Universal Day of the Jedi

As a Jedi Knight I feel obliged to pass this news on. Hey, doesn’t everyone wish they were a Jedi Knight really? Even the most non-geeky people, that really aren’t that big a fan of science fiction, can’t help but be impressed by Jedis. Star Wars is something that has transcended popular culture for thirty years. Even its creator, George Lucas, can’t kill it. And he’s tried. Those godawful piles of steaming celluloid that are supposed to constitute the first three episodes of the story? Best to forget those ever happened.

Regardless, Star Wars is something that has affected pretty much everybody in one way or another. I can’t imagine that there are many people left that haven’t seen it. And everywhere, geeks celebrate it in ever geekier ways. Some of the worst atrocities committed by humans on the costumed event have been inspired by Star Wars. The Convention circuit is a constant battle between the Star Wars fans and the Star Trek fans to determine just who is the geekiest. Of course, like the Jedi versus the Sith, that’s a battle that will likely never end.

Let’s console ourselves with celebrating Universal Day of the Jedi. What is it? According to the site:

After over 30 years of being part of and witnessing the rise and fall of Sith Lords and Jedi Knights, it is time for Star Wars fans to rise to the occasion; and celebrate May 25 as the Universal Day of the Jedi – a celebration of Star Wars by fans for fans.

The first Universal Day of the Jedi was celebrated on May 25, 2007, to coincide with the 30th anniversary of when George Lucas released Star Wars in 1977. The choice of this date made sense for fans across the world to celebrate the saga Lucas had delivered.

If nothing else, for all those that wrote down Jedi as their religion on the latest Census, this is an official holiday for you. Sadly, May 25th this year falls on a Sunday, but, like all quality public holidays, carry it over to the Monday.

You see, you thought I was just being a geek when I’ve actually helped you get a day off work for free.

You’re welcome.

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The lowest form of wit?

There’s been some debate over the years as to what actually constitutes the lowest form of wit. It seems to be generally accepted that sarcasm holds the title, but being an Englishman at heart (and by birth) I consider sarcasm to be an art form. Poor sarcasm is truly awful but good sarcasm is the sort of thing that gives angels wings.

Another suggestion is that punning is the lowest form of wit, but I love a good word play too. Perhaps I’m saying more about my ability to be easily entertained here than anything else. Who knows. Regardless, I came across this list of puns and word plays while idly trawling through netrider.net.au today (a motorcyclists’ forum) and felt obliged to share it. You know you love a good pun as much as I do.

Energizer Bunny arrested – charged with battery.
A pessimist’s blood type is always b-negative.
Practice safe eating – always use condiments.
Shotgun wedding – A case of wife or death.
A Freudian slip is when you say one thing and mean your mother.
A hangover is the wrath of grapes.
I used to work in a blanket factory, but it folded.
Corduroy pillows are making headlines.
Marriage is the mourning after the knot before.
Sea captains don’t like crew cuts.
Is a book on voyeurism a peeping tome?
A successful diet is the triumph of mind over platter.
When a clock is hungry, it goes back four seconds.
Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
Every calendar’s days are numbered.
He broke into song because he couldn’t find the key.
A breakfast of boiled egg is hard to beat.
A lot of money is tainted. It t’aint yours and t’aint mine.
His photographic memory was never developed.
When you’ve seen one shopping center, you’ve seen a mall.
Those who jump off a Paris bridge are in Seine.
When she saw her first gray hair, she thought she’d dye.
Santa’s helpers are subordinate clauses.
Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead-to-know basis.
Acupuncture is a jab well done.
The short prison escapee fortune teller was a medium at large.
Without geometry, life is pointless.
A gossip is someone with a great sense of rumor.
A man’s home is his castle, in a manor of speaking.
Dijon vu – the same mustard as before.
Reading while sunbathing makes you well red.
When egotists meet, it’s an I for an I.
A bicycle can’t stand on its own because it is two-tired.
A backwards poet writes inverse.
In democracy, your vote counts. In feudalism, your count votes.
Definition of a Will: a dead giveaway.
Pay your exorcist, or you’ll get repossessed.
A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.
With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.
You’re stuck with your debt if you can’t budge it.
He fell into an upholstery machine, but is fully recovered.
Local Area Network in Australia: The LAN down under.
A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France: Linoleum Blownapart.
Show me a piano falling down a mine shaft, and I’ll show you a flat miner.

