Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How to send ebooks straight from Gutenberg to Kindle

Intro

Every librarian loves/hates Project Gutenberg. It's an incredible resource which has offers way more pros than cons. However, some warranted feedback on the site has to do with its cumbersome nature. Books have to be found, downloaded, and then sideloaded. It's much quicker and easier to just click on a magic Amazon button and have it magically whisper-synched to your device. I've found a way to do just that!

What you will need

  • DROPBOX - You can get it here.
  • IFTTT - The big workhorse
  • GMAIL - You might be able to use another email provider on IFTTT's list (Yahoo?) but this is the one I used.
  • KINDLE EMAIL - You can find it in your Amazon settings, it's going to be username@kindle.com. Also, make sure your Gmail is authorized to send attachments to your Kindle.

The basic concept

We are going to use Dropbox and IFTTT to automate the process of loading the .mobi file into your Kindle via email. The Gutenberg website has Dropbox functionality baked into it. Kindles allow you to email files from an authorized account. IFTTT will bring these two processes together.

NOTE: you will need to set up the following before going through these steps. Call them your pre-requisites, if you will.
  • Make sure your Gmail is an authorized sender to your Kindle.
  • Make sure your Dropbox and Gmail channels are activated in IFTTT.

Step by Step

  1. Log into IFTTT and make a new recipe.
  2. Start with Dropbox. Fire this recipe off with IF a new file is uploaded. Note that the folder is/will be: Apps/gutenberg.
  3. THEN we will trigger GMAIL to send an email with the attachment. The attachment will be sent to your Kindle email address. The recipe is now created. and should look like this:
  4. What the IFTTT Recipe should look like
  5. Go to Gutenberg and find an ebook that you would like to read. You will have the option to save the .mobi (Kindle) to Dropbox / Drive / OneDrive. Choose Dropbox.
  6. You will be taken to Dropbox, where Gutenberg will install as an app. This will create the Apps/gutenberg directory. Your ebook will be saved there.
  7. IFTTT should take over and automatically email the file from Dropbox to your Kindle using your own email address.
  8. Your Kindle should automatically download the file, making it instantly available for reading.
BONUS: Grab the Dropbox email (no-reply@dropboxcom) and add it to your Kindle approved senders list. Then, you can resend the ebook file to your Kindle by clicking on share. You could just do this and forget about IFTTT, but it won't be automated.

DOUBLE BONUS: I have made this recipe public so you can just go the lazy route and just take it from my IFTTT profile.

Conclusion

And that's it! You can freely browse the treasure trove of literature that is Project Gutenberg and know that any title on there can be auto-delivered to your Kindle. I would love to read your comments below. Suggestions for improvement or other recipes are appreciated.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saving Mr. Banks - Film Review

Intro
Disney's Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks came out in 2013. It tells the story of the making of Disney's transcendent classic: Mary Poppins. This film casts Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.

What I Will Not Talk About

  • The Plot — You can look that up on IMDB. (I linked to it above) Here's a hint: In the end, Disney makes the movie Mary Poppins. Should I have said "spoiler alert"?
  • Whether the movie's events actually happened in real life. Briefly: they didn't. That's not the point.
  • How grumpy British people are. I don't know. I've met pleasant people. I've met grumpy people. Whatever.
  • How great Emma Thompson is at playing a writer — please tell me you haven't forgotten Stranger Than Fiction...

Film Adaptions

What really fascinated me about this film is the process of translating the pages of a good book onto the silver screen. There are a lot of things that go into a movie adaption of a book — as one can easily imagine. A work of fantasy can be interpreted multiple ways. But a movie only shows one interpretation. This inevitably leads to disappointment.

As a librarian, people always seem to ask me what I think of this film adaption or that one. (The Hobbit, Narnia, Game of Thrones...) Each time, I respond the same way: film is an art form that stands alone and has its own merits. This is technically correct (remember Library School?) but when people ask that question, they seem to want to commiserate more than actually listen to a gracious opinion.

This particular film brings several aspects to the fore wich go beyond technical problems and generic filmmaker interpretations. These aspects are as follows:
  1. The Author's Relationship with their work.

    P.L. Travers consistently refers to the characters in Mary Poppins as family. Consider the hardships of writing a piece of fiction and pouring yourself into character and plot development. Imagine how hard it must be to go through the process of having your creative work critiqued by friends, family and complete strangers. Then imagine success. Could anyone other than you really know those characters intimately?
  2. The Author's Second chance to make things right.

    At one point, P.L. Travers made changes to the characters. One specific point that she tried (unsuccessfully) to change was Mr. Banks' facial hair. She (in the movie) mentioned that she pushed for Mr. Banks to be clean shaven in the books, but the publisher insisted on giving him a mustache. Could it be that an author might see a film adaptation as an opportunity to seize back some creative control that a publisher snatched from them? I am in no position to say how often this actually happens, but it does not seem like a far-fetched scenario.
  3. The Filmmaker's passion.

    Finally, we are given a name, a face and a reason why the filmmaker pushed their interpretation onto the film. Specifically, Walt Disney insisting on Mr. Banks retaining his mustache and making the film into a musical (with animated penguins). Filmmakers (contrary to popular belief) probably do not make changes with the intent of ruining a story. Filmmakers are artists at heart. They want to use their creativity to tell stories and have reasons behind their decision-making. You have the right to disagree with their decisions, but they are people too.

Conclusion

I really liked Saving Mr. Banks a lot. It helped me to place a few of the thoughts that I have had concerning film adaptations and why they can still be good even if they don't adhere to the original books. I recommend this movie.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Pixar Rankings Revealed

The Wait is Over

See the gallery below for the final, authoritative Pixar Rankings List. Ok, ok, maybe not so final or authoritative. But I had fun collecting responses anyway. Thanks for humoring me. I've learned a few things. For instance, my wife's opinions are more right than mine. Shocker! LOL.

