31 August 2010

WaPo Video review of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom

If you think I'm wrong when I say that Freedom by Jonathan Franzen is released today, it's because you've been hearing far too much about it already. Somebody's marketing department needs to learn about over-hype and literary fatigue. The backlash has started already. But, seriously, today is only the beginning.

I don't just dislike Franzen's novels, I dislike the man. It's not that he spurned Oprah. It's that he said ok to being her book selection so he could sell millions of copies but then refused to be on the show. If you don't like the whiff of mainstream popularity, don't steal its money and head for the hills. Also, I'm just not in the mood to read another book about middle-class white men and their existential crises. Poor white men, my heart aches for them.

Below is a mixed review which sounds about right. Sounds very much like The Corrections.

See ya. I've got some fun books to read.

26 August 2010

The Winston Churchill Quiz

So many online quiz are ridiculously inadequate, too easy or the questions have little to do with knowledge. This is a decent one from the New Yorker.

I got 12 out of 14, I'm a Canuck and I've never even read a book about the man.

Good luck!

Winston Churchill: The Quiz

24 August 2010

Amazon.co.uk, one of the best bargains on the intertubes

Not all Amazons are alike. When I started Amazon shopping all those years ago, I preferred the American version. That was before our mighty mouse of a Canadian asserted itself worldwide and particularly against the U.S. dollar although I suspect some shenanigans making .com less attractive.

(aside: To have your currency be strong: wonderful. To see the faces of American tourists having to pay more than a U.S. dollar for a loonie: priceless)

Even when our dollar was worth, say, eighty cents American, and one didn't benefit from the free shipping, amazon.com proved cheaper ten times out of ten. Then amazon.com started saying, hey, you're from Canada, why don't you order from amazon.ca? And then, hey, you're from Canada, why don't we charge you ten bucks for shipping and handling per book? I wailed about this and got amazon.com to cut the shipping costs a few times, but it became clear they wanted to make it financially unfeasible for northlanders to order from them.

I'm not one to be bullied, so for two years (2007-ish to 2009), I basically haven't been buying books. Bravo, amazon, bravo.

Enter amazon.co.uk. Yes, the shipping fees are horrendous... but the books are cheaper so it balances things off, sometimes. Another important note: amazon.co.uk prices include the morbidly obese VAT which is included in the sticker price and taken off when you check out and .co.uk realises it is shipping to Canuckland.

But, to me, .co,uk isn't about the books. One day, I must have wondered off to the site after seeing the ridiculous North American prices on UK TV shows on DVD. I'm a lifelong fan of UK television. I seem to remember my first eureka moment came after looking up Inspector Morse and here the evidence is still clear today.

Inspector Morse Complete Collection

amazon.ca  $384.30
amazon.com $448.99
amazon.co.uk £43.47 (71.33) minus VAT %21 =) $57.07

Ok, I cheated. The North American version is a wooden box set and the UK version is just a run-of-the-mill ordinary DVD set. But both sets have the same complete Inspector More series in there. That's a lot of dough for a wooden box.

This also works with American series:

Deadwood complete series (same DVD set)

amazon.ca  $152.49
amazon.com $139.99
amazon.co.uk £28.47 (46.71 minus VAT %21 =) $37.37

The Sopranos, complete series (same DVD set)

amazon.ca  $279.99
amazon.com $170.00
amazon.co.uk £69.99 (114.82) minus VAT %21 =) $91.86

and so on.

Of course, you say, what about the region restrictions? Well, it is perfectly legal for one to own a multi-region DVD player. I picked up mine in Chinatown for fifty dollars. Major brands don't make them or if they do I didn't find them easily. So my DVD player looks like a puny Mattel toy but it's been reliable and playing perfectly well for eight months now. I christened it with my purchase of a 12 season Poirot set and the player paid for itself in one go. Also, .co.uk hasn't caught on to the fact that fifty dvds weigh more than one book and, as it stands, shipping and handling on DVD sets is a mere 3 pounds.

And you can pick up movies for a pittance. I paid three pounds for In the Loop and Life is Sweet.

Happy UK (and U.S.) TV watching!