Nonfiction

03/26/2013 - 8:18am
The Grimm Reader by Maria Tatar

Modernized versions of traditional fairy tales have become popular in recent years, with television series such as ABC’s Once Upon a Time and graphic novels such as Bill Willingham’s Fables providing creative and original narratives utilizing characters and concepts from old folk tales. Although popular, these newer variations on older fairy tales have created controversy for altering the traditional characterizations and stories that many people grew up with. This exposes a major flaw in many people’s understanding of fairy tales and traditional folk culture—which versions are the “most correct” version of the story, and why? Maria Tatar’s The Grimm Reader is a collection of many of the traditional fairy tales recorded by the Brothers Grimm, providing an English translation of some of the oldest written versions of these stories.  Notable for being far more violent than the “traditional” versions of the fairy tales popularized in the Victorian period (and later, by Disney films), the typical Grimm story is a combination of children in jeopardy, adults that range from neglectful to destructive, and flat narrative that is driven by plot rather than by characterization.

01/23/2013 - 9:17pm
Windows 8 graphic

2012 saw the debut of the latest version of Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 8.  Windows 8 debuted in an unusually tense atmosphere for a Windows device, as “Wintel” (Windows PCs powered by Intel processors) faced unprecedented threats from tablets and smartphones in the marketplace.  Windows 8 PCs faced sales declines over the 2012 holiday period, and the changes in the interface of Windows 8 from Windows 7 have been a major cause of concern for many consumers. Questions such as, “How can I find my old files if I upgrade to Windows 8?” and “Will Steam run in Windows 8?” are extremely common. Another common topic for questions is the difference between Windows 8—the operating system for conventional Windows desktop and laptop PCs, and Windows RT—the operating system for Windows tablets.  In this article, let’s take a look at how compatibility in Windows 8 works and what the differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT mean.

01/16/2013 - 1:58pm

It’s no secret that the newspaper and magazine industries are under a period of terrible financial stress, as I reported in my article, "Where Have All the Magazines Gone?"  Since then, even more magazines and newspapers have ceased publication of their printed format, including Newsweek at the end of 2012. As print magazines and newspapers become less viable, the companies that run them face a vexing choice—rely on Internet advertising on an open site for funding or charge fees for access to a pay wall site that inherently limits the size of their audience.  Inspired by the New York Times’ recent implementation of a pay wall, many news magazines are implementing or plan to implement pay walls, including the Washington Post.  As consumers, many find the concept of formerly free sites implementing viewing restrictions on content frustrating and counterproductive to their desire to know what’s going on in the world.  But does it even benefit the companies themselves in the long run?  Financial magazines and Wall Street praise the Times’ pay wall as the future, but the overall history of success for pay wall news sites is considerably less hopeful than it may first appear.

01/08/2013 - 2:12pm
Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation

Tom Bissell's Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creations represents the best of what an essay collection can offer: incisive observations about a wide range of intriguing topics, intelligent social commentary that refrains from didacticism, and a good sense of comedic timing. Bissell's essays are characterized by impressive eclecticism. He discusses established cultural figures like Ernest Hemingway, David Foster Wallace, and Werner Herzog, as well as less conventional subjects, such as Tommy Wiseau (the auteur responsible for the cult film The Room), the Underground Literary Alliance, and Jennifer Hale, “the Queen of Video-game Voice-over.” While these topics might seem incurably disparate, Bissell's interest in the process and consequences of creation provides a framework which links them together.

01/02/2013 - 8:42am
How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman

Have you ever wanted to become a writer and brave the strange and confusing world of trying to sell your work to the publishing industry? Do you feel you might need a refresher course in creating a marketable thriller or romance novel?  If you are curious about improving your writing technique to make your work more compelling, concise, or appealing to publishers, you may benefit from How Not to Write a Novel, a writing guide from Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman.  This guide is a compilation of examples of common writing mistakes that can make novels confusing, boring, or unappealing to read.  Humorous and well-organized, this book is both a great educational resource and a good comedic read.

12/26/2012 - 3:31am
Baby's in Black by Arne Bellstorf

Baby's in Black drops you into a smoke-filled club in Hamburg. Despite the German locale, the band on stage is wailing in English about doing the "hippy hippy shake". Everyone's moving except for the bassist, who looks cooler than James Dean.

The band has been playing for hours, and they will continue for several hours more, as per their contract. They pop pills to stay awake for that long. The group is the Beatles. The year is 1960. The bassist is Stu Sutcliffe.

11/30/2012 - 10:13am
picture of copy machine

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Isn’t that how an article about derivative works is supposed to begin?  We only ask because there are probably other articles out there on this topic that begin the same way.  Whether or not we admit it to ourselves, 100% true originality in the case of media like books, film, music and games is practically unheard of.  That’s not a bad thing; works that build on one another can be some of the richest experiences imaginable.  On the other hand, some people are just lazy and rip-off other, greater works. 

11/14/2012 - 3:32am
The Film Club by David Gilmour

When David Gilmour's son decided to drop out of high school, his father could have screamed at the top of his lungs about ruining one's future and the misery of being a lifelong freeloader. Instead he created The Film Club.

Fifteen-year-old Jesse could leave school under a couple of conditions. One: he had to avoid getting involved with drugs. Two: he had to watch three movies a week with his father, a former film critic. Dad picked the films, and all Jesse had to do was pay attention. What followed is one of the riskiest experiments in alternative education I have ever seen. Was David 100% sure this was an ideal solution? Heck no, but he thought it was worth a try.

10/17/2012 - 3:31am
One Perfect Day

In the United States, the word “wedding” tends to evoke certain associations. The mind automatically regurgitates images absorbed from films, commercials, and magazines: a glowing bride ensconced in layers of delicate white fabric gliding among tables festooned with elaborate decorations, decadent food, and thousands of dollars worth of fresh-cut flowers. In this fantasy, money is no object, happiness is guaranteed, and future contentment seems likely. But how did such an extravagant, illogical vision become normative? Why are weddings consuming people's lives and bank accounts to such an extreme degree? These are the questions Rebecca Mead explores in One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding.

As Mead describes her excursions to bridal shows, wedding planner conventions, Aruba (a popular locale for destination weddings), and a Chinese factory that mass produces bridal gowns, she both contextualizes and deconstructs the fantastical visions of beauty and perfection which generally dominate our sense of the American wedding. Even if you aren't planning a wedding, it's difficult to avoid the current glut of wedding-themed media. Wedding cake decorators feature prominently on TV shows that compete with Say Yes to the Dress and A Wedding Story. Each year it seems more and more books and magazines are dedicated to offering advice on how to fully enjoy an ice sculpture center piece or perfectly match the flower girl's shoes to the bride's sister's earrings.

10/10/2012 - 3:30am
Zoobiquity

Zoobiquity is a nonfiction book written by a heart specialist for humans.  Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz is often called in as a consultant at the Los Angeles Zoo for animals with heart problems.  One day when she was at the zoo, the head veterinarian mentioned a heart condition that vets have known about for decades and yet human doctors only discovered ten years ago. The name was different, but the condition was the same. Zoobiquity is the result of Natterson-Horowitz's efforts to discover what other medical and psychological conditions humans and animal share.

Dr. Natterson-Horowitz begins by explaining that for decades now veterinarians have searched human medical journals for help with their animal patients, but human doctors very seldom consult with veterinarians or read the veterinary medical journals. She began to wonder what else medical doctors have missed by not encouraging an exchange of information. As a heart doctor who is also a psychiatrist, she also began to wonder how many other conditions and psychoses we share with our animal counterparts. 

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