Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Book

The opening sentence to this great article (linked to by Kottke.org) reads: "It may be, as offline readership continues to decline, that the mere fact of a bound, printed book with a paper dust jacket is something to celebrate."

The article then veers of onto its real topic - book designs not chosen - but that sentence struck me because I don't agree with it at all. While newspapers may be in trouble, the printed paper book is here to stay (as is the magazine, but that's another story).

I know this is probably belaboring the obvious, so just a couple more points:

- Electronic devices need power, don't work well in the sun, and any moisture is toxic to their very being - and this will probably always be the case. I don't like the experience of reading something long on them. I often read in my driveway while the kids play on the block, and well over half the time they either run over my book, or knock my beverage into it. Books get funky if they get wet, too, but at least you can still finish the thing. And you've only lost the price of the book, not several hundreds of dollars of electronic device.

- Those who provide the media for any electronic device - be it broadcast TV, Tivo, DVDs, music, or books - are of the mindset that you are always just borrowing their content and only they truly own it. So any device, like Kindle, that has a pipe to the provider will allow them to control what's on that device, as with the famous ironic "recall" of Orwell's 1984 from people's Kindles. Once you walk out of a store with a book, CD, or DVD, that puppy's yours, and there's not a lot they can do about it.

We all know that those who read tend to have children that read, and that is the case with my family.

Ergo, books have a solid future.

Since we're on the topics of books, I plowed through something recently that was thoroughly enjoyable and something I intend to buy a used copy of to send with my daughters when they go to college:

Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literature's 50 Greatest Hits by Jack Murnighan.

The summaries, trivia and "what to skip" jive with my memories of the books I've read, and it totally assuaged my (admittedly very teeny tiny) bit of guilt at deciding I will never try to read James Joyce's Ulysses again. How cool is it that someone took the time to put something like this together?

My only gripe is the overemphasis on gay studies ephemera. I know that the Lit departments of many colleges had more or less ousted white, straight guys (and their "dead white male" canons), but even with that knowledge, it was slightly sorrowful to encounter blatant evidence of it.

To Murnighan's credit, though, he's brave enough to dispense with the "dead white male" silliness right out of the gate, so the book's actually a nice cross-section of good classic lit.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Been reading Bios like crazy lately. I'm a bit of an impulse shopper at the library (wonderful when it's free) and they've had this bio section by the front lately.

Tom Bergeron - the host of Hollywood Squares, America's Funniest Home Videos, and Dancing with the Stars (which I think of as "Dancing with the Scars") - has a rather amusing bio.

What's cool is that it as much about how to make it in the biz as it is about how he did it. Anyone who wants to be in broadcasting should read this book.

My favorite parts are when he gets food poisoning and when he announces on the air that the reason a popular puppet character was removed from his morning variety show was due to the Peter Principle, but it so happens some studio bigwigs were watching - one of them named Peter - who didn't know what the Peter Principle was and assumed it was a swipe at him - which of course is a deliciously ironic example of the Peter Principle.

Read the strokefest The Garth Factor: The Career Behind Country's Big Boom by Patsi Bale Cox out of morbid curiosity as to what eventually happened to Garth, as near the end of his career he was kind of getting that Scientology-melted-my-brain/eyes-too-wide glare (for the record he's not a Scientologist, but I've noted most of them eventually have this odd glare in common).

It had a lot of great stuff about executive battles in country music, which is why I ended up reading it to the end, but it sure handles Garth with kid gloves. Then at the end we find that he's gearing up to come out of retirement, so I realized I probably just read an infomercial.

Still, if you're a fan, there's enough stuff about the inspiration behind some of his songs that you might dig it.

Finally, I plowed through A Little Bit Wicked by Kristin Chenoweth with Joni Rodgers. I picked it up to get the story on why my beloved TV show Pushing Daisies was cancelled (it being the ONLY new scripted show I've started watching in the past few years, only to get it yoinked out of my life); however, I kept reading because it was funny as hell.

Here are some excerpts I enjoyed:

The setup for this line is when she went on the "700 club" to promote her new CD (which had some Christian-themed songs on it) which pissed off her gay fans given the show's stance on being gay, so when she apologized to them, the Christian music tour she was supposed to join fired her.
"So apparently, though it's famously impossible to please all of the people all of the time, it is quite possible to simultaneously piss everyone off." - pp. 210

Here, Aaron Sorkin is lamenting the demise of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and Chenoweth makes it a life lesson.
"Look, I screwed up Studio 60 nine ways from Sunday," he [Aaron Sorkin] told her. "I made storytelling mistakes. I wrote angry. And anger is good fuel for the tank when you're writing, but not over the course of twenty-two episodes."

It occurred to me that the same is true of life in general. At times you have to get your Harriet up, but it's corrosive to be constantly embattled. Life requires peace. Peace requires balance. And balance requires a certain amount of get-over-yourself. - pp. 212

This one really needs no setup.
Jerry [Zaks] stuck a cigar in the side of his mouth and said, "So, kid, tell me about the Rapture."

"Well, it's when Jesus comes and takes all his followers up into Heaven."

"You mean, we'll be sitting here and you'll just disappear?"

"That's what I believe."

"What's left after you disappear?"

"I don't know. A pile of clothes, I guess."

He opndered that a moment. "Will your panties still be here?"

"Yes, Jerry," I said with the loving spirit of Jesus in my heart. "My panties will still be here. And you may have them." - pp.213

What I realized is that most bio writers these days realize the words have got to pop, so the Bergeron and the Chenowetch bios were just plain fun to read.

If you're looking for a nice, easy beach or airplane read, try a bio next time.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

My current music crush

I have slowly fallen in love with the site "The Ultimate Bootleg Experience" (aka T.U.B.E.).

They offer (illegal, I'm sure) complete downloads of bootlegs of concerts and concert video.

At times I have been really impressed by the quality of the sound. They usually spell out if it's from a soundboard connection, broadcast over FM or if it's a crowd recording (which usually sound the worse, but can have a certain charm - in the middle of the third song on the 2009 Steely Dan show, you hear some woman announce in a nasal voice, "These are our seats." which really puts you in the live moment).

What finally put me over the top was a posting of a late 70s Steely Dan show with the original lineup. I had always wondered what they sounded like. Answer: good.

Btw, they have many more artists than Steely Dan.

Enough babble, go check it out.

Just some housekeeping. You'll notice that some blog bros and sisters are gone from the right, they done retired. (Dropping like flies anymore. Have we passed into a new age on the web and no one noticed?)

I'll miss you Opinionated Home Schooler and Redwood Dragon.

Also, the link to my old vanity site will be coming down sometime in Oct. because Geocities/Yahoo is discontinuing their free hosting service, so it will disappear into the void. So, if there's anything out there that you like or liked, go grab it now. The Reading page in particular has some good stuff. I think it's the only place on the web you'll find Gahan Wilson's wonderful Pocket Movie Sci-Fi / Horror Calculator.