Category Archives: book pile

no writing. reading only.

One of the nervous moments people experience is the thought of their parents – you know – doing it. Not doing it, doing IT. Somehow the thought of our grandparents doing it isn’t so bad, and great grandparents – well, no one thinks about it. The ‘it’ I’m writing about is keeping a blog – a journal – a diary. What if we found our parents had kept a diary – oh horrors – what would it contain? And meanwhile we write like creatures possessed and think this online stuff is all new and exciting. We are the first generation to share our intimate (sometimes TOO intimate) thoughts with the rest of the globe. You know who you are.

My life, it seems, lately, has involved no writing here. I’ve been writing elsewhere, and now, slutty reader that I am, reading elsewhere too. Honestly, no shame, I’ll read anything. It’s not as though I’m addicted, I could give up at any time. I’ve found this new haibun/haiku writer – can you guess who is the author?

Drizzly.
  Dense mist in evening.
Yellow moon.

Hey, good for you – I would never have guessed George Orwell. Yes, that George Orwell. George has started to publish his diaries online. And the haibun/haiku is from August 10, 1938. Makes me think George would’ve been a first class writer using Twitter.

There’s something addictive to reading George’s writing – he’s as attracted to (or at least documents) the banal and mundane as the rest of us – he would’ve been a blogger or tweeter or whatever as much as anyone else these days, except, of course, it’s 70 years ago. Startling. Addictive. And when he’s got his writing going on, baby, it’s going on.

Open Library

A kind of ‘Open Sesame’ to the Aladdin’s Cave of published books. The way humans are going on we’re soon going to have to open another planet next door just to store the books. Open Library is an ideal option for the LibraryThing you have going on. Oh. You don’t have LibraryThing. You do have books? Oh, you don’t have books…

From the Open Library project:

One web page for every book ever published. It’s a lofty, but achievable, goal.

To build it, we need hundreds of millions of book records, a brand new database infrastructure for handling huge amounts of dynamic information, a wiki interface, multi-language support, and people who are willing to contribute their time, effort, and book data.

To date, we have gathered about 30 million records (13.4 million are available through the site now), and more are on the way. We have built the database infrastructure and the wiki interface, and you can search millions of book records, narrow results by facet, and search across the full text of 230,000 scanned books.

Open Library is a project of the non-profit Internet Archive, and is funded in part by a grant from the California State Library. We have a small team of fantastic programmers who have accomplished a lot, but we can’t do it alone! This is an Open project – the software is open, the data is open, the documentation is open, and the site is open.

They also have an ever expanding selection of scanned/full text books (free download or read online), so you can avoid those nasty overdue fines…

Call of the Wild

I’ll start with a quick revisit of the criteria for my year of reading dangerously (myord). First, in order to acknowledge the future of the book, it must be available online – as a download, whatever. Second, the book must be one I haven’t read. Third, in order to be dangerous, the book must have been banned at some stage, somewhere. Fourth, I’ll write a review of the book with the url so you can go mad with your year of reading dangerously too.

I chose Call of the Wild (Jack London, 1903) as my dangerous book for March. Free download from Project Gutenberg, or, why read when you can listen to it from LibriVox?

A quick synopsis: Big lapdog becomes a sledge dog in Alaskan gold rush. Discovers if you’re not the lead dog the view’s always the same. Meets nice guy who meets nasty end. Men!?! Who needs ’em? Dances with wolves, and becomes leader of the pack.

A tale about a dog, and it’s banned? Yes, according to the Online Books Page (Banned Books Online), banned in Italy (1929), Yugoslavia (1929), and burned in Nazi bonfires (1932). Apparently the rationale for the Yugoslavians was that the book was ‘too radical’. It’s kind of hard to imagine that ‘Call of the Wild’ represented such a deep threat to society that it was banned, with all the logistical issues that banning would entail … perhaps it was less about the book, per se, and more about London’s pro-socialist leanings.

Anyone who has spent any time with a dog would probably know that deep inside their beloved Poochie, the whispers of the wolf, (albeit little more than echoes on the wind) still stir. Watch a dog sleeping – they twitch and lurch and run and hunt – wild and free in their dreams and the call of the wild. London built on that familiar knowledge and presented a story that’s readable and enjoyable on the first level – indeed, it was originally written as a serial for The Saturday Evening Post magazine in early 1903, before elaboration into a full novel, published later in the year.

