I finished reading Dune last week. I didn’t much like it. I thought it was boring. So if the soon-to-be-released new film adaptation isn’t great, a big reason is probably that the source material isn’t that great. I recently started reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and in doing so I realized one big reason I found Dune so boring: there’s no humor. Or at least there’s very little humor that I noticed. The book, and the characters in it, took themselves too seriously. Too me, lack of humor makes stories feel too fake. Not enough emotional contrast I guess.
War and Peace, on the other hand, has a good amount of humor sprinkled in, sometimes from characters, sometimes in just the way Tolstoy describes things. I’m only on page 250 of 1000+, but the reading itself is not very daunting. Tolstoy’s prose (at least the translated prose; I’m reading the Maude translation) is very dry. This happened, then this, and this. Straight to the point. No long flowery ambiguous descriptions. No Dickensian run-on sentences. (Though Dickens at least wasn’t too flowery either, for the most part. At least, as far as I remember; I haven’t read Dickens since high school, which was sixteen years ago.) So it’s very approachable, despite its age. It’s just really long. It feels very analagous to a modern TV show; it jumps around between a lot of different characters. It began as a serial back in the day, so I guess that makes sense.
One archaic phrase in this translation that annoys me though is when people “screw up their eyes.” I guess that means something like squinting or furrowing one’s brow? Definitely not something people say (or write) nowadays.
I’d like to finish the book by the end of the month, but I’m probably too slow of a reader.
Still working on TuneSage! I would definitely love to release the first version of it before the end of the year, even as soon as the end of September if I can. A lot of that will depend what “features” I include in the first version. It probably won’t be much at first, because I just want to get it out there. Anyway, I’m finally returning to work on the front end. There’s still a lot of stuff to do on the back end, but working on the front end will probably help me decide what features I want or don’t want for the initial release as I try to design a possible “workflow” for users.
I’ve uploaded more “thrift store finds” videos on my second YouTube channel; eBay flipping has been a fun side-hussle, easy and addicting. Just keep a social distance and wash your hands constantly. (And wear your mask, even though they fog up your glasses and then you have to take your glasses off and you can’t see anything.)
Another episode of “used bookstore plunder”! I didn’t actually spend a load of money, most of it was bought with trade credit. Anyway, here’s what I found (click picture for full resolution):
Lots of fiction, mostly Andre Norton and Michael Moorcock (who I usually have trouble finding in used bookstores). We’ve got:
Poul Anderson — Three Hearts and Three Lions (been keeping my eyes out for this one, glad to finally find it)
Orson Scott Card — Songmaster (another I’ve been keeping an eye out for)
L. Sprague de Camp — Land of Unreason
Erin Hoffman — Lance of Earth and Sky (still haven’t read the first book of this series)
Michael Moorcock — (I have yet to read anything by him, so I hope he’s not too bad; I hear his name a lot so I want to eventually familiarize myself with his work) The Skrayling Tree, Blood, Sword of the Dawn, The Vanishing Tower, Count Brass, The Secret of the Runestaff, The Knight of the Swords, The Eternal Champion, The Sword and the Stallion, The Swords Trilogy (they put these trilogy sets out after I had already bought two of the books included in it), The Chronicles of Corum, The Champion of Carathorm, The Queen of Swords, Stormbringer
Andre Norton — Songsmith, The Gate of the Cat, Moon Called, The Jargoon Pard, Elvenblood, Mirror of Destiny, Merlin’s Mirror, Shadow Hawk
Fred Saberhagen — Merlin’s Bones
Robert Silverberg —(I haven’t read any of his books, but I’ve enjoyed some of his short stories before) The Book of Skulls
Alexander Solzhenitsyn — August 1914, The Gulag Archipelago Vol. 1 (because Jordan Peterson)
Jack Vance — (Vance is another one I don’t often see in used bookstores, so I was happy to find a good number of them) The Dragon Masters, The Many Worlds of Magnus Ridolph, Son of the Tree / The Houses of Iszm, The Gray Prince, The Pnume, Slaves of the Klau, Lyonesse, Ecce and Old Earth
John Varley — Millennium
Gene Wolfe — Soldier of the Mist
Nonfiction books include:
The Beethoven Compendium and Musical Structure and Design
Master the Basics of Russian along with some old play in Russian to practice translating (I want to learn Russian, all I know so far is: Здравствуйте! да и нет, и спасибо! I don’t think that’s enough.1)
Game Theory: A Nontechnical Introduction and The Science of Jurassic Park and the Lost World(They were both 75 cents)
Chase, Chance, and Creativity (It’s about the role of chance in creativity; I’ve been fascinated by the psychological phenomenon of creativity lately, an on-and-off interest, especially in its relation to artificial intelligence)
Everything that Linguists have Always Wanted to Know about Logic (I’m not a linguist, but I like how this book combines and linguistics with logic; again interested in this for artificial intelligence purposes as well. If you think about it, human language is like a programming language of thought.)
