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Battle or Love Affair? Book vs. E-Reader

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Minion brawl

Let the bloody, eviscerating brawl begin…

  • Sydney Crosby vs. Alexander Ovechkin
  • Ironman vs. Tough Mudder
  • Ali vs. Frazier
  • Tiger Cats vs. Argonauts
  • Hillary vs. Donald

I sit quietly gazing to where the evening’s flaming nectarine-pink sky meets the watery horizon in an arrow straight line, quietly pondering on the full spectrum of humanity’s aggressive battles.

Our world has suffered greatly and soared magnificently all because of the struggle of competition. Weeds and flowers entangled in Olympic rings.

My poor little heart was blown apart and scattered in pieces when, as a lovestruck teenager another A-hole… er… young man… outmuscled my charms and stole back his pretty ex-girlfriend whom I was head-over-men’s-70’s-style-high-heels  in love with.

There were no sun, stars, or moon tracing their arc across my miserable sky for many weeks…  (Just for the record she returned a few months later begging me, pleading… okay, mildly requesting… for a second chance when his allure faded quickly).

Competition. Suffered and soared.

Competition exists in countless areas of life,  Italian Pasta vs. Indian Curry or… Honda vs. Ford…

… or… traditional book vs. e-reader.

Ebooks-vs-paper.jpg

I’ve lived these decades of my life with a reverence for books… those solid, stolid and satisfying reads and beautiful works of visual art arranged upright like beautiful ceremonial soldiers at attention in a ceiling-high dark-toned oak bookshelf.

I’ve fondled and nuzzled a book while warm sunshine caressed my toes stretching towards the ocean.

I’ve absorbed the lover’s touch, the alluring scent, the romantic feeling of flight at turning another enticing page, drawing me ahead with great expectation.

I’ve inhaled the words tracing mysterious laneways and winding paths across the pages; road trips where some incredibly talented author – a person just like you or me – has insidiously seized the inside of my brain and taken me intellectually and emotionally on a journey of scope and intensity well beyond my imaginings.

Who amongst us hasn’t remembered the passage of a memorable and meaningful story we read during the days of our younger selves?

read in train station

While backpacking my way across Europe in my early 20’s I sat in cavernous Munich hauptbahnhofs and Parisian gares patiently passing hours waiting for trains. Laid out against my backpack, I sipped strong espresso and read the at-the-time inspiring story of Ayn Rand’s ATLAS SHRUGGED before hopping in and out of train compartments and book chapters.

Then came the intensely human Leon Uris books (EXODUS, TRINITY) of ordinary people who grew into powerful figures within the founding of modern day Israel and struggling Northern Ireland.

The paperbacks I toted from Belgium to Denmark to Greece became grimy, worn, torn and tattered but the spellbinding lure of their stories remained.

And yet, despite all of this sensory wonder, this tactile magic, I have to admit that I’ve been largely wooed and converted from the traditional centuries-old hardcover or paper-bound book over to the slick, compact e-reader side of the tracks.

It’s just too damned easy.

I can carry a weighty bookshelf of reading material in the palm of my man-hand.

I can travel to any corner of the world, to the peak of Machu Picchu or the tombs of the Terra Cotta Warriors and in a moment, sit and become absorbed by a huge compendium of writing.

And even more magical is that, in my moments of fleeting ADHD need for change, a totally different reading experience is divinely available within a few seconds of Wi-Fi connection and a few dollars.

A new book, a new literary feast arrives at my table.

Woman reading an e-book on a tube train in London

Harry Potter may have his magic wand, but my e-reader (KOBO) contains a powerful wizardly set of its own potions.

The sorcery of the e-reader gives me a lighted page to read in a blackened room, a larger font for reading when my reading glasses have gone AWOL, a built-in dictionary that lifts me over the difficult word fences. These are truly powerful and alluring forces…

And yet…

Although I love the convenience of the electronic book, I reconnected over the last few weeks with my past. I found a comfortable homey place within myself as I became absorbed in a paperbound book (The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry) recently left behind by visiting friends.

