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NANOWRIMO DAY 4

Put the Kettle on

Never start anything on a Monday. Began with good intentions. Put the kettle on, sat down to write, got distracted cause the Internet bill was four days late. Forgot the water. Put the kettle on, the kettle boiled empty, lights flashed all over the Cuisinart. Impending meltdown.

Paid the Comcast bill over the phone. Bill paying they make easy. Service is good unless you ask a question. They don’t like that sort of stuff. Sat in the sun on the patio tweezing hairs from my big toes. Everyone needs vitamin D. Washed my face with the all purpose handmade foamy soap that smells like lemon grass, massaged in cream on my face and neck.

Sighed deeply. Intention to write on a Monday morning is a serious way for me to get nothing done.

I Did What?

Read two percent in the Amazon book on Africa. Downloaded it for inspiration [procrastination]. It has some good pages and some okay. I’d like it if it had a bit more complexity. Style is lacking. I like style in prose. [insert profanity] WTF am I saying?

The non-African author wrote better than respectable prose, shared the inner workings of his Hippocampus, finished, published, and got money for those three-hundred pages, sacrificed a year of his life, most likely, and it’s not so bad a book that I don’t learn something every few pages; it just that it simply shuts down my hippocampus  [similar to G-spot]  the opposite of which, when I find a damn good book to read, bonfires are set off in my neurons.

This morning I said bonfires be-damned I’m gonna fill up that spot in my hippocampus with writing; the little sea horse in the brain, the one that London cabbies grow larger by taking different routes for faster and faster ways through a hulking metropolis pulsating with tiger passengers who are already late before they flop on the back seat.

Fire in the Mind

I’m gonna build a cache full of writing, irrelevant, mundane, serviceable-if-it must be cache. I’m gonna fill it with words that taste like milk chocolate. Oh no I didn’t! There I go again, playing in the word patch instead writing. [yet another form of procrastination]

That African book mightn’t held my interest if it had helped me build a cache of tiny words with bite: tart, sweet, gingery words that rich up sentences, or a sublime sentence structure that makes the heart palpably happier.

The born elsewhere, African author/teacher touts intimacy in his preface; instead his sentences are impersonal, he stands at the back of the room mouthing words from where it’s emotionally safe to write. But then maybe he’s only a surface, he can’t write any deeper, like a John Irving character, scratch his surface and there’s another surface under that. Or maybe he was afraid he might say what he really felt. I get that.

Not that I’m not learning from his deep knowledge of the continent of Africa, but the plebeian prose hurts my stomach. I crave “fire in the mind” prose, convoluted thinking parsed like a knitting needle picking at yarn, subtle colors woven through textury yarn sheered from a genuine ruminant.

But who takes time to knit brilliant socks in brilliantly subtle colors, easier to buy a consistent thread woven by questionable laborers. I like a good pair of socks. Socks can be functional, full of perfectly recurring patterns that don’t challenge my beliefs, my favored reading threads, though, better not be.

Dear Mr. Grisholm It’s Not You It’s Me. Seriously, it’s me.

Yeah, ya know, I’ll read the Africa book in short visitations – piecemeal – like the latest John Grisholm, who I’d like a word with about our reading relationship. Dear Mr. Grisholm it’s not you it’s me. Seriously, it’s me. Your 1980 setting for your latest book is an echolocation of a distant last century that I barely believe I lived in and a small community mindset that drives me nuts. That said, had I written your book, and not you written it, I would be so proud, to know that a lot of people do love your latest book, and read it breathless to the end.

But, I don’t want to revisit that time with its racist worries about how mixed race in Mississippi reacts to scandalous money. The personal genome challenges the concept of race in this century. Whatever skin color, we are all junk yard dogs, a hardy breed. Race discrimination conversation is updated, now, and very much alive. So, Mr. Grisholm, forgive me if I don’t want to revisit last century; the eighties were not my best decade.