I took a slightly different message from the book, perhaps the kind of message that would lead towards banning. I was reminded of Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra (available at Project Gutenberg) – the person needing to vault over themselves to become übermensch, the new person that was better, more human than before. Nietzsche’s perspective was man not needing god, to become a god. In Call of the Wild, Buck, the dog, is initially torn away from his lapdog existence and becomes a successful sledge dog. He’s torn from that world over a series of events, and eventually becomes leader of a wolf pack – the alpha male – in what is most rightfully his own world – that of wolves. Dogs descended from wolves, having been tamed, domesticated, and selectively bred – effectively created by gods – humanity. By becoming himself – in his true nature – his authentic self, and in the process, overcoming and literally throwing off the shackles of his past, for Buck, god was dead.

I was interested to learn that London himself wouldn’t have had a bar of my postmodernist interpretations. According to wikipedia,

Jack London dedicated both his novels The Sea-Wolf and Martin Eden to criticizing Nietzsche’s concept of the Übermensch and his radical individualism, which London considered to be selfish and egoistic.

My, don’t I feel foolish? Despite this, I’m still inclined to believe it’s not possible, and not desirable, to take all of the wolf out of the dog. To do so, in some sort of reductionist refinement, would mean to be left with a creature neither dog nor wolf, and something completely without need of God. And it is possibly this that was the concern to the Italians, Yugoslavians, and Nazi Germans. Their respective societies were, in the 1920-1930s, thoroughly bound by the shackles of the State, and the last thing that the leaders would’ve wanted was the people finding their authentic selves. Clearly Call of the Wild was, and remains, a very dangerous book. You’ll love it.

over there, over there

Poster of the American Association of Libraries for Supplying Books to the Troops on Service - buy it now at allposters.comRegular readers (you know who you are) might’ve become bored with the selection of books on show from the AkoNet library (see over there, in the sidebar). Be bored no more, I’ve started to add more to the selection courtesy of LibraryThing. If you haven’t got yourself a LibraryThing account yet, well, that’s ok if you don’t have a book. If you do have a book, well, keep up! Accounts are free or $20 – cheap as Alfred E. Newman would say, and he’d know.

I’ve been adding books for over a year now – not in any mad rush, but I was surprised tonight to note that we’d clipped the ticket in order of 700+ books. I suddenly had a realisation that if we needed to make an insurance claim a nice documented list on LibraryThing would be a good thing from a replacement/valuation perspective. And then, of course, there is the slightly mad joy of seeing a booking the sidebar, thinking, “Hey cool”, and then knowing full well the chances of me being able find that book is probably one notch above zero. I think I need some military strength filing system, instead of our current ‘cheerful profusion’ model (as I cause rack and ruin amongst the order)…

busted!

Oh, the power of the net/googbots. I get home from work, and find this email in my inbox:

Dear Lynsey,

In the spirit of living dangerously, I invite you to take the “Banned Book Challenge.” The Pelham Public Library in Fonthill, Ontario, Canada is once again challenging people to set a goal of their own choosing to read books that have been banned or challenged. The challenge runs from Feb. 24 (Freedom to Read Week in Canada) to June 30.

Sign up here: http://pelhamlibrary.blogspot.com/2008/01/banned-book-challenge.html and read the rest of the blog to explore these issues with us.

Elaine

My first thought? Horrors! Busted! Have I ever borrowed books from the Pelham Public Library in Fonthill, Ontario? And applied my usual, ‘non-return’ policy? Quick check. No, apparently not (yet). Phew. Ok. Let’s go have a look. Oh, before you do, if you’re a Wellywood local (and who doesn’t want to be, be serious now) you can grab the kids and head off to the city libraries for Out of Reach: the forbidden bookshelf and explore some banned kids books. Banned kids books? What on earth can be so utterly scary that kids books have to be banned? I think I need to find out, however, in my opinion, some the selection is fairly genteel – Harry Potter (obvious – made the author filthy, obscenely rich), and His Dark Materials (again, obvious, apparently hideously deformed movie version). Otherwise, why aren’t the Babar the Elephant books there? All those naked elephants and French colonial attitudes – what are they teaching our young’uns, Jack Zipes, what?

my year of reading dangerously

Recently at work we were discussing whether we were ‘explorer’ type kids or the ‘sit back and watch’ type of kid. I figure I took a bit of a fusion approach – my parents were very sure we/I wasn’t going to get up to no good by damaging someone else’s property, however that didn’t stop me looking, wondering, and exploring. ‘Oh’, said one of my colleagues, of a less adventurous peer, ‘You would never have discovered Narnia then, would you?’

And I smiled to myself and thought, ‘No, I wouldn’t have discovered Narnia. But I did discover the Screwtape Letters at age 12.’

