Monthly Archives: November 2009

Unseen Academicals

I can’t get into Terry Pratchett’s latest. I have dipped into the Discworld series now and again and have always enjoyed the books I’ve read. In Unseen, his writing is as witty as always, but there is something about this one that doesn’t quite do it for me. Maybe it’s trying to be too clever, or perhaps it is just me. The few I have read have been unputdownable, but I fear I may not finish this one. It can’t be because the subject of the tale is football – not exactly my favourite game – because this is Pratchett, so it isn’t, not really. Well, it is, in a way…

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Creativity vs. Logic

‘I’ve drawn a picture of you,’ said the three year old. ‘That bit is your wiggly tail.’ I looked at the paper. I did indeed have a wiggly tail. ‘Dogs and cats have tails,’ I said. ‘I haven’t got one.’ ‘You have in my picture.’ ‘That isn’t right. What if I drew a picture of you with wheels?’ ‘I haven’t got wheels, I’ve got legs.‘ ‘And I haven’t got a wiggly tail.’ ‘You have in my picture.’ I did a quick sketch, a head with a body and beneath it, two wheels. ‘There you go,’ I said. ‘That’s you.’ He looked at it,delighted. ‘I’ve got roller skates!‘ ‘They’re not roller scates, they’re wheels.’ ‘I haven’t got wheels.’ ‘You have in my picture.’ Logic had triumphed. I suggested we both drew each other again, this time properly. I drew one of him with legs, and he drew one of me. His had a squiggle coming off what looked like my head. ‘What’s that?’ I asked, pointing at it. I knew what the answer would be. ‘That’s your wiggly tail…’

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Dickens, Charles; censorship and other stuff

My blog has now been going for three weeks. In that time I have had nearly 200 visits, though 45 of them are my own – because WordPress counts even me. I suppose I could sit here logging off and on, taking a Walter Mitty view of the world by fooling myself people are interested in what I write. I suppose an average of 50 visits a week from complete strangers isn’t that bad. No, I won’t write for myself – honest – so keep logging in. And, if you like it, spread the word. Tell your Gran.
I love writing. I have written a lot over the years. Some of my early stuff was dire – or as they say up here, complete sh*te. Well, probably not that bad, as some things I wrote years ago now look so good to me I can hardly believe that I wrote them. I need an agent or publisher, I really do. I won’t consider vanity or on-demand publishing. I would rather give my work away.
Talking of asterisks… I visited a readers’ forum early this morning. On one single page of entries their censoring system produced the following: Es***; ****ysis; and ****ens. If you are puzzled, as I was, the first is an English county. The second is what you do when you examine things closely. The third is a rather well-known Victorian writer. Think Oliver Twist. I logged out, convinced the site was a complete load of b*ll*cks.

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Harry Worth, not Harry Hall

My brother tells me that it was Harry Worth, not Harry Hall. He is right, of course. Sorry, Harrys. However much I try, it isn’t possible to be right all the time.

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Sony ebook reader

I have been looking again. I really DO want one of those Sony ebook readers. My birthday is in November, two weeks away. The reader isn’t cheap, so there is no point adding it to my Amazon wishlist. Perhaps I shall ask Santa if he will agree to one of those combined birthday / Christmas presents that people like me, with close-to-Christmas birthdays, can justifiably demand. Demand…? Request, is what I meant. I rather like the Sony PRS600R ebook Reader. It has lots of functions. Rather like the Psion Organiser. Sorry, I promise I won’t mention that again, it is old technology now, but it was really, really good. Honest.

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Glasgow Science Park

I went to Glasgow Science Park a few weeks ago. On an upper floor was a mirror the size of a shop window (Argos rather than Harrods). The idea was that you, if you were stupid enough, stood at one end of it and did that thing of raising an arm and leg so that you appeared, to anyone looking in the mirror, to be leaping in the air, spreadeagled. All the surrounding exhibits were populated (is that the right expression?), but not the big mirror. My grandaughter wanted to know why the mirror was there, so I tried to explain. Explaining was insufficient. Do you remember comedian Harry Hall on TV? He stood at the end of a shop window and did just that, raising an arm and a leg. The designers of the Science Park must have remembered it. And it was funny, sort of, as was my demo (solely for my granddaughter, you understand). Surrounding adults laughed, perhaps from embarassment. My granddaughter loved it, which hopefully justified the blushes.

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ebooks and Things Digital

I played with a Sony ebook reader in John Lewis last week. I love gadgets and I am no stranger to technology – I once had a Psion Organiser (remember those?) and a mobile phone the size and weight of a small house brick and which only worked in London. But I also love books, and the thought of curling up on a sofa and reading a small glowing screen does not appeal to me. But what about those times when I’m not curled up, times when I am on a bus, a train or a plane and I want to read a novel but don’t want to carry a book? I hogged the Sony reader in JL for about 30 minutes, like boys on an x-box. It impressed me. I liked it. I thought about my collection of vinyl years ago, how I’d thrown them out to make way for the new CDs. Then my treasured Canon A1 camera, shoved aside when digital image technology became good enough, and affordable enough, to be used in cameras. So why not ebooks?
Why not, indeed. I was never really sure who Santayana was (I have just Googled him, so now I know) but I do know that saying of his, that ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ Vinyl to CD? Kodachrome to digital?
So, printed book to ebook…? Yes, surely, but probably not completely. For most people, iPods haven’t ousted CDs, each has its uses. There is ceremony here, the satisfaction of browsing through a collection, taking a CD and inserting it into the player. We get similar satisfaction from browsing through books on a bookseller’s shelves. We don’t just go because we want to by a book, we also go for the feelings. Personally, if the bookshop hasn’t got coffee then I won’t bother, I will buy online. Take note, booksellers!
The printed book has a way to go yet, though I am convinced that one day we will no longer be able to browse through novels in a bookstore, we will browse online instead, downloading the first page or so of a novel and then a couple of pages at random to see if we like what we are about to buy.
When will this happen?
Quite suddenly.

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