Concessions

E-books

I don't like them, and I fight the idea of them constantly– them and their damn e-readers. You've heard the arguments against the e-book industry, I'm sure, and my gripes are nothing new; neither are my arguments for the real book industry: I love the feel of a book in my hands. I love the sterile smell of a new book, the dusty smell of an aged book. I love the cracking sound a hardcover binding makes when you open it for the first time, the flip-p-p-p sound when you rifle through pages quickly, the schhhhh-lip of a single sheet being turned over with slow deliberation by a briefly-licked fingertip.

I love walking into libraries and feeling so at home, surrounded by shelf after shelf of books on every possible subject. Even the act of randomly pulling a book off its shelf, casually flicking through its contents– skimming this paragraph here, gazing adoringly at that photo there– and then slipping it neatly back into place amongst its manufactured wood pulp brethren– oh man. This is all like the difference between a piece of Three-Course Dinner Chewing Gum and an actual three-course dinner.

(I was going to use a porn-and-sex analogy, there, but thought I'd spare you the awkwardness. But now I've gone and told you anyway, so I've effectively spared you nothing. Except your need to thank me. You're welcome.)

But! As highly as I do prefer real books (even 1000+-page books that weigh nearly 2 lbs.), I have to admit that of late, I've been recognizing the utility of e-books. Not in that I can "pack" seven books for a trip and not have them take up any extra space beyond my laptop, which I always bring with me anyway– but in that I can stick my books in the cloud and access them instantly, from anywhere. I'm one of those people who, out of nowhere, vaguely remembers a passage from a book I read ages ago, then obsesses over the exact wording of that passage until I finally recover the book and can re-read it. Thus, having my library uploaded to a server and "on-demand" is highly attractive… unappealing format and all.

Blackberry

My beloved HTC's screen input broke, and since there aren't any phones out there I like enough to justify the purchase price, I'm back on my BB 8900 until summer-ish.

I used to be hugely enamored with Blackberry phones after they decided to appeal more to the consumer audience– I burned through the 8800, the 8300, the 8310 (twice), and messed around with the 9000 for two weeks before exchanging it for the 8900. I scoffed at the Storm and the iPhone and all the other touchscreen phones that followed and wondered how anyone in their right mind could give up a tactile keyboard.

And then, after returning home from NYC last year, something in me just… snapped. But in a good way, like a release of tension from an upright stick-in-the-ass snapping. I found someone in Vegas who was selling their HTC Hero (the European GSM version) for a really good price, drove to the north side of town, forked over cash and began unboxing and SIM-swapping as soon as I got back into my car.

I haven't looked back since.

Until now, sort of, but it wasn't a voluntary look, it was a look of emergency. Either way, being back on my once-loved BB feels like a step back, a couple of steps back, particularly in the e-mail department, which is ironic because that's how I used to defend the Blackberry kingdom to all the naysayers– "Look, if you want a shiny toy that'll play games and load farting apps and do multimedia on a big fancy screen, go with the iPhone or whatever. But nobody does e-mail better than Blackberry."

Assuming you're on an exchange server, I should have added. Which I would have, had I known. My Gmail accounts don't have two-way sync on BB (I know the new BIS rollout is supposed to take care of this, but apparently my region hasn't been updated yet), which means aside from lacking functionality of labels, archiving, et cetera– if I handle new e-mails through the web, they're still flashing as unopened on my phone. And if I read something on my phone, it's still marked unread in my web inbox.

Annoying? Mildly, for everyday cases. Majorly when you haven't turned on your phone for a week (e.g. when I went to Japan) or for six months (how long I had the HTC), and suddenly you have to wait for the phone to register your 600+ "new" messages.

