Search This Blog

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Embedding Video: Your Ghost by Kristen Hersh 8-year old suggested we figure out how to embed YouTube videos in a blog, rather than just using a link, as I have always done. It is so easy! And then right away I find I have to use it, and I have something to show you. Back story:

I was (finally) reading the October LibraryThing: State of the Thing newsletter, and there was an author interview with Kristen Hersh, who is a musician, and who has also recently released a book called Rat Girl based on her diary from when she was 18. That alone wasn't really enough to move me to check the music, but when I saw her thoughts on her music being based on ambient noise, I had to go there. This is what I read: You mentioned recently that the songs seem to be based on ambient noise. Has knowing that changed the magic of the songs, that they are based on real sounds and not the whispered words angels and demons? Like, "Oh, that's just the heat register kicking in."  (You can read the rest of the interview there, too.)

Now, I am having a music moment these days. I want to figure out music, especially sad music. I am trying to prepare for a music theory exam (my first ever). I have started a correspondence with my uncle, a professional bluegrass musician. I am analyzing pop songs with my piano teacher (like Mad World, Love the Way You Lie, U Smile - there are some musical things out there). And so on. Also germane is that one of my all-time favourite cds is Sheila Chandra's Moonsung: A Real World Retrospective from 1999. I keep it near Brian Eno in my collection, and I listen to it whenever I am recovering from anesthetic (happens more often than you might think). It is drone-ish music, based on ambient noise. I think of it when I am in a strange bedroom hearing a different pattern of night sounds (like heat registers and traffic) and try to make music out of my irritation. I also love Arvo Pärt, and have written about him before, because of the sadness, and the drone-ishness, and the modal aspect of his music (link is to Wikipedia if you are interested - it's not perfect, but it's a start). It all kind of goes together.

So...I had to check out Kristen Hersh on YouTube. I love the 'Shock of the New' (I love Robert Hughes, too). I LIVE FOR the shock of the new. And I LOVE the sound of this woman's music. It is odd. It is sad. It is beautiful. It defies easy analysis. Her other songs are cool too. Sundrops is even odder - and to watch her play it live makes me think she composed it physically rather than sonically. Is that possible?

Tell me what you think, please.

The marigold wonders nervously about all the brackets. The marigold LOVES brackets. And all-caps. And irony. Does it give the effect of animated conversation, or is it all a bit too much? And should I even care?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Library Thing Early Review

The Rehearsal
by Eleanor Catton

I saved this for summer beach reading. I heard it was really fun. A reading buddy of mine offered to share her (signed) copy, but I already had this one to take away. It almost seemed a shame to wait, but it turned out to be perfect for summer.

It is engaging and eyebrow-raising, without being challenging. The narrative is original, with a number of convincing voices. It's quite interesting to see the taboo treated as something ordinary that just happens, that it changes everything but not the essential character of life.

The story concerns the aftermath of an affair revealed between a senior student and a male teacher in a private girls' school. I have an unusually good view into life in girls' schools, and I just loved the not-politically-correct tone of the book. It struck me as nuanced and accurate rather than stereotypical and formulized for instruction (which feels rare, especially for this kind of loaded topic, set in a girls' school environment, let me tell you).

Catton also managed to write in a post-modern, that is to say non-linear, fashion that felt fresh. It did add a level of challenge to the book that I also found extremely compelling. It's just not that often that you need to scroll around in a book to re-orient yourself because the points of view are dizzying.

In a world where there are a lot a lot a lot of fabulous first books (not to mention first singles, first films etc), you have to wonder if the writer will be able to stay interesting. Here's hoping.

LibraryThing Early Review

You Comma Idiot
by Doug Harris

Received. Looks funny.

Is funny. One funny cool thing is that the publicity person responsible for sending out review copies is already a person whose judgment I trust in choosing the funny: Corey Redekopp, author of Shelf Monkey, one of my all-time favourite book-books (and one of this year's Canada Reads Top 40! Yeah!)

This book manages to be funny and Canadian-local, without being parochial and I'm-Canadian-look-at-me. It reminds me of the experience of reading Michael Chabon - I feel an absolute homegrown sense of the accurate ear of the writer. I am not a Montreal small-time drug-dealer/loser (shocker, I know, right?) but as a Canadian adult I find the characters and dialogue totally believable.

