LEVI McPHERSON, a graduate student of analytical chemistry at the University of North Central Florida, is approached by agents of the Homeland Security’s Counter-terrorism Unit. The agency is recruiting Lee to study and expose the loopholes of screening instruments in airports. Struggling financially, he accepted the offer, making him a paid, benevolent hacker of the nation’s gateway. Yet Levi is horrified when an Airbus from Los Angeles disintegrated in mid-air.

At 40, when everybody’s career trajectory is going up, Levi’s still a poor graduate student, struggling financially. His research projects however, are worth million dollars. Researching the highly classified and heavily guarded secrets of detecting traces of explosives, what Lee know was a goldmine. The agency's offer is his financial break . So Levi tackles the problem like a scientist, detailing the loopholes of the aviation security and turning what he knew into a big time money machine.

JIM and JONATHAN of the counter-terrorism unit, where nowhere to be found after Charlotte International Airport, a hub of Delta Airlines closed abruptly because of instrument malfunctions in their security lines. And in a post-Osama Bin Laden’s era, the biggest blow to the United Stated after the 9/11 disaster comes unexpectedly when a passenger plane blew up in the skies of Washington D.C., in the heart of the nation.

Levi knew it was only the start of more troubles, so he recruits his fellow graduate students to counter the future attacks. They have to think like criminals—and scientists too. With the help of FBI counter-terrorism experts, Homeland Security and Transportation Security Agency, the team races to close and plug the loopholes Lee identified.

Monday, January 30, 2012

My Review of Roku 2 XS Streaming Player

Originally submitted at Roku

Adds an enhanced remote for playing games, plus extra connectivity options.

Love it, even my 2 year old :-)

By Emilio from Gainesville, Fl on 1/30/2012


5out of 5

Pros: Great value, Easy to use, Built in Wi-Fi, Easy to set up, Compact

Cons: Want more video choices

Best Uses: Living room, Primary TV

Describe Yourself: Early adopter, Home entertainment enthusiast, Technophile

I like the simplicity of the product and the design. Easy to set up and my 2-year old love to play angry birds using your remote. I'm from the Philippines so I watch some shows from my country using this device Love it. I wish there's a youtube channel that I can surf so I can watch some of the interesting stuff from that site.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Lee Child's Reacher is going to the movie?

I'm a Bourne series big fan. So this will a a winning combination.

[COVER_JUMP1]Harry Zernike for the Wall Street Journal
Reacher Creature: Author Lee Child, shown in his New York City apartment, says of Hollywood: 'I was initially seduced by it all.'
As cameras roll, a police sergeant returns a toothbrush to Jack Reacher, an ex-Army MP major portrayed by Tom Cruise. It is pretty much Reacher's sole possession in life.
The acting unknown cast as the sergeant is Lee Child, author of the Reacher books. The scene, filmed last fall in an ornate old Pittsburgh library, depicts Reacher's release from jail after a brief incarceration. It comes near the end of "One Shot," a much-anticipated, big-budget feature scheduled to complete production later this winter. For fans of Reacher—the laconic protagonist of 16 popular suspense novels with more than 50 million copies in print—the moment will be monumental. By passing the toothbrush to Mr. Cruise, Mr. Child is passing one of publishing's most coveted batons to Hollywood.

Vote: Who Would Make the Best Jack Reacher?

