Top Ten Underreported News Stories

Are we seriously surprised that I chose number 2 as my personal top pick from this list?

2. Civil war displaces a million Congolese

Despite the January peace agreement between rebel and government forces, fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo has grown steadily worse this year, and in August the cease-fire officially crumbled. By late October, about a million people had been forced to flee their homes. Roughly a quarter of them have ended up in refugee camps, where the threat of disease may be almost as dangerous as the violence they were trying to escape. Health authorities fear crowding and a shortage of safe drinking water could cause a cholera epidemic. Already, since the beginning of October, a thousand people have contracted the life-threatening disease, adding urgency to the ceasefire talks scheduled to begin in December.

Take a look at the rest of the list here.

Murderer!

While I doubt books are going to become extinct anytime soon, the industry will most certainly change in the upcoming years. Just like television and Internet have changed the book publishing landscape, so will blogs and digital books.

This pains me, because I have always loved books. But it seems to me that, in an era of speed, big fat books are a relic of the past. While works of fiction are probably going to be the last ones standing, non-fiction books will most probably slowly be replaced by more and more scholarly articles and, well, blogs.

Oh dear. I’m murdering the world of book publishing.

Apparently there is another factor in recent declines in book sales.

Bargain Hunting for Books, and Feeling Sheepish About It

By David Streitfeld, for the NYT; December 27, 2008

Book publishers and booksellers are full of foreboding — even more than usual for an industry that’s been anticipating its demise since the advent of television. The holiday season that just ended is likely to have been one of the worst in decades. Publishers have been cutting back and laying off. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced that it wouldn’t be acquiring any new manuscripts, a move akin to a butcher shop proclaiming it had stopped ordering fresh meat.

Bookstores, both new and secondhand, are faltering as well. Olsson’s, the leading independent chain in Washington, went bankrupt and shut down in September. Robin’s, which says it is the oldest bookstore in Philadelphia, will close next month. The once-mighty Borders chain is on the rocks. Powell’s, the huge store in Portland, Ore., said sales were so weak it was encouraging its staff to take unpaid sabbaticals.

Don’t blame this carnage on the recession or any of the usual suspects, including increased competition for the reader’s time or diminished attention spans. What’s undermining the book industry is not the absence of casual readers but the changing habits of devoted readers.

In other words, it’s all the fault of people like myself, who increasingly use the Internet both to buy books and later, after their value to us is gone, sell them. This is not about Amazon peddling new books at discounted prices, which has been a factor in the book business for a decade, but about the rise of a worldwide network of amateurs who sell books from their homes or, if they’re lazy like me, in partnership with an Internet dealer who does all the work for a chunk of the proceeds.

They get their books from friends, yard sales, recycling centers, their own shelves. castoffs (I just bought a book from a guy whose online handle was Clif Is Emptying His Closet). Some list them for as little as a penny, although most aim for at least a buck. This growing market is achieving an aggregate mass that is starting to prove problematic for publishers, new bookstores and secondhand bookstores.

But as long as we have Twilight-ish books out there, as well as books about the X-files and Supernatural, we can breathe a little easier. And, once again, I am forced to thank Stephenie Meyer.

Read the rest of the article above here.

Top 10 News Stories

My hands-down favorite made number 9 on the Times’ list.

9. An Audacious Rescue in Colombia

Footage of her three years as a captive of the narco-Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) paint Ingrid Betancourt with a Modigliani melancholy, attenuated in appearance as well as loneliness. She had been a candidate for the country’s presidency and then became its most famous hostage, almost always on the brink of rescue. And then it happened in one of the most dramatic and uplifting events of the year, a military exercise that actually worked to perfection as Colombian security forces used an audacious disguise to trick her captors into handing her over. Betancourt has shown no sign of relinquishing the idealistic dreaminess that made her a less-than-viable political candidate, however, and that continues to make her a drawing card in the influential salons of Europe and the Americas.

Take a look at the rest of the list here.

Top Ten Awkward Moments of 2008

I’m not going to put all Ten from the Times’ list, but I am going to quote one of my favorites, number 9:

Duke University officials were caught off guard in August when, an hour before a football game kickoff, two men parachuted into the stadium and landed at the 35-yard line with a ball. “All we know is, they must have missed their jump site,” a Duke official said. They had. The parachuters were supposed to drop eight miles away and deliver the ball to the University of North Carolina. Apparently the jumpers delayed the leap into the UNC stadium because of some nasty weather. When the clouds finally parted, the skydivers went for it — realizing only when they hit the turf at Duke that they were in the wrong stadium.

Find the rest of the list here.

Top Ten Late Night Gags

Number 2? Seriously? Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin impression only made it to number 2? I’m going to sulk now.

2. Tina Plays Palin

Tina Fey must have pinched herself when John McCain selected Sarah Palin to be his vice-presidential running mate, and not just because the resemblance between the two is so striking it spawned the portmanteau Sarah Feylin. Given her garbled syntax, folksy colloquialisms and cringe-inducing frankness, the hockey mom-turned-maverick was an impersonator’s dream. Since Fey’s first appearance on Saturday Night Live as the Fargo-talking, eye-winking Alaska Governor, the show has earned its highest ratings in more than a decade. But even more startling is this Sept. 27 sketch opposite SNL alum Amy Poehler parodying Palin’s disastrous interview with CBS anchor Katie Couric, in which her jaw-droppingly unintelligible responses were in some places taken verbatim from the real interview’s transcript.

Take a look at the rest of the list here.

2008 in (almost) all its glory

It’s that time of the year again! What made it in 2008! While Sahar’s blog has been doing quite well, it hasn’t *quite* made it to the Top Ten Blogs of 2008 (it’s up to you lovely WONDERFUL readers to help me make it so for 2009!).

I have looked for a lot of Top Ten Lists, and none beat those of the Times, which I am currently reading in between other things I need to get done before 2008 is over. And, in case you didn’t know, that’s soon.