Saturday, December 29, 2007

NPR series on blogging

In honor of the tenth anniversary of the blog, npr did a series on blogging.

Monday, December 24, 2007

NPR piece on the tin/aluminium annversary of the Blog...

NPR had a piece this morning on the Tenth anniversary of the weblog. In addition to the idea that most blogs are poorly written and pointless (an often heard criticism, get out your thick-skinned suit), they have nice tables about who blogs and why they blog and an interesting 'audio blog' that sent Max into gales of laughter this morning. They're going to have another installment tomorrow. I love radio.

Titles for Max for 2008...

Here are a few titles we can read as a family in 2008. In addition to reading very long chapter books, we have taken to listening to audiobooks on the ipod in the car.

Here are some titles:

Wind in the Willows
Wrinkle in Time
Three Musketeers
Call of the Wild
Fudge books

Suggestions welcome. He's 6, loves nuanced, interesting stories, mostly about animals, but will tolerate people stories if they're interesting (have magic or fairies, etc.).

cheers, deb.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The festival of lights has brought us...

more Spiderwick Chronicles
The Chronicles of Spiderwick: A Grand Tour of the Enchanted World, Navigated by Thimbletack".

The second Harry Potter. My verdict is still out on whether we should be reading this to Max, age 6. But he loves the story, and is following it, enthralled. And I must admit it is fun to read aloud. I also wonder what other parents think about what is acceptable book to read, or to watch. I ask this because I took Max to his daycare the other day (he had a snow day, and I wanted to get some work done) and the kids (3 boys, between age 5 and 7) were watching Transformers, rated PG-13 for violence and sexual content. Two of the boys who were watching this movie had brought it from home, and when I said I was uncomfortable with my 6 year old watching a pg-13 movie with so much violence, I felt like an over-protective freak. Do all little kids watch things like that? Are Lisa and I the only parents (who aren't evangelical home-schoolers) who are so compulsive about what our kid watches?

So after that little tirade... Lisa got me the new David Isay book: Listening Is an Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project.

And our friends got Max (us) a great Lemony Snicket find: The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story. This cracked me up!

And I'm getting Lisa the book: How Doctors Think. About (how intuitive is this) how doctors think.

Mom gave me The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. And I am so looking forward to it.

I'm sure we had other book related gifts, but I can't remember what they are.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Best books of 2007

Today On Point did an hour on the best books of 2007. Here's the show. The guests were:
Dwight Garner, senior editor at The New York Times Book Review
Oscar Villalon, book editor for the San Francisco Chronicle
Kathy Langer, top book buyer for The Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver

I don't know why these end-of-year editions, picks of books, will-they-make-it-won't-they, cattle call of books makes me so horny. I guess it goes with the job. What I should do is look at the past 15 years and see how the picks have held up.

So, what made it?

Oscar Wao, in my reading queue
Tree of Smoke (Denis Johnson seems too macho for me, give me my Chabon anyday)
The Shadow catcher, looks good
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Abstinence Teacher

How Doctors Think
Foreskin's Lament
How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read (a personal favorite on title alone, although to be fair, I haven't read it).
The Nine (Please tell me none of the, ahem, moderates are dragging ass into work!).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

As a crazy bibliophile I am always curious about people and their reading habits. How do people read? What do they read? Are they reading? Why aren't they reading more? Why aren't people more excited to talk to me about what I'm reading and to tell me what they're reading... So, I find this whole new wave of ebooks, namely the Amazon Kindle thing really interesting. On the one hand, I would love to carry many books without carrying many books. On the other hand the idea seems insidious, a great gap in the digital divide and another vehicle for advertising. Also the name 'Kindle' is sort of evocative of Farenheit 451.

Here's Steven Levy's Newsweek article on it:

and 'On Point' did a show about the Kindle with Steven Levy and some sweet old bibliophile dude:

I'd love to know if people are considering Kindles for their libraries and what they think of them. Are you drooling for one, or vaguely disgusted.

Look Me in the Eye—John Elder Robison—

This was a pretty good book. Nothing terribly exciting, but on the other hand, it wasn’t too poorly written. It was a quick read. However, I must admit this new thread of ‘tell-all’ memoirs about adults with Asperger’s syndrome are becoming a bit redundant. And in reading this one, I carefully looked for the battery of neurological/psychological testing that the author took to determine the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and found none. Mr. Robison was told by a social friend that he exhibited some of the traits of Asperger’s Syndrome. And the author read a lot of literature about the subject, but it seems that he was not diagnosed by a professional. This was disturbing to me. The parts about KISS concerts were fun.

Born Standing Up—Steve Martin—

I got an advanced readers copy at the Book Expo last June. It was a nice book. Quick read, not very funny. I do hope they did another bout of editing before the actual publication.

The Spiderwick debacle

Oops. Bad Libarian, no big cookie! It would seem that Max and I started the second Spiderwick series (Beyond the Spiderwick chronicles) before reading the first. Color me ashamed. So, we've corrected this, bought some of the earlier ones and even listened to all of the first series on a car trip to NY. For anyone who is interested the series is:

1. The Field Guide, 2. The Seeing Stone, 3. Lucinda's Secret, 4. The Ironwood Tree, 5. The Wrath of Mulgrath

The audiobooks are read by Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame. Very enjoyable!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Spiderwick Chronicles

We just started reading The Spiderwick Chronicles last eve. It's a slow start, but I'm already into it. I think Max is too. The real test is if he wants to continue it today. Keeping my fingers crossed.

I hate it when I get really into a book and Max loses interest. It happened with Ursala LeGuin's Catwings, and I was truly bummed out. But, if he doesn't want to read it, we don't. I think I'll finish these on my own though!

