So many things, these days. I’ve been on a rollercoaster/bad trip/good trip since Thanksgiving. 2011 is going to be absolutely berserk. Even weirder than 2010. More to come on that.
I haven’t been taking too many photos these days, either. Weather’s been bad, and I’ve been hibernating a little. But, this- this is my favorite one, lately. Cue eye roll:
Yeah, yeah. Cat lady. I know.
I just realized I’ve turned into one of those people who sends her friends funny things she sees on the Internet. Sorry if you’ve been on the receiving end of my drivel.
1. Horchata- Vampire Weekend
2. Give Up the Gun- Vampire Weekend
3. The Suburbs- The Arcade Fire
4. City With No Children- The Arcade Frire
5. Everlasting Light- The Black Keys
6. Strange Times- The Black Keys
7. Follow the Lights- Ryan Adams
8. Dear John (Cardinals version)- Ryan Adams
Oh God, I am impossibly cool.
You can tell this guy teaches at MIT, with all the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings references.
-He’s reading the Pulitzer-Prize winning The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
Sunday was lovely and warm in the Mission. So lovely and warm I forgot to take pictures of like, 50 cool things I saw. Here are two of them:
You guys! It’s my tattoo, but with an extra bird! The shop is on 16th, just off Guerrero, and is actually definitely full of gorgeous little things.
Then I saw this:
I wish I knew some things about it. It would be nice to meet the person that thought, “You know what that bright orange wall with the holes in it needs? Green splotchy birds.”
I don’t really write much about my job here, because, well, it strikes me as a Bad Idea. In the words of Heather Armstrong, one of my favorite writers:
“I was fired from my job for this website because I had written stories that included people in my workplace. My advice to you is BE YE NOT SO STUPID. Never write about work on the internet unless your boss knows and sanctions the fact that YOU ARE WRITING ABOUT WORK ON THE INTERNET.”
Since most of my job centers around writing on the Internet, I think it’s ok to say this:
Last week was a breaking-news vortex of exhaustion. We had, in this order:
Monday: Giants win their first-ever-in-SF World Series (worked 9-5, then for a few hours that night, tweeting and updating)
Tuesday: Mid-term elections (8 am-11:30PM, oh my shit)(Brian was freaking insane too, what with the Prop 19 vote)
Wednesday: Election results, Giants Parade (up at 6, into the city at 9, crushed with crowds til 1, office til 5)
Thursday: Regular day where I caught my breath, stopped shaking and answered emails. (9-5)
Since I do not work for slave drivers, I had Friday off, in which I made lots and lots of dough. I love Bandit. Taylor Brown made some great pizzas on Saturday, and I have to say, my dough holds up.
I haven’t worked so many hours in such a long time, my head was spinning. But you know what? I love my job. That’s a really great feeling to have. It still boggles my mind that I moved to California, got a job in the worst recession, like, ever, a job that I LIKE at a non-profit that serves the community in so many important ways. It’s been inspiring to work alongside people who want the same things I do, and feel like an integral part of a team. I haven’t had a day in six and a half months where I thought “I just can’t do this today.” Quite the contrary, it’s been lovely to have a job worth waking up for. Thanks, The Bay Citizen!
So. I think I won’t be using a Kindle again. I prefer books. End of story.
Franzen’s Freedom. Not as good as The Corrections. There, I said it. Now that I’ve read his Two Big Novels, I gotta say- those wacky, unbelievable plot twists that bring unlikely characters dissatisfaction on the other side of the world annoy me a bit. Kind of wreck the flow. That’s just a quibble though. There is no denying that he is a master at crafting characters you simultaneously identify with and hate (for me: Denise and Gary in the The Corrections, Joey and Patty in Freedom).
I also had this recurring thought: he’s a bit predictable as a writer. Midwestern dysfunction, sexually confused women, the men are either spineless and accommodating to a fault, or macho assholes. He might be The Strokes of the literary world. Not a bad thing, necessarily- John Irving does it too, but I feel as if his novels are so shocking that you almost don’t notice the parades of wrestlers with daddy issues and whores walking through the Red Light District of Amsterdam in every book he releases. Of course, I’m bound to compare every novelist to Irving, because he can do no wrong on my shelves.
Another thing: The ending felt a little rushed to me. Like, he spent years crafting the first 3/4 of the novel and wrote the rest in a matter of months. It didn’t seem as watertight. Almost an afterthought. I must say, though, I love the autobiographical perspective from Patty- it made me have some sympathy for her. I thought it brought her character a bit more priority, something I struggled with in The Corrections. Letting her tell her side of the story herself instead of having the amorphous third-person narrator do it gave Patty a soapbox advantage the other characters didn’t have. I really liked that.
