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Entries in Books (42)

Saturday
Jan242004

My Moleskine Dream

Last night I had a curious dream. I was at the airport and as I headed toward a gate, saw someone from the corner of my eye waving and calling out "Moleskines for sale!" Intrigued by this, I walked over to this quiet section of the airport and found several Europeans from various countries selling Moleskines for $2 each, because the exchange rate to the dollar was so low. Well, that's a good deal, I thought.

I assumed they bought a bulk shipment from Modo & Modo in Milan Italy -- but the weird thing about the dream was, when I bought my two books for $4, I was given a business card of a local Milwaukee bookseller that seemed vaguely familiar, where I was to pick up my books. The European Moleskine seller had written something on the back of the card, which would apparently work as a receipt.

After the sale I was worried, but then this gentleman showed me a big, burgundy fold out journal he had which looked like a Bible. For some odd reason I felt the guy was being straight with me and I would certainly get my Moleskines at the store I was being sent to.

Then the dream ended or changed, and I can remember nothing more of last night's dream session.

This was odd for many reasons, not the least of which was giving $4 to someone I didn't know for only the promise of two Moleskines (something I'd never normally do). Even stranger was the idea that a group of people would be in an airport selling Italian notebooks and not even actually selling the books, but receipts for books to be picked up locally. Most interesting is that I actually recall this dream now... it was that vivid.

I have no idea what this dream means, other than I'm apparently very into Moleskine notebooks lately. :-)

On a related note, I've received two comments here from readers who being encouraged by all of the Moleskine posting, have bought themselves a Moleskine. I've also received several comments from several other readers whom have been Moleskine users for a while, or have dusted off their own little black notebooks, because of the recent Moleskine posts here. Woohoo!

One of the guys even mentioned his handwriting being pretty bad after years of journaling in DayNotez on a Palm device. I could relate too, as this was one primary reason for getting a Moleskine and earlier, doing an analog journal. That and the idea that there are no undos with ink on paper was actually very refreshing.

Okay, lots to do. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday
Jan212004

The Molskinerie & Moleskine Fans

Sepulveda's MoleskineSometimes the web amazes me.

Yesterday I received an nice invite from fellow blogger Armand Frasco, about the new blog he's begun, called Moleskinerie, dedicated to Moleskine notebooks. Oddly enough, I'd already visited the Moleskinerie just last week, via Witold Riedel's blog (another Moleskine fan) and thought it was an interesting idea... a blog dedicated to the love of a little $10 book.

So, I replied to Armand about this and offered my recent WorkPod sketch for his site, which he posted mere minutes later at Moleskinerie! Apparently the blog is just a week old but already has been getting nice traffic. Even better, the Moleskinerie has fans like Witold Riedel, Howard Rheingold (SmartMobs author), Danny Gregory, Fazal Majid, Mike Shea and others. Pretty amazing for a week's work Armand! :-)

Some other Moleskine serendipitous moments occurred yesterday. I had a short, friendly chat with Rael Dornfest of Mobile Whack and Raelity Bytes -- turns out Rael carries his Moleskine everywhere. I also remembered that Michael Ashby started carrying a Moleskine as an idea book after a discussion we had weeks ago... seems he too carries his everywhere and loves how well it's working for him. Ausgezeichnet! :-)

After all of this Molskinery lately, I'm starting to wonder if there's something too these little books. Seeing respected people using them one way or another, I feel like they might be a small but potent catalyst for creativity. A book shouldn't make a difference that way... but somehow it does.

Mike Shea sums this up wonderfully, in his Moleskinerie post The Moleskine Obsession:

Part of me rebels against these words. Its just a notebook. Its paper. Words matter. Stories matter. The little faux-leather covered overpriced notebook does not matter. It's stuff. Its degradable material that will be dead in probably one or two hundred years max. It doesn't promote thought. It wont make you a better writer. It doesn't create life changing experiences.

But it does. Somehow, when you pick up one of these, you want to fill it. You want to travel and write about it. You want to record your thoughts so that perhaps in two to five hundred years someone else will read them and know what you were thinking. They are useful to the point of artistic beauty. I feel like Winston Smith in 1984, risking his life to record his thoughts in a world that steals them from your head with doublethink and thoughtcrime.

