Newsletter 145 – October 2008
——– MANTEX NEWSLETTER ——–
Number 145 – October 2008 – ISSN 1470-1863
Music, Arts, Culture, and Technology
as seen from digital hub Manchester UK
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0— “Common Reading” – new book
Stefan Collini is Professor of Intellectual
History at Cambridge (UK) – and if you haven’t
read his work before (as I hadn’t) you’re in
for a big treat.
This is a dazzling collection of essays
which offer portraits of writers, critics,
and intellectuals – George Orwell, Edmund Wilson,
and E.P.Thompson for instance.
He places them in their historical context
and shows how their reputations have risen,
and sometimes fallen.
But in addition he’s amazingly well-informed
on books, journals, and publishing history,
as well as English culture in general.
This is class writing from someone at the
top of his form – and amazingly well-read
on literary and cultural life in the UK.
Stand by for his name cropping up here again,
because I’m going to read all his earlier work,
and I’ll be reporting on it HERE –
0— Pub Quiz Question #1
Which ocean lies to the north of Russia?
0—– “Virginia Woolf: Selected Essays” – new book
Virginia Woolf learned the art of writing
essays from her father, Leslie Stephen.
This is a collection of her finest – grouped
in four sections: reading and writing, biography,
feminism, and contemporary culture.
They deal with all the major themes she
explored in her major works of fiction,
And almost needless to say, her writing is
poised, elegant, and amazingly imaginative.
Read her stunning account of flying over
London in an aeroplane, then try to work
out how she knew what it would be like.
Because she never left the ground – physically.
0— Pub quiz – Question #2
Of which ballet is Prince Siegfried the hero?
0— “Website Optimization” – new book
Andy King is a specialist in optimization.
That means making web sites perform as
quickly and efficiently as possible.
It also means making them ‘friendly’ for
users and for Search Engines.
This book shows you every technique you
can employ – from designing quick-loading
web pages to placing scripts in the best
place to make them effective.
He also presents real-life case studies in
which he shows ‘before and after’ makeovers
of professional sites.
If you want your site to attract visitors
or do more business, this is an eye-opener.
0— Pub quiz – Question #3
What is another name for the Russian wolfhound?
0—– “Vera: Mrs Vladimir Nabokov”
Lots of (male) writers have become famous
because their wives have worked in the
background on their behalf.
Not many have taken this to the extent
of Vladimir Nabokov. His wife Vera worked
for him as his secretary, his typist,
his business manager, translator, research
assistant, chauffeur, and even as his
stand-in as a lecturer.
Yet she was a feisty and opinionated
woman in her own right – a right-wing
anti-Communist who carried a gun in
This is a biography of them both – and
it casts revealing light into his writing
habits and her ‘control’ of a potentially
It also represents an unusual life-trajectory –
from riches, to penury and exile, then back
to riches again – all thanks to “Lolita”.
0— Pub quiz – Question #4
Whose temple was sited at Ephesus?
0—– “Enterprise 2.0” – new book
Here’s a new book with a guaranteed
bonus attached. The publishers, Gower,
are offering 25% discount for the next
What’s it about? Well – author Niall Cook
argues that conventional businesses need
to embrace the social networking software
that’s been thrown up by Web 2.0 developments.
If they do, they’ll enrich their working
practices, and if they don’t they’ll lose
out to competition.
This is one for managers, developers, and
eCommerce enthusiasts. And it’s like looking
into the social future.
0— Pub quiz – Question #5
In opera, whose tiny hand was frozen?
0— Google Chrome – new f.r.e.e browser
I downloaded the new Google web browser
when it was released the other day. And
I wasn’t surprised to find that it has
a minimalist entry screen – just like
It picked up all my favourites from FireFox,
and installed without any of the conflicts
which used to affect multiple browsers.
‘Chrome’ (as it’s called) promises to be
a completely new generation app.
Give it a try. You’ve nothing to lose.
0— Pub quiz – Question #6
Who did Orpheus attempt to rescue from the underworld?
0— “The Designer 1950-2000” – new book
Rosemary Sassoon is a distinguished
typographist and designer who is
something of a specialist on education.
Her latest book is about the training of
designers in the second half of the last
century. It shows how ‘design’ has gone
from a lowly-rated ‘craft’ to a very
fashionable career option.
What was once taught as ‘commercial art’
in colleges of technology is now a high
status academic study.
And yet as she argues, some of the old
craft skills are still vitally important
to really GOOD design.
0— Pub Quiz – Question #7
Where on the body is the skin thinnest?
0— “How Novels Work” – new book
John Mullan is Professor of English at
University College London, and this is his
take on how to read and appreciate novels.
It’s an unusual book in two respects.
First, it takes a very traditional approach
to literature – looking at plots, characters,
themes, language, and structure.
Second, it uses contemporary novels as its
illustrative examples. He’s even chosen best
sellers and Booker prize winners such as
Monica Ali, Margaret Atwood, Martin Amis,
and Ian McEwan.
So the chances are, you could be studying
a book you’ve read recently. And I have to
say that his approach is a refreshing change
from some of the rubbish that masquerades
as literary criticism these days.
0— Pub quiz – Question #8
Which highly insoluble substance is opaque to X-rays?
0— “Subject to Change” – new book
This is design theory for the digital age.
A group of forward-thinking designers
map out the new strategies required for
a period in which the Customer is King.
It’s no good inventing things which people
don’t want to use – such as the Segway.
And piling more features into a device
doesn’t make them more functional or
desirable – as users of video recorders
and mobile phones will tell you.
They suggest that designers need to re-think
their relationships with customers and end
users. Plus businesses need to ‘lose control’
and go for the ‘agile’ model which in some
recent cases has launched a new product
within two weeks of its being conceived.
0— Pub quiz – Question #9
Who was Thor’s father?
0— E-Books – once again
There’s been yet another attempt to
kick-start the much-predicted market
for downloadable eBooks.
Sony have released their eBook reader.
It will hold 160 eBooks and costs GBP 199
Waterstone’s are plugging both the
reader and downloadable eBooks at
their web site.
Actually, I can’t understand why they
seem to be shooting themselves in the
foot by charging almost full price for
downloading a paperback.
Penguin Books are also trying to get into
the act – by giving away taster sample first
chapters of best-selling books – in PDF format.
0— Pub quiz – Question #10
Which American told Madame Butterfly that he loved her?
0— Pub quiz – ANSWERS
#1 Which ocean lies to the north of Russia?
ANSWER: Arctic Ocean
#2 Of which ballet is Prince Siegfried the hero?
ANSWER: Swan Lake
#3 What is another name for the Russian wolfhound?
#4 Whose temple was sited at Ephesus?
#5 In opera, whose tiny hand was frozen?
#6 Who did Orpheus attempt to rescue from the underworld?
#7 Where on the body is the skin thinnest?
ANSWER: The eye
#8 Which highly insoluble substance is opaque to X-rays?
#9 Who was Thor’s father?
#10 Which American told Madame Butterfly that he loved her?
ANSWER: Lieutenant Pinkerton
0— Coming soon
Elizabeth and her German Garden
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