I also really love the take on the narrative voice. I seem to mention that a lot in my reviews. It must be hard for a writer to come up with (and therefore hard for a reader to run into) a fresh style of narrative voice. There are already a lot of good books in the world, after all. Although the device chosen by Harris has been used before (rarely), this is one great new version. It is...well...I guess it has to be called an interior monologue. Harold Bloom (one of my reading heroes) cites Hamlet as the first character given an interior monologue, and it is the paradigm. Hamlet wonders aloud, abstractly.."Is it...?" Harris has his character Lee address himself as "you" as in "You are running down the street..." The reader is not watching the character talk to himself - the reader is inside the conversation, he is an interlocutor with himself, the character. Cool.

I have no way of judging if little Canadian books become successful and I don't have much time to devote to checking whether they receive good critical notices. However, I can rave as Souci on LibraryThing, and The Nervous Marigold. I can tell my reading buddies, and I can lend my copy around to the worthy.

This is a super book, and it is satisfying to know that there are new Canadian writers that are outside the canon (for now), outside the political-book complex, just writing good books that READERS ENJOY!

The marigold wonders nervously if it would be overstating it to mention the indecisive loser-ishness of Hamlet being a germane reference in You Comma Idiot, or if that is perhaps reaching a bit too far.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Top Five Apps, with bonus features

I have more than 200 books in my house on my to-read pile. Thus, I often think about Winston Churchill talking about the pleasure of unread books, and I finally tracked down the quotation I had in mind, from his book Painting as a Pastime, which I guess I have to put on my to-read list (ie 100 or so more books not yet on my pile):

'What shall I do with all my books?' was the question, and the answer, 'Read them,' sobered the questioner. But if you cannot read them, at the very least handle them and, as it were, fondle them. Peer into them. Let them fall open as they will. Read on from the first sentence that turns the eye. Then turn to another. Make a voyage of discovery, taking soundings of uncharted seas. Set them back on their shelves with your own hands. Arrange them on your own plan, so that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. If they cannot be your friends, let them at any rate be your acquaintances. If they cannot enter the circle of your life, do not deny them at least a nod of recognition.

I especially love the idea: "Arrange them with your own plan...". Is your to-read pile arranged in some personal order? Mine is. It helps me to know where they are, if not what is in them. Churchill was a smart guy. How thrilling to have something in common with him.

I take the same attitude toward iPhone apps. I love scanning over what is available, following up tips from friends or magazine writers, tracing thoughts through to possible apps, and I love downloading them. I love the idea of having research tools available in my pocket when I might need them. I find it all to be a dream-library of potential.

So, when someone asks me what I recommend on an iPhone, I have many pages to scroll through. Finally,  after a couple of discussions with the iPhone users around me, I thought it would be fun to list my top five apps, and have them conveniently arranged to offer people who ask, so here's the list:


#1 - Of course - Evernote - free

It holds all your information, and has a desktop and mobile version, and you can also access your information from anywhere via the Internet. It can store lists and text, but also photos and voice and best of all, if you have it on your desktop, under any print menu you can choose the option "save as pdf to Evernote". The pdf document will be OCR-searchable in Evernote, so you can find info in long documents by words that appear in them. Fantastically useful. (And, in fact, I will paste the Churchill quotation above into my "happiness" document on Evernote, so I can read it reassuringly to any other person who worries about buying books faster than they can be read.) PS Thanks K.

#2 - My favourite game - Rat on a Scooter XL (Donut Games) - The best $0.99 you will ever spend.

 It's a great way to kill a few minutes in a waiting room or a parked car. As addictive as they say it is. And I am not a gamer (in case you didn't know that). PS Thanks J.

#3 - Nike +iPod

Totally worth the price of the sensor in the shoe - links to music, history of runs or walks, gives distance and time elapsed, and calories burned AND Lance Armstrong calls you up to tell you when you've completed your personal best mile ever! Sort of.

#4  - The free Kindle Reader app

Possibly better on an iPad, but still, apart from the many free-content readers that help you pass time in an airport lounge while carrying only your phone, the idea of getting the content you want to read right now while you are waiting in an airport lounge while carrying only your phone is too compelling to resist.

