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Have Read, Am Reading, Will Read

I’ve been working on making some changes and either introducing, or re-introducing some more positive habits into my life. And one of the main things I wanted to make time for is reading printed books.

There were two main reasons for this. One was to spend at least some time between waking and sleeping when I’m not reading from a screen to give my eyes a rest and to get into a better routine to promote a good night of sleep.

The other was to see if my attention span has suffered from the constant distractions of social media, notifications, and emails. There’s still plenty of debate over the potential benefits and harm of task switching (as opposed to pretending you can actually multi-task). And it’s never something I really experience when actively writing and creating something – only when passively consuming entertainment of some description

Plus I miss my childhood, spent devouring books for at least an hour every day…

So I bought some books. One I’ve already finished, one I’ve just started, and one is awaiting me impatiently… And the benefit of having been slack in my reading habits for a while is that many of the things I want to read are relatively cheap right now.

Jon Pierson: Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes: Guided Tour Through A Decade of American Independent Cinema

Spike, Mike Slackers and Dykes by Jon Pierson

Written in 1997, I can remember it being recommended by Clerks director Kevin Smith a long time ago. And it was one of those things I never seemed to get around to reading – until now.

And it was alright. The author, Jon Pierson, was responsible for investing in, and making deals for, indie films including Spike Lee’s first film, She’s Gotta Have It, the aforementioned Clerks by Kevin Smith, documentary The Thin Blue Line, and Richard Linklater’s Slackers among others. So a pretty good list of influential films from that period.

As a result, the book covers elements of film making, film distribution and dealing with studios, but not really in much depth. In fact, what was most interesting when reading it now is wondering whether there’s still a need for that type of role and how making films has changed. This was an era when extremely low budget meant $7,000 (El Mariachi) or $27,000 (Clerks) on 16mm film. Not an iPhone.

It was also an era before internet distribution – no Youtube or Vimeo. No Amazon or Netflix streaming. And none of the smaller online indie film sites like Indieflix.com, for example. And the book was published two years before the internet sensation of the Blair Witch Project…

Having said all that, it’s still a very interesting book. If you’ve got an outsider’s interest in film, then you’ll pick up some inspiration, and it’s a great example of someone risking their money and livelihood on things that they like and consider worth championing. Which doesn’t always pay off, but still resulted in a pretty incredible batting average. So if you’re interested, the wonderful vagaries of Amazon’s pricing algorithm mean you can get a secondhand copy anywhere from 1p to £23.47 depending on which apparently identical listing you click on.

 

Julian Dibbell: Play Money

Play Money by Julian Dibbell

I’m doing better with Play Money. It’s taken me less than a decade to finally get a copy of a book I’ve meant to read since I first heard about it. When it was written, the world of MMO gaming was relatively new and unknown. So the idea of a journalist taking a year out of work to try and earn a living purely within an online game seemed fairly odd to a lot of people. For me, it just seemed a fascinating glimpse into what might happen in the future..

And given the rise of MMOs and eSports, I’d like to tell my former self not to listen to the naysayers and invest more time and effort into the ideas he had back then…. darn it…

Anyway, it’s been interesting so far. I’m pretty early in, but it’s fascinating firstly to be transports back to the era of Ultima Online. For context, World of Warcraft was new and still growing in 2006. Second Life had appeared in 2003. And I was still in my twenties…

So while it’s not exactly a handbook for how to make a living from gaming in the modern age, it’s been an interesting look back so far. And it’ll be fun to see how many characters from the book are still active in gaming in some way…

Interestingly, author Julian Dibbell has recently switched from 20 years of writing about tech to becoming a tech attorney. Anyway, so far so good. and there are some shiny paperback copies of Play Money on Amazon, although the hardcover copy I chose appears to have vanished…

 

Mark Earls: Herd

Herd by Mark Earls

I’ve been waiting to dive into Herd to make sure I’m back to maximum focus. Mainly because I could have sworn I’d not only read it close to the original release, but also owned a copy.

Either it was a very rare time I lent a book to someone (I can only remember lending out a handful of books in my life, and the loss of the 2 I remember loaning out in the last 15 years still pains me), or I’d read some much insight from Mr Earls via articles, blogs, and Twitter etc that my memory started playing tricks on me.

But it seemed like a very pertinent time to re-read a book whose subtitle is ‘How to change mass behaviour by harnessing our true nature’, and it’ll be interesting to pick out which bits are relevant with the recent examples of Trump, Brexit and other mass behaviours…

I was also given a copy of Five on Brexit Island by some relatives recently. And looking at my profile on Goodreads, it appears than what I thought was a break of a few weeks after starting Cryptonomicon has turned into several months. In my defence, I did get distracted by motoring through the fantastic Ecko trilogy by Danie Ware, which I recommend to anyone who enjoys sci-fi, fantasy, and a healthy dose of vernacular English cursing.

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