Linkspam, 8/23/13 Edition

Bee Hotel

BEE HOTEL! I REPEAT: BEE HOTEL.

Linkspam, 3/1/13 Edition

Threeasfour Fall 2013

Threeasfour Fall 2013, or: Always Match Your Lipstick to Your Dress. ALWAYS.

Finally, the last link this week is going to lead into some commentary on my part because I Have Opinions: Social Media and Review Crews: A Q&A with Susan Mallery.

The post describes a program wherein an author, Mallery, has a box of 200 books from her publisher. She decides to put together a “Review Crew” of people who will get the book, write a review of it somewhere and by doing so get themselves an advance copy of her next book–which they will also have an obligation to review somewhere. They apparently had thousands of people interested in doing this.

The purpose of this is to deliberately manipulate the rankings at Amazon and Barnes & Noble–Mallery comes right out and says this. I get that publishers aren’t doing as much as they used to with regards to publicity and promotion and it falls to authors to fill in the gap. I get that the more reviews a book has, the more likely it is to pop up on users’ pages while they browse Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I even get that the first week of sales is incredibly important when it comes to contract negotiations and future publications. I get all this.

But this still feels wrong to me. It’s using the unpaid labor of fans to move product. I do not love anything enough to stick a giant magnet on the side of my car advertising it for free. It’s using readers’ passion for the books and their desire to have a personal connection with the author to make money and I find that deeply disturbing.

Also, the idea of having a special cadre of “cheerleaders” who do things like have the car magnet and hand out bookmarks and compete to win prizes just makes my skin crawl, especially since there seems to be an audition process (seriously: look at how much unpaid work the head “cheerleaders” have done in past years). What a genius way to find out who your biggest fans are and then to get them to work for you for free. Because, yo, those prizes are totally a tax write-off in the United States (schedule C deduction for supplies) so they are a dollar for dollar reduction of self-employment liability and federal income tax (thanks to my awesome accountant for the wording!).

Other things I find disturbing: the implicit threat in the repeated mentions of how many thousands of people want to participate in this program (so if you don’t follow through or maybe say something unappreciated, you don’t get invited back?), the way they don’t even suggest that folks posting reviews disclose they received the book for free in exchange for the review, the idea that professional reviewers and bloggers aren’t “real” readers, and finally the pooh-poohing of concerns in the comment section about how the reviews at Amazon and Barnes & Noble are already so polluted that what’s a little bit more pollution for readers to wade through. How does contributing more noise do anything but obscure the signal even more? Meoskop has a lot more to say about this signal-noise ratio, in fact.

Excellent tweeps helped me clarify my thinking on this–many thanks to you! I knew something felt hinky, but until I had some folks to talk about this with, I wasn’t sure what that something was. Twitter is the best!

Flail!

I have no idea who this is, but this was seriously me after I went and looked to see what the heck Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series was about. (via)

Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible, Tim Gunn

Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible

Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible

Where oh where does one begin with Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible?  With the lavish illustrations depicting the history of fashion?  With the fashion trivia?  With Gunn’s own chatty, and sometimes acerbic, commentary? With the structure of the thing itself?

Okay, we’ll start with the last one.  In his latest missive to fashionistas, the fashion-challenged, fans of fashion and history, and just plain Tim Gunn fans, Gunn takes the, if not unique, then at least logical, approach to fashion by taking his readers on a tour of their closets.  Each chapter is devoted to a single piece of clothing or accessory the typical person might have in his or her closet (I say his because hey guys, Tim Gunn wants you to think about wearing something besides a wife-beater and a baseball cap).  Gunn then breaks the chapter down for the reader—traces the history of the garment, talks about how and why the garment progressed and developed into what we know today, talks about how to choose the appropriate style for your body type, what to avoid at all costs, and how, when appropriate, to get the proper fit for you.  That last part is especially useful, especially when he talks about pants and shirts—good tips there.

I loved this set up for several reasons.  First, it made sense, especially for those who want to use the book as a reference for the future.  If someone’s thinking about buying a new dress, or cleaning out a closet, it’s easy to go to the section on dresses and say “Okay, I should look for this style of dress because it’s what flatters my body type the most” or “Tim’s right, I should never have bought these cargo shorts, they make me look lumpy” (Incidentally, Gunn devotes some space to a truly hilarious rant against cargo capri pants that is nearly worth the price of the book itself).   I also thought from just a reading standpoint that as he progresses through this virtual closet it was easy to get a bigger picture of a good, solid wardrobe—he starts with bigger pieces, like dresses, pants, jackets, and shoes before going on to other items.  And finally, I just really appreciate something that is so beautifully ordered.  Sometimes the writing within the chapters is a little jumpy or he doesn’t transition quite so well from one point to the next, and that’s a bit jarring, but overall, this book is well-organized, with useful little charts and a worksheet at the end that is quite functional.  He clearly meant for his audience to actually use the book—it’s not just a vanity project.  But it’s also pretty enough to use as a coffee table book.  It’s an unusually well-made book for this day and age, printed on heavy, glossy paper, plus it has lots of pictures.

The pictures are especially useful in cases where Gunn’s descriptive powers struggle to describe a now outdated article of clothing, such as chopines or poulaines (both types of shoes; the former is the forerunner of the platform shoe, the latter the inspiration for the extreme pointy-toed pumps we see today), or when a famous couture piece defies description, such as Schiaparelli’s Lobster Dress.  None of these looked exactly how I pictured them, so it was great to have the illustrations to hand.

As a narrator, Gunn is chatty and witty: he makes it clear from the introduction that he’s not out to write a complete history of fashion, but rather to hit the high points and trace the origins of what we find in our closets today and how they’ve gotten there.  He also rightly points out that entire volumes have been written on such topics as shirt sleeves, denim, and how politics and social customs shape fashion. This book is much more of an overview, but that doesn’t mean it lacks detail.  I learned all sorts of nifty things reading it, such as how the vest became popular during Charles II’s reign, why most tailored female clothing has its roots in Egyptian fashion, not European, and how Clark Gable nearly tanked the men’s undershirt industry single-handedly, and all of it was delivered in a voice that is somehow gossipy yet simultaneously learned.  Once in a while Professor Gunn gets behind the podium and delivers a bit of a lecture (see the previously mentioned rant about capri cargo pants; there are also stern dictums delivered about the evils of pleated pants, wearing athletic wear in public, and women who wear tights/leggings as pants), but mostly he’s Uncle Tim the fashion guy who really just wants you to look your best, even if you’re just running out for a gallon of milk.

I found all of this quite enjoyable.  I liked the historical tidbits, the illustrations, the useful charts about sizing, and the overall approach and tone of the book.  In fact, I can’t think of a single thing I disliked about it, except that it ended.  If you’re interested in this kind of thing, or want to overhaul your closet, by all means pick this up.  It’s great fun.