kwc.org Photos Spare Cycles MythBusters

Category: Book Talks

November 17, 2006

Talk: Neil Gaiman at SJSU

Neil Gaiman at SJSU by mhuang

photo by mhuang

Last night a crowd of us went to see Neil Gaiman at SJSU, which makes for twice in two months as we saw Gaiman speak at Keplers for Fragile Things in October. Gaiman had quite the endurance this time around: 20 minutes for the humorous/questionnaire/sci-fi "Orange" and over an hour reading the Jungle-Book-with-a-twist "Witch's Gravestone." Then there was also the Q&A, the signing, and the earlier noon event he did, and it's clear that he was quite generous with his time towards SJSU.

"Witch's Gravestone" is from the upcoming M is for Magic short story collection that is being targetted at kids -- apparently school librarians have been buying his previous short story collections and Gaiman and his publisher wanted to release a collection that didn't feature hardcore sex scenes that would get him sued. Gaiman alternately described "Witch's Gravestone" as The Graveyard Book Chapter 4, which is both a reference to The Jungle Book as well as to imply the non-existence of chapters 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8... Gaiman got the idea for the story during one of his frequent trips to the graveyard with his then two-year-old son Michael (~1985). Putting aside the fact that the anecdote may explain a lot about Gaiman's stories, the idea came about that the story would feature a child raised by dead people instead of jungle animals.

The Q&A featured the typical questions that you hear at a Gaiman talk: when is X going to be made into a movie, when is Y going to be made into a movie, when is Z going to be made into a movie. I find myself impatient hearing these questions for the third time; I'm impressed that I am entertained by Gaiman's answers, and I'm impressed that Gaiman still answers these questions.

Videos of the event in the extended (quality much improved over last time)

Continue reading "Talk: Neil Gaiman at SJSU" »

November 8, 2006

Gaiman at SJSU

What:Major Author Series - Neil Gaiman
SJSU Center for Literary Arts hosts An Evening with Neil Gaiman. During the course of almost twenty years as a writer, Neil Gaiman has been one of the top writers in modern comics, and is now a best-selling novelist. Gaiman, icon of the comics and 3-time Hugo Award winner, will read from his work, with Q&A and book signing afterward. Sponsored by the Student Union, Inc. of SJSU.
When:Thursday, November 16, 2006 (all day)
Where:Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library
150 E. San Fernando Street
San Jose, California 95112   United States

FYI: I'm playing with an updated version of WIndows Live Writer -- the map and the event information were inserted using the Eventful and Live.com map plugins. There were some rough edges, but it was still quite easy.

October 29, 2006

Lemony Snicket and The End (San Bruno, CA)


Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler
Originally uploaded by mhuang.
Yesterday we went up to go see Lemony Snicket's book reading for The End, which continues my initiation into musically accompanied book talks (see John Hodgman at Codys). I wasn't sure what to expect from a Lemony Snicket reading -- with such a mythology of secrecy surrounding the character of Lemony Snicket, I wasn't sure how the actual author, Daniel Handler, would maintain that mythology in front of a crowd of mostly children. The answer was that it was fun, entertaining, and worth the trip, but you'll have to click through for specifics as I don't wish to spoil the details for those that wish to discover for themselves.

Update: added last of the videos (introduction, "This Abyss")

Continue reading "Lemony Snicket and The End (San Bruno, CA)" »

October 13, 2006

Lemony Snicket tickets at Books Inc

m passed along these details for an upcoming Lemony Snicket event:

A reading by Lemony Snicket, celebrating the release of The END, the final installment in A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Music by the Gothic Archies, featuring Lemony Snicket

Saturday October 28th 2:00p.m. Capuchino High School Auditorium 1501 Magnolia Ave. San Bruno, CA 94066

More details from Books Inc. Berkeley-ites can go to the Codys Books event on Channing instead.

I'm only up to book five, but I figure that this is, in fact, the The End of Lemony Snicket readings, so I shouldn't pass this up.

October 12, 2006

John Hodgman -- Most Entertaining Book Talk, Ever

Amazon Image

I'm still chuckling over the John Hodgman Areas of My Expertise talk at Codys SF. Some of you may already be aware that musician Jonathan Coulton accompanies Hodgman for his talks. I've never seen a book talk with an opening theme song and musical accompaniment, but I am now convinced it is a practice that should be adopted by every author. He is also the only author I have seen talk a brandy break (necessary due to the performance nature of his talk) as well as use walkie-talkies to do the Q&A (which works, for a bit).

