Friday, February 27, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
In the past, I’ve spent little time reviewing books, and I fear people might developed the impression that I am in fact the Illiterate Librarian of that short story I wrote a few months back. To insure that indeed I am not in fact illiterate, and do in fact read, I have decided to post a review of a book I recently finished: Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up. In the future, I’ll do my best to post a few more.
Tell all Hollywood memoirs are a dime a dozen in publishing, so Martin’s memoir is particularly shocking because he avoids telling all by telling pretty much nothing. There were nuggets here and there (such as he lost his virginity, at the age of 18, to the bestselling Christian author Stormie Omartian). This isn’t to say it wasn’t a good book—it just wasn’t the juicy, insider, read that I have come to love from celebrities.
The other thing I kind of expected from the memoir is for it to follow the comic tradition of other comedians who decided to tell their life story—which is to say they used humor to tell their story. Oddly enough, the memoir from America’s “Wild and Crazy” man is neither wild or crazy—or funny. Instead Martin simply tells the history of what it was like getting started in the business, and how he got famous.
Martin confesses that he had issues growing up with his parents—particularly his father who had been abusive with him—but these things read like issues that Martin wasn’t quite sure how to handle. This is where the book fell flat for me; Martin distanced himself too far from the story—as if he was trying to pull a Henry Adams and remove any feelings from the story and simply tell things as they were with no personal bias. I got the feeling that he simply didn’t want to talk about family, but the editors forced him. He also writes about how he wasn’t close with his sister until later in life, and implies that he is going to share how they rekindled a relationship later in life, but never really reveals how or when.
He writes about how lonely he was on the road, but never talks about how he overcame this and never shares why he left standup comedy for good; he reveals that he was tired, but as I finished the final page, I couldn’t help but wonder if he loved it so much why he never even thought about trying it again for old-time sake.
As a personal memoir it didn’t work for me. As a history of standup comedy, it wasn’t too bad—although, I hoped that he’d talk a little more about the comedy going on around him; one would think, having read this, that Martin was the only one doing standup comedy in the seventies. Martin definitely knows how to write, as anyone whose read his stuff in the New Yorker knows, but a part of me wonders if this was the write story to tell.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
The Guardian had in interesting article on why eBooks aren’t as big as they should be; they explained that their belief (and mine too), is there aren’t enough pirates taking interest.
I’ve heard people talking about torrent sites that are plentiful of eBooks, but they are wrong. Yes, you can get a copy of Twilight…Harry Potter is there too. It’s not what’s there that surprises me—it’s what’s not. Try and find a copy of some other bestselling authors—try John Grisham…nothing. Try someone classic…chances are nothing (although admittedly the Catcher in the Rye (which is on Kindle, and won't be until Salinger is dead or suddenly has a change of heard about publishing) is pretty easy to get.
EBooks, I would think, would be the easiest thing to find because they don’t take up any space; someone could create an anonymous Google Account, post the whole darn thing to Google’s document viewer, and it would be completely untraceable if they did it right. It probably would take a publisher months before they realized someone had done it, and then sent a letter to Google for them to take it down.
What’s even more surprising to me is Kindle has been out for quite some time, but no one has created a program that converts a Kindle protected eBook into an unencrypted Word (or text) document. Without something like this, then pirating eBooks is obviously never going to be very big.
Publishers are in a truly blessed position right now, because they really don’t have to deal with piracy in the same way as the music and movie industry. I don’t think that will last, and the Guardian makes a good point—they are going to soon be awaken to a sleeping giant that they are completely unprepared to fight.
Yes there are books on torrents, but if you browse through them you’ll quickly see that they are usually non-fiction business books—some probably uploaded by the authors. Most the time if you find a way to get an eBook for free, it’s probably because it was part of a promotion. Go ahead, look; go to Mininova (one of the largest torrent sites) and browse through their recent eBook entries; wheras movie entries has stuff currently showing at your local cinema, eBooks has a bunch of porn, a few technical books (not surprising since technical books are quite popular with pirates), and that's about it.
I’m not advocating someone create software that makes pirating eBooks easier (nor am I advoccating you download books illegally--authors really do need money...they're the poorest of all artist!)—I’m just surprised it hasn’t been done yet. If you can unencrypt 60 some odd gigs of video from a blu-ray disc (which has so many layers of encryption it’s ridiculous), how hard can it be to unencrypt a book that’s not even a megabyte?