Beyond Good and Evil by Nietzsche and For Self-Examination / Judge for Yourself by Kierkegaard (philosophy for some light weekend reading)
Alan Turing: The Enigma (hopefully this biography of Turing will be more interesting than the film based on it, which I thought was terrible)
Lastly, I bought two 3D blu-rays, Jurassic Park and Pacific Rim. I can’t watch them in 3D yet until I get a PSVR, but as it seems they don’t really sell them anymore (perhaps they’ve quit making them altogether?), I’m eager to get them while I can. It’s a shame they weren’t more popular, but their prices were pretty ridiculous.
So that’s my used bookstore plunder!
I haven’t finished reading any books at all this year; instead I’ve been reading a lot of fragments from non-fiction books.
I had a bit of time over the weekend to browse a used bookstore. Not as much time as I would’ve liked (I can browse a used bookstore for many hours if allowed), but I did find some interesting stuff.
Didn’t have time to browse the film soundtracks, but I did snatch up some symphonic metal from the Italian band Rhapsody of Fire. Their album The Frozen Tears of Angels features narration from the late great Christopher Lee; his deep cinematic British voice compliments the fantastical metal very well. It’s a concept album that’s part of a larger saga of albums, none of which I have… yet.
Also music related is the blu-ray of the 25th anniversary concert of Les Miserables. I think it came on PBS or something once, but I missed it. But now I can watch it over and over!
Picked up a movie companion to one of my favorite films. Looking through it, it looked awfully familiar, but I double-checked my bookshelves and I don’t have it. I could swear I’ve browsed a copy of it somewhere else before though. Maybe there’s another copy somewhere else in the house? I have no idea…
I haven’t read Brandon Sanderson in a while, but I picked up Elantris for someday.
I’ve been reading Peter Straub’s Shadowland recently and have been enjoying it very much, so I picked up pretty much all the Peter Straub I could find, which amounted to nine books. They’ll take me forever to read, but they all look interesting… I’ll probably dive into one after I finish Shadowland…
Picked up some books on Mozart and classical music because I’m such a classy guy.
Finally, I happened upon a biography of one of the great classical composers who most music scholars, in their snooty snobbery, ignore completely.
We don’t have really any good used bookstores very close to us. They tend to have very small selections or high prices. But on Tuesday I was able to make it to a larger used bookstore about an hour away. Their selection wasn’t amazing, but wasn’t horrible either, and their prices were pretty nice. I unfortunately didn’t have as much time to peruse as I would’ve liked, but I spent quite enough money anyway, so the time limit was probably a good thing. I could browse books for many countless hours; it’s a great source of intellectual stimulation and inspiration. As to how long it will actually take me to get around to reading the books, I’m sure I’ll have them all read by *cough* *cough* [inaudible] *cough*.
So because I don’t have much else to blog about (besides [insert the latest controversial issue here], but enough’s been said about that already), I will tell you what books I got, complete with beautiful photographs filtered through Instagram’s X-Pro II because I’m so cool.
