Buzzword Books - unusual, intriguing, intelligent, perceptive

Here, you'll find musings from our authors and staff. We don't promise daily updates. Just posts worth your time.

Monday, 19 October 2015


Clinton Smith provides this rant on the death-throes of 20th Century media and the personal slide-effects of the con called connectivity. Is his tongue in his cheek? Let's hope so.

We live in unsettling times. We 'social animals', as Aristotle termed us, are coming apart at the seams. As mentioned before on this forum, Facebook has elevated Reich's 'compulsive contactless sociability' to mania. As for 'Hand Held Devices', these are now the adult version of dummies for infants - and, possibly, the precursor of implanted chips.
    As technology drains our awareness of our intrinsic being - we become increasingly agitated and stressed.
    Speed kills, they say. This includes communication speed because it is out of rhythm with our nature and genetic heritage, with the tempo of seasons and days.
   Nietzsche wrote, 'Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.'

Universal connectivity has done more than replace the post office. The HHD has turned us into frazzled victims of the 24-hour news cycle. Or is it the accuse, abuse cycle. Or the confuse, bemuse cycle? It has made our already intimidating environment even more uncertain. It has nurtured hackers, scammers and terrorists  and even threatens to steal our identities - an ironic outcome for a celebrity-besotted society.
    The stream of bites that induces the adenoidal Jihadist to shoot up his local school, the bullied girl to slit her wrists in the toilet, the paedophile to groom pre-teens, also permits the fake bank site to steal our cash and automated stop-loss orders to dump our stocks in an instant.
    The current 'Look-at-me!' generation sees the web as a way to fame and riches. But, in a moribund civilisation that feeds us deception and lies, that demeans and exploits its citizens, this is a wistful hope indeed. We long to become movers and shakers but our guts tell us that wish is a chimera - that the more we blog and promote ourselves, the more irrelevant we become.
    There is a telling metaphor for those who achieve notoriety: 'The higher climbs the ape, the more it shows its bum.'
    Spinoza related inner freedom to sustained, directed attention. We anxious dupes are a long way now from that ideal. Our attention is not directed but distracted by multiple identifications. Our potential selves are atomised. We are fag-ends of our former selves.

With endless variations for entertainment on line, networks are in free-fall. The hopeful statement, 'content is still king', still stands. But the problem is affording that content when assailed by revenue decline.
     It is interesting how many of the despairing now retreat into interactive games. With these, they can literally amuse themselves to death - as several Japanese teens did when they became too obsessed to move or eat.
    Some philosophers assert that people are becoming machines. That wouldn't be so bad. A machine functions reasonably at least. But we are increasingly dysfunctional, as evinced by rampant chaos and stupidity.  Wiring the world has not improved it but accelerated the old basic flaws that have made us the single out-of-control life form on the planet.
    Heraclitus advocated the search for Being, the unity behind diversity, but from this we flee. We are so enraptured and shredded by the manufactured aids to distraction that our vestigial sense of being is undetectable. As we frantically strive for visibility, or to climb higher on the heap, we forget we are inwardly dying by degrees. And outwardly, too. Each minute shortens our lives. Each step takes us nearer to the grave. Our dream of apotheosis will become, inevitably, feebleness, disease, pain and death.

As U-tube and Internet surfing become presiding visual distractions, print book publishers and retailers are in crisis, although children's books still sell. Even W. H. Smith, doyen of the airport lounge blockbuster, has mostly retreated to magazines and gee-gaws. Newspapers run at a loss. Magazine sales are down 27% and some are being bundled at a discount - three to a plastic outer. So will newsagents survive? In Australia, lottery sales provide up to 80% of their revenue. But if those sales are syphoned off by supermarkets, newsagents will wink out like bookshops.
    Libraries? The net has duplicated their basic use, including their reference function. Many are converting to centres for craft training and lifestyle courses.

Not much. But one point should be made. As sages from Seneca to Leunig proclaim, the greatest advantage in a brutal society is anonymity. Perhaps happiness consists in being, not famous, not powerful, not admired, not universally adored but irrelevant.
    Consider the old Japanese saying: 'The nail that sticks up is hammered down'.
    Keep your head down and no one can shoot at you.
    Forgive me for diverting your attention to this page. Because
, objectively, or you might say psychically, attention is the most precious thing you have. That is if you have it, now, at all.
    Please, safeguard your attention.
    Go thou, and squander it no more.

You'll find Clint's books on Buzzword

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


Buzzword Books editor, D. S. Mills, explains our latest revamp:

If you are familiar with the endless tweaking rather grandly called website design, you'll understand our frustration. As one of the least significant outlet for eBooks known, we contented ourselves for years with a Liquid Layout. This now obsolete system adjusts for screen size but falls apart badly on the laptop.
    We then went to a Fixed Grid - a vast improvement in layout stability - a series of set columns that accepts almost any configuration. This worked marvellously on computers and well on pad-sized devices but couldn't cope with mobile display.
    As you know, the 'Hand Held Device' is mostly held in profile. Why? It fits the hand that way and the landscape mode negates control areas that appear in profile.
    Although Google now degrades websites that stick to Fixed Grids, many still persist. If your site has thousands of pages and products, it is no small matter to find an alternative that scales down to the typical mobile screen - then to go through the endless process of adjusting everything to conform.

For those not familiar with mark-up, this is a structure that preserves the virtues of the Fixed Grid's stability with a series of media commands and other CSS controls that allow the components to progressively decrease in size or reposition to suit the screen size. As we now mostly view the internet on mobiles, the mantra is to design first for the mobile and adjust from there. The FG permits a simple mobile view that progressively reforms to suit pad and computer screens. Even so, design limitations tend to appear on 24' monitors. (Yes, you measure your monitor size diagonally.)
    So Buzzword has now switched to a simple FG layout. It's not pretty but at least displays properly on the gismo the world worships - dubbed by one wit the Weapon of Mass Distraction. In the process, we have simplified the site and placed the same content on fewer pages. To simplify further, we have deleted our used book section. It may later appear on our sister site, Bookbooster, which is next in line for a revamp.
    Of course, no prototype is perfect. So, if you have problems with our new format, let us know.