Monday, November 30, 2009

Killing Time Online: Words Move Me

Sony Style has a cool promotional feature called "Words Move Me" which endeavors to "connect readers around the literary moments they love."  It's strangely addictive to sit and watch the ever-revolving blocks of text to see what passages have inspired other readers.  Take a look.

Oscar Wilde's Advice for You

Oscar Wilde has always been one of those historical figures who holds a place curiously close to my heart.  Though much of what he did seems to have been for the sake of notoriety alone, he was something of a late-Victorian rebel, and he went to jail for being different from the norm.

I was pleased, therefore, when I stumbled across his "Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young."  Though I disagree vehemently with many of his ideas, his devotion to hedonism in the face of Victorian disapproval is really a marvel to behold:
The first duty in life is to be as artificial as possible. What the second duty is no one has as yet discovered.
Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others.
If the poor only had profiles there would be no difficulty in solving the problem of poverty.
Those who see any difference between soul and body have neither.
A really well-made buttonhole is the only link between Art and Nature.
Religions die when they are proved to be true. Science is the record of dead religions.
The well-bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves.
Nothing that actually occurs is of the smallest importance.
Dulness is the coming of age of seriousness.
In all unimportant matters, style, not sincerity, is the essential. In all important matters, style, not sincerity, is the essential.
If one tells the truth one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out.
Pleasure is the only thing one should live for. Nothing ages like happiness.
It is only by not paying one's bills that one can hope to live in the memory of the commercial classes.
No crime is vulgar, but all vulgarity is crime. Vulgarity is the conduct of others.
Only the shallow know themselves.
Time is waste of money.
One should always be a little improbable.
There is a fatality about all good resolutions. They are invariably made too soon.
The only way to atone for being occasionally a little overdressed is by being always absolutely overeducated.
To be premature is to be perfect.
Any preoccupation with ideas of what is right or wrong in conduct shows an arrested intellectual development.
Ambition is the last refuge of the failure.
A truth ceases to be true when more than one person believes in it.
In examinations the foolish ask questions that the wise cannot answer.
Greek dress was in its essence inartistic. Nothing should reveal the body but the body.
One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.
It is only the superficial qualities that last. Man's deeper nature is soon found out.
Industry is the root of all ugliness.
The ages live in history through their anachronisms.
It is only the gods who taste of death. Apollo has passed away, but Hyacinth, whom men say he slew, lives on. Nero and Narcissus are always with us.
The old believe everything: the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything.
The condition of perfection is idleness: the aim of perfection is youth.
Only the great masters of style ever succeeded in being obscure.
There is something tragic about the enormous number of young men there are in England at the present moment who start life with perfect profiles, and end by adopting some useful profession.
To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday Dog Ears

This week's "Dog Ears" include an argument that all literate people should, in fact, boycott books as well as advice for literate people who are trying to write books:
  • Michael Wolff at Newser argues that "Books Are Bad For You," his final advice being that "Literate people should boycott books."
  • With Oprah announcing the end of her show, publishers are left with the problem of where to get their next golden ticket to great book sales.
  • The world is up in arms about the fact that there was not one woman author named on the Publisher's Weekly "Top Ten Books of 2009."
  • Speaking of book lists, remember those "10 Essential Penguin Classics" we talked about previously?  Now there are trailers for all of them.  As I do all of my blogging at work, I unfortunately cannot watch any of them, so let me know how they are if you can.
  • The "mainstream liberal media" has jumped on the Sarah Palin bandwagon by producing a response to the former-governor of Alaska's biography entitled Going Rouge: An American Nightmare.
  • J.C. Hutchins over at Tor has a pretty spot-on article, "What If? and What Happens Next? Two secret weapons for aspiring writers," calling What if? and What happens next? narrative carrots on sticks.  None of this is new for anyone who has ever taken a creative writing class, but it's a good refresher nonetheless.

