Posts Tagged ‘media’

a terribly auspicious occasion

With less than 24 hours to go, it’s time for me to admit, with some embarrassment, that I am one of those royal wedding watchers. My name is Natalie, and if I have not sat down and watched every obnoxious TV special on the couple — “William and Kate,” that objectively horrible Lifetime movie, not to be confused with TLC’s “William and Kate: A Royal Love Story,” “Wild About Prince Harry,” “Charles and Di: Once Upon A Time,” and on and on — well, I have probably flipped through them with some passing interest.

Apparently, the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton have created much more a frenzy stateside than in England (confirm, anyone?) and on the heels of this realization there’s been a sudden, slightly belated series of articles questioning whether Americans really, actually care about the wedding — or if the constant media coverage has created the illusion of interest where none would have otherwise existed.

To be honest, I find this recent angle of newspaper articles and cable news shows highly irritating. They’re acting a bit above it all, aren’t they? Every time Anderson Cooper or whoever reads a bit about the royal wedding, it’s with both a smirk (“This isn’t real news, our viewers are so silly to care about it”) and wide-eyed ignorance (“Maybe the designer is Vera Wang? Yes, that’s the only designer I know”). Well, listen, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, ABC, CBS, and friends: You’ve sent all your anchors to London. The jig is up. You clearly care, so stop acting like you don’t.

I, on the other hand, am not trying to out-snob the royals, the way some TV reporters seem intent on doing. The earliest televised wedding coverage starts at 2:00 (our time, Central Time, everyone take a deep breath) with MSNBC. CNN and Good Morning America and the rest, total slugs, don’t begin until an hour later. While I am definitely not crazed enough to get up at two in the morning to watch the madness (that’s what four in the morning is for), I will be celebrating in British style when, um, I do get up.

There will be a proper cup of Earl Gray. There will be oat and maple scones, simply because there’s a couple unbaked and frozen rounds just waiting to be baked off for such an auspicious occasion. Since it will be such an early hour, allowing time for second breakfasts, there will probably be cream scones, too, and maybe something wild like strawberry-rosemary scones. We won’t have the traditional English breakfast sides like black pudding, grilled tomatoes, and baked beans, but fried eggs… and sausage… and marmalade and toast, here we come. Silly? Well, perhaps. I admit it. But embrace it!

Are you watching the royal wedding?


three things the kindle taught me about books

(Or, that one time a flight attendant told me, “Please turn off your book.”)

1. Weight is overrated.

I suppose it’s just a brilliant conflation of timing, convenience, my booklist, and the gift-giver’s identity (hi, Mom!) that made my first kindle read Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, which is only out as a heaving, two-pound hardcover. That’s four times heavier than the kindle. So yes, I was very thankful to have the latter. I lugged effortlessly tossed the book from Virginia to California to Iowa. I held it up, propped it open, and turned the pages with one hand. Honestly, I am rather missing this lightness now, seven pages into Apollo’s Angels, which has Freedom beat by over 100 pages.

2. Page turning is not, and neither are page numbers.

Is there anything more satisfying than turning a page, especially if it’s the last one? There is not, and the Kindle has not overlooked the importance of this mini-ritual. There’s actually two “Next Page” buttons, which seemed silly until I found myself using both. But a wag of my finger must go to Amazon’s stupid, inane decision to trade page numbers for “locations,” which I originally (and incorrectly) thought indicated line numbers and now do not understand at all. I know the text on the screen may not correlate exactly with one, printed page, especially when you consider enlarged fonts or margins, but seriously: No page numbers!? Not even as an option?? Bad call!

3. Books are about the words.

Here’s the truth: I have a book fetish. I really had no choice about the matter: my parents’ house has bookcases in every room — and for those keeping track, that’s two in the dining room, one built into the kitchen, one built into the basement plus three more freestanding, one per bedroom and four in the two offices. Oh, and one bathroom has two, too. The only person who might have outdone us was my Grandma in Kansas, whose shelves were filled with first editions — and the first editions themselves stuffed with the original New York Times book review and clipped “Collect First Editions!” newsprint ads, with the selling price circled.

I remember coming home from school and asking, “Do we have such-and-such by Baudelaire, or Moliere, or Rimbaud?” and my parents would roll their eyes and say, “We have about four.” One of my most salient early(ish) memories is sitting on the floor of my Mom’s office as she opened three moving-sized cardboard boxes filled with the complete works of Freud. “Are you going to read all those?” I marveled. “Well, maybe not all at once, but it’s just a good thing to have,” she said.