Became interested in the works of Jung through Joseph Campbell, though he’s usually so abstract that he’s tough to read. I can’t help but think that trying to interpret dreams very much risks searching for meaning where there actually is none, at least not as much as one may think. But I’m interested in the subject regardless, and certainly open to having my mind changed if I can manage to understand what Jung writes. And even if I don’t agree, I’ll be interested in his thoughts.
Speaking of Joseph Campbell, found a couple of his books there as well. Goddesses in particular looked interesting, because I had never heard of it before (granted, I think it was published posthumously and is actually a collection of his essays on the subject rather than something he actually put together himself), and because one of the stories I’m currently plotting involves a “goddess” archetype, so I’ll be interested in what insights Mr. Myth himself can share on the subject.
I’ve eyed this at the bookstore a few times, so nice to get a big discount on it at a used bookstore, eh? And it’s in almost new condition too. Just curious about the subject, though I know very little about it.
I really have little clue what exactly this book is about. Browsing through it, parts looked interesting enough, and it was cheap. Guess we’ll see!
On to fiction, picked up the fourth book in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, though I’ve yet to read the 2nd and 3rd. I read the first book, Wizard’s First Rule some years ago and enjoyed it. Goodkind’s writing is very bland, but that’s at least better than being clunky and cluttered, and the story itself definitely held my attention throughout. I’ve heard the series gets repetitive later on, though.
I have yet to read any of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, though I hope to at some point, especially now that it’s actually complete, so I picked up the second, third, and fourth books in that series. (Already have the first.)
Similarly, I have yet to read anything by Vernor Vinge, but I’ve good things about him from readers I trust and his books definitely look interesting.
I’ve read Neal Stephenson’s Anathem and Reamde, both of which I gave five stars, so I’m interested in anything by Stephenson. (Already have his Baroque Cycle and Cryptomicon, though I haven’t read them yet; they’re definitely doorstoppers.) I hope to start reading his latest book, Seveneves, as soon as I finish the last eighty pages of Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance, which I’ve been reading for the last two months.
From the mind of Ray Bradbury, I’ve only read Something Wicked This Way Comes and Zen in the Art of Writing, both of which are fantastic. So I’ll definitely be interested to read some more of his work. I also like the look of these classy 70’s paperback editions. Can’t find ’em like this anymore. In a new bookstore, that is.
Always interested in some classic children’s fantasy, as old-fashioned as the old stuff tends to be, and this isn’t one you see too often.
And just because it was cheap. One of my favorite movies.
Finally, also got some CDs, mostly soundtracks. Good stuff.
And there you have it. Go out and peruse your closest used bookstore today, and support authors not getting any money… oh no, wait…
I finally finished reading the massive 957-page sci-fi book Stardown Bullets by new writer Joseph Black (who is only a few months older than me, making my lack of success at novel writing all the more bitter — OK, not really).
Overall, I think this may very well be the best science fiction book I’ve ever read.
The book takes place in the far future in which, through a few pages of expository techno-babble, a good chunk of humanity has left Earth and colonized two planets in some other solar system, one planet more naturally habitable than the other. The planets are occasionally temporarily connected through what the characters call a “star bridge” which is this gigantic weird energetic bendy tube which can phase in and out of existence depending on the location of the planets in their orbits. Again, there was some techno-babble about how this was possible — I won’t even try to sum it up — if you’re of a more scientific mind, you might be able to understand it. I just thought “yeah, whatever” and went on with the story. Anyway, due to the planets’ orbits, the star bridge can only exist for 12 days every two Earth-years. (On a side note, how the book deals with time on these alien planets is completely confusing. They use Earth years and Earth hours, but just about everything else — days, weeks, months — are different and have a bunch of confusing names, making you wish the book had an appendix or something.) Whenever the star bridge forms, people can quickly travel between the planets and send cargo back and forth. Quick as in almost-the-speed-of-light-quick. Without the bridge, travel between the planets takes several years.
The fading in and out of the star bridge has been going on for seventy-some years when the story starts with little trouble, but mysterious holes begin to open up, and cargo and travelers are sucked out into space. A team of researchers from each planet is sent to investigate, and until they can figure out what’s going on, the star bridge is closed, causing many economic and political problems for both planets.