Hodgman riffed on Benjamin Franklin, hoboes, Big Rock Candy Mountain, and more. If I didn't know better, I would think that Hodgman had been hanging out with metamanda, though I don't think she is nearly as knowledgeable about the Mall of America.

With the help m, who offered his tripod, I managed to shoot much more watchable video this time around.

Update: here's the video for the first half of the talk. After this, Hodgman and Coulton took a brandy break and then did Q&A. I only have a bit of the Q&A, which was hilarious in itself.

This is as much of the Q&A as I could record:

John Hodgman at Codys SF

Tonight, schedule permitting, I shall say Alas for Joy, as John Hodgman will be at Cody's on Stockton Street in SF. Anyone else interested in heading up?

October 3, 2006

Talk: Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things

Fragile Thingsupdate: all videos from the talk are online now

The Villa crew went out to Keplers tonight to watch Neil Gaiman speak. It was very nice to actually see Gaiman at Keplers: last year Keplers went out of business just before he was going to speak. I would hate to think that Gaiman is somehow cursed. It was charming to see Gaiman reading Anansi Boys from a church pulpit instead, a but one-minute drive to my local bookstore has its benefits. It was also special because Gaiman helped promote the Save Keplers cause.

The Fragile Things talk was charming as Gaiman talks are. I like to argue that it is important to hear Gaiman speak if you are to read his works: much of what he writes, especially his children's books and short stories, make much more sense if you can imagine a Neil Gaiman voice in your head speaking with the appropriate rhythm and inflections. It is also fun to hear Gaiman speak because he can make a story about buying a pair of pants at Armani yesterday amusing. littlestar was entertained enough that she went and bought a copy of Fragile Things immediately afterwards, going against her inclination to wait for a smaller paperback edition. I, of course, am a whore for Gaiman product: excluding individual comic book issues, my current count is 24 plus an autographed backpack. My count is only impeded by my desire to acquire my Sandman within the same printing vintage.

In the past, I've generally taken lengthy notes at book talks at spent hours upon hours transcribing them into blog form. Now that I'm slowly coming to the realization that my camera takes video and therefore is also an audio recorder, I've decided to make life easier by just including video with short summaries.

NOTE: all of the videos are of crappy quality shot with my ELPH. I was more concerned with just getting audio -- think of the video as bonus ;).

Intro

See the extended for more videos

Continue reading "Talk: Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things" »

October 3, 2005

Talk: Salman Rushie, Shalimar the Clown

Amazon Image

Salman Rushdie-2 Salman Rushdie-1

Salman Rushie spoke at Books Inc in Mountain View. These are my notes (more in the extended entry). As always with my notes, although I attempt to use quotes as much as possible, I don't stand by the accuracy of my quotes and they should be considered paraphrasings at best.

For In the Name of the Rose Umberto Eco said, "'I had a great desire to murder a monk'... in my case it was an American ambassador." Shalimar the Clown starts off with Shalimar, a muslim Kashmiri, killing the American ambassador that his childhood sweetheart ran off with. Shalimar is a character transforms from tight-rope walker into terrorist.

In the book you root for Shalimar even though he does horrible things. It "would have been much easier to make him not likable," but then he would be a cartoon and cartoons can't make moral choices. Shalimar "retains the capacity for moral choice" and thus retains moral responsibility. Rushdie had watched a documentary about the downfall of Hitler that humanized the Nazis and he felt that the humanizing "does the opposite of exonerating them." It is one of the roles of writers to make you care about the people because "you have to care about people to care about what happens to them."

Much of the novel takes place in Kashmir and he said, "'[I] always wanted to write more about it than I have." Midnight's Children and Haroun and the Sea of Stories have parts in Kashmir, but not very much.

In 1987 he was participating in a British documentary about India at the age of 40. He met a group of travelling players in Kashmir and thought that they lived an "extraordinary lifestyle... on the one hand paradise-like... [but] incredibly poor." He observed their way of life and it "felt like the end of a very long line." This was before the eruption of violence and the insurgency, so he does not imagine that life has gotten better for them.

He wanted to put them in the documentary, but they were "too scared to tell the truth on camera." They would complain about the Indian troops off camera, but when you turned the camera on they would say, "We are very happy," and praise the Indian troops.

Continue reading "Talk: Salman Rushie, Shalimar the Clown" »

September 30, 2005

Talk: Neil Gaiman *Anansi Boys*

Neil Gaiman-1"Dearly Beloved..."