The tender warm feel, the weight, the light sandpaper texture of paper against my skin was a sensual experience only heightened by the elegantly beautiful weaving of words within its pages. Each fulfilling sentence seemed to breathe deeply like a bursting popcorn kernel coming to life.

It was a combination of two souls – the physical, the emotional – where elation meets that relaxed sensation of returning home after a lengthy journey.

The same words read in an electronic reader would have likely seemed dimensionless, flat like a glass of Coke left on the kitchen counter overnight.

This is a brawl where no knockout punch will deliver satisfaction.

Any book, whether read from a heavy hardcover, a flimsy paperback, or a Kindle or KOBO, that delivers a sense of meaning to us – joy or heartbreak, entertainment or education – is a champion.

I won’t try to pick a winner in the “reading wars”.

There will be no Book’ish Bloodshed here today.

bloody book.gif

 

PS. Where do YOU stand in the physical book versus e-reader universe?

 

 

 

 

The Non-Oprah Business Boys Book Club …

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Do you follow Oprah’s Book List?

She is HUGE in the book club world.

If I wanted to increase my tiny blog readership by millions overnight, I would just kidnap and drug Oprah and have her make a woozy public statement on Twitter or Facebook about how wonderful my blog is.

Then I could buy a Caribbean island and share evening cocktails with Richard Branson and Kate Upton, ” … I just love the saltiness of this Russian beluga caviar, don’t you Sir Richard?“… “Kate, you were fabulous in that Bartender video with Lady Antebellum!

Just FYI … Oprah’s latest book choice is called RUBY by Cynthia Bond. I haven’t read it so I can’t comment.

oprah-ruby-cynthia-bond

I don’t follow Oprah’s list closely, but I do pay attention to another book list of someone I admire.

But first …

I’m an investor. Not a superstar investor  à la Carl Icahn or Warren Buffett or George Soros, but I do alright.

My largest stock market holdings are Apple and Microsoft, with that daffy featherbrained AFLAC duck holding down 3rd spot in the portfolio.

I have a great deal of respect for the thinking of business/investment leaders like Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), and Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway).

Whether you hate or love business types, they’ve been creative in finding ways to enrich their personal bank accounts while simultaneously helping to create a HUGE group of others who can include themselves in the Millionaire’s Club.

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My own retirement “package” is in no small part thanks to their creative abilities … creation of products that people – myself included – want to buy, and creation of my personal wealth. Every billion iPads you buy means I get an all-expenses paid trip south.

Today though, I’m more interested in talking about how these business boys invest their “spare” time. Reading.

To my advantage over the years, I’ve read a number of investing and business books that Warren Buffett has recommended. Of course I didn’t read or learn enough to avoid losing $25,000 on YBM Magnex, a Canadian company that was actually Russian mob controlled. For real …

If you’re at all interested in stock market investing, you could do far worse than read Buffett’s recommendation of The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham.

And just lately, I’ve begun looking over the annual reading list of Bill Gates … yup, the God of Microsoft… the Master of Mister Softy… the King of … well, you get my point.

Bill Gates is a consummate nerd, a ruthless, but savvy businessman who is now doing some incredibly amazing stuff in Third World countries as a philanthropist.

And because of his financial resources and connections to other wealthy individuals, he’s having as much or more of an impact on the health and welfare of millions than entire governments, including that of Barack Obama.

Somehow, somewhere along the line, Bill has assimilated the skills of time management. He finds a way to read a book each week, mostly non-fiction, with the occasional fiction novel slipping in from time to time.

I pat myself on the back if I can turn away from the absorbing Netflix dramas House of Cards or Orange is the New Black long enough to read one book per month.

So today, let me introduce you to Bill’s Book Club.

