Welcome - The International Writers Magazine
- DECEMBER 2008
writing from across the globe.
My God - that Chinese curse 'May you live in interesting times' never
sounded so relevant.
Its quite a shock to read that the LA Times and the Chicago
Tribune are bust. (More correctly going into Chapter 11 (bankruptcy
protection) administration after the owner/CEO Sam Zell who also owns
KTLA-TV Channel 5 was unable to make interest payments on nearly $13 billion
of debt.) Sam Zell bought The Tribune using leverage from his property
empire and we all know what happens to empires
Although I have no affinity for The Trib, I do for the LA Times
over the years and even on-line (although to be honest there is no symbiotic
relationship with a digital version). I used to like getting into training
to lift the weighty Sunday edition and it took at least two days to get
through it all perfect for a procrastinating writer. It was a slimmer
version I read in Vancouver (a city without a decent Sunday paper).
But on reflection I guess it shouldnt be a shock at all. (Im
guessing the guy who owns these papers isnt a newspaperman, hes
a gambler, a property speculator who has come a cropper and this was just
like some people who own football teams, an investment, but not something
he loved or nurtured). Newspapers are something you love,
cant live without, but that too may be a last generational thing.
I am now in that vast wasteland my fifties and considered ancient. My
students look at me with horror when I ask them to read newspapers, especially
quality papers such as The Times, Guardian, Telegraph and of course
the LA Times. I dont exactly go down on my knees to encourage
this, but I try to show that it should be important to be informed in
detail. Getting your headlines from your iphone or USA Today is
a poor substitute, watching Fox News is the opposite of knowledge,
but worse, just being totally disinterested in news, events, politics,
environment, anything is nothing short of a disgrace and we are talking
about media students, creative writing students who wants JOBS on papers
and magazines when they graduate.
I try to point out, if you dont read them why should they hire you?
If you dont read them, they may not be there when you need them
and still they dont get it.
So I guess the LA Times and The Trib will suffer that fate of ever-downward
spiral as advertising revenues fall and content suffers, journalists fired.
Want to know something, Google it. No need to buy a paper. I realise now
that what I have been teaching for twenty years that everything
you know will be superseded, most everything you thought was fixed in
the universe will change or be disproved, everything you care about will
disappear, is coming more true by the day.
The New York Times is going to have to sell 58% of its headquarters
to stay in business according to The Times and thats pretty
serious. We are in danger of losing all the serious papers in the next
five years and although I will care, a whole generation behind me wont
miss them one bit, they dont even know they are there.
The recession could kill off anything thats valuable, venerable
and vulnerable. The web will eat it all.
Yes something new will emerge and some of it will be good, breathtaking
even, but just as Facebook proved that we have a generation of kids who
care nothing for privacy, I believe they unwittingly lay themselves open
to the menace of ID cards loaded with personal (but hidden information),
control by a extreme paranoid government (New Labour has set in motion
a law that will let them read all your emails and listen to all your phone
I happen to love newspapers, always have and my life will be diminished
by the lack of them in the future. You could say adapt, and I can see
the potential of the Sony Reader for example in storing 300 books at a
time, but its not paper or bendable or even chuck awayable
in disgust when you dont like it. (Delete just doesnt cut
I shall continue to read newspapers until they all go bust and even as
I write this I hear rumours that The Independent in the UK
may fold in early 09.
Joy to the World huh.
December 6th: Its
your duty to go out there and spend says our PM, and so says George Bush
and Obama, presidentelect. All well and good if you have just lost
your job or it feels under threat. Pretty much impossible if you work
in Woolworths (Going Going nearly gone) or countless other major
retailers, all grimly hanging on till Christmas. You wouldnt want
to be running a factory in China either as all the retailers go under
in Europe, American and the UK. Even Dubai is feeling the pinch!
So, for those of you still with electricity and a web connection I want
you to know I have just done my bit for the economy. Plonked my cash down
for a deposit on a new car.
ARE YOUR CRAZY? You say. They will be giving them away for free in the
New Year. Youll get your pick of GM vehicles for practically nothing;
add Chrysler and the rest after that.
I walked past the Dodge showroom as it happened last week. I just cant
believe how truly ugly their cars are right now, how so completely wrong
they are for the market. For the record I am keeping Fiat in business.
They offer me a new vehicle with roughly $7000 off the price, a five-year
guarantee, 65mpg, air con and good design. Please note PM that I expect
a knighthood for this self-sacrifice. Hell I don't even need a new car.
OK the power steering is a tad overdone and I couldnt feel the road
much when test driving, but its a bargain. I was a bit upset to
discover I had to pay for the paint however, and wait two-three weeks
for delivery but even so, its still a bargain and road tax is just
£35 and theres free parking in the Isle of Wight if I am ever
stupid enough to want to go there.
I note that it isnt just newspapers that will disappear. I am just
about to buy this Fiat and in The Times 9th Dec 2008 they say they
may not survive the recession and what then of the Five year
guarantee that comes with the car. Not the best selling pitch I feel.
I bought a car now because I have a feeling that in five years time buying
one may be illegal or the only choice will be electric and the government
will decide when I can drive it and where I can go and tax me by the mile.
We are rapidly moving towards the paranoid schizophrenic future envisioned
by Philip K Dick.
