Archive for June, 2012

iPhone 5th anniversary

Friday, June 29th, 2012

iPhone 5th anniversary: How I accidentally became an iPhone user | TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog.

iPhone 3GSThis post on The Unofficial Apple Weblog reminds me where I was 5 years ago today: standing in line outside a local AT&T store hoping to be one of the lucky ones to snag one of the store’s allotment of the brand new iPhones. (Fortunately, the temperature 5 years ago was nowhere near the 104 F. expected here today.  And I don’t have a photo of the original iPhone, so the one pictured here is the later, 3GS, model.)

Like this TUAW blogger, I had been a devoted Palm user, although my Palm wasn’t a phone model. I had been wanting a smartphone, but nothing available was exactly the device of my dreams. As soon as I saw the descriptions of the upcoming iPhone, I knew it was what I had been waiting for.

birthday cakeLaugh all you want, but I was excited to be standing in that line.

And then the purchase of that iPhone prompted me to buy a Mac laptop. And the purchase of that laptop initiated our conversion into an all-Apple, all-the-time household.

Happy 5th birthday, iPhone.

“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Poster: Extremely Loud & Incredibly CloseI finally got around to watching the film Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2012), based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel of the same title. Our book group read the novel several years ago and loved it, so I’ve been looking forward to seeing the film adaptation.

The story involves 10-year-old Oskar Schell, whose father died a year earlier in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The precocious Oskar finds an envelope, labeled “black,” containing a strange key among his father’s things. Oskar decides that black must be a name, so he sets off to interview everyone named Black who lives in the five burroughs of New York City to find the lock that the mysterious key will open.

I have to admit that my memory of the details of the novel is sketchy. But one aspect of the film that I don’t remember specifically from the book is the emphasis on storytelling. Oskar’s grandmother, who lives in an apartment building across the street from Oskar’s building, has rented out a room in her apartment to an old man. When Oskar finally meets The Renter, played by Max von Sydow, he finds that the old man does not speak. The Renter carries a small notebook and pen with him and communicates only by writing short notes on the little pages—except for the words yes and no, one of which is written on the palm of each hand.

When Oskar realizes that he’s not going to get the man to break his silence, he asks, “Then how will you tell me your story?” The old man shrugs, and Oskar continues, “Then I’ll just have to tell you my story.” He then pours out the story—frantically, non-stop, and with great agitation—of his search to find the lock that the fits the key that his father left behind. But what he’s really pouring out is all the grief, fear, anger, and guilt he’s been trying to deal with since his father’s death.

As Oskar visits each person or family named Black, he takes photos and pastes them all in a scrapbook. And he remembers the details of each person’s life story. At the end of the film he writes a letter to everyone he has visited that includes references to those personal details.

And finally, it seems, Oskar’s experiences on his quest to find the lock that fits the key become the key for a fitting ending to this chapter of his own story.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, June 25th, 2012

LeBron James, open book

Kid readingThe NBA championship, recently won by the Miami Heat, was big news in the sports world. But a secondary story was the focus on Heat star LeBron James, who focused before games by reading. Yes, reading—all kinds of books, fiction and nonfiction.

And lots of sports reporters, including ESPN’s Michael Wilbon here, would like to see that become just as big a story:

Where cynics saw a ballplayer doing something for the cameras, I saw a chance, whatever LeBron’s motivation, for a role model to use his influence to make an impact, intentional or not. According to The Alliance for Excellent Education, only 3 percent of all eighth-graders read at an advanced level. Imagine how many of those eighth-graders want to do what LeBron James does. At 13, 14 years old, they can’t drive the car he endorses, might or might not be able to afford the shoes he endorses.

But they can borrow a book even if they can’t afford to buy one. And if LeBron is reading, then reading must be fairly cool. Is there a better message the world’s best basketball player could send?

Fiction can shape our lives

Writer Diane Cameron sees summer as the perfect time to learn about life by falling under the spell of stories:

Despite being in thrall to information, wisdom comes not from knowing facts but from knowing truths about human nature; it comes from seeing through facts to their underlying patterns. We are shaped by the stories that we read and hear.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning Project

This rather remarkable project, based at the University of North Dakota, is a loving tribute to the works of the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Directed by Dr. Sandra Donaldson, the project fills a gap in the scholarly literature surrounding Browning’s works. In 2010, a five-volume print edition of these works was published, under the editorial direction of Dr. Donaldson. This site presents all the version of Browning‚s heavily revised poems that are difficult to represent in linear print format. These multiple interactive versions allow us to see online how Browning reworked her poems over time. Overall, this is quite an innovative and important resource. The poems made available here include “A Child Asleep, “Loved Once,” and “The House of Clouds.” Further along, visitors can explore the “Prose” area to view different iterations of works such as “The Book of Poets” and “American Poetry.

>From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2012. http://scout.wisc.edu/

Mother & Daughter Coauthors: Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer Talk to PW

Cover: Between the LinesPublishers Weekly features an interview with prolific author Jodi Picoult and her daughter, Samantha van Leer. Jodi was on a book tour when her daughter called and told her she had a great idea for a story. Jodi thought the idea was brilliant and suggested the two write it together.

