Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the month “May, 2009”

Update on Launch: Oilspill dotcom

Friends and colleagues who are following this blog and the approaching launch of my novel Oilspill dotcom have asked for an update. This is, after all, the point of the blog.

The book is ready and out there. With my birthday approaching (June 12th) I have decided to make the announcement in the week leading up and will ask friends and colleagues to consider purchasing the book on amazon.com on June 12th. The idea is that I will be able to secure an amazon.com ranking as a birthday present.

My book launch will be the following week on Saturday, June 20th at 7.30pm. It will be hosted at The Bread Workshop (1398 University Avenue), a typical local Berkeley creation. In their own words:

The Bread Workshop creates sustainable food in a context that is community oriented. The community includes customers, neighborhood, schools, workers, vendors and producers. We are also dedicated to understanding sustainability; environmentally; socially; and economically. In doing this we are developing a cohesive logic in deciding what is sustainable or not so that we can maintain a truly sustainable production and integrate it into society.

I have a plan to avoid forcing my guests to listen to me and I am on the lookout for people with English accents (actually a Northerner, a Scotsman and some Londoners), if you fancy your acting talents. No Oscar nominations, but the appreciation of a struggling writer.

I would like to hold a launch party the following week in San Francisco and am looking for a venue. Any ideas?

For now, my time is being spent on press releases and designing promotional items (?), social networking, promoting my website (www.alonshalev.com) and, of course, my blog. I find this all to be exhilarating. It is where I have wanted to be.

But I am also itching to return to writing. There is another novel completed which, while I am very proud of it, is in dire need of some severe editing. And then there is a firm idea for the next novel and a desire to lose myself at the keyboard.

Good Writing,
Alon

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Interview: The Honorable Henry Wilkins QC – sitting judge of the Oilspill Libel trial.

Henry Wilkins QC: Let me make it clear before we even begin this interview. I will not answer any question specific to the ruling of the Oilspill Libel case, as it is now known. I am a judge, a Queen’s Councilor, and proud to serve at Her Majesty’s Royal Courts of Justice. I am somewhat suspicious of blogs, of what one can or cannot write, and I am anxious to read this book by Alon Shalev – Oilspill dotcom – and see how he portrays my role or the role of the law.

Interviewer: Let us begin with this aspect of the court case. Did you ever imagine when the two sides stood before you on that first day in court that the case would last for so many years and become the longest trial in British history? Or that it would attract such a high profile?

HW: Certainly not. The mere notion that two amateurs could take on a legal heavyweight as Jeffery Sithers and fathom their way through such a complex framework as the British libel laws is baffling. Of course, no one imagined that the website Oilspill.com would have such a profound effect or such worldwide appeal.

Int.: Did you ever feel that you wanted to help or advise the defendants because of this blatant inequality?

HW: Hmm, a tough question. With regard to the actual issues, I never felt a desire to support either side. I am most comfortable with the gown and wig that I wear and understand my role of objectivity, of ensuring that the law is respected.

But then I sat there for two years seeing two exhausted and frustrated young people, clearly committed to what they perceive as a better business and world model, but always outflanked, out resourced and, certainly out-briefed, not that such a word exists.

Then at the other table sat Jeffery Sithers, the legal heavyweight in Britain, with seven legal aides, all dressed up in their pin-striped suits, and always prepared for what was unfolding. Did you know that the company actually provided Jeffery with a young caddie, whose sole responsibility was wheeling all their documents in and out of the courtroom?

Int.: What was groundbreaking about this case?

HW: Hmmm, I think there are two significant aspects. Clearly, it exposed the need to update the British libel laws, which, I believe, have been left untouched for 500-600 years. Secondly, the whole aspect of the growing role of the Internet: that such a global informational conduit could be leveraged in such a fashion, well let me tell you, it was fascinating. And, between you and me, I have continued to learn and stay abreast of these technological advances.

Int.: How did you feel when you saw Professor McGoughen enter the fray?

HW: Ha! That old cad! I think that the only time I allowed my emotions to show was the first time I saw that old fox sitting up in the galley grinning. I never thought he could be lured out of his Oxford University sanctuary. He might seem eccentric to some, but let me tell you, he was a legal titan in his day. He pursued the multinationals and big businesses with a vengeance. I clashed with him many times over our careers and I hold him in the highest esteem. Still, I can’t say I was too happy with him when he pulled that stunt on me at the end of the trial.

