The Egatz Epitaph

All things Egatz and other non sequiturs.

Making It Look Delicious

Another short film I did during my absence from The Egatz Epitaph. I wrote and directed this short with my friends at MAC Group. It features the incredible food photography of William Brinson. If you want to learn how to shoot food for your blog or any other occasion, Brinson is your guy. If you want to hire a pro to do it for you, he’s definitely your guy.

Linda and Bob Carey’s Story

Here’s something I did during my hiatus from The Egatz Epitaph.

A few years ago I stumbled across the work of photographer Bob Carey a few years ago. This was just as he began to ride a huge tsunami of publicity for his Tutu Project photos. We became friends, and he agreed to be the subject of a short film I wrote and directed. The good folks at PocketWizard loved his work and his use of their products, and underwrote the entire effort.

I know of no other photographer who has received the kind of press Bob has. He’s been everywhere in the mainstream media, from CNN to The Today Show to The Huffington Post. He and his wife Linda have a story most Americans can relate to. Bob explains all in this short. I hope it moves you as much as their journey moved me.

Not a solo effort by any stretch of the imagination, this short film was made with the help and labor of my friends at LPA Design, MAC Group, and several freelance production persons. I was and still am thankful for their time and support.

All revenue generated by The Tutu Project goes directly to fund The Carey Foundation. Please help the most honest charity organization I know of.

Egatz at Brookdale

Here’s an interview I did at Brookdale College on the Beneath Stars Long Extinct tour. Suzanne Parker is a talented teacher, and asked some great questions. I got to read to the student body that evening, and that itself was also televised.

Topics covered: my common poetic themes, the publishing of the book, the poem “Heartworm and the Space Behind,” my penchant for writing poems the FCC would have issues with, independent publishing, lucid poetry, and the usual things I rant about. Enjoy.

Rebroadcasting in the Clear

It’s been quite some time since my last post on the old Epitaph. Hard to believe I was coding this blog in the 1990′s, before the term “weblog,” when I’d write each post nightly in TeachText/SimpleText under System 7.5 on an old PowerMac 8100A/V.

I pulled all that content a long time ago. The new version of The Egatz Epitaph was all about the publishing industry. As I predicted years ago, it seems Len Riggio and company continue to drive Barnes & Noble into the ground. The place to get your books, both electronic and traditional, is Amazon.

I came to the decision there are already plenty of journalists getting paid to watch the publishing industry. Many of them even have staff jobs with health care coverage. Although readers of The Egatz Epitaph would write in to say they enjoyed my opinionated rants, for me, watching the implosion of the publishing industry in a country that has coined the acronym TLTR for “Too Long to Read,” well, it was just too depressing.

What’s up for the future? I’m not entirely sure. I have some other short film projects in the works which are strictly non-commercial. They actually involve my writing. As with all film work, much of this depends on time and money. I’ve been playing the blues and writing original songs more than I have in years, largely thanks to Jenn, who encourages me to fill the loft with my own music. Oddly, she doesn’t mind hearing me work out new instrumental parts. That she picked up an awesome Mesa Boogie for me is proof. She’s taken a few guitar lessons from me, but she’s more about blowing some blues harp these days.

Since my last entry, Jenn and I have been engaging in other good things together besides making music. We’ve shot some video for Reel Chow, and we’re working on the development of two different cooking shows. Can’t really report anything else about them right now.

To say I’ve been dismayed by the wholesale violations of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment in light of the Snowden revelations is an understatement. This, along with the private sector’s unending drive to replace the corporate American workforce with cheaper overseas labor, show me there’s plenty of reasons to keep writing The Egatz Epitaph. Maybe that’s what I’ll focus on, or maybe it’ll just be more stories about my crazy life and adventures with Jenn.

I know WordPress much better than years ago, so information architecture changes in this blog might be forthcoming. Stay tuned, and thanks for all the emails that never stopped coming during my long hibernation.

The Death of Flash

The bones of Steve Jobs continue their easy rest, especially since November, when Adobe capitulated by announcing the end of mobile browser Flash development. Not only that, but they have moved their focus onto HTML5, something they should have embraced a long time ago.