The result of the collaboration is the novel Between the Lines. Samantha reports that the project taught her a lot about how hard it is to be a writer. Samantha’s next writing project will be her college application essays. But who knows what may follow?

my mom and I both feel that Between the Lines isn’t quite over yet–we left it hanging intentionally, and we’ve talked a lot about what a sequel will look like, and what the characters would do next.

Are E-Books Bad for Your Memory?

KindleLorien Crow offers some disturbing news as ebooks become more popular with both individuals and schools:

Schools and universities are using e-readers and tablets as valuable learning tools, but scientists are questioning their effect on memory.

A small but growing number of researchers are uncovering evidence that readers are better able to remember what they read in printed books long-term when compared to materials read via an electronic screen. The results are raising questions on their value as learning tools, especially as tablets make their way into education.

Some research suggests, for example, that students must read material more times in electronic format than in printed format to remember it. Studies also suggest that students better understand material they’ve read in print than on a screen. But other scientists point out that

new practices around e-reading need to evolve before humans are able to absorb the information held in e-books, as quickly and as fully as before. But this is no new challenge — throughout history, new technologies sparked fierce debate among critics and philosophers, including Plato, who thought writing would ruin focal memory.

Evaluating both sides of the argument for ebooks leads Crow to conclude that “Ultimately, technology is changing the way we think and learn, but it only hinders us if we let it. Being aware of the potential pitfalls is key to success, and 20 years from now, flying cars might be the next big cause for concern.”

Monday Miscellany

Monday, June 18th, 2012

NEA Arts Magazine

NEA Arts The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has published their fine quarterly magazine since 2004. This site provides access to the NEA Arts Magazine, a great resource for anyone with an interest in the cultural milieu of the United States. Visitors can read the entire magazine as a pdf, or they can just peruse select articles. Recent articles in the magazine have covered the creative rebirth of Lowell, Massachusetts, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and an interview with poet Nikki Giovanni. It’s a tremendous resource for anyone with an interest in the arts and worth revisiting often.

>From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2012. http://scout.wisc.edu/

The Antidote to e-Books

Here’s a description of the Espresso Book Machine, which was introduced by On Demand Books in 2006. This “instant publishing machine” can print on-demand copies of books that are either self-published or out of print and in the public domain. It works this way:

The Espresso Book Machine uses two PDFs, one for the cover and another for the text. The cover and text, both generated from digital files, are printed simultaneously on opposite sides of the machine. They meet in the middle section of the machine, where they are bound, before dropping to a trimming station on the bottom. The book is dispensed through a chute.

The developer explains how the machine’s presence can help bookstores:

Thor Sigvaldason, the chief technology officer at On Demand Books, based in New York, said the system could help book retailers in two ways. “It can, potentially, give them a huge virtual inventory so they can have as many books as Amazon, all in a little bookstore,” he said. “It turns independent bookstores into places to get books published. It’s a new thing for the bookstore to do: not just sell books, but actually create books.”

Many of the books produced by the machine are by local self-published authors who might otherwise not have been able to get their work into print. Bookstore owners who have added the machine to their stores call it a great opportunity to engage with their customers. And the printed books provide an alternative to ebooks that some readers prefer.

I’m waiting for the machine to appear in a store near me.

Through a partnership with Xerox, the company [On Demand Books] now has machines in about 70 bookstores and libraries around the world, including London; Tokyo; Amsterdam; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Melbourne, Australia; and Alexandria, Egypt.

Literary Introverts of My Childhood

young girl readingIntrovert Sophia Dembling discusses characters from her childhood reading who helped her “be OK with who I am,” including Harriet of Harriet the Spy, Sara Crewe of A Little Princess, and Randy Melendy of the Melendy siblings series.

Introverts don’t show up much on television, Dembling says, because it’s difficult for TV to present the inner life, where most of the adventure in an introvert’s life occurs. Films do a bit better portraying introverts because they can spend more time than TV can on developing a character. “But books are full of introverted protagonists,” Dembling adds. “Right now, I’m reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which is all introverts.”

Dembling’s book, The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, will be released by Perigee Books in fall 2012.

Canadian Women in the Literary Arts

http://cwila.com/

There is a dramatic gender imbalance in the discussion of literature in English-speaking Canada. Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (CWILA) was founded in the Spring of 2012 to address the lack of critical attention given to women’s writing in the Canadian media. Currently over 70 poets, novelists, scholars and critics from across the country are CWILA members, and our numbers are growing.

In the United States, the VIDA Count has tracked the gender disparity in American and British literary criticism. Each year, they have examined several major publications and have counted the number of articles and book reviews written by men vs. those written by women. They have also tracked the number of reviewed books written by men and women respectively. Despite the Canadian media reporting on the VIDA Count, no one has counted the numbers in Canada—so CWILA has done its own count for 2011.

