Archive for January 2011
I read biographies and autobiographies to find out about other people’s lives, to find out how other people do things and to get a different point of view. In one respect this book was good as it showed me all those things, but on the other hand it was too close to home as I remember some of the incidents discussed and they affected me greatly even though I was half a world away.
Yitzhak Rabin was a peacemaker in Israel and he spent most of his life working towards that goal. He was assassinated by a Jew before he could complete the task. This book was written by his wife, Leah, who was married to him for 47 years and had the enormously hard task of comforting the family, Israel and Jews throughout the diaspora, from what she’s written in the book she didn’t really have a lot of time for her own grief as she was too busy comforting everyone else. Behind every great man is a great woman and this marriage was no exception. Leah Rabin was one such lady, strong, with a mind of her own which was in perfect accord with her husband’s, she was able to slip in with diplomatic statements made at the correct time and was able to make speeches which concorded with Yitzhak’s policies both during and after his death.
When I first started this book it was at the time of my aunt’s death and the book starts with Yitzhak’s assassination. My grief was rather raw already so I didn’t cope at all well with the remembered grief of losing Yitzhak who was Prime Minister of Israel for the second time and had to stop reading it…I find it hard to read through tears. I only picked it up again recently and found it much easier to cope with, the tears still flowed but not as much so I was able to keep reading. I found the book to be very well written with just a few phrases where Leah reverted to Hebrew grammar rather than English grammar. It talked about both of their lives and showed how they both came to Israel, both fought in the War of Independence, how they met and then married. This is not really a book about Yitzhak and his achievements but more a book about the two of them and how they both fought for the Independence of Israel and also for peace.
One thing I found most interesting was during the War for Independence. When I was growing up one of the authors who seemed of great importance was Leon Uris. He wrote a number of books and the one I read was called Exodus which is about the foundation of Israel and the conflicts that were fought in order to bring this about. One of the things I remember quite clearly from the book is the Arabs abandoning their homes and villages before the Jews could get there to fight them and the Jews being concerned for the Arabs and asking the few they saw to stay. Leah does talk about this and talks about the fighting that happened and how the Arabs generally stayed and fought. I never wondered about Uris’ version of those events but now I read about it from a different point of view I have to wonder why he exaggerated this point. Definitely Leah Rabin does mention some of the Arabs and how they evacuated before the Jews got there but quite clearly talks about it as something that happened in places and was not widespread as Leon Uris made me believe.
Leah and Yitzhak Rabin spent some time overseas and she makes it quite clear how they made friends wherever they were and how upset everyone was at Yitzhak’s death.
Anyway, I do recommend this book. I think it is a fairly balanced view of events and does give some insight into both Yitzhak and Leah and how they coped with different problems.
If you’re my age (and no, I’m not telling you), then you’ll probably remember some enchanting creatures in both book and TV form. The Wombles were just fabulous and helped teach kids about cleaning up and recycling. I absolutely adored them.
I was gob smacked last month to hear of the author’s death. Elisabeth Beresford was born on the 6th August in 1926 and was 84 when she died. I was really upset. I have such fond memories of Great Uncle Bulgaria and Tobermory, not to mention Orinoco. What I didn’t realise at the time, and I don’t quite understand how come as I have the song going through my head, is that there was a TV series, I really only remember the books. Seriously, how does one only know the books and yet have the theme song from the TV series running through their heads?
Just because you need the theme song too.
In 1973 and 1975 Filmfair made two series of five minute episodes using stop motion. Bernard Cribbins voiced all ten of the Wombles featured. If you’re a Doctor Who fan you will have seen him as Donna’s grandfather in the David Tennant series. He also did a song called Right Said Fred where the men are trying to move a very large piece of furniture, they stop for a cup of tea at frequent intervals and the furniture is left on the landing.
Yesterday was Australia Day, it’s a public holiday countrywide and many people do special things. People become citizens, there are parades and lots of barbecues. We decided to take a trip to Marysville.