Since it seems I’m not writing a novel this morning or maybe any morning, here’s my pared down goal: write a thousand words for thirty days, design an eBook, plunk it down for sale on Google Books and Amazon clouds. I am rusty at design but my skills are serviceable enough to publish on Google Books and Amazon. Decide at the end of thirty days whether to publish a 30K non-fiction novelette or write a 60K book in two months.

Sounds so doable when the prose is from stream of consciousness and not “fire in the mind.” Decide whether to publish on WordPress  [rewrite, second draft country] first or wait for the big book to come out. In reality only a half-dozen readers will catch it on WordPress. If I publish it on Google Books maybe a dozen more might read it. I think I’m safe to publish what amounts to dumping my plebeian output on the Internet. Anonymity in the midst of the crowd is my preferred outcome. I can live with that. Whisper so I can’t be heard at the front of the room.

Found Essay

The “found essay” worked for me yesterday. “Write it Slant” writing book suggests that the writer find an object from the past and free associate. It’s a technique that rated over one thousand words in a not so bad memory of my Commodore 1541. At least, the quantity of words is going up steeply from nothing to 4000 words by dropping the quality or the “fire in the mind” essaying. But if I forget to pay attention, to hide my most inner thoughts, the strangest thoughts sneak into a harmless essay about my first computer.

Before writing a few paragraphs the helplessness and hopelessness of my marriage bled through a story on code and computer classes. It’s hard not to write about him, he’s entwined in every struggle I made to become a person in my own right. Computers were entwined with writing, he was entwined with stopping me from finishing what I started, becoming a journalist.

He stood over me when I typed the title “Tracking Snow,” the name of a short story that I  didn’t grow to a full book. He screamed and I typed, he jerked the cord from the wall, and enunciated each syllable, “I’ll grind you to dust, WHORE if you don’t stop.” And as I those words sneak into my story, I’m right back there, my heart beating faster, like an Iraq veteran it never wholly leaves me.

Oops! Uh mm, have to whip that 1980 history out of my essay. Getting into Grisholm story telling. It is me not you Mr. Grisholm who doesn’t want to read about the eighties. Human dignity is important to me, and you serve it well when you write. I don’t want to look back at the eighties lest I turn into a pillar of salt, and no longer write. The wounds of marriage are fresh. The African book hovers above the surface denying the individual African mind for the universal African, for which there is none. My brain in marriage felt like Africa, the gold and minerals taken, the humanity denied.

There I stand beside the author who tried to stand at the front of the room and be heard but didn’t have the courage. I see that filling a page with one thousand words encourages that which is below the surface to come up. Not sure I like that but I made a promise to write one-thousand words and that I’m going to do. I’m going to publish these words whether they sound odd or not because who will read them? It is illogical to think writing practice could upturn the customary routine of a life. There! I’ve written my quota. It’s somewhat readable. I swear Mr. Grisholm it is me not you.

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EricSchmidt

 

 I expected to read details, hitherto unknown to us, about that weird country, North Korea, in Eric Schmidt’s book, The New Digital Age. After all, North Korea is a hot topic, and Schmidt, recently, had a bird’s eye view of it.

Schmidt is on the short list of a very few Americans to experience North Korea intimately, notwithstanding the blinkered Dennis Rodman, who attended a North Korean “celebrity sporting event” a month before Kim Jong-un threatened nuclear annihilation to four U.S. cities: Washington, Colorado Springs, Colo., Los Angeles and Honolulu.

Or, let’s not forget the photo-op of ashen-faced, hostage negotiator, ex-president, Bill Clinton who stood on stage beside the elder, Kim Jong-II during a tense hostage situation. We are curious about North Korea, as-is, on a day-to-day basis, rather than a sanitized distance. Schmidt entered the inner sanctum.

Yes, there were many quotable lines about North Korea and the future of business in Asia in The New Digital Age, but for the rest of us, seeking ephemera, the chapters were like dry lake beds encrusted with cracked mud. 

Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen dual authored The Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business. The book was published this April, several months after Schmidt’s business and sightseeing tour with his daughter, Sophie, to North Korea.

