Saturday, September 11, 2004

Notes and News, and a different sort of 9/11/01 entry

From Publishers Weekly 9/6/04 issue (Yeah, I get this late in the week): John Wiley, publisher of Cliffs Notes (those summaries that got millions of students through high school over many decades and now facing competition from Barnes & Noble's newer Spark Notes, has made its Cliffs Notes free online at www.cliffsnotes.com. They can also be downloaded or printed for the same price as the print edtiions ($5.99). They've even instituted an Ask Cliffs interactive study help feature. Competition is so much fun.

From the same issue, it seems authors are having problems with Xlibris after Xlibris, a Philadelpia-based POD (print on demand) subsidy publisher, outsourced a number of jobs to the Philipines. The authors have been running into difficulties trying to track down the status of their books or even to reach a customer service representative. Xlibris' CEO John Feldcamp said that the outsourcing was a cost cutting measure that now allows for the hiring of more customer service staff, aka the usual bs about outsourcing. Philadelphia. Philippines. They sound alike, but that's where the similarities end.

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I really don't want to discuss the events or anniversary of 9/11/01 (I was already at work when the first plane hit the WTC and we watched it on TV--we have cable at work), because nothing I can say, even though I consider myself a writer, would be adequate. I felt a lot of fear that day. Even when I first heard a plane had hit the first tower, I knew it was a terrorist act, though I'd thought it was a small plane, not a hijacked jet. The fear has receded, but it hasn't gone away.

I never liked the World Trade Center. To me, they were just tall boxes that made Manhattan look like it was tipping into the bay at its southern end. They didn't look elegant or interesting to me. But now, looking down Sixth Avenue, not having them in view, is a painful reminder. I used to be able to see them from my bedroom window, too, which faces west -- I have a great view of Manhattan and the towers were little bumps all the way to the left. And for a day or so, I had a clear view of the smoke cloud that hung over southern Manhattan. And later that week, when the wind shifted toward the north, I could smell it when I went to work.

Art Spiegelman, of Maus graphic novel fame, has a new book out called In the Shadow of No Towers, published by Pantheon. It's mostly a compilation of comix he did starting in the summer of 2002, which are his account of that horrible day and after. The few reproductions of panels from the book are amazing.

Yesterday's New York Daily News reported on commemorative objects for the 9/11/01 anniversary. The article included pictures of such tacky fare as:
  • Patriotic "Iced Cookies for America" from 1-800-flowers.com
  • "China Treasures Freedom Box" from Lenox that features 9/11-slogans
  • "Patriot Day" memorial coins being sold on eBay
  • "The Tower to Celebrate America" which appear to be cannisters of jellybeans, brownies, and cookies
  • Ty Beanie Baby "Valor the Eagle," already a collector's item
There are also patriotic bougquets of roses and a "Stars and Stripes Cookie Basket" to go along with the numerous trinkets and tee-shirts that appeared in the days after the horror. And you can email "Patriot Day" cards from Hallmark's website.

I will admit to buying one small pin commemorating the day and pinned it to my shoulder bag as a statement. I never thought of it as a souvenir, which the above listed items sure sound like to me.

Reactions from relatives of people killed and other New Yorkers, as quoted in the article, ranged from resignation and acceptance to outrage and sadness that anyone would seek to profit from tragedy even if the intent is to commemorate, not make a buck. If there's one thing about this country and capitalism I don't like, it's the urge to commercialize everything.

There will be one commemoration that doesn't reek of commercialism. A $1.2 billion amphibious transport dock ship called the New York (for the state), officially named yesterday by Secretary of the Navy Gordon England, is to include slavaged steel from the wreckage of the WTC. It will be assembled by Northrop Grumman in New Orleans starting in 2007.

There is also a transport ship to be named the Arlington for the Pentagon victims and the Somerset for the PA county where Flight 93 crashed.