Although the Reacher novels have been huge sellers, getting here has not been easy. During the last 15 years, many have tried and failed to bring Mr. Child's iconoclastic character to the screen. Some of the difficulties arose from the challenges inherent in adapting any literary work, but most were particular to Reacher. An unbending nonconformist, his personality runs counter to the prevailing Hollywood notion that a film hero must undergo an enlightening transformation over the course of a picture. Then there's the matter of Reacher's size. At 6 feet 5 inches and 250 pounds, he all but demanded the sort of larger-than-life movie actor not seen since John Wayne. Reacher fans are already carping online about the choice of the diminutive Mr. Cruise for the role. There's a Facebook page called "Tom Cruise is not Jack Reacher."
Yet in an era when Hollywood seems more enamored of comic-book superheroes than literary crime fighters, this could be the beginning of a genuine film franchise. Not only have the Reacher books been best sellers—"The Affair" topped lists last fall—but the 49-year-old Mr. Cruise, after a descent into odd behavior (the "Oprah" sofa-hopping incident) and desultory box-office performances, returned to commercial form over Christmas with "Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol." The film, which in three weeks has grossed a remarkable $390 million world-wide, is the fourth in the "Mission: Impossible" franchise.
Jack Reacher will soon be portrayed by Tom Cruise in a feature film, but the road from book to film for author Lee Childs was long and rocky, Eben Shapiro reports on Markets Hub. Photo: AP.
"Tom Cruise is a global star, and you can't have a franchise if it's not global," says Sean Daniel, a former president of production at Universal Pictures who, while uninvolved in the Reacher project, was a producer on "The Mummy," which has spawned three sequels. "A franchise has to strike a nerve in every audience in every country in the world." Mr. Child's books have been published in 95 countries.
Hollywood's flirtation with Jack Reacher began in 1997 following the publication of "Killing Floor," the debut Reacher novel. Mark Johnson, who as a producer collected a best-picture Oscar for "Rain Man" and now is an executive producer on the AMC TV series "Breaking Bad," optioned the book for $100,000. Mr. Johnson had a deal with Polygram Filmed Entertainment, and he commissioned Brandon Boyce ("Apt Pupil") to write the script.
Mr. Child, a native Englishman who pens decidedly American books, had been an unknown author, recently fired from a directing job by Great Britain's Granada Television. He'd changed his name (from Jim Grant) and given himself a year to write a novel. For Hollywood to come calling was heady. "I was initially very seduced by it all," he says. "The meetings and the phone calls and that kind of stuff."
The project, however, went nowhere. " 'Killing Floor' is set in a small Southern town," says Mr. Johnson, "and the people we wanted to make the movie wanted a big, urban setting. I don't think they understood Jack Reacher."
Mr. Child was disappointed by the setback, but he believed that if he continued writing Reacher novels, his stock in Hollywood had to rise. "Instead of just grabbing something and running with it, producers would be forced to pay close attention to the text," he says. "As long as I kept getting paid—and if you look in the dictionary under free money, that's what a movie option is—I was pleased."
Associated Press (Jackman, Vaughn); Getty Images (Pitt, Smith, body); Reuters (Cruise)
HEAD SHOTS: Left to right: Hugh Jackman, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Vince Vaughn and Will Smith. All were discussed for the part over the years; it eventually went to Mr. Cruise.
Mr. Child cranked out a new Reacher novel every year. In the process he fashioned a fully realized protagonist. Reacher is by turns nomadic (he traverses America by bus), brainy (he's a West Point grad) and old school (he uses the names of forgotten New York Yankees as aliases). Moreover, he bears a resemblance to the heroes of several of Hollywood's longest-running film franchises.
Like Jason Bourne, the ex-foreign-services officer in "The Bourne Identity" and its sequels, Reacher is an erstwhile insider with knowledge of everything from weapons systems to Pentagon politics. Like Clint Eastwood's Detective Harry Callahan—aka Dirty Harry—Reacher exhibits little respect for protocols, including due process, presumption of innocence and other Constitutional rights. In a world filled with shades of gray where civil society is often helpless in the face of evil, Reacher possesses a clear moral vision, a willingness to cross lines and the ability to inflict enormous physical pain and damage. If a malefactor is beyond the grasp of justice, he simply kills him.
"Reacher is a concept that has essentially been market-tested for 3,000 years," says Mr. Child, who on a sunny morning sits in his Manhattan office. "Reacher is the noble loner. He's straight out of the movie Westerns, but he was not invented by them. He's copied from Europe's medieval knights errant, which were copied from earlier Scandinavian figures. "
Yet even as Reacher evolved, Hollywood remained unwilling to pull the trigger. Mr. Johnson shopped the idea for three years until Polygram suspended business. "I couldn't bring it home," he says. The rights lapsed.
In 2002, New Line Cinema picked them up. "It was a good deal," says Steve Fisher, Mr. Child's movie agent. The author got $250,000, 2½ times the money he received on the first option. New Line developed a script by John Rogers ("Transformers" and, more recently, TNT's "Leverage") and hired director Clark Johnson ("The Wire" and "Homeland"). "They showed it to some talent, but nobody bit," says Mr. Fisher. "People said it wasn't high-concept enough, but I don't know what that means. The difficult thing when you're a literary agent in Hollywood is that studio executives are notoriously inarticulate when they pass on projects."