 #5 - App Miner -  free

Searches through apps on a number of categories, in a slightly different way than the app store, but the best is it tells you apps that are on sale, for free or at a discount, and that lets you try things that you would never search for, or know about, or want to pay for to find out about, and it can lead you to other things that you then know about to search for, so it becomes like following your nose through a library.


LibraryThing Mobile -  Free, just like on-line - I can look up my library from a bookstore to see if I already own a book I find interesting. It happens a lot. Also good for giving an exact title and author recommendation to someone no matter where you are. Also good for tracking down a title or author you are trying to think of no matter where you are.

App Box Pro - $0.99 - full of little useful utilities that you would otherwise be downloading separately, and paying for separately, and cluttering up your menu with separately. Some that I have used on the fly: tip calculator, currency converter, level and ruler. They have just added a password keeper and I see it has a translator too, although I like specialty programs for that.

Yorkdale - free and I refer to it weekly. No more need be said.

24/7  - free - language tutors and my kids like them too.

Flood-It 2 - free - my favourite of the LAB PIXIES games (just for a break from Rat on a Scooter)


Dragon - free - audio search/audio dictation

Ted - free - the Technology, Entertainment, Design video website, mobile version

Canon wireless printer app! Yes! Just bought one of the printers. Can't wait to print wirelessly from my iPhone and iPad.


Birding version of Shazam. Caveat: I have never yet managed to get Shazam to identify a song, so it might be the same bust for bird song. Plus I am been trying other ways around it - recording birds I hear to my phone - usually too far away to be captured by the mike. Now I have loaded my birding identification Cd's into my phone, so maybe I can go to my best guess in iTunes while in the field and see if it matches. Haven't had a a chance to test it yet. Still trying to decide on which (expensive) birding app to buy. Which provider? How big an area? All in one or multiple for different areas?

I have more than 10 pages of apps (that's a little over 150) but you don't need to know everything I have. Find your own. Make your own list. Send it to me.

The marigold does wonder nervously:
Am I really going to need 130,000 of the 148,000 available apps, as someone has estimated? How many are free? (I try to constrain myself to free, unless it is something of great importance to me. Otherwise, we'd only be eating macaroni at my house. Plain. Would that be good for the children?)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Negative Side

Well, we do live in interesting times.

The G8 and G20 are coming to a Canadian city. Darn it. Vastly inconvenient, and probably somewhat dangerous, too. Not to mention expensive.

Here's is one interesting and negative technology angle: I heard on the the radio that our government - federal? provincial? - is considering jamming cell phone signals in the downtown area during the meetings. Not enough to ask people who work in business dress to dress casually instead so they do not become targets of violent anti-business protesters. No...cell phone communications will be disrupted so violent anti-business protesters (or worse) can't set off bombs. And the upside of hosting these conferences is...?

Next item on the weird side: The World Cup starts tomorrow (or so). I heard on the radio that Twitter is trying to gear up for the onslaught of people cheering on Twitter in real time...the figure I heard is 65 million of them. Is that expected TV viewers? Fans? Twitterers? All at once? Talk about jamming! How will the system handle that? And the network of systems? How does that compare, I wonder, to regular volume? Maybe the government won't have to do anything because Twitter traffic alone will impede cell phone communications (or smart phone communication at least) during the G8 thingy. I guess it will force a kind of rush on improving the technology once the problems are revealed, and that will at least be interesting.

The marigold says nervously:
The more I hear the news, the more I want to read...hmmm. Dickens? No. Austen? No, not quite. Tolstoy? Noooo. Thackeray. Yes!

Responses from the Future

What a lot of cool conversations I have had as a result of my last post.