Neil Gaiman addressed us from atop the pulpit in the First Congregation Church in Berkeley on National Geek Day, the day that both Mirromask and Serenity were released in theaters. He read from Anansi Boys, a book that has the tagline "God is dead. Meet the kids." As Gaiman noted, you write a "book with strange gods, and they send you to talk in churches."

Gaiman described Anansi Boys as American Gods' second cousiin, once removed. He had the idea for Anansi Boys before American Gods, so one way he thinks of Mr. Nancy and American Gods is that it had a special guest star... for a book that hadn't been written yet.

For Anansi Boys I've decided to do something I've never done before: buy the audiobook. My reason for this was is very simple: there's an mp3 version. I never saw much reason before in buying audiobooks. They're as expensive as the book and there's this giant stack of CDs that you either have to cart around or you have to spend an hour ripping to your computer. With an mp3 CD I can immediately place it on my iPod or PSP -- it's ready to consume.

The battle over DRM rarely gets very far as it is an ideological battle with strongly divided opinions, full of speculation but few actual examples proving either sides' case. It's great to see an author that's #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List take what the industry would consider a risk and move the debate over DRM forward. Gaiman had to fight with Harper Collins to have mp3 CDs made, so he encouraged me to encourage my friends to purchase the mp3 version. I wish more authors were iPod users like Gaiman so that they too would act as intelligently about technology.

Neil Gaiman-2 Neil Gaiman-6 Neil Gaiman-5 Neil Gaiman-4 Neil Gaiman-3 Gaiman Pratchett-1

WARNING: Notes in the extended. I did a really, really bad job with my notes. Much more here is paraphrased from memory than actual quotes. For whatever reason my note-taking skills were terrible tonight and much that was funny I cannot remember well enough to transcribe.

Continue reading "Talk: Neil Gaiman *Anansi Boys*" »

September 20, 2005

Talk: Terry Pratchett

Amazon Image

talk at Books Inc in Mountain View

Pratchett opened his talk comparing the security at airports to "evil clowns at the circus." Shoes off, belt on, shoes off, belt off. "Trousers down -- they haven't done that yet -- you know they want to do it." There was a "guy with one leg. They took his shoe away." He found the focus on pocketknives puzzling in a country where we have so many guns.

On heart surgery

Pratchett had heart surgery last year. Afterwords his surgeon said that they had a little "fun and games." Pratchett asked if that was medical speak for "you nearly died." His surgeon responded, "heart surgery is medical speak for you nearly died." Apparently throughout the process Pratchett kept trying to get up saying, "he's got sandwiches." He never managed to get close to the man with sandwiches in his dream, so he chalks it up as a "near sandwich experience." Reflecting on this, he thinks that when you die "it's obviously some distance because they give you something to eat on the way." He doesn't know what type of sandwich it was, but if it was a cheese sandwich with a Branston Pickle he would go with but if it were a cucumber sandwich with the edges cut off he would turn away.

Q: What kind of sandwich would Death and the Death of Rats have?
A: Death would have a curry sandwich and the Death of Rats would have a double gloucester cheese sandwich (see Hard Cheese of Old England)

more notes in the extended

Continue reading "Talk: Terry Pratchett" »

August 31, 2005

Updated Keplers and Gaiman info, plus Chabon

I stopped by Kepler's today to visually confirm that the doors are shut, with a note of closing and 'Declaration of Independents.' The store is not emptied out, just closed, but unless this is some clever negotiation tactic it appears that Dealers of Lightning and Phaidon's Louis Kahn book will have been my last purchases there. Having Keplers next to Cafe Borrone was a big incentive for taking the leisurely route home, stopping to read a book over dinner. After finishing my first David Sedaris book while eating dinner at Cafe Borrone, I went over to Keplers, picked up another Sedaris book, and finished the same night while eating even more Borrone food. Good cafe/bookstore pairings are hard to replace: one feeds the other.

Neil Gaiman's journal confirms that his Keplers talk is cancelled, as I imagine all others are as well, but he mentions two other places in the Bay Area he will be speaking (one with Michael Chabon):

Thursday, September 29 7:00 PM PDT
SAN FRANCISCO & BAY AREA
Michael Chabon and Neil Gaiman in Conversation
Book Passage
51 Tamal Vista Blvd.
Corte Madera, CA
415-927-0960

Friday, September 30 7:00 PM PDT
SAN FRANCISCO and BAY AREA
September 30, 7 PM PDT
Cody's
at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley
2345 Channing Way at Dana
Berkeley, CA
510-845-7852
(See http://www.codysbooks.com/ for details of the event)

May 11, 2005

Talk: Steven Johnson, Everything Bad is Good For You

Amazon Image

Steven Johnson gave a talk at Books Inc. in Mountain View in order to promote his new book, Everything Bad is Good for You. (a shortened version of his Apple Store Talk for those who saw that).

