Thursday, December 31, 2009

E-Book Article from NPR

How E-Books Will Change Reading And Writing

Enlarge Ben Margot/AP

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos holds a Kindle e-book reader. Amazon reports that on Christmas Day, more customers bought Kindle e-books than physical books.

December 30, 2009

Ten years ago, few imagined that by decade's end, people would be reading novels on cell phones. A lot has changed in the book world.

"Over the last couple of years, I've really noticed if I sit down with a book, after a few paragraphs, I'll say, 'You know, where's the links? Where's the e-mail? Where's all the stuff going on?' " says writer Nicholas Carr. "And it's kind of sad."

Carr says he's thought of himself as a serious reader all his life, but in an article in The Atlantic, he argued that the Internet is training us to read in a distracted and disjointed way. But does that mean writers will have to change the way they write to capture the attention of an audience accustomed to this new way of reading? Carr thinks the answer is yes, and he looks to the past to make his point.

"When printed books first became popular, thanks to Gutenberg's press, you saw this great expansion of eloquence and experimentation," says Carr. "All of which came out of the fact that here was a technology that encouraged people to read deeply, with great concentration and focus. And as we move to the new technology of the screen ... it has a very different effect, an almost opposite effect, and you will see a retreat from the sophistication and eloquence that characterized the printed page."

As digital platforms proliferate, writers are trying to figure out how to use them. Novelist Rick Moody recently wrote a story on the social networking site Twitter. Moody says he got intrigued by the idea of writing in abbreviated form to fit within the 140-character limitations of each Twitter post.

"I began to see that trying to write within this tiny little frame, 140 characters, was kind of like trying to write haiku. It's very poetical in its compaction, and it kind of got under my skin, and I kept thinking, 'Wouldn't it be fun to try and work with this?' " Moody says.

His flirtation with Twitter was not entirely successful. The delivery of the story went awry, and some industry insiders were bombarded with repetitive tweets. Still, Moody doesn't regret the experiment. But he does have doubts about Twitter's literary potential.

"It forced me to try to imply more narrative than I could actually include in the piece, because I was so stuck in this little box. It's hard to have dialogue between characters in the confines of the Twitter box," Moody says. "That was all fun. Whether I think Twitter is going to be a great vehicle for fiction, I'd say no."

A lot of writers are trying their hand at Twitter books — both on the Web and in print — but Time magazine book reviewer Lev Grossman thinks it's a passing fad. Asked what might have some staying power, Grossman suggests the cell phone novel. Written on cell phones and meant to be read on them, many of these books are best-sellers in Japan. The authors are usually young women, and romance is the main theme.

"They tend to be narratively very propulsive, [and] not very interested in style and beautiful language," Grossman says. "There tends to be a lot of drama and melodrama, sex and violence. They grab your attention, and they don't really let it go."

Apart from Twitter books and cell phone novels, Grossman, who is also a novelist, says the real challenge for writers is electronic-book readers like the Kindle. He says the increasingly popular devices force people to read books in a different way.

"They scroll and scroll and scroll. You don't have this business of handling pages and turning them and savoring them." Grossman says that particular function of the e-book leads to a certain kind of reading and writing: "Very forward moving, very fast narrative ... and likewise you don't tend to linger on the language. When you are seeing a word or a sentence on the screen, you tend to go through it, you extract the data, and you move on."

Grossman thinks that tendency not to linger on the language also affects the way people react to a book when they are deciding whether to buy it: More purchases will be based on brief excerpts.

"It will be incumbent on novelists to hook readers right away," says Grossman. "You won't be allowed to do a kind of tone poem overture, you're going to want to have blood on the wall by the end of the second paragraph. And I think that's something writers will have to adapt to, and the challenge will be to use this powerfully narrative form, this pulpy kind of mode, to say important things."

Grossman, Moody and Carr all believe that traditional books will still be around for a long time, and that some of the changes that may occur in writing will be more evolutionary than revolutionary. But it's hard to know, says Carr, whether traditional books — and the people who read and write them — will have much influence on the culture in the future.

"The real question is," wonders Carr, "is that segment of the population going to just dwindle and be on the periphery of the culture rather than at the center, which is where printed books have stood for centuries now?"

Perhaps we'll have to wait another 10 years to find out.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Movie Delivery System

I have fully accepted the way in which I watch movies nowadays and it ain't through Netflix. I quit them two weeks ago. For the last few months I have been renting my movies via Xbox 360 and PS3. Both consoles stream movies in HD instantly. Gone are the days where I have to wait AN ENTIRE DAY for a DVD to arrive in the mail (I'm being sarcastic, but still). One more reason it's good to be a gamer.

BTW, which one of you jerks forgot to tell me Terminator Salvation was a cool movie? I watched it today. I also watched 9, which was also very good. And last week Lynette and I watched Julie and Julia, which was also pretty good.

Monday, December 28, 2009

AVATAR (It's True What They Say)

Avatar is amazing.
Avatar is visually stunning.
Avatar is magnificent.
Avatar is expertly formulaic.
Avatar is wonderfully cheesy.