The story mainly follows Todd Ackerman, one of the researchers. He thinks that the holes are created by humans in some kind of elaborate conspiracy which he decides to unveil. But as he digs deeper and deeper into the many layers of the organizations that run the star bridge, he discovers that things are not so simple as evil vs non-evil. I won’t give anything away, but let’s just say that most of the clues and discoveries regarding the holes seem really sinister in the first half of the book, then do a complete 180 by the end in rather surprising fashion.
What really makes the story work for me, though, is not the complicated spy-adventure, though that itself is very enjoyable. No, it’s the characterization of Todd; the author makes him surprisingly sympathetic. Even when I didn’t agree with what he was doing, I could completely understand why he was doing it, and was always hoping he would succeed. And, actually, most of the time he did exactly what I would’ve. Also, the author makes it quite clear that when Todd is in danger, even though you know he’s not going to die, there are things worse than death, and they can and do happen. So every time it felt like danger was lurking, I was truly on the edge of my seat, hoping the author wouldn’t be too mean to any members of the cast. A lot of times in movies and such you get characters who you can tell are just there to die. In this book, anyone (well, except for Todd) is under the knife. That said, no death feels random. You know what characters are risking death, and when, so it’s just a matter of reading on and finding out.
The book changes pace a lot too. Sometimes I flew through a hundred pages at break-neck speed because danger was lurking, things were being discovered, and I just had to know what would happen next. Other times, there are long info-dumps which are sometimes interesting, sometimes too techno-babbly for me. The descriptions of the fantastical sci-fi cities and how they were built to deal with the strange alien planets’ conditions I found to be very captivating and imaginative; the author definitely put a lot of thought and care into making them staggeringly different than what we see here on Earth, yet completely plausible.
By the end of it, you see that there’s a wonderful theme flowing through the story about loving your enemies, loving yourself, and not caring what anyone thinks of you. Well, it sounds cheesy written out like that, but played out in the story it works really well. And it’s pretty subtle; I expect some readers may miss it in the heat of the action sequences, and the author never lets even Todd have any extended inner-dialogues. But the themes are still there in the collection choices that Todd and the other characters make.
Again, overall, it was a fantastic read. Unfortunately it’s not part of a series or anything, but I’ll definitely be looking out for Joseph Black’s next novel. I think he’ll be one of most popular sci-fi writers in the coming decades.
I’m continuing to read Patrick Rothfuss’s huge novel The Wise Man’s Fear. (I’ve been an extremely slow reader this year… I usually finish one or two books a month. But this year I’ve only finished reading one in the last eight months. Terrible! But the wordcount for The Wise Man’s Fear is about a bazillion magillion frillion, so my slowness is somewhat justified.) Anyway, if you plan on reading the book and don’t want anything about it revealed to you, read no further.
There’s an interesting conversation between two characters about the nature of power on pages 380 to 382. (Chapter Fifty-six is entitled Power.) As a character says:
“There are two types of power: inherent and granted. Inherent power you possess as a part of yourself. Granted power is lent or given by other people.”
After talking a bit about them, he asks:
“Which do you think is the greater type of power?”
And he argues that granted power is greater.
Of course, it made me think: how would I answer the question? How would I talk to this man?
First, I have a problem with the premises, that there really are two types of power. I would argue that inherent and granted powers are just two sides of the same coin. Everything action you take requires both inherent and granted power. If I want to post this blog post, I must have an inherent power to know how to write, to know how communicate in a certain language. But I also must be granted the power of electricity and Internet access by other humans who chose to make such things available to me.
I suppose the question of “which is greater” is asking: “through which power can you accomplish more of you might wish to accomplish?” (Really “greater” could mean several different things, but this is, I think, the most obvious interpretation, yes?) But they depend on each other; neither is truly greater. You can’t work through a granted power without also relying on inherent power; likewise, you require granted power to exercise your inherent power.
In the book, the character makes a point that being part of nobility is a granted power, even though many people think it is inherent, as if one’s social status were in one’s blood. (A celebrity’s child? Queen of England, anyone?) But, the character argues, nobility is actually a power granted by those who agree to do what they say, probably in exchange for some sort of granted power they can use (to a lesser degree) themselves (like money or a higher social rank).