HOWEVER. Being forced to use this thing also, inbetween annoying the shit out of me, reminds me of its positive qualities that other phones I've owned or played with have yet to reproduce:

  • Autocorrect custom dictionary – you can assign custom auto-corrections; e.g., my phone knows that if I type "itks", it needs to replace that with "it's". Similarly, "wekll" gets replaced with "we'll", and so on with other k-for-apostrophe contractions. It's amazingly efficient and it's definitely the feature I missed most when I made the jump.
  • GPS location speed – I'm pretty sure I did a side-by-side test with the iPhone 3GS as well, but for sure the 8900 locates me more quickly and more accurately than the Hero, both indoors and outdoors. Location lag is one of the two major reasons I stopped using LBS games, but that's another post entirely.
  • Clarity of calls – overlooking the fact that I marinated the Hero in a puddle of flan overnight, making phone calls on the BB is so much better than on the Hero or on iPhones, excluding headset use. 
  • Powering on/off - again, just faster. So much faster. Which is nice when you fly a lot and thus are always having to turn your phone on and off, or when your battery is constantly dying unexpectedly and you are forever having to plug it into a charger and turn it back on.
  • Camera - the dedicated camera button on the side that allows you to do a half-press for focus, full-press for shutter? It's nice. Really nice. And pictures have fantastic quality for the phone's specs.

So, I don't know. It's a step back, yes, but it also makes me question what I really need out of a mobile device. Maybe this will be a good thing for me? Simpler times, indeed.

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Bits and pieces, post-Easter edition

Finally saw "Where the Wild Things Are". I was reluctant to see it when it came out because, like for so many others, the book has a special place in my heart and I have a consistent track record of opposition to every movie that tries to adapt a favorite book. The reviews– from friends and strangers– were a complete mix of opposing opinions, so those were of no help; but finally, one night earlier this week, the stars aligned and plans were made to set (yes, set) down and watch the movie, at last, at last.

And! I adored it. The costumes and scenery were wonderful (wild and imaginative, but not flawlessly detailed or put together because what child's mind is?), the characters were developed just so, the music was perfect and the story… the story ripped at my heart. If the movie had been a hardcover novel, the original book would have been the summarized text on the inside jacket flaps. Every line of dialogue, every outburst, every interaction was so achingly well-done. How fitting that Dave Eggers co-wrote the screenplay. (This review says everything that I felt.) And how nice, that there's finally a book-to-movie adaptation that hasn't made me want to hurl objects at the screen in furious indignation.

*****

It was "Free Admission Day" to the SF Museum of Modern Art on Tuesday, so Noah and I stopped by for an hour before they closed.

I like classical art well enough. I studied bits of the movements in college for literature and understood the gist of what each period was trying to do or say, and that enhances my appreciation for most paintings. I don't really feel like I "get" modern art, however, and the trip to the MOMA only reinforced this suspicion. Like, it's interesting to look at, but I don't understand the purpose or the statement or the emotion, or if there's even supposed to be anything. Maybe it's nihilistic art that reflects the meaningless existence of everything and everyone in the world? Existential art that is only for the sake of being? 

I don't get it, and I rarely feel the urge to do so. I guess this is how a lot of people feel about canonical literature, or even just books in general, so that's a fair trade. I'll take the libraries, you take the exhibits of stools perched on each other and the erased sketches and the pool tables with the balls arranged just so.

*****

Speaking of not getting/appreciating "art":

$3.50 for a hard-boiled egg that looks like it was dyed using a PAAS kit, and it's not really art because there's no way of keeping it indefinitely without it eventually decomposing (or maybe that's the "art"– nothing beautiful can stay so forever, so enjoy it while you can to the fullest extent?), so really it's just a $3.50 snack. Hmm.

*****

And today, the new iPhone OS details were revealed. I'm still not tempted, although I have occasional moments of weakness when I hear (or see) everyone talking about (or demonstrating) the latest and greatest iPhone-only apps. Honestly, I'm beyond the phase where I snottily don't want to get one just because everyone else has one… I just still don't really want one for daily, primary use. I like my Android phone. 

I like widgets, dammit.