February, 2009

Feb 09

kindle 2 thoughts coming

got my new kindle 2 last night — played with it a little bit, but not enough to have really well-formed thoughts yet. will post this weekend, but a few initial thoughts:

  • device size & shape is decidedly less quirky than the original — thinness is great; marginally larger overall height isn’t as good; much more stable feeling
  • overall interface is better — more direct interactions, quicker lookups, better notetaking
  • the screen with 16 shades is better, but not a lot better
  • this feels like a very transitional interface — the eInk screen is more responsive, so there’s a bit of a cursor now — but I think the UI concepts are not quite clean yet — the cursor is laggy enough that I think moving to this mode of dialog boxes & such is a little funky

but on the whole, i like it & think it’s a keeper. wouldn’t have bought it unless i thought i could sell my v1 on eBay. (which brings up another point: the packaging this time around is much more minimal & eco-friendly, but decidedly less eBay-able down the road.)

on kindle overall, still a bit of a niche device, with flaws, but i would not give mine up for really any amount of money. improves my life immensely.

Feb 09

Coraline, by Neil Gaiman

Inspired by the movie trailers & John Hodgman’s tweets, I downloaded Coraline to my Kindle this weekend and read the book — it’s a short & fun read — took me less than a day.

It’s a fun story aimed at kids — a little dark, naturally — and I liked it a lot. Better, I thought, than his recent The Graveyard Book.

I’m getting more & more interested in stories and fairy tales for kids as SPL starts to experiment with points of view and narratives — so have been thinking a lot about Narnia, of course, and Tolkein, and Alice, and on and on. Thinking about the characteristics of the most memorable serial stories — I think the very best of these were basically constructed on the fly with an audience of 1 or 2 specific kids in mind.

I’m trying out modeling some of our nighttime stories on ones that I’ve read; sometimes it works, sometimes not so much. But it’s fun to think about, fun to experiment. It’s such a cliché to talk about “seeing through the eyes of a child,” but I have to tell you that it’s one of the chief aspects of being a parent — trying to understand how things must seem to the kid, what will be fun, what will be scary, what will make sense, what will teach. It’s a neat activity, and changing the way that my interactions work throughout my life, really.

Feb 09

TED Prize Performance Video

The folks at TED are on fire — hot on the heels of Abreu’s TED Prize speech, here’s the video of the astounding performance. Worth downloading in the high resolution version (go get Miro!) and watching on a bigger screen. In any case, save it for home; don’t give it partial attention at work. Astonishing.

Feb 09

TED Prize: Jose Antonio Abreu

Another great event from TED 2009: the TED Prize talk from Venezuelan teacher/conductor Jose Antonio Abreu — while his talk is good & interesting, the scope of his work — building El Sistema to educate hundreds of thousands of youths in Venezuela — is astounding. But the really amazing part of this presentation was seeing, via video, a live concert of the Venezuela Youth Orchestra conducted by one of Abreu’s students, Gustavo Dudamel, who’s now leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It was an amazing performance, and then when you consider that the artists are all kids, many of them from very rough backgrounds, it’s even more meaningful. Below is just Abreu’s talk — hopefully the TED folks will get the performance video up, too.

Feb 09

Murakami receives Jerusalem Prize

[via Gen — thanks!]

One of my very favorite authors, Haruki Murakami, received the Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society over the weekend — his short speech is thoughtful and noteworthy and worth reading the whole of, but here’s the piece that spoke to me and caused me to think again about his work:

“If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg.

Why? Because each of us is an egg, a unique soul enclosed in a fragile egg. Each of us is confronting a high wall. The high wall is the system which forces us to do the things we would not ordinarily see fit to do as individuals.

I have only one purpose in writing novels, that is to draw out the unique divinity of the individual. To gratify uniqueness. To keep the system from tangling us. So – I write stories of life, love. Make people laugh and cry.”

It’s the first really direct reference to themes that Vonnegut wrote so much about. I hadn’t made that connection before; in just a couple of minutes it’s changed completely the way I think about Murakami’s body of work.