ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs Serial storyteller, poetry pusher, digital doodler, flâneur.

Surrounded By Books

Surrounded by Books: 10 Second Pause

A publishing world evolution. Print. Digital. Books. Gadgets. We’re bombarded with speculation, doomsday nay-saying and snake oil promises. Exciting. Exhausting. Time to take a rest. Just for a moment. A short rest. Here. On this bookshelf… Aaahhh.

My Savannah Office?

George Davis AntiquesChamplain Valley friend and fellow Depot Theatre board member, Kimberly Rielly snapped this during her Savannah adventures and emailed it to me this morning. “Found your Savannah office quite charming, George.”

I love Savanna! But of course, it’s another George Davis, not me. Now you see why I’m virtualDavis

Thanks for the great snapshot, Kim! We miss you in the Adirondacks. Coming home soon?

Tinkering with Perception

Rory Sutherland: Life lessons from an ad man (TEDTalk)

“How many problems of life could we solve actually by tinkering with perception rather than that tedious hard working and messy business of actually trying to change reality?” ~ Rory Sutherland

Aside from Rory Sutherland‘s native charm (V4VYVUKTS56Y) and compelling storytelling which might have made his presentation enticing even if he were reminiscing the joys of wash-and-wear nappies, this ad man’s life lessons about perception and intangible value are spot-on! Obviously writers and storytellers of all stripes have been trafficking in perception since the beginning, but listening to Sutherland wax on about Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and Pernod and Shreddies I found myself thinking about publishing.

On the one hand, much lamentation has been spilled over the inevitable tactile and aesthetic losses in a digital book world. That musty smell of decomposing paper, the crisp swish of a turned page, the decadence of filling the margins with inked notes, doodles and the phone number of that attractive lady you met in the adjoining library carrel. Also much grumbling about the practical nuisance of an electronic tablet, ill-suited to reading in the tub or on a beach towel under the sun… In short, print book folks worrying aloud as we adopt a new vehicle for reading and sharing books.

To be sure, there is much that we’re losing, though I’ve suggested often enough that the transition is not likely to be quite as black and white as most people suggest, nor will print books vanish for a long, long time. Books will remain an important and present part of my world forever. But the inevitable transition to digital for many/most new releases is bittersweet for me. And yet, I understand and embrace this change. Sutherland touches obliquely on one of the reasons for my enthusiasm.

“If you want to live in a world in the future where there are fewer material goods you basically have two choices. You can either live in a world which is poorer, which people in general don’t like, or you can live in a world where actually intangible value constitutes a greater part of overall value. That actually intangible value in many ways is actually a very, very fine substitute for using up labor or limited resources in the creation of things.” ~ Rory Sutherland

This is but one small enthusiasm I share for digital publishing’s eclipse of smells-and-bells print publishing. And yet it’s an interesting one given that this question of perception and intangible value is deeply intertwined in the markets eager move to digital. Buyers are loading digital accounts with books that they may read, hope to read, could read,… Reading is hot again! Or at least owning books is hot again. I suppose that publishers lamenting the appetite for digital books might have mounted more intelligent campaigns cultivating and nurturing our appetites for the aesthetic pleasures of print books. It’s not too late. As print books become the exception rather than the rule, they will become luxury goods. And the opportunity to romance and inflate the value of ink and paper and binding will be ripe for exploitation.

A meandering post, headed nowhere in particular, I realize now. A pensée du jour that I’ll abandon as quickly as I initiated it. But first, two quotations with which Sutherland concluded his presentation:

“We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.” ~ G.K. Chesterton

Poetry is when you make new things familiar and familiar things new. ~ Rory Sutherland

So far as I can tell, this second quotation is Sutherland’s adaptation of a smart reflection inherited from Samuel Johnson:

“The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, and familiar things new.” ~ Samuel Johnson

Kindle Library Lending & Marginalia

Holy mackerel! Amazon is closing the marginalia gap that I’ve fretted over and soapboxed/dreamed about. With “Library Lending for Kindle Books” Amazon is partnering with OverDrive to offer the next big leap in digital books: library-ification of ebooks. But hidden in this evolution is the top item on my wish list, ebook marginalia.

“We’re doing a little something extra here,” Marine continued. “Normally, making margin notes in library books is a big no-no. But we’re extending our Whispersync technology so that you can highlight and add margin notes to Kindle books you check out from your local library. Your notes will not show up when the next patron checks out the book. But if you check out the book again, or subsequently buy it, your notes will be there just as you left them, perfectly Whispersynced.” (Kindle Nation Daily)

As Mike Cane opines, “Well, if there was any doubt Amazon has totally vanquished everyone else, there’s no doubt now.” Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) the marginalia is user specific, so the next borrower won’t be able sift through your clever comments. But wouldn’t it be nice/handy if we could give others access to our marginalia? It should be quick, easy and fun to share my marginalia with others!

Digital storytelling must develop the potential for annotation and marginalia that print books permit. And it will be important to devise innovative ways for readers/consumers to share this marginalia. I know this sounds scary, and it poses real challenges (intellectual property rights, etc.), but it is inevitable and good. And it will unleash a viral potential heretofore unfathomable, not to mention the pedagogical implications.

Think, for example, of a teacher who lets students see/use her margin notes, etc. Or imagine the voyeuristic pleasure of observing the notes, doodles and underlining of an admired thinker or writer…

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Looking Past Limits

Caroline Casey’s TEDTalk “Looking Past Limits”

“When you make a decision at the right time in the right place… the universe makes it happen for you.” ~ Caroline Casey

Stop what you are doing. Top up your coffee. Shut the door. Turn up the volume on your computer. And watch this video. It may be the most inspiring 20 minutes you experience all week! Perfect match for a Wednesday.

Caroline Casey is the founder of Kanchi, a not-for-profit that works with the media and businesses to change mindsets about people with disabilities.

“Kanchi focuses on the value of difference and the ability of people with disabilities.”

Casey’s TEDTalk is a poignant tale of growing up blind without realizing it, a chronicle of defying limitations and chasing dreams, and a reminder to embrace our true selves today and every day.

“Why are you fighting so hard not to be yourself?”

Casey grappled with this question during the darkest phase of her story. Her answer and the action it provokes are the foundation for her adventures starting with a 1,000 km trek across India on an elephant!

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Sunday Supper

Frog cartoonFelt grand enough after dinner last night at Turtle Island Cafe, but awoke this morning feeling like I was drowning. Nightmare? No, I was actually struggling to catch my breath. Seems that my lungs were suddenly extremely congested. And my ears and nose.

So… I took my vorpal sword in hand (read Dayquil) and dealt the beast a few quick blows. Deft swordsmanship and plenty of hot tea subdued the bronchial beast marginally, and I set about adapting my day. I bowed out of a monthly writing group this afternoon and a public reading of Karen Lewis’ play The Perfect Wife held at The Depot Theatre.

That was the bad news. The good news? As an almost forty year old who’s voice neglected to drop the desired octave at puberty, I’ve long envied those radio announcer baritones and basses who can make a snippet from the AP or the weather report sound like chocolate melting over a candle. Today was my moment of glory. Struggling to catch my breath all day, I’ve nevertheless hummed and sung myself hoarse, hitting notes that I’ve never hit before and will probably never hit again. Joy! Griffin, my almost three old Labrador Retriever keeps cocking his head and wondering when his “momma” is coming home from Charleston to restore a little normalcy. That’s right, my bride joined John Davis (@trekeast) last Thursday for a paddling leg of his epic 4,000 mile human powered adventure. But more on that in a moment.

First, I’d like to back up. What’s up with the title of this blog post, you’re probably wondering. What’s this about Sunday supper? Good question! Silly title really. Probably smorgasboard would have made more sense. Or digest. But enough with the food references. Basically today’s post is what might have been the conversation around the table if we were sitting down to catch up over a slow Sunday supper. Make sense?

Okay, so that’s the title, but what about the silly frog? That was a quick doodle that I made this morning after figuring out what was going on with my breathing and funny voice. Actually, it’s more than that. It’s a hat tip to Hugh MacLeod (@gapingvoid) who’s book Evil Plans has entertained and inspired me over the last couple of days as much for the quirky-but-clever cartoons as the simple message he drives home with miniature sound bite chapters.

Everybody needs an Evil Plan. Everybody needs that crazy, out-there idea that allows them to actually start doing something they love, doing something that matters… Every person who ever managed to do this, every person who managed to escape the cubicle farm and start doing something interesting and meaningful, started off with their own Evil Plan. And yeah, pretty much everyone around them — friends, family, colleagues — thought they were nuts.” (Hugh MacLeod, Evil Plans)

It isn’t rocket science, nor does it pretend to be. After all, a book that relies as much on cartoons as prose to make a point isn’t about pretence and pontificating. It’s accessible and lighthearted. And following close on the heels of Guy Kawasaki‘s (@guykawasakiEnchantment and Seth Godin‘s (@thisissethsblogPoke the Box I fell surrounded by kindred spirits: initiators, starters, creators, shippers, adventurers.

If there were more hours in the day, the week, I’d dish up quick reviews of all three of these books. Don’t count on it. Instead, read them yourself. Quickly. They’re all available digitally, and both Enchantment and Poke the Box are available as audiobooks too. Perfect for the car or the gym! Evil Plans doesn’t really lend itself to audio with all of those terrific cartoons, but I bet MacLeod could pull off one heck of a Vook

In other news, yesterday’s “Loquacious Flaneur” continues to evolve, so I’ll wrap up and curate a few last tweets before taking my vorpal sword in hand (read Nyquil) and dealing the bronchial beast a few last blows before surrendering to sleep!

The Loquacious Flaneur

The flaneur’s art — if he has one — is the art of receptivity. Of being open. Of listening and observing and smelling. Of suspending judgment enough to commune with his subject.

The flâneur seeks communion with the other, and this requires a receptivity and a yielding to the bustle of the urban crowd.

And so it is that an unanticipated invitation from Barbara Greene to wonder and wander the word flaneur was easily accepted earlier today. What follows is the quite-possibly-still-evolving trail of artifacts.

Best Days for Social Media Traction


CartoonPost your most important social media content consistently at similar times all week long. Or not…

How about Thursday and/or Friday? Eureka!

According to Mashable’s Todd Wasserman “the end of the work week is the best time to get traction on status updates and tweets.” (Why Users Are More Engaged With Social Media on Fridays) I’ve often found this to be true, though I’ve been unable to ascertain exactly why. Buddy Media dove into 200+ Facebook users habits over two weeks and discovered that Thursday is actually the most engaged day of the week. However, Twitter’s Adam Bain (Chief Revenue Officer) touts Friday’s as the most engaged among the tweet-set. So the two biggest social media hubs agree that end-of-week is the time of maximum engagement. Why?

People are heading into the weekend so they’re thinking about things besides work. They’re mentally checking out and transitioning to the weekend. (Jeremiah Owyang, Altimeter Group)

It’s a matter of people finally pushing past the work week and coasting toward the weekend, picking their head up a bit to see what’s going on and what their friends are up to. (Rick Liebling, Coyne PR)

I call it ‘contra-competitive timing‘. As the overall activity seems to slow down from the hustle and bustle of the week, readers can give each tweet more attention because there are fewer other tweets fighting for it. (Dan Zarrella, HubSpot)

Of course, now that the social web is aflutter about this hot news, I haven’t any doubt that marketers and spin doctors are going to begin swamping us on Thursday and Friday now. So, maybe next week or the week after we’ll see a shift away from the inevitable spamfest toward Saturday? Monday? Wednesday? Reductio ad absurdum.

Which leads to the question, how will we filter the noise?

Ice, Ferry, Action!

Spring has returned to Essex, New York! After a looong winter in the Adirondacks the Essex-Charlotte ferry resumed service this morning. The video above captures the very first boat from Vermont to New York.

On March 31 Lake Champlain Transportation sent out this discouraging message:

We have made a test run at the Charlotte, VT – Essex, NY crossing. The ice is still too thick (10″ – 12″) to run. We will continue to monitor the conditions daily. We will notify you of any new changes through our Email/Text notification system.

Oomph! Bad news. Or April Fools?

We waited. And temperatures dropped. Parts of the Lake which had thawed refroze. More snow fell. And then, Eureka! The following message went out on April 4:

The Charlotte, VT – Essex, NY ferry crossing will OPEN Thursday, April 7th. Departures every hour from VT: 6:00 am – 8:00 pm. Departures every hour from NY: 6:30 am – 8:30 pm

Spring has finally returned to Essex!

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Jane Friedman on the Future of Publishing

Christina Katz: Is the future of publishing bleak? Go ahead and tell us. We can take it.

Jane Friedman: The future of paper-book publishing is bleak. Paper books will become talismans, souvenirs, collectors’ items, or something that “paper sniffers” will insist on buying. I don’t buy into all the sentimentalism for paper books, but there will be a cabal of those types—just enough people to ensure that paper books are an enthusiast or niche product, much like vinyl.

The future of writing, reading, and literacy [however] is bright… (Christina Katz ~ The Empowered Writer)

So begins Christina Katz’s insightful interview with Jane Friedman, former publisher of Writer’s Digest and current visiting professor at The University of Cincinnati. The interview complements Friedman’s publication of The Future of Publishing: Enigma Variations, but employs a more pragmatic, dilated look the present and future of the publishing industry. To my knowledge there are very few as informed, lucid and articulate on this subject, and Katz does an excellent job of amplifying the message that Friedman so lightheartedly explores in her new ebook.

View the collected highlights from Jane Friedman’s ebook launch…  

Jane Friedman’s new book is part publishing world science fiction, part 21st century book fugue and part author-agent-publisher slapstick! Released on April Fool’s Day, it delivers the wisdom that only laughter can conjure…

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