100 Notable Books of 2007

Gift buying season is now officially upon us. If books are part of your gift buying plan, then have a look at this list just published by The New York Times. The 100 books listed here include fiction, poetry and nonfiction. Among others, you'll find Philip Roth's latest book, Exit Ghost, and I mention it simply because you may want to listen to an interview with Roth that aired earlier this week (iTunes - MP3 - Feed - Web Site).

You should also spend some time looking at our list of Life-Changing Books, all of which were selected by our readers this fall. Definitely some good, time-tested reads on this list.

Finally, a quick heads up: Apple is running a one day sale, which gives up to $100 off some computers and $30 off iPod classics. Plus there's free shipping on all products. If you have Apple products on your holiday list, then it may be worth your time. Again, the sale ends at midnight.

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Nixon and Kissinger: Best of Allies and Rivals

nixon3.jpgRobert Dallek's latest book recounts in plentiful detail (752 pages) the odd working relationship that existed between Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger (Nixon's national security adviser and, later, secretary of state). They were partly allies, in many ways strongly dependent upon one another, particularly when it came to making American foreign policy. But they also distrusted one another, sometimes deeply, and they'd occasionally maneuver behind each others' backs. Dallek's book, Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power, has just come out in paperback, which brings us to this NPR interview with the author (iTunes - Feed - Web Site). Dallek, who has previously written extensively on Kennedy and Johnson, gives a good interview that outlines "Nixinger's" substantive accomplishments and the many behind-the-scenes intrigues. Give a listen.

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Landmark Moments in Film: Hitchcock’s Psycho

Of all the scenes that Hitchcock shot, this is the most well known. The iconic shower scene (1960), which runs about 2 minutes, took six days to film, used around 75 camera angles, and 50 cuts. After shooting this sequence, Janet Leigh apparently forever kept her showers to a minimum and, while showering, locked all doors and windows and kept the bathroom & shower doors open.

The Kindle v. The Book

Valleywag, the blog that tracks Silicon Valley and things tech, posted an amusing comparison between the traditional book and Amazon's new electronic reader (see yesterday's post). It's clearly meant to be more witty than serious, but it makes some obvious and valid points along the way. (See Valleywag article here)

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U2’s Joshua Tree Remastered and Expanded

joshua-tree.jpgToday, U2 is releasing a remastered version of the album that turned a popular band into a super band. Commemorating its 20th anniversary (how can it be that old already?), the Joshua Tree is being re-issued in four versions -- 1) a remastered single CD, 2) a 2-CD set that features the remastered album and b-sides/rarities from the Joshua Tree recording sessions, 3) a 2-CD/1-DVD collectible box that includes a 56 page book; and 4) a double vinyl package.

The re-release of this album has a certain unwelcomed commercial feel to it. I'll grant that. But, regardless, I'm buying it. The Joshua Tree loomed in the background during a great moment in my life. And just hearing it brings me back to the sounds and smells of that period. So, if I can hear it remastered and get more songs from the recording sessions, I guess I'll take it.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with these bits of free U2 media. First, spend some time with "Bono: The Rolling Stone Interview" (iTunes - Feed - Web Site). Here Jann Wenner, the founder of Rolling Stone, leads a long and wide-ranging interview with Bono Vox. The second item is a video (below) featuring Bono singing and telling the story behind "Wave of Sorry," one of the b-sides from the new Joshua Tree release.

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Amazon’s New eBook Reader is Out

kindle3.jpgThe Kindle, Amazon's new eBook reader, is just now hitting the streets. The promo video below overviews its basic features, including the Kindle's "paper-like" screen, ergonomic design, and free wireless access to content. As you'll see, the $399 reader, which holds 200 books, promises to succeed where other digital readers have failed -- to offer a satisfying reading experience and unlock the potentially large digital books market.

Not surprisingly, Amazon is backing the Kindle's launch with a fair amount of marketing. Videos on the Amazon site feature Toni Morrison, a Nobel Prize Winner, talking up the Kindle. Then, there are these comments by Michael Lewis, a bestselling author, "It's so simple you could be a moron and it works." "It takes no intelligence at all. Anybody who can read a book can function with this thing." "It's easier on the eye than the printed word." "[A]fter about -- I'm telling you! -- 5 minutes, you cease to think, 'I'm looking at a screen.' It's not like looking at a computer screen."

A notable downside to the Kindle (one that's pointed out by ZDNet) is the cost to access content. Books usually go for $9.99 or less, which is perfectly reasonable. But you'll pay $9.99 to $14.99 per month for newspaper subscriptions, $1.99 to $2.99 for monthly magazine subscriptions, and 99 cents per month to subscribe to individual blogs. This is all pretty illogical, given that most of this content is otherwise free on the web.

If you get your hands on the Kindle, definitely let us know what you think.

Museums Crossing the Line?: An Interview with Jori Finkel

The New York Times featured yesterday a piece that raises serious questions about the art world. According to the article, some major museums are now allowing art galleries to financially underwrite their exhibitions. And, of course, the galleries often have a direct financial stake in the work on display. This trend, which seems to be growing, naturally prompts questions of influence: are some of the most well-regarded museums letting financing - something that's always in short supply - determine what exhibitions they will put on display? Are the lines between church and state getting crossed? (The museums insist that the answer is no.) Then, there are questions of commerce: are non-profit museums helping for-profit galleries, whether intentionally or not, bump up the prestige and financial value of their artists -- something which almost always redounds to the financial benefit of the galleries?

I had a chance to catch up with Jori Finkel, the author of the article. She's an arts journalist based in LA where she covers contemporary art for The Times, among other places. I asked her a few questions and here's what she had to say:

DC: What's essentially driving the museums to work so closely, perhaps too closely, with galleries? In short, how did we get here?

JF: One thing I discovered in reporting this story is just how common it is for galleries to help out museums behind the scenes—with research, with loans, and with things galleries do in the normal course of business like framing works of art. But it’s much more unusual to find galleries writing checks for museum shows. People I interviewed see this as a sign of the art world spinning out of control or out of balance because of all the money chasing contemporary art lately. The imbalance being that galleries are richer than ever before, while museums, which are not supposed to be part of the market, can find themselves struggling or even begging for funding. A museum director once told me he felt his job was a lot like being a beggar—a glamorous, well-connected beggar, but a beggar.

DC: As I recall, some museums have gotten into trouble when seeking out sponsors for exhibitions in the past -- for example, from some corporations. Is what's happening now any different, and does it raise particularly new ethical concerns?

JF: We saw a number of controversies in the late 1990s over corporate sponsorship—like Armani reportedly gifting the Guggenheim $15 million and getting a show in return, and BMW underwriting a motorcyle show, also at the Guggenheim. Then there was the scandal over the “Sensation” show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, which featured works from Charles Saatchi’s personal collection and was funded in part by Saatchi. Several of my sources mentioned these cases because they think gallery sponsorship raises roughly the same set of ethical questions. The only difference they pointed out is that gallery conflicts might have the potential to be more pervasive. (more…)

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