never too late, “good manners”

The age of technology seems to have signaled an era where good manners have become extinct. Cell phone calls interrupt romantic dinners, cat naps on public transport, silence in a library. Text messaging is a never-ending, voiceless conversation. E-books and lap tops are all the companions some folks need. The latest gadgets and gizmos make it unnecessary for us to interact with one another.

Perhaps Mother Nature is encouraging us to get back to basics. Because in the final analysis, when all material things are washed away in a tsunami, or demolished in an earthquake, or engulfed in wildfires, people have to turn to each other for answers. We may do well to take a refresher course on good manners, on doing unto others as we would have them do unto us…before we find ourselves in need of their help.

The Complete Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., offers some good advice on being neighborly. Our memories just need a little jogging, and dusting off, to get us back on track toward being more human in an environment that’s becoming less and less so.

  1. Don’t allow the phone to interrupt important moments. It’s there for your convenience, not the caller’s.
  2.  Don’t burn bridges.You’ll be surprised how many times you have to cross the same river.
  3. Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per
    Mother Teresa

    Image via Wikipedia

    day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.

  4. Rekindle old friendships.
  5. Get your priorities straight. No one ever said on his death-bed, “Gee, if I’d only spent more time at the office.”
  6.  Don’t be afraid to say: “I don’t know,” “I made a mistake,” I need help,” “I’m sorry.”
  7. Don’t use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved.
  8. Don’t rain on other people’s parades.
  9. Don’t interrupt.
  10. Never underestimate the power of words to heal and reconcile relationships.
  11. Be as friendly to the janitor as you are to the chairman of the board.
  12. Treat your employees with the same respect you give your clients.
  13. Remove your sunglasses when you talk to someone.
  14. Show extra respect for people whose jobs put dirt under their fingernails.
  15. Surprise an old friend with a phone call.
  16. Don’t be so concerned with your rights that you forget your manners.
  17. Act with courtesy and fairness regardless of how others treat you. Don’t let them determine your response.
  18. Spend your life lifting people up, not putting people down.
  19. Remember that everyone you meet wears an invisible sign. It reads, “Notice me. Make me feel important.”
  20. Encourage anyone who is trying to improve mentally, physically, or spiritually.
  21. Be especially courteous and patient with older people.
  22. Let your handshake be as binding as a signed contract.
  23. Love someone who doesn’t deserve it.
  24. Regardless of the situation, react with class.
  25. Become the kind of person who brightens a room just by entering it.
  26. Remember that a kind word goes a long way.
  27. Spend twice as much time praising as you do criticizing.
  28. Offer hope.
  29. When you need to apologize to someone, do it in person.
  30. When a friend is in need, help him without his having to ask
  31. Never be too busy to meet someone new.
  32. If it’s not a beautiful morning, let your cheerfulness make it one.
  33. Remember that cruel words hurt deeply, and loving words quickly heal.
  34. Before criticizing a new employee, remember your first days at work.
  35. Never call anybody stupid, even if you’re kidding.
  36. Offer your place in line at the grocery checkout if the person behind you has only two or three items.
  37. This year, buy an extra box of Girl Scout cookies.
    Boxes of the two most popular Girl Scout cooki...

    Image via Wikipedia

  38. After someone apologizes to you, don’t lecture them.
  39. Carry a couple of inexpensive umbrellas in your car that you can give to people caught in the rain.
  40. When you really like someone, tell them. Sometimes you only get one chance.
  41. Take more pictures of people than of places.
  42. Never make fun of people who speak broken English. It means they know another language.
  43. If you ask someone to do something for you, let them do it their way.
  44. Remember it’s not your job to get people to like you, it’s your job to like people.
  45. Write a thank-you note to your children’s teacher when you see your child learning new things.
  46. Never intentionally embarrass anyone.
  47. Don’t forget that your attitude is just as important as the facts.
  48. Remember that much truth is spoken in jest.
  49. Never resist a generous impulse.
  50. When in doubt, smile.

This list should keep us all busy for some time. In fact, just pondering them will probably occupy more than a few minutes. But we can take our time, for we’ve lots of time. Or have we?

practicing just one a day…will get us somewhere better than where we already are…hugmamma.

“going the way of the dinosaurs?,” books

I will be very sad if books are ever relegated to the burn-pile, as depicted in the 1966 film, Fahrenheit 451, starring Oskar Werner, Julie Christie and Cyril Cusak. If you haven’t seen it, I strongly suggest you do. (A YouTube clip is below.) 

“Fahrenheit 451” is a haunting tale of a society overtaken by a robotic mentality. Books are condemned for they encourage independent thinking, which the ruling government decides is detrimental to man’s happiness. Of course, the comparison to replacing  books with e-books is not the same, but might it be the first step toward a technologically controlled society? Might those, like myself, who prefer to read the old-fashioned way, be marginalized by the majority who can order up a book in seconds? Worse, if in the future some evil force with total technological control decides to eradicate all sources for e-books, thus destroying mankind’s history, will we find ourselves in a “Fahrenheit 451” of our own making? I jest, I think, I hope.

