Thursday, March 31, 2005

Everyone's blogging, but is anyone reading?

That's partially the question I pose in a Quill & Quire feature in the April issue (just out on newsstands or by subscription, but ironically not available online) in Better Marketing Through Blogs.

Specifically, I talked to a number of Canadian publishers to find out whether they're trying to place reviews and promote their books through blogs. The answer was, not really, not yet.

A handful of small press publishers are interested in the medium, but the larger houses have yet to pick up on the potential. That may change: as I point out, in the United States several bloggers - Maud Newton (, Moby Lives ( and The Elegant Variation ( - routinely receive review copies.

As well, a number of US bloggers have signed book contracts, including foodie Clotilde Dusoulier for her blog, Chocolate & Zucchini (

The two most prominent Canadian blogs, at least in terms of literature, appear to be Bookninja ( and Scribbling Woman (, the latter recently named as a top-10 blog by The Guardian of London.

One blog with a ton o' potential, if all goes according to plan (dependent upon the receipt of funding) is a new litblog British Columbia-based online magazine The Tyee ( hopes to launch in April.

Not everyone believes the future of blogging is bright. Rolf Maurer, the publisher of Vancouver's New Star Books, told me, "Salon is always going to be a hundred times more important than even the most influential blog in the world."

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Cheesy race not so soft

The Paris-Camembert bike race sounds like just the event for fat guys who love rich cheese - but that's not the case.

Not as well known as other European spring races, the event that takes place around Vimoutiers attracts some of bicycling's big names, including one Lance Armstrong.

Vimoutiers is indeed one of the French towns that produces Camembert - and Lance, it seems, must have been sampling the local product, because he finished 24th in the 200-kilometre race, losing to Laurent Brochard of Bouygues Telecom.

For full details, check the article in The International Herald Tribune by Samuel Apt:

Apt's piece is more than a blow-by-blow description of the race, but rather a short essay on why the small race has flourished in recent years when other little known cycling events haven't done as well.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Look out, Lance

A couple of years ago American cyclist Bobby Julich was burnt out racing for Team Telecom. Well, look out, Lance, because that was then.

Yesterday, Julich smoked everyone in the World Criterium International time trial to win the race, three seconds over CSC teammate Jens Voigt.

TSN/OLN did the right thing this weekend and broadcast the event in Canada. Keep it up, guys!

If you tuned in, you got to see an hour-and-a-half of coverage from the second day of the two-day event. The first part of the coverage consisted of highlights from the road race, with the cyclists peddling over nine - count 'em! nine! - mountain passes. Julich, Thomas Dekker (not Eric, the veteran racer, as commentator Paul Sherwin mistakenly referred to him in the final moments of the program) Ivan Basso and Jorg Jaksche broke away from the pack two kilometres into the race, maintaining the lead for the distance.

Jaksche, riding for Liberty Seguros-Wurth, dominated all the climbs, actually putting Basso - a star performer on climbs in previous Tour de Frances - in trouble. But the quartet stayed together and in the last 1,000 metres Basso made a move, which Jaksche countered. At which point, Julich counter-attacked in a brilliant tactical move.

Incredibly, Jaksche had the legs to go after Julich, dragging Rabobank's Dekker - who at 22 years of age is making quite a name for himself - along. At the line, Dekker outsprinted Jaksche and won the stage - likely quite a piss-off for Jaksche, who had done most of the work throughout.

That same afternoon all the riders streaked over the eight-kilometre time trial course. For awhile it looked as if team Gerolsteiner's Levi Leipheimer would win the time trial, but then Jens Voigt turned in another blazing performance similar to his ride in Paris-Nice.

Voigt probably had a couple of minutes to bask in his ride when Julich shattered his time and won the Criterium.

Now with this and Paris-Nice under his belt in three weeks, Julich is starting to look like a serious contender for a Tour de France win. It will be worth watching the Tour of Flanders next Sunday to see how Armstrong is riding.

Coverage, with excellent Graham Watson photos, is here:

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A thing of beauty

...if you're a hardcore mountain biker.

Check out the photos of built bikes over at We're talking about some serious eye candy here.

And then when you're done, hop over to and read the essay on Chris Chance, Fat Chance mountain bikes, and the continuing evolution of Salsa bikes.

Yes, it's ad copy, but informative, well-written and convincing.

Oh-oh. I think I've succumbed. Yes, I'll take one of each, please.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Competitive Cyclist, it's a Website where you can build your own dream bike online - and then, if you have the bucks, buy it. They've run a road bike site for a few years now, but the mountain bike site is new.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Two bottles of Linkwood later

...and Joannes van den Heuvel is suddenly on about George Bush, fish and the Axis of Evil.


Obviously, the single malt worked its magic.

