Darren Barefoot
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Entries about dead tree things.

August 29, 2003

I look forward to a new official biography of Douglas Adams coming out in October. Via that news piece, I found a well-done summary of his memorial ceremony. It includes an excellent speech by Richard Dawkins about Adams. Dawkins offers, among other gems, this excellent Adams quote: 'If you try to take a cat apart, to see how it works, the first thing you'll have on your hands is a non-working cat.' I should mention, too, the most excellent Adams book that few(er) people have read, Last Chance to See. It's a hilarious, poignant tale of his search for the world's most endangered species.


12:17:35 PM  Permanent link to this entry    Trackback []    Books Science

A great collection of pulp fiction book covers. They've been turned into postcards by some enterprising soul. I particularly like the romantic/erotic ones such as Naked on Roller Skates and (the downright surreal) Virgin with Butterflies. Courtesy of Coudal Partners.

10:14:12 AM  Permanent link to this entry    Trackback []    Books The Arts

August 28, 2003

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about www.savekaryn.com. Karyn is the enterprising, somewhat questionable young woman who accrued US $20,000 worth of debt, and then got herself out of debt with her Web site and a powerful meme (though not without the predictable backlash). I believe I gave her three bucks.

She's now debt free and has written a book about 'one shopaholic's journey to debt and back.' Can the movie be far behind?


10:26:15 AM  Permanent link to this entry    Trackback []    Books

August 7, 2003

A couple of years ago, my friend Sam started Echo Memoirs. It's a unique idea, and I think it's pretty nifty. It's related (I think) to the blogosphere explosion of the past few years.

They produce high-end (like, starting at CAN $850 high-end) memoir books. The most common varieties are pet books, wedding books and personal life stories. I recently suggested she also do car books. Many people love their cars as they do their children and pets, after all.

The appeal is all about archiving  your own life and experiences. Plus, they're gorgeous, well-designed, hand-bound books. I've done some editing and proofreading work for her, and it's kind of fascinating to read (and edit) peoples' life stories.

Yes, I'm a dosser. With her permission, I lifted her site design for my site. . 


8:32:56 AM  Permanent link to this entry    Trackback []    Books The Arts

July 31, 2003

I recently finished Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Cory Doctorow's first novel. Cory Doctorow is one of the few people whose life I want. He's a novelist, works for the EFF, contributes to the seminal BoingBoing.net and is way, way cooler than I am. Mind you, he lives in the States, so that's a minus. From a note I sent to Cory regarding his book:

A brief note to say that I just finished Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and really enjoyed it. I'm not a big science fiction reader, so I appreciated the clarity with which concepts like whuffie, deadheading, etc, were expressed. These concepts had a sort of plausible realism--they very much seemed logical extensions of social and technological trends. Few authors like comparisons, but I found your writing kind of Douglas Couplandesque. It had the same sort of friendliness and easy cadence to it.
 
I read the first chapter online and then went out and bought the deadtree edition. I'm quite sensitive to smells, and the pages have exactly the same odour as the Dungeons and Dragons books of my youth. I don't know if it's the paper stock or the ink or a combo of the two, but I rarely find books with that smell.

 
So, not only did I enjoy reading your book, but it was also a pleasure to smell.

It suffered from a little first-novelitis--uneven characters and occasional cliches--but, given the inventive plot, themes and setting, these minor flaws are ignorable.

Though he was published, Cory also released his novel for free on the Internet. I recommend you give the first couple of chapters a read and, if you like it, buy the deadtree edition.


5:52:19 PM  Permanent link to this entry    Trackback []    Books

July 24, 2003

Via Slashdot, I learned that the University of Texas has put its Gutenberg Bible online for all to enjoy. From the inevitable CNN article:

The University of Texas has put its entire two-volume Gutenberg Bible on the Internet, making it easier for scholars and the public to browse one of the world's most valuable books.

"Just as Johann Gutenberg made knowledge more accessible with the invention of the printing process, this digitization project continues that legacy," said Richard Oram, head librarian at the university's Harry Ransom Center, one of the world's top cultural archives.

I pity the poor work-study student who had to scan that bad-boy. It's not like you could just sit there mindlessly and flip the pages. I mean, it's one of the most valuable books in the country.


9:58:22 AM  Permanent link to this entry    Trackback []    Books Internet The Commons

I don't want many things. I've recently taken a more Zen approach to possessions. I've got more than I need, really. Except, of course, for this. That's all 38 of Shakespeare's plays (well, 37 and the dubious Two Noble Kinsmen) recorded on CDs, voiced by some of the finest actors of the British stage. All for a mere CAN $630.00.

I could add it to my fantastic Complete National Geographic. What's with this info-hoarding instinct of mine? Some alternative to a nesting instinct?

Incidentally, the title is a line from Julius Caesar.


9:51:01 AM  Permanent link to this entry    Trackback []    Books The Arts Words

July 14, 2003

Arwen discusses the trouble with grown-ups reading Harry Potter. That got me started on a related topic: our growing biblioligarchy (a word, incidentally, which I just invented).

My complaint about the popularization of the Harry Potter books is the same as my complaint about Oprah's book club. It puts too few books in the hands of too many people.

Maybe it's wrong, but I have this perception that a lot of people buy books based on the bestseller list, or what's in the news (e.g. Harry Potter or Oprah). Just as in any other industry, most people don't make particularly informed book-purchasing decisions. You get a kind of biblioligarchy, where few books are purchased by many, many people. This is, of course, a general trend of cultural capitalism (see also book stores, record companies and, I don't know, media companies), but it disturbs me.

In short, Harry Potter is, by its own success (and the success of the media machine behind him) contributing to the cultural model where there are a million people with one book, instead of a million people with a million different books.

Incidentally, way back in the early days of HP, I tried reading the first book (whatever it's called, Harry Potter and the Filthy Short Order Cook? Harry Potter and the Hooded Fang? Harry Potter and My Best Friend's Wedding? I can never remember), and was hopelessly bored. I found it utterly unoriginal and a real trudge to read. I gave up after about two hundred pages.


1:13:01 PM  Permanent link to this entry    Trackback []    Books The Arts Words

June 29, 2003

Interesting cultural analysis from the New York Times of the Harry Potter phenonmenon. Gives a history to how the books were originally published and promoted, and gives kids credit for being discerning readers:

This is a lesson that seems to be lost on a cynical entertainment industry that places Pavlovian marketing above creativity, on the assumption that young consumers don't know the difference. Many of them do know the difference. There is a lot for grownups to learn and those in Hollywood most of all by reading the books, not merely the grosses, spawned by Harry Potter.


6:42:54 PM  Permanent link to this entry    Trackback []    Books The Arts