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Books

Friday random ten: Ladies’ night, part 21

I took last week off from my two regularly scheduled music-themed posts because I just didn’t have it in me. They’re back this week, not because I feel better per se, but because there’s comfort to be found in both the music and in the habit of experiencing it. So here we go again.

1. Self Control – Laura Branigan
2. Dance Like Nobody’s Watching – Laura Marano
3. Cluck Old Hen – Laura Veirs
4. Four Words – Lauren Anatolia
5. Astrodome – Leah White and the Magic Mirrors
6. Break It To Me Gently – Brenda Lee
7. Steal My Sunshine – Len (Sharon Costanzo)
8. Love Letters – Ketty Lester
9. Hello Stranger – Barbara Lewis
10. I Know Things Now – Lilla Crawford

Ketty Lester went on to play Hester-Sue Terhune on the TV show Little House on the Prairie, which I watched on occasion but was never really into as a kid. I have no idea who that character was, but I always enjoy stumbling across trivia tidbits like that while checking to verify that a given artist is in fact female as I suspect from the name. I read some of one of the Little House books to Olivia when she was younger, but neither of us was into it any more than I was into the TV show in the 70s. Austin and Ally, the latter of whom was portrayed by Laura Marano, and the movie version of Into the Woods, in which Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood character sang that song, were more her speed.

“Houston History” Fall 2011 Launch Reception

From the inbox:

Join Council Members Ed Gonzalez, Melissa Noriega, and James Rodriguez, and State Representatives Carol Alvarado and Jessica Farrar for the launch of

Houston History Magazine
 Fall 2011 Issue

Tuesday, December 6
 5:30-7:00PM
Sombreros (formerly Velia’s)
2910 Navigation Blvd.
(Map)

Meet the Authors and Enjoy Sweet Treats

The University of Houston Center for Public History’s “Houston: Nuestra Historia” focuses on the history of Mexican Americans in Houston, an often neglected area of discussion. Because Houston was not established as a Spanish colonial city, its history as one of Texas’s Mexican American communities is often overlooked. This issue focuses on community organizations, culture, politics, and education, all issues that are of great importance to the ethnic Mexican community in Houston.

Please RSVP to Kristin Deville by email or by calling 713-743-3087.

“Windows on the World”

Andrea White – author, wife of our former Mayor, and all-around nice person – asked me to share this with y’all.

WINDOWS ON THE WORLD by Andrea White is science fiction set in a post-apocalyptic world in which an orphan girl, Shama Katooee, is summoned to an elite military academy in order to travel back in time to New York City on September 11, 2001, to save the future. This is the first title in the UpCity Chronicles trilogy and we would like to bring it to the attention of as many readers as possible.

To that end, we are offering a free ebook edition (.mobi, .epub, or .pdf) of the book to all and sundry. To get a copy, go to the namelos web site, and click on WINDOWS ON THE WORLD. Enter the promotional code “wotw” in the box under the menu of editions and click “submit.” That will take you to a page where you enter your name and email address and the format you require. You will receive an email with a download link. The file will be delivered to your hard drive and from there you can transfer it to your e-reader. That’s it: the whole process should take less than two minutes. Please note that the files are generic with no DRM and, therefore, can be shared with anybody. Also you can send the promotional code and the recipient can download a copy. We want as many people as possible to enjoy the book. We will disable the promotional code on the official publication date: June, 1, 2011.

So go now and download yourself a free book. Happy reading!

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

From the twisted mind that brought us Pride and Prejudice and Zombies comes a new work that sounds just as excellent. Here’s the nickel description, from the Murder by the Book email newsletter:

abelincoln
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (by Seth Grahame-Smith; Grand Central; $21.99) From the best-selling author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother’s bedside. She’s been stricken with something the old-timers call “Milk Sickness.” “My baby boy…” she whispers before dying. Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother’s fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire. When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, “henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose…” Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House. While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years. Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.

You always suspected as much, right? Here’s a positive review of the book, whose movie rights have already been bought by Tim Burton; its predecessor is also headed to the big screen. I can’t wait.

The university printing business

Interesting.

An experiment at Rice University to make scholarly research available to anyone with an Internet connection is trying to change the world of academic publishing.

[…]

“The costs of publishing are reduced by digital dissemination, but they are hardly eliminated,” said Charles Backus, director of the Texas A&M University Press, which produces as many as 70 books a year, including some available electronically.

Rice goes further: Every book may be read online for free; none are printed until an order is placed, with the payment covering the cost of printing and delivering the book. There is no sales staff, nor warehouses to hold unsold books.

“It’s unbelievable how expensive it is to produce and distribute these academic titles (in traditional press operations),” said Fred Moody, the sole employee at the Rice press and an evangelist for the digital future. “It’s a model for hemorrhaging cash.”

There is little disagreement about that.