You Can't Fight the Twilight: Chapter One

Well, I tried--and, obviously, failed--to resist the Twilight phenonemon.  It has now become such a mainstay in our culture that I feel like a bit of a pariah for never having read it, no matter that I had deliberately chosen not to read it as a protest against what it stands for.

How the mighty have fallen.

Anyway, I've decided to liveblog the reading experience, if it's possible to "liveblog" a book.  From what I've seen so far, it shouldn't take too long.  (By the way, I should mention that I did try to read this book with an open mind.  It just didn't work.)
Chapter One

I'm Isabella "Bella" Swan and I'm a responsible teenager because my mom is sooooo immature.  I move to the Pacific Northwest and call my father by his first name to show just how alienated the two of us are, despite the fact that I've seen him every summer since the day I was born.

I'm depressed.  Like, super depressed, and I cry a lot.  I'm not very pretty, no one understands me, and I'm a social misfit who's a bit of a klutz.  In fact, I'm so un-pretty and un-fit-in-able that one boy at school develops a crush on me on the first day at school.  But I don't care about him or any of the other people who go out of their way to be nice to me--they're just overly friendly "chess club types."

The boy that I like is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, and even paler than I am, even though I make jokes that aren't funny about how I look like an albino.  But what makes him so attractive to me is that he's a huuuuge asshole!  He doesn't even know me, but it's obvious by the look in his beautiful black eyes that he thinks that I'm scum between his toes, and I can't get enough of it!  I got to sit next to him in biology and he leaned so far away from me in his seat that I was forced to make sure whether or not I had kept up on my personal hygeine--I'm clean, by the way. Edward Cullen is just a bit of a jerk off.

I think I'm in love.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gawker Sells Sarah Palin Slam Book

I'm apparently easily amused this afternoon.  Gossip blog Gawker is currently selling a copy of Sarah Palin's Rogue: An American Dream that has been signed by numerous famous people in an effort to raise money for charity.  Some of said famous people include Colum McCann, Sloane Crosley, and Salvatore Scibona, to name a few.  Here's the ebay page (in which the book is classified as being under "folklore, mythology"), although bidding is already over $1000, so I'm about as likely to get Alice's copy of Through the Looking Glass as I am to get this.

Not-So-Gentle Viewer: A Book at Bedtime

For today's video, here's the classic and slightly tedious skit from Monty Python's Flying Circus, "A Book at Bedtime."

The Million Dollar Books

For those of you who have more money than sense--or maybe just more money than I do--next month a company called Profiles in History is set to auction off the copy of Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There which belonged to Alice, the little girl who served as the original inspiration for Lewis Carrol's books in Wonderland.

Also at the December 16th auction will be Beatrix Potter's copy of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, "a first edition copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and signed, limited edition copies of author A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner."

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Painful Selling Out of Lindsay-with-an-A

In case any of you were wondering, I have officially sold out.

All of my previous selling-outs were nothing compared to this selling-out.  Of course, this selling-out has been far less painful than previous selling-outs, as well, so I'm not so ashamed of myself that I'm not willing to share it with my faithful readers.

Lindsay-with-an-A is now officially writing a romance novel.

I know, I know.  You're probably thinking to yourself, "But Lindsay-with-an-A is the biggest cynic I know!  She laughed at the end of The Notebook!  She mocks Jared diamond commercials!  How could she possibly write a romance novel?"

Here's the thing: I do enjoy reading romance novels, despite the inevitably cheese-tastic endings.  They're like cotton candy for the brain, only they're less guilt-inducing than romantic comedies because reading requires more effort and brain cells than watching movies ever will.  In addition, most heroines in romance novels today are spunky and don't take nothing from nobody, so of course I would enjoy that aspect.

But I digress.  My somewhat-shamefaced reading of romance novels has never before made me actually want to write one.  The incredibly depressing state of my bank account is the main motivating factor here, and as we've discussed before, romance novels are one of the few fields in publishing in which sales are not negatively affected by the economy.  It's probably one of the most stable supply-and-demands out there.