Below are 5 of Gates’ favourite reads from 2014, four of them non-fiction and the fifth a quirky, charming fiction novel:

  1. Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty.
  2. How Asia Works, by Joe Studwell.
  3. Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization, by Vaclav Smil.
  4. Business Adventures, by John Brooks.

And finally, Bill Gates’ fiction choice and the book that I’ve read most recently. It’s called:

5. The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion.

Rosie and Bill Gates

This is one quirky, sometimes confusing, sometimes hilarious novel because of its nerdy main character Don Tillman.

I don’t watch the popular TV show The Big Bang Theory, but I’ve seen enough previews and interviews from the show to gather that Tillman would be a perfect fit if they were ever seeking new cast members.

Everything genetics professor Tillman pursues in life is given a research folder and a name… eg. The Wife Project, The Father Project, and yes, The Rosie Project. 

Professor Don Tillman is unmarried and his social ineptitude has resulted in a track record of bizarre and unsatisfactory dating experiences.

His interpretation of the statistics leads him to conclude he needs a wife, hence The Wife Project, which eventually morphs into The Rosie Project. This is where he decides to vet applicants for his Wife Project with a 16-page (double-sided) questionnaire, in the interests of efficiency. Yup, he really does have potential dates fill out the questionnaire.

Don is wired differently than most of us – he mentally assesses the age and BMI of everyone he meets – but he has integrity, focus, and determination, and it is pretty hard not to feel empathy with him even while laughing at his missteps.

It’s a slightly odd novel that also made me think about what makes relationships work and how we have to keep investing time and energy to make them better.

Don is out to lunch when it comes to subtle social cues. But if you need to secretly collect DNA samples from 117 people at a party (part of The Father Project), there’s nobody in the world who’s going to do a better job.

What Don allowed me to appreciate is that, just because somebody might not be highly literate in the language of emotions doesn’t mean he doesn’t have emotions, deeply felt emotions. He sees the world in terms of logic, but he feels just as deeply about that world as everybody else.

So, if you’re stuck in a nasty first-of-March blizzard, wind howling down your chimney, after the House of Cards episode ends, you can pick up Oprah’s book choice, RUBY.

Or maybe if you want to make your next read a fun “Project”, try a taste of Bill Gates’ choice in THE ROSIE PROJECT.

Invest in a good story.

Rosie Project

 

 

 

 

What’s It Gonna Be Girls, 50 SHADES or BITCHES? You Can’t Have it Both Ways…

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Today’s WORDS OF WISDOM:

Before sex, a man isn’t thinking clearly and a woman is thinking clearly.

After sex, it reverses. The man is thinking clearly and a woman isn’t.

 

Ana and Christian

Prepare yourself … Christian and Ana are coming to the Silver Screen …

50 Shades of Grey Moments:

Anastasis Steele: “You’re a sadist?”
Christian Grey: “I’m a Dominant.” His eyes are a scorching gray, intense.
“What does that mean?” I whisper.
“It means I want you to willingly surrender yourself to me, in all things.”
I frown at him as I try to assimilate this idea.
“Why would I do that?”
“To please me,” he whispers as he cocks his head to one side, and I see a ghost of a smile.
Please him! He wants me to please him! I think my mouth drops open. Please Christian Grey. And I realize, in that moment, that yes, that’s exactly what I want to do. I want him to be damned delighted with me. It’s a revelation.

…………

“It slips down my throat, all seawater, salt, the sharp tang of citrus, and fleshiness…ooh. I lick my lips, and he’s watching me intently, his eyes hooded.”

Put that thought away, she’s just eating oysters!

 

Why Men Love Bitches Moments:

“Relationship Principle 1:
In romance, there’s nothing more attractive to a man than a woman who has dignity and pride in who she is.” 

…………

“That’s the big picture, your happiness. And health. You should never care what a man thinks of you — until he demonstrates to you that he cares about making you happy. If he isn’t trying to make you happy, then send him back from “whence” he came because winning him over will have no benefit. At the end of the day, happiness, joy…and yes…your emotional stability…those comprise the only measuring stick you really need to have.”