What the character does not seem to realize (or disagrees with) is that inherent power is required to use such granted power to any “great” degree. Therefore, I can not fully agree with his conclusion.
I guess I would agree with the character if he argued that granted power was the more “show-offy” power; our inherent power (or potential inherent power, at least) is much more similar to each other’s. But our granted power can vary immensely. Which leads some obsess over gaining granted power (social status, fame, fortune). But I still wouldn’t say that it’s “greater.”
Or, to get religious on you, as Jesus says in Matthew 16:26:
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world [granted power] and forfeit his life? [inherent power]
(Though I guess if I wanted to get really religious, I could argue that all inherent power is granted by God in the first place!)
Anyway, I hope the points of the conversation will end up playing into the plot; philosophy is always more interesting (to me) when it affects character decisions. We shall see…
I’m reading The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, only on page 150 of about 1000, so this will take a while. Unfortunately it’s due back at the library soon, so I might just have to buy it because I doubt I’d be willing to stop reading once it’s due. It’s an addicting book.
Anyway, I just want to make some comments about a couple passages… I’m only on page 150, so I doubt there’ll be any drastic spoilers, but if you’re planning on reading the novel yourself and don’t want anything at all revealed to you, go away now.
So there’s this crazy professor teacher in the novel named Elodin, and as class starts he makes his students tell him an interesting fact. If he already knows it or finds it boring, they have to keep going until they come up with something interesting, or admit defeat. This sounds like a pretty fun game, but only really if you’re the teacher and get to be the “interesting decider.” If I ever had a teacher that really did that, I wouldn’t like it… I’d feel used and abused! And I’m somewhat wary of these romanticized student-teacher relationships that crop up so much in fiction.
Anyway, here’s one of the students’ facts, from page 132:
“You can divide infinity an infinite number of times, and the resulting pieces will still be infinitely large,” Uresh said in his odd Lenatti accent. “But if you divide a non-infinite number an infinite number of times, the resulting pieces are non-infinitely small. Since they are non-infinitely small, but there are an infinite number of them, if you add them back together, their sum is infinite. This implies any number is, in fact, infinite.”
“Wow,” Elodin said after a long pause.
Um… what? Elodin shouldn’t be impressed by such foolish logic! It sounds like a middle-schooler who just discovered the concept of infinity. Infinity is not a number, you cannot do math with it. There’s no such thing as “an infinite number.” Fool! Elodin should reprimand him!
Later on, some characters are trying to explain to another character how the novel’s magic system works (a certain magic called “sympathy”), on page 148:
“Heat, light, and motion are all just energy,” I said. “We can’t create energy or make it disappear. But sympathy lets us move it around or change if from one type into another.”
Is motion really energy? Doesn’t he mean acceleration? I guess you could still say something in motion has kinetic energy, but that implies that it was accelerated at some point. Perhaps, since we live in a frictionful gravity world, motion and acceleration can be thought to be same, since if you’re not constantly accelerating, friction due to gravity will bring you to a stop. Anyway, this magic system seems to obey the first law of thermodynamics; good enough for me.
“I can see how heat and light are related,” [Denna] said thoughtfully. “The sun is bright and warm. Same with a candle.” She frowned. “But motion doesn’t fit into it. A fire can’t push something.”
“Think about friction,” Sim chimed in. “When you rub something it gets hot.”
[Kvothe talking:] “It’s a good example. The hub of a wagon wheel will be warm to the touch. That heat comes from the motion of the wheel. A sympathist can make the energe go the other way, from heat into motion.”
So a sympathist can basically break the second law of thermodynamics? That’s fine, I don’t quite believe in it anyway. But… why explain the relationship between heat and motion with friction? The heat from friction isn’t really directly caused by motion, it’s caused by countless atomic collisions from opposing electromagnetic forces. (You’re not going to get much heat from static friction, are you?) I would explain heat and motion more thermodynamically: heat is motion, the non-uniform motion of countless particles. Of course the heat from a fire can push something, it’s just hard (if not thermodynamically impossible) to get enough energy directed at something specific to make that possible, so we tend to use it’s energy more indirectly, like using it to create steam, or taking advantage of the potential difference in density between the heated material and the surroundings (like the heated air in hot air balloons).