I love my Moleskines and you can have them when you pry them from my cold dead hands.

So well said. Something about these little books is just perfect -- not too large or thick, but endowed with deliciously smooth paper that beckons that you fill them up. Very hard to describe, but once you have the Moleskine bug, you'll know it.

Maybe I'm indulging in the love of a funny little book a little too much... but it seems a positive obsession if it encourages me to express myself. Hopefully all this attention on Moleskines will encourage creative people (and those who wish to be creative) the nudge they need to express themselves. If that happens through all of this blogging and so on, I'd be pretty happy to have been a part of it.

Friday
Jan162004

What is a Moleskine?

MoleskineAch! I've just realized today, that I've been jabbering on about sketching in a Moleskine notebook this week (relative to my sketching resolution) but neglected to describe these little books for those who don't know about them! Sorry about that.

Moleskines are small, black hard-bound notebooks that measure about 3.5 x 5.5 inches (3/8 inch thick) and feature 80-120 pages (depending on the style of book). They were originally made in Tours, France and used by many famous artists and writers starting in the mid to late 1800s for notes and sketches. Moleskines were made by a small family company in Tours until 1986. After a short lapse, the small books were revived by the Italian firm Modo & Modo.

Actually, Modo & Modo makes many variations of the Moleskine now -- from notebooks and sketchbooks, to larger sized journals, address books, yearly journals, special edition Moleskines with fancy bindings and more. This is great, because just about any kind of Moleskine you might want is now available!

I bought my first Moleskine sketchbook at a local Barnes & Noble for $10 (with birthday money), though they can be had online for about $10.75 at Moleskine US and are also available at Moleskine UK starting at about £8.

I love my Moleskine sketchbook, because it's small enough to put in a pocket yet is tough enough to take a beating. The design has very nice touches: rounded corners, an elastic strap to keep the book closed and an integrated gray fabric bookmark. The paper stocks are also very fine, providing a nice surface for writing or sketching.

So, if you need a small, pocketable book for your writing, sketches or ideas (or whatever else) I can highly recommend a Moleskine. In my mind, a Moleskine is one of life's simple pleasures. Think of them as a nice little gift to yourself. They're so cheap (around $10) and yet offer you a nice place to capture your thoughts or imagination wherever you are!

Update 2004-01-20: Just got a nice note from Armand Frasco at the Moleskinerie, his weblog for Moleskine fanatics! Man, the Internet is a great place. :-)

Hey, have a great weekend!

Monday
Oct272003

A Place So Foreign

A Place So ForeignCory Doctorow, the Canadian sci-fi writer and blooger at Boing-Boing, is rapidly becoming one of my favorite writers. Cory wrote Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, which I talked about here, back in March. I really loved Cory's descriptions of people and places, and his humor, which reminded me of Douglas Coupland and Carl Hiassen, two other fave writers of mine.

This Friday, I heard from Dan Royea, that Cory had a new book out called A Place So Foreign and 8 More, a compilation of 9 short sci-fi stories he'd written. Even better, Cory is following the success of his freely downloadable Down and Out e-book with a downloadable e-book version of A Place So Foreign. The only caveat to the free version is, just 7 of the 9 short stories are available. To get all 9 stories you'll need to buy the paper version of the book.

Still, I think 7 out of 9 stories for free is very generous in this day of Digital Rights Management. I think Cory's idea about getting his writing out there via free downloads is a great approach, and I hope it sells him lots of books. Judging by the success of Down and Out, his idea seems to be working.

Of course I grabbed a copy on Friday evening and began reading. I'm happy to report that the book is really enjoyable! I've read Craphound (the name of Cory's website is derived from this older story) and am about halfway through the title story, A Place So Foreign.

Cory has a knack at describing realistic settings and characters in a way that makes them believable, even though there might be surreal or even weird things going on with the settings or characters. He seems to know just how much sci-fi oddness he can get away with and when he does include something strange, he manages to make the reader feel as though those odd things are quite normal.

