost identical to the one in front of you.

What is the connection between QWERTY and the Civil War?

Gun manufacturer E. Remington and Sons had made a fortune selling arms during the war, and the company was branching out into the mass production of peace-time inventions like the sewing machine. Remington bought the manufacturing rights for Sholes’ Type-Writer in 1873 and began mass producing the QWERTY machines the following year. Until 1881, Remingtons were the only typewriters commercially available, giving the QWERTY layout a head start on any would be competing layouts.

Is there any proof that QWERTY is the optimal keyboard arrangement?

Not a shred. In fact, all evidence points to QWERTY being terribly inefficient. The most accessible row of the keyboard is the second, or ‘home’ row. So it would make sense if the most commonly used letters in the English language were there, right? But that’s not how QWERTY rolls. About 70% of words in English can be typed with the letters DHIATENSOR, yet only 4 of those 10 letters fall on QWERTY’s home row. The letter A falls on the home row (the only vowel to do so), but it must be struck with what is for most typists the weakest finger — the left pinky.

So why did Sholes create such an awkward layout?


To slow down fast typists. Sounds ridiculous, right? But that's the consensus among historians. On earlier arrangements of the keys, ones where the most commonly used letters were more sensibly placed on the home row, typists could get on a real roll, even when using the hunt and peck method. The problem with that? With all the popular letters close together, the keys got jammed. The typist had to stop to un-jam them. What made that worse was that in the earliest models of the typewriter, the keys struck the back of the paper, so the typist was unable to see jams — and the resulting mistakes — until the page was removed from the machine. Slowing the typist down a bit by dispersing the most commonly used letters all over the keyboard was preferable to wasting even more time because of jammed keys.

Does the QWERTY keyboard favor right handed typists?

Nope. In fact, it heavily favors left-handed typists. A total of 300 English words can be typed by the right hand alone. By contrast, 3000 English words can be typed with the left. While that's good for left-handed people (10% of the population), it contributes to the inefficiency of QWERTY keyboard for the majority.

Was there ever an alternative keyboard arrangement?

There have been several. The most successful has proven to be the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard (DSK). August Dvorak, cousin of the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak, was a professor of education in 1932 when he introduced his alternative to QWERTY. In 1914, Dvorak had been inspired by the work of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, a married couple who were pioneers in the field of workplace efficiency. After almost two decades of study and experimentation, Dvorak patented the DSK.

So why don’t we use the Dvorak keyboard, then?

Same reason we don’t use the metric system. We embrace its inefficiency and prefer it to the pain of switching to something better. By the time the DSK was introduced in 1932, several generations of typists had been using QWERTY. It was by far the most readily available layout, and the one that was taught in most typing schools. So even after technological advances solved the key jamming issue, we kept the relic of the problem – the QWERTY keyboard.


Sourced at Mental Floss


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Get Down To the Brass Tacks

Meaning

Engage with the basic facts or realities.

Origin

The figurative expression 'getting down to brass tacks' isn't particularly old as phrases go. Its first appearance in print that I can find, from the USA in January 1863, was in the Texas newspaper The Tri-Weekly Telegraph:
"When you come down to 'brass tacks' - if we may be allowed the expression - everybody is governed by selfishness."
All of the other known early citations either originate in, or refer to, Texas. It is reasonable to assume that the phrase was coined there, in or about the 1860s.
The derivation of 'getting down to brass tacks' is uncertain. Nevertheless, it is a phrase that is often asked about, so I will list the most likely possible sources and the evidence for and against them and leave you to make up your mind for yourself.
get down to brass tacksBrass tacks are, of course, real as well as figurative items and two of the most commonly repeated supposed derivations refer to actual tacks. Firstly, there's the use of brass-headed nails as fabric fixings in the furniture trade, chosen on account of their decorative appearance and imperviousness to rust. Such brass tacks were commonly used in Tudor furniture and long predate the use of the phrase, which would tend to argue against that usage as the origin - why wait hundreds of years and then coin the phrase from that source? The supporters of that idea say that, in order to re-upholster a chair, the upholsterer would need first to remove all the tacks and fabric coverings, thus getting down to the basic frame of the chair. While that is true, it hardly seems to match the meaning of the expression, as the tacks would be the first thing to be removed rather than the last.
The second explanation that relies on actual tacks comes from the haberdashery trade. Here the notion is that, in order to be more accurate than the rough-and-ready measuring of a yard of material by holding it out along an arm's length, cloth was measured between brass tacks which were set into a shop's counter. Such simple measuring devices were in use in the late 19th century, as is shown by this piece from Ernest Ingersoll's story The Metropolis of the Rocky Mountains, 1880:
"I hurried over to Seabright’s. There was a little square counter, heaped with calicoes and other gear, except a small space clear for measuring, with the yards tacked off with brass tacks."
Various other explanations relate to the tacks in boots, those that were put on chairs as a prank, the rivets on boats etc, etc. None of these come equipped with any real evidence and are best left alone.
Of the supposed explanations that don't have literal allusions, we can rule out links with any form of 'brass tax'. There have been taxes on brass at various times, but no one can find any connection with this phrase. 'Getting down to brass tax' appears to be just a misspelling. The expression is also often said to be an example of Cockney rhyming slang, meaning 'facts'. In the strange world of Cockney argot, 'tacks' does indeed rhyme with 'facts' (facks), but that's as far as it goes. Rhyming slang coinages from the 19th century are limited to the UK and Australia. The apparent US origin of the phrase discounts the rhyming slang origin.
For my money, the 'fabric measuring' derivation is the strongest candidate but, given no smoking gun, we await further evidence.

Sourced from The Phrase Finder

Friday, 2 August 2013

The Madness Of It All


Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Asylum by Mark Stevens

Broadmoor revealed is a fantastic journey in to the world of Lunatics Victorian style. The author has sifted through the records of the Broadmoor Asylum to bring us the story of some of its earliest residents. He also walks through the early history and development of the institution.


Broadmoor became the home to  those held at her Majesties pleasure,  those found not guilty of heinous crimes due to insanity. Also it was home to your more straight lace mad criminals. It is a great snapshot of an era and speaks great volumes of the social and political values of the time. I thank the author for bringing the cast of colourful inmates and staff back from the mist of time.

4.5 Stars


From the Author

It was in 2001 that my office took in patient records from the old Berkshire Asylum. This was my first encounter with mental health archives. I found it fascinating: here were thousands of personal stories of real Victorian men and women. Stories of suffering and hardship, as you might expect, but also stories of compassion and hope.

These were the sort of stories that are not usually given prominence in the history books; stories that might merit a paragraph or two as an aside, but that would otherwise be footnotes in some wider narrative. I found myself drawn to these real Victorian people and to the world that they lived in.

That draw only increased when the Broadmoor archive came our way. Here were more lost lives and forgotten voices from nineteenth century England, but with the added stigma that comes from a criminal act resulting from mental illness. Every patient tells a story; I was determined to write about some of them.

Of course, it takes time to research these stories. Years in fact, just to produce the slim volume that is Broadmoor Revealed. As a result, I feel that I've only begun to scratch the surface of what is in the Broadmoor archive.

When the first edition of Broadmoor Revealed was published, someone wrote to me that the book was 'like a love letter to the Victorian asylum'. I hadn't written it with that intention, but the reaction made me feel very proud. Broadmoor Revealed is an attempt to challenge the prejudices that we all have about the hospital, and I hope it achieves that.