31 January 2010
30 January 2010
E.C. has been trying for a long time to convince me that ebooks + Amazon = end of the publishing industry, but I would have none of it. I just couldn't get my head around why abundant ebooks at awesomely low prices could be a bad thing.
Over at Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow uses his sci fi writer's powers of inference and extrapolation to tell us exactly why.
There's no such thing as a proprietary book. There's no such thing as a license agreement necessary to read a book. Books are governed by a social contract that is older than publishing, older even than printing. The recent innovation of copyright in books recognizes the ancient compact between readers and writers, and protects your rights to own your books, to loan them, to give them away, to resell them, to read them in any nation, in any circumstance. A publisher or bookseller can't force you to buy Ikea sofas to sit upon while you read your books.
But Amazon can force you to buy Kindles (and Amazon-approved devices) to read your Kindle books on and listen to your Audible audiobooks on.
And if one of the five titans that control almost all of publishing gets into a scrap with one of the four or five titans that control almost all ebook publishing, or the one company that rules the audiobook market, the collateral damage is that you will have to choose to eschew a gigantic slice of all the literature ever made in order to hang on to your library, or abandon your library in order to get access to that publisher's work. Or fill your shoulderbag with a half-dozen tablets and readers, one for each permutation of which corporate elephant is trying to crush another.
28 January 2010
You've heard and I've heard the stories about what a horrid human being Salinger was and this is why I'm glad I read English during those "fallacies" times. This included "biographical fallacy" a literary tenet which deemed all reference (and all knowledge) of the author's life to cast a poisonous shadow on one's interpretation of the author's work. By the time I was in grad school the fallacy folly had passed somewhat but when it comes to someone like Salinger, one wishes one knew nothing about the man.
I will say this though, I owe him a lot. I was a tutor for two years and got loads of children who had never picked up a book. I'd give the kid To Kill a Mockingbird and if that didn't work, The Catcher in the Rye. It was fool-proof. To this day, I feel guilt at all the wine and flowers from teary-eyed parents. In their eyes, I was a miracle worker. Took me about two months before I made my "discoveries" and very few hours of prep before I was able to lay back and bank on my trade secret.
Boys would especially become engrossed and they are the most difficult customers when it comes to reading fiction — and so are male adults who make up only 37% of fiction readership — and once you got the boys hooked, a few strategic next few choices were enough to transform a quasi-illiterate mush brained kid into a shiny bookworm.
Once someone is an avid reader, grammatical and spelling mistake quietly, steadfastly vanish. I'm also a firm believer that reading literature nurtures empathy and helps socialisation. Of course, The Catcher in the Rye belies that "socialisation" notion and that is why boys love it. It takes young readers a while to realise that Caufield is the biggest phoney of them all.
27 January 2010
Well, some of the leaks were right. What for the last few days has been termed the iPad/iSlate/iTablet is really the iPad.
Steve Jobs appeared on stage wearing his black turtleneck at 10 AM San Francisco to present the new Apple product to a cheering crowd who gave the cancer survivor a standing ovation.
As predicted, the iPad will boast the features of "an exploded iPhone," said Jobs. Users will have access to maps, address books, photos, iTunes, internet browsing, drop down mail and a keyboard interface. After a decade without change the Apple mail and calendar softwares have finally been revamped for this new product.
The thing weighs 1.5 lbs with a 9.7 inch displays (which means nothing to us. Comrade Bingo has been metric since birth). The iPad has between 16 to 64GB of flash memory and ten hours battery life.
"What is the battery life like? We've been able to achieve 10 hours of battery life. I can take a flight from San Francisco to Tokyo and watch video the whole time. And it has over a month of standby time."
Hmm. We'll believe that when we 've tried it.
All your current iPhone apps will run on the iPad.
Martin Nisenholtz of the New York Times came to talk about an app that he thinks might revolutionise the way we read newspapers. When the NYT announced last week it was going to monetize its site, we knew this had something to do with the launch of the iPad. Newspaper publishers are said to be expectant of what the iPad can do for their flailing business.
Finally, one of iPad's reason d'être is to compete with Amazon's Kindle. Steve Jobs presented a new app calls iBooks, partnering with Penguin, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, and Hachette. At first glance from photos online, iBooks looks a lot like the current iPhone app Classics and its store looks like the iTunes store. Like most book apps, iBooks allows you to change the font of the book your are reading.
We're still wondering whether iBooks possesses anything close to the technology of the Kindle which makes its screen look like the page of a book, a technology truly soothing to the eye when compared with regular computer screens.
26 January 2010
Interested in seeing the spectacle, but concerned about the impact of this practice on the eagles, I contacted Mark F. Elderkin, a Provincial Department Of Natural Resources biologist concerned with endangered species.
According to Elderkin, in 2002 the organizers of the Sheffield Mills eagle feeding weekends, along with an array of persons representing local tourism and agriculture, met with the department to consult on the impact of the event.
In the past, looser provincial regulations on disposal of farm carrion meant that the eagles may indeed have been fed diseased fowl. However, "Strict biosecurity codes are being applied now on all commercial operations in the Valley, hence the number of dead birds given to eagles is very limited from what it was a decade or more ago," says Elderkin. "Diseased poultry is not (presently) thrown out for eagles to consume and the feeding sites where this is being done are strictly controlled by farmers and organizers."
