Before Midnight

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I write a lot of my blog posts late at night, right before I go to bed. I try to get them posted before midnight Irish time, but sometimes I settle for “oh well, it’s still yesterday in Texas” when I’m trying to post daily entries. It’s gotten worse this semester, with these four-day weekends and the amount of reading I have to do – I’m not sleeping at night.

All this to say, in my mind, it’s still January 20, which means: Happy Before Midnight Premiere Day!

As I write this, audiences at Sundance Film Festival are watching the world premiere of Before Midnight, the third film in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise / Before Sunset storyline. The films follow Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy around various European cities in the timeframes indicated by the titles. The installments are spaced nine years apart, with release dates in 1995, 2004, and now 2013.

Take the film-release frenzy of your Harry Potter, your Twilight, your Hunger Games, mix in a little indie-movie snobbery, stir it all together and allow to steep into a strong arthouse brew, then add a splash of Gen-X disenchantment and a sprinkle of wanderlust, and that is how excited I am about this movie. I am completely invested in these characters, and I cannot wait to find out what happens to them.

Before Midnight is screening at the Berlin Film Festival in a few weeks, and I’m very tempted to just go…

Happy 100th Post!

It’s all going to be okay. I can feel it. And I have now written 100 posts for this blog!

So guess what? On Christmas Day, Galway broke the world record for most people swimming in the ocean whilst wearing Santa hats. A total of 1,066 brave souls went into the water at Blackrock in Salthill. I was not one of them.

I did, however, carry a collection bucket for COPE, the charity that organized the event. COPE Galway works with the homeless, provides assistance for those suffering domestic violence, and runs the community catering programme in Galway County (sort of like Meals on Wheels).

COPE raised €34,000 at the Christmas Day event! I’m certain about half of that sum was in my bucket, in the form of heavy €2 coins. I couldn’t bend my elbows the next day.

Seriously, though… well done, Galway!

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“At least I have a chocolate waffle in my pocket.”

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So our stay in Belfast was a comedy of errors, which included two nights in the world’s worst hostel, an overpriced meal at the world’s worst Tex-Mex restaurant (to be fair, we should have known better), and essentially walking straight past a Loyalist protest that made the front page the next day in favor of the Christmas market where I bought the waffle mentioned in the title of this blog post (and pictured in that terrible blurry photo). The waffle-in-pocket quote, an empty snug at the famous Crown Saloon, and a fantastic meal at The Potted Hen were the high points in Belfast, a beautiful city that we did not get to appreciate fully.

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Glasgow didn’t start off much better, as our hotel reservation, booked through a third-party service online, was not handled properly. In between dealing with that and doing laundry at the lovely Cotton Fresh laundromat on Paisley Road West, we didn’t get to see much of Glasgow proper. We were also a little disappointed with our hotel, which was not the three-star we had been promised, and cost a lot more than we had planned because of the reservation snafu.

Then, when we set out for a walk to try and find free wi-fi, we discovered the coolest place, directly across the street from our hotel. The Glasgow Climbing Centre is AN OLD CHURCH THAT HAS BEEN REFURBISHED WITH CLIMBING WALLS and has a lovely little cafe (with free wi-fi) located “at the top of the spiral staircase.” Suffice to say, I love this place. I’ve only been rock climbing once, and it was a terrible experience at a gym in Texas, but I am so glad the Glasgow Climbing Centre let us sit in their cafe (The Balcony) on a rainy Thursday afternoon and chill out for a spell. Completely redeemed Glasgow for me… possibly rock climbing as well.

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The Chi at Charlie Byrne’s

For as long as I can remember (at least eight years), Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop has wrapped around another small shop in the Cornstore. You could enter the bookshop from the street, browse the displays in the main room, skirt along the edge of the shelves into fiction, step down into the history/art history/travel room, backtrack through fiction to classics and literary criticism, take a quick glance around health/psychology, move into Irish Interest, and giggle at the children’s books on your way out the back door.

The bookstore recently expanded into the space formerly occupied by the smaller shop. There is now an entire room of Irish interest, with its own entrance, located between the history/art history/travel room and the kids’ section. Book-browsing in Galway has a much more circular flow these days.

Oh, and they’re having a sale all weekend to celebrate.