I think star-rating systems for books is a little general for my neurotic reading habits, so I will say that out of all of the novels I’ve read for the first time in 2010, this one was maybe fifth-best. I’d read it again, of course, but I wouldn’t get a tattoo of it, you guys know what I’m sayin’? (For those of you who haven’t seen my left arm lately, one of my Life List goals is to get tattoos of all my favorite books.)
Quick Halloween rundown. Partied righteously til 5 in the mo’-nin’ with these fools:
Christen's little buddy, Nada, who is really a cat and not a dinosaur like you might think.
Me dressed as Gerry, Gerry dressed as...someone with a moustache?
Lauren & Christen as people with blue hair, Keith dressed as a Canadian
Blake's costume made no sense to anyone except himself.
I had a great time. It was my first real Halloween As A Grownup party, where people danced and drank and giggled. People take it a lot more seriously in SF, where for some it’s Halloween every day. There were still a lot of Slutty Ladybug costumes wandering the streets, but not nearly as many as in Boston. I’ll next tell you guys about the Magical 60 Hour Workweek in Four Days I had last week.
Am still alive. Working like a mofo. Halloween was off the hook. More later.
So, I’m still using the Kindle, still reading Freedom. I’m still trying to figure out the advantages of using a Kindle or other e-reader instead of a paper book, at least on the consumer end.
Smaller than some books.
Easier to read than hardbacks and most paperbacks, in terms of ergonomics.
Can increase font size.
Books tend to be dramatically cheaper for hardback, somewhat cheaper in paperback.
Books arrive instantly on the machine via a WiFi connection.
The screensavers are kind of cool. I have a thing for portraits of people that I like (POTUSes, authors, Snugglecat).
It is sloooooow. I said this earlier, that it takes longer to press next page and have the e-page flip than it does to actually flip a page. And since I read really fast, those foreshortened pages tend to zip right by.
There isn’t any kind of backlight. I was thinking that I was being bratty for wanting something like this, but seriously? My cell phone has the technology to light up so I can read it in the dark, and the Kindle is designed for sustained reading and doesn’t? It would be a great feature to add for people who travel or people who have to sit in their apartments during a power outage because of torrential rain. I actually read a Kindle by candlelight this weekend. That is silly.
Page numbers. Come on, Kindle. Seriously, what do those numbers at the bottom of the page mean? I’m sure this information is somewhere in the Owner’s Manual, but something as basic as page numbers should be something I don’t need to consult a manual for. It was annoying at first, but I’ve gotten used to it and now report that I am 81% finished with the book, at locations 10202-9. Whatever that means.
I don’t really like how difficult it is to flip back and forth from page to page. I think that would probably be an issue with any e-reader. I tend to go back and reread pages, and not knowing page numbers is kind of driving me nuts. I also tend to go back and read the first sentences of most chapters and the Kindle does not make this easy. I’m not sure there’s much of a solution for it, but I don’t think I can state it enough: Page numbers would help, Kindle people.
Also, lets talk for a moment about the name: Kindle. It sounds cute and pokey, a device that you can have confidence in, but are not intimidated by. I love the “Kindle” screensaver in particular, because it explains exactly what the word means
FIRE. Yeah, yeah, I get that it’s supposed to inspire readers and get them a-smolderin’ for their literature, but don’t you think it’s a little sinister that it also refers to setting things aflame? Like books? You can’t burn a Kindle, not in good environmental conscience, anyway. Is the little machine trying to tell us what life would be like in a world where Farenheit 411 makes no sense whatsoever?
Answer me this, Internet: How is the Kindle better than an actual book?
Oh yeah, ha. I forgot I had this website again. Oopsies. I’ve been busy with work and socializing with the same four people over and over again, and really have little time to spew my neuroses in more than 140 character installments (for the less-than-140 crowd, I’ve got a Twitter widget to the left).
This one neurosis I have, though, it cannot be contained. I love to read. I read compulsively, the same way people check their Twitter feed or gas stove knobs. If I could get a job just reading, I would accept in a heartbeat. Newspapers, magazines, classic novels, mommy blogs, science texts, whatever. I like to sit in a chair with paper with words on it somewhere near my eyes. Reading creates a portable comfort zone for me, something to take my mind off whatever it is my mind should be on (traveling, working, writing, petting the cat). I’ve always liked this observation from Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird -
“ Now that I was compelled to think about it, reading was something that just came to me…Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”
It’s just what I do when I’m not doing something else. Or rather “something else” is what I’m doing when I’m not reading.