A good thing to have. Books are just a good thing to have. I love the weight of the page and the scraping sound of one turning. I love the look of a finished book — it looks like it’s done yoga, you know, the cracked spine, the loosened-up pages, the wrinkles from dog-eared corners.

But there is a moral here, one that your neighborhood book fetishist can sometimes, er, forget in the lovely smell of old pages: we love books because of the words. The book part is incidental. It’s like the place setting on a table: sure, it’s nice to have handsome flatware and plates, but that’s not the part that tastes good. And words, I firmly believe, do not give a whit whether they are transcribed in printer’s ink or pearl e-ink technology. (Side note: Believe the hype. A Kindle screen is nothing like a computer screen.)

Words work either way. You can click “Next Page” just as anxiously as you would turn a physical one. The categorization of “contemporary questions, like what about those cloth diapers? Worth the bother? And was is true that you could still get milk delivered in glass bottles? Were the Boy Scouts OK politically? Was bulgur really necessary? Where to recycle batteries? How to respond when a poor person of color accused you of destroying her neighborhood? Was it true that the glaze of old Fiestaware contained dangerous amounts of lead? Was it possible to raise unprecedentedly confident, happy, brilliant kids while working full-time? And had anybody in the history of St. Paul ever had a positive experience with a roofer?” — it still works. And a certain scene that was nominated for (but did not win) the Literary Review‘s Bad Sex in Fiction Award remains quite as cringe-worthy, laughably scatological (or is it scatologically laughable?), and apt to trigger the gut reaction, “Obama is reading this, too??” I promise. Really, just take my word on it.

I’m not hitching my whole wagon to the e-reader train quite yet. But I’ve thrown a bag aboard. And really, an e-reader that makes you remember the entire point of reading, the whole life of books, can’t be all bad.

spotted: iowa making waves

Iowa’s been in the news over here lately! Have you spotted it?

First instance: The Princeton Review came out with its annual student rankings of undergraduate colleges and universities, and guess who was #9? Guess who was #7 in the category called, encouragingly, “Students Study Least”?

The University of Iowa.

A dubious set of honors, I suppose, and one that both town and gown have been actively trying to counter, notably in passing a CRAZY and LIBERTY INFRINGING initiative this spring that makes the bars 21-and-older. Used to be that 19 year olds could enter. They just couldn’t drink. That worked out well, right? Now, after 10pm, it’s only 21 and up. Take that, ye drunken, youthful carousers!

(I don’t know, kids, the hullabaloo over barring bars to anyone not, you know, legally allowed to drink seemed a little “duh” to me. But I’m weird like that.)

(Also, when we talk about “party schools”? I know that campus. I know those bars. There are, like, eight. It’s not exactly sin city. Kindly relinquish your smelling salts.)

Herewith follows my public service announcement that the undergraduate school is very, very different from the stellar postgraduate law, medical, and creative writing programs (among others). I don’t, um, think anyone is pounding shots of Jager before Constitutional Law??

Second instance: Well, this is embarrassing. Looks like the university was a bit over-generous with its acceptance letters last April, and admitted 400 freshman too many. And doesn’t have a place to put them.

I, however, see three bright sides:

1. So many more people applied! And apparently, a lot of the growth came from outside Iowa, indeed even outside America. Over 300 of those dorm-less students are from China. Just imagine it, a teenager in Beijing dreaming of attending school in Iowa! Bless them. Also, the university meant to increase its freshman size anyway. Just a touch more gradually. And with enough beds. As the New York Times so magnanimously put it though, “In effect, it met its five-year projection in the first year.” What efficiency! I wish I were that on top of things!

2. The NYT thought the “athletic nickname” for the University was “the Cyclones.” Which, of course, belongs the Iowa State University. The University of Iowa, the BIG TEN SCHOOL, is called the Hawkeyes. Moreover, the nickname of the ENTIRE STATE is, indeed, “The Hawkeye State”. Can we all laugh at the Times now? I like to get my elitist kicks in wherever possible.

3. Hellooo, real estate! Do you think renting out the guest bedroom for $200/week is too exorbitant?

Only joking.



Have you stumbled across any Iowa stories in the east-coast-media-élite news?