Sunday, July 19, 2009

Profound Irony

July 17, 2009, 4:01 pm Plays Big Brother With Famous E-Books

EDITOR’S NOTE | 8:41 p.m. The Times published an article explaining that the Orwell books were unauthorized editions that Amazon removed from its Kindle store. However, Amazon said it would not automatically remove purchased copies of Kindle books if a similar situation arose in the future.

From the blog of our colleague David Pogue:

This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned.


A screen shot from
The MobileReference edition of the novel, “Nineteen Eighty-four,” by George Orwell that was deleted from Kindle e-book readers by

But no, apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price.

This is ugly for all kinds of reasons. Amazon says that this sort of thing is “rare,” but that it can happen at all is unsettling; we’ve been taught to believe that e-books are, you know, just like books, only better. Already, we’ve learned that they’re not really like books, in that once we’re finished reading them, we can’t resell or even donate them. But now we learn that all sales may not even be final.

As one of my readers noted, it’s like Barnes & Noble sneaking into our homes in the middle of the night, taking some books that we’ve been reading off our nightstands, and leaving us a check on the coffee table.

You want to know the best part? The juicy, plump, dripping irony?

The author who was the victim of this Big Brotherish plot was none other than George Orwell. And the books were “1984” and “Animal Farm.”


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"The International": One Redeeming Moment

So Clive Owen could persuade me to watch almost anything (... sat through the BMW online mini-movies twice), so even against the advice of friends, I rented and watched The International. Friends were right: watch this movie only for background noise and the occasional eye-candy Owen provides. Beyond this, the only redeeming moment to note passes in this exchange between Captain Martell and District Attorney Whitman (Naomi Watts) where Whitman is arguing for a more passionate pursuit of justice and a higher moral ground:

Captain: There's what people wanna hear. There's what people wanna believe. There's everything else, and THEN there's the truth.

Whitman: The truth means taking responsibility, Arne!

Captain: Exactly! Which is why everyone dreads it!

Point to the Captain.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Truth about the World

The Blood Meridian (McCarthy)
ISBN 9780679728757

"The truth about the world, he said, is that ... had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of its strangeness it would appear to you for what it is, a hat trick in a medicine show, a fevered dream, a trance bepopulate with chimeras having neither analogue nor precedent, an itinerant carnival, a migratory tentshow whose ultimate destination after many a pitch in many a mudded field is unspeakable and calamitous beyond reckoning .... and the order in creation which you see is that which you have put there, like a string in a maze, so that you shall not lose the way" (245).

A Rock on a Fairy's Wing

The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
ISBN 9780684801520

"A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the wash-stand and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor. Each night he added to the pattern of his fancies until drowsiness closed down upon some vivid scene with an outlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy's wing" (105).

The Meaning We Make

This passage from Chaim Potok's The Chosen speaks to the work of living as being the "filling" of life with meaning. In other words, we write our lives with the meaning we make or we allow our lives to be "fill" in the compositions others create (perhaps being secretly relieved to be delivered of the work we would otherwise have to do on our own behalves).

"... meaning is not automatically given to life."

Father (David Malter) speaking to his son, Reuven Malter:

"I learned a long time ago, Reuven, that a blink of an eye in itself is nothing. But the eye that blinks, that is something. A span of life is nothing. But the man who lives that span, he is something. He can fill that tiny span with meaning, so its quality is immeasurable though its quantity may be insignificant. Do you understand what I am saying? A man must fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically given to life. It is hard work to fill one's life with meaning."

The Chosen (Potok, 217)
ISBN 0449213447

As Regards Consistency

Ralph Waldo Emerson's memorable words from his 1841 essay, "Self-Reliance":

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Bruno Fashion Statement

First Ali G., then Borat, and now actor Sacha Baron Cohen creates Bruno, a gay fashion journalist from Australia. I don't know a lot about the actor or the characters for that matter, but I dig this picture - a knitted version of being naked that might make Halloween a fun night out in '09, a Bruno classic fashion statement.

Anyone got the pattern?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Calling Forth the Poets


"The Poets and the People"
. by One of the Latter (from The Artist: Critical Writings of Oscar Wilde, ed. Richard Ellmann)

* The followed unsigned essay was published in the Pall Mall Gazette XLV (17 February 1887). It's insight is hauntingly appropriate to the times we now navigate and
is attributed to the playwright and poet, Oscar Wilde. Wilde's answer to the challenging times of his own day may offer an answer to us in ours: He calls forth the poets.

Never was there a time in our national history when there was more need than there is now for the creation of a spirit of enthusiasm among all classes of society, inspiring men and women with that social zeal and the spirit of self-sacrifice which alone can save a great people in the thoes of national misfortune. Tirades of pessimism require but little intellectual effort, and the world is not much the better for them; but to inspire a people with hope and courage, to fill them with a desire after righteousness and duty, this is work that requires the combination of intelligence and feeling of the highest order. Who, in the midst of all our poverty and distress, that threatens to become intensified, will step into the breach and rouse us to the almost super-human effort that is necessary to alter the existing state of things?

There is one class of men to whom we have a right to look for assistance, to whom the task of stirring the national conscience should be accepted with delight. When the poor are suffering from inherent faults of their own, and the greediness of captialists, and both are in danger of suffering still more from causes over which they have but partial control, surely the hour has come when the poets should exercise their influence for good, and set fairer ideals before all than the mere love of wealth and ostentatious display on the side and the desire to appropriate wealth on the other. But we listen in vain for any inspiring ode or ballad that shall reach the hearts of the people or touch the consciences of capitalists. What do those who are designated in the columns of our newspapers as great poets bring to us in this hour of national trial, when we are so much in need of the serice of a truly great poet? ... The struggle to live in all parts of Western Europe, and perhaps especially England, is so fierce that we are in danger of having all that is idealistic and beautiful crushed out of us by the steam engine and the manipulations of the Stock Exchanges. We were never in greater need of good poets, and never better able than in this practical age to do without literary medicine men and mystery mongers. ... The people are suffering, and are likely to suffer more; where is the poet who is the one [person] needful to rouse the nation to a sense of duty and inspire the people with hope?

Friday, January 23, 2009