Screenwriter Mark Boal and director/producer Kathryn Bigelow discuss The Hurt Locker, a suspenseful portrait of the military’s bomb squad technicians. This heart-pounding look at the effects of combat and danger on the human psyche is based on the first-hand observations of Mark Boal, who was embedded with a special bomb unit in Iraq.

Listen to this interview from The Leonard Lopate Show (WNYC-NPR)

Facebook Popularity

Who do you think is the most popular brand on Facebook?

With over 3.6 million fans, Starbucks has passed Coca-Cola to become the the most popular brand on Facebook.

Their Facebook Page plus promotions plus paid ads on the Facebook home page must work. They added almost 200,000 fans this past week.

As old-fashioned as it may be, people still love coupons. They gave away a free pastry this month and that caused a big spike in new fans.

Peering Into the Pillars of Creation

A composite image of the Eagle Nebula (M16) with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope penetrates the dark columns of gas and dust to reveal how much star formation is happening there. The Chandra data (red, green, and blue represent low, medium, and high-energy X-rays respectively) show very few X-ray sources in the so-called "Pillars of Creation" themselves. This indicates that star formation peaked in this region several million years ago.

Weekend Words About Summer

I guess my post last week on summer reading didn't get out all I wanted to say on that topic, so I added a Weekend in Paradelle post today that goes into more detail. Stop by the weekend retreat and say hello.

Will You Pay For The News?

Recently, the New York Times e-mailed a survey to its print subscribers to ask how they felt about paying for online content. For access to its website,, they are considering charging a monthly fee of $5.00 to view articles, blogs and multimedia.

Right now it is all free. That's a hard model to back away from and expect users to stpay. Will there be added value?

While all print media is having problems, some are moving to the web with some success. It can't all be free - that's no "business" model.

The Rocky Mountain News shut down. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer became a web-only publication. The business model has been to run online advertising, but that probably can't fund full news services. Subscriptions - sort of a cable TV versus free broadcast TV model - is hardly a new idea.

I don't have the answer for them, but I don't think this recycled ideas are it.

Best Beach Books Ever

I never quite understood the "beach book" genre. I know it means more lightweight, entertaining reading. The thing is, especially in my teaching years, summer was one of the few times I had to do ANY outside reading, so I tended to read whatever was on my "to read" list. If the book happened to be non-fiction of Literature, it didn't much matter.

If you are a serious novelist, would being on the beach book list be an insult?

Last month, NPR asked folks to send in nominations for the Best Beach Books Ever and they ended up with 600 titles. Then their book reviewers, editors and producers cut it to 200 titles, which they now offer for voting.

NPR gives its own definition as books that are "enthralling enough to inoculate vacation-goers against the vagaries of missed flights and bad weather" and acknowledges that while many "great books" aren't beach book that both The Great Gatsby and Pride and Prejudice were popular nominees.

If you choose to vote, you get to pick 10 books to create their final list of 100. They will post the final tally on July 29 and I'll post my own ten choices from their list.

The Ghost in Love

Another ghost post for me. A friend read my post last week about Alan Lightman's novel Ghost and asked if I had read The Ghost In Love by Jonathan Carroll.

I hadn't read it. Actually, I hadn't read anything by this expatriate writer who many people think is the best writer of fantastic (that's not fantasy) novels in English. I'm reading it now, but I am a very slow and distracted reader (the kind who starts 4 books at once and takes a few months to finish any of them), so this is my in-progress review.

Here's the film treatment version of the plot for The Ghost in Love: Ben falls in the snow, hits head on curb, dies but doesn’t die. Ghost (Ling) is sent to take his soul to the afterlife, gets confused, asks Angel of Death for clarification, not sure say AoD, stay with him until I get back to you.

Now the boy meets girl part. Ghost falls in love with Ben's girlfriend. Oh yeah, Ling is a woman. Ben discovers he did not die when he was “supposed to." Human beings can take their fates back from the gods?

I like that we meet the Angel of Death in a cafe having a meal with Ling. I like that Death isn't so much mad that Ben's fate is out of his control, but is "fascinated to see what will happen to him now."

I like Carroll's little ghost inventions, like the reason why ghosts have Chinese names:

A Chinese farmer invented the idea of ghosts three thousand years ago as a way of explaining to his precocious grandson what happens to people after they die. God thought it such a novel and useful idea he told his angels to make the concept real and allow it to flourish within the system. In honor of the inventor, ghosts have always had Chinese names.
I like ghosts.

Kindle time?

The Amazon Kindle is now $299, so is it time to buy one? I have yet to actually know someone who has one, so all I know is the hype. Any Kindle love stories out there?

Download and read first chapters for free before you decide to buy. Over 300,000 books plus U.S. and international newspapers, and magazines. Many of the New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases $9.99.

It is tempting...

Basic Heart

Basic Heart by Renée Ashley is a primer on the emotional topography of the human heart, its complexities and fluctuations, its nuances and metaphors. From tropes grounded in the fantastic landscapes of awareness, of desire and despair, Ashley draws us a map of a world and shows us just how that "world is turned like a pig on a spit." She brings us back to the recognition that we are all ordinary, that sometimes we need saving, and that "what is saved just might turn beautiful."

Best Books of 2009 (So Far)

The kind of list that is always good for debate - Best Books of 2009 (So Far).

They break it down if you are more interested in fiction books, non-fiction or young readers.

Have you read any of these "hidden gems" of books from this year?