Jack Reacher: Heavyweight Heartthrob

Height: 6 feet 5 inches
Weight: 220-250 pounds
Chest size: 50 inches
Hair: Dirty blond
Eyes: Ice blue
"His arms, so long they gave him a greyhound's grace even though he was built like the side of a house.... His hands, giant battered mitts that bunched into fists the size of footballs.

Barehanded Brawler

"He put all his weight on his back foot and lined up a straight drive aimed for my face. It was going to be a big blow. It would have hurt me if it had landed. But before he let it go I stepped in and smashed my right heel into his right kneecap. The knee is a fragile joint. Ask any athlete.... His patella shattered and his leg folded backward. Exactly like a regular knee joint, but in reverse.... He screamed, real loud. I stepped back and smiled. He shoots, he scores."
Mr. Child's background in television led him to develop some theories about what was happening. One is that Hollywood storytelling typically relies on character arcs in which the hero faces a number of moral dilemmas so he can change and grow.
Reacher is the opposite of that, Mr. Child says. "His appeal is that he does not change one iota. He's the same at the end of a novel as he was at the beginning, and he doesn't learn anything either, because he knew it all to start with."
Mr. Child cites another book-to-film difficulty—movies have trouble with interior monologues. "Readers like being in Reacher's head, thinking along with him," he says, "and my novels have a lot of long, internal passages that depend on Reacher's thought processes, his own quirkiness, his intuition, his mental capacity. There's no movie way of showing what an actor is thinking."
Casting, however, was the main stumbling block. Reacher's size is central both to his ability to prevail in violent encounters—he has a propensity for taking on gangs of thick-necked thugs—and to his self-concept. "To be born tall was to win life's lottery," Mr. Child writes in "61 Hours," a 2010 Reacher novel.
"Subliminally," Mr. Child observes, "everybody was saying, 'Find the biggest guy we can find,' which in Hollywood is not very big. Actors just aren't big guys."
Whoever played Reacher would also need to convey his intelligence. "There aren't a lot of actors who can do intimidating physical stuff and look smart on camera," says Mr. Rogers, author of the New Line script.
For a while, such names as Hugh Jackman, Brad Pitt and Vince Vaughn were bandied about. "We went through a period," adds Mr. Child, "where we talked seriously about a black Reacher, which would have been interesting." Jamie Foxx and Will Smith were both discussed.
In 2005, just when the pieces seemed as if they would never come together, Paramount optioned the newest Reacher novel, "One Shot," plus the entire Reacher ouevre, for Tom Cruise's production company, where producer Don Granger ("Snakes on a Plane") was employed. Along with Kevin Messick ("The Other Guy"), Mr. Granger had worked on the aborted New Line effort.
The timing was propitious. "One Shot" was receiving rave reviews and selling briskly. The option was for big money—three times what Mr. Child received from New Line, bringing the total amount he'd earned from Hollywood to well over $1 million. "For the kind of money Paramount was paying," says Mr. Fisher, "I knew they were going to make this movie a priority, and that turned out to be the case." In 2010 the studio upped the ante by extending the rights further into the future. The picture was a joint production of Paramount and Mr. Cruise's company. Later, they were joined by Skydance, the film-financing company owned by David Ellison, son of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.
To get at the interior Reacher, director Christopher McQuarrie, who won an Oscar for writing "The Usual Suspects" and will likely share the writing credit on "One Shot" with Josh Olson, scripted sequences during which the camera holds steady on Reacher's silent, pensive face. (Paramount declined to make the filmmakers available, saying it wanted to restrict publicity until closer to the movie's expected 2013 release date.)
PUBLISHING POWER: Lee Child's Reacher series has been published in 95 countries and 40 languages. Fifty million copies have been sold world-wide.
This left only one dilemma: casting Reacher. In 2000, Mr. Child told England's Birmingham Post (his hometown paper) that he liked Russell Crowe or former football player Howie Long for the role. "Definitely not Tom Cruise," he cracked. "He's too short." But he added, "what is most important is that it's a good movie."
Now Mr. Child has done an about-face. "What they ultimately did," he says, "was to decide, 'Let's just forget about finding an exact physical facsimile.' And that was liberating. It was an epiphany. Tom Cruise was always interested in playing Reacher, and he has the acting skills to pull it off."
Despite the author's endorsement, the outcry over Mr. Cruise's 5-foot-8 height continues. On the "Tom Cruise is not Jack Reacher" Facebook page, one commenter posted, "Once Cruise starts to pervade the Reacher character in your mind—it makes reading any of the books kind of weird." A number of so-called "Reacher Creatures" voiced a preference for actor Ray Stevenson ("Thor," "The Three Musketeers"). Mr. Cruise, who Paramount said wouldn't comment, told the movie magazine Empire last summer that he was "sensitive" to the demands of the role and proud that Mr. Child blessed him for it.
Says Mr. Child: "With another actor you might get 100% of the height but only 90% of Reacher. With Tom, you'll get 100% of Reacher with 90% of the height."
Not that the film version of "One Shot" will be a slavish re-creation of the novel. The book opens with a series of apparently random slayings in an anonymous outdoor plaza; the movie will begin with a sniper scanning a crowd at Pittsburgh's PNC Park (home of the Pirates) before focusing on a group walking down a nearby path. Moreover, the ethnicity of the book's villain, "the Zec," has been changed from Russian to German to accommodate the casting of director Werner Herzog in the part. The overall number of characters has also been reduced—a typical book-to-movie mandate.
But in the main, says Mr. Child, "One Shot" the film will be extremely faithful to the novel. "That's the upside of having waited. The Reacher series is now so strong and well-established it would have been completely perverse of them to have ignored the spine of the novel."
Observes Mr. Johnson, Reacher's initial Hollywood suitor: "This feels like Reacher's moment. In a franchise, what matters is not the universe but the main character. With some exceptions, the 'Star Wars' films being the most notable, it's about someone we find fascinating. Reacher is like Indiana Jones—you'd follow him anywhere."
Mr. Child says he's superstitious even talking about sequels, but if "One Shot" flies, "Killing Floor" would probably be the next Reacher feature. "61 Hours" was considered, but its snowy South Dakota setting would be tough to create or work in. "Bad Luck and Trouble" has been discussed as a possible No. 3.
Even if "One Shot"—true to its title—doesn't generate sequels, Mr. Child says he'll be OK. "If I can go to my grave feeling that I contributed one tiny thing to the world of film, I'll be a slightly happier man," he says. "It's a bit like if you get one at-bat in the major leagues. Then you're in 'The Baseball Encyclopedia' forever."

