Saturday, October 29, 2011


imageMichael S. Hart, the founder of e-books and Project Gutenberg
died some eight weeks ago.
What a remarkable and inspiring man.
This obituary is granted to the public domain by its
author, Dr. Gregory B. Newby.

Michael Stern Hart was born in Tacoma, Washington on March 8, 1947. He died on September 6, 2011 in his home in Urbana, Illinois, at the age of 64. His is survived by his mother, Alice, and brother, Bennett. Michael was an Eagle Scout (Urbana Troop 6 and Explorer Post 12), and served in the Army in Korea during the Vietnam era.

Hart was best known for his 1971 invention of electronic books, or eBooks. He founded Project Gutenberg, which is recognized as one of the earliest and longest-lasting online literary projects. He often told this story of how he had the idea for eBooks. He had been granted access to significant computing power at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. On July 4 1971, after being inspired by a free printed copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, he decided to type the text into a computer, and to transmit it to other users on the computer network.

From this beginning, the digitization and distribution of literature was to be Hart's life's work, spanning over 40 years.
Hart was an ardent technologist and futurist. A lifetime tinkerer, he acquired hands-on expertise with the technologies of the day: radio, hi-fi stereo, video equipment, and of course computers. He constantly looked into the future, to anticipate technological advances. One of his favorite speculations was that someday, everyone would be able to have their own copy of the Project Gutenberg collection or whatever subset desired. This vision came true, thanks to the advent of large inexpensive computer disk drives, and to the ubiquity of portable mobile devices, such as cell phones.

Hart also predicted the enhancement of automatic translation, which would provide all of the world's literature in over a hundred languages. While this goal has not yet been reached, by the time of his death Project Gutenberg hosted eBooks in 60 different languages, and was frequently highlighted as one of the best Internet-based resources.

A lifetime intellectual, Hart was inspired by his parents, both professors at the University of Illinois, to seek truth and to question authority. One of his favorite recent quotes, credited to George Bernard Shaw, is characteristic of his approach to life:

 "Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world.  Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves.  All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people."
Michael prided himself on being unreasonable, and only in the later years of life did he mellow sufficiently to occasionally refrain from debate. Yet, his passion for life, and all the things in it, never abated.

Frugal to a fault, Michael glided through life with many possessions and friends, but very few expenses. He used home remedies rather than seeing doctors. He fixed his own house and car. He built many computers, stereos, and other gear, often from discarded components.
Michael S. Hart left a major mark on the world. The invention of eBooks was not simply a technological innovation or precursor to the modern information environment. A more correct understanding is that eBooks are an efficient and effective way of unlimited free distribution of literature. Access to eBooks can thus provide opportunity for increased literacy. Literacy, and the ideas contained in literature, creates opportunity.

In July 2011, Michael wrote these words, which summarize his goals and his lasting legacy: “One thing about eBooks that most people haven't thought much is that eBooks are the very first thing that we're all able to have as much as we want other than air. Think about that for a moment and you realize we are in the right job." He had this advice for those seeking to make literature available to all people, especially children:

Michael is remembered as a dear friend, who sacrificed personal luxury to fight for literacy, and for preservation of public domain rights and resources, towards the greater good.

According to the Project Gutenberg Wikipedia entry, as of June 2011, they had 36,000 items in their collection with 50 new e-books being added every week. mostly in English but increasingly a wide variety of other languages including Finnish and Chinese.

There is a useful summary of the history of the e-book phenomenon on Wikipedia here.




Thought it would be interesting and informative to investigate the ‘death of the book’ phenomenon. Look this up on Google and you’ll find 408 million items, Here are the most interesting pieces I have come across in reverse chronological order, prefaced by this wonderful diagram.




August 30th: The Death of Books Has Been Greatly Exaggerated by Lloyd Shepherd/The Guardian

According to Nielsen BookScan, the publishing industry standard for book sales data, book sales are pretty healthy, with one significant proviso which I'll come to. Ten years ago in 2001, 162m books were sold in Britain. Ten years later – a decade in which the internet bloomed, online gaming exploded, television channels proliferated, digital piracy rampaged and, latterly, recession gloomed – 229m books sold. So, a 42% increase in the number of books sold over the last 10 years.

