Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Books Read in 2009: "Wild Wives" by Charles Willeford


The Kindle is proving to be both a plus and minus when it comes to reading old, fun, pulpy novels like this one. On the one hand, you don't get the great covers anymore, which is half the fun of reading these things. Sometimes the cover suggests a better story than the one that's in print inside of it. (Although this one was pretty good on its own.) On the other hand, you don't get the covers anymore, which means you don't have to endure the strange looks from people when you're reading something with a man punching a woman on the cover, or a woman in an extensive state of undress. ("Oh, hi kid. Let me just move my hand to cover up that part that you shouldn't be looking at...")

The overall experience is a great plus, though, since finding most of these titles in paper anywhere would be difficult.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Books Read in 2009: "Gigolo" by Edna Ferber


I don't remember exactly how I stumbled across this, but I did, and it was a total delight. I don't think I've read anything else by Ferber before this, but I definitely will in the future.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Books Read in 2009: "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac

Google Books

This book group and I? We just can't seem to get together. I finished the book in time this month, or so I thought. The next meeting was scheduled for today, August 9, according to the website when I RSVP'd. I went to double check the start time yesterday afternoon, and discovered that it had been "corrected" to August 8. It had started 2 hours earlier.


Next month? Looks like I will be traveling that weekend.

Guess I can read whatever the hell I want to as I wait to discover the October selection and try again.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nicholson Baker on the Kindle

A number of people have ben linking to this piece by novelist Nicholson Baker in The New Yorker about the Kindle, describing it as a take down.

While it is a rather clear-eyed view of the Kindle and of ebooks in general, one of the things you have to consider is the source. Baker wrote a book a few years back called "Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper." In it, he chronicled various anti-paper initiatives undertaken by American libraries in order to free up space and reduce large, bulky, underutilized collections, while documenting the shortcomings of each of the technological solutions, such as replacing card catalogs with computer databases and scanning books and newspapers to microfilm instead of keeping rarely referenced paper copies. (The title itself comes from a test librarians were to perform to determine whether a book was too fragile to keep. The corner of a page was to be folded over once, then folded back on itself -- the double fold -- and if the acidic paper broke off, the book was a candidate for destructive scanning. This meant that the spine would be guillotined off, the pages hastily scanned to microfilm, and the paper pages thrown away.)

So for Baker to enter into his Kindle experiment with an open mind is admirable. And it is surprising (to me, anyway) that he ultimately preferred the experience of reading ebooks on his iPhone rather than the Kindle itself, deciding that the Kindle tried to mimic the experience of ink on paper and came up short, while the iPhone/iPod touch did it's own thing, which made it more immersive.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Books Read in 2009: "The Moviegoer" by Walker Percy

Google Books

I read this once before, years ago, and remember being underwhelmed because the title seemed to promise something about movies. Having been a film major and still entertaining fantasies about breaking into the industry, I took this quite literally. I read it, said "OK, I guess it's not," and moved on.

I re-read it because it was the selection for a book group I was thinking of joining. I didn't finish it in time for the meeting, but it was definitely well worthwhile. Although I am kicking myself now that I have finished it, because I would love a good discussion with someone about it.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Books Read in 2009: "Technopoly" by Neil Postman


Oh, my, but this is a maddening book.

There's just enough insight to make one continue reading, but so many poor and inconsistent arguments, and bad examples to illustrate them, that I wanted to throw the book across the room on several occasions.

Frankly, it would have worked better as a collection of essays rather than this jumbled mess that he tried to shove under a pathetic umbrella of a unifying theory.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

More on Kindle Pricing

The George Pelecanos book I just posted below is one of those things that I normally wouldn't buy, but was on sale for something like $3 a few weeks back. Right now it's going for $6, and the mass market paperback is $7.50 at Amazon. That makes sense. I know that there's a lot of hue and cry about new books for the Kindle being priced at $9.99, with readers saying that anything more is robbery, and publishers saying that there's no way to make money at that price. Frankly, I don't care. Charge a premium for new titles, charge as much as a new hardcover would cost, just make sure that the price drops as time passes and interest wanes. There's no reason why a 2-3 year old novel that has long since been released in paperback should still have an electronic version pegged to the new hardcover price. $6-7 is good, $3-4 would be better.

My favorite example of this is the book "Print is Dead," by Jeff Gomez. As of today, the hardcover list price is $24.95, discounted at Amazon to $18.96. The Kindle list price is also $24.95, discounted to $14.97. The paperback list price is $16.95, discounted to $11.53. Print may be dead, but it's still cheaper than bits, apparently.

My point is that these back titles are usually found money. Pelecanos is in a different league, but most titles, if they're going to become big runaway hits, have become runaway hits by the mass market paperback stage.