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Spy Thriller: 'An Instant Classic' Vanishes Amid Plagiarism Charges

Publisher Recalls Novel After Passages Discovered Mimicking Bond, James Bond

The biggest mystery in Q.R. Markham's new spy novel "Assassin of Secrets," it turns out, is the number of books the author borrowed from.
The book is a thriller about an elite CIA agent chasing a shadowy international group of assassins. But Tuesday, publisher Little, Brown & Co. recalled all 6,500 copies of the novel on the grounds that passages were "lifted" from other books. One sharp-eyed observer says he had identified at least 13 novels with similar material.
Little, Brown hasn't put a number on it, saying just that many passages in the book were "taken from a variety of classic and contemporary spy novels." But it is still early: the book was published Nov. 3 and similarities were only discovered since then.
One example, noted by spy novelist Jeremy Duns, is this passage from "Assassin of Secrets": "Then he saw her, behind the fountain, a small light, dim but growing to illuminate her as she stood naked but for a thin, translucent nightdress; her hair undone and falling to her waist—hair and the thin material moving and blowing as though caught in a silent zephyr." The same sentence appears precisely in "License Renewed," a James Bond novel by John Gardner, a search of Google Books shows.
As to the author, he could be a character in a mystery novel. "Assassin of Secrets" is credited to Q.R. Markham, which Little, Brown says is a pseudonym for the poet Quentin Rowan. Mr. Rowan's writing has appeared in The Paris Review and the compilation "Best American Poetry 1996." He is also a small investor in Brooklyn, N.Y., bookstore Spoonbill & Sugartown, where a spy-themed book party for "Assassin of Secrets" was held last Friday.
Mr. Rowan couldn't be reached for comment.

