Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Brain Man

I am fascinated by autistic savants. Their abilities--such as making mathematical calculations as fast as a computer, or playing a complex musical composition perfectly after hearing it only once--are truly amazing. Last Sunday 60 Minutes featured a segment on Daniel Tammet, a very high-functioning savant. Unfortunately, I missed most of the segment, but found an article on the segment on CBS' website. Check it out; Daniel Tammet is astounding.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Book Reviews

My weekly writing group has pondered the effect of negative book reviews on potential readers. The members who are published novelists have been concerned about a couple of negative reviews of their work appearing on Amazon.com, amidst bunches of other reviews glowing with praise. Some of the negative reviews sound as if the reviewer hadn't actually read the book; one is shrilly derisive and picks on miniscule points as a basis to condemn an entire book.

I myself have never yet posted an Amazon review, but I've determined in future to post reviews of books I like, so as to support the authors. I will not post reviews of books I don't like, unless they are so abysmally bad others should be warned against them as a public service. Despite having encountered many ill-written books in my life, I have seldom found books so bad they shouldn't have been written. There is almost always a redeeming feature or two that makes them appeal to some readers.

Since I am a novice at book-reviewing, I'm looking for articles on writing reviews. Booksquare's January 19 post tipped me to this highly entertaining "class" on writing book reviews: Miles Kington -- Masterclass: How to write a book review

Sample quote:
Book review writing is very much the same [as the art of fiction], except that instead of telling people about characters, the idea is to tell the reader all about YOU.
In addition, I found a link proffered by the Smart Bitches, on a Swedish reviewer who wrote a "terrible review for [a] terrible book -- that doesn't even exist yet." (Is that what happens when book reviewers allow their personal animosity toward an author to take over?)

I am still searching for a good article on how to review a book. If you know of one, please let me know.

I am also interested in knowing what you think of some of the negative reviews on Amazon. Do you believe the reviews word-for-word, or are you skeptical? Do it depend on how well the review itself is written? How much do the Amazon reviews affect your book-buying decisions?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Downcast, But Not Cast Down

So, the Saints didn't win the playoff against the Bears. The Bears are the NFC champs and will go to the Super Bowl, while the Saints' season is over. I had a really cool blog entry ready to post if they had won. I didn't prepare anything for a loss; hence, I spent the last two days recovering from disappointment and regaining equanimity. The Bears played better than the Saints and they're going to Miami to play the AFC champs, the Colts. I will root for the Colts, because their quarterback, Peyton Manning, is a New Orleans boy. He's also the son of New Orleans' most beloved living athlete, Archie Manning, himself a former quarterback of the Saints.

No need to discuss the game here--Charles Gramlich has a much better post on it than I could write. I will say, however, that Reggie Bush's 88-yard touchdown run, zig-zagging and dodging his pursuers as only he can do, then turning a flip to get into the end zone and doing his victory dance, was pure joy to watch. I am now hooked on football, Saints football to be precise, and eagerly anticipating next season.

Reflection for the Week: Football parties are not the best way to watch a game. Not if you really want to see and hear it. My table at a popular local restaurant was right opposite the giant TV screen. Unfortunately, the people sitting around me didn't care about the game--they were just there for the food and booze, apparently--and they chattered so much I missed much of the commentary on the game. (Since I'm still a novice at Football Watching, I need to hear the commentators to understand fully what's happening on the field). Not to mention, I had to nod, smile, and appear to be listening whenever the non-football-fans nearby attempted to include me in conversation. The crowning touch, of course, was the boozehound female--a complete stranger--who, at a crucial point in the game, sat down next to me and proceeded to hold forth for the next 20 minutes about Nothing Whatsoever Except Repetitive Drunken Ramblings.

Next time I will stay home to watch the game.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Bless You, Boys (Yeee-Haaaa cont'd)

In response to "Yeee-Haaaa!," my post about the Saints' victory--which ended with "Bless you, boys"--Stewart commented:
"Okay, first, you can't say BLESS YOU BOYS. That's a Detroit Tigers' slogan, and one that was only used really in 1984."
Stewart, the Saints have been using "Bless you, boys" as their slogan for years. A local TV station even uses it in its advertisements--part of its "we're all about New Orleans" theme (see graphic). I can't say how long the slogan has been used here, but I've heard it as part of Saints fervor for decades. The Saints have been around for 40 years--I remember when the team first began playing--and "Bless you, boys" seems always to have been echoing through the airwaves. If I had time, I would see how far back an online search could trace the Saints' use of the term. (I love to pursue academic questions.)

Of course, it's also possible that Saints fans "borrowed" the phrase from the '84 Detroit Tigers. After all, it's a slogan that goes perfectly with our team's name, yes?

Thanks to both Stewart and Sidney for commenting and sending good wishes.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Yeee Haaaa!