Two years ago we were meant to be driving up to Marysville for the Australia Day long weekend. We’d booked rooms in our favourite place and were looking forward to a bit of relaxation, short walks to the shops, feeding the birds and some stunning scenery. Then my step-Dad had a heart attack and following a week in a coma he died, naturally I rang up and asked to postpone our holiday until the Labour Day weekend in March. Being nice people they agreed and so we postponed looking forward to all the loveliness for a couple of months and just concentrated on grieving and helping others get through their grief. Then Black Saturday hit.
For those who don’t know, Black Saturday was the worst bushfire day in Victoria I can remember. The temperature in Melbourne was 47 degrees celcius, again, the hottest day I can remember. The bushfires were enormous, engulfing so many towns around Melbourne and killing 171 people. Marysville was just one of those towns that were decimated. I was on Flinders St Station that day and with the strong winds we had the heat felt like a furnace, I can’t imagine how much hotter it must have been close to the flames. The flames were bad and the strong winds made things ever so much worse. A couple of weeks after the worst was over I managed to make contact with the people at the cottages we’d been planning to stay at to find they had evacuated their house and driven onto the oval minutes before the fireball went through and took out the house. They were shaken but alive. Yesterday we went past and that area has a little rebuilding but nothing yet for visitors to stay at.
The shops where I’d spent countless hours admiring the local produce and the alpaca wool garments (hoping to find I could wear something without allergies) has been razed, there is now nothing there except grass. The library is gone, as is everything in that area, most of the shops and houses have also gone. The bakery and the shops next to it have survived. It was very emotional walking around town and identifying the places we used to love that are now no longer. Bruno’s Sculpture Garden is a shadow of its former self, it is opposite the cottages and so would have been hit by the fire ball. Many of his works were destroyed, some of the ceramic ones survived, in part or whole and have been restored, the ones made of fibreglass were melted.
We wandered, we talked and we spent some money in various shops. There was an Australia Day Parade and we got there just as it started so we were able to watch most of that. We applauded the emergency services people, the firemen, the SES, the police, their work during Black Saturday and it’s aftermath was just amazing and we felt they deserved applause. It was much better attending a parade in a country town as there are so few onlookers that everyone can get a good vantage point. The SES were collecting for the Victorian Floods so we put some money in their tins. Speaking of the floods I have a Squid Ink drawn specially for me for this occasion.
We also took a drive down to Steavenson’s Falls. Until Black Saturday you could drive into the carpark and just see green – green in the carpark, green all around and especially green along the walk until the falls – would hear the falls from the carpark but you wouldn’t see them as there’d be too much green. I’m going to let this photo tell all, I took it from the carpark.
You can see the Falls roughly down the middle. It’s two years on and we’ve had an enormous amount of out of season rain so there’s been a decent amount of regrowth. It was hard enough for us seeing it after two years, I can’t imagine how the people who lived there coped. You can probably see some of the regrowth on the trees, they don’t normally have green on their trunks like that.
I was thinking about the fires and the current floods and thinking about how similar they are in terms of their impact on homes and businesses. Both of them have totally destroyed homes, businesses and farms. Both of them were selective in their destruction. I can’t decide whether it’s easier to get back on your feet after a flood or not, at least there might be a building to go back to, but after Black Saturday many towns just weren’t there. Marysville is an illustration of the devastation it caused to entire towns. But with floods, you might have to pull down your home/business and start again anyway depending on how much flooding it received. The only thing I can guarantee is that everyone involved will need a lot of help to get back on their feet, to get their houses ready for living in, to get their businesses into a viable position, to get their farms ready for working again. They will need money, goods and support. Food will probably be more expensive as the farms that were devastated will not be producing for a while and those that do manage to produce may be devastated once again by the locust plague that is an issue at the moment, the next batch of eggs has just hatched.
I’ve heard there have been floods in every state of Australia. Queensland was the most violent of them but Victoria has had some very bad floods, New South Wales (NSW) is also looking bad. I do know there were/are floods in Tasmania, South Australia and Northern Territory as well as both floods and fires in Western Australia. That really only leaves our nation’s capital without floods and as they’re within the borders of NSW I suggest they might end up flooded too. Our emergency services people are rather stretched at the moment, thank goodness for the armed forces who are helping them out. Should you be overseas and wish to help out then there is one thing that will help. The Red Cross are distributing money where it’s needed and are able to take donations online.
