Saturday, April 28, 2007

Xentel, who are these people?

I have written a couple of posts about these nasty people. I am amazed at the number of 'search engine' hits I get on Xentel. Obviously there are a lot of people that share my belief that they are basically a sleazy operation.

I was only annoyed by the Edmonton office (thanks Will MacDonald). But obviously many people are pissed at Xentel. So here is the plan, lets set up a pissed at Xentel web site. I would be happy to do this, a simple web site with all of the information that we can get. We need names, we need phone numbers, and we need street addresses. This is all of the info that this sleazy operation does not like to supply. That way, anyone that has suffered from this stupid company can at least find the phone number, or the street address.

I for one, am pretty poor, I cannot afford to make a whole pile of long distance phone calls, so I want to try and find the 1-800 numbers for Xentel. That way everyone will be able to contact them without having to pay for the phone call.

I allready have an idea for a slogan 'Xentel, just say NO'.

If you are interested in this idea, leave a coment, or email me.

The Week In Review(s)

I must admit that I really did not do a lot this week. I got bogged down in Through The Eyes Of A Survivor. This is a truly excellent book. It Chronicles the life of Nina Morecki, starting with her early life growing up in Pre-war Poland, then surviving both Russian and German occupation. And finally her post war life living in the US. Both the Author Colette Waddell and Nina have agreed to be interviewed. I think this will be quite unique, it is not often that you get to interview the author and the subject.

I also finally got to interview Matthew Fort about his latest book, Eating Up Italy. Matthew is a well known British food critic and TV personality. The most interesting aspect of the interview was his comments about TV. When I asked him why he had created a book rather than a TV series he explained that TV was to rigid, and offered little little wriggle room for spontaneity.

On the 'in comming' scene is Travels With Loreena McKennitt by Niema Ash. When I read the Press Release I was immediatly interested. This book was the subject of a law suit brought by Loreena against Niema Ash, apparently there were some things said in the book that Loreena took umbrage at. I was actually quite suprised that I was able to get a review copy as it had to be shipped from England!

So as you can see on the reviewing front it was been pretty quiet, however it has been a fairly stressfull week. Jan and I manage the reviewing section of Blogger News Network, and we use Google Groups to co-ordinate all of the review material up for grabs. For about 24 hours the entire of Google Groups went into meltdown mode. In fact we are still trying to dig our way out, we have lost about 35 threads, and a thread represents an item. As a result we have no idea who is running with these reviews. Boy are we pissed off about this!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Whats Not To Love?

I was perusing the world of Press Releases today and discovered that a company has digitally remastered all of Al Stewarts CD's. Al has been around since 1965 when he released his first album Bedsitter images. I could not resist this one, well actually all 13 of them!

I have been a big fan of Al since I first saw him perform in 1970. Somehow I managed to persuade my parents that even though I was only 15, I was grown up enough to go spend a weekend attending a music festival! Boy they were dumb! A 15 year old hormone charged boy and the biggest selection of hippie women, what a great combo! There would have been no way I would have let my kids do that when they were 15.

I survived the weekend, I think it was in Chelmsford, England. The top act was no other than our good buddy Al Stewart, I was hooked. Al gave a great performance, and he did it with no backing band, just Al, his guitar, and a stool.

Now 13 CD's may seem like a big project, it is one that I am going to enjoy.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Need Help With Your Lawn?

This is a public service announcement.

My good buddy Cadman is looking for something to do for the summer. So I have agreed to offer him some free advertising for his new venture Cadman Lawn Care Inc. This world famous Turkey hunter and Deer Jerky master has spread his wings, and in a bold move started his own company. Cadman is ready for whatever your lawn needs, he comes fully equipped, with riding lawn mower and army fatigues This is a guy ready to tackle even the most overgrown yard!

He offers a complete lawn care package (and he brings his own riding mower). His rates are very reasonable, actually he works for free, but you do have to keep him supplied with miller beer. This could be an expensive prospect. The going rate is one Miller beer per 100 feet of lawn!

The Week In Review(s)

On the book front it has been a pretty slow week, for some reason I have got myself bogged down in one book. Through The Eyes Of A Survivor Chronicles the experiences of a young Jewish girl living through WWII in Nazi occupied Poland. This is a very powerful book, and not one for the squeamish. You are probably thinking "Do we really need another book about the well known story of the holocaust?". In my opinion it is an important piece of history, and each book on the subject adds to the history of a very chapter in the history of mankind.

One of the most outstanding aspects of this book is the writing style, Colette Wadell has almost created two books for the price of one. Nina tells a little piece of her story and then Colette adds some commentary to put it into context. This is a most unique method.

I have not got around to reading Richard Winston's Death Is The Down Beat yet, but I am looking forward to it. As many of you know, I am an editor for Bloggernews, and recently I have been working hard at getting Bloggernews on the review circuit. The theory was to use my 'good name' (hahahaha) to get publishers to open up their catalogs to other people that write for bloggernews. Surprisingly it seems to be working. Anyway, it turns out the Bloggernews has an author in their ranks, none other than Richard Winston. I could not resist getting a copy!

I did review a couple of music related video's as well this week. MVD have a very interesting series of music videos called "Classic Albums Under Review". The concept is to take a well known album and weave a documentary around it. I tackled Pink Floyd's Meddle. Which in my opinion is the best album Pink Floyd have ever made, far superior than Dark Side of Moon.

I really enjoyed this DVD, and if you are a Pink Floyd fan, this is an absolutely must have item. There are some never before seen studio and live clips of this juggernaut of prog rock.

I also took Blood Sweat And Tears - Spinning Wheel out for a test drive. This DVD is from a concert performed in 1980. For the most part I liked it, and it was interesting to compare and contrast their early and somewhat raw work to their later and much more sophisticated offerings. If I have a criticism of this DVD, it is the title, alas Spinning Wheel a song that most people associate with this band is featured in a medley style, and not as a stand alone work.

On the whole though I gave it a thumbs up.

I suspect that next week could be rather busy. I received an email from a publicist yesterday who really needs some reviews done, so silly me said "sure I'll do them". I think there are around 12 DVD's involved. That's going to keep me busy for a while.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Canada's Tax On Free Stuff

Yup, you heard it here first. In a new, and completely revolutionary move Canada is now applying a tax on free stuff.

I saw a couple of DVD's that I wanted to review. So I sent off my request letter. And the company was more than happy to send them. Unfortunately someone at the customs department decided that the package looked suspicious so they opened it up. They found two DVD's inside. They also found a shipping note that had the word Retail in one column, the retail price for each DVD was $20, Now the column net to it was titled Cost, and under that was a $0. The total also reflected the $0.

So what do these boneheads do? They charge me $2.29 in GST (that's tax), and $6 for ripping my package apart and putting it in a new box!

So my free stuff cost over $7.00. I suppose that I can fill out 27 forms and get my 2.29 back, but i'll bet that short of going to court I'll be out the $6.

You would think that the people ripping open parcels would have at least a rudimentary ability to understand an invoice! Maybe this is Canada's idea of 'Homeland Security".

It is not the money, it is the whole concept that bothers me. I get to pay tax on something that cost me nothing, and I get no revenue from. (yes this was a freebie review). At this rate I will have to stop doing reviews, because I can't afford to accept free stuff!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Got PayPal?, You Got Hell!

This tale is so bizarre, if it was not that it actually happened to me, I would not have believed it. The story started yesterday, my step son wanted to buy some speakers for his computer. So I said, "no prob", and seeing as he is in Louisiana I told him I'd send the money by PayPal. That way he could buy them on E-Bay. I ship the $30, and I think that is the end of the story.

Not so! Joey has forgotten his password, oh, and all of the other stuff required, as far as I could tell they have suspended his account because of all of the attempts to access it. So we now have $30 in limbo land. I am sure that eventually the $30 will surface (They say 30 days, but I'll bet it is 30 years!).

Plan 'B' happened today. We told Joey to open up a new PayPal account and that Jan would ship the $30 from her account. This sounded so easy. It took mere minutes to set up the account. Jan sent the money, and I thought the story was over. But no! We get an email back that he has received the money, but PayPal will not let him spend it, because he does not have a bank account attached to his PayPal account.

OK, no problem, both Jan and I have E-Bay accounts, so we tell him to ship the money back, and we will buy it. Guess what? Because he does not have a back account PayPal will not let him return it!

So now I have $60 invested in the project, and I am not very happy.

Plan "c" formed, we would just buy the damn things and have them shipped to him. Naturally this didn't work. He bought em on E-Bay, and only he can buy them. Jan had to give him her PayPal password to make this happen.

The good news is that speakers are now bought. Oh I should point out that the winning bid was $1.99 hahahaha Of course they want $12 shipping and handling.

The bottom line is, $75 for a $2 set of stinking speakers. You just have to love buying stuff online!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Week In Review(s)

I can honestly say it has been a very slow week. I don't know if Canada Post has gone on a Go Slow, but I find it hard to beleive that they could move packages any slower than they already do! I went days without any mail at all, and what I did get I didn't like, damn bills!

The reviewing world did improve towards the end of the week, I have two books that look pretty interesting. Through the Eyes of a Survivor by Collette Waddell chronicles the experiences of a family through the second world war. It's a bit of a hefty read at almost 500 pages, but I am sure that I will enjoy it.

