Kindle Teasers

Although I generally prefer paper books, I have had various and sundry Kindles over the years. I do like how I can highlight a section or do a quick word lookup as I’m reading. My latest Kindle is a Paperwhite, which comes in a couple of flavors — one with ads on the home screen and that costs a little less than the ad-free one. As long as ads aren’t popping up while I’m reading, they don’t bother me too much, though I really think that with access to a whole lot of my recent reading history, Amazon could do a better job of trying to show me books I’m likely to want to purchase. I guess they’re just showing ads for the books whose authors bought the most ad impressions. I’ve found some of them so laughable or terrible or confusing that I’ve begun to sort of like them, and when I see an unfamiliar new teaser that’s a hoot or a puzzler, I’ll read it aloud to my family and ask if I should invest in the book. So far I’ve purchased none of them. A recent sampling follows.

 

‘”I’d have my nose broken every morning if it meant spending the rest of the day with you,” Avriel admitted in his painfully nasal voice.’ This one has a certain sleazy charm that I’d maybe be taken in by if my legs weren’t already so tired from running through the speaker’s dreams all night. It’s hard to know if the closing words in this quote are self-parody or not.

 

“Their lives collided for a reason. Was it only by chance or was it destiny?” Maybe it was fate or happenstance or through some purpose. At least it wasn’t clichéd.

“A beautiful women [sic]; a black widow, meets [sic] an arms trader who wants a secrete [sic] device from an engineer that [sic-ish] needs money. A volcano creates a tidal wave.” This book’s got everything! (Accept apparentley; an edditor.)

“Did people ever wonder… Why water lily’s leaf is shape [sic] like a heart ? [sic] And you will find the magical answer right here in this unforgettable tale .” [sic] I’m not interested in poking fun at what seems very probably like English as a non-native language here, and I’m actually sort of interested in the origin story this seems to point to, which could make a neat little tale, but it’s hard not to be shocked that there are zero editorial standards applied to the ad program. If Amazon is going to let people try to peddle their books, it seems like everybody benefits if there’s just a tiny bit of editorial work as part of the ad placement process. On the other hand, I guess I’d be pretty steamed if I bought a book based on a nice grammatical ad and the book itself was written as this ad is written, so there’s something to be said for truth in advertising. I do think there’s almost a sort of cruelty at play in letting this kind of thing through, though.

“You may claim to understand me but just when you are at the climax of your sureness, you may also be disappointed. Bon Voyage. Christopher Flier.” I hate when I’m disappointed at the climax of my sureness.

Head scratcher

This weekend I celebrated a birthday that pushed me into a new decade. By “celebrated,” I mean that I did some chores and did some things with and for my lovely family and finished a book I was reading and read the first third of another book, which is all pretty solid stuff to have done.

There were cupcakes and there was pizza and there was grocery shopping and sweeping and vacuuming and a little bit of saying “clean your room or you can’t go outside and play with your friends for a week,” pretty typical old man fare.

We finished a family read of a book I wasn’t much enjoying reading, which cleared the decks for Animal Farm, which I’m really pleased (and also horrifed) to be rereading (to my children, to my goddamn children — all Americans are equal, some are more equal than others).

