adventures in e-reading

So I live on the west coast, and many library conferences are on the east coast, and I attend many library conferences which means a lot of long flights.  And I’m a fast reader.  Which all added together equals this one conference last year where I found myself carrying nine books with me on the plane.

Lest you think that was excessive, okay that was totally excessive.  But the thing is, I don’t really like to fly.  My legs are too long for the plane seats (and I’m not super-tall.  What do super-tall people do?), the air is too dry and I get headachy from the engine noise so my strategy of choice for dealing with all of that discomfort is to find something engrossing to read, and I never know exactly what it is I will find engrossing in the moment.

Plus I never know exactly how much I will get through, and I live in fear of finishing all of my books and being left!  on a plane!  without a book!

On that flight, I started and finished four of those books on the plane (one was a quick-read young adult novel and one was a totally mindless mystery that my traveling companion started and finished after I did).  The other five books included three things I read in the hotel: two comics collections in trade paperback, a novel I had started before and finished after the trip.  One book I started on the plane and didn’t have time to finish and the last one was a non-fiction book I never did pick up.

So that’s a long way of explaining why and when I decided that I needed to seriously pursue the idea of e-books.  And this video I came across today is the first thing that really kind of gets at why I have been so happy with that choice.  It’s in french, but even my lousy french is good enough to follow along.

(via if:book)

(I suggest going to YouTube itself to watch, and watching in high quality:

Happy except for the ever-present issue of e-book DRM.  My french isn’t up to telling if they really talk about DRM in the video or not, but even if they don’t that sure looks like what replicating open-formats aspects of the print world would look like.  I’m also on a small group looking at the issues surrounding circulating Kindles in the library, which has given me some experience with Kindles even though I didn’t go that way myself — because I couldn’t deal with the DRM issues, that just keep coming up.

At Menucha last year my colleague Terry recommended checking out the iPod touch as an e-reader, so that’s the way I went. Of course, that doesn’t mean avoiding DRM altogether, though Fictionwise’s might be softer.  And also of course now Amazon owns Stanza, which is the Fictionwise-connected reader I have been using, so how much longer will that be true?

But beyond the DRM, the movie also reminded me of an issue I am having with the device itself.  I have also noticed since using the Kindle for this project, that I am really having trouble using it because it doesn’t have a touch screen.  I don’t know if it is because I am trained to use the touch screen on the iPod, or if that is just what we are coming to expect?  But it’s been a while now and I keep trying to make that screen work by touching.  I don’t think it’s going to get any better.

This, though, this looks like what’s fun about the Internet with books added back in.  And as a book lover, I like that picture.

I love being the target demographic, except when I don’t

Age check – does this look familiar?

american teen poster

At first, I thought this was a sign of how ubiquitous 80’s movies are on TNT and TBS – that even the poster could be used to market to these kids today who seem to love the 80’s beyond all reason…

(and I mean ALL reason. The 80’s were so not awesome – I was there)

… but then I thought about it – American Teen is a documentary that got all kinds of love at Sundance. At the same time, though, the question kept coming up about how it could be marketed — a really important question in this world where “really, really good” isn’t always enough for a studio to think they have something worth marketing.

So it’s possible that I am the target of this pitch – me, and the other people who saw this movie in the theater (in my case it was at Washington Square cinemas on a really awkward date I didn’t realize was a date until halfway through). Or it’s possible that the target is the topic – teens today – who are as familiar with the John Hughes filmography as I am without all the “ew I was there” baggage.

In any event, whether I am the target or not, I think the pitch works. I already wanted to see this movie at lot, and while this poster doesn’t make me want to see it more it also doesn’t make me want to see it any less. I think it taps into something about what the John Hughes movies meant in the 80’s, and it also suggests real backing for this film which means that more people will have the chance to see it – a good thing.

But I’m also pointing it out for another reason – that the poster captures one of the big reasons I have been wanting to see this film — since the first reviews from Sundance an overarching theme has been that this is a movie about teens that isn’t all about how Kids Today are OMG So Different. And I think that’s a useful corrective to all of the technology-focused rhetoric out there about netgens, digital natives or millennials. For all of us, but especially for those of us who spend so much time thinking, learning and communicating with these kids today.

It’s weird to see so much out there about a marketing plan for a documentary, but maybe that just suggests that 80’s survivors are also a big demographic within the blogger population. So far, the verdict seems to be thumbs up on the campaign from people who have (maybe? I don’t actually know about all of them) seen the movie at All these Wonderful Things, Cinematical and Film School Rejects (who offers a longer post about why this marketing approach might work).