I also want to make mention of the people in Brazil. My heart goes out to them. While I was worrying about family and friends in Queensland Brazil suffered a devastating mud slide and lost whole families, 100s of people died and many, many more were left without homes. It’s a terrible time for them.
This is one of the magical autobiographical books by Gerald Durrell. He was a multi-talented whirlwind who changed the face of zoos and helped to educate people and also to help save some endangered species. I have written about him before so I won’t write much now.
This book is set in Argentina. Durrell searches windswept Patangonian shores and tropical forests in the Argentine for additions to his private zoo in addition to filming as much as possible. He spent a great deal of time with his team looking for elephant seals so as to film them and was quite disheartened. They all sat down to lunch having just given up looking and all of a sudden one of them moved, he was about 10 feet away, his camoflage was so good they hadn’t seen him. It turned out there were several on the beach and it took a great deal of effort to spot them. Durrell then regaled his team with detailed information about the sex life and intestines of the elephant seals until he was told off as they really would prefer to eat their lunch.
Durrell managed to meet the most delightful people in his search for animals. The man I’m going to talk about is Luna. He seemed to be one of the most even tempered people I’ve read about. Apparently he spent a lot of time singing, even starting to sing before opening his eyes in the morning and generally the last thing Durrell heard at night was Luna singing. Thank goodness he could sing better than my father who used his singing instead of injections, people couldn’t wait for the drilling to start so he would stop. Luna was a fine singer and knew many, many songs, he regaled the whole party with a good deal of those songs. Sounds like a lovely man.
There are some people who change your life forever. And I mean totally change. I first met Olga on the forums on eBay where she taught me so much. A number of us met for lunch one day and have been firm friends ever since. I can honestly say I am a different person for having been included in that first lunch. I have been hoping to get a guest post from Olga for a while as she knows an enormous amount about books and eBay and I always expected her to be an excellent writer. It is quite lengthy so grab a coffee and settle in for a very informative read.
For years I have watched the blame game being played.
With the popularity of eBay soaring back in the mid-2000′s, second-hand bookstore owners were blaming eBay for the decline in sales. Mail order catalogues, books wrapped in brown paper, the smell of old books in a dark little shop, the eccentric owner who kept you in the shop at least half an hour longer than you intended gabbing on about nothing in particular, all of this was falling by the wayside. Dying was the ritual of scouring the bricks and mortar offerings of the used bookseller community. After all, people could now shop from home, and usually pay less.
eBay certainly has generated a lot of amateur booksellers, collectible sellers, antique sellers and other small business of all sorts (that I have far less interest in). It’s ruined the retail industry, so the store owners claimed.
I don’t disagree.
Certainly, a great deal of eBay sellers didn’t offer the service and knowledge a professional bookseller did. But for years collectors had been limited to abebooks for online buying, with it’s bland descriptions and lack of photos, suddenly there was an alternative. A much cheaper alternative. Amateur sellers usually equals a bargain price. So with the novelty still there, the trust still there, a good economy, eBay was flourishing. Everything was easy, simple, sales rolled in and books went out.
The buyers blamed the professional booksellers for being “too expensive” I can get it cheaper on eBay.
But around 2006 eBay started getting a little Amazon-envy. And for the booksellers who’d been selling cheap used books on there for several years already, it was the beginning of a disastrous period for bookselling on eBay, one that has yet to recover.
eBay decided it wanted to clear out the “rubbish”, the cheap listings, things that took a long time to sell, and have a brand new shiny marketplace full of electrical goods and other boring things. They wanted the small collectible seller out, and the corporate monsters in. By doubling the fees, they certainly managed to force a lot of people out. By marketing their ridculous propaganda slogans they had sellers bleating “Core, core, core” like so many brainwashed zombies. (Incidentally the “core item” term, meaning an auction style listing rather than fixed price, has quietly disappeared). It was our fault that book might take up to a couple of years to sell. You know, as there is a huge marketplace for that book on a rare fungi that only grows on the trunk of a tree in a far-off forest in…you get the picture. Bricks and mortar stores are no different. I admit Therese (of Mcleod’s books) and I used to have a competition to see who’d sell a Leonard Maltin movie guide first as these were always an unwanted by-product in remainder book cartons. Therese won, as a matter of fact. I think she has sold two.
