Elusive literary works awaiting the eclectic reader.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Crazy Stuff

Crazy Stuff --is full of unusual, well, crazy things. Its a fun book to page through. There are even practical items as well as the unusual. From high-tech to low-tech and everything in between, Crazy Stuff is a wonderful gift idea. Who doesn't need to know how to get their hands on the world's best off-beat, insane and plain fun stuff. Well, maybe not everyone, but then again, not everyone would want this book. If you're a bit tilted away from the side of normal, then this book is right up your alley. At first it reminded me of the Sky Mall catalog that you can get when you are flying. Crazy Stuff is different, however. Its not a catalog and its purpose is to showcase all the weird stuff that is definitely not main stream. Unlike Sky Mall, Crazy Stuff is meant to be fun, not a shopping experience. Check it out, who knows, you might just find something you like.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Embarrassing names decline in the UK

According to a researcher in the UK, the names Cockshot, Balls, Death and Daft have decreased remarkably in the last few decades. When something like this happens, it is usually due to extenuating circumstance rather than natural selection. Outside of the obvious reasons like marriage or mass emigration to other areas the reasons seem to demonstrate how language has evolved. Names, which were once considered acceptable are now embarrassing due to modern definitions and innuendos given to them. The researcher, Richard Webber, has a site called "mapyourname" where anyone can go and do their own surname research. Knowing the various surnames of the modern world can be an important tool for writers and genealogists. A writer can use names which are common to a geographic area or choose to make up a name which does not exist. The genealogist can compare the evolution of their own surnames and predict the future of their family lineage. They know that the spelling of their family name has changed and branched out over time. Understanding the trends and reasons behind this in invaluable in creating links in their ancestral chain. The meanings of words changes with the times. An offensive word in ancient Rome is not necessarily offensive today.
Changing your name is a big deal. It not only affects you but also your decendents. You may decide that you are protecting your children and grandchildren from public ridicule. If you had some of the names listed in the research, you would be right.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Saucer Fleet

The Saucer Fleet is a guidebook of fictional sci-fi saucers. You know, the kinds from the War of the Worlds and my all time favorite, Forbidden Planet. Star Wars has its guidebooks, now we have one for the rest of the sci-fi world. I grew up watching these eerie space vehicles land in fields where the locals would stare then shoot. Sometimes they would wait to see if someone or something would emerge, but, in the end, shooting always ensued. This is a fine addition to any geek or sci-fi buff's library. This book is a follow up on to the authors’ previous title the Spaceship Handbook. I recommend this to anyone who loves flying saucers and the genre from which they came. Here's to flying saucers, long may they invade fiction!

From the Publisher:
An ideal companion for any sci-fi fan, space buff, or alien aficionado, this movie guidebook discusses six of the most famous and significant science fiction films ever produced. Each film’s backstory and production histories along with plot synopses and detailed analyses of the featured flying saucers are included. Featuring film classics such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, Forbidden Planet, This Island Earth, and War of the Worlds, this guidebook also includes an extensive look at the groundbreaking television show Lost in Space.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pirate Parenting

With all the self-help books out there, it isn't any wonder that another, more helpful, book should emerge. Enter Pirate Parenting by Tim Bete. As one who admires the art of parody, I decided to take a gander at this unique parenting book. I mean, who isn't curious about pirates and their parenting techniques? Pirates had to be children first, they didn't start out that way. Thanks to Pirate Parenting, the underground world of raising a pirate has surfaced for the rest of us. No longer is it a dirty little secret only known among a select few. Now we can raise our little pirates out in the open. The book lays out the parenting tips in an easy to follow guide for new parents.
This book would make a great baby shower gift. You certainly wouldn't have to worry about the recipient already getting one. Also, humor is the greatest gift of all. Everyone knows an expectant mother needs all the humor she can get before the baby arrives. Better yet, give the book to the expectant father, who really needs a good laugh after putting up with the expectant mother for nine months.
From the publisher:
In Guide to Pirate Parenting you’ll learn:
• Ten benefits of raising a pirate
At what age your child should be able to remove a bottlecap by taking out his glass eye and using it as an opener
• Which offense requires administering The Flying Dutchman Wedgie
• How to prevent sogging the quartermaster
• The best place to maroon your disobedient child
• How to remove chewing gum or a giant octopus from your child’s hair
• The difference between plundering and pillaging
• How to convert your minivan into a pirate schooner

Corny? yes, dull, no! Hey, if you don't like it after shelling out your hard earned money for it, you can always kidnap the author and make him walk the plank. At the very least, you'll feel better and know you did your part for the pirate community.
That about sums up this literary enigma full of fun and tongue-in-cheek advice. Of course, I like sock puppet shows, so what do I know?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Kindle 2

The Kindle, Amazon's latest greatest gadget, has been re-invented. Is it worth the high price tag?

The screen is not illuminated like a phone or laptop. As a result, the battery consumption is low. You use power only when you actually turn the page, The image remains on the screen without power. You don't have to worry about turning it off.

Its wireless connection. Thanks to Sprint’s cellular Internet service, is always online, like a cell phone.

This sort of service costs $60 a month for laptops, but Amazon pays the Kindle’s wireless bill, in hopes that you’ll buy the e-books. You can buy and download books in seconds.

It’s all a thousand times more convenient and more exciting than loading books from a PC with a cable, as you must with Sony’s Reader, the Kindle’s competition. As a bonus, the Kindle includes a simple Web browser, great for quick wireless Wikipedia checks and blog reading.

