Friday, October 31, 2008

For the chic intellectual

Brideshead In the past, I have written about people buying books to impress friends and look intelligent, and also about someone who uses books as a chick-magnet. They do cost a little less than a BMWs and you don't have to leave it in the parking lot when meeting friends at the coffee house.

A Vogue report, Designer Novels, says, "... luxury leather goods designer Bill Amberg has teamed up with Penguin Books to makeover a series of six favourite Penguin Classics including Brideshead Revisited, The Great Gatsby and Breakfast at Tiffany's."

The books will be produced in soft leather and pliable bindings, more like paperbacks than hardbacks, and promises to be 'stylish and chic'. Each book will retail for GBP 50.00 (RM 350.00) to give you that intelligent-cool-rich look (reading it is optional) to distinguish you from those who buy the normal-price books at a fraction of the cost and who merely look intelligent and cool, but not rich.

While you are at it you can also shop at the Bill Amberg's (online and brick-and-mortar) for luxury leather notebooks for GBP 60.00 to GBP 80.00 (RM 420.00 to RM 560.00), pen not included.

Eat dirt, Moleskine.


The Sarkozy voodoo doll

KozyA Reuters report says, "French President Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened to sue a publishing company unless it withdraws a Sarkozy doll that comes with a "voodoo manual" instructing readers to plant pins in it ..." The publisher has released 20,000 dolls and copies of the manual.

The doll, nicknamed Kozy, is said to be emblazoned with Sarkozy's most famous quotes, including "Get lost you pathetic arsehole" -- his words to a bystander who refused to shake his hand at a farm show.

According to the report, Sarkozy's lawyer, Thierry Herzog, wrote to publishers K&B in a letter published by newspaper Le Monde, "Nicolas Sarkozy has instructed me to remind you that, whatever his status and fame, he has exclusive and absolute rights over his own image ... "

Yes, that's about right. Sarkozy has every right to his image. He has every right to be an arsehole if he wants to, including calling someone else a 'pathetic arsehole' for not shaking his hand.

Readers are encouraged to plant pins in the quotes.


Writers, now on CD

SpokenWordHow would you like to listen to the actual voices of 57 great writers from both sides of the Atlantic? A Guardian report says, "Rare recordings of some of the last century's greatest writers are to be released for the first time - from F Scott Fitzgerald reciting Othello to Tennessee Williams lambasting critics and Raymond Chandler drunkenly slurring his way through an interview with Ian Fleming."

This British Library CD release records 30 British and 27 American writers, purportedly, for the first time since they last sat in front of a microphone. According to the report, the CD, The Spoken Word: British Writers and American Writers, retails for GBP 19.95 (RM140.00) each, and is a priceless collection for book buffs and is available at the British Library Online Bookshop

It comes with 3 CDs, a booklet and runs for approximately 210 minutes. Here are some excerpts from The Guardian story.

  • "Perhaps then one reason why we have no great poet, novelist or critic writing today is that we refuse to allow words their liberty. We pin them down to one meaning, their useful meaning. A meaning which makes us catch the train, the meaning which makes us pass the examination." Virginia Woolf, 1937
  • "Obscenity is something that I abhor. I don't think there's anybody more squeamish than I am about what is obscene. I cannot stand anything scatalogical, anything physically disgusting ... my plays are extremely moral in my opinion. I'm almost an old puritan." Tennessee Williams, 1959

The Guardian

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Apple digital book reader

StanzaThe Apple digital book reader, also known as the iPhone has beaten the Kindle in sales in just three months. I remember having this conversation with a good friend some months ago. Why would anyone want to buy a kindle when you can buy a handheld computer that can do a host of other things as well, like watching a DVD, send emails, listen to music and (for some people) make a phone call, I said? I remember the time when they introduced these wordprocessors and how it was all the rage. Then the PC came in and wiped the market clean.

The iPhone was never meant to be only a phone. It is a fully-fledged computer that happens to make phone calls. (Apple is pretty subversive. I wonder if AT&T has caught on yet or they are just in it for the ride.)

Stanza, by Lexcycle, is the book reading software available for the iPhone and the iPod touch, and it is a free download from the Apple store. Reports say that there have already been 395,000 downloads in the first three months (it was launched in July this year) thereby outselling the Kindle which is estimated to sell 380,000 units in the whole of 2008. Stanza is reportedly being downloaded 5000 copies a day and there are already more than10 million iPhones our there. Talk about eating dirt!

Currently, though, only a few thousand of public domain books are available for the Stanza. But wheels are reportedly in motion to make available copyrighted material at a fee. Amazon has 180,000 books for the Kindle at USD10.00 each, that is, after buying the Kindle for USD399.00. The iPod touch starts at USD229.00 for 8-gigs, it is way prettier and does a whole bunch of other things.


The PM is a great manga freak

Taro AsoA Guardian report says that the new prime minister, Taro Aso, of Japan is a great fan of manga and anime. And, he is no youngster. The 68-year-old apparently has a voluminous manga and anime collection and reads about 10-20 comics a week and 'has become an instant hero among Japan's subculture of manga-obsessives (or otaku ...)' He is, also, reported to have caused a surge in the comic market.

The report adds: '... Aso is a self-assured, rich, wisecracking aristocrat who believes his fellow otaku and their manga and anime related obsessions can lift Japan out of its current economic hole. It's what's being called "soft power" - the diplomatic and economic clout of a nation's pop culture. In this case it is Japan's formidable comic-based culture that has conquered the youth of the west in spectacular fashion, starting with Pokemon.'

We know that George W doesn't like broccoli. Does he read comics? That would be great. It will be a real comic summit.

The Guardian

The internet improves the mind

InternetThat's it. I'm giving up. That's all is needed to deal a deathblow to reading. Just when we thought it couldn't get worse ... grumble ... grumble ... grumble.

Or so will say some. But on the other hand we are not going to let a few facts get in the way, are we? We are book fanatics, we love books, we breath books, and we have them for breakfast lunch and dinner. We read to our pets, for goodness sake. We live on fantasy island.

According to a report in The Telegraph, neuroscientists say that, 'The internet beats books for improving the mature mind.' And that 'Browsing the internet is better than reading books for boosting the brain power of middle-aged and older adults, new research has found.'

Phew. It only helps older adults. The report adds, 'Scientists discovered that searching the world wide web exercised the mind far more than reading and was similar to completing crosswords and puzzles. Brain scans showed that going online stimulated larger parts of the brain than the relatively passive activity of reading a novel or non-fiction book. It was so stimulating that the authors of the study believe it could actually help people maintain healthier brains into their old age.'

I can agree with that. My mum is in her mid-seventies. She took up the internet recently. She has, so far, published at least three books on the computer using a page-layout and Tamil software, she plays checkers online with absolute strangers from all over the world, reads magazines, chats, Skypes, emails and, downloads and listens to music. But I am not sure if her mind is sharp because she does these things or she does these things because her mind is sharp.

She also reads hell of a lot. Always has.

The Telegraph