Books Read in 2009: "The Night Gardener" by George Pelecanos

Read it on the Kindle.

Happy Independence Day!

Enjoy the holiday with some clips from the greatest musical ever written about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, 1776.

(Seriously, I love this film. I don't know why, when you consider that it was made in 1972, and this kind of musical was already a relic. But love it I do, and I don't care who knows it. Mock me all you want, but try to stop singing "Sit Down, John," underneath your breath all day, or to keep from dancing (" the right, ever to the right, never to the left, forever to the right...") to "Cool, Cool, Considerate Men", or to just get the sheer hokiness of "The Lees of Old Virginia" out of your head.)

"Sit Down, John"

"Piddle, Twiddle, and Resolve"

"The Lees of Old Virginia"

"But, Mr. Adams"

"He Plays the Violin"

"Cool, Cool, Considerate Men"

"Momma Look Sharp"

"The Egg"

"Molasses to Rum"

"Is Anybody There?"

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Kindle Pricing Shenanigans

After reading "Ur," I'm contemplating some other Stephen King books. A lot of people seemed to read him at a formative age, and I think I missed out. And while I've tried some of his stuff in the past and been underwhelmed, the Kindle seemed like a good way to dip a toe in from time to time without too much of a commitment.

How about "The Shining"?

Kindle price? $19.25! Marked down from the digital list price of $35.

Mass market paperback price? $7.99. That's without any discount.


At least "The Stand" has only a 90 cent difference between the paperback and the Kindle versions, with the Kindle having the advantage of being the cheaper (marked down from $50!) as well as freeing one from having to carry a 1141 page tome with one for the duration.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Books Read in 2009: "Brain Twister" by Mark Phillips


(Phillips is a pseudonym for Randall Garrett and Laurence Mark Janifer)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Books Read in 2009: "Ur" by Stephen King


Yes, this means that I bought a Kindle. And while this was a quick and fun read, Amazon probably should have thrown it on for free for all new buyers:

"...he had unpacked his new acquisition with real pleasure—similar to the pleasure he felt when unpacking a box of books, but sharper. Because there was that sense of heading into the unknown, he supposed. Not that he expected the Kindle to replace books, or to be much more than a novelty item, really; an attention-getter for a few weeks or months that would afterward stand forgotten and gathering dust beside the Rubik’s Cube on the knickknack shelf in his living room."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Books Read in 2009: "Liar's Poker" by Michael Lewis

Google Books

The seeds of everything that has happened in the last few years were planted twenty years ago.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Books Read in 2009: "Paint It Black" by Janet Fitch


(What was with all the similes? "It sliced right through her, like the little egg slicer Gommer Ida used, a wire contraption that cut the white flesh and yellow heart into clean bare rounds." Um, okay.)

Books Read in 2009: "Whose Body?" by Dorothy L. Sayers


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Comprehension of the Obvious Is Not Her Strong Suit

I read this quote (of a quote) from Maggie Gallagher at Instaputz, concerning the issue of gay marriage:

Rod Dreher: Maggie, you and I are on the same side of the gay marriage issue, but I am pessimistic about our chances for success. You, however, are optimistic. What am I missing?

Maggie Gallagher: Vaclav Havel mostly. "Truth and love wlll [sic] prevail over lies and hate." On that basis Havel took on the Soviet empire. Where is that invincible empire now?

Could anyone misread their position relative to this statement more than Gallagher?

You have thousands of people who are refusing to live lives in the closet, refusing to pretend to be something that they're not, or to not be something that they are, and to accept themselves and their sexuality as, well, God-given.

That would be the truth.

And those same people are now fighting to get full legal recognition of their partnerships as marriages.

That would be love.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I found the first episode a little confusing and disorienting, but I don't mean it in a bad way; I think it was supposed to be like that. I have a whole bunch of questions about the Dollhouse and why they provide the service that they provide (and the cost to the Actives who provide it), but that's what'll make me watch the next few episodes, to see if I get any answers. I actually like being dropped into a fully realized world and having to piece together its dynamics as I watch rather than getting an hour of exposition.

I didn't get "Firefly" at first either. I remember being a little disappointed that it wasn't exactly like "Buffy" or "Angel," until I accepted that it was its own thing. Then they showed "Out of Gas" and it all clicked. "Dollhouse" isn't exactly like Joss Whedon's other shows (although Handler = Watcher, I mean come on), but once I get its language and rhythms, there's some potential for goodness.

Staying tuned...

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Good Start

EFF: On Day One, Obama Demands Open Government

The order itself.

From the press release:
The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizingthe public.