Saturday, May 28, 2011

extremely loud

I remember hearing a buzz about this book when it came out (2005) but not much else. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the second novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. The first was Everything is Illuminated, which was actually made into a film directed by Liev Schreiber and starring Elijah Wood. Foer actually had a bit part in the movie too. I haven't read this one, nor have I seen the movie, but after reading Extremely, I think I'll do both.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is set in New York, not long after September 11th, and told from a variety of viewpoints, but mainly from the point of view of boy. Oskar is smart, thoughtful (okay neurotic) and very funny, in an innocent way. I'm not sure how Foer does it actually, but story is so convincingly written in the voice of a boy, that I was completely taken in by it. Maybe he was a neurotic kid, who kept a diary and was able to look back at his own writing, or he talked to lots of kids... no, it can't be that, its not really the way kids talk, its the way they write. Its got to be the diary thing, or he's a school teacher... whatever, it rings true.

I'm not going to get into the plot line, or how the book is put together, you'll have to read it--experience it--yourself. And you should. It was fun, and funny, and touching. And Oskar tries so hard at everything. And his family, which seems to revolve around him, all know this and worry about him, but not too much.

Foer tells enough of the story for us to follow, but not all of it. Its clear that some of it is not being told, and there are other parts that are purposely being concealed or obscured. In that way its like any family's story: there are always parts that most will never know, and its possible that even the family members don't know all of it, because no one can.

At its core, Extremely is a story of how one family, one boy in particular, deals with what life has to offer, and the strategies that they develop to do so. Not everyone has the same strategies, but we all recognize them for what they are, and it that way we empathize.

In the end, I was left with the hopes and dreams of a boy. But because I'm not a boy anymore, I know they can't all come true.

Read this book. Start in the next 20 minutes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

logo 3: the final folio

This is the third draft of the logo. This one does two things to the last version: it adds some stylized design to the initial on the page (take a look at the detail image below) and I've removed the purposeful blurring and aging technique I used on the earlier versions, so the image is sharp and clean.

Click to make it bigger, y'all.

This whole process has been fun. The best part may have been the coming attraction video my son and I made. More on that later! Actually, its been so fun that I don't think I'm going to fix on a single design. What the hell, I'm not some big corporation that has to worry about branding, and product identification, right? So I'm thinking the logo may continue to change over time. Its a living logo. If you ever click on anything, click this one.

Here's the detail of the historiated initial for example. I kind of like it. It works all by itself as a mini-logo. It may be too busy, so I may have to simplify again, but as usual, let me know what you think.

Go here, answer the question, and win the T-shirt, yo.

hot kid

I love Elmore Leonard's language. I read another of Leonard's books a while ago, and while the subject matter is different, his use of casual, conversational language is the same. I picked up a non-fiction book of his in the store, a handsome hardcover called Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing, with illustrations by Joe Ciardiello. I remember the advice being succinct, and delivered in his no-fooling-around voice. The rules were about being invisible as an author, to let the story tell itself, without the author sticking his nose in the story. I think the casual language does that. The narrative reads smooth, in a stream of consciousness way. There are little phrases--packets of meaning--strung together into sentences and paragraphs, that your brain strings up to build the story.

Maybe that's what I like so much. Leonard trusts his reader to fill in the blanks, get over the grammar, and absorb the story.

The Hot Kid takes place about a 80 years ago in Oklahoma. Mostly in and around the Tulsa area, with some parts taking place in Kansas City. John Dillinger, Babyface Nelson, Bonnie & Clyde, and a host of others are active in this post-WWI era time in the country, when prohibition was big, as well as the crime that went along with it. Bank robbers seemed to be vying for the top spot in the papers as the next big, most-wanted man.

The story focuses on a deputy US Marshall named Carl Webster. Webster is what you'd expect a leading man to be: tall, dark and handsome. He also cool in the face of danger, and has a good-natured swagger about him, which makes him attentive to the way he looks, but thoughtful enough to send misguided minor criminals home to think about what they've done, with the admonition to "behave yourselves".

This was a great book to read after the never-ending Sherlock Holmes stories. It was fast, fun and really entertaining.

coming soon...

video

BIGGER. FASTER. MORE POWERFUL.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

what is a library[an]

I think we can all agree on what a library was, and we may even be able to agree on what a library is. I think the trickier question is: What is a library going to be in the future?