Still not certain what I'm on about? Check out the insanity over at
Van den Heuvel just relaunched his single-malt blog two days ago and he's drinking like, fish, so that he has content to post.

If you've never been over to Malt Madness. Check it out. Over 500 pages devoted to the "water of life" may be found at the Website.

Van den Heuvel didn't have too much to say about the Linkwood, although he still has yet to weigh in with details on it. I've tried a bottling of the 12-year-old and didn't find it particularly special. If I could only take one dram to a desert island, Linkwood would not be it - although two bottles of it apparently leads to deranged thoughts about George Bush.

Monday, March 21, 2005

It's a dog's life

...especially over at Outdoor Life Network, where last week they promised Canadian viewers coverage of the spring classic bike race, Milan to San Remo. Instead, what did we get? A race alright: a dog race.

OLN has dogs on the brain. Dogs With Jobs, Ultimate Dogs, Top Dogs - that makes up the bulk of OLN's programming. In fact, the perfect OLN show would be a dog that looks like Lonely Planet's Ian Wright working out with a Bowflex.

There's nothing wrong with the dog programming. Our previous cat, Lupin, used to adore Dogs With Jobs. It gave her an overwhelming sense of moral superiority to watch the dogs go through their paces for their kibble while she lazed around on the living room rug.

What's anger-inducing, however, is for a couple of years now Americans have been treated to cycling coverage every Sunday while Canadians get such drivel as Surviorman.

Surviorman indeed! I'd like to stick him on a bike in the Tour de France peloton and see how long he'd last.

TSN, which carries OLN in Canada, doesn't seem interested in carrying much original programming, but rather is content to host the same five shows and infomercials over and over again. Previously, cycling fans have complained about the network's lack of bike racing coverage. It hasn't worked.

But if you want to try again, go to and email OLN and let them know you'd enjoy more cycling coverage behind the Tour de France.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Hell freezes over

Punk legend Richard Hell tears into interviewer Adam Travis over at Bookslut ( Travis interviewed Hell for the literary blog, and then foolishly sent the singer-now-poet a transcription.

To put it mildly, Hell was less than impressed.

"You're a callow kid with a job reading slush for a pretentious, irrelevant 'poetry' magazine,'' Hell writes in one of his gentler annotations to the interview.

Hell rose to fame in the mid-1970s when his band the Voidoids had a hit with Love Hurts (not to be confused with the Nazareth song of the same title). These days Hell writes poetry and takes exception to writers who don't immediately recognize his talent.

At any rate, Bookslut is onto something: they should run their interview transcripts past all their subjects, and then gather the outraged responses and publish them. The blog could become like the Paris Review with teeth.

Meanwhile, over at The Elegant Variation, (, Mark Sarvas is "into heavy road bike buying mode." We approve.

That's a pretty - and pricey - Pinarello bike frame he's thinking about. I hope he can ride the darn thing.

Previously in his blog, Sarvas has tried to impress with the macho spinning workouts he participates in, complaining about sore muscles, etc.

Hey, Mark, why don't you come over to PEI and check out one of our spin classes? They're so tough that people bleed. No kidding. Last week, during the class, one woman suddenly developed a nose bleed.

Maybe someone needs to organize a blogger's bike race....

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Everyone's an editor

...especially over at

That's where author, Stanford University professor and well-known member of the digerati, Lawrence Lessig, is posting the entire text of his 1999 book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace.

But Lessig's not just looking for readers, but editors, in the project he is billing as a "book by Lawrence Lessig and you."

Lessig says the project is the first online, collaborative book update. The work is being done on a wiki, a Website that lets readers edit text and add comments.

Just don't expect a credit: Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace by Lawrence Lessig, Joe Smith, and 10,000 Others, because it isn't going to happen. The new version, to be published in 2005 by Basic Books, will be credited to the Code V.2 Wiki, while royalties will go to the Creative Commons (, a non-profit copyright collective.

Overall, it sounds like a writer's worst nightmare: not one, not two, but thousands of editors having a go at your work. How scary is that?

Monday, March 14, 2005

Nicely done

Team CSC rider Bobby Julich became the first American to win the spring classic Paris-Nice race yesterday, neatly cruising into the port city without a mishap - or so it looked on OLN's coverage last night. However, VeloNews is reporting that close to the finish, the veteran rider very nearly hooked his handlebars with a photographer's motorbike. The story is here:

During yesterday's race, Liberty Seguros rider Alberto Contador broke away with a small group early on, holding off the peloton through the many climbs. As they began the final five-kilometre climb of the day before circling back into Nice for the finish, Contador stomped on the pedals and left the others behind.

As he sped down the twisting descent toward the finish, Contador had a heart-stopping moment when one of his cleats appeared to suddenly come free from the pedal. At high-speed, he veered toward the cliff face and looked poised to go over the bars in what would have been a serious crash when he miraculously recovered and continued on to the city.

