The Garret Tree
Saturday, August 25, 2007
  River Kwai Story podcast on Radio Singapore International

In late August, I appeared on a history program on Radio Singapore International called Retrospect to discuss with host Mubin Sadat the history of the Burma Thailand Railway and the new information that will appear in the book A River Kwai Story The Sonkrai Tribunal when it appears in April 2008.

You can listen to the podcast here

Note: If the podcast doesn't download or play automatically, in Windows you can right click, save target as (Explorer) or save link as (Firefox) and then play from your hard drive with any player.

A River Kwai Story The Sonkrai Tribunal main page (includes online ordering information)

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007
  Update: Blogging guidelines "early draft"
As reported by Tod Maffin at Inside the CBC:

Blogging guideline document was only a proposed early draft

The best two outside links to come from this issue are

1) Chris MacDonald's exploration of the issue in his Business Ethics Blog, Bloggers Beware.

2)Robert Smith at NPR (US National Public Radio) Blogging May be Hazardous to My Career

Both were written before the clarification issued by CBC.

So let's see how the issue develops over the coming months.
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Sunday, August 05, 2007
  Hemingway's lost "blog"
This week the CBC issued a set of "guidelines" for employees who blog. The guidelines were immediately controversial and the debate on Tod Maffin's Inside the CBC is still raging at this writing (70 comments as of Aug 5 at 1032 ET). My colleague Paul Gorbould has posted a thoughtful response to the controversy.

Which brings me to Ernest Hemingway's lost blog (or what would have been a blog if there had been a computerized world when "Papa" was writing.)

Most people know about Hemingway's famous lost short stories. In 1923, Hemingway's first wife, Hadley Richardson, was travelling from Paris to Lausanne to meet Hemingway and as she was waiting for a train at the Gare de Lyon, the suitcase with the stories was stolen from the station platform and so the stories were lost to literature and history. (Make a backup Ernest! Use carbon paper!)

The other lost work by Ernest Hemingway is less well known, his resignation letter from the Toronto Star. According to a number of Star histories, when Hemingway got fed up and decided to quit, he wrote a eloquent denunciation of The Star and its management on a long piece of paper taken from a teletype roll. (anticipating Jack Kerouac's method in On the Road by 30 years).

Imagine what it would have been like then if Hemingway had blogged? Now since it was a resignation letter, it wouldn't have broken any employee's blog restrictions, but that work, either on a blog or on teletype paper, would have likely have been the one the great documents in the history of journalism.

Hemingway apparently pinned the long sheet of teletype paper to a Star bulletin board and it remained there for months, and the staff kept reading it, loving it (one wonders what Star management thought) until one day it fall to the floor and was was swept up by the cleaning staff and ended up in a Toronto landfill.

I have had this website since December 26, 1999 (the date I registered It was created to promote my books and to put up the course outline and hints for my students when I taught at Ryerson University of School of Journalism. At that time, a few CBC employees had personal sites and when I started the site there was no objection, in fact I was told it was a great idea.

I posted my first blog entry on October 18, 2004, to track and promote the book I was writing at the time now called A River Kwai Story. Again, at the time, I was told it was a great idea.

Except of the time during the lockout, I have kept my blog tightly focused on my book project and on my photography along with occasional personal stuff.

But what do these guidelines say? That I can't talk about the brands of cameras I use, developments in the world of digital photography or the quality of my photo quality ink jet printer? As I do here and here and here and here. Is that endorsing (or not) a product?

A River Kwai Story is based on my academic research for my Master's Degree and it's about the history of war crimes and military tribunals. It could be, in some circles, be considered controversial. Does that mean CBC employees can't write controversial books--even if the work has done completely on their own time and has nothing to do what happens inside the corporation? (And for the record, stories based on my research have been offered to CBC News from time to time)

Which brings me back to Ernest Hemingway. If he was writing today, Hemingway would have to have a blog to promote his books, it is an absolute necessity in the 21st Century. Hemingway would have had to have a blog whether he worked for The Star or was an independent freelancer. I am sure Hemingway would use a blog as an outlet for his talents and ideas that might now, in the modern world of beancounting publishing, have no other outlet, even if the name of the author is Ernest Hemingway.