Image: GlobalWeb snagged w/o permission from Futurist.com

This question goes beyond the bricks-and-mortar buildings, that have traditionally housed what we consider to be the modern library, to include other questions like: What forms will knowledge media take, and how will we access those media? Will some, or all of our research and learning be done remotely, or will there still be a place for a library, that is still an actual place? And as knowledge media becomes more complex, interconnected, and diverse, how will librarians provide their much needed services to help us navigate?

According to Jedi Master and Chief Librarian of the Jedi Archives, Jocasta Nu "If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist!" Not exactly the answer Obi Wan was hoping to hear, and I'm sure librarians the world over, gnashed their teeth, and rent their garments as one, when they heard it. But another thing that scene tells us: George Lucas, for one, believes that there will be a 'place' called library in the future, where librarians work to help people navigate the vast amount of data they will eventually help to catalog, organize, and annotate. We are going to need professional help.

When I'm looking for information, my first and quickest route is now online, but in all the Google searches I've done, I have ended up with results from inside a library's collection only a few times, and that's probably because I'm occasionally searching for things like old books. I bet there are some who never get information from a library's collection returned in a Google search. That information is searchable, but only if you go to, or log into the library.

In a blog entry, three days ago, Seth Grodin posits: "the library ought to be the local nerve center for information... The next library is a place, still. A place where people come together to do co-working and coordinate and invent projects worth working on together. Aided by a librarian..." I like that. The Next Library.

And yet, just three days earlier, LA Times reporter ALIA Information Online ConferenceInfoventurer (real name: ehmmm...?) got some great answers to some of these questions. According to these librarians, the new librarian: needs to meet users where they are, connect people with information or other members of their community, act as facilitators and guides to the new media, and be what their users want them to be.

This was echoed in their descriptions of the new library (or Next Library, shhh). They see the library as still a physical space, complimented by online space, a place of connections; between people and information, and between people and community, a community gathering space, and a social, cultural and learning hub, where people can find information, or create their own information.

This last thought is an exciting one. Libraries have always been used for research to support studies and the development of new ideas, but more and more, they are becoming places where the actual creation of new information and media happens. From writing, to video production, to web pages and image editing, all with help and instruction at the library.

So what will the library of the future be? Sounds like it will be, what we want it to be. According to Herbert Samuel, "A library is thought in cold storage." In the digital age, this may be an even more fitting description, but if "Your library is your portrait", as Holbrook Jackson said, we should be careful to insure that our library doesn't become a portrait of closed-mindedness and lack of foresight.

We need to make our libraries as we want them, because no one will do it for us. And if we let them try, they may just unmake them altogether.

* - For thoughts on whether or not robotic librarians of the future will fall in love and get married, click here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

flux

Flux by Orson Scott Card, was my filler book while I read Sherlock Holmes. The Holmes book was too massive to read in bed so I started on Flux. Flux is a series of short stories, with a small essay (afterword) in the backmatter by Card, discussing each of the stories: what inspired them, what he was trying to accomplish, his thoughts about similar works, and what was going on with him and the world when he wrote them.

Some were good, and others, not so much. I haven't read a lot of Card's work, and if I have, it was a long time ago when I was much more into science fiction. Flux was originally released as book two of Maps in a Mirror: The Short Fiction of Orson Scott Card in 1990.

A Thousand Deaths was pretty grim, but read like the first chapter of a larger story. When I got to Clap Hands and Sing, I thought I was in chapter 2 of Deaths, so I was lost for a while. Clap Hands was melancholy and sweet.

Dogwalker was cyberpunk fun, but only just. Then came I Put my Blue Genes On. Really? Yeah. A little hokey.

Next was In the Doghouse. Even more hokey. Like a bad Star Trek episode. During the writer's strike. In the rain.

Last was The Originist, which was also the longest. This one took a while to get going, but then I couldn't put it down. I guess it took a while to get the storyline laid out. Card set this story in Isaac Asimov's Foundation universe, by open invitation from Asimov, apparently. Card explains in his essay that he'd had the idea for this story for years after reading Asimov, but didn't feel that it was right to set a story in another author's universe. Something that's pretty commonplace now. I've never read Foundation, but I understand there is a movie in the works, so I better get crackin'!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

sherlock holmes iiii

Yeah, I could have used the more typical 'IV' form of the Roman numeral in the title of this entry, but I like the way the four 'I's visually draaaag oooon, much like this massive tome did.

To be fair, this book--which I have been slogging through since mid-March--actually contains all nine of Sir Arthur's books in one volume. Handy to have them all in one place, but a little hefty. [I read another paperback in bed, so I wouldn't crack a rib.]