Anyway, we'll see how far I actually get in my historical romantic suspense.  The last time I tried to write a romance novel, I got bored about 40 pages in.  I'm pretty sure if I check my bank account at least once a day, it'll keep my enthusiasm going pretty steadily.

Killing Time Online: Noveller

Hey, guys, check out Noveller, the new macroblogging service with the tagline, "Share and discover what masterworks are being novelled right now."

Though I haven't personally tried it yet (I can barely keep up with my blogging!), it is purported to be "the only online service in which users can post a major multivolume epic in the morning, and have it read, critiqued, and reNovelled by thousands of other people around the world before lunch."

For more information, here's a pretty good article about the service.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Featured Comic: Mary Sidney

Kate Beaton over at Hark! A Vagrant is so freaking funny. I love all the mystery around Shakespeare--it's to the point that all of my Elizabethan lit teachers absolutely refused to even debate the point, saying, "No one can prove anything, so we're not going to waste time arguing about it."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Grammar Snark: "How to Use an Apostrophe"

Check out this flowchart from The Oatmeal about how to use an apostrophe.  I especially like the last rule: "When in doubt, don't use an apostrophe."

... I guess this technically isn't a snark, but I'm sick of getting an email saying, "I hope you're problems have been solved."  Ugh.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Featured Comic: The Fitzgeralds

Here's another piece by Kate Beaton over at Hark! A Vagrant. It's accompanied by this explanation: "So, I said I would work on something with the Fitzgeralds, and here they are in all their glory, ruining each other's dreams. First Zelda got a bad rap for mucking things up for Scott, then the other way around. But the truth is, they were both a big mess, let's call it a tie."

What's In a Name?

Upon first glance, Ruth Axtell Morren's A Bride of Honor seems like many other romance novels with a "traditional values" spin--having watched Love's Enduring Promise on the Hallmark channel one rainy afternoon, I think I have a pretty good idea what to expect as far as plot devices and themes goes.

The back cover--the location of the "blurb"--is where things get a little more interesting:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a lady of rank and distinction is no match for an impoverished preacher. Yet Damian Hathaway is entranced from the moment he spies Miss Lindsay Phillips entering his church. She doesn't appear any different from the other pampered society ladies—and she's betrothed to a gentleman of the ton. But Damian is determined to find the pure heart he's sure exists underneath all the ruffles and lace. The unlikely friendship formed by Damian and Lindsay is a revelation to them both, but is frowned upon by her parents—and Damian's parishioners. Torn between two worlds, the pair must trust that their love can bridge the divide—and conquer all.
Huh.  I'm not sure I could make it all the way through a book which features a character with the same name as me.  Even books where the main character has only the same first name as me reminds me a little too much of that eternal classic Click for Love.  Such books immediately seem like a joke because I'm incapable of separating myself from the name every time it appears on the page.  In the case of A Bride of Honor, the joke is even more pronounced, as Lindsay wasn't even a woman's name in the general "back in the day" setting for which Morren seems to be reaching... it was a man's name. 

Research helps.  I'm just saying.

The reason I bring this up, however, (other than fanning my narcissism with a post that is indirectly all about me) is that it makes me wonder if people with more common names suffer from the same problem.  "Back in the day," after all, everyone seems to have either been named John or Mary or to have known someone named John or Mary.  Would it be distracting for such a person to read a book (Middlemarch, for example), which prominently features characters that share the same name?  Or is the name so common that such a person casn successfully separate him/herself from the name on the page and read the book uninhibited?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fortune Cookies Never Lie

Denver Events: Al Gore (11/16)

Al Gore will be at the LoDo Tattered Cover on Monday, November 16th at 7:30pm signing copies of his new book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis. 

Tickets were available beginning on Tuesday the 3rd, so you may be SOL., but it can't hurt to try is you're a fan of the Gore.

Grammar Snark: The Grammar Secret Police

This is totally gimmicky, I admit, but this video made me laugh.