First cool thing: I was out with a friend who is an iphone adept. This is the person who sort of lobbied for me to get an iphone, and finally convinced me to get one by showing me the birding app possibilities. Not a birder, but someone knows how to connect with my buttons. We were walking in a park, and I stopped to listen to a bird, whose song I could not recognize. I was saying how someone thought I had been describing a birding app that worked like Shazam: you let it hear the bird, and it identifies it. That would be WAY cool, but sadly I know of no such app. I had only been talking about the birding app having recordings that you can play to identify or even call birds. Cool enough.  "Why don't you just record this one?" this friend said. "Doh!" I said.  I never thought of holding out the phone to record a birdsong, and then playing it next to my birdsong identification CDs. What an awesome idea! What an opportunity missed that day! (Bonus: you can save recordings to Evernote (see my sidebar to check out this super cool shareware program with an on-line+mobile app. I could put them right in my Evernote nature journal. OMG.) (Also: feel free to develop such an app, or to tell me about one if it exists.)

Second cool thing: a visual artist and teacher that I am friends with told me she loves dance and music more even than visual art. She also told me she plays tennis HARD. Then my thoughts came around to the practice of art as a kinetic activity, too. I love the idea of "the gesture of the artist", and consider it one way of defining something as art. Of course, as she pointed out, ballet is an archaic form (like opera). She proposed Cirque du Soleil as the newest form of dance. What a provocative thought that was! I had had vague thoughts in that general area, like about figure skating, but never actually managed to define it so clearly. It makes perfect sense. Cirque has taken out many of the circus-y parts, and kept the physical parts and the music. Some related thoughts: there is a continuum of athletic activity that runs from dance to, shall we say, football. In my view, anything where there is a judgment of artistic merit - leave it outside competition. Scores or times are the hallmarks of the athletic activities suitable for competition; artistic merit is for the arts - all about personal response. So despite an identical level of athletic demand on the body, I think gymnastics and figure skating do not belong in the Olympics any more than ballet does. To come back to the starting point, figure skating is hugely popular in a way ballet is not - really it is another new dance form, too.  More thought required. (PS I am interested in the current, but I love the archaic.)

Third cool thing: I have been thinking about how my friends act as a digest for the internet, previewing content, and sending me the most interesting stuff. So much better than me trolling around for hours getting tangled in the marginally interesting, and then one of my friends sent me this link to Seth Godin's blog entry "Are you an Elite?" Now here's a guy who understands me, and my friends, and my blog-readers. We just have fun exploring ideas and technology and information and culture, and we love to share that, and just as Seth says, there is a remarkable modern ability for us to access each other and all that stuff we love. The other point he makes that strikes me as key is this:

"The challenge of our time may be to build organizations and platforms that  engage and coordinate the elites, wherever they are. After all, this is where change and productivity come from."

Selfishly, I want organizations to build platforms that engage me, (hello iphone) but I also want that for my kids to enjoy and for the happy future of humankind on planet earth.

He also wrote a blog post about post-secondary education and what it means now and going forward, an article we have discussed in our family quite a bit, called THE COMING MELT-DOWN IN HIGHER EDUCATION which is a very clear statement of something I worry about for when my children get there. Here is the key point he gets to on this:

"The solutions are obvious... there are tons of ways to get a cheap, liberal education, one that exposes you to the world, permits you to have significant interactions with people who matter and to learn to make a difference... "

Read: allows them to access organizations with platforms that engage them as elites. He refers his readers on to a book: DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education by Anya Kamenetz. This is a book to get on for the Kindle reader app on my iphone, for sure. Yours too? If you  haven't read it already, it is also time for you to read A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. You can search my blog for my review of the book, or use the hot link under Links to Writers in my sidebar. Seth Godin and Anya Kamenetz are there now too.

Now the marigold wonders nervously:
What about the negative side of the technology that allows us to live in the future? That calls for another post.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Music for the Future

Lately two exquisite pieces of music have come to my attention, harbingers of the future of music, but built on the history of music.

The first I'll mention is Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir performing his work Lux Arumque, a choir recruited, and taught over the Internet, and then recorded by their own webcams and edited into a performance. Stunning to look at, stunning to hear, and doesn't it sound like Allegri's Miserere? (I have provided the link a performance by the King's College Cambridge, who seem to own the bragging rights for their performance. If you look down the comments, someone has provided the [awesome] text in Latin.) Props to the Beethoven Lives Upstairs series. I first heard Allegri's music on my kids' Mozart's Magnificent Voyage disc, and I fell in love with it immediately. I even bought it from itunes to have on my iphone. I often get a chance to recommend this series and I do so by saying any music lover of any age or expertise can learn something they didn't know about the music or the composer by paying attention to these stories.

