Often as I am driving through the countryside passing small villages and towns I wonder, 'who lives here? What do they do for work? What do they do with their time?' You might think that my reaction sounds like the snobbishness of a city dweller, but I actually spent the first 20 years of my life in a very small place - one that didn't even merit the title of village, the sign at the edge reading "hamlet with a heart."
Many authors have made their dinner out of small, seemingly sleepy places where, under the surface, the inhabitants are living lives of turmoil, tragedy and passion. Alice Munro is a master of this genre. In Lives of Girls and Women she writes of people who seem to be living upright and staid lives, all the while hiding "deep caves paved over with kitchen linoleum." Other authors place their characters in barren and hard-scrabble places, an ideal stage for pathos and emotional intrigue. Kent Haruf's novels take place in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado and focus on the emotional lives of people struggling to find meaning in their lives. A recent Pulitzer Prize winner, Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout recounts the story of a woman living in small-town Maine through a series of short vignettes, each examining a period in her life.
Lately I'm very much intrigued by the people of Words, Wisconsin, as described by David Rhodes in his novel Driftless. Olivia is a strong adherent to the principles of her church and knows the bible backwards and forwards as a result of being wheel-chair bound. She tyrannizes her sister Violet who spends her days in good works and in taking care of her sister. Their pastor, Winnifred, has spent her life trying to overcome the loss of her mother by looking for grace within the church. Graham and Cora Shotwell are in the fight of their lives with a corrupt dairy co-op. And July Montgomery is the glue that holds the community together, though one would never think it from his taciturn and understated manner.
For me, the joy of reading fiction is to indulge my curiosity, or some might say, nosiness.These stories of intersecting lives give us the pleasure of snooping into people's affairs without offending anyone. And the next time I drive through a small town, I'll be looking with fresh eyes.
Have you ever felt like a little vacation from reality? Primeval is a British science fiction show that didn't get the attention it deserved compared to Dr.Who and Torchwood. I will say Primeval doesn't require any deep intellectual commitment on the viewer's part. Actually, it would be best if you can forget to think at all while watching this. It's all light and fluffy fun, something you can enjoy and relax with. Okay, light fluffy fun that involves the occasional person being eaten by dinosaurs. But sometimes part of the fun is guessing who is going to scream horribly and die tastefully off screen.
I didn't see Primeval while it was on the air, but I'd heard good reviews so when I saw the library had the whole series I decided to put the first volume on hold. I had the second on hold before I finished the first DVD. There's a decent story arc, the characters are enjoyable, and the writing and acting is solid. It was funny in parts, tugged on my heartstrings in places and even surprised me a time or two. The special effects are a bit spotty, so if you can't stand CGI dinosaurs and the occasional funky cartoonish background, this isn't for you. But if you can forgive or even enjoy the dinosaurs, giant insects and future predators, it's good fun.
The story? Holes in time have appeared, allowing dinosaurs, mammoths and monsters to roam through modern day England. The holes lead to the distant past and not distant enough future. Various villains are seeking to use the holes to further their agendas. Our heroes run around trying to close the anomalies and get the monsters back on the far side, all while trying to figure out what's causing them to appear in the first place. The extras mostly run and scream. Sometimes the extras even run fast enough. Our heroes are fairly archetypal: there's the professor/team leader with some truly grim relationship issues; the action hero/gun boy (someone has to shoot the monsters); the feisty, clever girl (if there's only one female lead in a genre show she must be gutsy, smart and cute); and the socially inept, klutzy, technical genius (because someone has to be comic relief). Despite the archetypes I really liked a couple of these characters. They felt right for the show and the character interactions were enjoyable.
Now that I've watched the whole thing in rapid succession I was happy to read that they started filming series 4 and 5 in March 2010 and will be airing the 13 new episodes in 2011. I'm also glad I watched it on DVD. I won't have to wait as long to see what happens next. Like U.S. science fiction shows, it had the 'is it canceled/is it not?' drama we all know and loathe. Fortunately, the viewers of this show aren't getting left up the timeline without a plot.
I love books. So much so that, when I’m not actually reading a book, I enjoy browsing through books about books. Reading blogs about books (nudge, nudge) is fun, too, but sometimes it’s nice to have something physical to pick up and browse through here and there.
To that end, Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust titles should be required browsing for any book lover. They each contain hundreds of idiosyncratically titled little chapters with recommended reads: “Guilt-Inducing Books,” “The Alpha, Beta, Gammas of Greece,” “Marriage Blues,” “Les Crimes Noir,” and lots, lots more, even some that might be the kind of books you normally read. The tone is light, the enthusiasm is infectious, and you’ll want note paper handy to jot down all the books you need to read next.
Another favorite book of mine for book browsing is The Ultimate Teen Book Guide by Daniel Hahn and Leonie Flynn. I would re-title this “The Ultimate Teen-and-Up Book Guide,” as there is plenty of good stuff in it for adults as well as teens. It has over 700 book reviews in alphabetical order from all sorts of reviewers (librarians, authors, teenagers), and the beauty is that each review has lists of other titles you might like which are also reviewed in the book. So you look up one author or title, which takes you to another one (or two or three), and then to another one … again, note - paper is a must.
Our guest blogger is Rita. Rita works at the library administration building where she oversees the 18 neighborhood libraries and services to language minorities. Besides reading healthy amounts of both fiction and nonfiction, she consumes a lot of gardening books.
A few years ago I read my first book by Luis Urrea, The Devil’s Highway, a remarkable nonfiction recounting of a group of migrants who were lost in the desert region where I grew up. Urrea was in the running for the Pulitzer for this book for good reason, and so I jumped at the opportunity to hear him speak at the recent Public Libraries Association conference. What delighted and surprised me was his wicked sense of humor and his own remarkable story that moved the audience to tears and gales of laughter in equal measure.
Into the Beautiful North is his latest novel, and it features the humor I so enjoyed during his lecture. Inspired by the movie The Magnificent Seven a group of teenage Mexican girls head north to get their men folk back to fight the narco-traffickers who have taken over their sleepy village. My favorite character by far is the the heroine Nayeli, who is on her quest for justice and her long-absent father. This novel weaves in the stuff of today’s headlines (undocumented Mexicans crossing the Arizona desert) into an entertaining, fast read. Learn more about Urrea's thoughts about the book in this author interview. I’d also recommend the movies that inspired this fictional odyssey north: the Western drama The Magnificent Sevenand the Japanese epic film that started it all - Seven Samurai.
I must confess that I loathe manga. I think the characters' huge eyes are disturbing, and I find most of the plots mystifying at best and insipid at worst. Even though I've had a number of people explain the appeal, I still don't find them appealing. I'm sure the problem is with me since millions of other people seem to enjoy manga. I do, however, occasionally enjoy a good graphic novel and I've read three this past week that hit the spot. You can find all of them in library's teen collection.
I was recently in Amsterdam, and when I got back, I read A Family Secret, a graphic novel that is set in that city during World War II. The story is about two girls - one Dutch and the other a Jewish German who left Germany with her family to escape the Nazis. The Dutch family members represent a variety of Dutch people's positions during the war: one brother joins the Resistance; another joins the army and fights in Russia with the Germans; the father is a policeman who finds no other choice than to keep doing his job even when the Nazis require him to do things his family would rather he didn't; and the girl and mother are sickened by what's happening in their city. The story was compelling and the twist at the end was satisfying. I'm looking forward to reading the companion book, The Search.
Oregon is the home of the most recent gold medalist in fencing, and so I decided to read a bit more about the sport when I saw Foiled by Jane Yolen on the shelf. Aliera is a loner at school who is awesome at fencing.
She basically goes from high school to fencing lessons to home, and then does it all over the next day. She doesn't need anyone, and the other students certainly don't seem to need her. But then the new school year starts and a gorgeous new boy ends up being her lab partner. What to do? Her fencing instructor has always said she needs to protect her heart, but that's now proving to be difficult. I thought this was going to be a straightforward romance, but it turned out to be something a little different.
Another sort of different story is Prime Baby by Gene Luen Yang. Many of us who have siblings have wondered at one time or another if our brothers and sisters might have come from outer space. When Thaddeus's young sister begins making noises, all of which come out in prime numbers (eg. "ga ga ga" and "ga ga ga ga ga"), he thinks his sister might be an alien. Everybody thinks he's crazy, but then something happens that surprises everyone BUT Thaddeus. I liked the sassy, sarky kid - he's got brains, imagination and, in the end, heart.
Sometimes I get a bit impatient and want the children to grow up a little faster so I can share films with them that don't involve sarcastic cats or operatic turtles or crime-fighting dogs.
I confess I did recently make the possible mistake of letting Child the Younger watch many episodes of I Love Lucy on library DVD with me when we were both lying ill and lethargic on the sofa. He has since stopped requesting viewings of Maisy in favor of "that funny heart show" and, really, it makes sense. If you are almost three and think your choices are between a primitively-drawn mouse and her friends who mutter mysteriously to one another in what sounds suspiciously like Serbo-Croatian OR Lucy hilariously trying to pretend twenty-five pounds of cheese is a baby (after sensibly flying to Europe WITHOUT child in tow) in order to fly said cheese home on an airplane without paying luggage fees, which would you choose?
But that is not really the sharing I meant to talk about sharing. What I would like to share is that great and bottomless treasure trove we have in the Criterion Collection. If you have limited viewing time (which, if you're like me, is already at war with your laundry-dishes-bill-paying-clean-out-this-random-cupboard-while-the-kids-sleep-time) and want to make the most of it, you really need to worship at the altar of Criterion with me. Unless, of course, you have your own reliable Mrs. Trumbull who will babysit your Little Ricky so you can fly off to Europe and see films in arty theaters. I'm guessing you don't, so here are three to get you started:
Eyes Without A Face may be the most lyrically filmed work of horror you will see in black and white. A surgeon father in Paris is cutting the faces off kidnapped women in an attempt to cure his own beloved daughter's disfigurement. It's suspenseful--mesmerizingly creepy--and possibly even more horrifying now that full facial grafts are a medical reality.
Ohayo is the very funny tale of two young Japanese brothers who take vows of silence to protest their parents' refusal to purchase a television set. Set in a late 1950's Tokyo suburb, this is an exploration of changing cultural traditions with a side of fart jokes.
The Passion of Joan of Arc was originally a silent French film released in 1928. It has been set to an amazing orchestral work, Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light, with a performance of the choral ensemble Anonymous 4. Believed lost to a fire, the film was miraculously found in perfect condition in 1981--in a Norwegian mental institution. This is art, and a higher power wants you to see it.
And if any of you do know where Mrs. Trumbull is hiding, I'd really like her number.
A friend introduced me to Penguin's Great Journeys series of short travelogues.
I began with Jaguars & Electric Eels by Alexander Von Humboldt. Containing excerpts from the last three volumes of the thirty volume set of Von Humboldt's account of his journey around the New World in 1799, this book is full of sights, sounds and adventures of this thinker and traveler.
Another fun series of travel tales is Crown Journeys by Crown Publishing. This series of literary travel books tries to match interesting writers with interesting places. The writers are all known for their work in other genres: Christopher Buckley on Washington, Tim Cahill on Yellowstone and Chuck Palahniuk on Portland, among others. The only rule of the format is that the writers take their journeys on foot, hence the books tend to be personal and often quirky.
In preparation for a visit to the East Coast, I read Frank Conroy's Time and Tide: a Walk Through Nantucket and Land's End and Land's End: A Walk Through Provincetown by Michael Cunningham. Both are in the Crown Journeys series.
Traveller's History is another good series, particularly for the armchair traveler looking for a nutshell history. The library owns many titles in the series - from Canada to Athens to Turkey to New Zealand and the South Sea Islands. Take a look at the variety.
If you are traveling in the United States, look for the Art of the State series. These nifty little books have state symbols, cultural arts, roadside attractions and lists of tourist destinations to enhance enjoyment of the state.
I really love that silver shimmer of black and white films: the contrasts, the shadows, the textures - light reflected in every actor's eyes - even the animal actors. And I've seen a fair number of old black and white films. But nothing prepared me for Josef von Sternberg's The Scarlet Empress, not even his best known picture, The Blue Angel. Beyond the beyond doesn't begin to describe it. In fact I'm not that sure where to begin. Von Sternberg himself calls it “a censor-baiting cocktail of sensual excess and riotous design” which is close to the mark.The Scarlet Empress definitely flouted the motion picture censorship guidelines.
Basically the story advances, careening between horror and the grotesque, quickly followed by large helpings of bathos. And everywhere the ghastly monstrous gargoyles inhabit the entire Kremlin, clutching massive candles in their stone fists. It takes eight ladies-in-waiting to open the gargantuan double doors of the private apartments. Marlene Dietrich is cast as the naif Austrian princess who marries the mad Russian Czar played brilliantly by Sam Jaffe. As the disillusioned Czarina Catherine, she turns temptress, and becomes deeply involved in court intrigue. Finally, she transforms herself into The Great, an exterminating angel who leads battalions of her husband's trusted guards against him.
Von Sternberg is the ultimate auteur/painter/puppeteer/lighting genius. Each frame stands alone as an individual painting reminiscent of Watteau, Fragonard or Brueghel. Von Sternberg's memoir Fun in a Chinese Laundry shares his side of the story, including details about his artistic theory. Believe me he's got his share of opinions. Did I forget to mention that Marlene D.'s daughter plays the young Austrian princess?
Over the past few years urban fantasy has become a hot sub-genre. I've recently read a few novels by lesser known authors that were good fun. So on some fine summer day when you feel like lounging around with a trashy novel and not accomplishing much of anything, try one of these books … Lots of action, magic, a little romance on the side. What more could you ask for?
Spider's Bite: an Elemental Assassin book by Jennifer Estep
Sure, our "heroine" murders people for money and likes her work. That does sort of make her inherently evil. But she's such a nice, likable girl, even though she has a few "issues" with being orphaned at an early age by a murderous fire mage. In one short story she does a pro-bono hit on a dirty cop who abused an innocent kid because that was the only justice that child would get. So, she's really not all bad… It is a pity about the whole 'having the hots for an ethical cop when you're a multiple felony offender' problem. And then there's the fire mage who is even more sociopathic than she is and who is trying to kill both her and her love interest. You could almost feel for a serial killer.
Devon Monk is an Oregon author. Her Magic series starting with Magic to the Bone
is set here (and now-ish) in Portland. It's Portland with magic. The magic is fairly weak and comes with a price. If you're an honest person you pay the price yourself, with a migraine or a day or two of a low fever. In exchange you get something small like enhanced hearing for an hour to spy on someone across a restaurant or a burst of extra strength in a dangerous situation. Higher magics cost a higher price and the price has to be spread out to keep from crippling or killing. If you're rich and ethical you can hire people to suffer for you. If you have no ethics, well, dump the price out on someone who might not be missed and try your luck at getting away with murder for power.
Don't Kill the Messenger by Eileen Rendahl
Melina Markowitz is a Messenger, a go-between for supernaturals of various sorts. She is able to interact with them because of a near death episode as a child. Mere humans don't generally believe in magic in this world unless it's made very obvious to them. Melina's gifts are pretty minor and the price she pays for failure is an unpleasant, magically-inflicted misery. So when she gets tangled up with a misdirected package and Chinese vampires she's stuck in the middle and in over her head. Fortunately she has friends and the guts to see things through. At least she doesn't have as many issues with her hot cop as the main character in Spider's Bite does. Melina's got a nice lack of criminal tendencies.
Welcome to our new contributor Ross, who grew up in the woods outside Oregon City, where he had ample time to read and re-read every book he could find, making him an omnivorous reader. Science fiction, fantasy, classic literature, poetry, street lit, biographies, comics - you name it, he’ll read it. He loves finding connections between wildly different works. His favorite poem is “Used Book Store”, in the collection My Noiseless Entourage by Charles Simic.
Last November, thanks to Multnomah County Library’s Read the Classics program, I made an important discovery: The Iliad is the best story ever written. I quit after 15 pages when I tried to read it in middle school, but - whether it was the translation that I read this time (by Robert Fagles), or the enlightening introduction (by Bernard Knox), or the 20-so years of life experience since my first reading - this time something clicked. The beauty of the images and metaphors, the simplicity and yet incredible depth of the story, the oh-so-human and identifiable characters. The utter symmetry of it. I don’t think any book before has moved me so much or stuck in my mind, like a bronze spear point, with so much force.
Since developing this Iliad-philia, I have been noticing related works everywhere I turn:
British poet Christopher Logue eschews simple translation of Homer, and instead has been retelling the books of the Iliad in his own radically modern verse. The Husbands is his adaptation of books 3 and 4, and the cover alone makes me want to read it.
Ransom is a new literary novel by David Malouf in which he retells the events of book 24 of the Iliad, where King Priam goes to Achilles and tries to ransom the body of his son, Hector.
Margaret George’s Helen of Troy is a novelization of the war from the perspective of the woman who caused those thousand ships to be launched.
The War that Killed Achilles by Caroline Alexander presents a new reading and analysis of the Iliad, and argues that the primary purpose of the poem is to convey the utter devastation of war.
Achilles by Elizabeth Cook is a short novel, almost a prose poem, about the entire life (and death) of that legendary hero, and the reverberations of his story.
And in Ilium by Dan Simmons, inspired by Shakespeare’sThe Tempest as well as The Iliad, these classic works of literature are building blocks for a complex science fiction epic: the gods live on Mars, a race of sentient robots has specialists in literature, and the battle of Troy is being fought once again.
I am sure that this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, the vanguard of the legion. What are your favorite Iliad-inspired works?
I saw Frozen River many months ago and the story has continued to simmer to the surface of my mind. So last night I put the kids to bed, made some popcorn, and sat down to watch it again. I'm glad I did.
Ray and Lila are two minimum-wage earning mothers caught in the shadowy world of smuggling illegal immigrants across the St. Lawrence River via the Mohawk territory between Quebec and New York. Ray wants the double-wide with the decent bathtub she saved for before her husband disappeared with the money days before Christmas. Lila wants to raise the baby son her mother-in-law has taken from her. Ray's dead-end part-time job at Yankee Dollar and Lila's employment at the reservation bingo parlor are no match for the lure of cash in exchange for a quick drive across the frozen river. The two women form an uneasy partnership built on a rusting Dodge Spirit with a push-button trunk.
It is a midwinter story of desperate circumstances, but the remainder is that of spring; reckoning and resurrection, and a thaw. Behold the miracle of mud: it may not be what you planted, but something green will grow.
Now that the unpronounceably named volcano from Iceland has settled down, let's turn our attention to other unpronounceable acts that Iceland has released upon the world.
First up is probably Iceland's biggest musician, Ms. Guðmundsdóttir, better known as Björk. Initially the lead singer for The Sugarcubes, Björk has been around long enough to become a worldwide musical icon. Her inventive style often includes a great deal of innovation as well. Sometimes she's screaming, sometimes she's grunting, but every little thing she does is very musical. She even was the lead in a musical called Dancer in the Dark. It's pretty and depressing. Actually some would say it's pretty depressing. Bring your box of tissues.
From the other side of the island comes the all-male musical group, Sigur Rós. I love this band, and not just because they sing in a mixture of Icelandic and Vonlenska, an unintelligible language they created. Their range in music goes from a lilting tune to a deeply introspective piece in a heartbeat. I actually saw them play at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall where they ended the concert by spraying the entire audience with confetti. The film Heima, chronicles their journey home where they gave free concerts to the people of Iceland. It showcases their music perfectly, but also features the wonderful imagery that inspired them.
I recently stumbled across yet another musical act from Iceland, Múm. They are a collective of musicians who also perform experimental electronic music. I wonder what it is about being from Iceland that inspires such unique music...perhaps it’s the volcanoes!
I savored My Life in France by Julia Child for months. I didn’t want it to end. Julia and Paul Child were inspiring people. They loved food, wine, art, travel, friends, family and France. They loved with gusto!
Julia met Paul Child when they worked for the United States government during World War II. After the war they parted ways only to discover that they didn’t want to be apart. To make a sweet story short they married. After the war Paul continued working for the United States government in Europe: France, Germany and Norway. Mrs. Child accompanied her husband to his new postings. Julia decided to go to the cooking school Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and found her calling as a chef, best selling writer and TV personality.
This memoir is peppered with Paul’s photographs and touching stories about their life together. Join the crowd and make a reservation for My Life in France. And while you're waiting, find books, movies and more about and by the lovely Julia here.
That sound you hear? That would be me, in the corner, curled into a ball,whimpering gently. I just finished Changes, book 12 of the Dresden Files. Based on past publishing patterns it will be a year before I find out
Have you read the Dresden Files yet? Harry Dresden is a both a P.I. and a wizard. The Chicago he inhabits is populated with vampires, werewolves, all manner of Fae, beings that claim to be demons and angels (nobody sanewould argue with them) and pretty much any other stripe of magical creature you can think of. The Dresden Files is the series other urban fantasies want to be when they grow up. They are fairly light quick reads but they really do need to be read in order, starting with Storm Front.
Several years ago, I bought the first two on a whim. I forgot about them until my husband came to me with book two in hand to ask if there were any more and could I go get them right now please? Huh. Obviously I was missing something. I started reading them myself. I was hooked. Now I snatch up each new installment on the release date and finish it before bedtime. This is my absolute favorite series. I've seen it enjoyed by both male and female readers. I've talked mystery/detective story readers into giving it a try despite the fantasy elements and they've enjoyed it.
A few years ago I heard the author speak at a convention. He was charming and witty. When asked how many books were planned he said he had a twentyyear mortgage. At this point I'm not sure how it will end. Harry Dresden may die horribly or finally see a moment of untarnished happiness - probably right before dying horribly. I'm not sure which I'm rooting for. He's done dubious things for good reason, he's allied with not nice beings for a good cause, he's made mistakes, some with bloody, tragic prices. But so far, Harry Dresden keeps getting back up and trying again. He's got a lot of flaws, headed up by a smart mouth, although it's sarcasm rather than cynicism.
And while it may sound like these are twelve grim volumes of unremitting gloom, they are frequently very funny. The characterization is truly top notch. I care what happens to Harry, I care a lot at this point. But I can't really describeanything that happens in book twelve without venturing into spoiler territory. What I can tell you is that on October 26th Butcher is releasing a book of short stories called Side Jobs. It contains the collected Dresden Files short stories from various anthologies plus a few new ones. One of them is written from the perspective of a secondary character and is set immediately after the end ofChanges. I am pre-ordering Side Jobs because I can't wait until next April. The author is an evil, cruel, and terrible man and I need a hint of what happens in book thirteen right now.
PS, the tv show?... Meh, it was OK. If you like genre TV and want to watch something on DVD you'll like it well enough. But it doesn't hold a candle to the books.
Oh no - yet another book I don't want to return to the library! I think I'll have to go out and buy it. I love Country living : A Bit of Velvet and a Dash of Lace : the Fabulous Interiors of Magnolia Pearl by Robin Brown with Jason Boyd.
As a new homeowner I like to browse the interior decorating books in the library. I've found that many of them don't have a personal voice or narrator. If they do they can come across as clinical and cold. This is not the case in this book! Brown offers the reader a warm invitation to the "Magnolia Pearl" style of decorating. She also shares stories about her upbringing in 1960s California with her artistic parents.
I'm not usually attracted to the funky, Bohemian-Victorian style but Brown makes it appealing. And it's wonderful to see Brown's style beautifully portrayed on each page by Steven Radazzo's stunning photographs. Though I might use elements of the Boho-Victorian style, there's no way I could make my entire home reflect this dedication to interior decoration.
Perhaps you'd like to add these elements of style to your home? Luckily this book includes a guide for those who would like to do just that. Some of the projects included in the book are weaving flowers in your hair, building a gate from a bed frame and making pet beds. If you are looking for a visual treat along with great storytelling try the lovely book A Bit of Velvet and a Dash of Lace. You won't be disappointed.
Welcome to our new blogger Cathy, who says of her reading tastes, "I love all kinds of books, music, films, comics, zines and web stuff. Basically, I eat from all 5 food groups, including junk food." More about Cathy and all of our bloggers here.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, if someone called you the L word, if it didn’t refer to your sexuality, it meant you’d been outed as a liberal. But that L word is so last century. In today’s hallowed halls of Web 2.0, the latest 12th-letter indictment is Luddite. So why is Jaron Lanier, a Silicon Valley visionary, musician, and one of the web’s big supporters in the 1980s, now having to fend off that label? Lanier’s recent book You Are Not a Gadget- a self-proclaimed manifesto - is his answer to all the mudslingers.
I love how this book asks lots of “taboo” questions about the Web. His FAQs preface the book by saying “it ought to be possible to criticize aspects of digital experience without criticizing the whole of it.” Here are just some of the provocative issues he raises:
- Computer scientists create a standard, like storing information in files. It makes sense while their system is small, but when the system expands (think Microsoft), it gets “locked in” - now we all must use it, whether it’s outdated, inefficient, or unaesthetic. What happens when the ‘lock-in” is your personal profile, on a social network like Facebook?
- Regarding crowd decision-making on the Web: “Collectives can be just as stupid as any individual – and, in important cases, stupider. The interesting question is whether it’s possible to map out where the one is smarter than many."
- It has been a decade since music migrated to the Web. Are musicians actually better off? What does the online music world forecast for other fields, like journalism?
- Why was advertising the villain in the 1960s and 1970s, but now can do no wrong? Lanier’s answer is because it’s what pays for the Web, and what allows content to be available for free. So what happens to culture when advertising is sacrosanct?
Lanier is no naysayer; he’s open to debate, and he proposes intriguing alternatives. This book's guaranteed to start great discussions, whether you’re a computer geek or a rank and file Web user.
Sometimes I think that I am drawn to books of sorrow. Rather, maybe, I am more attracted to how people survive and work out their grief.
Perhaps it was too soon for the author to write of his daughter Amy's untimely death from heart failure at age 38. Making Toast: a Family Story by Roger Rosenblatt is so filled with raw sorrow, a touch of bitterness and tender stories of helping to raise three young grandchildren. The children call him, Boppo, and his wife, Ginny becomes Mimi as their lives are forever changed.
Roger Rosenblatt may be familiar from his columns in The Washington Post or Time Magazine. He is also a Professor of English and Writing at Stony Brook University and the author of the hilarious novel, Lapham Rising.
Facing this terrible loss is torture, but caring for the children becomes a joy.
Always the teacher, Boppo gives the children a new word each morning to mull and savor. These 'Word of the Morning' stories sprinkled throughout the book and the quiet way that the Rosenblatts instill a love of reading are some of my favorite parts of this memoir. Bubbies, the youngest child, is just under two. One evening just before bedtime, Bubbies points to one of the books in the den and says, "book." It is a copy of The Letters of James Joyce, but Boppo takes the book down and instead reads a story of Bubbies' adventure on the playground.
"I try to put back the book, but he detects an implicit announcement of his bedtime, and he protests. "Joyce!" he says. Eventually, he resigns himself to the end of his day. He puts the book back himself, and quietly says, "Joyce."
Ginny puts her feelings into the startling poem "Arch of Shade" as she grapples with leading her daughter's life by caring for the children.
Arch of Shade
Rachmaninoff and Mozart
Sift through the haze
On River Road.
Two hatted women wait
In the heat for the Ride-on-Bus.
The Wii is the summer wish
Your babies' crib is disassembled
And taken away
To be the bed for a new life.
I am turning
To the camp carpool line
Only thinking of you.
The arch of shade hovers
The hot July sun rays
Dapple the leaf arch
To highlight the darkness.
I am here.
Roger astutely comments on his wife and her poetry; "Her graciousness distracts people from noticing that she is alert to life's dark places. She prefers it that way. Her poems hit their mark, but gently. They crack the egg without breaking it."
Making Toast will both break your heart and show you what is possible in dealing with grief.