I never had much time for censorship as a kid. I wanted to see the movies that had a glistening R(restricted)16 rating. They were the cool ones, the interesting ones. I was self censoring – I wouldn’t have gone to see the horror or violent movies, but there were plenty I did want to see, and wangled my way in to see. R16, by the way, meant you had to be 16 (or older) in order to get in. Any younger you would become a perverted drug addict ax murderer satanist. Or something. Woodstock – a documentary about a hippie rock festival. R16. Snuck in. Even the posters promoting the movie were censored – I can remember there was a photo of verdant farmland, the caption was blackened out. The caption? ‘Grass’. Wow. Dangerous stuff. Easy Rider. R16. Spare me days. Again, it was the drug scenes that led to the restricted rating. The night I chose to go – a midweek as it happened – the deputy principal of my high school was there. An interesting conversation took place next day… Straw Dogs – R18 – violence. I was a bit older by then, but I was drawn into the story – Dustin Hoffman from memory. And after I’d read the book, I loved the movie version of Clockwork Orange – again, R18. Note, unlike today, you weren’t seen to be an adult until you were 21.

I made a decision at high school, based on my learning, experience, and the lack of teaching guidance to the contrary, that I would read, I would get any book I wanted from the library, and I wouldn’t feel bad or put down for wanting to read it. So I got out little kids books, and adult books and scary books and boring books and books I simply judged by the cover. Some were good, some were shite – but the key thing was, I would not back away from getting those books up to the issue desk, getting the book stamped, and getting out of there to see what secrets they held.

According to if:book – from the Institute for the Future of the Book, 2008 is the National Year of Reading in the UK. I was interested that Chris Meade observed the internet was taking a bit of a back seat in the process.

I’ve spent the last few months working on reducing my book collection. There are still more than a few books I want to read. I decided I would spend this year reading a dozen or so books. I asked my colleagues what they thought I should read. I’ve taken their suggestions and applied a few of other filters. Here then, are the rules of the game:

First, in order to acknowledge the future of the book, it must be available online – as a download, whatever.
Second, the book must be one I haven’t read.
Third, in order to be dangerous, the book must have been banned at some stage, somewhere.
Fourth, I’ll write a review of the book with the url so you can go mad with your year of reading dangerously too.

Warning – if you become a perverted drug addict ax murderer creative intelligence kind of person – well, that’s what happens when you stay home reading ‘those’ kinds of books.

Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow

Over on the Practice of Leadership, there’s been some discussion about Marsha Sinetar’s book, ‘Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow — Discovering Your Right Livelihood’. There’s no indication in the book that doing what you love will somehow guarantee you will become a millionaire. There’s no ‘and‘ in the title. That’s important. From page 5:

I write of this so that, at the outset, no one thinks I am suggesting that material rewards immediately flow out of the leap-of-faith which is made to do one’s right livelihood. The reason that this book’s title contains the phrase, ‘The Money Will Follow,’ is precisely because we must do the work first, invest of ourselves first, seed faithfully in the small, steady, incremental ways of our chosen work first, and then – as a harvest of abundant crops naturally follows the seeding, watering and constant caring process, of seeds – the fruits of our efforts result.

While the people I describe in the pages are working away at their chosen vocations, simultaneously as human beings. And this is the beauty of right livelihood.

I’ve done many different job roles in my life. All were interesting in their own way. Some I loved. It’s been frustrating when the ones I loved didn’t deliver the financial rewards as well as the other rewards they provided. Looking back at them I can see I was still learning the roles. I thought I had the role down, but in reality there was a lot more to learn to achieve true mastery. Had I learned and worked enough to have been in the top 5% of that field the money would’ve been there too. Patience. Diligence. Faith. They sound so old-fashioned. So un-web-2.

My first business mentor gave me some advice, ‘Keep working kid, you’ll be an overnight sensation after about 11 years of intensive effort.’ I’d just grit my teeth, roll up my sleeves, and work on where the next dollar was coming from. I can see now that was actually good advice. In these days of instant ‘whatever’ it’s easy to believe that just because you think you deserve it, it’s somehow your right to be rich. It is your right to discover your right livelihood. You spend time working on becoming enriched, the money will follow.

Money, by the way, is not the same as *millionaire*. Many people are working in roles they love, but they are not ever going to become millionaires. Nursing, teaching, gardening, the creative arts, and many, many more roles – in fact, heads up, people; only a minute number of employees ever become millionaires, government employees are even less likely to achieve that from their role. But that doesn’t stop them from succeeding in every measure, including any financial measure. History is replete with stories of fame and fortune – and failure. Fame and fortune seem to have a way of conspiring to create failure, usually in people who aren’t rich (and I’m not talking money here) in the first instance.

