Latest Blog Posts

by Nikki Tranter

10 Dec 2007


As the Writer’s Strike heads into its second month, I thought it might be fun to view perspectives on Hollywood from leading authors. Over the next few days, in the Re:Print Tribute to the Writers Here and Gone, we’ll peek behind the curtain a bit to discover the truth about how Hollywood treats its most creative (and necessary) force.

Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison

There is much to share on this topic, old and new. The more things change, right? It appears authors and screenwriters of the 1940s were no better off than writers today. If the fight’s gone on this long, will it ever really end? I’ve found some fascinating documents on this subject and look forward to sharing them this week. Not only will we look at struggles for compensation, but a wide range of other issues, as well, such as gender roles, domineering directors, and problems adapting books to the screen.

Let’s kick off with Harlan Ellison’s wonderful “I sell my soul at the highest rates” rant in Dreams with Sharp Teeth, available here. Then get on YouTube and watch Harlan on Dark Dreamers talking about his writing life.

Another cool view on Hollywood vs. the Writer comes from novelist Jodi Picoult, on her website. Head to the Podcasts section, and you’ll find an eight-minute recording called “You Oughta Be in Pictures”, wherein in Picoult describes her various Hollywood experiences. She briefly analyzes, too, just how vital to success or failure on the big screen depends on gender. This is especially interesting—why, she asks, do Nicholas Sparks and Robert James Waller get to see their books made into blockbusters, but women writers with similarly themes books are relegated to Lifetime? Picoult isn’t bitter, but she is blunt, and she makes some strong points.

Tomorrow, Raymond Chandler gets in on the act.

by Lara Killian

5 Dec 2007


Compact in size, yet jam-packed with clear, colorful photos, this mini coffee table book is just the thing for you or your favorite eco-conscious consumer pals when you’re looking to save the Earth in style. Or at least raise awareness of the plight of the planet. Dave Evans, an award-winning Australian photographer, highlights practical, whimsical, and artistic objects, each made from recycled or eco-friendly materials put to innovative use. Ever seen a menorah crafted from galvanized steel plumbing pipes? A CD holder crafted from vintage vinyl LPs? We’re intrigued.

Cool Green StuffAuthor: Dave EvansCrownOctober 2007, 256 pages, $14.95

Cool Green Stuff
Author: Dave Evans
Crown
October 2007, 256 pages, $14.95

The collection is divided into sections like ‘fashion’, ‘house’, and ‘outside’, and the sheer variety of things created from materials that could have become trash or actually were reclaimed from the local dump is amazing. From ‘elephant poo poo paper’ (prettier than it sounds) to a ‘sun trap handbag’ crafted with a solar panel in the base that gently glows when opened, allowing you to find your keys at the very bottom, these objects are both usable and sustainable.

This book has an impressive range of objects that are often incredibly practical or else designed expressly to draw attention to the possibilities of product design in an enviro-friendly market. From furniture to housewares, wearable fashion to modes of transportation, the sheer scope of this project doesn’t fail to impress. Although the casual flipper-of-pages may notice a couple of sections where artists or producers are repeated in close proximity (at first I thought, why not give some press to additional manufacturers?), it makes sense that designers who are at the forefront of this movement are not focusing their efforts on a single product. No one paid to be a part of the collection; Evans has carefully selected those items which demonstrate commitment to the green consumer movement, as well as undeniable style.

Don’t miss the snazzy bottle openers made from recycled bike chains or the oddly mesmerizing ‘giggles bracelet’ created from the slightly creepy faces of discarded Barbie dolls. Possibly more disturbing is the 50 ml bottle of ‘Crude parfum’, which is not truly a perfume but a decorative flask in the style of today’s myriad celebrity fragrances, and filled literally with crude oil, drawing attention to the power of one of the most influential raw materials of our time.

Bonus: the web address for each artist or manufacturer is given on the same page with its description and photo, so the reader can follow up on those coasters made from recycled motherboard components—the only time when coffee is allowed near computer parts.

Rating: 8

by Lara Killian

3 Dec 2007


Amazon's Jeff Bezos with the Kindle.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos with the Kindle.

