Visions of Paradise

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Some brief random comments

I have been a bit anxious following the announcement this past week about the huge publishing conglomerate Bertelsmann “overhauling” its book club business by eliminating 280 positions and 15% of is workforce, as well as closing several of its “niche” book clubs. I currently belong to 5 of its book clubs, 3 of which I really like, The Science Fiction Book Club, The History Book Club, and The Discovery Channel Book Club, any of whose demise would upset me, especially the SFBC! The fact that Andrew Wheeler’s SFBC blog has been silent for the past week is not encouraging.

I am having magazine subscription problems. I did not receive either the May or June issues of Locus, which inevitably has me wondering if somebody at the post office has absconded with them. I can understand one issue getting lost in the mail, but two consecutive issues? Meanwhile, I have not received the May-June issue of Archaeology Magazine either, and when I went to their website to check my account, no record of my name shows up at all! What is it with the gods of publishing these days anyway?

I have achieved my 15 minutes of fame in a book entitled Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction which I noticed at Barnes & Noble a few days ago. For each word or phrase listed, the book states the earliest usage the editors have found, and apparently the earliest usage of "sfnal" is by me in Science Fiction Review in 1981! "Sfnal" is an abbreviation I have always liked, but I have absolutely no idea whether I devised it myself or borrowed it from another source. Still it is nice to be recognized, even if only by the few dozen people likely to notice my name in the book.

I am currently reading a nonfiction history book which I am really enjoying. Ross King’s Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling is a nonfiction story about how autocratic pope Julius II summoned the most famous artist of early 16th century Italy to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. There are many fascinating aspects to the book, including sections explaining how fresco painting is done, how various pigments are produced, how teams of artists work together to do such massive projects, plus all the politics in Renaissance Italy which involved both religion and art. Michelangelo and Julius are the main characters, of course, but other artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael also show up in Rome as rivals of Michelangelo.

This is fascinating reading, both for its main storyline and for all it shows about Renaissance Italy. I recommend it very highly.


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