It’s something you take in good humour. But eBay didn’t want it. After a long period where a lot of sellers concentrated on building websites and listing on the Australian auction site Oztion, eBay grew bigger. Some sellers never went back, some drifted back slowly. After all, Google may be bigger than eBay but most people look on eBay first. You can’t beat the traffic. In the meantime, book sales were taking a dive. The “de-cluttering” eBay had done made no real difference to sales. By around 2008 the novelty was wearing off, the bad press was rife, and eBay was losing it’s shine.
The buyers may have blamed the sellers, but the sellers blamed eBay.
Blaming eBay is a popular sport. Usually a perfectly justifiable one. While eBay couldn’t seem to get it through their thick skulls that the days of mad bidding on auctions was over, and people just wanted to “Buy It NOW” they clung to the slim hope that their plan would work. I fondly remember a seller ranting on an eBay forum that “people don’t want to hang around for seven days to buy a three dollar lipstick”
They most certainly don’t.
They spent two years messing around with everything on the site, searches, rules, user agreements, the failed attempt at forcing Paypal as the sole payment method, ridiculous and convoluted rules about feedback that have changed a dozen times or more. Nothing, it seemed, was luring the buyer back. The economy was taking a dive, and people just weren’t interested in eBay anymore.
So they upped the fees again.
That might be a slightly unfair statement, as the new fee structure benefitted sellers in other categories a great deal, with a higher listing fee and lower final value fee. For booksellers, it meant the fees practically doubled overnight. eBay’s explanation was that (and I was told this on the phone by a slightly nervous representative who had probably been shouted at all day by eBay sellers) no-one was interested in auctions anymore and they were trying to structure the site to be mainly fixed price items.
I calmly explained they would be better off having a fee structure for media items with lower listing fees and higher final value fees as they had in the US, thanked him, and proceeded to lose money hand over fist for months. This was the final straw for a lot of small sellers, who gave up altogether. We struggled along, waiting for them to come to their senses.
Thankfully, they did.
But in the meantime the book market on eBay was changing. Huge websites from the United Kingdom were creeping in, offering books at below Australian wholesale prices, including free shipping.
The Aussie buyer started blaming the bookseller again.
How can they buy a book for $8.00 – $12.00 including shipping, that costs $20- $22 here? Plus shipping? And shipping for a book under 500 grams being around the $6.00 mark, and over that, most regular hardcovers, more than $10? Less than half price?
How indeed? The booksellers blamed the publishing industry.
I get a 30-35% discount off retail buying from Australian publishers. I would have to mark that up 35% to retail price. Then charge $6-10 shipping. Because Australia Post has no discounted national rates.
I can blame Australia Post too.
But suddenly eBay has gotten in some huge Australian booksellers who have dropped about a million (I am not inflating those numbers) titles on eBay within the space of a few days.
While I thought that in my particular niche, out-of-print books, that I would be relatively safe. That was before they started dropping print-on-demand books, which are pretty much a photocopied book, into the search results. (Not even legal here due to copyright laws but they can be purchased from the US). Now to stretch my memory there used to be a few hundred thousand books on eBay.
Today there is 2,819,625.
As a result, the book search is flooded beyond belief. eBay even backed up and canned the identical listings (sellers listing 20 copies of an identical book to take up a page in search results)
It has still not improved.
Now the retail giants tell us they want to charge GST on online purchases because they’re suffering. I fail to see how a 10% charge on a $10 book is going to make a difference when the book still costs $20+ to buy here. They’ll pay the extra dollar. Happily.
Why? Consumers are angry. They feel ripped off, the economy is bad, spending is down, and people will do anything they can to try and save money. There is a very small contingent of people who will pay more for goods to try and put money back into the local economy.
Meanwhile the publishers continue to produce over-priced books.
Meanwhile the bookseller continues to struggle on trying to sell used books when consumers can purchase them new, for used book prices.
Ebay is weighed down by an incredible amount of generic, repetitive listings, identical photos of the same title with people competing to undercut each other by a few cents.
