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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“I guess we’ll just have to invent more ways to say it”

"What else do you love, Lily?"

No one had ever asked me this before. What did I love? …

I said, "Well, I love Rosaleen, and I love writing stories and poems– just give me something to write and I will love it." After that, I really had to think.

I said, "This may be silly, but after school I love Coca-Cola with salted peanuts poured in the bottle. And when I’m finished with it, I love turning up the bottle to see where it came from." Once I’d gotten a bottle from Massachusetts, which I kept as a tribute to how far something can go in life.

"And I love the color blue– the real bright blue like the hat May had on at the Daughters of Mary meeting. And since coming here, I’ve learned to love bees and honey." I wanted to add, And you, I love you, but I felt too awkward.

"Did you know there are thirty-two names for love in one of the Eskimo languages?" August said. "And we just have this one. We are so limited, you have to use the same word for loving Rosaleen as you do for loving a Coke with peanuts. Isn’t that a shame we don’t have more ways to say it?"

Sue Monk Kidd, "The Secret Life of Bees"

Related: this.

When you know what you want, don’t you dare give up without fighting for it first

But Jane would not have her. Alyce stood before the cottage, eyes stinging and heart sore. She had not thought about this, had thought no further than knocking on Jane’s door and being welcomed. But there it was. Jane would not have her. […]

"I know you do not wish to leave, cat. Nor do I. But there is no place for me here. I tried to come back but failed. She will not have me."

[…] Suddenly she leapt to her feet. […]

"Jane Sharp! It is I, Alyce, your apprentice. I have come back. I can do what you tell me and take what you give me, and I know how to try and risk and fail and try again and not give up. I will not go away."

The door opened.

-Karen Cushman, "The Midwife’s Apprentice"

Four weeks was two weeks more than necessary to make me miss airports and planes

"When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ship’s whistle will still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, I don’t improve; in further words, once a bum always a bum. I fear the disease is incurable."

John Steinbeck, "Travels with Charley in Search of America" (1962)

Oh hell, why not throw in a post about books, too.

My mom came back from San Diego and told me she’d just finished a book– "Dog Years"– that she thought I’d like because the author’s writing style was similar to mine. I was puzzled; I have a writing style? Yes, she said; but then she couldn’t describe it, so she just pushed the book onto me.

I’ve had it since Monday. I cracked it open and peered warily at the first two pages– and froze. Long, never-ending paragraphs. Big, fancy dictionary words. Poetry-as-prose. I quickly shut the book; it was more than my little brain could handle. I didn’t touch it again until Tuesday night.

It’s taken me two days to get through the first chapter. Fourteen pages.

On the one hand, I should be flattered that she thinks our writing styles are similar. I mean, this guy’s won awards for his writing, this *book* has won awards of distinction; a comparison would be a compliment, right? But on the other hand, aw man, I do not want to read this. Not now. Do you know what I’ve been reading, lately? "Harry Potter" (re-reads, naturally) and Augusten Burroughs (ditto). That’s like making someone watch "Schindler’s List" right after "Bio-Dome". Not going to happen. Not so much.

I’m sure it’s a lovely book. I’m sure once I get through it, it will have earned a spot in one of the corners of my heart. I’m sure there will be passages I will want to memorize and carry in my stream of consciousness constantly. But right now? Oh, right now, I don’t want beautiful writing full of sentiment and depth and poignancy. It’s summer, and I have five weeks of Calc III to look forward to pretty soon. READING LEVEL 5, THANKS.

It’s always worth it. Don’t ever let anyone convince you of otherwise.

Ainsi le petit prince apprivoisa le renard. Et quand l’heure du départ
fut proche:

– Ah! dit le renard… Je pleurerai.
– C’est ta faute, dit le petit prince, je ne te souhaitais point de
mal, mais tu as voulu que je t’apprivoise…
– Bien sûr, dit le renard.
– Mais tu vas pleurer! dit le petit prince.
– Bien sûr, dit le renard.
– Alors tu n’y gagnes rien!
– J’y gagne, dit le renard, à cause de la couleur du blé.

Movies: “The Seeker”

I’m just setting the record straight here, because the R-Jen today pissed me off (more than it usually does) and because I’ve been pretty testy regarding this movie since I found out about it back in July.