This volume, as I mentioned before, contains all 4 Holmes novels: A Study In Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Valley of Fear. I found that I liked the novels more than the short stories, because there was more meat to them, and time for the characters to develop. If I had to generalize, I would say that they got a little rougher as the went on. The Valley of Fear had some pretty gruesome stuff in there, especially considering when it was written.

The last book, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, saw something new for Holmes: three of the stories were not narrated by Watson. Holmes himself narrates two of them, and a third is written without a narrator at all. These stories didn't have the same endearing quality as those done from Watson's POV, but I think it shows that Sir Arthur was trying to mix it up at this point. Doyle was clearly through with Holmes by this time, and in a short foreword to this last collection, he states that pretty succinctly. Holmes had already been brought back from the dead once to meet the demands of a loving public; and then the eight book is titled: His Last Bow. Doyle made it pretty clear that this wouldn't be happening again. He also pointed out that he felt that Holmes took away from his more serious fiction writing.

Holmes and Watson evolved a little--but only a little--during their trials. There wasn't much talk of drug use in the latter stories, for example. And Watson did seem to catch on a little bit quicker later on. Who knows, maybe folks wrote to Doyle about these things. And I never did square the timeline issues completely, even when reading the stories in the order there were written. In part, that's because many of them were written about things that occurred at some point in the past, and could only now be shared with the public, &c.

Lastly, I give you Professor James Moriarty: Sherlock Holmes's archenemy and greatest foe. The very lynchpin and underbelly of London crime. 'The Napoleon of Crime', in Holmes's own words. Moriarty has crept into pop culture as a larger-than-life nemesis of epic proportions. In the actual stories: not so much.

I won't say more, but leave it to you dear friends, to delve into this singular well of mystery and intrigue, guided by John Watson as he rides along with Sherlock Holmes on a rainy November night, to the scene of yet another inexplicable crime.

Monday, May 16, 2011

return of the logo

I asked for feedback, and I got it! So here is the second draft (click the image to biggefy.) With thanks to Natalie, who also helped by providing feedback on my other big logo endeavor. What a team!

What's different, you ask? This one is cleaner, clearer, and more balanced between the light and dark, or positive and negative space. Sounds like I know what I'm talking about a little, right? No such luck.

Since I put this together, I also got some feedback from another occasional reader. Angela suggested some stylized illumination of the initial in the book. Maybe some vines, flowers, and fruits. I'm going to be looking at that as well.

Nobody wants this T-shirt?

Friday, May 13, 2011

the logo

Here it is chil'en, the incunabular illumination logo. This is the sweet little monkey that would have graced your free T-shirt if you had answered the obscure-reference geek question I posted a short while ago, here.

I'll leave this fabulous prize bonanza open for a little while longer in case there are any serious geeks out there. You know who you are, nerds. Now that the logo is done, I'm gonna slap it on a T-shirt for myself! [Yeah, if you hadn't figured it out yet, when I made the prize announcement, I hadn't yet designed, never mind made the prize.]

In other news, still pounding through Sherlock Holmes, with only a hundred pages or so left. I'm sure now, that what I should have done, is to review each of the nine books contained in this trying tome, one-at-a-time. Welp, too late now!

The logo is obviously a stylized open book, of the incunabular persuasion, complete with historiated initials, and a bookmark. If you like the logo, please let me know. And if you don't like it, do the same.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

library of congress marker redux

Back in business.

If anything, the LOC maintenance shutdown allows me to show you all the reverse of this lovely bookmark. From the Library of Congress site about its history:

"The Library of Congress was established by an act of Congress in 1800 when President John Adams signed a bill providing for the transfer of the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington."

Just four years later, in August 1814, British troops set fire to the Capitol Building, burning the library. Within a month, retired President Thomas Jefferson offered his personal library as a replacement.

The Library of Congress, isn't just beautiful, its huge, the largest library in the world! According to their website, the library contains "33 million books and printed materials, as well as more than 113 million maps, manuscripts, photographs, films, audio and video recordings, prints and drawings, and other special collections." The stuff they have ranges from baseball cards, and comic books, to fine old manuscripts, and early American maps and documents, to sound, music and film recordings. Check out a video presentation about the LOC here.

Their website is fantastic! There is all kinds of stuff available on line. Its staggering really just browsing through it, its seems to go on forever.

Thanks again, to Natalie and Hope for picking this up for me in Washington DC.