I don’t hold out much hope for the used book market. The writing has been on the wall for too long, we’ve all seen it coming, starting with those bricks and mortar owners blaming eBay for the demise of the local second-hand bookshop, down to ebay sellers blaming the corporate monsters for crushing them.
The romance is gone. The used book market is failing. And everything is failing us. Who’s to blame? Or is there even a point in playing out this decade-long game?
Olga Hughes owns Crickhollow Books with her partner Craig. She is a passionate reader and a quite mad book collector, and loves children’s books, to the horror of most regular people. You can read her blog at Crickhollow Books.
Squid Ink is reading Australian authors at the moment and the first in this series is The Ragwitch by Garth Nix. It’s young adult horror/fantasy. It is told from two different points of view, Julia and her brother Paul. They both end up in another world fighting The Ragwitch.
This is the book that caused so much consternation when I used it for Teaser Tuesday. It’s an anthology of Australian fantasy, science fiction and horror. This is the final issue and if it’s anything to go by the rest of them must have been absolutely fantastic.
It is a selection of top notch short stories interspersed with excellent essays. Some of the stories I had to take a break and do something else in order to stretch them out a bit. They were written so nicely and had such great ideas in them that I wanted them to last longer and the only way to do that was to stop part way through.
I’ve just pinched the following from the Borderlands website:
* “Shadows of Our Gods” by Cat Sparks
* “Red Earth” by Helen Lowe
* “In the Boo” by Stephen Studach
* “The Parent Licensing Commission” by Donetta Ditton
* “A Thousand Natural Shocks” by Simon Brown
* “As We Know It” by Lyn Battersby
* “The Man Who Murdered Love” by Shane Dix
* “Bad Film Diaries – Sometimes the Brand Burns: Tim Burton and the Planet of the Apes” by Grant Watson
* “Three Views of Mount Solaris” by Chris Lawson
Illustrations by Minouk Duin, Fiona Roberts and Sarah Xu
Cover by Sarah Xu
Red Earth by Helen Lowe was one that I had to stop in the middle. It’s post apocalyptic and is about a lady who wanders Australia giving out books, teaching people to read and write and telling stories. It is one of those awesome stories that just sucks you in and then keeps you there forever and it’s only three pages.
Bad Film Diaries by Grant Watson was an interesting essay on the power of the “Brand” and how film studios use it to make money. He talked about The Planet of the Apes and it’s remake and how the “Brand” helped it to make money.
I’m not going to say anything more about the rest of the stories and essays. You can buy most of the back issues from the Borderlands website, they’re only $AUD10 a copy, and worth much more than that.
I was planning on doing Teaser Tuesday, I even started a new book last night so I’d have something to write from but I’ve changed my mind. If you’ve come here for Teaser Tuesday I apologise up front for the change of topic. There’s a lot happening in Australia at the moment and it’s something I just have to write about.
If you read my blog on Monday you’d know there are changes afoot on my website. Last night I was browsing for a new template and also thinking about the competition I’d run over the weekend and how it really didn’t go so well while following the news in Queensland via Twitter making certain to retweet every really important tweet that came in…there were lots of them. I was thinking that my website problems are not real problems. There’s flooding in Western Australia and I have friends who have had to cancel their holidays due to the road closures. There’s also danger of flooding in Victoria. These are not a patch on the problems Queensland is having. Their floods are huge. Toowoomba is one place you wouldn’t expect to have a flood, being almost 700m (about 2,200 feet) above sea level, and the floods there are so big they’re being referred to as an inland tsunami.
There have been weeks of rain in the area followed by one hour of unprecedented amounts of rain which created the inland tsunami. As of this morning at least eight people have died with a number still missing. You can see some photos at the SMH and get a personal story with Matt Granfield. The water must go somewhere and I presume will continue on downstream as water generally does go down, I hope the places downstream of Toowoomba are preparing quickly for whatever might eventuate. As I type this a tweet just came in advising people currently near the Brisbane River at West End to move to higher ground. There’s more rain on the way and you can see this on the BOM website.
If you have family or friends in the area try to contact them first, if you can’t get through the help line is 1300 993 191. You can make donations here. Please stay as safe as possible.
Puts my website problems totally into perspective.