Mr. Cameron has done it again. I had my doubts, but after hearing review after review from friends and bloggers I decided I had to see it for myself. And I was blown away. Avatar is like every movie you've ever seen, and like no other movie you've ever seen. Avatar is a game-changer. In my lifetime, there have been few movies that actually shake things up in Hollywood. Few movies become figurative guideposts for every movie that comes after. Avatar is one of those movies.

But, let me reiterate what everyone has been saying: The story is cheesy, the story is predictable, the story is not unique. But, when you saw Star Wars for the first time did you ever doubt that Luke would eventually defeat Darth Vader and the Empire?

Yes, I mentioned Star Wars in my humble review of Avatar. Go see it! In 3-D!

NOTE: It's three hours long. So make sure you tinkle before it starts.


I always thought that when I was old enough I'd surely be driving a motorcycle with a sidecar. Fortunately, I still want to. Someday I will.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

String Theory

"Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?"


I don't know what your problem is, but I am sad to see Christmas go. In this house, 2009 couldn't come to an end quicker. These last few days at home have been heavenly.

BTW, I got EVERYTHING I wanted for Christmas. And then some.

Top Things That Made My Christmas Kick Ass This Year:

1. Lynette (without her I'm nothing)
2. Snow (haven't had a white Christmas in these parts since we lived here)
3. Watching Leia open presents (as if she knows it's x-mas)
4. Homemade whipped cream (I made it)
5. Drinking coffee in the middle of the afternoon
6. Sorry (the board game)
7. Our Christmas tree (always stalwart and comforting)
8. Andes Candies (like a drug those things are)
9. Coffee (said twice on purpose)

Friday, December 25, 2009

She's With Santa Now

Lynette's ancient silver dollar fish died on Christmas Day. It was sad because this fish moved with us from Illinois in 2001. She had to have been over ten years old.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kim Peek

The inspiration behind Rain Man died last week. Very sad news. Here is part of a wonderful documentary about his life:

The rest of the film: LINK

Mt. 15th Street

Slipped on some ice this morning, but didn't fall. That's when I realized that I wasn't impervious to being "Falling Man" on the street. Trust me when I say the rest of my walk to work was a cautious one. And then each intersection had fifteen foot high mountains of ice and snow on all four corners. Good thing I brought a grappling hook to work with me this morning. One man nearly fell, but I grabbed him with one hand just in time. And my beard was had those cool movie icicles hanging from it when I got to my cubicle.

A group is forming to leave the building and make their way out of the city, but I'm trying to convince them that it would be safer if we stayed put. Plus, there's wolves out there, I think. My dad Dennis Quaid will be here soon - I can feel it.

Under Great White Northern Lights

Pardon my swears, but I FUCKING LOVE the White Stripes. I can't wait to see this:

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ebert's List

Because I grew up reading and watching Roger Ebert and generally agree with him, here's his list of 2009's best films:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The White Fluffy Mystery

Sixteen inches of snow.

As of right now the above ground Metro stations are closed. Will I be going to work tomorrow?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mono vs. Stereo

I don't know who this guy is, but his review of the Beatles MONO box set is pretty funny.

NOTE: I bought the stereo version and it's amazing, so...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

That rocket science feels sooooo good!

Everyone's got simple pleasures. I know I do. I write about them often. But do any of us have complex pleasures?

Riding on an airplane is a complex pleasure, logistically speaking.

Juggling? Requires some coordination.

Witnessing a falling star? More coincidence than complexity, methinks.

I suppose sex can be complex. Depending on the context and number of people involved.

I guess video games work. Because it's fun, but not usually "easy." Because if a game is too easy then it ceases to be pleasurable.

And I HAVE to assume people who build ships in bottles are actually enjoying themselves. Right?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I don't know why, but this song almost made me cry. Perhaps I'm emotionally vulnerable right now, or perhaps it's a fuckin' good song. I don't know. Here's a live version from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros:

Some thanks

If God exists I'd like to thank her for

  • Coffee
  • Television
  • Hockey
  • Books
  • J.S. Bach
  • Golden Oreos
  • Christmas trees
  • Christmas lights
  • Christmas presents
  • Christmas movies
  • Bruce Willis in The 5th Element and Armageddon

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret

Will Arnett and David Cross in a new show being aired in the UK.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Merry F*cking Christmas

The Christmas Spirit is not coming easy this year. Lynette and I have been working like dogs. Nights. Weekends. The only thing that keeps us from running away screaming is the fact that we have jobs. (Thank God we have jobs.) We've had to decline a few Christmas parties this month and it took us a long ass time to get our tree up. And the money - well, money's tight. This economy is really starting to piss me off. (Flat tires and broken furnaces don't help.)

So, yesterday we had to make our annual pilgrimage to The Christmas Attic to buy our mothers the Official White House ornament when we decided to eat at one of our favorite restaurants and get some awesome crab soup. Then we took a stroll up King Street in Old Town and witnessed the Christmas lights strung up and down the street. It was breathtaking and I believe some Christmas Spirit is seeping into our lives. Our Christmas tree is completely assembled and Lynette strung some lights and garland in the kitchen.