In the main pack, some 45 seconds behind, Alexander Vinokourav of T-Mobile once again showed his climbing prowess, bursting free of the pack and catching Contador on the last downhill of the day. But coming into the finish line, it was clear that Contador had nothing left. A clearly frustrated Vinokourav towed the rider toward the line, but with only 100 metres to go, the pack swallowed them up and Alejandro Valverde riding for Illes Balears took the sprint and the stage.

During the post-race interview, Julich - who lives and trains in Nice alongside Vinokourav - told OLN that he actually disobeyed his race director's orders and sat back a bit, hoping to give Vinokourav the stage win.

So where was Lance Armstrong in all this? The six-time Tour de France winner begged off in Stage Four with a sore throat and high-tailed it back to Spain.

Interestingly enough, this is the first year the pro teams are required to ride all of the spring classics as part of the newly formed Pro Tour. Armstrong has largely avoided those races in the past, choosing to train for the Tour. This year it could mean that he either rides a number of uninspiring spring classics and then wins the Tour or tries to capture some of the early races, but risks losing the coveted seventh win at the Tour. Right now, it appears he's employing the former strategy.

Certainly, new Armstrong sponsor Discovery Channel couldn't have been too thrilled with their star rider's lackluster performance in the first major race of the year.

Friday, March 11, 2005

What $250,000 gets you

Not too darn much, apparently.

I contributed two pieces to the cover story package in the current issue of Harrowsmith Country Life (available on newsstand only), which is titled What can you buy for $350,000?

Originally, the idea was to look at what $250,000 would fetch a home-buyer in select rural areas of Canada. However, the price point went up another hundred grand after we discovered a quarter-million really didn't get you much for your money in certain locales.

I wrote about the real estate markets in Canmore, Alberta and Eastern Kings County, Prince Edward Island. In the former, $250,000 would get you a view of the mountains - from a cozy double-wide trailer. Not exactly the sort of home Harrowsmith readers are keen on reading about.

Ultimately, the cheapest Canmore place we ran came in at $279,900, a 1,237 sq. ft. condo just off the highway. Closer to average was the $829,000 home in the Eagle Terrace subdivision, "probably not everyone's idea of country living."

Pricey? Caledon Hills in Ontario topped it with a $895,000 place. But that was for a "vintage home on a rolling acreage."

And I bet they're still on Internet dial-up out there. . . .

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A booze post - at last!

Well, sort of....

You may have begun wondering why, exactly, this blog is called Books, Booze and Bikes when so far only literature and bicycles have figured in the content. So by popular demand I'm introducing some booze content today.

Here's the item:

On Monday's stage of the Paris-Nice spring classic, Lance Armstrong ended the stage 44th, hardly a stellar showing.

I can practically hear the eyes rolling in your heads. What does that have to do with booze, you're wondering? It's bloody cycling again!

Ah, but here's the kicker: in the International Herald Tribune( ) Armstrong told the great cycling reporter Samuel Apt (whom many readers know from his long-time Tour "day" France - to use OLN commentator Bob Roll's pronunciation - coverage in the New York Times), "Don't say I spent the winter partying, because I didn't."

Apt reports, however, that Armstrong did attend the Grammys and an Academy Awards party with girl friend Sheryl Crow ("All I want to do/is have some fun.").

There. That's sort of a booze item. Right?

Monday, March 07, 2005

Paris ( to Nice) in the springtime

Ah, the freezing temperatures, the slick cobblestones, the driving rain, the peloton pile-ups - this must have been the thinking when it comes to waxing rhapsodic over Paris (to Nice) in the spring.

The spring classic kicked off yesterday with a four-kilometre prologue and, naturally, the big news was that Lance Armstrong chose it as his debut for the 2005 race season.

But fans hoping for a blistering performance from the six-time winner of the Tour de France (or as former road racer and OLN commentator Bob Roll kept insistently calling it, the Tour day France) were in for a disappointment.

Looking slightly pudgy (but that could have been the way his jersey bagged out in front), Lance leisurely turned the pedals to come in 140th. But then, as he told the press after, he was just there to race a bit and get prepped for his seventh Tour win. Lance, who spends most of his time between Spain and Austin, TX training, complained about the cold and said within seconds of leaving the starting gate his fingers were numb.

In-Form rider Jens Voigt won the prologue in five minutes and 15 seconds.

Coverage may be found here:

Perhaps what was most amazing about all this was Canadian viewers were actually able to see the prologue televised. Normally, OLN only feeds the cycling to its American audience. It's not clear from the TSN/ schedule whether we'll continue to receive Cyclysm Sundays, as the program is called, here in Canada. But let's hope. The American schedule for the races is here:

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Reading: a bit of this, a bit of that

Here's the current reading list. Maybe you'll find something that interests you.