Several years ago, a friend told me that he would have no problem paying for music if there was an easy, legal, way to do it; at the time MP3 players were just catching on (it was pre-iPod), and the easiest way to get a MP3 file was to download it on Napster (or if you were a true pirate, Usenet). How long is it going to be until Kindles and eBook readers (or even cell phones as eBooks) do catch on, and people start saying, “I’d buy that eBook legally if I could.” The sad thing about my friend was he was so used to doing it illegally that now that there is an easy legal way of doing it, he still doesn't bother--he did it so long the guilt was removed, I guess!
Amazon proudly boasts that almost every single bestseller is available on Kindle; that’s nice. What would be nicer is if they could boast the same about their backlist. I would guess that 50% of the 240,000 some odd books that’s on Kindle is public domain fiction that can be gotten free anywhere else. Not in that group of 240,000 are way too many other books? Is it so hard to put Flannery O’Connor on Kindle? How about Thomas Pynchon? David Foster Wallace? Heck what about Harry Potter? If Kindles so big they can’t get Harry Potter? And how about Michael Crichton? Thanks for giving us a Kindle version of The Lost World (sequel to Jurassic Park), but where’s Jurassic Park? Why don’t only put on the last Harry Potter while you’re at it?
Right now people can’t go easily on the Net and illegally get books from most of their favorite authors, but every month that changes more and more. The digital revolution that publishers have so far avoided, has finally come—let’s hope they start to get prepared.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
This might change if Moto Labs has anything to do with it. They are experimenting with putting the Android OS on eReaders. Maybe nothing will come of it, but it's an interesting possibility.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Upon installing the update, I noticed a few changes. The pages turn faster, the Internet loads quicker, and there's a somewhat mysterious feature called "Sync to Furthest Page Read"...I'm guessing that this is what Amazon was talking about when they said you could read a book on Kindle 2.0, save your place, and finish it on Kindle 1.0. The added feature makes me wonder if perhaps Kindle 1.0 will be able to talk to your cell phone in the same way that 2.0 is allegedly supposed to.
Aside from thousands of new books, Amazon has also recently updated its store to include a few new magazines (notably The New Yorker and Narrative Magazine), as well as more regional newspapers.
See also my blog about free books (new ones, not classics) on Kindle.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I went to a messed up junior high school. In 10th grade I found out my 8th grade homeroom teacher (who was pushing forty, had kids, and was married) was caught having sex with a boy two years younger then me in her parked car. This was not the first teacher at the school caught with students...there had actually been two other cases.
The most shocking thing that happened with a teacher for me personally had nothing to do with sex. It was in 8th grade when I found out my 7th keyboarding teacher, Ms. Jewell had been killed in Waco, Texas. She had run off to join David Koresh and the Branch Davidians; she died, but her daughter was the one who infamously appeared before Congress and admitted that she was molested by Koresh while he read the Bible to her.
My memories about Ms. Jewells were recently rekindled after watching "Waco: Rules of Engagement." I have posted my thoughts about Ms. Jewell, the cult and the movie on DisturbedChristian if you have any interest in Waco.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Friday, February 6, 2009
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
I am sick and tired of receiving Facebook tags about doing the list of 25 interesting things/facts/etc about me; my wife tagged me and said it was rude that I had not did the list, and, as is always the case, I decided to do as she said out of both fear and love.
Instead of posting this on Facebook and further annoying 25 more people with tags, I decided to just tag everyone who reads this blog—the potential for annoyance is much greater this way. So tag! Below are my 25 Things random things about me list, now you have to comment below what your list. If you don’t a butterfly will die.
I was a "No Nude" in junior high and high school; I used a medical excuse to get out of showering in gym.
I am a sucker for conspiracy theories.
I sometimes wait for my wife to go to school, and then turn on Tyra Banks and eat ice cream while yelling at abusive cheating husbands and boyfriends afraid of commitment.
Until I was 13, I believed I was the only person in the world who knew how many licks it took to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop.
I poked my eye at the end of classroom showing of Old Yeller in fifth grade, so girls would think I was sensitive.
I have never drank any alcohol (or eaten food prepared with rum or cooking wine), although once when I was twelve I sipped wine at a wedding and promptly spit it out.
For a period of about two years, I believed if I drank alcohol or cut my hair I would lose my secret powers.
I have no secret powers.
I take advantage of drunk friends.
I like to cheat on video games.
In the hospital, under heavy medication, I watched Gilligan's Island because I believed Gilligan was my supreme leader.
I wrote a fiction novel about American terrorist when I was 12.
The first story I wrote was when I was 11--it was about a woman who accidentally chopped off her hand while cutting vegetables in the kitchen, and the hand came back to life to kill her. I presented the story to my mom as a gift.
I like to garden.
When I was 8, my best friend and I would sneak into his sister’s room and undress her Barbie’s clothes so we knew what naked girls looked like.
If I could visit any place in the world, it would be India.