Yesterday I was home sick with a chest cold, and switched between an advance copy of a trying-to-be-serious-but-still-vaguely-tawdry romance novel set in the White House House that was mistakenly sent along to my office from Simon & Schuster, and the a third reading of John Adams by David McCullough. I tend to only read a few novels a year for the first time, and devote most of my in-between-new-books time rereading stuff I’ve already liked (or didn’t like- there are only a few books I’ve only read once). I’ve been itching to read Franzen’s Freedom for a while, but tend to get cagey when I have to wait for a paperback edition. I loathe hardbacks with every fiber of my shoulder muscles that have to lug them around for the week it takes me to read them. Plus, they’re expensive and tough to read in bed.
Enter technology. I’ve long wished for a readable book format that I could hide behind my email for those boring days in my old office job where I’d get 10 assignments a day that would take a total of 35 minutes. Reading on the job is totally bad form, I know, but at least I’d be doing my best to hide it? Then this Kindle thing got big, and then the iPad and now I live in a tech-heavy city full of people reading God knows what on a variety of square-ish devices.
So Brian got a Kindle for his birthday. Since he’s been too swamped to read, what with the legalizing of the pot and all, it has sat in our living room, lonely and flashing portraits of famous authors silently for a few months. Since I am smug and old school and a Luddite or whatever, I never really thought to try it out. My mom has one and loves it, but it didn’t really appeal to me for a few reasons. For one, it doesn’t have a lot of multifunction. A Kindle is a reading device, but doesn’t do much more than that. Second, I like how books look and feel and I like reading them in public. If I see someone else reading a book enough times, I tend to pick it up (hence my reading of Franzen’s last epic tale, The Corrections) and I hope I occasionally contribute to someone thinking Hey you know I should pick that up. Sometimes that works well, and sometimes it doesn’t (Indecision by Benjamin Kunkel is a notable example- the entire time I was reading it, I thought Why am I and everyone else in this subway car reading this perfectly bland novel?). I digress.
I bought the Kindle edition of Freedom last night, after vowing to by a used copy of the paperback when it arrives. The price was right ($12, as opposed to the $28 for the hardback), and it was great to want it, download it and start reading it in the space of five minutes. The display is clear, and it’s a nice feature that you can increase the text size. I’m not sold though:
1. The screen is absurdly small. A measly four-by-six inch space to read a “page” of text. I read fast and that space is good for about 15 seconds of uninterrupted reading. I don’t need those tiny hard keys to type stuff- why are you there, tiny hard keys? This wouldn’t be a bother except…
2. It’s a little on the slow side. The “next page” buttons take a certain amount of time to flip. In reality, it’s not a lot of time, but I think it takes a little longer than it does for me to flip an actual page. Which means I’m “next page” buttoning more, because of the foreshortened “pages” that fit the screen, and technically taking more time to read something that should take the same exact amount of time to read.
3. You can’t loan someone a Kindle. This speaks to the larger, un-technical question of e-books in general. Just like you are unlikely to loan someone your entire iPod so they can get a listen to this Andrew Bird person that has been all over your recent Facebook statuses, you aren’t going to hand over your entire library so someone can read the new David Sedaris. This is something I do quite a bit, loan my books, and I tend to keep spare copies of my favorites on hand to give away to people who may appreciate them. The Kindle is an anti-social device in that sense. It’s not a gift that keeps on giving.
This move away from hard copies is something I confront literally every day. I work for a newspaper that produces no print edition (save for a few pages of the New York Times on Fridays and Sundays) and we are a Serious Journalistic Organization, with award winning writers on staff. I worked for two publishing houses that were experiencing growing pains related to the growing e-book industry, and have some technological unease of my own when it comes to presenting my material. I am trying to keep an open mind about this little device, but I’m not sure it’s replacing something broken. Paper and glue still work just fine for me (except when it weighs 5 pounds and costs more than $20).
I think I’ve exhausted my gut reactions on that stupid little device. I need to play around with it a little more before I make a hard-and-fast No Kindle decision.
As for Freedom, I think it’s worth the wait (for those of us who read The Corrections when it arrived 9 years ago) after however many pages I’m into it- I can’t really tell because I CAN’T FIGURE OUT WHAT REAL PAGE I’M ON BECAUSE THE KINDLE WON’T TELL ME I HAAAAAAATE THIS LITTLE MACHIIIIIIINEEEEEE! Sorry. Deep breath, Marie, open mind. Welcome to the future.