April 18th: The Death of the Book by Ben Ehrenreich/Los Angeles Review of Books

Excellent, witty, thoughtful essay (if slightly esoteric towards the end) setting this notion in a long historical context.

‘In a 1913 manifesto, Filippo Marinetti (a futurist of the OG sort) called for “a typographic revolution directed against the idiotic and nauseating concepts of the outdated and conventional book.”

The alarm at first built gradually.  In 1999, Robert Darnton, writing in The New York Review of Books, consoled his readers that, all the grim prophecies notwithstanding, “the electronic age did not drive the printed word into extinction.”  The book seemed safe enough for a few years, in more danger from the avarice of the carbon-based conglomerates that ate up all the publishers, than from anything in silicon.  Safe until the fall of 2007, when lady Amazon released her hounds. Within a month of the Kindle’s debut, the New Yorker was writing of the “Twilight of the Books.”  (Cue soundtrack: all minor keys, moody cello.)  The London Times worried that “the slow death of the book may be with us.”

April 6th: 541 Years of the Death of Books/Blurb

In The Body of the Book,* Jan-Dirk Müller recounts how, in the 15th century, a man in Paris named Guillaume Fichet was worried. He was starting to see the effects of the invention of moveable type, created 30 years earlier, and he didn’t like them. We’re not talking the blogging software, but the actual metal type that was being used to print books in large quantities. In 1470 he wrote that if “everything that can be thought can immediately be written and preserved for posterity [by this new technology] the memory capacity of the cultural system will be overstressed and oblivion will be the result.”

February 21st: Are Reports of the Death of the Book Greatly Exaggerated? by Rabbi Tzv Pittinsky

But, it appears that the book as we know it is dying. Eli Kannai, Chief Educational Technology Officer of the Avi Chai Foundation, recently directed me to a hypothetical Academic Library "Autopsy Report" from the Chronicle of Higher Education. The thesis of this report, which seems highly likely to be proven true, is that by 2050, the library will be no more. Books will become obsolete as all books and journal articles will be fully digitized to be accessed anytime, anywhere using computers or portable e-readers.

test4The death of the book illustration

Source: Ron Chapple/


October 8th: Death of the Book, or Not by Michael Cerveiri/ScribeMedia

Think of the billions living in the developing world where hardcover books can cost half a month’s salary, Amazon doesn’t deliver and local bookstores that can get new books charge even more because of transportation and procurement costs. Think of all these things and you can begin to see validity in Negroponte’s idea.

Books, and the desire for books, are creating a demand for low-cost tablets and the accessibility they afford because physical books themselves are simply, and globally, unaffordable.


September 21st: The Death of the Book Has Been Greatly Exaggerated by Christopher Mims/Technology Review

Here's the reality this kind of hype is up against: back of the envelope calculations suggest that ebooks are only six pecent of the total market for new books.

How can that be possible, when Amazon recently said that ebooks are outselling hard-cover books at Easy: Amazon is only 19 percent of the total book market. Also, Amazon has something like 90 percent of the world's ebook market.

August 7th: It’s Futurists Versus Consumers As The Death of the Book Is Prophesied by Devin Coldewey/ Tech Crunch

Article triggered by Nicholas Negroponte’s prediction that printed books would be dead in five years. Article concludes:

‘Negroponte posits (and he is not the only one) that the raw information comprised by books will soon be more important and accessible than books themselves. That’s inevitable, as printed books were only ever containers, but they remain effective and popular containers, and I think they still have a lot of life left in them — more than five years, anyway. The age of print is coming to an end, but those of us writing excitedly about it are the only ones in a hurry.’


The Death of the Book by S. David Marsh/Mars Hill Review

Death-of-the-book-as-we-know-it forecasters ply their trade with confidence. It seems there is no test of the prophet in this business and every few years the terms of the prophecy are retooled to reflect the latest technology. Everyone has a new epiphany and the cycle rolls over once more. With the new millennium before us, we are assured anew that paper-based information delivery is on the verge of total collapse (again) and that full content, high-quality virtual libraries and e-books-a-million sites will spontaneously materialize over the Internet to fill the void. Access will be unencumbered and inexpensive (or free). Soon, we are promised, e-book reading devices costing less than $100 will weigh half a pound and hold one million titles.  So "forget paper . . . here come e-books . . . the physical object consisting of bound dead trees in shiny wrapper is headed for the antique heap . . . books are goners."