Now youre gnashing your teeth as you plan your Christmas beans on
toast with just one party hat between four. But look I have done my bit.
I have supported the economy. Well alright Ive supported the Italian
economy but I couldnt afford the car I really wanted
they cost just too much and I would hate to see it repossessed. I am less
likely to get attached to the Fiat.
Quite how long I will still have a job is interesting. I teach, the world
isnt running out of kids yet. So OK Ill never be rich
but then again, at least with luck I wont be standing outside the
school with a small box of possessions anytime soon like so many others
leaving offices, banks, factories. (Id need fifty boxes I have so
much in my office).
I have been wrong before of course and buying a new car might well be
a truly stupid thing to do. I remember predicting economic collapse way
back in January 1999 when Hackwriters started. We got nearly eight years
straight of economic boom instead. It may be that I am wrong again in
suspecting that by mid-2009 things will get better. But why should they?
After all, all these businesses closing surely must have some long-term
effect. Right? It will be hard to start them up again, find the premises,
generate a loyal staff, never mind customers. Credit is hard to find.
But just at the end of my road someone is building ten houses. Madness?
Or a clever strategy. In Portsmouth a whole slew of apartment blocks are
coming to completion. Bargains or dead weights?
In the USA thousands are flocking to foreclosure sales (vultures they
may be) in the hope that todays bargain can be flipped in a year
or two years time.
But here is a cautionary tale. It concerns my grandfather, long dead.
He never owned a house. He lived almost ninety years. He lived well. Owned
race horses and er lost lots of money on them. But aside from that and
er and the mistress
a good forty-six of them he lived in a grand
house with six bedrooms and elegant lawns. He owned cars from the day
they were first invented until he couldnt drive no more. His rent
went up just twice in all that time. He was offered the house for just
£1000 in 1950 but he said it was too expensive. His rent was less
than fifty pounds a month then and even in 1960 it was the same. From
1920 to 1939 it was just £20 a month! From 1940 to 1966 the most
it got to was fifty.
That same house went for £395,000 in the boom back in 2007 and is
back on the market at £200,000 right now. So who had the best of
What if we are in for a long flat depression. Owning might well be a bad
idea again. Foreclosure price or not. Sure I just blew money on a car,
but I know that will be worthless by the time the guarantee runs out.
I wont be shocked. However I have a sneaking suspicion that my house
will be too and that doesnt cheer me up at all.
'You have to be wrong, Sam,' you say. 'Population is rising, pressure
on spaces, the Government will force the banks to lend, house prices will
leap up, jobs will reappear, all will be well.'
Maybe. Maybe not.
But I saw that image of nearly quarter of million unsold Mercedes Benz
on the docks in the USA and if I had cash Id be shorting Germany
right now. Same for Japan. Sub-prime did for the world economy what Al
Qaeda have been trying to do for ten years. They can create mayhem in
India but confidence is all in a world economy.
Since I wrote this interest rates have come down further, car sales have
dropped off a cliff, houses sales also and yet, still the shops are crowded
with people buying 'stuff' for Christmas. Hope they know what they are
I buy a car today believing the five year guarantee will be
honoured, but what if Fiat, like possibly GM, Chrysler and Suzuki and
Nissan and arent there in a years time. The lack of a guarantee
will be the least of my problems. It will be hoping it doesnt get
burned out, it will be where do I buy bullet proof window shutters, which
is the safest food line-up
Mass unemployment will not be a pretty
thing and I really really hope that I am utterly wrong again. But
just because we have all been indoctrinated that ownership is good
what if it isnt? What if there is something beyond consumerism?
What if we could be fulfilled another way. (Way too radical I know
stick to cars Sam, go see a movie).
it, I was going to write something cheerful, it being December an'
Ah well, enjoy the festive season. Drop a bottle of something around
on your neighbour, they might be pleasantly surprised.
© Sam North -December 9th- Editor 2008
The UK economy is fast falling over the edge of the cliff by registering
a GDP contraction of 0.5% in the 3rd quarter with the expectations
of a fall of between 0.5% and 0.7% for the fourth quarter which
would put the UK officially in recession. With worse to come during
2009 and all of the governments golden rules now well and truly
busted following the bank bailouts, Gordon Brown has now thrown
caution to the wind so as to meet the primary goal at any cost to
win the next election for which the June 2010 deadline looms.
want to help Hackwriters keep going, buy my new book Mean
Tide. A young adult ghost
story set in Greenwhich, London.
All profits go into the magazine.
Summer 2008 - Mean Tide by
'Extraordinary novel about a child's psychic
Lulu Press - ISBN: 978-1-4092-0354-4
Review: 'An engaging, unusual and
completely engrossing read'
- Beverly Birch author of 'Rift'
to live with his spooky Grandma by the river in Greenwich, Oliver
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its throat cut on the beach, everything changes.
range 12-16 and adult
are you worried about your health? Read my book 'Another
. If you have the slightest worry about how to survive the coming flu
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the review from Calvin
Curse of the Nibelung - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
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Retail - 300 pages - Lulu Press USA
will never be the same again' - Sunday Express
Buy from your favourite on-line retailer
and Noble &
Diamonds - The Rush of '72
now from Amazon.com
terrific piece of storytelling' Historical Novel Society Review
Also printed in the UK and available from
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