Download current bestsellers as well as the latest release of your favorite not-so-mainstream author. Plus everything ever published, ever. Coming soon.

Last week’s cover of Newsweek magazine (11.26.07 issue) displays a nearly life size photo of the device Amazon.com is betting will finally offer a serviceable alternative to that bastion of civilization, the book. The ‘Kindle’, as it’s called, is a far more exciting product than electronic readers I’ve seen so far, and halfway through Steven Levy’s feature article I found myself enthusiastically describing the benefits to anyone who would listen.

Not only can the Kindle hold a library-worth of books (200 or so) at any given time in the palm of your hand, but it has a screen you can actually read them on without inducing migraines, and additional books are accessible at any time without hooking up to a computer. Using cell phone type broadband technology, the Kindle exists independently of your computer, which makes it even cooler than an iPod for bookish types. There are no connectivity fees.

Forget packing a carry on full of books for your beach vacation, you can decide what you feel like reading when you get there.

Your grandmother wants to know what you’re reading about? Instantly change the font size of the text. Plus get the daily paper and top bloglines instantly without carting along your wi-fi ready laptop.

Imagine having mobile access to your favorite blogs, newspapers (hot off the press), magazines (latest issues before they hit newsstands) and even being able to read freshly released chapters of that new crime novel as the author finishes writing them. Errata can be corrected instantly—because the Kindle remains accessible to publishers even after your download is finished. Rather than a static printed page, the book becomes a link that connects the reader with the entire publishing community.

All using a device that has been designed to look and feel like a book, with a six inch screen and about 10 ounces of heft in your hand. Can readers move both forward and backward at the same time, reading serialized fiction in the manner of Dickens on a device that can also access his entire oeuvre at any given moment?

The larger goal, as Amazon adds to its offerings (currently approaching the 100,000 mark, including books, blogs, magazines and newspapers) is to make instantly available everything ever published. Say what? Get in line if you want to talk about copyright infringement, but the potential is exciting. Texts are totally searchable, which has great implications for scholarship. Nothing ever goes out of print. First chapters are free, so you can try before you buy.

No wonder it costs the same as an iPhone currently does.

by Nikki Tranter

30 Nov 2007


The San Diego Union-Tribune on The Graduate, novel vs. screenplay:

Charles Webb’s novella has no soul and no style. Mike Nichols’ generation-influencing film, which introduced the world to Dustin Hoffman and gave Anne Bancroft the role of a lifetime, had both.

Harsh, right? I don’t know if I agree, but then it’s been a while since I read Webb’s book. Telling, however, might be how many times I’ve revisited the movie. It’s age-old, really, the Book vs. Movie debate; how one stacks up against the other. But is such a debate even valid considering the clear and vast differences between storytelling on paper and on screen? I’ve decided the phrase “the book was better” simply means the book was better detailed, because isn’t the argument against the movie always that someone was left out or something wasn’t explained enough? It doesn’t make the movie bad, it just makes it, well, a movie—shorter, faster, reliant on a particular structure.

Still, it’s a debate we can’t get away from, especially lately with so many adaptations hitting cinemas. I have, I think, six movie tie-ins on my to-read shelf at the moment —No Country for Old Men, Reservation Road, Into the Wild, Gone, Baby, Gone, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Oil!. I may rate the mediums on their own merit, but I’m very much a victim of the “book is better” deal simply because I strive to read the source material of each and every film I’m more than just vaguely interested in (and somehow the books become more appealing, and race to the top of the to-read pile because the film is on its way). It’s a weird thing. And, weirder, I never read a book after I’ve seen the film. I somehow feel plagued by the filmic shorthand, and, consequently, have put off seeing movies for years (The Godfather, House of Sand and Fog, Patty Hearst) out of a determination to get the full story first.

The Union-Tribune steers clear of any investigation into reasons behind our fascination with comparing movies to books, and instead provides a list of ten movies writer David L. Coddon believes surpass the source material. His selections are diverse and interesting, though mostly way off the mark. Like I said—you just can’t compare the two, right?