One of the things I would love to achieve is to become financially rich while doing something I love. One of my objectives for this year is to spend time working on mastering more of the things I love to do. I intend entering into a personal enrichment programme. Come back later and I’ll let you know how the money sides of things is working out. I may be some time…

the gift of fear

View The Gift of Fear details at AmazonI’ve been writing here recently about the vampires in the workplace – the workplace bullies that wreck havoc with the lives of individuals and their whanau, and in the process negatively affect the image and profitability of a business. Even if your business is a ‘not-for-profit’ there are few enterprises that run without money – if that money comes from the government rather than from sales it doesn’t really make that much difference – a good, robust public image – a positive reputation never goes astray.

I’ve written previously that the issue is lax HR processes invites the vampires in – the standard questions at interview time coupled with a strong self image serve to cloak the vampire; in particular when the kinds of attributes a vampire has are also the kind of attributes often seen as desirable in sales and management fields. In Gavin De Becker’s ‘The Gift of Fear’ he includes a number of questions that help reveal potential employee’s negative attitudes, and may help shine a light on vampires as well. De Becker specialises in personal security – when Beatle George Harrison was stabbed by a stalker it was ‘family friend’ Gavin De Becker who made the public statements. The copy of ‘The Gift of Fear’ I read (available from many libraries) said on the cover something to the effect of ‘Once you pick this book up you won’t put it down until you’ve read the whole book’. I thought, ‘yeah, right’, but a few hours later I had to agree.

Ok, so the kinds of questions. Typically the vampire has a really strong sense of their own worth, and it’s worth asking a few questions that probe just a notch further. The following are some of the questions – the interpretation of the answers is outlined in the book.

Describe the best boss you ever had.
Describe the worst boss you ever had.
Tell me about a failure in your life and tell me why it occurred.
What are some of the things your last employer could have done to be more successful?
Did you ever tell your previous employer any of your thoughts on ways they could improve?
What are some of the things your last employer could have done to keep you?
How do you go about solving problems at work?
Describe a problem you had in your life where someone else’s help was very important to you.
Who is your best friend and how would you describe your friendship?

De Becker states the goal is to disqualify poor applicants rather than to qualify good applicants. Those who are good will qualify themselves.

So what if the interview takes more than an hour. Or you have to have more than one. Interview on a weekend when you’re down to the last two. You’re going to spend 40 hours a week for the next 10 – 20 years with this person, why not spend a few extra minutes making sure this is someone everyone can get along with, PLUS will be acting safely with their colleagues and the business itself. Once you’ve got a vampire or two getting rid of them isn’t that easy. Take care, be safe.

seventh son – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I finally finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) this evening. It was good, way good. A vast improvement in writing and editing over the drudgery of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5). I can see this book will be the movie to end movies – it really seems just begging for the matinée crowd who’ll just lap up yaying the goodies, booing the baddies (and those eeuuw kissy kissy scenes). An action packed romp that left me, for once, wanting more.

I realised later that J.K. Rowling is one of the few fiction authors I’ve read more than five of their books – she joins a select group that includes (in no particular order) Alexander Mccall Smith, Joanne Harris, Douglas Adams, H.G. Wells, Ursula Le Guin, Richard Bach, Stephen R. Donaldson, Terry Pratchett, William Gibson, and John Wyndham. I guess that must make her one of my favorite authors, but I wouldn’t ever have said/thought that. And none of them New Zealand authors. Speaks volumes about me and about the state of publishing/writing here. Perhaps kiwis don’t write in the genres I like – they probably do, but, I’m not a big fiction reader at the best of times.

it’s ALIVE!

Maori Language Week is in the closing moments – it’s been a great event this year – it just keeps going from strength to strength. For readers outside of New Zealand it might seem a little strange to have a week dedicated to another language, but be assured, it’s part of the essential nature, the natural essence, of New Zealand. I think it’s just wonderful. Although I don’t speak Maori, I think that the fact that the language is not only alive, but is busy becoming a Google language option is a great thing.

One of the ways of dipping your toes in to explore Maori culture is though their stories, and you can do this online. Maori Legends for Young New Zealanders is an illustrated book, scanned and made available but the National Library of New Zealand. The book, by Katarina Mataira, contains 11 legends – and they’re just great to read and the illustrations by Clare Elizabeth Bowes are lovely as well. If you can’t find a kid to read these stories to, why not just read them to yourself.

I love the way the Children’s Library’s ‘Simple Search‘ works. In addition to the the usual search by subject or topic or author, the Children’s Library, very sensibly (and finally) sorts books by the colour of the cover. Yep, you can search by yellow. Or rainbow. At long last! I’m completely in love – what a perfect solution. Why aren’t all libraries sorted this way?