"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hijacking your reward circuits

Since 1992, as the technological miracles and wonders have propagated and the political economy has transformed, the world has become radically and profoundly new. (And then there’s the miraculous drop in violent crime in the United States, by half.) Here is what’s odd: during these same 20 years, the appearance of the world (computers, TVs, telephones, and music players aside) has changed hardly at all, less than it did during any 20-year period for at least a century. The past is a foreign country, but the recent past—the 00s, the 90s, even a lot of the 80s—looks almost identical to the present. This is the First Great Paradox of Contemporary Cultural History.
Article in Vanity Fair.

Technology is changing, but fashion, weirdly, is not, and don't forget the drop in violent crime as former bad guys are riveted to their seats playing video games.

Maybe it's Internet Compulsion Disorder. Article in The Atlantic.

The right swipe on the touch screen in Angry Birds delivers an instant hit. The constant updating on Facebook pages with interesting tidbits from friends generates the warm feelings that come from close engagement with the "in" crowd. MeetMoi.com will link you up with "singles within a few miles from you who can meet you tonight" -- no need to go through eHarmony's tedious process of communicating with someone before a face-to-face meeting.

Yes, everything is getting faster and more addictive, and now even old-fashioned online dating sites are too slow! It's funny to think people are meeting in the same kinds of clothes, tho. Anything new since fleece? Should we all go back to wool sweaters? Tie dye? Big shoulder pads? Reading and writing books instead of quick online articles and blogs? Web surfing is fun, all those quick, little satisfying facts, such as that fashion has not changed very much lately.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Amazon, for $5

“The law has long been clear that stores do not invite the public in for all purposes. A retailer is not expected to serve as a warming station for the homeless or a site for band practice. So it’s worth wondering whether it’s lawful for Amazon to encourage people to enter a store for the purpose of gathering pricing information for Amazon and buying from the Internet giant, rather than the retailer. Lawful or not, it’s an example of Amazon’s bare-knuckles approach.” Scott Turow's reply to Richard Russo. Amazon's Jungle Logic.

By now, everyone has probably heard of Amazon's "promotion" in which we are encouraged to shop in a physical store but then buy the item from Amazon and receive a $5 discount. It seems most people feel that this is not only fighting dirty, but it's an example of the 800-lb gorilla fighting dirty. The authors Russo asked agree, calling it, "scorched-earth capitalism" (Dennis Lehane) and "invasive and unfair" (Stephen King).

Writer and bookstore owner Ann Patchett said, "There is no point in fighting them or explaining to them that we should be able to coexist civilly in the marketplace. I don’t think they care. I do think it’s worthwhile explaining to customers that the lowest price point does not always represent the best deal. If you like going to a bookstore then it’s up to you to support it."

Monday, December 5, 2011

Publishers Weekly... and crime

My mechanic recently reminded me of that scene in The Graduate when Benjamin is informed that the future is in plastics. I was paying with a different kind of plastic at the time.

The literary future, at least near the top of this list, seems to be in crime fiction:


1. "Explosive Eighteen" by Janet Evanovich (Bantam)

2. "11/22/63" by Stephen King (Scribner)

3. "The Litigators" by John Grisham (Doubleday)

4. "Kill Alex Cross" by James Patterson (Little, Brown)

5. "V Is for Vengeance" by Sue Grafton (Marian Wood)

6. "Micro: A Novel" by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston (Harper)

7. "The Best of Me" by Nicholas Sparks (Grand Central Publishing)

8. "Zero Day" by David Baldacci (Grand Central Publishing)

9. "Devil's Gate" by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown (Putnam Adult)

10. "The Christmas Wedding" by James Patterson, Richard DiLallo (Little, Brown)

11. "IQ84" by Haruki Murakami (Knopf)

12. "The Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes (Knopf)

13. "A Dance with Dragons" by George R.R. Martin (Bantam)

14. "The Snow Angel" by Glenn Beck and Nicole Baart (Threshold Editions)

15. "The Marriage Plot: A Novel" by Jeffrey Eugenides (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux)

List from HuffPo.