Categories
Books

Richard Scarry, 1963 vs. 1991

2015 11 12 scary

These photos from Flickr user alan taylor show how editions of the popular book for children, “Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever,” changed between 1963 and 1991.

Males in the kitchen, less overtly obedient kids, fewer “handsome” airline pilots, the addition of menorahs, gender neutral professional titles and more.

A fascinating study.

Via Kottke. There’s more over at Fusion.

Categories
Books Tech

There’s Finally an Ebook Version Available of Nicholas Negroponte’s ‘Being Digital”

2015 03 07 being digital

Back in Dec. 2012, I blogged about the irony that there seemed to be no ebook version available of Nicholas Negroponte’s popular book about the future of technology, “Being Digital.”

A major theme of the book, which was published in 1995: We’re moving “from atoms to bits,” and everything that can be digitized eventually will be.

Yet 17 years after the hardcover came out, the very book itself apparently hadn’t been digitized into an ebook format.

No more.

Behold:

2015 03 07 ebook bd2

Thanks to reader Pierluigi Montinaro, who recently left a comment on my earlier post pointing out that an ebook version of the book is finally available, as of Jan.

Atoms do indeed turn into bits. Sometimes it just takes time, it seems.

Categories
Books

Another Novel I Really Loved: Adam Johnson’s ‘Orphan Master’s Son’

2015 02 11 oms

Back in September, I wrote I post called “A Novel I Really Loved: Adam Johnson’s ‘Parasites Like Us’”:

At the airport on my way to a recent beach getaway I picked up a copy of Adam Johnson‘s “Parasites Like Us.”

It is a remarkably good novel.

Though the book was published ten years ago, I hadn’t heard of it. (Johnson’s 2012 novel, “The Orphan Master’s Son,” won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. “Parasites Like Us” is his debut novel.)

Well, I recently got around to reading “The Orphan Master’s Son.” It, too, is exceptional.

Sam Sacks wrote in a WSJ review after the book was published:

Adam Johnson’s remarkable novel “The Orphan Master’s Son” is set in North Korea, an entire nation that has conformed to the fictions spun by a dictator and his inner circle. Mr. Johnson’s book is based on years of research (including a trip to North Korea that the regime carefully choreographed), and though experts on the region will know better than I, his depictions have the feel of eerie authenticity. Set during the recently ended reign of Kim Jong Il, the book is a work of high adventure, surreal coincidences and terrible violence, seeming to straddle the line between cinematic fantasy and brutal actuality.

Indeed, there is a Gabriel García Márquez-style magic realism about the book.

It’s very much worth reading, especially for those interested in North Korea.

Categories
Books

A Novel I Really Loved: Adam Johnson’s ‘Parasites Like Us’

2014 09 21 parasites

At the airport on my way to a recent beach getaway I picked up a copy of Adam Johnson‘s “Parasites Like Us.”

It is a remarkably good novel.

Though the book was published ten years ago, I hadn’t heard of it. (Johnson’s 2012 novel, “The Orphan Master’s Son,” won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. “Parasites Like Us” is his debut novel.)

It tells the story of an eccentric anthropology professor, his similarly wacky students, and an apocalyptic scenario. (Previous post about apocalypic scenarios is here.)

But the book’s mostly about relationships, love, the passage of time, and what, if anything, we can learn from those who inhabited the earth 10,000 years ago, at the dawn of civilization.

The writing is evocative. The characters are vivid. And it’s extremely funny. I found the passages describing the landscape — the story takes place in South Dakota — especially moving.

For more, here’s the New York Times‘s review. Some reviews I’ve read are critical of certain elements of the book. But I loved it.

Categories
Books Tech

There’s No E-Book Version of Nicholas Negroponte’s ‘Being Digital’?

Being digital no ebook

More later on this topic, perhaps, but I wanted to post this for now.

Is there truly no e-book version of Nicholas Negroponte’s 1995 book Being Digital?

What’s wrong with this picture?

The text I’ve circled in the image above is Amazon’s standard “Tell the Publisher! I’d like to read this book on Kindle.”*

Is this situation ironic? (It would seem so. It depends on your perspective on technology and traditional media, I suppose.)

Is it telling? (Perhaps.)

*My initial searching reveals there isn’t an e-book version available elsewhere, via any other retailers.

UPDATE: Here’s a new post — there’s an ebook available now!

Categories
Books

Off Topic: An Excellent Book about Nutrition

2012 08 10 why calories count

I’m read several books, over the years, about food and nutrition. I’ve tackled Gary Taubes’s popular books “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and “Why We Get Fat,” as well as “In Defense of Food”, the hit book by Michael Pollan.

I’ve also done some reading on “paleo nutrition,” which is popular in Crossfit circles.

Perhaps the most compelling nutrition book I’ve read so far, though, is one I recently completed called “Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics.”

Written by the nutrition scholars Marion Nestle and Malden Nesheim, the book is — as you would expect — rooted in science and references hard data. And that approach appeals to me.

The book focuses on topics like the scientific history of our understanding of calories; how our bodies use calories; how calories are measured; how our metabolism works; what happens when we consume too few and too many calories; and — perhaps most interesting — the modern food environment and public policies surrounding food.