I wrote over 500 pages of fiction my junior and senior year of high school.
In junior high, I begged my parents for $120 shoes because I sincerely believed I would become a NBA star the second I put them on.
I have thousands of Desert Storm trading cards somewhere in my parent’s attic.
I have Steve Urkel's autograph.
I once sent in a video to America's Funniest Home Videos that showed off my imitations of Steve Urkel.
I saw a woman dead in the street, seconds after she had been hit by a car.
I rubbed my hand against my deceased great grandma's cheek partly to see what a dead person felt like.
The first cassette I remember buying was the soundtrack to the motion picture "Willow."
I am uncomfortable being naked in front of my dog and/or fish.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
The loss of hours forced my wife and I to cut back and completely change the way we lived; sometimes our plans to save works, and other times--not so much.
A few weeks ago, I started jotting down different things we've did to save; there were a number of ways, and that list grows often, so I decided to put some of them on a new blog called, I Can't Save.
Maybe you'll find a few things useful there. If you have ways that you save, then I hope you share them with me, as I probably can use them on the blog. If you do, then send them to me at email@example.com
Monday, February 2, 2009
There are many things a movie about a man walking across the Twin Towers on a tightrope can be; being a documentary, however, history is the first thing that comes to mind. What makes Man on Wire so great, however, is it isn’t a history—it’s a story, and a moving story at that.
When the film opens, Nixon is on TV talking about Watergate; this sets the timeframe of the movie, but the camera quickly pans over, and it becomes apparent that the history-making news conference doesn’t matter to this movie—time becomes frozen, because what was going on culturally and socially doesn’t matter to this film.
Had time matter, the director probably would have spent more time talking about how many people were upset that the Twin Towers were being built, and how people saw it as a bit of waste, but that the man’s dance actually put a renewed interest in the towers, and helped boast it’s public image. Had time matter, the director probably would have also talked about how such a project was funded and how Philippe Petit made money. And had history matter, he surely would have talked about the history of the tightrope act giving at least a vague reference to famous acts like The Flying Wallendas. But, of course, none of this matter, because this film was more a celebration of life and accomplishment then a documentary of the act itself.
Several years ago, Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park had a high wire show to promote the opening of a new part of their park (I think it was the opening of The Boardwalk, although I’m really not sure, because I can find absolutely no history about this historic tightrope walk anywhere on the Internet (so I guess there are some things only found in books?!)). Basically, a high wire was placed at the top of one ride (I think it was Boomerang), and stretched to the top of the Sky Jump ride (a tall tower 225 feet high). My parents drove my brother and I to a parking lot adjacent to the park, and we watched with hundreds of others the walker make the walk.
There really was nothing spectacular about the walk; the walker might have walked backwards or did some kind of trick, but that was about it; but to my eyes, that walk was amazing, and the person who performed the feat was instantly my hero. I don’t know what made it so great, although I suppose a lot of it was because there’s something mighty in the fearlessness of a person who performs such a feat.
I imagine what I saw in the man walking the high wire in California is what New Yorkers saw the day Philippe Petit walked between the towers; they saw a man who was fearless—who was cheating death—and there’s something morbidly heroic in that—even inspiring. And that’s what the film is about: a man who wants to go face to face with death, and ultimately wins.
I felt a bit cheated by the end of the film; I wanted more conclusion that said whatever happened to Philippe Petit and his friends, but I guess the director wanted it to be clear that it didn’t matter—the film was the celebrations of a moment, and to show what happened to the people involved would take away from that moment.
The movie can be watched for free if you have a Netflix account; if you do then do yourself a favor and watch it—you won’t be disappointed.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
"I am seriously glad to be here tonight at the annual Alfalfa dinner. I know that many you are aware that this dinner began almost one hundred years ago as a way to celebrate the birthday of General Robert E. Lee. If he were here with us tonight, the general would be 202 years old. And very confused."
"Now, this hasn't been reported yet, but it was actually Rahm's idea to do the swearing-in ceremony again. Of course, for Rahm, every day is a swearing-in ceremony."
"But don't believe what you read. Rahm Emanuel (Obama's chief of staff) is a real sweetheart.
"No, it's true. Every week the guy takes a little time away to give back to the community. Just last week he was at a local school, teaching profanity to poor children."
"But these are the kind of negotiations you have to deal with as president. In just the first few weeks, I've had to engage in some of the toughest diplomacy of my life. And that was just to keep my BlackBerry.
"I finally agreed to limit the number of people who could e-mail me. It's a very exclusive list. How exclusive?
"Everyone look at the person sitting on your left. Now look at the person sitting on your right. None of you have my e-mail address."