Since books are printed in bits instead of ink, mostly, nowadays, it seems like Schmidt and Cohen could’ve updated their Kindle version to include more North Korean local color before it was published; could’ve added a page or two of local kitsch slash melodrama for those readers who are so very curious about, but will never see the innards of North Korea; with those edits in mind, Schmidt could’ve let his daughter write the book.

Daughter, Sophie’s hot-wired blog post written after her visit to North Korea with her father, Eric Schmidt, was far more fun, informative, and readable than Schmidt’s and Cohen’s book. You might like to visit Sophie in North Korea or read Eric Schmidt’s Daughter Recounts the Duo’s Bizarre Trip to North Korea, a Gizmodo story. It’s lively.

Seemed like the Schmidt-Cohen combo was possibly cautious about letting loose Google secrets or damaging a future working relationship with that Manchurian Candidate-kind-of-country, North Korea. Or something.

A Kindle search for the phrase ‘North Korea’ in The New Digital Age leads to no less than thirty-four instances. But for all those talking points the authors might have been describing a dull gray, nondescript, electrical box that every body owns.

Yeah, we know the North Korean government filters their public Internet. Give us details we can chew on. Give us concreteness. Give us gossip, any morsel, scrap, tedious leftover. Linsday Lohan gets better coverage than that bad-boy, North Korea, after a Schmidt visit.

Maybe informed readers with insider views to Google, and the future, read more into Schmidt’s lines than disappointed reviewers read. I’m sure, reading between the lines totally titillates CEO’s and those who like to guess what Google’s next move is about — readers get that, but a good read that broadens our understanding of the future, sprinkled with some bling-bling, and magic dust, particularly, when describing North Korea is what most readers expected.

A few reviewers on Amazon reviews were disappointed. We were in the minority. Below is the gist of my comment left on Amazon:

Bought The New Digital Age book on Amazon Pre-Order because I thought it was a book I might enjoy a lot. Rarely do this. The first chapter was interesting enough, but the writing kept me, the reader at a distance.

After the first chapter I would find myself flipping through other books in my Kindle. I didn’t get much past the first chapter, though I sampled later chapters to try to find a place to anchor my interest. I gave up on it.

Had just finished reading James Merkosi’s Burning the Page with little effort; I read it page for page, and gave it a good review on my blog. The distance between the two books on the WOW scale was wide. I read Burning the Page without a bump, but there was nothing but turbulence in the cockpit when I attempted to navigate The New Digital Age.

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BURNING THE PAGE: THE EBOOK REVOLUTION AND THE FUTURE OF READING. It shows us how magic came to be. It tells the story about a modern day sorcerer, Jason Merkoski, who spent his life working on the “front lines of the ebook revolution.”

Like FAHRENHEIT 451 the page was burnt, destroyed in the most anarchic invention in the twenty-first century, the Kindle book. To save the page it was deconstructed from atoms, and resurrected to bits.

From paper to zeros and ones. From print to Kindle, and later from bits to bits, conceived on a screen and published onscreen. James Merkoski and the Amazon team quietly changed our lives, and changed a world-wide paradigm that’s been the thread woven into our daily life for centuries – the bound book.

It’s a narrative about the Kindle-dot-com – Amazon, about “Google, Jeff Bezos, and the ghost of Gutenberg. It’s a true story of the eBook revolution—what eBooks are and what they mean for you and me, for our future, and for reading itself,” but mostly it’s the intimate memoir of an inventor entwined w/ the memoir of the Gutenberg invention, the book from beginning to present.

It’s a love letter written to the book as we’ve known it and an elegy to it’s passing. It’s an imaginative glimpse into the new technology that has revolutionized reading and writing books; it is the socialization of books.

Digital books were available before the Kindle; only the Kindle caused a revolution in reading. Before that digital texts were the province of disparate publishers of history books, technical manuals, and fiction books, mostly from established writers like Stephen King. eBook publishing was reserved for the few forward thinkers, sometimes self-publishers, the techno-savvy who, early on, published eBooks in the digital space as a PDF file, a file both awkward and serviceable. The personal Kindle reader, and app, and the flexible-format MOBI file revolutionized eBooks.