Here are some of the points that stood out for me:

  1. The authors say that when it comes to gaining or losing weight, the quantity of what you eat is generally more important than the macronutrients in your food. As the title says, calories do count. So while diets that restrict carbohydrates — the kind of diet that seems to be especially popular now (see this earlier post) — work well for some people, science dictates that when you restrict calories, you lose weight. Generally, it doesn’t matter if you cut back on carbs, fat, or protein — it’s the overall calories that have been shown to matter. (Of course, long-term strategies for weight maintenance are a different story.)
  2. The human body has a tremendous capacity to deal with severely restricted calories, but we are horrible at dealing with calories in great excess. Once you’re obese, your metabolism actually fights to keep you overweight.
  3. Our physical surroundings matter: The authors talk about the U.S.’s “eat-more” environment, with its prevalent advertisements for calorically dense food. This seems to contribute to overeating, especially among children.
  4. Body weight is thought to be about 60 to 70 percent genetically determined.
  5. Many people over-emphasize the importance of exercise in weight loss. The best way to lose weight, or to maintain a healthy weight, is not to overeat. Yes, exercise is important because it keeps our bodies functioning optimally, and it provides psychological benefits. But to maintain your weight, just as we’ve heard through the years, its best to consume fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, etc. Yes: this is common sense.
  6. Interestingly, one reason, the authors say, that weight loss strategies in the U.S. so often focus heavily on exercise — think about the workout scenes in “The Biggest Loser” — is that exercise doesn’t threaten the food industry or policymakers. If you tell people to eat less, then the question becomes: Eat less of what? And that raises problems for, say, companies that derive their revenues from packaged food products. (As the saying goes, you can only squeeze so much profit out of broccoli.)
Categories
Books

7 Books

2012 04 27 books
Some books and long-form works I’ve downloaded, bought in physical form, am reading, or have recently finished:

  1. The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer, by David Goldblatt
  2. Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945, by Max Hastings
  3. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, by Atul Gawande
  4. The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will(Eventually) Feel Better, by Tyler Cowen
  5. The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust, by Diana B. Henriques
  6. Soccer Men: Profiles of the Rogues, Geniuses, and Neurotics Who Dominate the World’s Most Popular Sport, by Simon Kuper
  7. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg

(Cartoon via.)

Categories
Bangkok Books Travel

Newley.com in the new Lonely Planet: Thailand

Lonely Planet Thailand

Newley.com has earned a mention in the new Lonely Planet Thailand guide book. This humble blog is listed under the heading “The Inside Scoop,” on page 107. It’s part of a round-up of “informative or entertaining” Thailand blogs.

And in the Sights section of the Bangkok chapter, on page 139, you’ll also find a brief interview with yours truly and my Thai teacher, Khun Ju, about foreigners learning Thai. (The Bangkok chapter and other parts of the LP were written by Bangkok-based foodie photog Austin Bush, who — I can tell you from personal experience — knows Thailand very, very well. And I’m not just saying that.)

Categories
Books Life

Ha Jin, Intellectual Badass and Really Nice Guy

I took a few poetry classes* with Chinese-American novelist Xuefei Jin when he taught at my college**. (And he even wrote me a gradudate school recommendation letter.) He had yet to become a literary big shot when I met him — a couple years after I graduated, he won the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner prize for “Waiting,” a novel set in China. His most recent novel, “War Trash,” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

I met up with Jin again a few years back at a book signing for “Waiting” here in DC; he is humble, friendly, and a genuinely nice guy. (His personal story is an interesting one, too: he was born in China and served in the army during the Cultural Revolution; he later emigrated to the US and earned his Ph.D. in English.)

All of that by way of saying that I was thrilled to see that Jin has been included on Foreign Policy/Prospect magazine’s list of the world’d Top 100 Public Intellectuals.

*Jin began his writing career as a poet; one time, when we discussing a poem by an author we were studying in our modern American poetry class, he said, “if I could one day write a poem as good as this, I would die a happy man.” I wonder if, had someone told him then that he’d go on to achieve such literary acclaim, he’d have believed them.

**I never in a million years, as a twenty-year-old college kid, would have thought I’d one day live across the Taiwan Straight from Jin’s homeland.

Categories
Books Life

New Truman Capote Biopic

A new Truman Capote biopic is opening on September 30th. The film tells the story of Capote investigating and writing the classic “non-fiction novel” In Cold Blood. The movie’s called “Capote,” and the trailer is promising. Philip Seymour Hoffman will play TC, and the movie also features the excellent Catherine Keener and Chris Cooper.

Capote is one of my favorite writers. He wrote stunning prose and he lived an out-sized life, once allegedly proclaiming “I am three things: An alcoholic, a homosexual, and a genius.”

His first novel, Other Voices Other Rooms, which he published at age 24, contains passages so eloquent that, if you have a single sensitive bone in your body, may well make you weep.

Such as:

The brain may take advice, but not the heart, and love having no geography, knows no boundaries: weight and sink it deep, no matter, it will rise and find the surface: and why not? any love is natural and beautiful that lies within a person’s nature; only hyprocrites would hold a man responsible for what he loves, emotional illiterates and those of righteous envy, who, in their agitated concern, mistake so frequently the arrow pointing to heaven for the one that leads to hell.

Capote