Archive for the ‘Reference – Life’ category

But It’s Still A Fine Madness

December 31, 2008

Some Days Are Better Than Others

I’m sure that all of you who write have experienced it.

Things seem to be going well. The words are coming out smoothly. You’re in the flow. And then…

You hit that place, that certain point, where you can’t seem to go any further. The words and ideas have suddenly stopped. It’s like beating the bottom of that damn ketchup bottle, and nothing, but nothing, will come out!

Oh yeah.

But it’s still a fine madness …

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… even when it makes us feel like that!

Reading Is An Investment In Thinking

December 31, 2008

The Long Decline of Reading

It takes hours to finish a book, even for the fastest readers. This wasn’t a problem when books had less competition, but with the three massive timesinks of cable TV, videogames, and the internet, people look at that massive time investment, and they get apprehensive. Sure, they know that books can be just as enjoyable as movies or games, if not more. They may even feel guilty about not reading. But what if this book is no good? What if I end up hating it? What if I can’t understand it? Imagine all the time wasted! And so they stop before they even start.

A long, detailed, and excellent article.

Strangely, public libraries aren’t mentioned at all.

The Horror Of Paper Books

December 30, 2008

This is a post I’ve kept putting off. Things happen.

Then Wayne MacPhail tweeted this photo he took inside a bookstore:

bookstorewmacphail

It gave me a feeling of absolute horror — and I knew the time had come to actually do this post.

There I was several months ago in a bookstore. One of the few still remaining in Manhattan that offers overstock at incredibly-reduced prices.

And I found a book I would have liked to have.

But I couldn’t bring myself to buy it.

I kept having flashbacks to all the times I’ve had to get boxes, put the books in boxes, carry the damned boxes, move the damn boxes, unpack the damn boxes, and again arrange the damn hundreds and hundreds of pounds of printed paper books.

That book would have been another pound to lug around. Another frikkin object hanging like an albatross around my neck, limiting my mobility, weighing me down, reminding me that it will remain when I’m gone.

Let me say again: I really wanted the book.

But I physically could not buy it.

I’ve developed a bizarre allergy to printed books — of the kind that are bought and owned and have to be moved around and that are always looked at and that are also a reminder of one’s mortality.

Library books I don’t have that problem with.

I can temporarily lug them home, even have a pile, read them, and then poof! back to the library they go.

But I want to own books.

I feel a guilt at not giving writers their rightful payment for reading.

Plus, with things being the way they are — and have been — I can no longer count on any public library having a copy of anything on its shelves. I once had to go to the Northern part of Manhattan just to read a short story by Barry N. Malzberg because only the City University had a back issue of the pulp magazine it was printed in!

This is another reason why I am an eBook militant.

I’ve never been a paper fetishist. My first collection of books were mass-market paperbacks. I never liked the size and weight of trade paperbacks and hardcovers. But I eventually amassed a collection of those too. I couldn’t help it: Publishing had changed and there was no longer a guarantee of anything in hardcover or trade paper moving down to cheap paperback!

But the book as an object I came to see for what it is: A cage for the words within it.

It’s the words — it’s always been the words — that interested me. Never the packagaing, never the jail the words were locked-up in.

I can’t be the only one out there who feels a sense of material liberation with eBooks.

Recently, a writer I’ve written about in this blog left a Comment offering to ship me a whole big bunch of books I’d blogged about. I never published that Comment because I couldn’t explain why I couldn’t accept more printed books. Even free ones. Even free ones from a writer whose work I admire!

So, this post has been something I’ve needed to do, in reply to that writer.

And to also explain why I have come to absolutely hate printed books.

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Yes: But they’re better weapons as eBooks!

Philadelphia Is Destroying Its Public Libraries

December 30, 2008

Some targeted library branches may be saved

Mayor Nutter said yesterday that five of the 11 library branches once scheduled to close permanently on Thursday are instead on track to be taken over by private foundations, wealthy individuals, companies, and community development corporations.

It was not immediately clear which branches have sponsors and the mayor did not identify the benefactors.

But Nutter expressed confidence that in time private operators could convert each of the branches now on his budget chopping block into community “knowledge centers” that would offer similar or perhaps even superior services to those now available. Though the services would vary from branch to branch, Nutter said the centers would likely retain book collections, computers, and perhaps even trained librarians.

Emphasis added by me.

This guy is certainly true to form to his surname: Nutter.

Hey, how’d you like to have to rely on, say, the Exxon-Mobil Knowledge Center for information about the oil companies?

I could go on in that vein and get really inflammatory, but fuck it, this blog dies tomorrow and I’m burned out as it is doing this.

This is the systematic destruction of the world as we have known it by the same bastards who brought us to this brink.

Are there any men left in America to stop this shit?

Zig Ziglar

December 30, 2008

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He’s led some life.

When I was born, the doctor handed me to my mother and said, “Mrs. Ziglar, you have a perfectly fine, healthy baby boy.” Nine days later he picked me up and sadly shook his head, indicating that I was dead. Yes, I died when I was nine days old. However, my family has told me that my grandmother walked to me, picked me up, held me in her hands, and started talking to me. Of course, we all know that she was not really talking to *me* . . and in a matter of seconds breath came back into my body; at age seventy-five it’s obvious I lived.

My friends, it’s been like that ever since.

— Zig: The Autobiography of Zig Ziglar by Zig Ziglar; pg. 1

And here’s a lesson that was swept aside in the Rush to Greed from the 1980s on …

Coach Jobie Harris was my history teacher, and in many ways he changed and enriched my life. He taught me more than American history. He once said, “If you have an ability that goes beyond providing for your own needs, you have a responsibility to use that ability to reach down and help those up who do not have that capacity. As a matter of fact, if you don’t reach down and help lift up those less fortunate, the day will come when due to sheer weight of numbers, they will reach up and pull you down.”

— Zig: The Autobiography of Zig Ziglar by Zig Ziglar; pg. 71

Emphasis added by me.

The Monthly Digital Lifeline Bill

December 29, 2008

Numbers to keep in mind

$260 a month. That’s how much the average US household is spending each month on digital services that did not exist a generation ago. They include: mobile phone, broadband access, cable or satellite television, personal video recording. This number comes from a survey by the Center for Digital Future, a department of the University of Southern California. Even more interesting is the amount of money spent by the poorest households: their monthly bill of digital services isn’t as low as one would imagine: $180. This suggests two thoughts: one, these services are no longer a luxury but have become as basic as a car; two, given this amount of money, hoping to squeeze a few dozens of dollars more per month for content services is unrealistic. Except for highly specialized premium services (almost never paid by the end-user), editorial on the Internet is very likely to remain free. European spending is lower, but catching up. — FF

Emphasis in the original.

Yeah, I can see that.

I know my book spending will go stratospheric when I go all-e.

Why?

That will end the days of my picking up used paperbacks for cheap. Even if eBooks level out to an impulse-buy price, there’d still be no matching a fifty-cent paperback!

The Zero-Gravity Toilet Of Adobe DRMed ePub

December 27, 2008

There’s a classic shot in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey when the main character has to first consult instructions on how to use a zero-gravity toilet:

0g-toilet

Imagine having to go through all that!

And yet — there is something actually worse than that.

It’s the instructions on how to go about using Adobe DRMed ePub eBooks!

Here are the Zero-Gravity toilet instructions:

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Now contrast the amount of text there to instructions for using Adobe DRMed ePub:

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Can you imagine the poor technically unsophisticated schmo having to deal with all that?

“For God’s sake, all I want to do is read eBooks!!!”

Really, it turns out it’s easier to take a shit in space than to deal with Adobe DRMed ePub eBooks!