Why Men Love Bitches

 

Are you feeling and smelling the slimy contradiction here?

Sometimes when I’m at work I sit in on coffee breaks and listen to my female co-workers chatter excitedly about their latest reading conquest. It’s fun to be the boy-fly-on-the-wall and catch the girly gossip.

Last year, the long white table surrounded by floor to ceiling windows and overlooking the busy Kelowna street was filled with talk of the lady, or Mommy porn prose of E.L. James. You may have heard of this little sensation – 50 Shades of Grey.

I’m not sure I’ve met a woman yet who hasn’t read at least a part of this beyond-bodice-ripping book.

It surprised me that non-street walking women were feeling quite comfortable admitting they had read the book (or the full series). After all, where was the timidity and reticence of the good girls to admit they were enjoying porn BDSM literature?

Could it be that women have come out of their sexual-inhibition closets?

women-reading-fifty-shades-of-grey

 

This year I’m cocking my ear to the sounds of discussion over another popular book called Why Men Love Bitches.

Bitches, written by Sherry Argov, is like the anti-Christ retort to the 50 Shades Bible, a liberated and strong view of how a woman should want to be treated by a man, and where to bury him if he crosses the bitch-acceptability line.

When I first saw the title to the book, I thought to myself: “Oh, come on … What man loves a bitch? What idiot wrote something stupid like that?

We all know a bitch or two – a spiteful or unpleasant woman – a witch, a shrew, a hellcat, yeah – A Bee-OTCH!

Do you remember how I tricked you by using the word SEX in last week’s blog title? Well, this author hurls out the word BITCH in order to trick us into reading her book.

It’s sneaky deception – she ain’t talking ’bout bitches like you and I know bitches.

But could she sell a book that was titled Why Men Love Strong, Confident, Independent Women?…BLAHHHHH! Boring!

And yet, this is exactly the type of women that she writes 272 pages about. The sensible, strong, sexy, charming, independent, loving woman that yes … many, if not most, men LOVE.

There are no perfumed hints in Why Men Love Bitches of the 50 Shades Ana that comes to thrive on submission to Christian’s every physical and emotional desire:

Christian lays it out to Ana:

 The ownership thing, that’s just terminology and goes back to the principle of obeying. It’s to get you into the right frame of mind, to understand where I’m coming from. And I want you to know that as soon as you cross my threshold as my submissive, I will do what I like to you. You have to accept that and willingly. That’s why you have to trust me. I will fuck you, any time, any way, I want – anywhere I want. I will discipline you, because you will screw up. I will train you to please me.

CFMs on face

Give it back to him Ana!

SUBMISSIVE or BITCH?

Strangely, I’m pretty sure the reading audience for each of these books is similar.

What the hell is going on here … this doesn’t make sense, does it?

Trying to understand the wickedly confusing female psyche, I made myself read both books – such torture for a man to read about explicit sex with beautiful women.

Obviously, I’m now an expert peeking over the other side of the fence knowing exactly what women REALLY want in their men and relationships.

And the short answer is? I have NO IDEA!

Actually, that’s not true. I do have an idea, so hear me out.

Our GREY girl Ana is subservient and plays the submissive princess in the Grey castle where he holds the economic clout and other levers of control. Eventually, like a hostage with Stockholm Syndrome, Ana comes to love Christian and his sexy wicked ways.

The BITCH girl is no one’s bitch. She pays her own way and supports her own castle. As the BITCH says: Work=Money=The ability to choose the way you want to be treated=Personal Control=Dignity. 

These are two hugely popular books with enormous numbers of (predominantly) female followers. And yet, two very different views of how men and women relate on a personal and intimately sexual level.

Contradictory? Yep. But it comes down to this:

We love fantasy as a way of spicing up our lives.

We daydream, we nightdream, we fantasize, we blush inside and conjure up erotic images that we share with absolutely no one – I mean no one – in our real-life world.