Department of Natural Resources documentation notes that the eagles, which would be here for the poultry farm castoffs anyway, are becoming habituated to human presence and car traffic. While this may not seem like a good thing, it in fact expands the eagles' territory and has helped to establish the birds in the province.
Elderkin also indicates that the eagle population in this region is now stabilizing, after rapid growth during the 80s and 90s. There are actually only a few nesting pairs in this area of the province, out of an estimated over two hundred pairs province wide (most of them in Cape Breton). But from December to March, an estimated four hundred birds will live in the eastern Annapolis Valley.
I'll be checking in on the Sheffield Mills event this weekend (January 30, 31) and hopefully will have some pictures to post.
Sheffield Mills Eagle Watch
Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer made the news last week for uttering unfathomable words: "At a town hall meeting Thursday in northwestern South Carolina, Bauer noted his grandmother "told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed."
That quote taken from the Boston Herald is nothing compared to the full audio.
25 January 2010
Isaac - Part 1 of I Don't Know How Many
Comrade Bingo's Isaac Asimov Store
Ok, she's really the Fisheries and Oceans Minister, Gail Shea who got her just desserts according to PETA executive vice-president Tracy Reiman: “A little tofu pie on her face is hardly comparable to the blood on Ms Shea’s hands."
The Minister was unharmed.
21 January 2010
20 January 2010
19 January 2010
18 January 2010
For the crime of messing about with witchcraft.. err, no, terrorism... err no, science and technology.. yeah.. that's the bad stuff.
How perversely distrustful and frightened we've become of the science and technology on which our incredibly high standard of living depends.
I wonder which school policies were violated in bringing a personal science project to San Diego's Millennial Tech Magnet Middle School - a school which "emphasizes technology skills".
The following discusses Avatar (with spoilers) and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (allusion to one non-pivotal scene)
The thought occurred to me years ago while I was washing dishes or driving or something and a chill ran down my spine. Two cinema-related yet disparate notions collided in my head. One was CGI. The other was Terry Gilliam.
We'll come back to both of them soon.
So there I was, years later after my chilling thought, watching Avatar in IMAX and telling myself. Yes, this is beautiful, this is imaginative, I should be spellbound. Somehow, I wasn't spellbound and since the plot of Avatar is more predictable than the unfolding of Titanic, I sat in the theatre, thinking it over. I was surrounded by Roy Orbisoned kids (IMAX) who wowed and ooohed, kids who've lived and grown up with Xbox and Playstation. They should be the jagged ones. Then, I began to wonder, because my wonderment always turns to the self-serving, whether this was an "emperor's new clothes" situation. After all kids go out of their to pretend that what they think should be cool they find actually cool. I soon had to demote myself again however, after listening to comments as I walked out of the theatre and talking it over with family and friends, and admit that most who saw Avatar were visually dazzled.
I have other problems with Avatar, pre-ordained script, a transparent historical metaphor with a phoney ending that belies history, white people bad yet complex/tribal people good and simple, and yet another white man who leads the way to freedom. Only my Anthony Lane (film critic for the New Yorker) has come close to expressing the core of my discomfort with Avatar, but he didn't do it whilst review Avatar, he did it in a review of Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
In "The Current Cinema" of 21 December 2009, Lane writes:
"I have no idea, any more than I can decide whether C.G.I. was the best or the worst thing that could have happened to Terry Gilliam. His gifts of invention were already so fecund, and so prolix, that this newfound ability to construct anything that drifts into his mind’s eye—as opposed to the ramshackle, hand-drawn delight of his earlier animation—spells both enchantment and chaos."
And that is almost the thought I'd had years ago. Now that CGI can demonstrate whatever Gilliam's imagination can conjure up, what nightmare would it be if he got the money to do it. In The Imaginarium, Gilliam sporadically bends the technology to his will and doesn't allow it to smother his flair for rendering artificiality, the cardboard trees, the Doctor's van and set. Yet there were disappointments. Within a second of seeing the Buddhist temple, I somehow knew Gilliam's imagination enough to know exactly what the temple (half falling apart, of course) would look like as the camera panned upwards and as we entered the temple itself. Nothing in it surprised me (except for Parnassus and Nick playing the Royal Game of Ur) and to see Gilliam's imagination fully rendered before me hindered me from imagining anything else.
And there lies the rub. First, we have a screenplay, words on a page and actors to interpret them. With a film like Avatar, everything is spelled out. Over and over for three hours. And then, there is sound. Such natural and simultaneously fantastic sound to make you feel the adventure as the sound system rattled your bones inside your body. Finally, the images and the ability to show anything conceivable mental conjuring.
Is this the price to pay for having been a reader or a (live) theatre goer all my life? Perhaps I am a pretentious bore for needing to add to an artistic/entertainment experience in order to find fulfilment in it, but I do suspect that's what makes those experiences enjoyable. How books and films allow my imagination to fill the gaps and how with a film like Avatar there are no gaps to be filled. The audience should participate in breathing life into a film. We each see a different film and that's why we can talk about it afterwards.