Pages From the Book

Compare Q.R. Markham's book with others.
On the first page of chapter one of "Assassin" is this paragraph: "The boxy, sprawling Munitions Building which sat near the Washington Monument and quietly served as I-Division's base of operations was a study in monotony. Endless corridors connecting to endless corridors. Walls a shade of green common to bad cheese and fruit. Forests of oak desks separated down the middle by rows of tall columns, like concrete redwoods, each with a number designating a particular work space."
In the book "Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency" by James Bamford is this: "In June 1930, the boxy, sprawling Munitions Building, near the Washington Monument, was a study in monotony. Endless corridors connecting to endless corridors. Walls a shade of green common to bad cheese and fruit. Forests of oak desks separated down the middle by rows of tall columns, like concrete redwoods, each with a number designating a particular workspace."
Of one character, "Assassin" says: "He knew the names and pseudonyms, the photographs, and the operative weakness of every agent controlled by Americans everywhere in the world."
While in "The Tears of Autumn," by Charles McCarry, it says: "He knew the names and pseudonyms, the photographs and the operative weakness of every agent controlled by Americans everywhere in the world."
In at least one instance, the similarities flow cleanly from one scene to the next.
On page 128, the book pivots from a nine-paragraph passage pulled largely from "The Prometheus Deception," by Robert Ludlum, and moves into a seven-paragraph passage, lifted almost entirely from "Nobody Lives Forever," another James Bond novel by Mr. Gardner. The only differences from the originals are proper names, some deletions and a few stray phrases.
The recall is a turnabout for the book, which received some excellent reviews. Publishers Weekly, for instance, observed that the author "strays far enough into James Bond territory to border on parody, but the fine writing keeps the enterprise firmly on track, and the obvious Ian Fleming influence just adds to the appeal."
"Our reviewer didn't pick up on anything suspicious," said Jim Milliot, co-editorial director of Publishers Weekly.
A reader commenting on an online forum devoted to James Bond noted the similarity in the material. Among those reading the comments was Mr. Duns, a writer of spy novels such as "Free Agent," who liked the book so much he was quoted on the cover of the U.K. edition calling it "an instant classic." The U.K. edition was due to be published on Nov. 10 but the status of that is now unclear.
Intrigued by the online comment about the similarity to James Bond novels, Mr. Duns, who lives in Sweden, did some research online. Plugging certain material into Google Books, Mr. Duns said that he was able to identify at least 13 novels from which material was similar for "Assassin of Secrets."
"Entire sequences are from other novels," said Mr. Duns. "He didn't even bother to rework anything. It must be the worst case of plagiarism I've ever seen. How did he think he'd get away with this? He fooled me, but others were bound to notice eventually—as they did."
A spokeswoman for Little, Brown, which is owned by Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group, said the publishing house learned of the plagiarism accusations Tuesday morning. The publishing house did some checking, concluded that passages had been "lifted" from earlier works and decided to recall the book. Those seeking a refund should return the title to the retailer from whom they bought it.
—Christopher S. Stewart and Sam Schechner contributed to this article.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Best Novels?