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eBook Incunabula

At the Dublin Book Festival this weekend, the debate over ebooks vs books raised some questions about how closely the ebook needs to remain tied to the printed book. A major point of discussion in my Book History class has been incunabula – that is, books printed within the first 50 years after the invention of the printing press (circa 1450). I think we are kind of in the era of digital incunabula right now. And just like the incunabula of the 15th century mimicked the manuscripts of an earlier era, the ebooks of today are mimicking the printed book. This mimickry is not always necessary, and, as we saw in the case of incunabula, many of the old formatting traditions fall by the wayside.

I think it’s important to pause here and distinguish between text and format. All books contain text, whether is is hand-copied by scribes, printed by Gutenberg, impressed in Braille, recorded on an audiobook, or uploaded to an ereading device. What is changing is the way those lines of text are treated and presented: sheets of vellum gave way to bound paper which gave way to ereaders. The earliest text was engraved in stone, then inscribed on papyrus scrolls, then written on wooden tablets. The classic codex – that is, the bound book with pages that we turn as we read – very much belongs to the physical world. I think what is so exciting about this ebook revolution is that ebooks can become anything, and may not always resemble the books that sit on our shelves.

The first and most obvious example of ebooks holding on to traditions of the printed book is the concept of pages. My Kindle (a very early model) features buttons that say PREV[IOUS] PAGE and NEXT PAGE, but why? There are no page numbers on a Kindle book, so that word “page” doesn’t really make sense in this context. Yes, it is how I have always experienced a book, and no doubt this early Kindle (or ebook incunabulum) needs to be rooted in the familiar so readers can easily adopt the ebook format, but if a Kindle book is demarcated by percentages and locations, the concept of the page is a bit out of place. Even the earliest codices didn’t have page numbers, perhaps because people were still adjusting to the very concept of pages. Turning a page is something we do in the physical world with a print book – ereaders of the future may drop this feature once we move out of this ebook incunabula era and into a more fluid ereading experience.

Another concept that is definitely going to change is the book cover. I have never even looked at the cover of most of my ebooks, and I have trouble recognizing a book in the shop if I have only read it on my Kindle. I don’t browse for Kindle books in the Kindle store – I just buy titles I already know I want to read – so the concept of judging an ebook by it’s cover is completely lost on me. Half of the public domain books in the ibookstore are simply book icons with the title written in some boring font – no photo, no design. One of the speakers at the Dublin Book Festival, the CEO of StoryToys, actually said his app icon was his book cover. There is a overlap here between apps and ebooks/ibooks, but the fact that we have to make a distinction means that the tiny little square on your smart phone functions more like a book cover than the generic Moby Dick that is sitting on my iBookshelf.

Finally, my own personal Kindle pet peeve, which is definitely going to have to change (if it hasn’t already been updated on the fancier Kindles or other ereaders): bookmarks. This is my least favorite feature on the Kindle and, unfortunately, the one I have to use most often. Adding a bookmark requires two clicks and the presence of an obstructive screen on top of the text. Recovering a location I have bookmarked requires another two clicks and an entirely new screen, and clearing those bookmarks when I’m done requires three clicks and a reset of the bookmark menu to see the next bookmark. It definitely detracts from the reading experience. This is all a matter of how the reader uses bookmarks, and clearly I am not compatible with my Kindle 2.5.2. I much prefer my printed book technique, in which I use a post-it to mark the exact line of text I need, or, at the very least, rip up the book receipt and shove little shreds of paper way up close to the spine and hope the physical appearance of the text will jog my memory. Either way, the real-world bookmarks are easy to see, easy to navigate, and easy to remove when I am done with the book. If the newer Kindles and other ereaders have a one-click add/remove bookmark function or some sort of touch-and-highlight feature, then hurrah – ebooks are evolving.

I am not even going to touch on hyperlinking text or ebook interactivity because 1) that is certainly not my area of expertise and 2) it gets into the question of “Is it really a book if it makes sound / plays video / offers a gaming experience?” Those are debates better left for another day. I also don’t want to hypothesize too much by way of digital innovation or improvement, because if I knew the way ebooks were going to develop, I would make some investments right now and be a very rich woman in a few years. The whole point is that people more talented and innovative than me are going to make some very cool advances in ebook technology in the next few years, and they are going to astonish us all. It is a very exciting time to be learning about the publishing business.

We are still in the early years of the Information Age, and sometimes I think we forget how lucky we are to be living through this. The parallel between the print revolution and the digital revolution is just a tiny part of this significant time in history, but it’s enough to keep my imagination occupied for years to come.

