Archive for April, 2008

Chinese portraits

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

This is one of the coolest art projects I’ve seen in a long time. Chinese artists who are paid low wages to churn out copies of famous paintings were paid to produce self-portraits in the style they paint for a living. I’m not going to say anything else – go check them out.

Yes, you’re probably going to hell

Monday, April 14th, 2008

A couple of years ago I went on holiday to India, to my hometown of Ooty, into Kerala and up the west coast to Goa. At the time I was an inhouse editor at Lonely Planet, but I didn’t mention this to most people I met – mainly because people usually want to bitch at you about how LP’s Prague map had the train station in the wrong place or the bus to Beijing was 100 yuan more expensive than the China guide said it would be, and that’s really nothing to do with me. But before I took this trip to India, the author of LP’s Goa guide told me about a guesthouse in Goa that I just had to visit, and he told me to say hi to the owners from him.

Which I did. And when they found out I was a Lonely Planet editor, the owners were all over me for the rest of the stay – reduced rates, taking me out for an expensive meal, arranging guides for me, all things I really hadn’t asked for and felt uncomfortable with. But I was part of the magical world of Lonely Planet, which can make or break a business with a few lines in a guidebook. It wouldn’t have been hard for me to take advantage of them and pick up a few freebies. I didn’t.

But Thomas Kohnstamm says that’s what he had to do to survive as a Lonely Planet author. That, and deal drugs, make things up and plagiarize. I’ve been stewing about this for days – yes, I do think Lonely Planet should pay its authors more, no question, but man, this guy is a dick.

Why did he keep coming back for more if he thought he was unfairly paid? Why is he laughing about the fact that he screwed over all those readers? I had a much longer rant planned, but this guy puts it just as well. Go on, go read it.

I’ve pitched for writing work on LP’s India and Sri Lanka guides, to be researched later this year. Fingers crossed. But if the pay isn’t enough to cover my air fare, than I’ll turn it down, or try to renegotiate. I won’t do a crappy job and then expect people to applaud me as a gonzo travel writer.

(Oh, and while you’re here, go read the articles I wrote for

Update: He thinks he’s been misquoted and taken out of context: hmmmm. I’m inclined to have a small amount of sympathy, but, you know, I’m sure his book will sell well (much better than mine…) on the back of all the controversy.