Cleaning out bookshelves, I found a copy of a book called "The 200 Best Novels in English Since 1950." Do you have an opinion of this?
—J.T.R., Gainesville, Fla.
Although the Modern Library's "200 Best Novels," edited by Colm Toibin and Carmen Callil, was published in 1999, and I'm always interested in "best of" book lists, I had never run across it until I received this question. It's no longer in print in the U.S., but I found it on a used-book website.
The purpose of any list of best books is to get people riled up, and the "200" did its job on me. Colm Toibin is an Irish writer whose fiction I have enjoyed and admired (a new collection of his short stories, "The Empty Family," will be published in the U.S. in January). I wasn't familiar with Ms. Callil; it turns out she was a founder of Virago Press, a British publisher of past and current books by and for women. She also set off a literary kerfuffle earlier this year when she resigned as one of the three judges of the International Man Booker prize because it was awarded to Philip Roth. "I heard the swish of emperor's clothes," she wrote later.
Everett Collection
"Sophie's Choice" by William Styron did not make the Modern Library's list of the "200 Best Novels."
It's a useful exercise for any reader to create his or her own best list if only because nobody else's list will be as incisive and brilliant as one's own. I did this several years ago (my 50 favorite novels of the past two decades), and it was surprisingly difficult—some books acquire a retroactive glow because they are associated with the time or place they were read. I revised the list a few years later, which was even more taxing because I had to knock off some earlier choices to make room for new ones. Sure, I could simply have increased the size of the list, but it's more intellectually challenging to stick with an arbitrary number.
In their introduction, Mr. Toibin and Ms. Callil acknowledge than any such list is "entirely personal." They say each of their choices had qualities of genius and excitement and gave the reader "a feeling that you would love to hand this book to someone else to read." Fair enough, although genius is often in the eye of the beholder. I was perturbed by their admission that neither cares for science fiction, fantasy or most historical novels. Most of all, I was troubled by their—or their publisher's—claim not that these were their favorite books but that they were the best. I love Carl Hiaasen's novels, but I don't believe his "Double Whammy," which appears on their list, is one of the best novels of the second half of the 20th century. It's nowhere near as good as "Sophie's Choice" by William Styron or "The New Confessions" by William Boyd, neither of which made the 200.
There was some overlap between my list and theirs, including some lesser-known novels like "Asylum" by Patrick McGrath and "The Winshaw Legacy" by Jonathan Coe (the British title is "What a Carve Up!"). We all liked Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove"; Pat Barker's "Regeneration" trilogy; and Rohinton Mistry's "A Fine Balance."
Then, inevitably, I started to quibble: "American Psycho" by Bret Easton Ellis? Definitely worth reading but a leaflet compared with Barry Unsworth's majestic "Sacred Hunger." I read Richard Ford's "The Sportswriter" (on their list) and have never been tempted to read another of his novels. Yet they made no room for Richard Russo's "The Risk Pool" or Kazuo Ishiguro's "Remains of the Day." In my opinion they chose the wrong Anne Tyler book ("Breathing Lessons" rather than "St. Maybe") and the wrong T.C. Boyle ("Tortilla Curtain" instead of "World's End"). But this likely qualifies as the "petty snobbery" Clifford Fadiman referred to in his introduction to "Good Books," a 1982 compendium edited by Steven Gilbar. Mr. Gilbar judges a book worth recommending (he mentions 9,000 titles) if it is "rewarding and pleasurable."
A few other book lists to entertain and infuriate you: "The Best Novels of the Nineties" by Linda Parent Lesher; "The Reading List" by David Rubel; "The Novel 100" by Daniel S. Burt; and "The List of Books" by Frederic Raphael and Kenneth McLeish.
Anthony Burgess, who edited "Ninety-Nine Novels: The Best in English Since 1939," was later asked about the furious reaction his choices had provoked. "That was the intention," he said. He added, "I think one has to do this kind of thing occasionally to make people wake up and start considering what really makes a good book."
—Send your questions about books and reading to Cynthia Crossen at Write to Cynthia Crossen at

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Is this the future of panctuation?