It’s a little sweet, chocolate treat we give to ourselves to make our sometimes daily drudgery of working and shopping and cooking and cleaning and vanilla sex tolerable.

50 Shades, like many movies we adore, floats those forbidden fantasies that dwell down deep upwards to the surface and scratches the nagging itch of our inner kinky beings.

But even fantasy-driven people come back to their steady, earthly selves when reading BITCHES, knowing that life – REAL LIFE – is about respect and equality.

Think of it this way:

  • 50 SHADES OF GREY is the Lusty Lord of the Rings trilogy, Star Wars of Sex, Indiana Jones of Intercourse.
  • WHY MEN LOVE BITCHES is the PBS documentary NOVA or Nature of Things or Home Improvement episode.

Sex Wars

 

Before a woman starts into 50 Shades, she’s a rational, documentarian bitch, a librarian with glasses and hair tied up prim and proper.

But find her a couple of chapters into Ana and Christian Grey’s story and the BITCH bondage of her updo transposes into the 50 Shades bondage of wrists and erotically lustful unbounded submission.

It’s a beautiful contradiction, and maybe you CAN have it both ways.

………………..

One last thought.

I can’t resist pointing out the appalling writing contained within 50 Shades. Who can write this stuff and STILL sell a billion copies??:

Ana: “And from a very tiny, underused part of my brain – probably located at the base of my medulla oblongata near where my subconscious dwells – comes the thought: He’s here to see you.”

 

 

 

 

Before There Was 50 Shades … There Was My Man John …

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When I sat in eccentric old Mr. Batchelor’s Grade 9 English class, I dreamed of my own personal Fifty Shades of Grey scenario with about half of the girls in the classroom.

The short mini-skirts of the ’70’s era, revealing cream-coloured, porcelain-smooth teenage thigh skin were a “blurred lines” invitation to a 14 year-old male pubescent mind.

The scene outside my Grade 9 classroom...

A typical scene outside my Grade 9 classroom…

I was hormonally primed and more than ready to give up elementary schoolyard swings and slides and pounce onto a new sex-charged high school playground.

Yep, I was a squeaky-voiced early version of Christian Grey. My last name “Green”, akin to Grey, was an obvious prescient sensual sign of great things to come.

I was possessed of a totally literary kind of schoolboy perspective with high ideals and best of intentions … NOT!!

I’m pretty sure that not a single one of my imaginary classmates-harem gave this short, cherub-cheeked boy in the front left desk any thoughts close to what I was living in my preoccupied haze.

I was giftwrapped in my brain’s illusion, and there was no one that would take the wrapping off and make it real.

But … aside from my adolescent fantasy world, I enjoyed the class for some of the academic reasons too.

…………………

As a decent student, I relished reading stories and literature that drew me in and took me to worlds of which I knew nothing.

But, to take just one example, reading Shakespeare left me in a a muddled whirlwind of incomprehension and confusion. Good God, what did any of his Renaissance-era Olde English words mean?

I loved it when we travelled on field trips to Stratford (Ontario, Canada … not that OTHER Stratford) to watch the plays acted live, because mercifully, I could eke out an understanding of the story. Live theatre was a pretty reasonable substitute for Coles Notes.

The actions showed me what the words never had.

Plus there was lots of drama, fights, sword-play, and naughty 50 Shades-style bawdy skirmishing.

It was great fun watching the serious-minded Shakespearean actors jettison streams of airborne saliva all over each other in their emphatic acting roles. Strange how live acting never appealed to me as a life choice after seeing one of those plays.

Members of the company in Kiss Me, Kate , 2010. Photography by Erin Samuell.

……………………

Fortunately, I wasn’t a total literary loss — there was one author that we young learners read at various times throughout high school that was understandable for me.

He told empathetic stories with struggling, heartfelt characters like justice-seeking Tom Joad and dim-witted Lennie Small.

He created a world of real life drama that took possession over me, carrying me into a time warp that dramatized my parents’ and grandparents’ era…the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

Who was this wonder author that penetrated the hormonally-charged mind of a teenage boy?

