On Black Friday, the incongruously named day-after-Thanksgiving I rang up Amazon.com and joined the middle class. Yes, I plunked down $1999 for a Samsung LNT4671F. (I know, I’ve railed against idiotic naming conventions for consumer products in the past). It’s a 46″ LCD TV, 1080p, 120 Hz, HMDI 1.3 with built-in spicto-blango-color-correcting-carousel blah blah blah. Suffice it to say it was the top-of-the-line product from Samsung when it first came on the market in October (which of course makes it now hopelessly obsolete by the standards of the consumer electronics industry. It’s the second-highest rated TV in Consumer Reports after the Sony XBR4, but my wife Vicki didn’t approve of the floating glass bezel around that one so we settled for a (very close) second-best.
My birthday is in four days!
Normally that statement would be grounds for a demerit since it might be seen as a blatant plea for gifts. But really it’s just a friendly reminder to my 3.42 billion fans that I have a HUGE Wish List available for perusing on Earth’s Largest Store. OK, no it’s really just an opportunity to give mad props to my newest infatuation, which IMHO deserves a sniglet of its own, something that combines wistful longing with online shopping. (We have a “Comments” section folks so try your own hand!)
Today’s missive will be necessarily brief as I am simultaneously running an international conference, an exhibition, a concert, and a reception this evening at USC. As I was standing in the shower thinking last night about what to write, I remembered how my dear aunt Kathy sent me an email a few weeks ago that promised, get this, that if I used a new beta version of a Microsoft-AOL email program, Bill Gates would pay me a nice little chunk o’ money. XANADU! Where do I sign up?
I am not normally associated with the tin-foil hat crowd but something has been cropping up with regularity in the news that has been keeping me up all night lately, which then makes me tardy with all sorts of assignments. I am talking about “Peak Oil,” the doomsday scenario that nearly everyone seems to agree we are rapidly approaching or may even be in the throes of already.
Considering this site has a decidedly technophile bent, it may strike some (well, not Kassia) as odd that I am so preternaturally focused on the oh-so-very-old-school world of books. Perhaps it’s because I have spent my entire adult life working in libraries (full disclosure: I am not a librarian, thank goodness).
So this week I attended my first rare book club meeting, where sad to say, the median age of the other attendees was “dead.” I think a few permanently left our golden orb somewhere between the departure of the salad and the arrival of the soup at the French restaurant near downtown Los Angeles where the thirty-five odd (and I mean “odd”) people gathered.
Not to get all ageist on my gentle readers, but this is a preface to saying that being thirtysomething, I look around and see my fellow Gen-Xers just don’t seem to be all that interested in collecting fascinating, if musty, tomes anymore. It used to be great sport back in the day to have succesfully collected, for instance, every volume of the sacred Zamorano 80 books on Californiana (no, that’s not a misspelling). You were lifted to the ranks of bibliophilic Valhalla, feted by your brethren-in-arms every bit as much as Audie Murphy in a New York ticket tape parade.
It’s probably no secret that many of us ‘Lopers are ex-denizens of the great Central Valley of California. We all fled the land of raisins, heat, and smog for a variety of reasons (for me it was the educational opportunity at a UC school). However, there remain behind some last bastions of civilization who continue to ply their craft, whatever it may be. I have many friends and family members who continue to fight the good fight against the forces of ignorance and darkness that litter the valley floor like so much white trash.
One person in particular who seems like a lonely voice in the wilderness is the self-styled War Nerd, Gary Brecher. He is hands-down Fresno’s, and good lord, maybe the country’s, foremost authority on the history and art of war, considering he spends (by his accounting) upwards of eight hours per day researching the subject. But Brecher is more than just a pimply-faced geek who fantasizes about slaying hordes of orcs and trolls in his next Dungeons & Dragons campaign. He is a writer of uncommon capability who says things about the nature of war that we all want to avoid but secretly agree with. It’s a nasty business and even though the winners get to rewrite history into a simplistic good vs. bad metaphor, the truth is far more nuanced. The 115 columns Brecher has penned for a Moscow-based online journal called “The Exile” contain the kind of poetic verbal acrobatics that would bring tears to Lao-Tzu’s eyes.
As an inveterate booklover who was spent his entire professional career working in libraries, I have come to enjoy the glory of the “Annotated Edition.”
I am talking about those editions of books that are for the true completist who wants to rapturously revel in every last detail concerning the book they love. You know the type (and you may even be one), the kind of person who involuntarily shudders at the sight of anything that says “abridged.” The filmic corollorary would of course be the type of person who does not purchase a movie unless it is the “Super Special Limited Ãœber-Collectors Edition Multi-Disc DVD.” Needless to say, I am confident there is a level of hell dedicated solely to Reader’s Digest and its sad-sack readers who have kept it alive for so many decades.
So I am currently reading “The Annotated Hobbit.”
Today is Christmas Eve. No, really it is.
While the unwashed hordes have descended on Las Vegas the past few days for the annual Consumer Electronics Show to hear Bill Gates talk for the umpteenth (and hopefully, last?) time about how Windows and its Media Player 12 or 13 will be the key to the wired home of the future, most of the civilized world has been waiting in anticipation for the real deal. Yes, MacWorld begins tomorrow, and at 9:00 a.m., Grand Master of Flash Steve Jobs will unveil the bounties that have been cooked up in the golden labs of Cupertino for the past year. I, for one, am on pins and needles to see what is going to be revealed even though microbes clinging to volcanic cones at the bottom of the Marianas Trench already know that some kind of iPhone will be demonstrated–and of course, I am not talking about the lame-ass trick Cisco pulled last week.
For my inaugural ‘Loper report, which I’ve delayed almost as long as Vista, I thought I should tee off on something that really gets my goat. And that is: how companies come up with their positively idiotic names for products. You know what I’m talking about. Those names that sound like they were picked from an eye chart at random.