Int.: Without getting into the court case itself: what lessons can we all learn from what transpired in your courthouse?

HW: Hmm. Firstly, that the law makes everyone accountable, no matter how big or wealthy they might be. It must fulfill this role. Secondly, that the Internet has an important role of keeping things in the open, so that we all make informed choices and have the information at our fingertips.

And one effect that this case had on me, personally. We only have one world and we are all responsible for what happens to it. It is a fragile world and getting frailer everyday.

Int.: Do I detect a value judgment of the court case?

HW: Good Heavens! No! Strike that from the record!

Guest Blogger: Matt Fielding

I am truly humbled. I knew Alon Shalev was writing this novel, Oilspill dotcom, and I knew he had aspirations to one day see it published, but I kind of had my doubts about the whole project.

Don’t get me wrong. The decision by Global Energy Development Corporation to sue my girlfriend, Suzie, and her colleague, Bill, was pretty stunning. That the British judicial system didn’t see fit to provide them with legal aid is still hard to believe; and, of course, the astonishing fact that this court case went on to become the longest trial in British history, is all worthy of being recorded.

What I find humbling is the fact that the author, Alon Shalev, saw fit to make me his protagonist. Certainly my role as the web designer is significant. The fact that Oilspill dotcom was probably the first ever interactive advocacy website, that it became a conduit for the flow of information on a global level, and that it enabled Suzie and Bill to act and respond at the necessary legal level without any formal training, is all amazing, especially to geeks such as myself.

But Shalev goes a step further. He is not content with the mechanics of the Information Highway and the work our Dream Team undertook. He seems fascinated with me personally and the process I went through.

Let me be honest: Before meeting Suzie, I couldn’t have told you the names of our government’s cabinet members. I knew more about Arsenal Football Club’s reserve side than our shadow cabinet and, being in opposition meant Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool, not the Conservatives, Liberals and the Green Party.

I’ll be perfectly clear (I have been asked this many times in interviews): I only got involved because I fancied Suzie (love came along, but much later) and wanted to date her. I can’t tell you at what point I became politically aware, at what point it ceased to be personal.

This reckless multinational corporation hurt many people I loved and respected. My friends became victims to a business model that cannot conceive of the pain and destruction left in its wake, the devastating effect these companies have on the individual who willingly or unwillingly gets in the way of their profit highway.

Today I remain involved: being with Suzie, how could I not? My consulting agency is selective about which clients we take on and we have an internship program where we not only mentor students, but also have them work, pro bono, on projects that advance social justice and sustainability.

Not bad for a self-absorbed yuppie who was only out to get laid, huh? Only when I read Oilspill dotcom did I ever have any idea about the transformation that I underwent. I guess for this I should thank Shalev for writing the novel and giving me the chance to become who I am.

And if my story can in any way help someone else make the changes necessary to help this embattled world of ours to be a better place, well, I am proud to have been the protagonist of Oilspill dotcom.

Matt Fielding
Oilspill dotcom.

May 1st I Had Hoped…

Oilspill dotcom can be read on many different levels. It is a story of one man’s transformation from self-absorbed yuppie to political activist, it is the coming of age of the Internet, it is romance, it is (hopefully) amusing, it is (ideally) an inspiration to people to act and make a difference.

I had originally hoped to launch on May 1st, a day that is traditionally politically charged. This hasn’t happened. My publisher suggested that I read through the proof, as things often read differently when they are in book form. This proved sound advice and I did find a few places that needed tweaking.

So it will probably be another month. My birthday is in June, so I am considering launching a Buy me an Amazon ranking for a birthday present… campaign.

Ariela (my wife) is helping me find a venue for the launch in Berkeley. I think we have found a good place and hope to close it in the next week.

It was an exciting moment holding a copy of my book (the proof), Oilspill dotcom, though not as strong as when I had first held a copy of A Gardener’s Tale. I’ve read some authors talk of the awe they felt when holding their book, comparing it to holding their baby for the first time. You wait so long to hold your newborn baby, imagine how s/he will look through the long months of pregnancy etc. etc.

Having held two newborn sons, I can’t quite relate to that comparison, that wondrous moment. But at least I wasn’t scared about dropping the book on the floor!

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