Highlighting in the Kindle Collective

October 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

It has become a weekly ritual for the New York Times to publish an article concerning e-books in some fashion or another.  What intrigued me about this week’s addition to the e-book dialogue was how Kindle users are able to see which book passages appealed to other readers.  It’s basically the digitized version of the superfluous highlighting and underlining often found in used books (and library books, which are not cool places for graffiti, it makes me want to throw things).

The article discusses how this feature is a “violation of virgin text,” and that is a fair assessment but haven’t we run into this issue before?  Anyone who has ever taken an English course can attest to reading at least some of the footnotes, endnotes, criticisms, and interpretations that accompany so many texts.  They are little bombs of knowledge that either make a reader rejoice because he or she knew the information already (which is rare) or they inflict the proverbial sigh and slump because that is just another book or idea that has yet to cross the reader’s path.  I mean, really, who has the time or ability to read Paradise Lost when half the text is footnotes for all the allusions Milton bequeathed upon his readers?  Perhaps it was his ploy to get into heaven.  Not only did he epically describing Genesis but he guaranteed entertainment for his afterlife buddies by making mortals slug through ten thousand lines of iambic pentameter with no hope of a Palahniuk-style plot twist.

In terms of all the other annotations that could be available (and probably will be soon), this feature is really not that big of a deal.  So the Kindle handler has the option to view the lines hundreds of people have highlighted, why fuss about it?  It has the possibility to be a fantastic game: just get a big group of English majors and bibliophiles together (they’re recognizable by their penchant for the words “diction” and “doppelganger”) then see who can guess how popular an iconic line is.  This may have to involve cocktails, which will simultaneously increase the enjoyment of most literature (notably Ulysses; seriously, try it) and the probability that you will be kicked out of the library.

Of course Kindlites (they need a name) if disturbed by this feature could just turn it off.  The article mentions this also then rebuts it by claiming once people see the reader highlights they will be addicted.  I’m not buying it.  I’m sure it would be great to know that other readers love a line as much as you, but reading is an inherently personal activity.  With this comes the occasional delusion that you are the sole individual to discover and possess this line (save for the author, the editors, the author’s friends, and possibly a goldfish or drooling black lab).  Plenty of readers are not going to give up such an experience to find out that they are no different than hundreds of others.   The highlighter might be useful and shouldn’t be shunned, but it definitely doesn’t hold a candle to the possibility of escapism provided by an unmarked text.

Apocalypse Lately

October 10, 2010 § 1 Comment

I feel like the word “apocalypse” has been floating around recently, nosing its way into the media, and lurking in seemingly innocuous conversation.  Today on NPR I heard a teaser for an upcoming story concerning Glenn Beck ‘s use of the phrase “the constitution is hanging by a thread.”  Though I was about to zone out after hearing “Glenn Beck,” the idiom roped me back in.  It seems that Glenn Beck is possibly alluding to an obscure prophecy, which foretells that the U.S. Constitution will be hanging by the proverbial thread and the Latter-day Saints will sweep in to save the day.  I don’t know about everyone else, but the nerd in me really wants Kirk and Spock to travel back in time and across a parallel universe to rescue the U.S. and to bring me one of those sweet phasers.

30 Rock also made reference to the end of civilization this past week when Jack asked Liz what role she would play in a post-apocalyptic world. Spoiler alert: Liz would be a terrible traveling bard.  She needs her urban nest and spinster props.

“Apocalypse” made it into a conversation Thursday night (it’s a prime time slot).  During the wobbly walk to the Top, the discussion turned towards amalgam words—I really like the way “apocalypse” sounds so I wanted to make an amalgam out of it and then Robbie introduced “apoplectic” to the dialogue.  If these words are combined then you get either “apopalypse” or “apocalectic” both of which mean that uncontrollable bleeding into an organ causes the end of civilization.

I’m not trying to read into things too much or form any kind of conspiracy, but it could be useful to ponder what one may need to know or have in case of an apocalypse.  To be completely honest, I have thought about this a lot and prepared for it in various haphazard ways.  For instance sometimes when I’m jogging, I keep myself motivated by imagining that there are zombies chasing me.  Not really, but I have been gardening and learning to tie knots.  I figure if civilization nose-dives into the dark ages then I will definitely have the collards and square knots covered.  I also plan to get a really great dictionary and thesaurus because Internet will not exist and I can never remember how to spell “apoplexy.”  Not to mention dictionaries are great weapons.

For now though I am going to enjoy the luxury of thesaurus.com and take comfort in the fact that there aren’t any zombies yet, so I don’t really need to be able to do a pull-up.