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Lists, awards and general excitement

A couple of items have surfaced recently that make for interesting reading. Firstly, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have announced the Nebula Award winners for 2007.

The winners are a diverse bunch.

Winning novel is The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

I read this book on holiday last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s not often that something totally different comes along but this book was unlike anything I’d read before. A surprise winner for me, but utterly deserving. The other nominees in the category were:

Odyssey by Jack McDevitt
The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman
The New Moon’s Arms by Nalo Hopkinson
Ragamuffin by Tobias Buckell

Other Nebula winners for 2007 were:

NOVELLA: “Fountain of Age” by Nancy Kress
NOVELETTE: “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” by Ted Chiang
SHORT STORY: “Always” by Karen Joy Fowler
SCRIPT: Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro

Pan’s Labyrinth was one of my favourite films of 2007 and I’m really glad to see it score a Nebula.

The Andre Norton Award (for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy) went to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

One of my all time favourite authors, Michael Moorcock, was named recipient of The Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award. Read the full article about that award here.

On the subject of great books (excuse the tenuous segue), Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper has released a list of the fifty best cult books of all time. Interestingly, they can’t even define what a cult book is, and freely admit as much, but simply claim that “you know [one] when you see one”.

See just how cultish your reading habits are by checking out their list. It is a pretty interesting collection. See the online article here.

And finally for now, firstshowing.net have revealed a poster for the new Batman movie that was released as part of the viral marketing campaign. Seriously, how awesome is this:

Now I’ll readily admit to being a completely hopeless Batman tragic – he’s my favourite hero in any form of fiction. Harder than Riddick, cooler than Han Solo, more tortured than Rick Deckard, darker than Lobo. You have to put the hours in to truly understand the Dark Knight. For this reason, I have been appalled year after year by the utter tripe that gets vomited out purporting to be a Batman movie. Even Tim Burton, master of the dark and macabre, cast Michael Keaton as the Bat and killed the Joker on his first outing. What should have been cinemas highest moment was a steaming turd of epic proportions. Then along came Chris Nolan with Batman Begins. It had some flaws and took some liberties with the story, but was, on the whole, awesome. Now he’s made another one and by the look of this poster, he’s going to pull out a masterpiece again. Here’s hoping.

I’ll stop gushing now.

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Amazon getting too big for their boots

I have some bad news that’s been circulating for a while and it’s not getting any better.

Firstly, an explanation. Hundreds of small press and independent authors like myself use Print On Demand (POD) technology to get quality work out to the public without the massive overheads of huge print runs. The cover price, sadly, reflects this and makes sales difficult. However, it’s the way of the future and the more the technology is used, the better deals we’ll all get and the wider choice everyone will have.

It’s like the indie music business. There was a time when bands and musicians said, “Fuck the labels!” and started producing and distributing their own material. At first it was laughed off, but now indie music is often considered to be the stuff with the most integrity, innovation and talent. The big labels mainly cover the manufactured pop stars these days. (That’s a massive and not entirely correct generalisation, but you get my point). So it will be with indie publishers before too long.

However, Amazon, under the guise of supporting the POD revolution, are actually wrangling a way to make even greater profits and hold even greater control over online booksales. The “other half” of POD publishing is online bookstores. The brick and mortar stores will rarely carry POD titles. Independent stores often will if you visit them individually, but there’s only so much of this that one indie press can manage. So, we rely on online sales and Amazon is by far the primary shop that people go to for their books.

So, now the bad news – Amazon have recently announced a deal with Booksurge to greatly enhance the profile of POD titles on Amazon. This seems initially like great news. But it’s not. Booksurge is a POD printer wholly owned by Amazon and Amazon are insisting that all publishers use Booksurge for all POD titles. They are even going so far as to suggest that they will switch off the buy buttons of POD books not produced by Booksurge and eventually even refuse to carry them.

As if we’re not struggling enough!

Check out this slashdot post and this Publishers Weekly article. Especially note the bullshit where Amazon states it “is not requiring that pod titles be printed exclusively through BookSurge” even though they make using any other POD printer a financial and logistical nightmare for publishers like us.

I’ll stop ranting now, but please get on board with this. The more we all discuss, debate and blog about this the more likely Amazon are to take notice. No one believes for a second that it’s all about a better service for their customers, as they are trying to claim. It’s all about a better profit margin for them. Support independent press, support indie writing and flip Amazon the bird in any way that you can so they hear the voice of the people they’re screwing.

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