CWILA examined book reviews in fourteen Canadian literary publications—including The Globe & Mail, The National Post, The Walrus, Quill and Quire, The Literary Review of Canada, and Geist—and some startling gaps were found. This despite the fact that Canadian men and women are publishing books in equal numbers. The results have been assembled on the CWILA website, and where possible comments and interviews from the editors of the publications in question have been included. We encourage other outlets to respond to our call to engage in what we hope will continue to be a productive, positive dialogue.

CWILA’s mandate is to close the gender gap in our review culture by encouraging more women to take visible roles in the community and by asking our existing editors and reviewers, male and female alike, to attend more closely to the gendered nature of the choices they make. To this end we have, in addition to the count, created a critic-in-residence position, which will pay a Canadian female or genderqueer writer a $2000 stipend to be the CWILA critic-in-residence for a calendar year. We are currently accepting donations to that fund here.

CWILA is interested in developing a critical community welcoming of all marginalized voices and sincerely hopes to contribute to the attainment of equality in the arts in Canada. We welcome you to CWILA and encourage you to join the conversation.

 

More on Bloomsday

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

A 20th century interlude: Happy Bloomsday! « Shakespeare In Action

In honor of the day, here’s an explanation and meditative reflection that’s well worth reading. It concludes:

Ulysses is a novel that celebrates home even as Leopold Bloom is estranged from it. Bloomsday is a day to celebrate Dublin if you are there, but home wherever you are. Even in the midst of pondering over banishment in Shakespeare, take this time to celebrate your home – whatever that may be.Happy Bloomsday to one and all!

 

Happy Bloomsday!

Saturday, June 16th, 2012
James Joyce Pub

James Joyce Pub, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

It’s Bloomsday, the annual celebration of the life and works of James Joyce. This is the date of Leopold Bloom’s journey around Dublin in Joyce’s Ulysses.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, June 11th, 2012

brown pelican

Brown pelican, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

Oprah’s Book Club Is Back!

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Oprah’s Book Club Selects ‘Wild’

Officially kicking off “Oprah Book Club 2.0″ on June 4, Oprah Winfrey has selected Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (Random House) as her first pick. The book, a memoir about a 1,100 mile solo hike that Strayed took after personal tragedy, has already sold 51,000 copies since being published in March 2012, according to Nielsen BookScan. As of the morning of the selection, the book is #12 on Amazon’s bestseller list and #24 on the Kindle bestseller list. In a video posted online, Winfrey called the book “stimulating” and “thought-provoking.”

Special digital editions of Wild have been created for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 that include Winfrey’s notes on her favorite passages, which are highlighted or underlined, as well as a special companion reader’s guide.

Watch the video of Oprah’s announcement here.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Here’s what caught my eye over the past week:

Cover: I Am the Cheese ‘I Am The Cheese’: A Nightmarish Nail-Biter: The most chilling book I’ve ever read is Robert Cormier’s I Am the Cheese. In this piece, which is almost as compelling as the novel itself, author Ben Marcus remembers how reading the book affected him as a 12-year-old who was willing to sacrifice a day outside playing baseball in order to finish this book.

How Mysteries Draw Readers into Their Fake World: I read a lot of mysteries. In this Psychology Today blog Susan K. Perry discusses the book Now Write! Mysteries: Suspense, Crime, Thriller, and Other Mystery Fiction Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers, edited by Sherry Ellis & Laurie Lamson. She lists 5 reasons why mysteries sometimes fail to ensnare readers in their fake world:

  1. The opening isn’t compelling.
  2. The main character is a wimp.
  3. The point of view changes suddenly and confusingly.
  4. There are too many skippable parts.
  5. The characters never lie.

The allure of crime fiction: Australian professor Sue Turnbull explains what draws her to crime fiction:

For crime fiction researcher Prof Sue Turnbull, the personal allure of crime fiction is two-fold.

“The great thing about crime fiction is that it focuses on narrative and form.

“Because I read it when I’m tired, I need it to draw me in. Sometimes, when I read literary fiction, I read a couple of chapters and I’m bored.

“Crime fiction gives you style and form,” she says.

The other feature that Turnbull says makes her interested in crime fiction is that it mirrors society: “Crime fiction reflects the social reality on the ground because it is always engaged with social issues,” she says:

She adds: “My impression is that most crime writers begin by being inspired by something that pricks their social conscience, or intrigues them in terms of human psychology, and they want to write about it in a format that does justice to that.”

DVD: Norman MailerHe Doesn’t Deserve Better, But His Work Does: ‘Norman Mailer: The American’: W. Scott Poole, a writer and an associate professor of history at the College of Charleston, discusses the documentary film Norman Mailer: The American, directed by Joseph Mategna: “Although packed with interesting footage and providing an excellent introduction to Mailer’s endlessly fascinating life, the film ends up being about what a mostly reprehensible human it has as a subject.”  Here’s Poole’s conclusion:

I just wish Mantegna had let Mailer, in death, stop being Mailer. We need some retrospectives on his work that remind us that he’s worth remembering as an author. As a human being, he’s simply lamentable, a victim of his own celebrity and rage. But as someone who reimagined the boundaries of journalism and the novel, he’s one of our most important voices. Unfortunately, this film provides us even more reason for rolling our eyes whenever we hear his name. He doesn’t deserve better, but his work does.