My family and some close friends gave me some nice gifts. I have a device now that will let me pour beer from cans and bottles as if from a tap, which is kind of neat. I have a set of whale bookends, which are pretty well-placed given my penchant for Moby-Dick. For a while now, I’ve wandered about the house saying things like “Alexa, pour me a beer” and “Alexa, cure my back pain” and “Alexa, vacuum the whole house, thou cursed varlet” after a friend got an Amazon home intrusion device a year or two ago and I was introduced to the voice-activated home. We got the little dot device for my daughter this year, and now I have this giant soundphallus on my mantel that answers my every vocal command. Although I was really being absurd and not actually hinting when parading about shouting fake commands (I was more like pretending to channel Star Trek), it is kind of cool to be able to holler “Alexa, play the theme song from Gilligan’s Island” and have that venerated show’s music fill my house or to ask generally “why, Alexa, why?” and have her say in soothing tones something about white guilt and the rising tide of stupidity and something something trumpstinction of the masses or to say “Alexa, is the NSA listening to my every word” and have the device kind of do this sort of nervous bloooop sound and seem to shut down (this has actually happened a couple of times). So but seriously, it’s kind of neat to be able to say “Alexa, when was Balzac born” or “Alexa, play Silversun Pickups” and have her/it (It. It’s definitely an it and not a her, right?) respond appropriately, and I’m pretty ambivalent about the surveillance aspect (like, I’m sort of afraid to say “Alexa, could you contrive to make Trump suck on his own anus until, Ouroborus-like, he becomes sort of a singularity or disappears into his own anus-like mouth and we never have to hear his inane honkings again” for fear of being SEEN IN COURT). Anyway, so I got an Amazon echo, and it’s very neat when I compartmentalize and don’t think about how creepy it is. Makes me feel like I’m living in the future, though I STILL WANT MY GODDAMN HOVERCAR.

But maybe my favorite thing I got is the head scratcher thing depicted above. I know a couple of people who’ve had these things for a few years, and I’ve always liked them, though as a person not super stoked about sharing scalp detritus, I’ve not always loved sharing them. You position this device sort of hear the crown of your head and then press it down, and it opens and gently tickles your scalp, sublimely. Makes my eyes roll back in their sockets. I love it. I had mentioned this thing to my son as a possible gift back in November, during the obligatory period of dropping oblique hints to your loved ones about the things you hope they’ll think later to purchase for you. I didn’t get this for Christmas as I had sort of expected, given what was essentially a directive for him to tell his mother to get me this delightful appliance should  nothing else emerge as an obvious pick, but the fact that two months later, he remembered, warmed the cockle (I have only one) of my heart. I keep it on my desk and used it maybe two dozen times today to soothe myself when I felt the urge to primal scream.

Stuffed Meatloaf

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Had this lovely dish at a restaurant in Vegas on a work trip last week. Underneath the probably two pounds of meat was a bed of mashed potatoes, and if you look closely, you can see some caramelized cheese too. It was really good and would easily have fed my whole family of four for a dinner, with some leftovers. I had debated getting a nice salad instead, and the sudden shift and juxtaposition of choices amused my colleagues.

Stuffed Meatloaf

Had this lovely dish at a restaurant in Vegas on a work trip last week. Underneath the probably two pounds of meat was a bed of mashed potatoes, and if you look closely, you can see some caramelized cheese too. It was really good and would easily have fed my whole family of four for a dinner, with some leftovers. I had debated getting a nice salad instead, and the sudden shift and juxtaposition of choices amused my colleagues.

Paper or Plastic

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I’ve had a couple of Kindles over the years, but I always find myself going back to paper books. More and more, I’ve been trying not to accumulate books, though. I mean, I love them as artifacts and as decor, even, but I’ve recently begun getting rid of books I didn’t love or that I figure I’ll never read again, keeping only the really good ones.

Since I’ve tried to stop keeping as many books as tangible items in my home, I’ve thought about trying to read more electronically. Reading on a tablet or Kindle is pretty convenient when running on an exercise machine, for example. You just situate it on the control panel in front of you and flap a hand up to tap the screen when it’s time to turn the page. Compare to the dismal experience of trying to wrangle a big thick floppy paper book with sweaty hands while running. It’s an infomercial in the making.

This week, I finished the last in my current queue of paper books and debated trying again to make the switch to electronic books. Because I’m a miser, I thought pretty quickly about the cost difference. I can pay $10 – $12 for an electronic book and sort of maybe have it forever, whether I liked it or not. I can pay $8 – $16 or so for most of the paper books I’d want, and then I can sell them to a used book store at a significant markdown for store credit to get more books. If I don’t like the book that much (which has been the case for a lot of what I’ve picked lately), I can sell it to a used book store for (based on a recent experience) about 17% of the purchase price. That’s a pretty stiff markdown, but it still seems like a better choice for me given that I go through a lot of books and am fairly adventurous (I try things I don’t know for sure that I’ll like). The alternative is to have a bunch of electronic books I don’t like and for which I paid nearly as much as and sometimes more than I would have paid for the paper copy. If electronic books were significantly cheaper (say they cost $5), I’d buy a lot more of them. At the current price of electronic books, the trade value and the risk mitigation of buying paper books that I can at least get some money back for makes electronic books a bad choice for me.