And then there are Felix's Machines, by a young guy called Felix Thorn, who cannibalizes his family's piano, adds some household objects, and drives the resulting instruments by his computer. He says in Wired UK "I look at the advantages of what machines can do. People must realize you can extract emotion from them, and enjoy the music they produce." The music is delightful. Yes - and emotional.

Meanwhile,  I had a chance to be a guest with some friends at a fundraiser for a project that also mixes past and future: Paola Marino  is a video director using the medium to interpret opera arias in a trilogy of short videos. While the videos are pretty cool, but what is really exciting is standing in a small room while an opera singer sings. The power is enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck, and that is the level of musical thrill that I am always hoping for. I am guessing that Paola's goal roughly fits in what with I am always on about in having opera work in the 21st century: Use what is universal about opera, in this case choosing as a theme for her series "Desire". Integrate it with modern technology, in this case video (manga works too - see my tags). Add a dash of Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies: "Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify", and you have cool 21st century opera. (See Fun, Cool, Funny on my sidebar to use an Oblique Strategy to problem-solve for yourself.)

The young opera singer who features in this trilogy can also be seen in another version of Carmen, a performance she did at a benefit to attract young people to the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto. Watch Lauren Seagal  exploiting her gifts.

But there's more: digital video and YouTube are providing a brave new world of interesting music experiences.

I heard about this one at the music school I attend. By this I mean listening whenever I can to the CBC Radio 2 program Shift, with my radio-hero, host Tom Allen. He has a twitter feed - the first one on planet earth that almost interests me - and a blog where this clip is also featured, although I can't figure out quite where. He also happens to be a trombonist. This is a little homemade video by a Russian bass-trombonist FEATURING the trombone part of Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto, quite possibly the best-known piece of classical music written in the 20th century, and that's exactly what makes it effective. Music you can hum along to, with just one instrument pulled out. I don't play in an orchestra, and probably neither do you. OK, well I know some of you do, else would I ever get this perspective? And it sounds great! Only in a world where a guy can set up his camera (or phone?) in an orchestra pit, and then post it to YouTube could this ever be possible. I LOVE the future of music.

Then, of course, I had to show my kids the video and tell them my favourite Rachmaninoff story - that although he wrote and performed this music, at a certain point he decided that the new young guys could play it BETTER THAN HIM and he stopped performing it. So, we looked up Rachmaninoff on YouTube, and he is there. Sadly it seems he was too early for there even to be film-to-video performance clips, but there was an audio recording of him performing his 2nd piano concerto from 1929 by RCA Victor with his favorite orchestra: the Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conducting, and what do you know - the part he pulled out of the music sounded very much like the trombone pattern! Unbelievable, and would we have even really noticed that if he we hadn't watched the trombone part first? Incidentally, there are video clips of Van Cliburn playing this concerto, and his is the performance I grew up listening to and loving, plus performances by Kissin and Lugansky, two current Russian pianists filling these big emotional shoes. Love them, too.

Then...glancing at the other suggestions on YouTube, we noticed a video labelled Rachmaninoff had big hands. Just watch it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


This week I saw for myself the principle of Make Way for Ducklings. Remember the old book by Robert Mccloskey? It was a beautiful 2010 moment. One of the major highways into my big city was stopped almost dead in a long patch between two exits. A little late, as usual, I checked my iphone satellite link-up traffic watch app. Yeah...full red on the stretch I was travelling, but luckily, not on the highway I was trying to connect up with, expect a 15 minute delay. Then suddenly, there she was, right beside me on the shoulder, a lovely mother duck with about 10 teeny-tiny ducklings waddling calmly behind her. As I was fumbling for my phone to take a picture, the traffic started speeding up, and I realized that this little family WAS THE REASON FOR THE TRAFFIC JAM!

The joke about this city is that it has two seasons, winter and road construction. It is aggravating IN THE EXTREME to find a new blockage to traffic flow every couple of days, causing a new traffic jam, another reason to be just a little late.

Never in my life has a traffic jam been the best part of my day, until the day of the ducklings.