(If, by chance, any of you don't know how to use a preposition correctly, here's a School House Rock vid to help you figure it out.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday Dog Ears

This week's "Dog Ears" features a writer coattail-riding Ayn Rand to success as well as ways for you to do the same:
  • features a powerful short story by Rachel Swirsky, "A Memory of Wind," which explores the Agammemnon-Iphigenia myth.
  • Yet another Ayn Rand biography is released to capitalize on the Americans who count Atlas Shrugged as the most influential book they ever read.  Next in the news, I can't believe that Atlas Shrugged is supposed to be the second-most influential book in America.  Blech.
  • David L. Ulin wrote a fairly intereting piece in the LA Times entitled, "The Lost Art of Reading," which is both accurate (in that it details some of the problems I've had with reading) and disheartening (in that it makes me worry about the kids who are growing up today and the problems that they'll face reading).
  • Jane Airhead, a children's book by Kay Woodward, tells the story of Charlotte, a girl who decides to find a "Mr. Rochester" for her mom.  "So when Charlotte finds the ideal man, she can’t believe her luck. He’s dark, brooding and mysterious. He’s PERFECT. But the real-life romantic hero also turns out to be sarcastic and rude. Does Charlotte really want her mum marrying him?"  Did Kate Beaton read this before she drew "Dude Watching with the Brontes"?
  • 60 Second Recap offers students short clips that sum up aspects of culturally-relevant novels and plays in a minute.
  • "Making Money Reading Books" at InfoBarrel tells how to "get in on some of the money generated from their books by blogging on the coat tails of [your favorite author's] success."  While this definitely has some potential, don't you dare try to publish your blog, or J.K. Rowling will make you cry in public.

Defining Definitions: Spoilers

When I was in high school, a friend of mine took to carrying around The Complete Works of Shakespeare, proclaiming that he was going to read every single play the Bard had ever written.  He told me that he was really enjoying Othello, and, cue my foot-in-mouth syndrome, I said, "I can't believe that he kills Desdemona!"

My friend was a bit irritated.  Apparently he didn't know even the basic storyline of Othello and I had ruined the whole thing for him.  I, on the other hand, couldn't believe that he hadn't already known the basic premise of the play--Othello-the-Moor is tricked by Iago-the-Asshole into smothering Desdemona-the-Wronged-Innocent.  Who hasn't at least been exposed to that much of the play?

This brings me to the newest Defining Definitions.  Linda Holmes at NPR wrote a piece entitled, "The Spoiler Problem (Contains Spoilers)," and while Holmes focuses explicitly on the role television spoilers play in blogs and other publications, I think it fair to say that a similar argument exists in the world of literature.  Therefore, allow me to present my definition of spoilers:

An important and not generally well-known piece of information regarding plot that is revealed to someone who was not previously aware of it.  This does not include character names or general story details that are revealed early in the story.
Since that day in high school, I've taken to prefacing all possible spoilers with the giant label SPOILER ALERT to try to circumvent making an ass of myself ever again.

Killing Time Online: The Pandora Radio of Blogs

For those of you who love the "if you liked that, you might like this" aspect of Pandora Radio, Blogger has upgraded the "Next Blog" option at the top of the page.  Now, when you click on "Next Blog," Blogger will take you to a blog that relates to that which you were previously perusing. 

Let me just say that it warms the cold, cold cockles of my heart that there are so many book blogs out there.  Sometimes I worry about the future of humanity, but those blogs make me feel just a little bit better.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Not-So-Gentle Viewer: Imagine That With Ernie (1991)

In celebration of Sesame Street's 40th anniversary, here's a link to my favorite Sesame Street skit ever, "Imagine That With Ernie."  To this day, I still occasionally get this song stuck in my head.

Denver Events: John Irving (TONIGHT)

If anyone is interested, John Irving (author of The World According to Garp, among other books) will be at the LoDo Tattered Cover tonight at 7:30pm. 

Doors open at 6:30pm, so show up early to get a seat.

