Monday, August 29, 2011

Save the Books!

What are we becoming? If you have followed this blog at all, you probably know that I am not a fan of eBooks in any way shape or form, and that I believe that most (Yes, I said most, meaning not everyone, Mei Mei) readers of ebooks are transient literary voyeurs. Well… you can scan into the archives and read my ebook rants. So it is with much dismay that I pronounce the final nail in my coffin for ebook readers.
Booktracks. (
According to their website:

“Booktrack represents a new chapter in the evolution of storytelling, and an industry "first" in publishing, by creating synchronized soundtracks for e-books that dramatically boost the reader's imagination and engagement. The company's proprietary technology combines music, sound effects and ambient sound, automatically paced to an individual's reading speed.”

That, in my never to be humble opinion, is the biggest pile of bull excrement I have ever read… and I’ve read some whoppers in my time.
Let us examine the phrase “boost the reader’s imagination.” Hummmmm… Ya... How? By taking the imagination of the reader away? When I read a book in which the author describes, say, the lapping of the waves against a boat’s hull, I have to access a part of my memory (sometimes referred to as the schema) in which I’ve stored all of the lapping waves sounds, and I use those sounds in my imagination to flesh out the scene. Therefore, the scene that I create in my mind is going to be vastly different than that of any other reader in the world. It’s different, even, than the scene visualized by the author when he (or she) wrote it. THAT, my friends, is using imagination. What Booktracks proposes to do is insert their own soundtrack to books, stunting the imagination of the reader.

Where does it end? Pictures? Video Clips? Isn’t that just TV?

If you have not ever read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury shame on you! Now go out and buy a copy. Don’t borrow it from the library because you’re going to want to write comments in the margins. My copy is so annotated, that I can hardly read it anymore. Anyway, there's a part toward the middle of the book where the Fire Captain, Beatty, is explaining to Guy Montag how they got to where books were outlawed. The funny thing is, what the Captian describes is exactly where we’re headed. Read it and you’ll understand.

I don’t know what can be done about this. I’m concerned for the future. We’re already seeing a degradation of imagination, writing ability, and reading comprehension. I can’t tell you how often I get comments to my blog posts that are written in some kind of “textese,” which most of the time are so unreadable that I can’t post them to the comments area.

Kids don’t read, and so have no idea how to organize thoughts into coherent writing.

Can I blame this all on the nook? Obviously, no I can’t. But television, movies, video games, iPods, smartphones, all those distractions that quite literally suck the intelligence and imagination right out of your head, I can lay a little blame there. And now the distractors are going after books, by making them more interactive they are stealing the ability of readers to read and interpret a book according to their own set of experiences. Soon book clubs around the world will have nothing to discuss, because the book will be presented to them in a neat little package of sounds and colors, where all loose ends and plot twists are explained away rather than left to the reader’s imagination to fill in.

I don’t know about you, but I will continue to buy and collect books. The kind made from paper and ink. The kind that smell wonderful and that have bindings that crackle when opened. The kind that cannot be edited at the push of an unseen button, and the kind that will not have sound effects unsupplied by my mind.
An eBook reader of any kind will never be allowed to cross my threshold, and my home will be joyous in books until the day that the Firemen come to burn it all down.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Costumed Freaks!

In the past few months, I’ve joined a group of… well… self-proclaimed costumed freaks. The Society for Creative Anachronism is an “international organization dedicated to researching and recreating pre-17th century European history” (to quote the web site), but I’ve found it to be much more than that. It’s a group of people with very different interests, faiths, beliefs, skills, ages… we’re not just a bunch of geeks. There are, who I refer to as, the beautiful people mingling with the nerds… and everyone is good with that. Kids learn about what chivalry means, not just through reading about it, but by living it.
I know, were only using the romanticized version of history… true. I mean, my persona would have lived through the Black Death… and that’s ok.
Here’s what I think is neat. My heritage is mostly Celtic. I have ancestors who came from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England. A major weapon in the 13th and 14th centuries was the Welsh Longbow (sometimes called the English Longbow) and so, for some time, I’ve wanted to learn to shoot one. When my daughter expressed an interest in doing the same, I took the opportunity to find a group who could teach us. It just so happened to be the SCA.
Three weeks ago at Baron’s War, I was awarded my Ranger Tassel in Period Long Bow, which basically means that I’ve been able to score an average of 60 and above in a shoot we call the “Royal Rounds.” I’d say not bad for a guy who’s only been shooting since January. I was awarded my rank by His Royal Majesty King Morgan and Her Royal Majesty Queen Esabell of Artemisia, which, I must say… was surreal… in a good way.
I mean… how many people on this planet can say that they have taken a knee before a King and Queen who earned their titles through feats of arms, to be awarded a rank earned through skill and competition? Not many I’d say.
All of this doesn’t stop my younger sister from thinking that we’re “just weird.” Nor does it stop my younger brother from wondering why we can’t use “sites on our bows.” I don’t know, maybe I’m the normal one and everyone else is on the fringes. I can only dream.

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