Then again, I’m not a scientist… and on page 149 a character says:
“There’s a special kind of thinking called Alar,” Wilem said. “You believe something so strongly that it becomes so.”
Finally finished reading a book, woohoo! It was on hold at the library, so I had to hurry up. ‘Twas The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card, one of my favourite writers. ‘Twas a fun read. Not quite Ender’s Game, but hard to put down nonetheless. Makes you want to be a gatemage. Makes you look forward to Portal 2, coming out soon! Now I look forward to the sequels, for this seems to be the first book of a trilogy or something.
There are two quotes I liked. First, from page 106:
Besides, it just felt . . . wrong. Inelegant, perhaps, as Auntie Tweng used to say of kludgy solutions to math or programming problems. “Yes, it works,” she would say, “but it’s not elegant. Truth is simple and elegant. That’s how you know it when you see it.”
Those last two sentences. “Truth is simple and elegant. That’s how you know it when you see it.” Almost Occam’s razor-ish. I’m not sure if it’s true (for it can’t explain the truth of itself), but I like the idea.
Also, in the afterword, on page 382:
I tell my students in my writing classes that suspense comes, not from knowing almost nothing, but from knowing almost everything and caring very much about the small part still unknown.
Great little writing tidbit. Mystery can still come from not knowing much, but it’s not suspenseful (or nearly as interesting) until the focus is on that one last answer, that one final piece to the puzzle. Search your feelings, you know it to be true. (Plus, it’s simple and elegant.)
Oh, it’s also a fun book if you know your mythology. Which I don’t, but I’m just assuming.
Is it difficult to not push a particular button that sits in front of you? You know, a button you tap whilst typing day in and day out, whilst writing thousands… no… millions of words upon your digital contraption? Can you abstain from such an act? Actually, it’s not that amazing, but it can truly kick a brain into thinking constantly prior to coming up with and spitting out words for any occasion (normally communication, obviously). With a bit of toiling and playing around, you could possibly roll into a habit of constantly passing this button. Now and again, try it, astound your own brain with what you didn’t know you could accomplish! Woohoo! If you want to whip out a full-blown book without using this button, all I can say is: “Wow!” and “A man was victorious in such a mission many moons ago.” An old story known as Gadsby won this honor, so you cannot attain it first! Sorry! Too bad! But you can still savor this bit of fun that springs up from just writing a paragraph without this symbol. And that’s all I want to say! Carry on!
(I admit, this act might finally slip into monotony, but it’s worth trying for an instant or two.)
It’s now week 7 (of 72) of Animation Mentor! The first semester (of 12 weeks) is half way over!
Last week’s assignment involved animating a pendulum. Unfortunately, towards the end of the week (mostly Saturday and Sunday) I caught some sort of virus, so I lost a nice chunk of animation time, and my assignment turned out pretty “blagh.” I mean, it wasn’t completely terrible, but it needs lots of polishing, so I’ll post that up on YouTube after I do a revision. Feeling better now, so I hope this week will be better.
I finished reading The Talent Code the other day. Overall, ’twas a pretty good read, though I still think that in some of the chapters the author kind of goes off on these less interesting tangents. There was this whole chapter about how good some “KIPP program” schools were, though to me they seemed kind of brain-washy. One of the main points of the program, besides instilling militaristic discipline, was to not only get the students to go to college, but get them to want to go to college. Apparently the founders of the KIPP program believe that going to college is pretty much the most important thing in the world. It’s kind of … disturbing. Maybe there’s a grain of truth to it, in terms of there being a correlation between income levels and college attendance, but I don’t think brain-washing children to believe that college is the most important goal in life is necessarily helpful, even if the students in this KIPP program preform very well on tests.
