Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day: What's it All About?

Have you really ever pondered the words of the Declaration of Independence? What do they really mean?

Let Morgan Freeman and some of Hollywood's finest take you on a tour of that risky, volatile document that changed not just our country, but the world.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Reading: Re-Thinking the E-Book

Amidst the heat of summer and the heft of books being carried in the summer heat, now is a good time to ponder the e-book.

I used to think of my e-book reader (Kindle, for those keeping score at home) as a tool I kept for convenience and desperation. I am a Print Girl, now and forever.

But as I considered how to find new homes for my already-read books, I had to wonder: why remain married to print for every book?

I'm not keen on the control Amazon has over my reader and its contents. Sure, I can get a refund, but if Amazon can put a book on my reader, it can take it off. (And has, for other readers in the past.)

I prefer my e-books inexpensive. Right now I'm considering an e-copy of my favorite Marge Piercy poetry book, but it's more than a couple of bucks. I realize that some older books haven't yet gone "e," but the absurd price of an e-book astounds me. Maybe I don't know enough about the process of e-publishing, but I also can't imagine why an e-book would cost nearly as much as its printed doppelgänger.

However, it's nice to know that I have more than 100 books at my fingertips when I have my Kindle in hand. I have some good ones, too, like Mary Poppins, Chronicles of Narnia, some Stephen King and a little Neil Gaiman. I also have begun to purchase books I do not have in print, including the blockbusters The Goldfinch and The Son.

Having said that, I have heard about Amazon's war with publishers, and I would hate to think my book selection is being so overtly controlled — and my e-book selection even more so. I don't know a lot about the E-World, but the idea of having to convert books from one seller's format to mine, or having to download a special program to read them, does not make me happy.

Plus, we all realize that e-technology assigns us only a "lease" for music and books we claim to have purchased. Ask iTunes or Bruce Willis, and they'll tell you: if you "buy" a digital album, it's not yours to will to your children. How much did you pay for that bestseller you can't give, loan or resell, like you can with print?

Finally, let's be honest: technology changes fast. Today's e-reader could be tomorrow's Apple Lisa. If Amazon went out of business, who would support my technology? I've invested a few hundred dollars in books and a reader that very well could become obsolete. I'm one of the only people I know who still burns her albums to CD "just in case." I'm not a troglodyte, but I am suspicious of the "latest and greatest," considering how quickly it's replaced these days.

Printed books, on the other hand, are the same. I can buy a book printed in 1895 and it still reads the same as a book printed today. I love the smell, the heft, how pages feel when they're turned. I don't write in my books, but I use sticky notes like a madwoman.

I suppose, in the end, we change our minds based on our needs and environment. My bookshelves are full of great books, and I adore seeing them, thumbing through them, taking them off their shelves. Someday, I may not have room for my library full of books. I may not want to move them to another home, or I may simply decide they need new owners. Every few months, I have to consider the inventory, and I love to match books with the right person.

Someday, I may not want that heavy hardback. Some days, I don't want that heavy hardback, and the $1.99 copy of The Goldfinch is right up my alley. I guess we'll just have to see.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Poetry Wednesday: Famous Blue Raincoat




Famous Blue Raincoat

It's four in the morning, the end of December
I'm writing you now just to see if you're better
New York is cold, but I like where I'm living
There's music on Clinton Street all through the evening.
I hear that you're building your little house deep in the desert
You're living for nothing now, I hope you're keeping some kind of record. 

Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear
Did you ever go clear?

Ah, the last time we saw you you looked so much older
Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder
You'd been to the station to meet every train
And you came home without Lili Marlene

And you treated my woman to a flake of your life
And when she came back she was nobody's wife.

Well I see you there with the rose in your teeth
One more thin gypsy thief
Well I see Jane's awake --

She sends her regards.

And what can I tell you my brother, my killer
What can I possibly say?
I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you
I'm glad you stood in my way.

If you ever come by here, for Jane or for me
Your enemy is sleeping, and his woman is free.

Yes, and thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes
I thought it was there for good so I never tried.

And Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear --

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Poetry Wednesday: My Yoko Ono Moment




My Yoko Ono Moment


for Nick Twemlow

It’s annoying
how much
junk mail
comes through
the slot
& accumulates
at the foot
of the stairs

mostly menus
from restaurants
in the neighborhood

endlessly
coming through
the slot

despite the sign
we put on the door:
No Advertisements
No Solicitors

One night
I scoop up the whole pile
on my way out
(as I do periodically)
& dump it
in the trash can
on the corner
of West Broadway & Spring

just as Yoko Ono
happens to be strolling
through SoHo
with a male companion

She watches me
toss the menus

then turns to her friend
& says, “I guess
no one reads those.”

by David Trinidad
courtesy poets.org 


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Begin Your Summer Reading With a Book About One Grand Summer

Bill Bryson is right. The summer of 1927 was an amazing year. in One Summer: America, 1927,  he convinces his readers in his usual engaging, fascinating and conversational way.

Lindbergh? Check. Babe Ruth? Check. Clara Bow, Jack Dempsey, Sacco and Vanzetti? Check, check and double check. He has them all, plus storms and floods, Hoover and Coolidge, a few extra aviators, race relations, gangsters, Prohibition, Broadway musicals and Mount Rushmore.

In no time, you're wishing you lived in 1927 (albeit the safer, wealthier lifestyle). (Hint: it wasn't as a baseball player.)

Bryson does not skate across the top of his topics. He makes sure you understand clearly why aviation was in its heyday in the United States. He is clear about how Prohibition became, remained, then finally was defeated as law. He does it not only with the Roosevelts, Coolidges, Lindberghs and Capones, but also with the individuals with whom you may not be as familiar: Philo Farnsworth, Bill Tilden, Wilson B. Hickox, Robert G. Elliott, Mabel Willebrandt. There were people famous and infamous in their day, people who had the misfortune of becoming a celebrity — or at least renown — in public, unfortunate ways.

As a reader, his chapter near the end about what writers were famous and what books and authors, now famous, were regarded with disdain. I am grateful he agrees with me about Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose books I wanted to like but just couldn't see the attraction. (Much like Anne Rice, Burroughs can concoct a great story, but can't write his way out of a paper bag.)

This fascinating read, complete with photos, ties up all loose ends. Those who were a part of 1927 didn't just vanish at the end of the year and Bryson makes sure you know how those stories ended, starting with Ruth Snyder or Judd Gray).

I love the engaging, inviting way Bryson writes. He makes me wish I was on the field with Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth on July 4, 1939 so I could know what Ruth said to his old friend. We feel Lindbergh's shock and discomfort at his endless parades and speeches and we're as confounded as the media at Coolidge's August 2 news conference.

Spend a few months in 1927 with Bryson. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Poetry Wednesday: The Man He Killed


The Man He Killed

Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!


But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.


I shot him dead because —
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That’s clear enough; although


He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
Off-hand like — just as I —

Was out of work — had sold his traps —
No other reason why.

Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown.

by Thomas Hardy
Courtesy Everyman's Library