Sure, we’ve bitched about Flash for years, but there was a time when we here at The Egatz Epitaph praised it as a comprehensive animation tool in the mid- to late-nineties. Back then, if you wanted animation, you could either learn to program in Java or wave your fingers in front of someone’s monitor in pantomime. Javascript was another option. Anyone else remember Director and Shockwave files? The field was limited for mortals and/or professionals interested in other things to deploy on the Web, like writing and designing. Read the rest of this entry »

The Chattahoochee Time Warp

Kids, don’t try this at home. You’re about to read the worst advice a young writer can ever hear.

For the past decade, or so, I’ve rarely submitted unsolicited writing to publications of any kind. I feel pretty fortunate some editors seek me out. The ones who do are the ones who’ve published me better than 90% of the time for the past ten years, or so.

As the poet Thomas Lux said to me, “Ronnie, editors are not going to come into your home and open your desk drawer to search for poems.” Even spending an hour a week getting your submissions in the mail is critical (if you’re ready to be published), but my track record proves I’m incapable of even that.

Read the rest of this entry »

Oh, What a Difference a Half-Year Makes

Hello, readers. Thanks for your kind emails during my half-year hiatus. We’ve had much happening at the loft, and outside events have essentially taken over my life for the past six months. They include family illnesses, freelance work, readings, radio interviews, a lot of spouse time, legal maneuverings, and a host of other matters both good and bad. The massive amount of emails from FoEs and regular readers alike are most welcome, and the encouraging messages helped get us through. It reminded me of the last time I shut down The Egatz Epitaph at the end of the 1990s, when regular readers got seriously pissed. This time, though, I don’t intend to quit. Enough with the personal issues for now.

Out in the real world, much has happened in the technology and book vending industries since I last posted. As chronicled on this site, Borders has finally completed its long march into the history books. After a seemingly endless series of executive and managerial missteps, the 40 year old company collapsed, leaving many vendors in red ink, and 10,700 people without jobs.

My wife Jenny and I did our part, though. With many publishers and authors still sending me books to review, we keep our book purchases to a minimum. We are, after all, running out of room for books. Hello, iBooks, but I digress. We visited our local Borders, but the garage sale atmosphere was just too depressing. It felt like people were picking over the carcass of an old friend. Read the rest of this entry »

Borders on the Edge

Borders

Our favorite of the rapidly-thinning herd of massive chain bookstores, Borders, is still on the ropes, and barely able to protect itself from body blows raining down on it.

One month ago, the former CEO of Borders U.K., Philip Downer, published a point by point dissection of how management ran Borders into the ground. His three charge indictment:

  1. Regarding the Internet, Borders let the cluetrain leave the station without hopping aboard.
  2. The internal hardware and software Borders used for tracking inventory was antiquated. Penny wise, pound foolish.
  3. Excessively rapid expansion. Too fast in too many countries.

Downer’s blog is worth following, but it appears too late for the management of Borders to learn the lessons he offers. Bankruptcy was declared February 16th, and BusinessWeek just pointed out Borders will be closing 25 stores in 14 states. Other sources claim 28 stores. The bankruptcy paperwork claims assets of $1.275 billion, liabilities of $1.293 billion. They owe $302 million on inventory. That’s a lot of books waiting to be paid for, not to mention authors waiting for checks. Those pesky authors—always looking to get money, always the last in line waiting for the trickle-down.

With 200 stores already liquidating by the end of April, 28 more on the way, and the Ann Arbor headquarters up for grabs, things are bleak for the monster from Michigan.

Peter Osnos, writing in The Atlantic, claims the real trouble with Borders began in 1991, when Tom and Louis Borders cashed out to Kmart for $125 million. As we’ve documented here before, Borders has suffered a series of management shuffles, which is rarely a good thing. Osnos claims executives were brought in “from supermarkets and department stores.” This isn’t unlikely, and again, isn’t a good move. Widgets are not widgets, particularly in the red herring industry known as publishing. This fact is something countless beancounters at multinationals have been unable to balance both on spreadsheets and in their own minds after their parent corporation has gobbled up a publishing company.

Meanwhile, on the other side of chain bookstore saga, embattled Len Riggio and his team have been unable to find a buyer for Barnes & Noble. The vultures are circling, but the price is still to high to start nibbling. Even Ron Burkle, minority shareholder and ever-present millstone around Riggio’s neck, isn’t buying more shares, according to sources. With the Nook e-Reader claiming 22 percent of the e-Reader market, the hopeful are praying the device will save Barnes & Noble from collapse.