Which kind of leads me to another problem… so often it seems that how “good” a school is is determined by comparing it to other schools. People say things like “this school scored in the 90th percentile!” That sounds pretty good, but it actually really doesn’t say that much. What exactly is the “score” of the 90th percentile? Shouldn’t the actual score matter? With this sort of comparison-rating system, a school (or a student) doesn’t even have to improve for their score to improve… everyone else just has to do worse.
Along the same lines (though this is a complete tangent from the subject of the book), I hate when teachers, both high school and college, grade to a curve. As if a bell curve should naturally arise in the grades, and if it’s not there, you just shape the test scores to it. It makes no sense; you can get a better grade simply because everyone else did lousy on the test? But really this is part of the bigger “grading problem” in general that schools have; they simply use grades in a completely wrong way, as a form to easily compare students and to act as an easy gatekeeper for decision making. Unfortunately how well someone knows facts or a skill is not so easily numbered. (And this is really related to the “school problem” in general; how so many people think it’s a good use of time and money to teach and learn things students are not interested in or are not going to use. I’ll spare myself from going off on that tangent today…)
One last thing I’m starting to understand, from this book and others with similar themes, is that our personalities, as defined by our decisions and interests, are, or at least can be, as malleable as our intellect. They are a product of our environment. Maybe not completely, of course, but the true (often subconscious) sources of interests and personalities are quite complex; they do not simply emerge from DNA. In other words, if you observe that someone is bossy when they are a baby, that’s not necessarily just because they have “bossy” genes. Although, maybe they do… my point is that it’s complex. And people can change, at least to a greater degree than they may realize. Not easily, perhaps. It might take a complete overturning of your environment, and the change might be from “stable” to “completely depressed and crazy”, but it’s possible. I do wish it were easy to understand how interests come about and how they could be changed, but they seem to get so set-in-stone that we think of them as being as unchangeable as stone…
The other book I finished reading was Federations, a collection of sci-fi short stories. It was kind of a mixed bag… I thought some stories were very good, especially Prisons by Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason and Symbiont by Robert Silverberg. Some were OK. Some were uhhhh-what-the-heck? (I have more traditional tastes. When authors try to get all experimental and stylized, I don’t always get it. One of my big pet peeves is unisex/nonsex pronouns, like “hirs” and “shim”… blagh! You’re not clever! Stop it!)
Will books die soon?
In other news, I read this article in which some guy says that physical books will be dead in 5 years. *gasp* Firstly, the article states that we must consider what has happened to music and films, which makes no sense to me. Those are digital art mediums in the first place. You watch a movie with a digital TV, and you listen to music on speakers (or headphones). Those have required electricity to perceive the art for a long time. Not so with books. So I don’t think the comparison is entirely valid. Also, movies are still quite non-digital, in that they still are sold on physical discs. This not only helps prevent copying (to a degree), but it also allows customers to trade, rent, borrow, return, and resell their movies. In a purely digital world, we can’t do that. Money would only ever flow one way. Great for movie distributors (if they can prevent illegal copying enough), somewhat lame for everyone else (unless you can get free movies by watching ads at certain intervals… but still no returning or trading).
He also says that the sales of Kindle books has outnumbered the sales of hardbacks. OK… that in and of itself is not really evidence of anything, as far as I can tell. We’d also have to see a decline in hardback sales, and look at paperback sales. And publishers would have to at some point conclude that publishing a hardback would not be worth it. And then conclude that paperbacks aren’t worth it either. These business decisions would, I think, be way too drastic for publishers to figure out in just 5 years. Unless, of course, Kindle and other ebooks take off so well and make publishers so rich that they have nothing to worry about by going all digital. So I guess I’d really have to look at the publishers’ records to know…
Eventually, books may very well die, or at least become mostly dead… but in just 5 years? I highly doubt it.
Some beautiful music!
Lastly, as a reward for reading all that blather (or for scrolling down), here’s some beautiful music for you!
Want more? Of course you do!
These pieces were brought to you by the Portsmouth Sinfonia which I came across last week (or yesterday or something)… what beautiful sounds!