John Steinbeck

.

The Grapes of Wrath. Of Mice and Men. East of Eden. Cannery Row.

Lennie and George...Of Mice and Men... so bittersweet.

Lennie and George…Of Mice and Men… so bittersweet.

I’ve told you in earlier blog posts that I’m not a great fan of Hemingway’s sparse writing.

On the other hand, I loved Steinbeck. I loved Steinbeck then, the way you might love Stephen King or Suzanne Collins or J.K. Rowling today.

By his words, you could taste the bone-dry prairie dust in your mouth. You could feel your heart breaking and tears rising when Lennie panics and accidentally snaps the neck of the boss farmer’s beautiful wife — Oh Lennie, why did you have to go and do that?

But I read his stories with different eyes in a different era from today. Society was a different place then, just as it is in every generation and time.

We look at the past world and see the words and actions of others as if they were occurring today. We judge Christopher Columbus by who we are now, not who he was in 1492.

Steinbeck chronicled an era, not unlike TV’s Mad Men, where women sat stoically in the background and waited for decisions to be made on their behalf.

Like obedient cattle, women were chattel, or sometimes Lady Chatterley, but never an equal co-driver or co-decision maker.

In those high school days, few of us ever saw his characters as being sexist or misogynistic.

Women were just people. 2nd Class people maybe, but it was what it was.

misogynistic-vintage-ads

Chapter 1 of The Grapes of Wrath had this telling scene of prairie folk fearfully surveying their destroyed livelihoods:

Men stood by their fences and looked at the ruined corn, drying fast now, only a little green showing through the film of dust. The men were silent and they did not move often.

And the women came out of the houses to stand beside their men—to feel whether this time the men would break. The women studied the men’s faces secretly, for the corn could go, as long as something else remained.

The children stood near by, drawing figures in the dust with bare toes, and the children sent exploring senses out to see whether men and women would break. The children peeked at the faces of the men and women, and then drew careful lines in the dust with their toes.

Horses came to the watering troughs and nuzzled the water to clear the surface dust.

After a while the faces of the watching men lost their bemused perplexity and became hard and angry and resistant. Then the women knew that they were safe and that there was no break.

Then they asked, What’ll we do? And the men replied, I don’t know. But it was all right. The women knew it was all right, and the watching children knew it was all right. 

Women and children knew deep in themselves that no misfortune was too great to bear if their men were whole.”

It’s a beautifully written passage of anguish and despair, finishing off with insight and hope.

But was this some kind of innocent early non-sexualized precursor to 50 Shades where women were meek and submissive – a place where the dominant male asserted his rightful supremacy?

Could you write a book today with lines like this?

Maybe, but I think that Steinbeck would more likely have this cheerless man and woman standing side-by-side, pondering the difficult choices to be made … together … equals. The man would want to know that she wouldn’t break as much as she wouldn’t want him to falter.

I still admire and enjoy Steinbeck’s stories, but I interpret and absorb the words differently.

The grey matter in this Green man’s head has been altered and shifted by time and experience. When I read a book (or view a movie) now that I took in as a younger person, I see it from the who and the where that I am now.

In a blog post I wrote about a year and a half ago, I told of my shock and dismay that 5o Shades of Grey had become such a popular phenomenon among women of all ages. It didn’t make sense to me that women would embrace a character like Anastasia Steele who would allow herself to be victimized and dominated so willfully.

It surprises the hell out of me that a society that clamours for gender equality, also enigmatically and breathlessly clamours for stories of female victimhood and inequality.

Who knows, perhaps in 20 years I’ll re-read 50 Shades and the words and scenes will look different to my older eyes just as Steinbeck’s stories and characters have changed for me over time.

NAH …

I’ll still yell at Anastasia not to sign that Dominant/Submissive contract with Christian Grey, and turn and run in the opposite direction.

50 Shades of Bad