The (Philosophy) Baby and the (Ethics) Bathwater

The New York Times has an interesting article ("An Ethical Question: Does a Nazi Deserve a Place Among Philosophers?") regarding the current debate over Heidegger's classification in most university libraries as a philosopher.  Though Heidegger has had a significant influence on contemporary philosophical thought, it is his involvement with the Nazi movement for which he is best-known.  Though he has always before been placed in the ranks of philosophers, there is now a movement to re-classify the German writer and move his writings to the history section of libraries under "N" for "Nazi."

For example, Emmanuel Faye, the author of Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy,
calls on philosophy professors to treat Heidegger’s writings like hate speech. Libraries, too, should stop classifying Heidegger’s collected works (which have been sanitized and abridged by his family) as philosophy and instead include them under the history of Nazism. These measures would function as a warning label, like a skull-and-crossbones on a bottle of poison, to prevent the careless spread of his most odious ideas, which Mr. Faye lists as the exaltation of the state over the individual, the impossibility of morality, anti-humanism and racial purity.
Those who support Fayes' argument feel that it is ethically necessary to re-examine the fundamentals of Heidgegger's philosophies as well as those fields which have been strongly influenced by his writing, including but not limited to "existentialism and postmodernism as well as attendant attacks on colonialism, atomic weapons, ecological ruin and universal notions of morality."  Obviously, erasing his name from the annals of philosophy is not the same thing as simply moving the shelves that hold the books.

This begs the question, then, if whether such a re-classification is at all appropriate.  While it is important to be vigilant in how we view racist material, it is also important that we keep in mind the historical period in which the material was written.  For example, Plato, whom many consider the father of Western philosophy, also supported genetic selection and infanticide.  Do we move his books into the history section of the library, as well?

I would argue that this is not the case.  Though we now view parts of these philosophies as morally reprehensible, they have played an important enough role in the formation of modern philosophy that it is a bit ridiculous to try to expunge their names for all time.  In addition, most responsible philosophy professors are able to present the basics of Heidegger's work without instilling neo-Nazi tendencies in their students.  It is the responsibility of the philosopher to think critically about what s/he reads, and it is therefore unnecessary to re-classify Heidegger (and Plato and every other racist philosopher ever) because the philosopher should be able to recognize that which is of value and that which is not.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Review: Wicked (A New Musical)

Having the good fortune to see Wicked when it came through Denver, I was curious as to how it would handle the storyline of Gregory Maguire's novel of the same name.  The book, after all, is not uplifting.  Most of the characters die, and those who don't become such warped caricatures by the end that Elphaba's death (and the end of the story) finally comes somewhat as a relief.

You'll be happy to learn, then, that, much as Wicked the novel is nothing like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Wicked the musical is nothing like Wicked the book.  Most of the focus shifts away from Elphaba's various failures throughout her life and instead highlights the now feel-good friendship between her and G(a)linda.  The whole story receives a Broadway sheen that (thankfully) makes it virtually unrecognizable as an adaptation of the novel.  While some might argue that many of the powerful themes of the book (religious and philosophical questions, social injustice, etc.) were lost, I would reply that they weren't that powerful in the book, anyway, and so their disappearance is no great loss.

In addition, the performances of the actresses were stunning.  The most powerful song, "Defying Gravity," induced goosebumps.  The sets and costumes were whimsical and imaginative, and the entire production delightful.  I would highly recommend you see it if you get the chance.

The Return of the Native

As promised, "Not-So-Gentle Reader" has returned!  Over the course of my two-week mini-vacation, I've discovered several interesting things:
  • I'm bored by myself when I'm not making a concerted effort to think critically about "life, the universe, and everything."
  • I have apparently earned the reputation of being a blogger as several of my friends asked how my blog was going.
  • Those friends obviously don't actually read my blog, though I have continued to get hits every day despite the fact that I haven't posted anything new.
It is the first of the items above that has convinced me that it is time to return to the blogging sphere.
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