Punctuation arouses strong feelings. You have probably come across the pen-wielding vigilantes who skulk around defacing movie posters and amending handwritten signs that advertise "Rest Room's" or "Puppy's For Sale."
People fuss about punctuation not only because it clarifies meaning but also because its neglect appears to reflect wider social decline. And while the big social battles seem intractable, smaller battles over the use of the apostrophe feel like they can be won.
Yet the status of this and other cherished marks has long been precarious. The story of punctuation is one of comings and goings.
Early manuscripts had no punctuation at all, and those from the medieval period suggest haphazard innovation, with more than 30 different marks. The modern repertoire of punctuation emerged as printers in the 15th and 16th centuries strove to limit this miscellany.
Many punctuation marks are less venerable than we might imagine. Parentheses were first used around 1500, having been observed by English writers and printers in Italian books. Commas were not employed until the 16th century; in early printed books in English one sees a virgule (a slash like this /), which the comma replaced around 1520.
Other marks enjoyed briefer success. There used to be a clunky paragraph sign known as a pilcrow ; initially it was a C with a slash drawn through it. Similar in its effect was one of the oldest punctuation symbols, a horizontal ivy leaf called a hedera . It appears in 8th-century manuscripts, separating text from commentary, and after a period out of fashion it made an unexpected return in early printed books. Then it faded from view.
Another mark, now obscure, is the point d'ironie, sometimes known as a "snark." A back-to-front question mark, it was deployed by the 16th-century printer Henry Denham to signal rhetorical questions, and in 1899 the French poet Alcanter de Brahm suggested reviving it. More recently, the difficulty of detecting irony and sarcasm in electronic communication has prompted fresh calls for a revival of the point d'ironie. But the chances are slim that it will make a comeback.
In fact, Internet culture generally favors a lighter, more informal style of punctuation. True, emoticons have sprung up to convey nuances of mood and tone. Moreover, typing makes it easy to amplify punctuation: splattering 20 exclamation marks on a page, or using multiple question marks to signify theatrical incredulity. But, overall, punctuation is being renounced.
How might punctuation now evolve? The dystopian view is that it will vanish. I find this conceivable, though not likely. But we can see harbingers of such change: editorial austerity with commas, the newsroom preference for the period over all other marks, and the taste for visual crispness.
Though it is not unusual to hear calls for new punctuation, the marks proposed tend to cannibalize existing ones. In this vein, you may have encountered the interrobang , which signals excited disbelief.
Such marks are symptoms of an increasing tendency to punctuate for rhetorical rather than grammatical effect. Instead of presenting syntactical and logical relationships, punctuation reproduces the patterns of speech.
One manifestation of this is the advance of the dash. It imitates the jagged urgency of conversation, in which we change direction sharply and with punch. Dashes became common only in the 18th century. Their appeal is visual, their shape dramatic. That's what a modern, talky style of writing seems to demand.
By contrast, use of the semicolon is dwindling. Although colons were common as early as the 14th century, the semicolon was rare in English books before the 17th century. It has always been regarded as a useful hybrid—a separator that's also a connector—but it's a trinket beloved of people who want to show that they went to the right school.
More surprising is the eclipse of the hyphen. Traditionally, it has been used to link two halves of a compound noun and has suggested that a new coinage is on probation. But now the noun is split (fig leaf, hobby horse) or rendered without a hyphen (crybaby, bumblebee). It may be that the hyphen's last outpost will be in emoticons, where it plays a leading role.
Graphic designers, who favor an uncluttered aesthetic, dislike hyphens. They are also partly responsible for the disappearance of the apostrophe. This little squiggle first appeared in an English text in 1559. Its use has never been completely stable, and today confusion leads to the overcompensation that we see in those handwritten signs. The alternative is not to use apostrophes at all—an act of pragmatism easily mistaken for ignorance.
Defenders of the apostrophe insist that it minimizes ambiguity, but there are few situations in which its omission can lead to real misunderstanding.
The apostrophe is mainly a device for the eye, not the ear. And while I plan to keep handling apostrophes in accordance with the principles I was shown as a child, I am confident that they will either disappear or be reduced to little baubles of orthographic bling.
—Mr. Hitchings's latest book. "The Language Wars: A History of Proper English," will be published in November.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

DAY 16: Act 3: The Final cluster of scences

In the final days of the Novel, Lee realized he needed Farzad. But it's not going to be easy, since Lee harbors a Deep-South bias against Muslims, that Islam is not a "Religion of peace". Lee's convinced that "more of Mohammed Alta's spiritual brethren already infiltrated our shores."

Here's my 20 Novel-ending lines (as part of the assignment).
1. It has to end,  and it begins with him.
2. After all it was America, where they both belong.
3. A crowd is a company.
4. The map was full of tacks.
5. He lost some but win some.
6. America spread before him.
7. He knew science and people and what to believe.

DAY 15: Act Two: The Second Clusters of Scences

In this day, act two of the story is the realm of conflict and deepening the conflict. It's where bad things happen and confrontation. In act one, I introduced Lee as very religious person from the the south, yet very logical and scientifically minded. Also introduced in act one is Jonathan, the ex-navy seals that will become my villain. One person of interest is Farzad, the Iranian that came to the US to study.