So, if you enjoy a good read, with great writing and humor blended with funky sci-fi, then be sure to check out Cory Doctorow's A Place So Foreign and 8 More. I'm only on the 2nd story of the book, but already I can highly recommend this collection! :-)

Thursday
Oct232003

Neuromancer

Late last night I finally finished William Gibson's Neuromancer, so I thought it would be good to post about it, while the story and my comments were still fresh in my mind. Of course, as I mentioned before, I am probably the last tech geek on earth to have read Neuromancer (released in 1984) so I felt a little guilt for not having read it earlier. Well, I am happy to say that I can now claim to have read Neuromancer.

In a nutshell, the story is about a washed up high-flying hacker named Case, who lives in Japan, in a place called Chiba City. There he, along with the other dregs of his futuristic society, eke out existences and fill their addictions, remembering better days. Case was caught embezzling funds on his last hacking job and had his neural brain networks purposefully damaged as a retribution. Through some odd situations, Case is hired to do a hacking job in exchange for his neural network being restored. The story follows Case, and several other characters as they prepare to complete the mission they were hired to do, complete with surprises and plot twists.

I mostly liked Neuromancer. I say mostly, because I felt like I could just barely follow the story-line. There were so many twists and turns in the plot that I often felt a bit lost. In this book, Gibson has a tendency to use rapid scene transitions without any setup or warning, suddenly switching between the real world and the virtual network world that Case experiences. This rapid scene switching combined with a complex plot and the dense description of the future world all combined to keep me constantly on the edge. I felt like someone clinging to the guardrail on the caboose of a speeding freight train. Maybe a second reading would resolve some of these issues for me.

As for the futuristic society, it was hard for me to follow fully. Gibson is envisioning a wild sprawling new world where the east coast is one big sprawling city, with no real borders. I must prefer present day modern society or something, because I found myself having trouble envisioning his future world. In this sense I enjoyed Pattern Recognition much more than Neuromancer, because it felt like today's world with some twists. Maybe that's a bit of my love for travel writing and travelogues bobbing to the surface?

Gibson's world of the real and the world of networks is quite interesting when taken in context. Reading Neuromancer in today's context, with the Internet so commonplace, makes it feel somewhat pedestrian. However, when you put Neuromancer into proper context, being released into a world where the first Macintosh was announced during the Superbowl, and PCs had green screens, it must have hit like a ton of bricks. Now I'm a little bummed that I'd missed this book, way back when.

Spoiler Warning: I'm going to invoke the excerpt feature of Moveable Type, so that my comments about the guts of the story won't spoil the book for other interested readers. Continue at your own risk!
I did like many of Gibson's descriptions. For instance, he calls the security systems "ice" which Case and his comrades try to cut through. Gibson was the first to use terns like cyberspace and matrix in relation to computer networks. In fact, I kept feeling that the Matrix (the film) took quite a bit of its ideas from Neuromancer: jacking in to your head port, living in a virtual world called the "Matrix" and even the characters of Case, Molly and Maelcum are reminiscent of the Matrix movie. I can really see how the Wachowski brothers are giving homage to Gibson through the Matrix.

I did really enjoy Dixie (a.k.a. Flatline), the old hacker who had been stored in ROM. The idea of someone's mind being stored like that was just odd and unusual. Like a hall of heads or something. I liked his humor too.

Rivera was a bit weird though, with his ability to create holograms that appeared real. Several times his holos popped up without warning and threw me. In this case I liked being thrown, because it seemed to give me a sense of how the other characters must have felt around Rivera. Funny too that he made a final error with 3Jane's samurai in the end. Ooops.

I'm still not sure about the ending and in particular, about Molly. Why did she have regular eyes re-installed and (I assume) her blades removed? Maybe she had tired of the razor girl lifestyle with its risks and danger? Maybe she needed a break from that life and the reminder of her first love who was lost due to it?

Why did Molly walk away from Case? Did he remind her of her first love, or was she fearful of loving him only to lose him eventually? I guess that means the story hasn't been completely resolved in my mind. All indicators point to a re-read in a year or so. :-)

So, do you Neuromancer readers, who have ventured into this nether-area of spoilers have any comments? Maybe you can clarify some details on the story for me? I'd love to hear from you, if you do.