The following editorial article in today’s Wall Street Journal reminded me of my passion for the printed book. Rather than try to paraphrase the words of the author, Dan Newman, I’m reprinting what he’s written, verbatim.

 A KINDLE FOR CHRISTMAS? SPARE ME

I should be the perfect candidate for an e-reader: I own thousands of books, lack space for more and often schlep several heavy volumes in my bag. So when I begged my family to refrain from getting me a Kindle for Christmas, they were confounded.

At first, they thought the problem was that I wanted another model, one that could be dropped without worry, read on my winter camping trips, and never run out of power. Then they realized I was describing an old-fashioned book–paper and binding!–and I lost them again.

E-books are not only better, my family claims, but inevitable. Retail giants tend to agree. Leonard Riggio, chairman of Barnes & Noble and its biggest shareholder, has said that, “Digital publishing and digital book-selling will soon become the most explosive development in the history of our industry and will sweep aside those who aren’t participating.” The physical book will soon be akin to the parchment scroll.

The numbers seem to support this view. Sales of e-books have more than doubled over the last year, to $340 million so far this year from $166 million in 2009. At Amazon.com, e-books now outpace bestselling hardcover editions. So why do I doubt that I’m being left behind?

First, while growth in e-books is impressive, it’s not overwhelming. E-book sales this year will account for 8.5% of all books, a smaller share than Apple commands in the computer market even after years of growth at a similar pace. Though e-books will surely continue to grow, for now about 90% of book sales remain in print form.

Online retailers, particularly Amazon.com, work hard to promote e-books. Kindle advertisements have topped Amazon’s home page–some of the most valuable real-estate on the Internet–for nearly three years. The Web pages for print editions always include links to Kindle equivalents when possible, but the Kindle versions never link back to print forms. Amazon wants you to buy a kindle.

And it should. Kindle sales compete primarily with bestselling hardcovers–the heaviest, most heavily discounted editions that Amazon sells. The Kindle will sweep them aside, its supporters say, because e-books are portable, include useful search functions, and can retrieve new titles within minutes. This last point hardly matters to me, given that I can have physical books delivered within days and already have hundreds of unread books waiting to be cracked. While a search function is useful, it also points to a flaw in the Kindle: All the pages are alike, to the extent that there are pages at all.

I remember passages by where they are in my books–this or that detail is two-thirds of the way through, on the bottom left. That physical memory runs deep.

University of Washington Book Arts Librarian Sandra Kroupa demonstrates as much with a party trick she’s developed. I’ve seen her set down a dozen stiff-backed Little Golden Books before a group of adults. They chatted with delight as they held old copies of “Dumbo,” “Little Toot the Tugboat” and other childhood favorites. “The physical book holds meaning,” says Ms. Kroupa. “If I were to bring a modern edition of ‘Dumbo,’ it wouldn’t elicit nearly the same response.”

Print editions enable shared experiences in ways unavailable to electronic versions. I’m no snoop, but one of the first things I do when I enter a home is scan the bookshelves. As often as not, that sparks conversation about the interests of my hosts and about what they’ve read and hope to read. They invariably pull out other books, some inscribed, and hold them in their hands while we talk.

That experience simply can’t happen crouching over a hard-drive. Imagine entering a living room and saying: “Hey! Mind if I scroll through your Kindle?”

A book is more than a shell for words: It’s a box whose magic starts at its real-world dimensions. No other common item so lacks a standardized size, and that makes individual books memorable. I could tell with my eyes closed if you’ve handed me a copy of “The Great Gatsby” that isn’t mine.

I see e-books as a companion format that will always share space with printed volumes. Perhaps one day, I’ll even travel with a Kindle. 

Until then, I’m content with my hefty volume of “Don Quixote,” my tattered grade-school dictionary and my wood-cut illustrated “Moby Dick.” Maybe I’m a Luddite because I feel sorry for children who read “Good-night Moon” on a phone. And perhaps I’m a softie for hoarding my torn copy of “Huck Finn,” a gift from my grandfather, with an inscription that still makes my eyes water.

I could tell you what it says. But it’s best to read with the book held in your own hands.

Mr. Newman is a writer at work on his first novel.

Mr. Newman and I may be a dying breed, especially since we’re not products of the technological age. While I agree that print books are still very much in evidence, only time will tell if they’re here to stay. Recent generations, and those to come, have a different reference point. Hand-writing has been replaced by typing at a computer keyboard. I can’t see that our children, their children, and so on, ever reverting back to practicing their penmanship. Even I prefer to type up a letter on Word Process, than put pen to paper. And my hand-writing has suffered as a result.