The new Kindle is priced at $359. Amazon calls it the Kindle 2. The upgrades are noticeable, yet minor.

The page-turn buttons are now much smaller — and the clicky part is on the inward edge of each button — so you no longer set off page turns just by picking the thing up.

The new, square plastic joystick gets the job done. The back is now brushed aluminum. Turning pages on the Kindle is a tad faster now. The screen shows 16 shades of gray now, not four, so photos look sharper; you can also zoom in and rotate them.Too bad the image isn't full color. Now that would be an improvement worth making. Amazon says that it is trying to keep the price from sky rocketing. I would hate to think what they consider sky rocketing since the current price is far from cheap.

The memory card is built in and not expandable. However, it holds 1.500 books, which is a tidy sum, to say the least.

The battery is also sealed inside. Amazon says, however, that it lasts 25 percent longer per charge (four days of reading with wireless turned on, or two weeks if it’s off). If that battery ever needs replacing, Amazon has to do it ($60).

The Kindle will also read aloud to you through its tiny stereo speakers or headphone jack, and even turn the pages as it goes. It is a computer voice with no emotion, which still makes the audio book more appealing. Nevertheless, it can come in handy when driving and listening.

As before, your books, annotations and clippings are auto-backed up on Amazon.com. But now, if you buy multiple Kindles, all of them remember where you stopped reading in each book. (This feature will be more useful if, as Amazon has hinted, you’ll soon be able to read your e-books on other machines, like your laptop or iPhone.

The Kindle catalog is bigger, too; now 240,000 books are available. New York Times bestsellers are $10 each, which is less than the hardcover editions. Older books run $3 to $6.

You can have any of 30 newspapers wirelessly beamed to your Kindle each morning ($10 to $14 a month) — minus ads, comics and crosswords. Magazines (22 so far, $1.50 to $3 monthly) and blogs ($2 a month) can arrive automatically, too.

Finally, you can send Word, text, PDF and JPEG documents to the Kindle using its private e-mail address for 10 cents each. Or transfer them over a USB cable for nothing.

Not to worry, the printed book is still alive and well. The average, budget conscious, individual will find the Kindle too pricey. Also, who can resist the second hand bookstore where you can buy tons of books for pennies on the dollar? Not only that, not every book is available in e-format.

The Kindle has the usual list of e-book perks: dictionary, text search, bookmarks, clippings, MP3 music playback and six type sizes. No trees die to furnish paper for Kindle books, either.

But as traditionalists always point out, an e-book reader is a delicate piece of electronics. It can be lost, dropped or fried in the tub. You’d have to buy an awful lot of $10 best sellers to recoup the purchase price. If Amazon goes under or abandons the Kindle, you lose your entire library. And you can’t pass on or sell an e-book after you’ve read it.

Some claim that the Kindle has missed its window. E-book programs are thriving on the far more portable (and far more popular) iPhones and iPod Touches.

Regardless, this is the dawn of a new age in publishing. E-books are convenient and won't fill up your book cases. That being said, however, book cases are a wonderful way to show case your library. In an e-reader, no one can see all the wonderful, intelligent books you've read. You will have to be content with the knowledge that only you know. Plus, how can you pass your book along to your friend or relative?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Honoring Edgar Allen Poe's 200th birthday

Edgar Allen Poe's 200th
birthday is a cause for
remembering the great author of wonderful, eerie tales of woe and suspense. He died at the young age of 40, yet is still remembered today through his literary works.
There are several sites who honor the famed author. There is the
the Baltimore Poe House and Museum.
Richmond Virginia has even set up a site commemorating the author's 200th birthday.
Philadelphia has their own claim on the author. Not to be left out, Bronx, New York has preserved Poe's cottage for visitors who wish to see where Poe had written and lived. It was here that Poe's beloved wife, Virginia, died. Poe, himself, died two years later.
In honoring his bicentennial, we shall put an excerpt from one of his works.
I looked upon the scene before me - upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain - upon the bleak walls - upon the vacant eye-like windows - upon a few rank sedges - and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees - with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium - the bitter lapse into everyday life - the hideous dropping off of the veil. There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart - an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime. What was it - I paused to think - what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher?"

All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
—A Dream within a Dream

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Longest Trip Home

John Grogan, author of the best selling book, Marley and Me, has penned his memoir entitled, The Longest Trip Home. Delving into his Detroit childhood and subsequent metamorphosis into adulthood, Grogan chronicles not only his life but the transformation of middle class suburbia in the 1960s and beyond. He comes to terms with his parent’s conservative Catholic teachings and the pilgrimages to holy sites disguised as family vacations. Grogan vividly draws the reader in to the world as he saw it. I could feel the unrest of the 60s and almost smell the church incense from his Catholic youth. He faced the usual adolescent hurdles as he began to question his own faith within the strict dogmatic teachings of his environment. His anecdotal humor took a light hearted glimpse of Catholic schools, from being an alter boy to his first confession. His narrative approach, like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, gave his youth a witty retrospective from the eyes of the man he had become. Grogan doesn’t blame his parents, which he could have easily done, but rather celebrates their stability and devotion. It’s refreshing to read a memoir from an author who is able to see all sides of his family without unnecessary finger pointing.

Grogan wraps up his book with a heart felt picture of his aging parents and the roles he and his siblings portrayed in their care. I would highly recommend this book for its moving sensitivity, humor and unique insight. It caused me relate to my own childhood amidst the backdrop of the turbulent 60s and 70s. The vibrant imagery and tender story made this book a wonderful, easy read.