We may not get around to baking cookies or buying everything we want to buy for our friends and family, but we're starting to look forward to Christmas Day.

I'm looking forward to the following things:
  • Sleeping.
  • Giving Lynette her presents.
  • Giving Leia her presents.
  • Hearing A Christmas Story play over and over throughout the house.
  • Cooking a turkey and all the fixins'.
  • Sleeping.

The Sparkle Players Jingle Jangle Jam!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Nights Our House Comes to Life

Some nights in midwinter when the creek clogs
With ice and the spines of fir trees stiffen
Under a blank, frozen sky,
On these nights our house comes to life.
It happens when you're half asleep:
A sudden crack, a fractured dream, you bolting
Upright – but all you can hear is the clock
Your great-grandfather found in 1860
And smuggled here from Dublin for his future bride,
A being as unknown to him then as she is now
To you, a being as distant as the strangers
Who built this house, and died in this room
Some cold, still night, like tonight,
When all that was heard were the rhythmic clicks
Of a pendulum, and something, barely audible,
Moving on the dark landing of the attic stairs.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Office Party Tonight!

Secret Santa gift giving + alcohol + animosity + folksy conversation.

This can only end one of two ways.

(Hint: Not with giant transforming fighting robots.)

Learning Shakespeare (from Brian Cox)

Searchers by Jim Harrison


by Jim Harrison

At dawn Warren is on my bed,
a ragged lump of fur listening
to the birds as if deciding whether or not
to catch one. He has an old man's
mimsy delusion. A rabbit runs across
the yard and he walks after it
thinking he might close the widening distance
just as when I followed a lovely woman
on boulevard Montparnasse but couldn't equal
her rapid pace, the click-click of her shoes
moving into the distance, turning the final
corner, but when I turned the corner
she had disappeared and I looked up
into the trees thinking she might have climbed one.
When I was young a country girl would climb
a tree and throw apples down at my upturned face.
Warren and I are both searchers. He's looking
for his dead sister Shirley, and I'm wondering
about my brother John who left the earth
on this voyage all living creatures take.
Both cat and man are bathed in pleasant
insignificance, their eyes fixed on birds and stars.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


This is amazing! When I was in high school I saw this one night as I walking home from my friend's house at around 9:30 PM. For credibility, I did have a friend with me who saw the same thing. That was 18 years ago. Then I stumbled across this today:

This is the exact same thing I saw as a young Lil JC. And it scared the Hell out of me. I remember running for cover. Seriously.

Here's more footage of the thing! LINK

"I for one welcome our new alien overlords."

Things I want to do

...but never have time.

1. Draw. I have ideas, man, ideas!
2. Play Bach on my violin. I haven't played my violin in months.
3. Write a book. Again with the ideas.
4. Lose weight. But I don't want to exercise.
5. Take a picture everyday. Everyday!
6. Play more video games.

Hoo Hoo

I enjoy morning radio shock jocks. It started back in Chicago with The Loop and Johnny B. in the Eighties (Chicagoans know I'm talking about a radio station called The Loop and Jonathon Brandmeier). Then in the Nineties I worked as a graphic artist in a small office full of idiots who wanted to hear Mancow. (Mancow is/was/always will be a douche.) Then I switched to Howard Stern when got to college in mid-Nineties.

Upon our move to DC in 2001 I switched to Opie and Anthony because they were affiliated with XM Satellite Radio. If you're a frat boy and/or politically conservative and enjoy making fun of people because they're different than you, O and A is the show for you. In other words, it's not that good. If you're overly sensitive then steer clear. (Plus, Jimmy Norton's recent incident with Jesse Ventura really pissed me off.)

Within the last month, I have switched back to Stern (post-merger) and realized that he truly is the king. There's no denying Stern is a pro and his celebrity interviews are wonderful. I can go without the farting, but it's silly for silly's sake. And Robin's news is still awesome.

But the show that tops them all - Ron and Fez (11-3) on XM. Pure entertainment.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Music Appreciation: Nada Surf

I have always loved this song. It's where I got Johnny Football (and now you know).

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ode to an Extra

Being that I once was an extra in a fairly popular, successful movie, I found this to be quite amazing.

Miranda July's Ode to an Extra

Saturday, December 5, 2009

"Have you checked our shitters, Honey?"

You've seen it - now Christmas can begin.

Things getting me through this weekend workday

  • Aaron Copeland
  • Pepperidge Farm Holiday Cookie Bites
  • Free Starbucks coffee
  • Adequate lighting
  • Lynette
  • Plans to eat chicken 'n dumplings later
  • The fear of getting fired if I don't do a good job


I was thinking, what kind of person would I be if I had a big house with an indoor pool and a guest house? Just wondering because Lynette found one of those for sale for nearly as much as we paid for our condo and it made me sad. Here's the rub: it's an hour away without rush hour traffic. Typical commuting time would probably be 2 hours one way. I guess the real question is Would a two hour commute justify a pool and guest house? Sanity can be pretty expensive around here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Brett Farve

I don't know. Maybe I'll stay here. I really like having my favorite links right there (pointing to the right).


Stay tuned.