Now the marigold is wondering nervously if they all made it through the long trek to the next break in the barrier that would allow them to walk back off the highway. I hope so, with all my heart.

LibraryThing Early Review

by Miguel Syjuco

I am always looking for the thrill of reading from a culture I am unfamiliar with, so I jumped at the chance to read a Man-Asian prize-winning novel by a Filipino, albeit one living in Canada, and with advanced degrees from a couple of big-time schools. However, I am unimpressed. The faux-document-pastiche style is not new, and I find that Syjuco has not handled it adroitly nor is the treatment particularly humourous or ironic. Somehow, more interesting than the book itself (to me, at least) is the question that came to mind while I was reading it.

This book got me thinking about colonialism. I have always thought we are still living out the colonial era, and someone suggested to me recently that we will, in a way, never leave the colonial era. It encompasses the past 500 years of world history.  Perhaps it will never "end". Where actual colonies have become obsolete, the feeling is like the son killing the father - everything is done to obliterate the influence of the colonial, in a way that attests to the strength of the influence.

What really got me wondering is that this book is written by an ethnically Spanish Filipino, not an indigenous Filipino. I was disappointed. Canada is one of the countries that has accepted many many Filipinos, a little bit through the back door, as caregivers. They are seeking a middle-class life unavailable to them in the Philippines, and they now form a large and stable community here. The children of these workers are integrating everywhere, but that had not happened in my generation. I thought this book would satisfy my style of thrill-seeking curiosity.

So, the book violated my expectations, and when I realized it I started asking myself why.

I am a Canadian, and I don't consider the only interesting or authentic cultural voice of Canada to belong to the indigenous people. Nor do I expect it from the United States or Mexico or Australia. Or Brazil, for that matter. And, it must be said, there are indigenous writers to be read in all these countries, but they stand alongside a multiplicity of immigrant voices, albeit many with hundreds of years of history. Yet there are certain places where writers of European background feel colonial, even when they have been established for many hundreds of years.

For me, I found out, the Philippines is one of those places. Shall we say, so is all of Africa, with the exception of South Africa, which was colonized differently? The middle east and far east have never really been colonized, although there are some small spots - Israel comes to mind - where an immigrant voice is natural. The Caribbean is different again - the actual natives wiped out, the colonialists sort of chucked out, leaving behind only a flavour, and the dominant population descended from immigrant slaves seems to own the native voice.

So, what is the difference? It isn't really the class difference between the colonialists and the natives - historically all the indigenous groups were treated with disdain - although it is somehow more marked in this second group. I was stumped for weeks. I finally thought up an answer. Maybe it is a numbers thing: where the colonial population overwhelmed the indigenous, the colonial voice feels native. Where a minority (or slim minority) of colonialists maintains a separate superiority over a majority (or vast majority) of the indigenous, it feels wrong. The numbers idea also explains the Caribbean situation.

The marigold's nervous questions are these: Is that enough of an explanation? And I feel I have to ask myself should it feel wrong? Is it perhaps not just a kind of honesty? We are here, we colonized, we did not integrate, but we neither did we obliterate.

And maybe it feels wrong to me because another of my ideas is that Canadians are deeply and truly egalitarian. More so than all but the most northern of Europeans, more than Americans, and South Americans. Maybe my view is a minority one, not even common to other westerners.

I think Syjuco means to discuss the ambivalence of his cultural identity, but it was that identity itself, not his art, that piqued my interest. I can't recommend the book, but I welcome any comments on this idea.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why Hating The Watchmen Worked for Me

When I recapped the best of my reading for 2009, I mentioned that the biggest disappointment of the year was The Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

I forced myself to slog through to the end, thinking about the praise it has received and continues to receive, yet never really finding anything I particularly liked, not the story, not the art, not the characters, not the ideas. I cannot even be sure what it is that other people like.

I was pleased to come across a column in by Laura Miller, called Read a book you think you'll hate in 2010. It made feel it was right just to take the challenge, and to maybe keep a separate year-end entry going: the challenge of the year. (Better than the disappointment of the year, I think.) I have put a permanent link to Laura Miller's wonderful column (mainly bookish) in Best Reading Links.