  1. This movie is not the film version of Susan Cooper’s "The Dark is Rising" series, which consists of five solidly-written and overall-excellent books. This movie should not even be considered "based" on the series, given how disgustingly far it strays from the source material. It’s been reported several times that Susan Cooper was "not happy" with how her books were adapted for the big screen. A starter list of discrepancies can be found here.
  2. "The Dark is Rising" series is NOT a "rip-off" of the Harry Potter series, and god help the next person to publicly suggest this. Fact: Susan Cooper wrote these books in the 1970s. BIGGER FACT: One of those five books won the Newbery Medal and another won a Newbery Honor. These books are not in any need of coattail-riding.
  3. Shame on everyone involved with this train wreck who intentionally let their paychecks account for the desecration of such treasured works of literature. Alexander Ludwig, I’m sure you’re a cute kid and all and maybe you even have some acting talent, I wouldn’t know because I refuse to suffer through this movie, but right now, I would be putting a pox on you because YOU, sir, are no Will Stanton. The Will Stanton you portray is a charlatan, a hoax, a punk-ass little kid who needs to be shipped off to a farm in Montana for 20 to life.
  4. Also: if Merriman is really reduced to "Miss Greythorne’s butler" in this movie? DUDE. John Hodge had better go into hiding post-haste. Yeah, they’re both Old Ones but HI MERRIMAN IS REALLY MERLIN AND YOU DON’T GET MUCH HIGHER IN THE MAGICAL PECKING ORDER THAN THAT.

I just read through that starter list again to make sure it was the link I was looking for, and, oh, John Hodge: I am wishing that you somehow manage to get on Jeremy’s bad side, because his wrath is the best and the wrathiest wrath I could ever wish upon you.

Books: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”

Yes. Oh, yes; yes yes yes.

Seven hours. I was infuriated and impatient and at times, delirious (didn’t start until after 11 p.m.)– now I can’t stop crying. It was perfect, it was beautiful, it was horrifying, it was gorgeous, but now it’s over, it’s over and I’m fishing desperately in the air for something to fill this sudden emptiness.

Some solace has the potential to be found in Susanna Clarke’s "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell," which I finished reading for the third time a few months ago but might need to pick up again, just for this purpose.

No, I haven’t seen the fifth movie yet and I don’t really WANT to

I’ve got the last Harry Potter book sitting on my desk in front of me. I had to go to Wal-Mart to get it because the bookstores were all out and I didn’t feel like putting myself on some stupid "Reserved" list, which would entail another day or two of waiting before the book was in my hands. One to two days more? Um, no thanks, I’ll just mosey across the street to the Whore of Low Prices, where they had a couple hundred copies out on the floor alone.

I didn’t get the book last night because I was being stubborn. The last three books in the series, I was at Borders at midnight, in line with all the other die-hard fans– and immediately after, I would rush home, curl up in bed and read the book start to finish (usually about five hours straight). For this one, though– I don’t know. I didn’t want to leave the Aruba and drive across town to a bookstore, so I stayed active on the dance floor and, to boot, made plans for this morning so I wouldn’t be tempted to buy it as soon as the stores opened and waste my whole day reading it.

I have to admit– I’ve got a lot of hesitancy about opening this book. Not because I have reservations about the plot and all the rumors that have been floating around regarding what happens and who dies, etc.– but because– as silly as this sounds– I’m not ready for this to be over. I’m not ready for the series to end. I always feel like I’ve just said a very sad good-bye to a very good friend whenever I finish an engaging book– even if it’s the 25th time I’ve read it! And furthermore, I’m always conflicted: I want more because I love the book and its characters so much, and yet the ending is so perfect that I couldn’t ask for it to be any other way, which is what "more" would entail.

And so this book has been sitting here on my desk for three hours now, untouched. The emptiness that’s going to follow the turning of the last page is going to be hard to bear. I’d rather not have to, then. I’d rather, as Shaw so inspirationally puts it, dream things that never were and say, "Why not?"– just leave the thing unopened and leave matters unresolved. But I’m smarter than that (now, anyway). So, here it goes. Here, it ends.