Dec 172014
 

Shovel Ready (Spademan, #1)Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really liked this book. It’s an excellent example of dystopian noir! New York is all messed up due to a dirty bomb in Times Square. Dystopian setting – check! The protagonist, Spademan, is messed up due to a number of things – he’s a hit man with rules, and a conscience.

The writing! Sternbergh makes Hemingway look verbose! Sometimes I felt I was reading lists – but the lists evoked a setting or an action with such intensity. I thought this would be a quick read. It’s not a really long book. I don’t know the word count, but it can’t be much given the sparse style. It wasn’t a quick read. I don’t know why, but I took my time with this book. Perhaps I didn’t feel the need to rush through long, boring paragraphs of narrative – the sparse writing made me slow down and bask in the intensity.

Definitely VoiceOfDoomAndGloom approved!



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Dec 122014
 

I started Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and around page 110 or so I decided life was too short. It was an awful book – that won a Pulitzer. However, it appears I was not alone; ebook companies can tell how far people get in their books when they give up!

“The onset of digital reading means that Kobo – and other ebook retailers – are able to tell more than ever before about how readers engage with books: which they leave unopened, which they read to the end, and how quickly they finish. … Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch put down prematurely by 55% of ebook readers, with self-published star Casey Kelleher holding most attention…”

Read the full article in the Guardian.

Dec 072014
 

Digital Vertigo: How Today's Online Social Revolution Is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting UsDigital Vertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution Is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us by Andrew Keen

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Keen rambles quite a bit. I do agree with his conclusion though. I agree that the social media sites tend to separate us, highlighting our extremes and differences more than our commonality. I believe much of that is done to accumulate responses (likes, comments…) perhaps more than actually reflecting what we truly believe if we were to slow down and think before posting or commenting. But, part of the Web 3.0 thing seems to be speed too – being the first to throw your opinion out there seems important.

Page 168 offers up an important observation:

“We, the producers of data on the free network, are its product rather than its friend or partner. In the Web 3.0 age, therefore, consumers should not only carefully read their social network’s Terms of Service (TOS) … but also to recognize that Facebook, Twitter, Google, Zynga, Groupon, Apple, Skype and the other corporate pioneers of @quixotic’s personal data revolution are all multi-billion dollar for-profit companies, no better and no worse than for-profit banks or oil or pharmaceutical companies.”




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Dec 052014
 

Here is an interesting article about cultural attitudes held by journalists, about journalism. One that probably needs to be examined, and retired, is the concept that journalists just report the facts in an unbiased manner. It’s never been true and now it’s even less the case. “Fair and Balanced”? I do not think so – and we should just acknowledge that, demand or seek out an understanding of the journalist’s bias and move on from there. Read the complete article…

Dec 022014
 

First the good news: A new report is predicting that robots and artificial intelligence will dominate most legal practices within 15 years, leading to the “structural collapse” of law firms.

Now the bad news (which I’ve been telling you for years):

“We are now entering the beginning of an era in which technology has started to destroy employment faster than it creates it,” he told io9. “The advance of information technology, artificial intelligence and robotics will eventually reduce the demand for all forms of human labor, including those dependent on ‘human skills’ like empathy and creativity.”

  • Driverless cars are improving rapidly, and it is easy to understand that they will begin to eliminate all the jobs held by truck drivers, taxi drivers, etc. That is a million or more jobs that will be lost.
  • Tablets and kiosks in restaurants will be eliminating many of the jobs currently held by waiters and waitresses. (Already happening at my local Chili’s!)
  • There are currently 3.7 million full-time K-12 teachers in the United States. Yet there is a host of new tools, including MOOCs, apps, computer-aided instruction, etc. that will start eliminating teaching positions in the near future. The pressure to reduce the cost of public education is relentless, and so is the advancement in the technology.
  • Combine those trends with similar trends in factories, the construction industry, retail, etc.

Read the whole article…

Nov 282014
 

The English MajorThe English Major by Jim Harrison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I should not have liked this book. I like noir: tightly plotted action, short staccato rhythms. This book meandered. This book has long, lyrical sentences. Harrison could stand to use a comma once in a while. But, I got past the style issues. Once I got in sync with his rhythm, I really liked this book. In fact, I had a difficult time putting it down. It is a good story. It spoke to me, perhaps because I’m close in age (and maybe close in other ways too) to the protagonist. I recommend it. This book is definitely worth reading.



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Nov 222014
 

The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant ConnectionThe End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book spoke to me because I struggle with the same issues as the author. I too have a harder time concentrating and have a fear of being left out of the “conversation” and therefore check Facebook and Email far too often.

His starting point is that those of us born before the early 80s are probably the last generations to know what life was like before being always connected to the internet (in the developed world anyway). The change is happening so fast and we are now living it. What are we losing? What many of us born before the 80s sense: the desire for solitude, to be left alone, un-stimulated, to dive into a good book and stay there, to fully focus on one activity for a substantial length of time, and to be fully present with one another without the constant interruption and pull of our digital devices.

The book lacks the big epiphany I was hoping for, but the prescription is that we all have to make the choice to disconnect at times and that we should not allow our technology to control us. Easy to say; harder to do.

Worth reading.



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Nov 182014
 

DSCN0419My friend John Arends gave me a tote bag. He got it from an event he attended in Las Vegas. Whenever I get into a discussion with writer friends over self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, ebooks vs. dead-tree books, or any of the multitude of marketing approaches, I glance at this bag. It reminds me that none of that matters until I have a story worth telling and told well. (And if you’re wondering: I do not at this time.)

 Posted by at 10:44 am