The Kindle incarnation proved it could almost displace the much-loved book bound in leather, paper, and cloth with distinct smells and feels, and an almost living presence to bibliophiles. It begrudgingly won us over.

Burning the Page carries forward this astounding history that has happened right under our noses, in writing, story, and a style that begets “pastness, presentness, and futureness, joined by association” tying all these concepts together. It’s a complex style that works as best I can describe it.

Amazon Kindle books have breached the “third digital revolution” described by Neil Gershenfeld, “in which matter and information merge”, where things are turned into bits and bits are turned into things. James Merkoski captured a Gutenberg moment in his book just as one epoch is ending and another beginning. Book lovers and Technosociofiles will not want to miss this one.

stories that matter

THE EMERGENCE OF NOVEL IDEAS. Below is a blurb from the new site MATTER, which will introduce you to a journalism subscription concept that I’m excited about. It features emerging ideas on the fringe of our knowledge. If you’re like me you like to read magazine length, in depth stories about science, technology and the future. If you’re like me sometimes you like to listen to these stories or parts of them while you’re doing something else. Now you can. If you would like to download science journalism the length of a novelette to your Kindle or reader, you can. Read DO NO HARM, Why do some people want to cut off a perfectly healthy limb? Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID). for your introduction to MATTER, a Kickstarter project that consolidated MEDIUM and MATTER.

Stories that MATTER


MATTER is the new home for in-depth writing about the ideas that are shaping our future. We publish a single piece of extraordinary long-form journalism every month, from tales of corporate misdeeds and untold environmental scandals to stories of radical new scientific ideas and the people behind them.

We also think it’s crucial to find smarter ways to fund this kind of journalism. That’s why we’re building a community of readers, contributors and supporters who agree. For just 99c each month you can be part of it too.

Sign up today, and you’ll get:

• Access to all of our stories, including each month’s new release and our archive.
• Audio versions of every story, so you can listen on the go.
• E-book editions to read on your Kindle, iPad or Nook.
• The MATTER newsletter full of amazing links and tips from great writers.
• Editorial Board membership, so you can help shape the topics we cover.
• Exclusive Q&A sessions with the authors and editors of every story.And it’s easy to change your mind: you can cancel your Membership at any time with a single click.

burningpageOh, am I bad. Embarrassed myself on the last post about the Twitter Feed. Took the time to sign into twitter — @technosociofile. Now I get that the “Burning The Page” twitter site for Jason Merkoski’s book tweeted twice for me, attractive tweets advertising the released book in my Twitter account, Technosociofile. Where the account revoked came from is a mystery, but all is good, cause I now “get it.” I get why Twitter is awesome and why it’s a good resource for stories. Took me long enough. Sincerely, LMAO. Chalk up my ignorance to my ongoing digital literacy.

Somehow during a phone conversation I wandered into Nick Bilton’s Twitter feed. He writes Bits column for the New York Times. While I’m talking and clicking I tweeted that I’d read the first chapter of Burning the Page. Twitter message pops up goes something like your account has been revoked. Oh, well, big deal. It took me just a second after my phone conversation ended to see I had interrupted Bilton’s conversation tweeting about a book he may or may not review. Am I an unintentional spammer or just damn rude? Burning The Page: The eBook revolution and the future of reading is already on the Huffington Post this morning. Nick if you read this, sorry ’bout that.

Burning The Page” is a great name for a book, especially if it’s by Jason Merkoski, book innovator who worked on the Kindle team to bring us eBooks on reading devices. So, far I’ve read the first chapter, and it’s yellow with highlights on “far off futuristic ideas.” I got sidetracked though. Merkoski added a hyperlink to Twitter for gifts like a digitally-autographed cover for his book. Ooh, proper good, and wicked keen idea his, this Reading 2.0.