1. Chris Carmichael's Food for Fitness: Eat Right to Train Right. Okay, okay, it's bike-related and not just a pure book thing. Literary merit? Well, figure that out for yourself.

Informational? Not half-bad actually. Lance Armstrong's coach, aided by a couple of nutritionists, gives you the skinny on proper eating. Most of it is common sense - like don't lard on the fat and take in plenty of carbohydrates. The book includes plenty of solid scientific rationale and a few ho-hum recipes.

The only thing I didn't enjoy is Carmichael kept flogging his Carmichael Training Systems program throughout the book - and all things Powerbar since he helped them develop some items as well. Still, he helped Lance eat his way to six Tour wins.

All of which leads me to what I kept telling people last summer at the height of the Atkins Diet frenzy: that they should forget Atkins and try the Tour de France diet. What's that, you wonder? It's like this: You ride 200 kilometres a day with at least two category one climbs and a major sprint at the finish and then you get to eat as much as you want of any damn thing.

2. Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. Another food book, you're saying? What's wrong with this guy? Doesn't he read any real books?

My friends, Bourdain - for those of you who haven't read him - is the Hunter S. Thompson of the kitchen set, a crazed, uncontrollable fiend who worships the organs of small animals. (You think I'm kidding? Read the book). Bourdain made his reputation on Kitchen Confidential, an expose of restaurant culture, but his real masterpiece is A Cook's Tour, in which he wheedled a round-the-world trip from his publisher so that he could eat exotic foods in far-off places. The man is a genius.

Don't take my word for it. Check out Les Halles Cookbook, named for the bistro in New York for which he is the executive chef. For starters, this is the first really serious guy's cookbook I've ever read (well, okay, maybe second along with Jim Harrison's output). Forget all the others about grilling, etc. Bourdain speaks to the inner guy.

Check out this excerpt. It makes me weep with joy:

"This book aims to be a field manual to strategy and tactics, which means that in the following pages, I will take you by the hand and walk you through the process in much the same way - and in the same caring, sensitive, diplomatic tone - as I would a new recruit in my restaurant kitchen.

"Which means that if, from time to time, I refer to you as a 'useless screwhead,' I will expect you to understand and to not take it personally.''

Among other things, Bourdain will teach you how to make Daube Provencale, a tasty looking lamb stew; Boeuf Bourguignon; Poulet Roti (Bourdain helpfully adds: "That's roast chicken, numbnuts! And if you can't properly roast a damn chicken then you are one helpless, hopeless, sorry-ass bivalve in an apron."); and all manner of tripe, kidney and blood sausage dishes (thought I was kidding about the small animal organs, didja?).

A true classic.

3. A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews. At last! you say. A real piece of literature. And, I for one, would not disagree.

Toews' award-winning novel (a Giller Prize this year) is acidly funny, sort of Catcher in the Rye from a female perspective crossed with Rudy Weibe, if you can believe it. This Winnipeg-based writer whips off one zinger after another. Obviously, she missed her true calling as a Comedy Network writer. Pa dum! But seriously folks, she is a wonderful writer with an extremely strong sense of voice and setting.

4. The Fabulist by Stephen Glass. A lying bastard writes his memoir in fictional form. Glass, of course, is infamous as The New Republic writer who fabricated numerous stories and was subsequently fired. Here, he rewrites his life, taking us through all the shame of misleading everyone who knew him, but ultimately arriving at redemption. That's the great thing about novels: you get to write yourself a happy ending (Someone should tell Avril Lavigne).

The workmanship of the writing along with the gross remorsefulness of the tone make for dreary reading. Glass spends lots of time fantasizing a new life into being (well, hey! what else to you do after you've been dismissed for making things up) and even creates a sparkling, special girlfriend for himself.

The Fabulist isn't so fab, after all. Maybe Jason Blair (the NY Times plagiarist) has a better book in him.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Climb every mountain

A few days ago a friend of mine, Charlie Beristain, emailed me a link to a Website that is a must-view for anyone interested in hill climbing on their bikes, cycle training, graphs, charts and other obessive-related material.

Doug's Northeast Cycling Site ( ) is a wonder of tables showing such things as power and weight to time ratios for hill-climbing cyclists. It comes as no surprise to learn that Doug works for an aerospace firm, where - I'm guessing - he might be an engineer.

Charlie is worth mentioning as well, having already achieved 15 minutes of fame for not only getting noticed in Bicycling Magazine, but for the reason why the publication saw fit to print his name in the first place: At the World's Masters Mountain Bike race in Quebec in 2003, Charlie placed second overall in the 60-Plus category.

Having ridden with Charlie when he came up from his home in Northeastern U.S. last fall, I can attest to the fact that he is not only fit, but a great bike handler as well. Charlie also runs a great bike-related Website over at: