July 29, 2010

Random link: E-books article drinking game, from Bookavore

Filed under: books,e-books,Links,reading — crcb @ 1:18 am
Tags: , , , ,

Haven’t seen this one done before. I suppose it takes a nerdy, yet boozy, audience to appreciate:


July 27, 2010

Algernon Blackwood’s A Prisoner in Fairyland

Super-librarian Nancy Pearl’s Rule of 50 states that you should give a book 50 pages to draw you in. If it hasn’t done so by then, abandon it. Since e-reader pages are so short, I gave Blackwood’s A Prisoner in Fairyland twice that. I shouldn’t have.

There’s entirely too much starlight and magic. I assume from the “prisoner” of the title that there will be evil and conflict, but there’s little sign of that yet. Trainloads of wistfulness and innocence, though. People who think children are innocent have forgotten their own childhoods. If they have children of their own, they must be very inattentive parents. Depravity is natural; virtue is learned.

It’s books like this that give fantasy fiction a bad name.

July 18, 2010

Container and contained: thoughts about books and ebooks

Filed under: books,reading — crcb @ 11:57 pm
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I read the following in Jeff Gomez’s Print is Dead: Books in Our Digital Age: ” I am who I am because of books, because of the words that others and I discovered between the hardback and paperback covers of worn and dog-eared novels.”

Now, Gomez’s book is no luddite screed, but I have heard similar statements from those who view ebooks with horror, when they can bear to look at them at all. I imagine like laments greeted the first appearance of paperbacks. Many who had grown up with hardback books probably considered these newcomers frauds, cheap pretenders to respectability.

Gomez’s hyperbolic title notwithstanding, printed books aren’t going away. Hardbacks didn’t vanish. They have their advantages in durability and mystique. Even now, any tome with claims to substance or scholarship must first appear in hardback (as Print is Dead did).

I love paperbacks, and still recall the sometimes brittle, faded or taped-up covers of many childhood and adolescent reads. My daughter might someday have fond memories of a scratched and scuffed e-reader, when prices drop enough for her to have one. But for her, for me, for any lover of reading, the physical object held in the hand is secondary: it’s the words that transport us out of our own physical containers that we truly cherish.

July 8, 2010

Dubuque poems

Filed under: Poetry,Writing — crcb @ 11:45 pm

Just got back from a brief vacation trip to Dubuque, Iowa, USA.

First, a couple of haiku:

river restaurant’s
two-story windows, streaked
with mayflies

(Not sure they were actually mayflies, but if not, then something very similar in appearance.)


otters — too playful
to catch on camera, too
playful not to try


And then…

Dubuque Fourth Street Elevator

Paint peels
from the wooden car.
We ride to the crest
of the bluff, passing
worn stretches of cable,
broken spools. At the edge
of my vision,
the purple and yellow
of new flowers,
the white of knuckles.

–Carl Bettis

(Note: also known as the Fenelon Place Elevator, but I like Fourth Street Elevator better. It claims to be –according to the t-shirt I didn’t buy — “The world’s shortest steepest and scenic railway.”)

July 7, 2010

Going analog

Filed under: art,creativity — crcb @ 12:30 am
Tags: , , ,

I’m a fairly digital dude. I have my cell phone, my blog, my accounts on Twitter and Facebook and Gmail and Delicious, my MP3 players, my eReader. But sometimes, the old manual methods are best. Case in point: mind mapping.

VYM, a very nice, free piece of mind mapping software, is installed on my computer, and I’ve used it. It handily exports your mind map to a clickable imagemap or a linear outline. But creativity is the point of mindmapping, rapidity and flow and feeling and sheer physicality are necessary parts of the process, and computers get in the way.

Looking at a couple of hand-drawn mind maps from my journal, for instance, I see that the word “BETRAYAL” in one is harsh and pointy, and the word “snakes” in another is, well, snaky. I could have done something similar on my laptop, but only by switching to graphics software. It would have required more than the few seconds my fingers needed, and the results would have been less expressive. It would have broken the flow. And, most importantly, I can still remember how it felt to attack the page for BETRAYAL, and the twisty pen-strokes of snakes. Those sensations, those emotions, became part of the diagram. When I change the lettering or draw a frog, it brings more of me into the process than choosing a font or icon from a pre-determined list does.

And that’s another shortcoming of mind mapping software: you can only do what the software is set up to do. Every application I’ve seen requires one central node, and provides limited means of linking nodes to one another. You can choose solid, dotted or dashed lines, curved or straight. Working by hand, I can create three central nodes, or nineteen, or none. I can link one node to any number of others, or leave it isolated like a rock in a stream. I can scribble lines that go from loopy to jagged to barbed. I can glue string and beads and feathers to the page, or fold it, or tear it, if I think that’s relevant. Some of these actions go against the technical definition of a mindmap, but so what? When I work by hand, there are no limits; and isn’t that what creativity is about?

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