Beer Suits are the new Bear Suit

October 8, 2010 § 4 Comments

We all thought wearing our beer was a bad thing.  We were wrong!  Last night Pabst Blue Ribbon hosted a party in Brooklyn, where hipsters indulged in the elixir that fuels banter—banter that would be witty if half the people in the conversation could momentarily neglect the codependent relationship they’ve developed with their iPhone.

So while those of us in Gainesville were wearing our trendy plaid and feeling thrilled that we actually suctioned into our skinny jeans, New Yorkers were in the DUMBO Loft screen printing and viewing a Pabst fashion show.  I have yet to see any pictures from the event, so I’m guessing the models were cat walking in giant stuffed beer suits.

What is especially notable about the event is that all donations went to the Keep-a-Breast Foundation.  While this is a lovely initiative seeing how it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, is anyone else wondering if Pabst is going to mention that beer and other alcohol have been shown to increase the likelihood of getting breast cancer?  It’s basically like the corn industry throwing a high-fructose corn syrup bake sale to benefit diabetes research.

Now that this post is starting to make me feel very nervous about the beer (and stack of sugar-infused Oreos) I had last night, I’m going to ask the really important question here: how does one make a beer suit?

The New American Dream (and way cooler than the Batmobile)

October 2, 2010 § 3 Comments

In early April The L Magazine reported that Alec Baldwin purchased a 48-year-old bookmobile from the Massapequa Library System.  We all know Baldwin from his role as the old-school, ethically questionable, man’s man Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock (and of course from his part in Beetle Juice).  So what is the notable actor/butt of Baldwin jokes doing with a bookmobile that rolled around during the Kennedy administration?  My speculations resulted in two theories that I believe are completely reasonable and not the least sarcastic or disparaging.

Theory number one: he is taking a cue from his 30 Rock persona and has a sweatshop of writers toiling away on typewriters drafting the next Great American Novel.  I admit this is an ideal situation and libraries—even roaming ones—have always been ideal locales for tortured creative types (it doesn’t get much better than scribbling on legal pads shielded from the distractions of sunlight and human interaction by walls and walls of books).  I wouldn’t even mind Baldwin starring in the movie version of this book, that is, as long as Meryl Streep is there to steal every scene.

My second theory involves Baldwin and a group of children under the age of 10.  Yes, that’s right, exactly what you were all expecting from the man who starred in Clerks: The Animated Series, the world will soon experience “Story Hour with Alec.”  Just imagine snot-nosed kids piled all over Mr. Baldwin as he performs dramatic readings from Curious George and Eloise.  Perhaps he can get the other Baldwin brothers to join; hell, they could have a traveling troupe.  In the very least it would keep Daniel from stealing cars and prevent Stephen from starring in Syfy original movies (sorry Dad, I know you loved Earthstorm).  Of course Alec might have just wanted a space in which to sprawl out in his underwear and read comic books.  Isn’t that what we all want?

For further reading on what it is to be a Baldwin see the Slate.com article, “The Baldwin Brothers.”

Finally chic to have a bicycle gang?

October 1, 2010 § 2 Comments

As with every Thursday, what drew me from my morning slumbers was the anticipation for the Thursday Styles section of the New York Times—and of course the comfort of coffee just a scoop and switch-flip away.  I pretended to look at the home page for a moment: classic Hollywood heartthrob Tony Curtis died and Democrats are losing sponsors (I mean donors).  To rescue me from what could be the start of a depressing day was the article “Bicycle Chic Gains Speed.”  It’s a great piece on how the fashionistas of New York are peddling in Prada and accessorizing their classic Schwinn with vintage wicker baskets.  The article doesn’t really cite the economic or environmental reasons for biking, save for a shout out to certain celebs who claim they’d rather “burn calories, not fossil fuels.”  It seems pumping up those tires and dusting off the saddle is just plain cool.

Apparently the Times is a bit behind the times, because in the lovely bike-infested city of Gainesville, Florida, biking is the epitome of hipster-cool.  If your ride isn’t decked-out with funky-colored handlebars or sporting a couple alley-cat race cards then you might as well throw on some Sperry’s and a polo and join a frat.  (Just kidding, Gainesville hipsters are way more welcoming, but hyperbole and stereotyping go together like punks and piercings.)  Seriously though, want to be king of Downtown G-ville? Roll up on your aquamarine “fixie” toting your Kremlin chrome bag and you’ll be the prince charming for any thrift-store adorned chick sporting beatnik glasses.

I suppose the New York Times running an article about the stylish side of bicycling just solidifies its coolness.  I know hipsters are all about finding or innovating the next trendy thing, avoiding the mainstream; but if anything is going to become common, shouldn’t it be bicycling?  I’m just going to say that if a New Yorker can roll up to work a bit sweaty in her button-down then so can I.

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