Yeeee Haaaa! The Saints won their playoff game against the Eagles. Enough cannot be said about this fabulous team. As noted in a prior post, Sport as Metaphor, I was never before a football fan (though always hopeful for the home team), but last September I became caught up in the miracle that is the 2006 Saints team. After the game ended with victory for the Saints, my neighborhood came alive with people running outside their houses and yelling. Fireworks were going off all over the place (yep, it's illegal, but hey....) For a better description of the game than I can give, see Charles Gramlich's blog entry today.

This event is wonderful not just because of the Saints' pitiful past as perhaps the worst team in NFL history, but more because the symbolism of the Saints' victories amidst the devastation of our city means so much to all of us.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Comfort Reads

At Christmas this year, I was melancholy. I missed the family holiday gatherings that used to take place every year. Such get-togethers are precluded now by the post-Katrina dispersal of my extended family from the New Orleans area. Before Katrina five families of my cousins lived in Chalmette, and another set of cousins lived in New Orleans' Mid-City neighborhood. The Chalmette families lost everything, with flooding anywhere from eight to sixteen feet in their homes. The Mid-City family lost everything in the downstairs of their home, although their upstairs was untouched. Five of the families now live outside the New Orleans area, some in another state. Only two of the families plan to return and rebuild. Since it will be near-impossible in future for all my cousins to coordinate their schedules of work, children's school, and traveling to return for the annual gathering of yore, I was feeling sad and weepy.

It was time for some comfort reading.

When I need comforting, I turn to some old favorites that never fail to soothe me:
  • Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion
  • Georgette Heyer's Regency and Georgian novels, especially Venetia, Devil's Cub, Regency Buck, Lady of Quality, The Unknown Ajax, Bath Tangle
  • Loretta Chase's The Lord of Scoundrels
  • Laura Kinsale's Flowers from the Storm
  • Diana Gabaldon's Outlander
There are other books on the comfort-read list, but these are at the top. I've read each of these books numerous times. This time I re-read Flowers from the Storm and Lord of Scoundrels. And I felt better.

On a happy ending note for my melancholy, two families of my out-of-town cousins turned up on surprise visits in the week between Christmas and New Year. I was very happy indeed to see them.

What are some of your comfort reads?


Since my own real name has been known to cause a few chuckles -- even, sometimes, to induce the rudeness of a query such as, "Oh, you're kidding, that's not really your name, is it?" -- I sympathize with all those who suffer the misfortune of an inadvertently humorous name. But that didn't keep me from chuckling, too, at this Dear Abby column.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Post-Holiday Catch-Up

I have returned to the blogworld! After ten days of holiday freedom--sleeping, reading, moviewatching, surfing the Net, and blogging at will--I returned to my office to find my in-box piled high, and my free time correspondingly limited. Muddy from slogging through the trenches of legalistic bovine effluvium for the past week, I have finally emerged to flap my wings and cruise the cyber airwaves. I'm developing some ideas for in-depth posts, but for now will give you a few interesting links I've collected lately:

'Butt print' artist fired from teaching job

Signs of a thaw in writers' 30-year feud

In Warren's Words: Plagiarism

Orgasmic Simulator

Monday, January 01, 2007

Favorite Fictional Characters

My blolleague Charles Gramlich listed his Favorite Fictional Characters on his Razored Zen blog the other day and blolleague C.S. Harris followed with a similar listing. I, believing in the mystical symmetry of the triad, herewith list my own selections. Like C.S. Harris and blogfly Basil S. Ratbane, however, I noted that the previous lists I read were weighted heavily with males. Hence, I have made two lists--my favorites of each sex:

  1. Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)
  2. Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte)
  3. Jo March (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott)
  4. Claire Fraser (Outlander by Diana Gabaldon)
  5. Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)
  6. Venetia Lanyon (Venetia by Georgette Heyer)
  7. Archimedea "Maddie" Timms (Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale)
  8. Jessica Trent (Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase)
  9. Stephanie Plum (Plum series by Janet Evanovich)
  10. Anna Pigeon (Pigeon series by Nevada Barr)
  1. Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)
  2. Jamie Fraser (Outlander by Diana Gabaldon)
  3. Spenser (Spenser series by Robert B. Parker)
  4. Fitzwilliam Darcy (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)
  5. Dave Robicheaux (Robicheaux series by James Lee Burke)
  6. Joe Pike & Elvis Cole (Elvis Cole series by Robert Crais)
  7. John Corey (John Corey books by Nelson DeMille)
  8. Christian Langland, Duke of Jervaulx (Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale)
  9. Arkady Renko (Gorky Park, etc., by Martin Cruz Smith)
  10. Beowulf Malloren, Marquess of Rothgar (Malloren series by Jo Beverley)

Both Gramlich and Harris also listed their ten favorite characters from movies/TV, but my brain is tired. I will meditate on choices for that list and post it tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day. . . .

(Question: The preceding sentence is a quotation from what, said by whom? Your prize is simply the mention of your name on the Sphinx Ink blog.)