Oscar doesn’t get YouTube?

CinemaTech pointed this out last year, and again today — the Academy’s attitude towards YouTube is pretty messed up. And I think they’re blowing a terrific opportunity here. Like the Royal Family, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has exactly the kind of content that works on YouTube. They should have the key clips up immediately, just like SuperBowl commercials. But they don’t have any clips from last night up and there’s way less stuff from other people than you’d think — suggesting that they are being pulled soon after they go up.

And why is it that people who want to hang on so tightly to this content are usually so bad at doing anything interesting with it themselves? What I was going to write was that Oscar should have his own YouTube channel – but as it turns out, he does. So now what I’m going to write is that Oscar should have a good YouTube channel.

This is just a weird hodgepodge of clips — some are cool moments someone might actually want to revisit, but most are … not. Like – why do they have Sidney Poitier accepting his honorary Oscar, but not his real one? Seriously, which award is more meaningful? Why do they have nothing about the glitz and glamour – nothing even suggesting that there is a red carpet?

With the video resources AMPAS has – resources no one else has – they could really build a fascinating channel connecting the show and the history of movies and Hollywood and celebrity, but instead it really looks like they just grabbed a handful of stuff that was readily available. Maybe it’s just me just me but it looks like the Academy has something to learn about “show don’t tell” — almost half of these videos are talking heads telling us why the Oscars are important. I honestly think watching the great big movie stars and all those other creative people at the Oscars over the years would tell that story better for me.

It’s insane — if AMPAS understood what YouTube can do in terms of raising interest and awareness and buzz they could be using their archives to build a lot of interest, but with this they’re just reinforcing the idea that they’re (the awards and the organization) increasingly out of touch.

ETA — I’m thinking about what Caleb was talking about last week – when people get information they don’t stop asking questions – instead they get new questions. A kick-ass Oscar channel on YouTube doesn’t mean people will stop being interested in the Oscars – it’ll generate new reasons why they’re interested.

But – to be fair, my favorite moment of last night is up there and has stayed up long enough to get 142,222 views.

ETA — It’s gone now.  I don’t know when it went away, but the IP police have had their say.

cool stuff that’s fun to look at!

For reasons I won’t go into, I recently spent way too much time on the internet looking for magazine scans. (Anyone going to Online NW might soon be able to piece together why). Looking for those I ran across some other things I thought were awesome, even if I’m not always clear on what to do with them.

The Book Scans database

  • I’m linking to the main page – the database page is on the left. I probably lost an hour going through these. The site design is a little old-school, and navigating can be kind of clunky. The site is also intended for the collector community, so it might be perfectly organized for their needs and only clunky for non-collectors. Oddly there’s no notes anywhere about what one can do with these images, or actually anything at all intellectual property-related.

Steven Hill’s Movie Title Screens Page

  • Again, more a browsing space than a searching one, and initially I was like “why would I want to browse this.” Thirty minutes later I still wasn’t sure but I couldn’t stop. These are screengrabs of the title shots from a whole lot of movies. I almost didn’t include this one when I couldn’t find All About Eve, but this one from The Awful Truth was entirely charming so I left it in —

Title shot from The Awful Truth

Vintage Vanguard

  • A big collection of scans of old Vanguard record albums. Both front and back material, which is awesome. I love these because you can see how old they are.

And I also found magazine scans galore — these were my two favorite sites:

The Conde Nast Store

And finally this – cute mid-century French stuff. I’m not sure how to categorize this, but how could I not include it?


If I picked the Oscars (it would be ridiculous because I haven’t seen all the movies in any category)

This has been a crazy busy weekend – I’d like to blame the writers’ strike for our rushed preparation for this year’s Oscar party but I think this happens every year. A few people have asked how we did seeing the nominated films this year —

Shaun and I usually make a pointed effort to see all of the films in one major category (for what it’s worth, this category hardly ever ends up being Best Picture. It’s usually an acting category, sometimes directing, and one year was even cinematography). We didn’t have time to do that this year, an experiment that proves that that kind of deliberate plan is necessary. Because I don’t think we’ve seen all of the nominees in any category.

