The Sword in the Stone

er…boot.  Ride Muni with a wooden sword in your boot.  No one will mess with you or your iPad. 


A Clarification

When we say that this blog is about what people are reading on public transportation, we generally are referring to the passengers, i.e., the people who are not actually navigating the train, bus, or trolley. 

However, it seems this admittedly subtle distinction escaped the attention of at least one Oregonian bus driver who had come out decidedly in favor of the Kindle in our previous ruminations regarding e-readers.

I can’t really tell if Lahcen Qouchbane (yes, really)  is actually reading the Kindle or not, but a dashboard probably isn’t the best place to place reading material.  Though I must admit, I’m a bit impressed that one could actually read the print on the Kindle given the distance to the dashboard, and the ambient light that appears to be reflecting from it. 

[Story from]

In Conversation with Jonathan Franzen

From The Booksmith

Tonight, City Arts and Lectures presents Jonathan Franzan in Conversation with Mark Breitenberg.  Franzen’s latest novel, “Freedom,” was released a few weeks ago and was/is the subject of much anticipation after the popular success of his last novel, “The Corrections” in 2001. 

Your author probably won’t be making it to this event due to a previous engagement, but he will be reading this novel at some point.  You see, it was in 2001 when I was unable to participate in a conversation about modern literature because I had this subconscious policy of only reading “classics.”  That day, two friends were passionately discussing a book called “The Corrections.”  I decided I should read it.   I picked a good one to start with as “The Corrections” really is a great read.  And thus was born my interest in books that were written since the 1950s.   And the bit about how he did not want to be part of Oprah’s book club was rich.   

Herbst Theatre (401 Van Ness @ McAllister) 8pm.   It’s walkable from the Van Ness Muni station, or you can take the 47 or 49.  The 5 and 21 also won’t drop you off far if you’re coming from downtown. 

According to the  box office, this benefits 826 Valencia as well.

In Memoriam: Thomas Guinzburg

From NYT, via Gawker

Thomas Guinzburg, one of the founding editors of The Paris Review, passed away on Wednesday.  A decorated WW2 veteran, he also headed Viking/Penguin and, under his watch, the publisher found some great successes, including Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow” which your author is currently reading trying to digest.  This guy truly had his hands in all things literary.  Steinbeck was the best man at his wedding, for Pete’s sake.   

[NYT Article]

Fan the Fire of Tolerance this 9/11

From wikipedia

Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you are going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book, as long as that document does not offend our own ideas of decency. That should be the only censorship.

How will we defeat communism unless we know what it is, and what it teaches, and why does it have such an appeal for men, why are so many people swearing allegiance to it? It is almost a religion, albeit one of the nether regions.

–From the remarks of the President of the United States at the Dartmouth College Commencement, June 14, 1953. Courtesy of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission

Not long after penning the last post, I came across an article about how a church in Florida was planning on burning copies of the Qur’an on September 11.  The discordance between simultaneous cutting-edge technological advances in e-readers and a good ‘ol fashioned (and I do mean really ‘ol) book burning really struck me.

The written word is still an amazingly powerful thing, regardless of medium.  Although I doubt that a mass deletion of electronic versions of the Qur’an would have the same symbolic affect as tangible combustion, the fear of foreign ideas is very much still with us.

And as (even) Eisenhower said, destroying ideas with which we do not agree accomplishes nothing, and in this case, could even provide confirmatory evidence for Islamic extremists whose very message is that the West is hell-bent on destroying Islam.

So I propose something else.  On September 11, take 5 minutes to learn something about Islam or Islamic cultures of past or present.  Read a surah from the Qur’an.  Wondering why the Islamic cultural center near ground zero is called the Cordoba house?  Find a neutral source and read up on the history of Islamic Spain.   Already Muslim?  Find another idea or system of beliefs that you are not familiar with and read about it.


The Kindle is now $139.  The iPad  has burrowed its way enough into our culture already that it appears in the wordpress spell check dictionary.  Sony just came out with released new versions of its e-readers.  Barnes and Noble also has…uh…done something with its…um…Nook?    I had no idea the market for e-readers had quite so many horses.  

I’ve seen more and more iPads and other e-readers every day on the rails/tires of Muni (or so I think).  As someone who loves, and is reluctant to abandon, the software stability of analog paperbacks, is it finally time for me to switch?  And if so, which one? 

I tend to only read one book at a time, so I’m not sure if the ability to store 1,300 books is really all that appealing to me. 

Does anyone else out there have one that they love/hate?  Should I just bow to the coolness and conspicuous consumption appeal of the iPad, or is the much cheaper Kindle actually a better fit?  Are you scared that someone will swipe it from you on Muni?