In act two, the professor, Lee's adviser speculated that the leak of confidential technologies came out from his laboratory and his research. In here I described the wreckage of the plane. One unexpected problem arose when Lee realize the plotters knew something that Lee was not aware of.  Maybe the post doc Oleg knew and supplied it to the plotters, but how? Was it Farzad? Lee will try to connect the dots.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

DAY 14: Act One: The First Cluster of Scences.

By the end of act 1, you should answer

1. What's the "significant event" of the novel

2. What's the character's motivation? What is at stake for her?

3. Have you included enough background for him?

I already answered those questions in my draft, so I'll go straight to the assignment.


1. Come up with the 20 first lines of your novel. (There should be tension involved)

1. Lee showed no emotions after the professor told him that traces of LLM 106 were found in the wreckage of the airplane.
2. The smell of money was crisp, wafting in the air after Lee opened the duffel bag.
3. Lee closed the doors behind him, confused, trying to forget the pictures he saw on the television, images of a passenger plane, possibly Boeing 747, images of burned passengers, knowing that he has a part of the blood-boiling terrorist attack. 
4. Lee called his brother and told him "they got us, again", tears welling in his eyes. 
5. Lee slammed the phone, frustrated, after letting it ring for the 10th time.


Back in his lab, Lee made a little bit of work in front of the computer. He had smelled the oil from the lab before, but this time, he’s more aware of it. Like a car, the instrument he was working on periodically needed an oil change. By today’s standard, the machine looked like a primitive device. But what it was capable of detection will definitely change airport security. For now, it can only be operated by experts, but sooner or later, a trained operator can man the instrument behind the hustle and bustle of an airport security screening line.
Lee stared at his computer monitor. The proposal from the guy Lee assumed to be working with the counter terrorism task force was not easy to pass. But still, he has four choices.
The first choice was to do nothing at all. Second, was to call later on the number in a business card that was handed to him during the meeting. Third, was to call his adviser, and the fourth options was to call 911. He ruled out option number 1—part of the money was already in his position. It was past the point of no-return, past the red light or stop sign. Option number three and four will take him somewhere. But then again, the money is too grand to pass.
He opted for the second and conducted himself like someone who just found out that he was holding the winning lottery ticket. He wanted to shout. “So, this is how someone feels after winning a lottery” he whispered to himself. The combined smell of used oil and crisp money wafted through his nose as he fanned through the stack of bills, totaling ten thousand dollars, two inches of Benjamins bundled together neatly by blue rubber band. He can’t contained his heart racing.

Lee’s decision was about money—and more. Jonathan definitely complemented him and got his attention, an attention he didn’t get from his peers. Lee’s age is just north of 30. And he was angry to himself for being still in the stupid graduate school program. With his caliber, he could be a head of a company by now. But he sabotaged his life in every possible way. His contemporaries were working already big time. Former classmates in high school have stellar career trajectories. While his contemporaries were setting aside money for the money market and 401K, Lee’s mom still sends extra money in order for him to survive. Without mom, he’s only a phone call away from eviction. By many, he is a failure: He’s probably better to be shot in the back than living in a dingy apartment.
There’s no money in science, but the science he knew is worth a million dollars. With a less stellar career trajectory, and no reputation to loose, taking the money was the best option. No more bidding from eBay for the pistols he wanted. No more credit card debts. No more elementary students asking what’s inside the cabinet during a field trip to his lab. Weekends will be spent in firing range. Lee opened the crumpled pistol magazine sitting at the bottom of a pile of papers and books.
It was almost 2 AM when he left the lab. During his night shifts, when he decides to work at night alone at the lab, he drives his dented 1994 Honda Accord. Inside the old car, he cracked his knuckle and drummed his huge fingers on the small and worn steering wheel, and then wildly imagined what his new life would be.
However, he was specifically instructed to not flaunt his wealth. He’ll still drive his shit-box for now, but definitely, no more debts in his cards. For sure, weekends will be spent in firing range—to stay away from labeling tubes and pipetting liquids, in his shitty, windowless laboratory. Scientists deserve monetary rewards too, not only Nobel prize winners.