The marigold wonders nervously:
What should the challenge be for this year? What category would I normally avoid? HMMM. Huge best-sellers? Business-analysis books? Huge business-analysis-type best sellers? Picking a suitable challenge might actually be more challenging than doing the reading.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Best List of Best Lists of Best Books, 2009

Phew! Not an easy title to understand.

I love the Powells' Books website. I not only subscribe to the newsletter, I actually read it quite faithfully. I also use it as a source for used text books or specialty books, because they have EVERYTHING and they ship cheaply.

The January 28, 2010 newsletter had their Staff Top 5 of 2009: nearly 40 staff members, from all over the organization, submitted their lists of best books published this year. I loved it because the lists are quirky and individual, not about marketing, but filled with only current books, which is one area where I am always a bit behind. (I would rather read books than book reviews, so the only thing I know about current books is what is displayed at the bookstores, but even then I don't know anything about those books.)

Somehow, if I could copy the entry into Evernote, so I could access it from my phone, it would be a guide to what to read out of what I see in the bookstore. (Here is what I did: I copied the link to the lists into my Evernote note on books to read. In any bookstore I can open my Evernote list and click the link and read the lists. Love Evernote. Link to site is under Fun, Cool, Funny in the sidebar.)

I keep a permanent link to the Powell's site in the sidebar under Reading Links, but I wanted to make special mention of the book lists. I love book lists and lists of book lists and I think this is the best of the best.

Friday, January 29, 2010

More on McCarthy friend is consuming All the Pretty Horses on audiobook. Sadly, it is not narrated by Cormac McCarthy, which would have actually induced me try another of his trilogy on audio after all. I wonder if he sounds like his laconic characters? However, it is actually narrated by Frank Muller who is an AUDIOBOOK STAR! Who knew there even was such a thing? Wikipedia says: "Muller won the 2003 Audie Award for Best Male Narrator for his reading of Elmore Leonard's Tishomingo Blues".

I guess he has a really "American" voice. And it does pique my interest in the audiobook star reader category. (OMG - what next?) The box is open for suggestions.

The marigold wonders nervously:
How can I be so late getting around to such an old technology? Does that mean I won't understand the iPad?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

2009 in 2010

Some conversations that came out of my Top Eleven Fiction Reads of 2009 list led to some early 2010 reading:

After loving The Road so much, a friend suggested we read All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy and I did quite like it. Cowboy is not one of my key genres, and I would not seek to read the complete trilogy, but this book quite rocks. I think the old writers are falling away in popular culture, maintained mainly in literature courses: writers like Hemingway and more so, in this case, Steinbeck, and also even Faulkner, but here is McCarthy filling that category for a modern reader. I enjoyed decoding the Spanish, and I felt that it was quite new and quite American to have so much unglossed Spanish - it is nearly an official second language. I really love his "donts" and "cants" without the apostrophe, but he doesnt drop all such markings. I wonder how he decided?

I am just clearing the way through The Time Traveller's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, (yawn) to get to some of the other books on my pile. I wanted to have read the complete list of top wish-listed books on LibraryThing, and I have long wanted to read this - it should press a lot of my buttons, but I find it amazingly banal. When last I checked, only Jared Diamond's book Guns, Germs and Steel, remains to be read from that list, and it has not yet fallen into my lap. Interestingly, I have read zero of the books on the currently-being-read list on LT. Hmmm.

Speaking of official second languages, favourite books of 2009, and the to-read pile, I have been planning to try reading in French, just for a kick. As a Canadian, with many years of school French behind me, not to mention something of a moral obligation to be there in French, plus having mastered reading in Italian as an adult, I thought it would a suitable reading challenge. I found a couple of other readers interested in tryingThe Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery in the original French (l'Élegance du hérisson). I loved it in English, and it fits into the "possible to read" zone of a second language: not too hip, not too archaic, not too wordy, not too academic, not too long, and not too stupid. It's almost surprising what a small space this is. Ideally one would not re-read a book for this purpose, but on the other hand, it will probably help to have read it already in some of the tough spots.

I'll keep you posted. If you want to try too, let me know, and we'll talk.

Le souci se soucie de la difficulté de ce projet:
On a pris trop de manger?