Decisions, decisions, decisions

Welcome to November, when I start narrowing my focus and making choices about how I spend my time. For two months, I ran around trying everything offered and never refusing an opportunity to explore Ireland. I kind of had this policy that I would make myself follow through on every possibility, no matter how much it scared me. Someone even called me a culture vulture, and I was thrilled with that description. It all kind of culminated on October 31, when this 30-year-old woman went out on the town dressed in full fairy costume.

It’s catching up with me now. Time is tight, workload is increasing, and it’s freaking cold outside. On November 1, I skipped a volunteer wrap party (with free pizza) in favor of a frozen pizza and reading at home. On November 2, the rain and hail kept me from going out to use the free video rental coupons that arrived via email.

Today, November 3, was a tough one. I’m bound and determined to keep up with my pleasure reading while I work on my master’s. If I stop reading for pleasure, then there’s no point in pursuing a career in publishing. However, it’s not purely pleasure reading, because I have written a review of every book I have read since 2010 (first on Tumblr, then on Goodreads). Those reviews are kind of like mini-assignments I’ve given myself over the past 34 months.

I finished a book of short stories today, and wrote a review. I tried to be nice, given the whole criticism/Ruby Sparks issue I have been dealing with all week, but this book had a glaring error that I couldn’t ignore. I went to post the review on Goodreads, and I learned that the book has never been reviewed. It’s a new book, and it doesn’t even have an entry on Goodreads yet. My review, which focused entirely on some major flaws I found in the book, would be the first and likely only review – for a while anyway.

I decided not to post it. This is the first book in nearly three years that I won’t publish an opinion about… and I have posted some nasty reviews in my time. But I’m trying to be smart about this – it’s an Irish publisher, the proceeds of the book go to charity, and even though I’m in a publishing course and highly attuned to editorial misfires, I also know how easy it is to make a mistake. I just don’t want my negative (but fair!) review to be the only entry on Goodreads regarding this book.

There’s my tough choice of the day. Taking a hiatus from my three-year record of publicly stating what I think of the books I read so I can keep quiet about this one. I wonder if I’ll make a choice like this every day in November?

Tá an lá go deas.

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Figures. Yesterday my outdoor activity was washed away by rain; today, my day of studying was blessed with gorgeous weather.

I did get out for a bit. I made myself sit in Eyre Square for a full 15 minutes. I drank an entire hazelnut cappuccino and listened to a busker playing French-sounding songs on his accordion, which were complemented by the presence of a beret-wearing gentleman reading on the bench across from me. I even pretended I was in Paris for a moment… then realized I was being un peu stupide. I am in Ireland. I don’t need to pretend I am somewhere else.

It seems appropriate that my Irish for Beginners homework is partially about the weather. Tá an lá go deas means “It’s a nice day.” The appropriate response is:

Tá sé go hálainn, buíochas le Dia. (It’s beautiful, thanks be to God.)

Please curl up with a book and stay safe during this storm.

Internets!

Yesterday was like Christmas morning. The courier called at 11am and I met the van outside.

I even hooked it up by myself. (It wasn’t hard – I had to plug in precisely two cables.)

Now I am free to read the entire world wide web… just in time to finish my first essay. I love you, UPC!

“He makes a mean Cherry Coke.”

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Last night I went to a stage production of Steel Magnolias at the Black Box theatre. The show has been traveling around Ireland, with The OC star Mischa Barton in the role of Shelby.

The southern accents were great, although one or two of the characters gave Shreveport an extra syllable. Still, they managed to pronounce Louisiana like natives.

Since the play is set in the 1980s, I was curious as to why a 1990s Faith Hill song was playing during an interval between scenes – and more than a bit surprised when my friend from Poland started singing along.

I brushed it off, but during the next scene, Shelby tapped the radio in Truvvy’s salon like she was The Fonz, and another sassy Faith Hill song started playing as she sashayed out the door. That, kids, is what’s known as an anachronism, a chronological impossibility. I guess I know my polished pop country crap a little better than the Irish production team anticipated.

All was forgiven, though, by the poignant placement of Willie’s version of You Were Always On My Mind. The play is set entirely inside the beauty shop, so the audience never sees Shelby in the hospital, just listens while her mother tells the ladies everything. I’ve seen the movie a million times, and I was still fighting back tears.

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