Friday, December 25, 2009

Bah, humbug anyone?

It's the early minutes of Christmas day here in Ireland. I would just like to say how grateful I am for everything we (my family) have. The Christmas tree is almost invisible behind the wall of presents my wife has bought for everyone. I'm looking forward to my daughters coming over tomorrow (later today); having the family together, if only for a little while.
So, although it hasn't been a wonderful year - my insurance broker is ready to disown me after four claims in three months, but he's family so I'm safe for the moment - I still have so much to be thankful for.
I hope all of you have a warm, safe and joyful Christmas.
Count your blessings.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Your Consumer Rights

I left my Stereo Amplifier in to be fixed in mid-September. I told them I'd like it done free as it was covered under my consumer rights. They said no. I said fix it anyway and we'll argue the toss later. On the thirteen week anniversary I kind of ran out of patience and gave up on going through the correct channels so I rang and asked for the manager. I told him I'd been speaking to the consumer rights people - they were very helpful and told me to mention the sale of goods act 1980 to let the shop know I was serious. I said the C Rights people told me to forget about repairs and to look for a replacement. This is what we in the retail trade call a big fat lie. Anyway, I was unhappy and wanted my amp back. The manager rang the manufacturers - there's no-one in Ireland who fixes this brand - and they said the amp was awaiting a spare part. They then enquired if I would like a new amp in its stead. After about one millisecond's careful consideration I accepted their offer. So, I've got a new amp. By the way, the old one will be three years of age on December 30th. In the EU you're guaranteed protection against manufacturing faults for two years. In Ireland it's six. So don't mess with us Irish consumers.
Anyway, I bought a vinyl LP while my amp was being fixed, or not. It was Big Star's No. 1 Record. It's recommended in the 1001 records you've got to hear before you die and Big Star have been touted as comparable to sliced bread by Uncut, a music magazine for boys of a certain maturity. I got their greatest hits (best of) on CD a few years back 'cause that was all that was available at the time. But I never really got it. Until now.
First thing played through my new amp was Big Star. How were they never the next big thing, at least? No. 1 Record is absolute brilliance. It defines the power pop genre and blows away most of what came after (though I will still listen to Fountains of Wayne). Yeah, I know, you've never heard of Big Star and couldn't give a monkey's. Or you've heard them and just couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Well, I'm off to the shops to see if they've got either or both of the other two Big Star records.
The Big Star is dead, long live Big Star. Oh, and long live vinyl.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bob in 3D (or Alias Clark Kent)

I had a very strange experience in the cinema yesterday. I took my son to see Avatar. It is a very long movie. I had a very big drink.About two hours in I went to the 'rest room'. When I got back I couldn't see my son momentarily or work out where my seat was. The entire cinema was filled with Clark Kent lookalikes.
I have held onto my 3D spex and will post a photo on Facebook as evidence.
Avatar is about what everyone was saying it would be. But like all James Cameron films it is too long. A judicious half hour off the running time and it would be pretty hard to beat. I enjoyed the 3D experience though it is difficult to say if it actually added to my enjoyment of the film. It may indeed have detracted from it as I was often distracted by the 3D effects.
From a spectacular/epic viewpoint i was great. Storyline was predictable from the off and there were absolutely no surprises in the plot.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: Worth seeing but is it worth going to see?
If you are interested in i at all do not wait for the DVD. This needs to be seen on the big screen.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

An Open Letter to Neil Clarke and John Scalzi

This is in response to posts regarding low paying fiction markets in SF magazines.
Well, I guess it was inevitable that I would disagree fundamentally with your post, Neil, and with Von Post ( a coincidentally aptly named poster of a comment on Neil's post). As an editor who does not pay professional rates to the slush pile, that is inevitable. But I am also a writer who has sold his work for pennies and been happy to do so for the exposure and the possible feedback and the chance to be seen and read and for reasons too many to enumerate (thank God for the spell checker on this thing).
But, like life and business, there is a food chain in the marketplace and everyone should have a chance to find a place in it. Why should amateurs and wannabees be paid the same as professionals. They aren't in any other business. When you're starting out people don't want to pay you the full rate until you have proved yourself. It's only natural. Also, there are businesses that can only afford to pay minimum wage. This may be because of profit margins in the industry or overseas competition or whatever. But their failure to pay top whack doesn't mean they are not doing a valid or even vital job in their market or within a given economy. So lighten up guys. If there was no-one paying low rates then there would be no premium market for the big fish to inhabit. Surely everyone being paid the same rate smacks of (I'll call it) socialism. But everyone is not equal in our Western society. And I believe that the best people should get the best pay. And just because someone doesn't offer the best pay rates does not mean that their market lacks validity or worth.
There are a lot of e-zines out there who pay pro rates. And that's fine - even if they do not present the writer with an actual product to hold in his hand and to archive. I happen to like hard copy and believe it has a value. That is why Albedo One has remained as a hard copy item even though the costs of production are outrageous and it costs more to post a copy from Ireland to the outside world than it does to actually purchase some magazines. But people like what we do (some of them) and some writers feel it is worthwhile to support our efforts even though our rates of pay are poor.
We have been struggling to keep our hard-copy magazine afloat in difficult circumstances in a minute market (about four million people live in Ireland) and we do it for no pay - yes we're amateurs - because we believe in what we're doing. I'm sorry so many people, writers and non-writers feel so strongly negative about low paying magazines. You have not shaken my resolve, but you have left me feeling saddened and absolutely unappreciated.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Let there be light.

A short update: in September my shop, Yellow Brick Road, had two fires in quick succession. Anyone can have one. We've been operating out of next door's basement in the meanwhile. Three weeks ago our electrician rang ESB Networks who own the cables and applied for a re-connection. So far, so standard. The person (spelled b***h, or worse) in charge of the north of Dublin city - possibly she was having a bad day or a bad week - decided that instead of being re-connected she would require us to institute a new connection. The various builders, electricians and insurance people involved in the process, with decades of experience, had never heard of such a thing. Instead of being connected on the day of application or the next day, at the latest, a new connection would take TWELVE weeks. Which would include, of course, the entire Christmas period. It would also mean our temporary arrangement next door would time out and we would have nowhere to trade. Which means no cash coming in. Which means six jobs down the toilet. But the person (spelled b***h) in ESB Networks was fully prepared to let this happen.
So we started saying, half joking, to everyone we met, 'You got a contact in the ESB?' And visiting a sick friend Stacey asked another visitor - (Saint) Michael - that question and he said, 'Yes.' and he contacted the guy on the spot. I emailed details of what was going on to Michael and he sent them to his friend.
Tuesday morning, eight-thirty I got a call from an ESB Engineer. He wanted to meet our electrician. They met at lunctime. He asked for some changes to be made and made an appointment to re-connect us on Friday. All we had to do was apply (again) to be re-connected. I did that Tuesday at five forty-five.
Wednesday morning at eight thirty I get a call from another, different ESB engineer. 'Is you electrician on the premises? I was hoping to do this call first thing.'
Wednesday the person/b***h rings our insurance loss adjustor all sweetness and light to ask if everything is going okay.
This afternoon (Friday) the lights in Yellow Brick Road were turned on for the first time since September 11th (no, not THE September 11th).
In Ireland there is an old cliche that says, 'It's not what you know but who you know.' In this, as in all things, the cliche proves true. So thanks to all those who wished us well during our 'interesting' times. We will be open for business in our usual premises in about a week. Watch the Yellow Brick Road fanpage or website for details.