Shock horror at the book festival

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A pot that needed to be stirred

A MILDLY RUDE word was shouted out at a literary festival recently. “Tosser” is the British equivalent of “jerk”. But though it’s a fairly gentle insult, the shocking thing was that it was heard at a writers’ gathering which is one of many events apparently timed to coincide with the world’s biggest book festival, in Edinburgh, Scotland.

This columnist has appeared on that stage twice: it’s an erudite gathering of bookworms, little old ladies, professors, etc.

The elderly audience members are so placid that if someone dies in the audience (which probably happens quite often) no one would say anything. (They may discreetly point.)

The cause of the audience outburst at a crime writers’ gathering in Harrogate, UK, were some statements by author Stephen Leatherviolently skewering the old literary establishment and defending ebook pirates.

I used to work with Stephen, an energetic stirrer who spends a lot of time in Asia and often sets his stories here.

He creates trouble so consistently that I have switched from being alarmed by him to having a grudging respect for him. Never mind the books, at generating headlines, he’s a genius.

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GRUDGING RESPECT is a curious emotion where you’re kind of horrified and impressed at the same time.

Case in point: Halfway through writing this article, a reader forwarded a report from a newspaper crime page in Oslo, Norway. It said a woman shoplifted a 42-inch (1.06m) television by sticking it up her dress and sneaking off with it clamped between her thighs. For purposes of measurement, 42 inches is massive, about the circumference of Kanye West’s head.

She was caught. I know it’s wrong to steal and all that, but in this case I think she actually deserves to keep it.

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OTHER PEOPLE who get my grudging respect are Romanian road bandits.

There’s a viral video going around (below) showing how they drive up behind trucks and trailers speeding along the expressway and rob them while zooming along at 110 kilometers an hour.

The only person I know who drives along with a caravan in tow is my brother-in-law, and the thieves would get nothing better than a second-hand kettle out of it.

But exploiting their skills could cut the costs of making action movies.

Filmmakers could offer Romanians free kettles for leaping onto moving vehicles.

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A STRANGE MYSTERY of modern life: Have you noticed, workers never phone in sick on Wednesdays?

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SHOPPERS IN CHINA are enjoying a dramatic demonstration of capitalism in action.

1) A home appliances retailer called 360Buy sent out a tweet on the Chinese copy of Twitter saying he was cutting all his prices to 10 percent lower than his rival.

2) The next morning, his rival announced that all his prices would be dropped five percent lower below than the first guy’s.

3) A third retailer said everything he had would be cheaper than the other two shops or he would pay the customer double the difference.

4) The first retailer then pledged in writing to keep undercutting the others even if prices dropped to ZERO.

It’s only a matter of time before these guys pay customers to take the stuff away.

Memo to self: Make time to fly to Beijing with a wheelbarrow.

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ANOTHER MYSTERY: Why is it that the only time there is a beer can rolling about on the floor of your car is the time that your boss asks for a lift?

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AT THE PRINTING department, vast numbers of staff are standing by to print my latest book.

It tells the story of a guy in a gloomy society who is looking for unusual sources of humor and manages to accidentally create an online community which does a pretty good job of creating humor columns which are then picked up by lost of newspapers read by millions —yes, it’s the story of you and me.

Watch this space for more news.

Meanwhile, cross fingers for Jason’s book, which is finished and hopefully heading for a deal. And I think Grandpa also has more books in mind. Everyone’s getting creative—can’t be bad!

Printing-Department

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