Opting out of consumer stuff...

The Levheim's are having a crisis.

Max had a birthday last week and got LOTS of cool new stuff. However, he still feels unsatisfied and is asking for even more stuff. Part of this need for stuff can be chalked up to his obsessive personality, part because he is going through an unhappy time (poor little guy). I also place part of the blame on our 'if it hurts, buy more stuff' society. Whatever the reason, it is distressing to have a little person who always wants more and believes the next greatest toy/thing will make him a happy person.

So, we are trying to teach him about how having too much stuff won't necessarily make you happy, a realistic concept of how much stuff he has in comparison to most people, and some notion of working for social justice and how this is all tied together. Whew-- big concepts for a little guy!

As of today, we are taking a 'fast', and not buying new consumer goods for a month. Obviously we can buy food, toilet paper, etc. but nothing else. Wish us luck! We're learning about alternative consumption by viewing a blog about 'the compact':

We're looking for other suggestions.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Satire in context...

I heard a piece on npr's 'Talk of the Nation' the other day about The Onion, the "fake news" newspaper. Greg Beato, columnist of Reason magazine, wrote a column called: Amusing Ourselves to Death, (a nod to Neil Postman) about the rise in popularity of The Onion while all other major newspapers are losing readership at an alarming rate. Beato said: "The Onion recently achieved a 60 percent increase in print circulation and attracts more than two million online readers per week."

Here is a link to interview with Beato on NPR: Satirical 'Onion' Attracts Readers Online, in Print.

Having quite a bit of contact with students at a four year college in Massachusetts, I am fascinated by this trend. I find that my students sometimes find articles in The Onion funny, but often they don't have the facts or the context to truly understand the underlying piece of news. This is the same with The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert. If the readership does not have the background to understand the Iraq war, or the debate and eventual veto of the SChip program, then the humor often clouds the issue. For example, one recent article in The Onion was: Reaganomics Finally Trickles Down To Area Man. This is clearly only funny if you know about trickle-down economics, and/or if you knew about the policies instituted during the Reagan presidency. Otherwise it just sounds like it should be funny.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Michael Chabon...

is a total literary stud. His writing is sublime and very cool. I just finished Yiddish Policemen's Union and I was in awe. His book is so full of yiddish idioms, and using Yiddish words in an unusual manner to replace words in the everyday lexicon. For example, he used the word 'shoyfer' to mean 'cell phone'. A shofar, as most Jews will know is an announcing tool made from a rams horn to 'call' people. However, I can't imagine most people who aren't Jewish knowing this, or being able to extrapolate this knowledge to mean slang for 'cell phone'. Chabon's novel is peppered throughout with this type of 'yiddish-ism'. I love it, it feels like being in on a really cool private joke. However, the Jewish population being what it is, probably less than 2% of the world population, I can't imagine that many people are going to be 'in' on the joke. That said, this was a great novel, and I was thrilled to have read it.

American Pastoral

I am a book queue fanatic. I pile books next to my bed, on the front of the bookshelf, on the table in the upstairs hallway. These are books I AM GOING TO READ! Sometimes I think they can act as a bunker to protect me from unwelcome intruders, ward off infection, etc. I have been thinking about starting a podcast where I interview people about what's in their book queue. Here's a link to a photo of my current book queue on flickr: book_queue
So, why am I telling you this. Because no matter how much I plan, pile and desire-- I do not actually read that much each day, maybe 20 minutes. So, I started this wonderful piece of American literature, one of the 20 best of the 20th century, and have yet to finish it. It does rock though.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

So, I haven't posted for a while and I can only hope that I remember everything I've read over the summer/autumn. I will try to post in chronological order.

So, the last Harry Potter. Here are my scattered thoughts. It was... good. Lot's of loose ends were tied. I loved (SPOILER ALERT)the way they brought Percy back into the fold. Hermione's tent/evening bag was wonderful candy for the imagination.

Harry's a really dark character, isn't he? I hope after the whole Voldemort thing he was able to lighten up a bit and get a sense of humor.

I also read the first one (to my son, out loud). Reading it out loud was fun, but I got a bit tired of explaining why at age 5 he wasn't ready for books 2-7. Truthfully I didn't think he was ready for the first one, but you pick your battles.

So, all that explanation to say: I loved the continuity with Griphook in book one. I also read book six because I couldn't remember what the heck a horcrux was, and why it was so important. So, all in all it was quite a Harry Potter summer!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Secret of Things Lost

By Sheridan Hay.

This book is a thinly veiled piece of fiction where the most vivid character is The Strand Bookstore in Lower Manhattan. A young, very naive, woman, after losing her mother (and only family) moves from Tasmania to NYC and gets a job at a bookstore called, The Arcade. Anyone who knows The Strand will recognize it in this novel. The plot deals with a mystery surrounding the discovery of an unknown manuscript of Hermann Melville. But the plot is really just a convenient way to enable the author her descriptions of this quirky haven for crazed bibliophiles. How do I know this? Because I worked at The Strand in my early 20s and it is unmistakable, right down to the miserly strange owner. When I worked there, in 1994, employees were paid in cash in these ubiquitous, tiny, manila envelopes. Every Friday was pay day and (coincidentally) employee book buying day. The book buying day meant that employees would get 50% off of their purchases. I saw many an itchy bibliophile (which describes almost all of the employees) mumbling to themselves about rent and "Oh, I should pay my utilities, but..." as they turned over large portions of the contents of those little manila folders back to the store.

This book is wonderful. The character sketches, the descriptions of the store, and even the thriller about Melville will thrill the literature-obsessed in all Readers (and you know who you are).