(ETA: it’s confirmed, we haven’t)

Cate Blanchett
Julie Christie
Marion Cotillard
Laura Linney
Ellen Page

Easily our worst showing of the major categories — 2/5. Which isn’t unusual – the Academy usually has to dip into movies with very limited releases to get their five nominees for lead actress – and Tucker Carlson still says there is no patriarchy anymore.

I didn’t like the first Elizabeth movie very much (though Blanchett’s performance in it, I did like) so we weren’t going to see this one which didn’t get the good reviews. La Vie en Rose opened when there were a lot of things in the theaters we needed to see. And the Julie Christie movie didn’t get a wide release, even though she’s clearly going to win the Oscar.

The two I did see were worthy nominees. I appreciated the Linney nomination, because it seemed obvious to me that despite the “sibling story” wrapping, The Savages was clearly about her. And Ellen Page honestly carries Juno on her shoulders. A different actress in that role, and that movie could have gone from entertaining all the way to unwatchable.

George Clooney
Daniel Day-Lewis
Johnny Depp
Tommy Lee Jones
Viggo Mortensen

3/5 — I’m not sure we had much of a chance to see the other two yet. If those movies played down here in the Valley, I don’t think it was for long. Of the other three, they were all great, but I think DDL is a pretty obvious choice. He’s in almost every scene of an old-school epic-style story and his narrative counterpoints are written to be overwhelmed by him. Not to mention, he might not make another movie for five years so you have to grab your chance to give him awards.

Cate Blanchett
Ruby Dee
Saoirse Ronan
Amy Ryan
Tilda Swinton

4/5 here. I don’t know when we’re going to get around to seeing Atonement. I haven’t read the book yet, which has been one hesitation. Ruby Dee won the SAG, but everything else has gone to Ryan or Blanchett and I think this award has to go to one of them. I did love Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton, though, really loved her.

I honestly have a hard time choosing between Ryan and Blanchett. These were two really brave performances, for different reasons. Ryan was brave enough to play an unlikable character with unflinching honesty. Nothing in her performance tried to make us like this woman – and that honesty in the end makes her sympathetic in a way she never would have been if Ryan had hedged her performance. Blanchett is astonishing as the one Dylan most of us are most familiar with. I would imagine that many in attendance Oscar night will be thinking that they would have never even taken that role. I was mesmerized by her, and would easily throw down my non-existent vote for her — except she’s already won an Oscar for being brave enough to play an icon and hitting the performance out of the park. Yeah, I still don’t know which way I’m leaning in this category.

Casey Affleck
Javier Bardem
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Hal Holbrook
Tom Wilkinson

4/5 again. Philip Seymour Hoffman was my favorite thing about Charlie Wilson’s War. And Tom Wilkinson was great as usual. But neither of these performances holds up to the ones from the Westerns in my eyes. I loved Javier Bardem’s performance in No Country a LOT. But for me this category is all Casey Affleck. Luckily, I had already seen Gone Baby Gone at this point, so I didn’t spend half of this movie saying “where is this coming from?” I mean really, before this I pretty much only knew him from the Oceans’ movies and while he’s totally hilarious in those – I had no idea he had this in him. But this is really the lead role in a very good movie and he nailed it; it’d be hard for any other supporting role to match up to it.

Julian Schnabel
Jason Reitman
Tony Gilroy
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Paul Thomas Anderson

4/5. The subject matter of Diving Bell kind of freaks me out. Shaun would have seen this by now if it was just up to him. Of the others, I think I have to go with the Coens for this one. I really liked Juno and Michael Clayton both, but for me this comes down to the two western stories. Paul Thomas Anderson put together a mid-century type movie epic, and did so brilliantly. But I can’t separate this movie from it’s central performance to see the whole as well as i can with the Coens’ film. I can see so much of them in the film, and at the same time see the actors, the source material and more in it.

Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will be Blood

4/5. Basically, I feel the same way about this category as I do about Director. I’d probably vote for No Country if I could, but if There Will be Blood goes on a tear, I won’t lose any sleep over it.

We tried a new invite service for the party this year, so I’ve been stressed that some emails might not have copied over. If you’re in cosmopolitan Monmouth next Sunday – welcome!

my personal best-movies-of-2007 list

Every year, Shaun and I sit down in a pub after the last movie we
see in the year and make our personal top 5 lists.  The only rule is
that we had to see the movie, in the theater, in that calendar year.
So we usually end up with some movies that were officially released the
year before.  This was my list this year, in the order in which we saw
the films:

Children of Men
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
I’m Not There

Children of Men was actually the first movie we saw in 2007.
When we left the theater that day, Shaun said that he wouldn’t be
surprised if it didn’t end up being the best movie he saw all year.
Because we usually get a bunch of critically acclaimed or Oscar-bait
movies opening down here in January, it’s not unheard of that the first
movie we see holds up.  This year we’re going to be seeing Charlie Wilson’s War first, though, and I doubt that that will be on my end of the year list.  Maybe – but I kind of hope not.

