Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes

I received this book, which is neither little nor brown, as a present for my 16th birthday, and have been nibbling at it for 24 years. It consists of several thousand humorous anecdotes, collected by none other than Clifton Fadiman. Finally, I made it to the "Z" entries, where it ends precipitously with a zinger by King Zog about heavy suitcases. I don't want to spoil the ending for you. There are tons of great stories in here, and all so short. It makes such great bedtime reading. I don't know what I'll do, now that I've finished it! My nightstand bookshelf looks like it is missing a tooth.


When the ETC moved to the PTC offices in early 2004, and I moved into room 5317, I found this abandoned "creativity toolkit." I've had it sitting around the last seven years, and I thought I'd finally get around to checking it out. It was first published in 1995, and enjoyed critical acclaim. It has three elements. First, a handbook, which explains six facets of visual thinking: environment, culture, seeing, drawing, diagramming, and imagining. This is a pleasing, elegant volume that I found very inspiring in terms of thinking visually, and communicating visually. Most interesting to me was that game designer Scott Kim contributed to the "diagramming" section. The second element, is a blank, bound book for sketching in, since the handbook and the third element suggests many sketching exercises. The third element is a CD-ROM that has a number of visual exercises. Unfortunately, it is Mac only, and what with Macs being evil and all, the software is completely unrunnable on modern Mac computers. "Sorry, classic mode is no longer supported."

I plan to keep this thing in our archive since periodically we run into people who want to do interactive projects that foster creativity. This is certainly a studied one of those. Kristina Woolsey did a lot of work pulling it together, basing a lot of it in McKim's "Exercises in Visual Thinking."

Anyway, I'm glad I finally know what this really is!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

I continue to be fascinated by this series. The second movie manages to do a good job of staying true to the storyline of the second book, but it accomplished the same shocking feat the first movie pulled off: redeeming the main character, who is surprisingly awful, considering it is a book for kids. This one actually pulls a double, because it redeems two irredeemable characters.

This series has captured something that is in the air right now -- I think that is why it is so successful. There is an ignorant selfishness that has become the norm for so many kids... It was the main theme in the tv show Dead Like Me, and seems to be a primary driver of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (still reading that). What I don't get is where this attitude comes from... is it from being spoiled? From being too cut off from nature? From being treated as children too long? I don't know, but it makes me sad. The movie isn't sad, though -- it's fun. The magic act at the end was my favorite part, by far.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Viva Maria!

HOW did I miss this movie all these years! Two strippers in a vaudeville act who take over Mexico, and one of them is Brigitte Bardot? This movie was way ahead of its time -- a lot of the gags and pacing anticipate the ZAZ movies of the seventies and eighties. They MUST have seen this movie when they were young. It has some amazing moments, and, well, it has Brigitte Bardot starring as a stripper / munitions expert. How has this not been remade?

Amnesia Moon

I had never read a Johnathan Lethem book before -- I picked up this signed copy at Caliban Books. I've heard people compare him to Phillip K. Dick -- and if this book is any example, it's definitely a fair comparison. I always found when I read PKD novels that there was always one character who in my mind, was PKD -- I would see his face on that character. I was quite surprised to see PKD's face show up in my mind as the protagonist of this book! I would have liked a more satisfying ending, but I was really impressed with the strange reality that this book created. Somehow -- I've been drawn to books about dreams lately -- I looked at my nightstand the other day, and it had this, Freud's Interpretations of Dreams, and Lord Valentine's Castle. I guess it makes sense that dream books would wend their way to the nightstand. Maybe because I've been so active with @jessedreams? Hard to say. Dreams are mysterious like that.