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.