The problem is that most of the CBC employees who openly blog under their own names have been known from before the lockout. A year ago some of us issued the CBC Blogging Manifesto and signed our names to that document. It would have been easy to call a meeting and discuss these guidelines with the bloggers. I wasn't consulted and as far as I know, no other blogger was either.

Paul has quoted what the late CBC Ombudsman David Bazay said about blogging

If public broadcasters are to become bloggers I would hope that they would exercise their freedom of speech exactly the way they are compelled to exercise it within the CBC: with accuracy, fairness and integrity, with the responsible speech of CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices that has helped make this place one of the great places in the world where the citizen can be well informed.

I thought at the time that Bazay was right on and I have followed those guidelines.
If any corporation anywhere, respects its employees, that is all that is needed.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007
  Edits complete, publication postponed
I finished the last edits of A River Kwai Story The Sonkrai Tribunal on Sunday, July 29, 2007.

At the same time, the Australian publisher, Allen and Unwin, has postponed publication a second time, so instead of 2007, it is now scheduled for late April 2008, to coincide with Australia's ANZAC Day. The book had been scheduled for July 6, 2007, but there were delays in the editing process.

It appears from what I am told, that unlike in North America, where the major selling period for books is around Christmas, publishers Down Under consider Christmas to be one of the worst times to sell books, except, as I was told "children's books and large novels." I am guessing it is maybe the weather, here everyone bundles up and reads through the winter, in Australia, I guess, they all go to the beach.

Also the book will not be available on Amazon, or any other online retailer. I had hoped that I could make up for the total lack of interest by North American and British publishers with sales on the major online retailers. That apparently is not possible, since Allan and Unwin only purchased the Australia and New Zealand rights, they can't put it up on Amazon.

Now, after I get the galleys (early September I hope) perhaps my agent can kindle some interest somewhere.

One online bookstore in Queensland is advertising the book. So you can order it from QBD The Bookshop, an online bookseller in Australia, which does ship internationally. Prices are in Australian dollars.

Link to order A River Kwai Story from QBD The Bookshop

So what are my plans? This project has taken more years than I ever expected. It was in July 2000 that I was admitted to the Interdisciplinary Masters Program at York University and Osgoode Hall Law School. I defended my thesis in September 2003 and graduated in November 2003. It took me six weeks, part time, to write the thesis. But it took more than two and a half years to write the book. It took longer than I expected to turn the academic argument into a narrative. And then, as mentioned earlier in this blog, publication was postponed last year.

So I while I have a few other ideas on my hard drive, I am not going to write a word, outside of work, until the book comes out. It's time to catch up on things I have put on hold for the past seven years. Let's hope that the next seven will be good ones.

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I write in a renovated garret in my house in a part of Toronto, Canada, called "The Pocket." The blog is named for a tree can be seen outside the window of my garret.

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Name: Robin Rowland
Location: Toronto, Canada

I'm a Toronto-based writer, photographer, web producer, television producer, journalist and teacher. I'm author of five books, the latest A River Kwai Story: The Sonkrai Tribunal. The Garret tree is my blog on the writing life including my progress on my next book (which will be announced here some time in the coming months) My second blog, the Wampo, Nieke and Sonkrai follows the slow progress of my freelanced model railway based on my research on the Burma Thailand Railway (which is why it isn't updated that often) The Creative Guide to Research, based on my book published in 2000 is basically an archive of news, information and hints for both the online and the shoe-leather" researcher. (Google has taken over everything but there are still good hints there)

New blogs as of Sept. 2009
Robin's Weir
Tao of News

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