I also received the Scatterlings of Africa by Peter Davies which deals with the problems that Rhodesia faced in the early 1970's. A country that was facing a real crisis, the white minority in control was under intense international pressure to change the blatently unfair treatment of the native population. This was slavery by any name! Again, I think this will be a great read.

The apex of the reviewing week happened yesterday. A big Fed-Ex truck dropped off a fairly heavy package. Alas, the cab to take us to the shopping mall arrived before I could explore it. It was the new cookery book put out by Webber. If you are a BBQ guy (or Gal) this is a must have. I am not sure what they are actually going to be selling in the stores, but I got a boxed set, complete with a CD that has some great photos of food! Life is good.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Insane Things To Do In Your Spare Time - #37

As most of you know I waste most of my spare time reading books! Well it has been pretty quite for a few days, there is lots of stuff 'in the mail' but nothing has arrived. So I decided to try something different, and boy was that a bad move hahahaha

I am an editor over at and recently I have been trying to recruit some new writers to our fold. Finding good writers is not an easy task, and it is amazing how many really bad ones there are. Of course seeing as to how we don't pay very much, I guess that might have some bearing on the issue.

I decided that maybe there was a way to kind of compensate people. Why not get more serious in the writing reviews arena? So I spent a few days contacting the Publishing Houses and PR firms that I have dealt with over the past few months explaining that I had a few reviewers that were looking for books, movies, Cd's whatever! And I was pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback I received.

So, yesterday I decided to launch my campaign, a quick newsletter to all of our authors, and contributors. It was not 2 minutes later that my world started to cave in.... I was in email hell. It's a damn good job I use Gmail with 3 gig of storage, I was being hit at the rate of a dozen emails a minute!

Boy, people love free stuff!

I have created a monster!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Week In Review(s)

It has been a pretty dull week for reviews. I almost ran out of books and had to dig really deep to find something to read. I finally resorted to Sentience and Sensibility. All in all this was not a great choice. I am still trying to figure out what the hell was going through my mind when I requested a copy.

This is another book out of academia, and is about as much fun as a root canal. Clearly there is a lot of truth in the 'Publish or perish' theory about academics. There certainly is a huge rift between the trade and academic presses. Normally a 200 page book would be a leisurely 2 day adventure, I think I am on day 5 of Sentience and Sensibility. I feel genuinely sorry for the poor students that are forced to read this book.

The week briefly improved when Behind The Eyes arrived. This looked like a fun little read, it is aimed at the 'young adult' reader and chronicles the life of an ex-gang member growing up in southern Texas.

Being the conscientious reviewer that I am, I e-mailed the agent and let her know that I was on the book. She replied, 'oops, we sent the wrong book, we don't need this one reviewed'. You might find that hard to believe, but, it is something that happens all the time.

I rounded out the week with a music video, Bobby Rush Live at Ground Zero Blues Club. Bobby is a 50 year veteran blues performer. Although I am not a huge fan of this genre of music, the songs were pretty well done, and a couple were actually quite listenable.

Where Bobby went wrong though was his choice of dancers. Personally I think that overweight women in skin tight outfits is a bit of a turn off. They kept 'butting in' (pun intended).

So what is a guy to do when he is out of review material? You go and find more! I managed to get on with a large music promoter, and even better, a large movie promotion company. I am pretty excited about the movie deal, I have already previewed a couple of screeners for them that were exceptional. More free stuff, whats not to love?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Whats Wrong With The World Of Publishing?

One of the more entertaining aspects about being a book reviewer is the access that you get to the authors. I really enjoy doing the interviews. Every one is different, and every one of them has unique questions and unique answers. OK, maybe that is a little bit of a lie! If it is a first time author I do like to try and squeeze in a question about their 'publishing experiences'. I may not include the answer in the interview, but it is a subject near and dear to my heart. You might be shocked to hear that I get very negative responses to this seemingly inoquous question.

One author was so frustrated with the professional editor that he spent months, undoing the edits.

After listening to the grumblings, I decided it was time to do a little investigative journalism. Of course most authors are happy to grumble in private, but very unhappy to grumble in public. Although they may hate all of people involved, to talk about them is just going to make the next book even harder to get published.

I have been wanting to put this story together for several months, so I was pretty excited when Ian Coburn agreed to talk to me on this subject. Ian recently published a very funny book God Is A Woman: Dating Disasters. Based on his experience his next book could well be titled Book Publishing Is Hell: A Writer Fights Back.

Ian has little positive to say about editors, publishers, and almost everyone else involved in the process. He describes a long hard road, and a road that most of us would not have the tenacity to deal with. Ian Coburn is a guy that wants his story told. Better still he has the charm and wit to get away with it.

The whole gory tale can be read here.