His stated purpose for the talk/book is that is an attempt to talk on conventional wisdom that things have gotten worse, that newer media (TV/video games) appeal to the lowest common denominator. It is a "contrarian but honest argument" that looks, not at the content, but at the cognitive complexity of these media (# of characters, plots, etc...)

I've transcribed my notes into the extended entry. Before the jump you can checked out kottke's review or Gladwell's review (the kottke review includes some links to other resources). Or, you go straight to the source, Steven Johnson's blog, where he's be reviewing the reviewers, posting his schedule, and whatnot.

Finally, you can read Watching TV Makes You Smarter, which Johnson wrote for the New York Times Magazine and pretty much summarizes the arguments in his talk/book.

Continue reading "Talk: Steven Johnson, Everything Bad is Good For You" »

January 31, 2005

Talk: Simon Singh, The Big Bang

Amazon Image

Simon Singh Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe www.simonsingh.net

Singh gave a great talk on his book, The Big Bang. It was very easy to see how he could be so successful in writing popular science books. Who would have thought to use a backwards Led Zeppelin clip to explain how two competing scientific theories might both find support within a set of empirical data? Singh had a great ability throughout the talk to take a history and a scientific theory which are both dry and complicated, and make them both humorous and understandable, whether it be by analogy or by finding that Willow-esque nerd humor -- in discussing Fritz Zwicky's tired light theory, he brought up Zwicky's favorite insult: 'spherical bastard' (looks like a bastard no matter what direction you look at him). I appreciate that anecdote enough that you shouldn't be surprised if I refer to you as a 'spherical bastard' the next time you see me.

More notes in the extended.

Continue reading "Talk: Simon Singh, The Big Bang" »

January 13, 2005

Talk: A Theory of Neocortex

Amazon Image

A Theory of Neocortex and its Implications for Machine Intelligence Jeff Hawkins Founder Palm Computing, Handspring Director, Redwood Neurosciences Institute Author of On Intelligence http://www.onintelligence.org

Continue reading "Talk: A Theory of Neocortex" »

September 26, 2003

Talk: Author of Quicksilver

The author of Quicksilver gave a talk at a bookstore in Menlo Park to promote his latest book, Quicksilver, which is part of the Baroque Cycle. In an interesting social experiment, he will be running a Wiki for the book at Metaweb.

If you're wondering why I'm using pronouns and allusions to the identity of the author, it is because he began his talk by requesting that a new social convention be honored and observed during his talk. The author hopes that this convention will be called grith, which is an Old English term referring to protection/santuary. In modern parlance, he hopes that this term will spawn a new convention. In essence, if a person invokes grith, he is asking that he be able to speak frankly without fear of being recorded in any manner.

In the future he imagines that people will become more and more reticent to speak openly in public settings (much like politicians nowadays), and more and more information becomes accessible and free. Anecodotally, he spoke of his fear that his off-the-cuff remarks being videotaped and immediately placed on the Web, where it will remain until the Earth spirals down into the Sun. The fear makes it much more difficult for him to be open with audiences, as he knows that anyone might be carrying a small deck-of-cards-sized camcorder. He also related the story of another person who had someone ten thousand miles away take issue with an off-the-cuff remark he gave in a guest lecture.

In accordance with his invoking of grith, let me state that what follows in this entry is not a transcription of this author's talk; rather, it is a partial transcription of my imaginings of what he might say if these questions were asked of him, and I have not taken the time to note the many gaps. Also, as with anything that only occurs in one's mind, I didn't have a tape recorder or TiVo to replay my thoughts, and anything with "quotes" should not be construed as an actual quote of a fictitious character in my head. Instead, it should interpreted as the faulty transcriptions of an imaginative mind.

Finally, please also note that anything up and to this point was before he invoked the right of grith, or made permissible -- He was asked if it was alright to blog about grith, to which he responded, after some wavering, "go ahead - but don't quote me on that." I'm sure that anyone who was audience to this imaginary talk in my head will be intelligent enough to search google for "grith" if they wish to find me notes.

Continue reading "Talk: Author of Quicksilver" »