My comments/reactions are embedded in the gallery. I'll keep the survey up for a week or two if someone new wants to add their opinion to the mix. I might have to create an updated list.

...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My Pixar Ranking

1A-1O

So, I am very generous when ranking these movies. All these movies are fun. I know this. I created and took my own survey to ensure that I answered as truthfully as possible. There were a few ties, I just picked the one I fancied that I liked better. I'm sure there's a scientific tie-breaker, but I didn't bother to look it up.

Remember, these are MY rankings. Though I tried my best to make it scientific, it's still just one guy's opinion. Enough methodology, here's the ranking!



...

I am surprised at my results. I didn't think either of the Monsters movies would rank as high as they did. Also, Ratatouille is outside of my top-ten! Crazy.

If you want to take my survey find it below. If I get enough responses, I'll post results right here! Thanks for reading.

Create your own user feedback survey

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ranking Pixar

Inspiration

If you follow me on Twitter, you will note that I have been forwarding every Pixar Ranking that I've read. If you don't believe me—or you don't follow my micro-blog&mdashhere's a sampling of these posts:



Criteria

Clearly, the release and popularity of Pixar's Inside Out spawned these rankings and suckers like me click on them. That's fine, I enjoy it. Further, my disagreement with these rankings caused me to think—how do I quantify my own feelings towards these movies? Clearly, I appreciate Pixar's work. The company is out of this world! Ranking these movies is an exercise in hair-splitting.

Yet, the idea has been planted in my head. I must pursue it.

As you could see from my tweet, I ranked the 14 Pixar movies based on based on Story, Characters, Feels and Originality. What does that mean? I tell you:
  • Story
    How was the plot? Did it leave the viewer satisfied? Is it a movie you could watch over and over again?
  • Characters
    Did you get to know the characters? Did you feel love, admiration, symathy?
  • Feels
    I laughed, I cried, it was wonderful! (Or maybe you didn't...)
  • Originality
    Is this just another story? Did this movie revolutionize the industry?

Conclusion

Will I agree with my own personal rankings? I have a feeling I won't. I'll try to post my results tomorrow. In the meantime, I'll ask you to take my survey! If enough people respond, I'll post those results too!

Create your own user feedback survey

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bossypants - Book Review

Book:  Bossypants
Author:  Tina Fey

This title is intriguing. At least, it drew me in. I am a fan of SNL and 30 Rock. Tina Fey played a large role in both. So why not?

Further, my previous boss teased me about this book without mercy. I remembered seeing someone whose look reminded me of Tina. (It's the classic librarian look, she says so in the book.) At the time, there was a huge display featuring Bossypants in Barnes & Noble. We got coffee every morning. So, of course, I got teased every morning.

So here's to my former boss. Thanks.

The Book

The prose was not great, so I'd have to give it 2.5 stars on my scale to 5. Right smack dab in the middle. A few grains of salt: I listened to the audiobook and did not read the traditional medium.

Yet, I don't think the format hurt my experience. In fact, I feel like it may have enhanced it. Tina writes in a conversational style. Though I assume editors made modifications to account for the medium. One liners. Jokes. Anecdotes. These all lend themselves to auditory medium.

Further, Tina Fey lent her voice talents to the production of this audiobook edition. Since the author was also the reader, the listener reaps the following benefits:
  1. Timing was impeccable. Granted, this could have been due to editing/work in the studio. Listening to certain chapters of this book sometimes felt like watching an SNL skit.
  2. Hearing the text read as the author would have it read. Again, directors could have changed the text for greater appeal. Please, leave me the pleasure of imagining that this is how she wanted it read.
  3. Listening to it in the author's voice. I might have done this anyways (in my head), but it's actually reinforced. This is an autobiography after all!

The Review

It is always interesting to learn about the people, places and events that shaped the lives of public figures. Tina Fey describes er breakthrough experiences in Bossypants.

Being a man, sections of several chapters described things to which I cannot relate. I feel that I could react to these moments in one of two ways:
  1. I could dismiss them and consider the book disappointing.
  2. I could learn to empathize with and gain respect for women in society.
Either way, I did not have the option to simply laugh or read for pleasure. Gender colored some of the jokes. Perhaps a late 20-year-old, professional man was not the target audience of this book.

Chapters of note were those dealing with Tina Fey's early experiences with Christianity, the cult following 30 Rock garnered, SNL (and Tina's relationship with Sarah Palin) and the description of Mr. Fey.

My favorite chapter was the last one described. Yes, the SNL/30 Rock chapters were fun and amusing. But the chapter on Tina Fey's dad was poignant and rich. Maybe I'm just being sentimental because I am a new father to two young girls. But it was nice to hear of the love shared between a daughter and her father--even with an imperfect relationship.

Bossypants was an easy listen. I suggest you pick it up and give it a try.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

George R. R. Martin's Character Development


A Quick Observation

This is not a full review. I plan to read these books and watch the HBO series and write a review on the entire saga once I have finished. However, after book two I needed to pause and express a bit of praise for a particular literary quality.

I found myself rooting for Renly Baratheon.
I found myself supporting Robb Stark.
I found myself backing Danaerys Targaryen.
Everyone hates Joffrey Baratheon.

I was engrossed in their stories and motives. I wanted them to succeed. Then I realized something, each of those characters are enemies of one another. For just one of them to succeed, the other two would have to fail. They even outright threaten each other.

Though they stood in direct opposition, I still hoped the best for them. It is an interesting dynamic that I have never felt while reading a novel before. Kudos to Mr. Martin for great writing!