I’m passionate about details, small things that make something unique. I’ve taught my daughter to decide which of 2 or 3 items to purchase, by the attention to detail each has. The words in a book are certainly its substance, but its packaging is part and parcel of its attraction. Perhaps an impoverished childhood taught me to cherish the few material things I had, whether I borrowed them or owned them. Library books were especially valuable, for they were my escape from the reality of my surroundings. So collecting them because I can now afford them, seems only natural. They are, after all, still a wonderful avenue for living outside my “box,” since I can’t afford to travel the world over, or back in time, or forward into the future, or into imaginary realms. I admit to being more discerning than Mr. Newman, for I’m sure my books don’t number in the thousands. If they did, we’d have to sell our current home for one larger.    

 I’m hoping there are many like me, one foot in the past, the other in the future. I love blogging, but I love holding a book in my hands as I settle in for the night.

for not letting this “dinosaur” go the way of the others, hugs…hugmamma.

for book afficionados

My reservations about e-books relegating printed books to archival history were temporarily sidelined, when I read a Wall Street Journal article touting that “Fast Digital Printers Can Provide Out-of-stock Volumes to Customers in Minutes.”  While more and more readers are turning to Kindles, small bookstores are offering digitally printed books to its customers. “Oscar’s Art Books in Vancouver says it has sold about 1,500 digitally printed books since it bought a special printer in March. The machine, which cost about $118,000, accesses an online library of titles and then prints, trims and binds paperbacks on demand.” Prices depend upon the number of pages printed. Oscar’s recently printed a copy of “Dr. Art Hister’s Guide to Living a Long & Healthy Life” for $19.95. Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, Massachusetts (not affiliated with the University), has printed approximately 1,000 books a month on an Espresso machine with Xerox’s printer. “For the most part, books printed on the Espresso Book Machine look like regular paperbacks, although it can only print color covers, not inside pages. It costs the bookstore under a penny a page to print, plus a licensing fee.” While Harvard Bookstore sees little profit in printing and licensing books since it’s costlier than purchasing already printed books, print-on-demand manager Bronwen Blaney explains that it’s worth it because the store is getting a sale it otherwise wouldn’t.” A UK bookstore chain, Blackwell, has an Espresso machine in its London flagship store and plans to install 6 more in some of its other 40 stores. Barnes & Noble partners with “Lightning Source to custom print books it doesn’t have in stock online or in stores. …does about $20 million in annual sales for on demand printing, a figure that has been rising each year, says a spokeswoman.” Meanwhile Borders Group Inc. is still contemplating a move in that direction.

Why my interest in digitally printed books on demand? A year or so ago, I had read an article in an issue of Vanity Fair Magazine about author William Manchester, written by him or another journalist, I don’t remember which. It was intriguing in that he had been asked by Jackie Kennedy to write the definitive story about her husband’s assassination from her perspective. She would offer facts, historical and personal, never before reported. Manchester agonized over the request feeling it would be grueling and time-consuming, uncertain he would want to commit a couple of years of his life to the project. He succumbed under pressure from Jackie and Robert Kennedy, whose help she enlisted in convincing the author to do as she asked.  With their blessing, Manchester proceeded “leaving no stone unturned.” As time passed and insiders became aware of what was being revealed, several warned Jackie that she was mistaken in having such a book printed. While she and her brother-in-law may not have paid heed at first, upon reading its final version they insisted Manchester edit out certain things. He refused to whitewash his work and so it was published without the Kennedy’s blessing. It was said, however, that when she finished reading The Death of a President, copyrighted in 1967, she commented that it was  “Interesting.” Reprinting of the book was disallowed some time thereafter. Of course, I went in search of a copy and found one on Amazon.com for $89. I’ve yet to read the somber book, but am excited at the prospect.

Another book which is out of print is Dr. Wright’s Guide to Healing with Nutrition by Jonathan Wright, copyrighted in 1984. This book was a God-send when my daughter was a fledgling, student ballerina. At 12 or 13 years of age she suffered what was diagnosed as possible Osgood-Schlatter disease, knee pain associated with growth spurts. Because this was deleterious to continuing with dance, I went in search of whatever information might be helpful in resolving the problem. I can’t remember how I found Dr. Wright’s book, but his recommendation based upon anecdotal findings, convinced me to have my daughter follow his regimen of selenium and vitamin E. Lo and behold, it worked! Her knee pain ended, never to return again. I shared the doctor’s prescription with anyone who would listen. I was later thanked by a mother who’d overheard me and had her son, also a dancer, take the vitamin supplements. He too found permanent relief from Osgood-Schlatter symptoms.

If these books can be digitally reprinted so that they’re not lost to readers forever, then I’m already a fan of the technology. I may be putting it to the test sometime. Hopefully I’ll be successful in retrieving another “gem” from oblivion.

hugs for technology, at least in this case…hugmamma.