Only thing is I’m antisocial, and resist Twitter. I’m a novice. Technosociofile has a slightly used account, so much so that Twitter sends me an email saying it’s good to see you, it’s been sometime since you joined in the conversation. But Merkoski’s autograph lured me to Twitter.

Bilton’s feed is the only Twitter Feed that I follow. He gets the futuristic stuff right in his column. I read his referrals. I am embarrassed to say as a Technosociofile that a social network that’s as widespread as Twitter is pointless to me. I’m such a privacy freak that I break out in hives near Facebook, and like fellow techie-paranoids, I wipe out my last web info with the Google tool that asks if I want to erase it from the beginning of time. If I had more time I’d spend it tearing down my system and rebuilding it again, not Twittering.

What Twitter does give me is long form journalism in the form of Bilton’s excellent Tweets. So, I’ll pursue the in-depth stories through my email alerts for Bilton’s Tweets where I don’t sign on, and refresh that which should not be refreshed — Tweets. In the meantime, I’m anxious to get to chapter two of “Burning The Page.”

HACKING YOUR EDUCATION: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will

HACKING YOUR EDUCATION: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will

REVIEW: Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will


Dale Stephens says he wants to teach you how to navigate the Kafkaesque educational bureaucracy. If you are twenty-something buy this book, or if you are fifteen, and thinking about going to college read this book. If you feel helpless to find a job in this economy this book will have something concrete you can try like his “52 cups of coffee” focused networking, which isn’t anything new until Stephens tells his story, and why you should do the same.

In fact, the book was so full of new strategies and new ideas it wore me out reading about them. This isn’t your parent’s self-help book. This is real world stuff. If you can’t afford college, definitely read Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will.

Stephens talks about education like someone treading lightly through a mine field gingerly avoiding the financial education trap. He says that “there is a bubble in education and it is on the brink of bursting.” I agree.

Stephens says that “Universities do not train you for the real world: they exist to make money”; that an “MBA program is worthless”; that “schools can only teach what is settled”; that it “takes years for knowledge to become a part of formal curriculum.” And by then the expiration date on your education is stale.

Dale Stephens offers a path for the upcoming generation to get an education that is relevant, and not stale, and debt free, or at least less so that of those recent graduates who’ve spent a fortune on their masters degree, and work in the service industry when they graduate. He calls it UnSchooling or UnCollege.

UnSchooling is an educational philosophy that values learning over schooling. Dale Stephens says you need to “stop giving a s*** about grades and start building things.” He says ” Project-based learning is a style teaching in which students define problems they are interested in and then solve them with guidance from their teacher.” He talks about collaborative work groups instead of competition, creating a website and a personal portfolio, and networking with people who are interested in the same things you are interested in. He says make something.

Stephens says “hiring managers want to see experience. He says business has changed but education hasn’t kept up. He wants college age people to take their life into their own hands rather than handing it over to an institution that is trying it’s best to keep up in a fast moving century.

Stephens persuaded his parents to allow him to drop out of school in the fifth grade to school himself. It seems to have worked. He dropped into college then dropped out, again, forming a group to school himself. He founded UnCollege for non-traditional higher education. Stephens says he “agreed to write a book, never having written more than twelve pages.” The book is well-written. It’s more than readable, it’s enjoyable.

If Hacking Your Education . . . had a shortcoming it is that the book is ahead of it’s time. Degrees are still the currency that is valued, too often. The educational system is in flux. This might be the last decade for traditional education, but it is, yet, here. And, yes, Universities are a business first, but some are there to teach, to put the maker ideas into the curriculum.

Stephens probably had more financial and family resources available than a lot students heading for college, but he talks about strategies that work whether a learner has resources or not. He’s ingenious in his own life, and wants to teach others how to be ingenious. He asks for help from a friend or relative who works at Google, and gets a foot in a door he’s after. Too many will not have an uncle or friend of a friend at Google, or network connection in a high profile firm, but even that might surprise the ingenious student who buys 52 cups of coffee.