E-Readers Catch Younger Eyes and Go in Backpacks by Julie Bosman New York Times 4th Feb 2011

“Kids are drawn to the devices, and there’s a definite desire by parents to move books into this format,” Ms. Vila said. “Now you’re finding people who are saying: ‘Let’s use the platform. Let’s use it as a way for kids to learn.’ ”

Twilight of the Books by Caleb Crain/The New Yorker 24th Dec 2007

What will life be like if people stop reading ?


Book Lovers Fear Dim Future for Notes in the Margins by Dirk Johnson/New York Times 20th Feb 2011

Here’s the London Review of Books article referred to E-Book 1: Short Cuts by James Meek. Meek is reading Peter Mandeslon’s The Third Man

I moved to underline it, only to realise someone had done so already. Oddly, the book was spit new. It wasn’t even on paper. It was an ebook, a digital form of Mandelson’s masterwork that I’d downloaded from Amazon via the Kindle app on my iPad in the hope (futile, as it happened) of gleaning information about an obscure moment in recent British history. How could someone have been there before me? Each copy of each ebook, stored as bits of electronic data, is always new, the pages as white and the text as crisp as the day they were generated. I’d never looked at that page before. Yet there, under Mandelson’s bleak words, was a faint, dotted grey line. I touched the passage with my fingertip, and the explanation appeared in a pale blue balloon: ‘Eight other people highlighted this part of the book.’

Sunday, October 23, 2011



As chance would have it, having completed posts on  New Worlds and Jim Cawthorn, both of which involved Michael Moorcock, I received this review copy of ‘Alan Moore: Storyteller’ with a intro by Mike M which, in part, has this to say.

‘The history of comics dates from BAM to SAM – from Before Alan Moore to Since Alan Moore – because quite simply no one had the ambition, the imagination, and the talent to do what he did…..In the hands of Alan Moore [the “graphic novel”] becomes an enduring monument, capable of constant interpretation and re-examination. That is why we admire him, respect him and celebrate him, an authentic genius for the twenty first century.’

This a superb book which I have just devoured over the weekend and will constantly refer to. Its author Gary Spencer Millidge has done an incredible job in documenting the extraordinary story of Alan Moore’s achievements to date. This handsome edition, fully illustrated throughout, is beautifully designed and presented and stands as the definitive work to date on Moore’s life and times.

Moore is a remarkable fellow whose output is colossal, whose imagination is boundless, whose honesty and down-to-earthness is exemplary. The scale of his achievements is humungous.

For anyone interested in comics, particularly young people keen to work in the medium, this is the Bible. It shows Moore’s working methods and explains how he worked with his collaborators – a real education, direct from the maestro.

Having reinvented comics and graphic novels – expanded their possibilities and created several masterpieces – Moore has in recent years followed a hectic schedule of live musical/theatrical appearances. The book comes complete with a 19-track CD which samples his prodigious output in these fields too. Strange and wonderful.

Meticulously researched, clearly written, with a wealth of rare and wonderful graphics, this is a book to treasure. It will inspire and excite your imagination.

‘Alan Moore: Storyteller’ by Gary Spender Millidge is published by Ilex Press. £25.00

Wednesday, October 19, 2011



Top Left: Issue 176 (Oct 1967). Cover by Richard Hamilton from the ‘This is Tomorrow’ exhibition 1956.

Top Right: Issue 178 (Dec 1967). Cover by Charles Platt & Christopher Finch)

Left: Issue 179 (Feb 1968) Cover from ‘Barbarella’

Just unearthed from the basement of THE GENERALIST ARCHIVE: some rare copies of the legendary science-fiction/speculative fiction magazine ‘New Worlds.’ Had no idea, until reading the lengthy history of the magazine in Wikipedia, that the mag was first published in 1946.

I always knew it during the period when it was edited by Michael Moorcock. We were working on Frendz magazine at the time (1971/1972). Mike was a regular visitor to our office and we would often go round Mike’s house where I remember a manic Robert Calvert and the shy presence of Keith Roberts, author of the wonderful novel ‘Pavane’.



