Tag Archives: Saraband

Artificial can be real

Sick days have their benefits; such as catching up with design work for the upcoming project for Uni, doing further research for dissertation and generally doing things in my own pace, not stressing out, relaxing as much as possible – with copious amounts of tea and excellent literature and a film or two tossed into the mix, for the heck of it. I went through all of the Harry Potter films (first time ever!) when my fever was too high to think anything more intellectual and all I want to do is scream episkey or whichever spell that would clear my sinuses. Then I saw the Wolf of Wall Street and honestly felt nearly sick to my stomach just from over-the-fricking-top carousal.



Then today I wanted something more stimulating. Interesting, if you will. And first I saw Frances Ha, although I have to admit it failed to grip me in any interesting way, despite how I usually love Noah Baumbach‘s style (The Squid and the Whale is one of my favorites, which I saw years ago at Dublin Film Festival whilst studying film at DBS). I ended up spending much of the film time with fidgeting about with InDesign and my project (and browsing Reddit once in a while…), not paying much attention to the film. Shame, I’m sure it’s really good. Just wasn’t for me, not today.

But then – I just finished watching Her. Spike Jonze’s (creator of greats such as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation) visualisation of a future where people and computers work side by side, comfortable with one another. Where the world hasn’t (yet) been overtaken by the master mind machinery and technology but rather, the computers are colleagues, friends and partners; like another human being, sitting in the next cubicle. Luckily, Jonze doesn’t go overboard with the futurism, and sticks to simple hints of advanced technology and bigger, edgier buildings counter-balanced by the rather 50’s styled costumes. Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), heart-broken and cocooned in sadness, but loved and lovable protagonist, ghostwrites letters; beautiful, personalised, heart-felt letters that a layman would not be skilled to write. That’s his job – dictating beautiful words to a computer that prints the letters in the individuals own handwriting. So far seems rather dull. I start fidgeting again. InDesign, now that I have learned how to use it (thank you, Laura), and want to make the best possible job.

Then Theodore installs a new program. A hyperintelligent operating system that is designed to make his life easier, to provide him assistance and to anticipate his needs. And now the smouldering voice of Scarlett Johansson fills the screen, in the role of Samantha. The emotionally void Theodore, surviving through the pieces of his failed marriage, Theodore and Samantha quickly build a rapport. A rapport than rather surprisingly develops one night into love-making, and the love-making turns into a relationship.

Now, loving a physical object is not that surprising – I definitely have a strong connection with mixed emotions with each my bookshelf, my film collection, my MacBook and my easel – but what is surprising, is how no one (par from the ex-wife, who accuses Theodore of always having wanted a relationship with a machine in order not to have to deal with the reality of physical woman) bats an eye on the relationship. Having an OS as one’s girlfriend seems to be a socially acceptable and even a normal thing, and Theodore is not alone in having such a relationship. Especially, with an OS like Samantha who has a personality with spunk and tenderness, keen eye and quick wit; and someone, who by her own words, is constantly developing learning. Ideal woman, right? Especially as Samantha is painfully aware of her lack of a physical body, and finds a woman who is willing to be the body for them. To be the physical representation of Samantha, so Theodore would have someone to touch, hold and make love to. Ultimately, though, that proved to be too strange for Theodore – the girl wasn’t Samantha.

A love story like no other. But in no means is it strange. That’s the strange part. Their relationship is like any other. With the first highs of being infatuated to the point of nauseating, spending all free time together, falling in love. Then the first cracks appear, and bit by bit the relationship slides towards the growing apart bit that is the end of many relationships.

This soulful, captivating retro-futuristic film had me from Samantha’s first introduction till the end glued to the screen. Admiring the beautiful cinematic storytelling of Jonze, a brave take on how technology is becoming more and more part of our daily life, and how ultimately we learn to accept that and not be afraid of it. Even accepting it as our partners in life. Artificial intelligence seems that much more real and palpable; and when (or if?) it becomes part of our reality, will we believe the OS/AI’s are just mimicking us, or are they actually learning and developing despite us? It is the constant balancing out and flipping over of what is expected, the general assumptions versus what is illusion and made up. An unconventional reality. The beauty of transition from technology to person, from friend to relationship and back to being alone shows Jonze’s command on the material, the inner investigation – a romantic film like any other, just one of the participants hasn’t got a body, but does that make it any less real?

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Christmas in the Oksman House

DSCN4612It is Christmas. This is one of those gushing, love of the written word and love the print book writings that I could not help but to write, after having been stuffed with food and warm drinks, after having opened the sweet presents, and as the tradition follows, having come home to myDSCN4644 mother’s house, where books are everywhere – by the last count 1750 counted for books cover the walls of mother’s Belgian home’s and Finland‘s summerhouse walls, books that I have admired and some that I have read, books that have been read to me and books I hope to one day add to my own slowly growing collection. Books everywhere.

