You want sharp? You want erudite? You want controversial? You want the Truth? Well, I've none of the first three tonight, and I'll NEVER have the Truth.
Disaster at Equity Court
Owing to an unfortunate incident involving one of my animal friends, Equity Court has lost all four stars as a "Friendly Hostelry" from Flying Mammal Review.
CNN ran one of their “Everyday-Hero-Feel-Good” vids today which showed people exercising good sense while in a stressful situation, which is a rare commodity. A high speed intersection MVA (public-service-speak for car wreck) in downtown DC left one car deformed with a small engine fire and 2 occupants inside and an SUV on its top with 3 entrapped occupants. The vid shows bystanders tearing a door off the car by hand (with enough guys, you can do that) and removing the people. Normally, I’d say don’t do that. Removing people carefully prevents further injury, sometimes injury worse than what the patient started with. The rescuers talked about fear of the car exploding, which is Hollywood-inspired nonsense. Without a detonator of some sort and a just-right explosive, cars just don’t explode. But they can burn, and inhaling the fumes/smoke from the plastics can be fatal, so removing the people was the wise thing to do. And the bystanders crawled into the SUV to physically support and calm the trapped people. Just when everyone seems like a self-involved moron, people get together and shine a little bit of human light.
Book Related Things:
A Review of Reviews:
My attraction to the net generally began with finding out how it could enhance the world of reading and access to books. I heard about this outfit, Amazon.com, and the “new” way that they were selling any book you could possibly want! I suppose that I would have to be classified among those in the upper 50% of people interested in books & reading, and even in writing. Over the years, my writing went from rambling legal briefs and rambling letters to rambling emails and rambling anonymous blogs to this rambling blog and to occasional book reviews. [I’m desultorily looking for a forum to begin publishing reviews on paper again.] When the spirit moves me (often a malevolent spirit), I’ll do a review on amazon.com just for the hell of it.
Generally, I’m not overwhelmed with the quality of reviews there, although that could be jealousy showing through over the 40,000 reviewers who are ranked “above” me. Something that bothers me is the academically unexpected distribution of review ratings. One would expect a bell curve, tending to the high or low side depending on the consensus of the quality of a book. At Amazon, though, the reviews are separated and high contrast - a reverse bell curve. Normally, the reviews in Amazon’s 5 Star system include lots of 5's, several 1's, and darn little in between. If we’re actually reviewing a book, that doesn’t make sense. Micheners aren’t thick on the ground, so 5's shouldn’t be universal. Most folks with the chutzpah to write a book can string something together with acceptable syntax and make some sort of point, so 1's shouldn’t show up a lot, either. Well, the Amazon reviewers aren’t reviewing the books, they usually answer the question, “Do I agree with the author’s conclusions?” Let me note right here that I’ve been guilty of that sin a lot, and a more responsible and logical system is relatively new to me. Live and learn, or you don’t live long.
So let me suggest a three step process for reviews:
Step One: What is the quality of the writing? Is it grammatical? Consistent? Does it maintain ones' interest?
Step Two: What is the quality of the information (if non-fiction) or story (if fiction)? [NOT "Do I like it?" That's next.] Is it researched and footnoted if appropriate? What is the quality of the reasoning and logic? Are the conclusions supported? Does the author discuss alternate possibilities? Does the author use appropriate examples? Does s/he avoid logical fallacies? In other words, is the author enough of a scholar to pen something worthwhile? [“Scholar” is not a bad or wimpy designation. George Patton was a classical scholar; Leonardo exercised his hands by bending horseshoes.]
Step Three: How do I personally react to the book as a whole, what is my gestalt impression? Do I agree with it? Even if I don't agree with it, does it make a significant contribution to the public discourse? (Note: I've positively reviewed books I don't agree with for precisely that last reason.) And to be sure, “Do I like it?/Do I dislike it?” inevitably creeps in.
Use this sort of system, and you will not be a “popular” reviewer, but I think a more honest one.
Yeah, of course we know how to store books. That’s why we go through them every 20 years and throw out 1/3 of the volumes because they are too damaged. The Library of Congress and Douglas Filler have published simple guidelines for safe and effective storage of paper books:
Store them in a stable, cool, clean, dry environment - Paper is an organic product. Warm and wet environments promote decay of organics and the growth of microorganisms. That’s a bad thing for a book.
Keep books out of direct sunlight. Sunlight fades inks and dyes.
Don’t force a book to lie flat. That’s always sounded contraintuitive to me, which is why hearing what the experts say is important, at least to me.
Don’t’ use rubber bands or string to tie up a book because they can cut into the pages and cover.
Never, never, never try to repair a book with conventional tape. [In fact, repairing them at all is an acquired skill.]
Don’t wrap books in plastic bags to preserve them; a cardboard box is better. (We’re back to dry environments there.)
Also a note from me, the dust jacket adds a lot to the value (and attractiveness) of a hardcover book. Transparent mylar can be cut to protect it well (but not from sunlight.)
Dull, dull, dull. That's me.