Top Left: Issue 188 (March 1969). Cover by Gabi Nasemann. Top Right: Issue 190 (May 1969). Cover by Gabi Nasemann. Bottom Left: Issue 193 (Aug 1969). Cover by Charles Platt. Bottom Right: Issue 200 (April 1970). Cover photo by Andrew Lanyon. This was the last issue in magazine format that went through a distributor.

New Worlds published work by a huge number of important writers including J.G. Ballard, Norman Spinrad, Roger Zelazney, John Sladek, Thomas M. Disch, M. John Harrison and Terry Pratchett. Also some great illustrators/graphic artists including Mervyn Peake and Mal Dean.


These are probably the rarest issues: Left: A Special Subscription Only issue (201) published in March 1971. Right: The magazine was revived by Mike Moorcock as a fanzine between Spring 1978 and Sept 1979. They were numbered 212 to 216. Issue 212 (pictured here) took the form of a spoof newspaper and was distributed free.  [See: New Worlds history on]


_Michael Moorcock's New Worlds Magazine_

The Directors of the Daves Dream Company - Dick Jude, David Hodson, David Tamlyn, Roger Gray and Felix Jude- West - have reached an agreement with Michael Moorcock to revive the seminal science fiction magazine New Worlds. Michael has kindly agreed to lend his name to the masthead of the magazine and to contribute editorial pieces. The magazine will appear in both electronic and traditional print on paper formats and be backed up by an extensive website that will feature exclusive editorial features free to all interested readers.











One of the great illustrators that appeared in New Worlds was the late Jim Cawthorn. Another recent discovery in the basement of The Generalist Archive was this beautiful piece of original artwork by Jim, which is obviously related to the work below, which appeared in the aforementioned subscribers-only issue of New Worlds.


In my search for information about Jim’s life and times, came across an this post on John Coulthart’s excellent blog feuilleton. This is a double pleasure because it gives me a chance to big up John’s blog which is a real delight that I have been dipping into often over the years. A wonderful and informed collection of cult illustration and art, written about from a very informed viewpoint. Its is a beautifully designed site which I highly recommend.

Fans of Mike Moorcock will know of his work. John quotes Mike as follows: “Jim Cawthorn and I have been inseparable for over twenty-five years, sometimes to the point where I can’t remember which came first—the drawing or the story. It is his drawings of my characters which remain for me the most accurate, both in detail and in atmosphere. His interpretations in strip form will always be, for me, the best.”

There is an excellent interview with Jim by David Britton on the Savoy Books site.

imageAs mentioned above, I knew Mike very well during the period I worked on Frendz magazine and was involved with Hawkwind. Jim and Mike did this wonderful comic strip for a special issue on the band designed by Barney Bubbles. An article about this also appears on feutillon

Another piece of work Jim did for Frendz was this wonderful double page spread to illustrate this extract from: ‘An Alien Heat’, Vol 1 of Mike Moorcock’s ‘Dancers at the End of Time’. The large figure on the left of the image is definitely based on Mike. I don’t think this has been reproduced before. It was in the Grateful Dead issue of Frendz  








The meteorite fell to Earth in a remote area of the Australian outback

A 4.5 billion year old meteorite weighing 1.7 kilograms was discovered in a dried-up lake in southern Australia. Its older than the Earth.


The chances of you or your house being struck by a meteorite are very small but it does happen from time to time. Estimates vary but ‘Halliday et al (1985) estimate that one person will be struck by a meteorite somewhere in the world once in nine years and that sixteen buildings per year could receive some damage from meteorites which weigh at least 500 grams.’ [See Spratt below]

A French family returned from holiday to discover a 4.5 billion year old egg-sized meteorite had smashed its way through the roof of their house in suburban Paris. In October 2011, a meteorite  crashed through the roof of a house in France owned by a family named Comette. 

'We got the roof tiler round and he was astounded,' said Martine Comette (left) ‘An egg-sized meteorite believed to be 4.57 billion years old smashed through the roof of the Comette family home on the outskirts of Paris some time over the northern summer.  