This was kind of an unusual year in that we ended up seeing a lot of
good movies, but we didn’t have that "big movie that everyone must see"
experience.  I have two movies on my list that I really, really liked,
but they’re the kind of movies I would be very careful about
recommending to others (Jesse James, and I’m Not There).
It’s not weird for me to have one movie on my list like that, or to
have a movie that I don’t recommend because of something like violence,
but not movies like this that I love a lot but that I know many people
I like, and whose taste I respect, wouldn’t really like at all.

This was also an odd year because we went to the Toronto Film Festival. A third movie on my list, Persepolis,
hasn’t even opened here yet so I couldn’t recommend it to anyone even
if I wanted to.  As a matter of fact, the last decision I had to make
for this list ended up being between My Winnipeg, Guy Maddin’s deeply idiosyncratic and personal "documentary" about his hometown, and Persepolis.
One of the things that made that choice so hard was trying to tease out
the impact that the movie had on me apart from the experience of seeing
it in the same room as the filmmaker (and in the case of My Winnipeg, seeing it performed in part by the filmmaker).

One of my favorite movie experiences of the last year was seeing Chats Perches, because of the way it brought back My Winnipeg
for me.  I saw  on DVD as part of the Tournees Film Festival at Western
Oregon — so it can’t qualify for this list — but the juxtaposition of
these two movies — one deeply personal, psychological and
autobiographical/ the other deeply personal and set against a huge
geopolitical backdrop — was really powerful.  Both movies are visually
very personal and individual; both movies are essentially (or in the
case of Maddin, actually) read to you by the filmmaker. I wouldn’t have
expected at the beginning of this year to see movies that would make me
spend a couple of days thinking about Winnipeg and Paris, together, but
I did and it was awesome.

Here’s the full list of films we saw in the theater in 2007:

Children of Men
Curse of the Golden Flower
Pan’s Labyrinth
The Last King of Scotland
The Lookout
The Namesake
The TV Set
Ocean’s 13
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Nancy Drew
You Kill Me
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Bourne Ultimatum
Talk to Me
Hollywood Chinese
My Winnipeg
Chansons d’Amour
3:10 to Yuma
Michael Clayton
Gone Baby Gone
The Darjeeling Limited
American Gangster
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
No Country for Old Men
I’m Not There
Lars and the Real Girl
Sweeney Todd

ETA:  The cat above is an example of the cats featured in Chats Perches.

Edited again to add: Shaun’s list is available now.

YouTube & me

The Royal Family apparently started a YouTube channel about two months ago, but I don’t think many people over here noticed it until it came time for the Queen’s annual Christmas message.  At least, I don’t remember seeing anything about it two months ago, but I’ve seen it mentioned on three or four blogs this week.

I’m trying to figure out why I think this is such a good idea.  If the Bush Administration suddenly started a YouTube channel, I wouldn’t think anything good about it.  And I don’t think that’s entirely partisan.  I don’t see myself watching 20 minutes of old Clinton home movies on the morning after Christmas either.  But this morning, that’s what I found myself doing with the Royal Channel.  An old movie depicting events from the death of King George to Elizabeth’s coronation, followed by a silent movie about the Queen Mother’s wedding and all of a sudden it was 20 minutes later.

Interestingly, they’ve disabled embedding.

I think there’s some aspect of admiration for whoever in the Royal Household had the idea of putting video proof of charitable acts and royal family events out "where the people are," to use that tired phrase — but I don’t think that by itself explains why I’m taken with this idea.  I think that combined with the kind of information the royal family has available to broadcast in this way — those old videos, the historical stuff — is what makes this seem right to me.  Most of the time that’s where I end up losing time on YouTube.  Thirty minutes searching for Mario Savio talking about the machine, two hours of old Olympic coverage.  This is where my actual time has actually gone in the last year.

So that leads me to the question – is this just the historian in me?  Am I taken with the royal family channel because it’s way to see historical artifacts I wouldn’t otherwise easily see?  Or is this a more objectively cool example of the right medium for the right message?