Christmas is all about books for us as well; traditionally Santa brings us both bundles of books – this year I got to add Charlotte Brontë’s Villette in my collection, together with Shakespeare Unbound and a book on coffee and pasta! My mother found from her stocking a Booker price shortlister, another one for her Anne Donovan collection, the first of Simon’s Cat series as well a trip to memory lane with the orginal of an old favourite, one she had only ever read in translation before.

On top of adding to my collection I have a new “hobby” – I’m lucky to get to read slush for a publishing house, which keeps me busy on quiet moments (I do not fare well with nothing to do – keeping busy keeps happy). Having just finished one manuscript that I DSCN4592was happily surprised with, I have moved on to read a proof of another publishing house‘s upcoming book, and find myself immersed to the rich language and story. Reading for work at a holiday – mad some say. But I don’t find my work that worky, to be honest. I enjoy every bit of the reading, planning, imagining and then the tasks that will follow afterwards. My internships are a treat for me, a proof for me that I am in the right field. I love to read, I love the feel of a book in my hand, I love having grown up with the smell of books and having been read to aloud since I was a few weeks old. A tradition that still follows in our family, with my brother reading to his gorgeous girls.

Although, each of Stirling University‘s guests this semester and previously, as well as the professors, have all emphasised how love of books is not enough but publishing is a business, and should be treated as such. Sure. After Christmas. Now where’s my book…

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Set yourself apart from the norm – visiting speaker Sara Hunt of Saraband

Sara Hunt of Saraband gave an invigorating guest appearance at the Stirling Publishing course, the day after their Edinburgh launch of Lesley McDowell‘s Unfashioned Creatures. saraSaraband is a renowed independent publisher, known for its engaging, well-written non-fiction and attractive illustrated books, and also becoming renowned as an innovator in digital publishing, as well as the winner of Saltire Society Scottish Publisher of the Year Award.

Sara started off with emphassing the hanges that are happening in publishing. With the introduction of all imaginative, exciting cross-platforms and available transmedia, it is all the plurality and diversity of opportunities they provide that makes this the most exciting times for publishing. Theoretically, Sara says, those (read: us) entering the publishing business now are better off as we are by nature and education more media, digital developments and social platforms savvy than the generation of publishers before us. Almost anyone can start a business now, and there is a sense of optimism in the air. Publishing business is healthy in the overall revenue, though under the bonnets of individual publishing houses there are unseen challenges yet to be conquered.

Sara notes, with a tinge of despondency, how the value of the book has drastically eroded in recent years, for reasons that are as varied as books published. The consumer confidence is lacking and with the plurality of choices available make planning within publishing very challenging – to make the choice of what project to take on and back all the way is not always as obvious as it had been before. Another challenge faced by publishers – the conglomerates as well as independent – is how is the consumer going to find the new title you put out in the huge sea of published titles? People do not use the bookshops to browse, they use the internet and the web is never-ending source of all the information anyone could ever want, and investing in any one project above others is always a gamble. Though, Sara states, publishing decisions are always an informed gamble. Especially in the expanding culture of self-publishing it is the publisher whom is needed for discoverability. They have the know-how, the venues and the connections to bring out a title in the best possible way.

Speaking of discoverability and the changing market – apps. Sara is keen on the opportunities for marketing and visibility that an app brings to any title (though not all titles are app-able; if is to be made into an app, it has to have an element of interactivity). An app has to be more than a book converted into a phone compatible format. If this is done right, an app becomes that monetising part of the titles success. Yet, why apps? They are time consuming and expensive to produce, and monetising an app is even harder; the digital age generations has come to expect for everything online to be available for free or (thanks, Amazon) very, very cheaply. Sara explains how the answer is simply that there are more smart phone users out there now than there are readers.

Sara explains how digital marketing is in its prime now – social media, video trailers, audio clips, D2D and the mere scale of ebooks are the thriving force in modern marketing. Although, it is fallacy to think any of this would be easy; it is time consuming and expensive, and as all of it changes nearly over night, any campaign taken on becomes obsolete faster than you can type obsolete. Also, if there is a successful campaign of any sort, it will soon be adopted by others, making it a norm rather than an unique strategy – the window of opportunity here is minimal and the margin for error is massive. One definitely good way to get notices is to make sure you are not just following another trend, but to attempt to top the hot topics with something matchless. Saraband, for example, has just published A Capital Union by Victoria Hendry – and the review in the National Collective agrees taps into that “political atmosphere in Scotland today raising the stakes for any political work of art“. Scotland voting for independence in 2014, what better time would there be to bring out those titles that will discuss the impending referendum whether, like A Capital Union, from the historical point of view or then taking part in the current discussions. Knowledge is power – that is the gist of things; to think outside the box, and to think globally.

Sara ends her visit with a handful of helpful tips for the publishing wanna-/gonnabe’s, with the most important tip being to extend your skills. Learn more, read more and become an expert in something. Have something to show for those abilities you have obtained, be it InDesign or copy-editing, a keen sense of marketing or editorial knowledge. Show commitment and set yourself apart. Scavenge the vast amount of available information and use it to your advantage, and most importantly – find an outlet for your skills and opinions.

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