The rock, blackened by its journey through Earth's atmosphere, remained buried in the roof insulation, until Hugo's mother Martine noticed the roof was leaking and called out for someone to fix it. The roofer took one look at the broken tile and told the Comettes that whatever had smashed their roof tile must have come from the sky. ''It would have had to be Superman to break a tile in this way,'' he said. It was only then that the meteorite, weighing 88 grams, was discovered.‘

Read more:


 In ‘The Book of Curious Facts’ (published by Collins & Brown in 1993) I recorded the following fascinating story:

CURIOUS FACTS1995 ‘It is likely that more actuaries live and work in the area around  Hartford, Connecticut, where the giant US insurance business is  centered, than anywhere else in the world.

(Actuaries calculate the  statistical risks and premiums for all kinds of accidents, injuries and disasters on behalf of the insurance industry.)

Wethersfield is a small Connecticut town of 26,000 people, and it has been struck by meteorites twice in 11 years.

In April 1971 a 121/2-ounce (0.3-kg) meteorite struck a house, crashing through the roof and becoming embedded in the ceiling of the living room.

imageThen on 8 November 1982, a 6lb (2.7-kg) meteorite tore into another house while its owners were watching M*A*S*H on television. Travelling at 300 mph (483 km/h), it burst through the roof, an upstairs closet, and the living-room ceiling, hit the floor, bounced off at an angle into the dining room, ricocheted off the ceiling and finally rolled under the dining-room table.

The odds against two meteorites striking houses in the same town is incalculable.

[See Spratt below who says: ‘The fact that both objects penetrated the roofs of buildings within a few blocks of each other is rather coincidental. The odds against this happening at almost the same geographical location but at different times (11 years) are rather high’]

In the whole of recorded history, fewer than a dozen houses are known to have been struck. Only one city, Honolulu, is known to have been struck twice by meteorites (in 1825 and 1949) but no houses were hit on either occasion.

On 7 April 1990, a meteorite 10 inches (25 cms) across hit a house in the Dutch town of Enschede, shattering roofing tiles, penetrating 4 inches (10 cms) of insulating material, and breaking into fragments in an upstairs bedroom.’


My estimate of a dozen houses is certainly wrong. According to there have been 57 recorded strikes by meteorites on human structures in the 20th century. This also is incorrect.

The best list I have come across is the ‘Chronological Listing of Meteorites That Have Struck Humans, Animals and Man-Made Objects (HAMs)’ on The International Meteorite Collectors Association Inc website. This was originally compiled by Walter Branch Ph.D and updated by Ken Newton, who writes that list is not complete and is constantly “under construction”. This list, which dates back to 861 AD, records 110 Objects Hit, 14 Humans hit and 6 Animals hit. It records more than 57 human structures hit by meteorites since the mid 1960s.

The most extensive and carefully sourced boss article on the subject is: ‘Possible Hazards of Meteorite Falls by Christopher E. Spratt [The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada]. His list has 61 structures hit from 1790-1990


See also: 'Some Interesting Meteorite Falls of the Last Two Centuries', which dates back to 1807. It is on the site of the International Comet Quarterly at Harvard University]




According to ‘The first recorded instance of a meteorite striking a person was in Sylacuaga, Alabama on November 30, 1954, when a large meteorite crashed through the roof of one Ann Hodges -- who was just napping on the sofa -- bounced off her radio and struck her on the hip and hand. Hard. She was badly bruised, and to add insult to injury, she was renting the house. Her landlady sued for possession of the offending rock, in hopes of auctioning it off to pay for the damage to the house.

According to the Decatur Daily: ‘Ann Hodges never fully recovered from the incident that put a grapefruit-sized bruise on her left hip and left permanent emotional scars. She died of kidney failure in 1972 at a Sylacauga nursing home. ‘

According to photographer Regine Petersen [see below] Ann Elizabeth Hodges was 34 at the time of the incident and lived in Oak Grove. The meteorite weighed 8 1/2lbs. Her landlady was called Birdie Guy. Hodges won the case but failed to sell the meteorite which was later donated to the Alabama Museum of Natural History. Ann and her husband Eugene Hulitt Hodges later divorced, citing stress over the meteorite as one of the causes.



Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I have found the following recent incidents, presented in reverse chronological order.

image August 13, 2011. Meteorite hits California House   Meteorite causes 4.5- 6 foot impact zone in roof of suburban  house, causing thousands of dollars of damage.