I also still just generally prefer the tactile experience of reading a paper book. Call me a Luddite. The financial angle and the personal pleasure angle combine to keep me still firmly in the paper books camp.

Stranger Things

This week, I binge watched the Netflix series Stranger Things. It’s not something I would necessarily have gone for had I not seen it billed as pretty great by a few friends and colleagues. Here are some random thoughts on the series, in more or less chronological order from the time I started the series until now, starting maybe halfway through.

  • Steve is an asshole. He’s like Brendan Frasier meets maybe Johnny (sweep the leg!) from Karate Kid and every other entitled shithead kid from every 80s movie ever.
  • Is Nancy a riff on the female lead from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?
  • The kid missing his front teeth is great, sort of a highlight of the show for me, basically Gertie from E.T. meets Chunk from The Goonies meets, I dunno, kid Jeff Goldblum?
  • The title graphic is so perfectly Stephen King/all-horror-authors-from-the-80s that I can hardly bear its perfection.
  • Little twinges of Twin Peaks in the title music.
  • Look, these walkie talkies aren’t actually the ones we all had as kids (you know, the gray ones with the black and orange buttons). Get it right or go home. Also, they said at one point to tune to channel 6, but later we see that they’re three-channel walkie talkies. Are they counting by twos or is this a mistake?
  • Oh god, please don’t kill the black kid when he’s up in the tree watching the evil people at the nefarious science/whatever facility. We see enough murder of black kids by authorities in real, daily America.
  • Look, is this show for real or are you, with your super duper promiment 80s kitsch “background” details, just trying to appeal to my nostalgia for my childhood?
  • Who the heck are the Duffer Brothers?
  • The El actor is kind of horrible, but she’s also a kid and this is probably pretty hard to pull off.
  • Steve’s sidekick is the most freckled brown-headed kid I’ve ever seen. (It’s ok, I can say it, since I’m a freckled person.)
  • Ah, the good old 80s, when a 17-year-old and his nemesis’s girlfriend can buy a bear trap, some gasoline, and a bunch of ammo and nobody bats an eye. ‘Murica, Fuck Yeah!
  • The (uh, maybe spoiler?) isolation tank bits seem kind of right on.
  • Look, Winona puts on all the makeup except eyeliner when she’s suddenly not feeling like an isolated raving lunatic and is tramping about in an (uh, spoiler) alternate universe looking for her kid.
  • I swear the Matthew Modine character (the evil white-haired scientist guy) reminds me of some other guy who starred in a like WB show a decade or so ago about a widowed dad and his kid (One Tree Hill? — checked, and nope), but the only name that comes to mind is “Chut,” which isn’t a real name.
  • Awww, Steve’s an ok guy after all. Pretty bad (ironic? I think maybe not) taste in sweaters, though.
  • Please please end this and move on. Like, let there be closure and let us understand that, sure, there may be a second season, but it’ll be a whole different problem set with maybe whole different people. Please for the love of all things pleasant in the world don’t do some stupid bullshit thing where you give us a hint of some vague continuation of the next season, which’ll just be a like pandery pale shade of the current reasonably tight 8-episode season just because. Please don’t have one of the main characters under sort of mysterious, shady circumstances find some mystery box in the woods in which to place some food for the maybe disintegrated sort of beatified terribly acting numerically named character who all along I’ve thought of as sort of a surrogate for his tragically dead daughter and who happens to horde Eggos oh fuck my life, you’re putting Eggos in the box aren’t you Elliot Hirsch neé David Harbour?

On the whole, I liked it. I’m glad it was short, and if there’s another season, I hope it’s not a continuation of this season, though it seems like it will be. Everything doesn’t have to have a sequel.