The Brandeis Hoot rates comic book adaptations here, while James Hebert, also at the Union-Tribune, looks at adaptations that worked. Betsy Burton at the King’s English bookstore in Salt Lake City is on my side in this article in yesterday’s Cincinnati Post:

Books leave a lot more to your imagination, obviously. I think, in the end, they can be more powerful, because you have all the time in the world to let your imagination work ... Movies can draw you out of yourself in a very different way. (A movie) can just pull you completely out of your own existence.

And, judging from the multitude of titles about the hit theatres mention in that piece, I really need to get reading.

 

by Nikki Tranter

25 Nov 2007


How do you arrange your books?

Kate Holden’s piece in this Saturday’s Age asks the question: Can you fall in love with a man through the contents of his bookshelves? Following a visit to the Alexandre Yersin Museum in Vietnam and perusing the French-Swiss doctor’s stacks, she answers positively, and sets about dissecting her own shelves, and what they might say about her.

I want visitors to think I am smart. Or indeed, to prove that I am smart. Tasteful. Erudite and eclectic. All this manifested in the concrete evidence of the books I’ve read: the range of subjects; the impressive editions, the glorious colourful bindings. I had a moment of enthusiasm a few months ago when I was procrastinating from writing a, well, a newspaper column, and collected all my orange Penguins into a beautiful if ochreous slab of mid-20th century cleverness. It was not unknown, I went on to mutter, that I had deliberately placed certain books in more visible cases — or even on eye-level shelves — in order to best array the quality of my collection.

So, of course, this had me thinking – am I a conscientious shelver like Kate? Are my books arranged deliberately? What does it say about me that I, like Kate, hide my trade-size pop-thrillers in the darkest part of the shelf, while Tracy Kidder’s The Soul of a New Machine takes pride of place in the living room alongside a large range of similarly-themed works?

The more I pondered, the more I realized that while there’s an element of the show-off in my arrangements, such conceit is really just for me. The smart books are at eye-level in the center of the living room to remind me what I’ve read, and what I’ve learned. Does it make me look smart to visitors? Possibly, but, to be honest, I find most visitors are more into my partner’s DVD collection than my books. He’s the coolest guy in the world because of his Fly special edition and his Star Wars prints; I’m hardly Mrs Awesome because I’ve dog-earned the works of David M. Rorvik.

More from Kate:

There had been times, I confessed sheepishly, when I’d had second thoughts and jumped up from the couch to adjust the display to even more advantageous effect. Some people gather their collections by subject; size of volume; author; Dewey decimal system; haphazardry; or have no books at all. I group mine by affection: most beautiful editions together, then the most beloved novels ...

I can’t say I’ve ever jumped off the couch to better arrange my books for prying eyes, but I get what Kate means. It’s as though we organize out books in such a way that makes the book the star, that makes the titles stand out. I wonder if I’m not subconsciously offering David M. Rorvik a comeback through his placement on my shelves. “Who’s that guy?” you want your visitor to ask. “Well,” you’ll say, “sit back, and let me tell you about the human robot…”

Or then there’s the chance your visitor might say, “Oh! David M. Rorvik – I love that crazy old guy!” and you have a coffee, a sleepover, and a friend for life. It hasn’t happened yet, but I don’t get that many visitors.

I might not be as calculated as Kate in my shelf-arranging, but I admit to desiring a similar amount of crazed control. I can tell when a volume is out of place in a single glance. I can stare at my shelves for hours wondering if this should go in travel lit, or if that should be over in anthropology, or even if I should finally put together a separate shelf for my collection of non-fic Pulitzer Prize winners. Is Sophie’s World correctly placed over there? Should The L-Shaped Room go back over here? Do I really need that Leonard Maltin movie guide from 1994? But, it’s an ever-evolving thing, the bookshelf. Never complete, never perfect.

So, as Kate suggests, it’s bookshelf as symbol of self. Our best airs go in front, no matter where we are, no matter who we interact with. Our dark sides hide in the shadows next to the James Patterson trade paperbacks, while the worldly, wonderful, and weird parts grab the spotlight, next to Rorvik on my shelf and Thucydides on Kate’s.

So, what was hiding in Yersin’s dark corners? Now there’s a question.

 

 

 

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Players Lose Control in ‘Tales from the Borderlands’

// Moving Pixels

"This is an interactive story in which players don’t craft the characters, we just control them.

READ the article