The Japanese versions of Godzilla will always be more real to me than the people of Pandora and so will the original King Kong. Paranormal Activity is a film that's frightened the public to death without the help of CGI but it's also not a studio film. My fear is that as Hollywood keeps pursuing CGI as its ticket to putting butts in movie theatre seats, this eroding at the imagination could get much worse.
It is entirely possible that this "imagination issue" is purely a generational problem. The Xbox kids sure loved the graphics.
As he received the Golden Globe for best screenplay last night, Jason Reitman opened with: "Quentin, I'm still waiting for them to say your name. I'm really confused right now".
15 January 2010
14 January 2010
Official Press Release
After his stellar performance yesterday in which he pre-emptively accused Obama of using Haïti to gather even more support from light-skinned blacks and dark-skinned blacks (!?), and Pat Robertson's soulful and collected venom at Haitians for having made a pact with the devil, now Limbaugh his telling his audience not to donate money to Haïti.
Every time we started the ignition, it put it's head under the wheel well of the car or stood right in front of the car. We were trapped.
Yup, my companion and I held hostage for thirty minutes early January in St.Catharines, Ontario, while on our way to Niagara-on-the-Lake.
We were driving down Lakeshore passing through a subdivision just before the canal when my friend spotted a giant bird and exclaimed he thought he'd just seen a wild turkey by the side if the road. I told him to turn around, I wanted to take pictures. That turned out to be a mistake.
We unsuspecting tourists made our approach toward Lakeshore from a quiet side street so we could pull over along the vast front yard of a bungalow where we'd first spotted the turkey. Even though the bird stood at least thirty metres away with its back to the car, it turned around and charged us as soon as we slowed down.
It was enormous and charging like an angry elelphant. Once it got close, it just halted and cosied up to the car like the vehicle was it's long lost friend. It kept gobbling except it didn't sound like a gobble, more like a purr.
Actually, a listen to a surprisingly wide ranging playlist of turkey sounds found on the National Wild Turkey Federation website revealed that turkeys do emit a sound called a "purr", expressing contenment. We were indeed being purred at. Or the car was.
Once we had all the photos and movies we wanted taken from the safety of our car (because we know turkey to be aggressive) our fifty pound-ish birdie friend refused to let us go.
Try as we might, we could not get the turkey to budge. We realised that the way it had charged at us and the excitement the bird displayed every time we started the car that the turkey was used to cars and probably seeking the heat from the engine on the very cold day. It was 15 below celcius in St.Catharines that day. After fifteen minutes we got fed up and decided to try to frighten the animal away.
My friend got out and made big movements and screamed loudly like they tell you to do when you're attacked by a bear. The turkey backed up but never turned it's back on him. It could have made a run for it but didn't. I didn't much like that. My friend seemed to think he'd frightened the beast away though and he turned around. As soon as he had his back on the animal, it went for him and I screamed from inside the car "Don't turn your back on it! Don't turn your back on it!" He barely made it back into the car.
We felt like complete idiots and started wondering whether the cars slowing down along Lakeshore were slowing down for the turkey or to mock the tourists trapped by the turkey. We got our answer when we called animal control.
Animal control informed us they'd been aware of the turkey for one month now. "So," my friend told animal control "I need you to come and trap it". I cried "No! we just need them to come and shoo the turkey." Which he what he meant really.
Animal control told us the law forbids them from moving an animal who isn't in distress or a threat to the population. But they told us they were sending somebody right away.
We did not wait for animal control to turn up. We called them later from a safe distance and explained another couple in a silver Jetta had pulled right over in front of us and the turkey took them on. After a couple of minutes they tried to get away but the turkey wasn't having any of it. Unless they ran the turkey over, we were pretty sure they'd still there by the time animal control showed up.
- ► 2011 (41)
- I died a thousand mimes
- Amazon vs. Macmillan: Fight!
- Can't stand Salinger, yet I owe him
- New Apple iPad announced
- A History of the World in 100 Objects
- Eagle Watching in Nova Scotia
- Stop feeding the poor already! A Republican apolog...
- Favourite music of dictators and aspiring despots
- Haiti, Canadian proragation and slacktivists: when...
- The Way The Future Blogs: Frederik Pohl on Isaac A...
- Seal hunt Minister gets tofu pie in the face
- Sky drones to spy on British citizenry
- Anglo-Saxon queen found
- Geeks drive girls out of computer science
- Essential McGarrigle
- Help Haiti! Match survivor footage to family photo...
- On appeal: is it ok for British Airways to discrim...
- Canadian Folksinger Kate McGarrigle Dies
- Viva Conando, the late-night debacle as metaphor f...
- Tech School Evacuated, 11-Year Old Electronics Tin...
- Avatar, the end of the imagination
- Awards season: Is Tarantino getting the shaft?
- LIFE, a trove of photos
- Comrade Bingo says "Give money to Haiti"
- Limbaugh says "Don't give money to Haiti"
- Two Canadians held hostage by turkey
- A Photostream of Haiti
- Snowed Under Brits Play Daredevils
- ▼ January (28)