The end is not in sight for book buyers just yet. Sure, it looks like the big chains will, sooner or later, go by way of Tower Records, but there may still be hope for the long-suffering independent bookstores. You remember those? The ones where the clerks cared about what they sold, and knew their regular customers’ reading habits? Check out Edward McClelland’s insightful piece on the matter at Salon. Like the moon and tide, these things return. We can only hope so.

Nanook of the West Side Highway

It is rare when physics, love, meteorological events, trust and superhuman efforts converge to teach us something about ourselves and those we love. This was one of those times.

I was helping my wife Jenny with a gourmet craft services gig at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan. Although she works in the industry as a wardrobe stylist, her original cooking is to die for, and it’s something I’ve encouraged her to share with the world long before we were married. On this particular gig she had four huge travel bins full of gear, two coolers, and assorted boxes of stuff which we had to get back to the loft after a fashion shoot. The loft is about 38 miles away in northern Westchester County.

It would interest readers to know more about the client, or what went on at the shoot, or what minor celebrities were milling about, but we each signed legal documents which promised men in long coats would come to our loft late at night and do bad things to us if we revealed any details whatsoever. Read the rest of this entry »

The Strong of Stomach at Year’s End

2010 is wrapping up like a 77-0 football game. Many experts are sifting through endless spreadsheets, looking for patterns in the numbers which will help justify their relevance to both the publishing and computer industries. Others are checking their offshore accounts. Still others are drafting wills.

The Association of American Publishers has reported e-book sales are up 192.2% this year to date, according to Lauren Indvik at Mashable. The strong of stomach can read the rest of her summary here. Aside from e-book growth, the AAP also reported largely dismal numbers for September book sales.

Champion of all things digital, Nicholas Negroponte is predicting the book as we know it will be dead in five years. Predictions have always been a risky venture in the technology industry, with the vast majority of pundits getting it wrong. This is one time we hope Negroponte is not on the money, although for the sake of the the environment, an unselfish part of us hope he’s correct.

The news for dead tree editions isn’t all horrible, though. Printed books seem to be making nominal gains in selected categories. Educational titles, for instance, are up, barely breaking the double-digit mark, but they’re still up. Perhaps this is because students are smart enough to realize they don’t want to spend money on educational e-book titles which will be deleted from their eReaders at the end of the semester.

At year’s end, the shakeup in the computer business seems to also continue unabated, just like the publishing industry. With even Ray Ozzie—executive at a company not known for innovation—predicting a period of “post-PCs,” multi-function eReaders are the wave of the immediate future. Pundits on all sides of both industries are pointing to reasons why laptops are being shunned for tablets, with compelling evidence, for example, you never need to take your laptop on vacation again.

At less than a year old, the iPad is still the favored tablet if you want a device which can do more than just display e-books. With Amazon continually improving their Kindle software for the Mac, Team Bezos is trying to cover all bets, even though their Kindle is hemorrhaging sales to the beast from Cupertino. Apple’s iPad is shaking things up everywhere, including for hard drive manufacturers, who clearly see themselves being phased out of existence. With less demand for laptops and desktop computers, you don’t need a time machine to start betting on alternative data storage solutions.

As 2010 heads for the history books, we can only hope the sales of physical books don’t completely disappear, but I’m sure a lot of people felt that way about witty telegrams, beloved horses used for transportation, and the handsome ice man. With John James Audubon’s Birds of America selling for $11,567,575 at auction this year, it would be nice to have some reassurance books will not only belong to the wealthy in the future.

Newspapers, on the other hand, are clearly in trouble, and have been since the era of deregulation began. In a wave which may predict what will happen to physical books, the shrinking audience for newspapers will force them to become specialty publications being sold for correspondingly higher prices, even if they go digital and plan to pay their reporters, editors, and designers for content.

On a more positive note, perhaps the chaos in these industries we track gives us a moment of pause. While both manmade and natural disasters have rocked 2010, and publishing industry darlings have grappled to hang on to power, this has been far from the best year on record. It’s a good time to look to those we love and those we work with to find more important goals than merely keeping shareholders placated each quarter. Here at the Egatz Epitaph, for instance, we’ve renewed personal relationships and are working again on some new books we’ve been neglecting. We’ve also cleaned house on some relationships which weren’t so good for us. It’s a time of peace and forbearance. It’s a time of forgiveness and high hopes for the future. It’s a time for enacting new plans and resurrecting the best of old plans. Ultimately, for us, it’s about art and love and fulfillment. We hope it is for you, too.