9 March 2009: A 297 gram meteorite arrived in loud fashion  with a sound a neighbour described as a sonic boom. It then tore a hole in the roof of a home in Cartersville, Georgia, before crashing through the ceiling and ending its cosmic journey on a bedroom floor. The house was unoccupied at the time.


In 2009Wired reported that a German teenage boy was hit on the hand by a meteorite while walking home from school. He described seeing a large ball of light, then felt a pain in his hand, followed by "an enormous bang like a crash of thunder," telling the Daily Telegraph that "my ears were ringing for hours afterwards." The meteorite was large enough to leave a foot-wide crater in the ground.

The German photographer Regine Petersen did a project on meteorites and people who have found them. See: I sent her a copy of this post and she asked me to correct the story above: 'The story of the German boy being hit by a meteorite in 2009 turned out to have been a scam. It happens often, people claim to have been hit or to have found a meteorite to get mentioned in the press. Often there is no follow up on the story and the
initial article gets spread.'

Many other reports have proved to be hoaxes. See long list here:


  11 Jan 2007:   A Meteorite lands in a N. J. Bathroom
 A hole in the roof, a bathroom full of debris and a strange, silvery  rock near the toilet — the Nageswaran family soon realized they  needed an astronomer, not a contractor, to fully explain what  damaged their house. Scientists determined it was a meteorite  that crashed through the roof of their central New Jersey home  more than a week ago.

12 June 2004: A 1.3kg meteorite plummeted through the tiled roof of Phil and Brenda Archer's home in Ellerslie, a suburb of Auckland, New Zealand. "I was in the kitchen doing breakfast and there was this almighty explosion," said Brenda Archer. "It was like a bomb had gone off. I couldn't see anything, there was just dust. I thought something had exploded in the ceiling. Phil saw a stone under the computer and it was hot to touch." The rock hit her leather couch and bounced back up to the ceiling before rolling under the computer. The Archers' one-year-old grandson Luca was playing nearby just minutes before the impact. "He must have a guardian angel," she said.Brenda Archer and the meteorite. Photo: David White/Sunday Star-Times

 Oct 9 1992:Wired also has this story about a meteorite  that nailed a parked car  in Peekskill, New York. The  meteorite fragment  which hit the car weighed 12kg on  impact and according to the  article was moving a shade  over 10,000 km/h when it hit the  car. The car doesn’t  look too bad in the pic, but apparently it  was totalled.  [Source:  in-1992-meteorite-hits-a-parked-car/

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Post image for Chomsky speaks out in support of Wall Street protests

Noam Chomsky, the leading academic and public intellectual, has issued a statement in support of the “courageous and honorable protests” on Wall Street.

‘Anyone with eyes open knows that the gangsterism of Wall Street — financial institutions generally — has caused severe damage to the people of the United States (and the world). And should also know that it has been doing so increasingly for over 30 years, as their power in the economy has radically increased, and with it their political power. That has set in motion a vicious cycle that has concentrated immense wealth, and with it political power, in a tiny sector of the population, a fraction of 1%, while the rest increasingly become what is sometimes called “a precariat” — seeking to survive in a precarious existence. They also carry out these ugly activities with almost complete impunity — not only too big to fail, but also “too big to jail.”

  • ROAR

    Source: Roar mag

    The Occupy Wall Street protests have been going on New York for three weeks.

    Tomorrow, they plan a "Millionaires' March" through Manhattan's Upper East Side to take their grievances about the gap between rich and poor to the doorsteps of the super-rich.

    The demonstrations are spreading across the USA. There will be so0lidarity protests on at least 56 campuses.

    On Monday, several thousand protesters, including teachers and religious leaders, converged on downtown Chicago, targeting a meeting of the Mortgage Bankers Association and a US futures exchange trade association conference.

    On Tuesday in Boston there were more than 100 arrests in Dewey Square Park.

    There is an Occupy Camp in Washington


    A protester affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street protests stands with a US dollar bill taped over his mouth in Zuccotti Park in New York. ASSOCIATED PRESS


    Gan Golan, of Los Angeles, dressed as the "Master of Degree," holds a ball and chain representing his college loan debt in Washington DC. (AP)