Doesn’t seem like a propitious time for Rice to be investing in such a thing, but at least they’re doing it in a relatively low-cost way. My own alma mater revived their press a few years ago, via the more traditional means of a foundation grant. I wish Rice luck in its venture.

The future of textbooks

I figure the traditional textbook is eventually going to go away, but how and when it will be replaced is not yet clear.

The average college student spent $702 on books in 2006-07, according to the National Association of College Stores — a figure that has continued to grow and is speeding the transition to electronic textbooks and other digital class materials.

“At some point, we’re going to price ourselves out of the marketplace,” said Anthony Martin, director of the campus bookstore at Houston Baptist University. “Kids are going to figure out a way of getting through school without books at all.”

Relief has been sporadic, at best. Plans to exempt textbooks from the state sales tax fizzled in the Legislature this spring. But an increasing number of faculty members are paying attention to the price of the books they assign, and a few are using electronic textbooks — about half the price of a print book — or materials that can be downloaded free.

Rice University is one of the leading players in the latter movement, which has the potential to reshape the textbook industry.

“This is the generation that grew up with the Internet and TV,” said R.H. Richardson, a biology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who will use an electronic textbook for the first time this fall. “I think the e-book will evolve far beyond its present state. You can stick in a video if you want to. I’m sure there will be video games built into a textbook some day.”

Thinking back to my experience in college, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I’d say that you could replace the bulk of the dead-tree books for the problem solving classes – calculus, linear algebra, differential equations – with computer-based training and texts pretty easily. Classes that are about doing proofs, maybe not. But taking derivatives, solving integrals, that sort of thing, I don’t see why it couldn’t be done on the computer. If a company like Reasoning Mind, which is delivering math curricula at the grade school level here in Houston among other places, can do it for grade schoolers, surely someone can do it for college kids.

Beyond that, it seems to me that a lot of the books I bought in college were plain old ordinary books, not textbooks. I see no reason why you couldn’t just get them on your Kindle or whatever digital-book device you have. At least that would create competition for the campus bookstore, and would make it easier to find and buy used copies, which would push prices down. Maybe you could rent them this way, instead of buying them – how many books from college do you still own after graduation? I have some math books, including a few from graduate school, and a couple of other random books, but it’s maybe ten percent of the total I bought over four years. I suspect some texts will still be delivered as plain old bound paper for years to come, but I see no reason why most of what is being bought now can’t be transformed into electronic format in the near future, if not already.

Movie night of the future

So I was reading this FireDogLake post that used the movie “The Wizard of Oz” as a metaphor for the changing of the guard in Washington, DC, and it got me to thinking about how I can’t wait till my girls are old enough for that movie so I can watch it with them. I remember how much I looked forward to that film’s annual airing on TV, back in the Stone Age days when that was our only option for viewing a favorite movie. Anyway, based on the warm fuzzy feelings I got from that spate of nostalgia, here’s a list of the Top Ten movies I’m looking forward to watching with Olivia and Audrey some day:

1. The Wizard of Oz. – I just hope the flying monkeys don’t freak them out as much as they did me.

2. Miracle on 34th Street – The original, of course. I love me some “It’s A Wonderful Life”, but this one is my favorite Christmas movie of them all.

3. A Christmas Story – And this is the first runnerup behind “Miracle”.

4. Star Wars – I wonder if they’ll love Han Solo as much as Tiffany does.

5. The Princess Bride – Some of these movies are here just to ensure they get the references I make to them. Well, that and the fact that they’re great movies.

6. Better Off Dead – This one will have to wait a little longer, but that’s okay.

7. Snow White – I could pick just about any classic Disney animated movie here (other than “Bambi”, which is a movie I do not want them to watch any time soon), but we’ll start with this one.

8. The Sound of Music – Yeah, I like musicals. Deal with it.

9. It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World – We recently watched the episode of “The Muppet Show” that had Ethel Merman as the guest star. She stole every scene she played in this movie, no mean feat given the vast amount of star power it contained.

10. The Harry Potter movies – And the accompanying books will be on the list of books I can’t wait to read with the girls, along with “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. But that’s a list for another day.

So. What movies have you enjoyed/do you plan to enjoy with your kids? Let me know.

On rudeness

John has a thoughtful post on the nature of rudeness and how he’s recently learned to deal with it. It’s good stuff, especially the bit on driving behavior. Check it out.

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”

You know, if they’d given me books like this to read in high school, I might have actually read them.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen’s beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Complete with 20 illustrations in the style of C. E. Brock (the original illustrator of Pride and Prejudice), this insanely funny expanded edition will introduce Jane Austen’s classic novel to new legions of fans.

Outstanding. I just hope that someone has bought the movie rights. Who do you think should play Elizabeth in the film version? Leave a comment and let me know. Thanks to Crooked Timber and The Little Professor, both of whom have their own suggestions for similar works, for the link.