(My current reading is at the end, since discussing it got long, because I’ve been reading awesome things.)
I’ve had people ask me, as an adult, whether there’s anything I don’t know something about. And they ask me how I got interested in technology, and what it means for our world.
The answer to both of those comes back to my father.
Today is the twenty-third anniversary of my father’s death. (I was 15.) Last year, my brother wrote a lengthy post on his own blog about our father, and especially about his wide-ranging tastes and interests. I’ve been thinking about it on and off since.
I think about how I am my father’s daughter, and about all the ways that his influence threads through my life, in so many ways, even though I never had a chance (as my brother and sister did) to know him as an independent adult.
My father was a technophobe. But at the same time, he knew that it was something I was going to need to understand.
When I was nine, my parents got me an Apple IIc (because the schools had IIes, and I could get help if I needed it.) It was primarily mine – my mother used it for office work when I wasn’t, but I had first dibs. And from that, I learned to try new things. (And I wrote, and I played with BASIC and LOGO, and I played games, and I learned that if computers break you can fix them, and that rebooting fixes a lot of things.)
Despite the fact my father wouldn’t touch it. Wouldn’t even read off the screen. Anything I wanted him to read, or proof, or do anything with, I had to print out, for him to make notes on (fountain pen, and in entirely idiosyncratic handwriting.)
Somewhere in there, I learned that there’s power and grace in supporting something you don’t fully understand, or don’t want for yourself, but that you realise is important. And how you can do that and be honest to your own self (and your own interests).
My brother has talked about our father’s wide-ranging tastes. My list of things he introduced me to is a bit different – but I have my own memories of coming home from something on a Saturday (listening to the Met on the classical radio station) and then curling up to watch Doctor Who. Or watching Yes, Minister with him, and demanding explanations of the politics. Of his love of mysteries, and how I’d have to wait for him to finish reading the comics section of the paper before I could read it.
Or when I was younger, when he’d walk me to and from school (and on dog walks) telling me story after story. We’d begin with the birth of the Greek pantheon, work our way around through to the end of the Odyssey, take a side step into retelling of Lovecraft and Bram Stoker, and then start over again at the beginning. In between all sorts of other conversations, about what I’d learned in school, and why it was interesting, and stories of how the history I learned in elementary school was so vastly simplified, and I shouldn’t be content with the simple versions.
That there was fascination in all sorts of places. And that limiting your sources just meant less interesting things. That academics were often right, but they could be wrong, and that the solution for bad information was more conversation, more learning, more knowledge.
More than anything, I feel his touch every time I stand up to work with a class, or do a presentation, or give a workshop. My father was an amazing teacher – he’d do a full hour lecture on some particular part of theatre history without notes, quoting (correctly) from various texts, responding to the pulse of the audience, taking time to explain something. He had a knack (one I’ve done my very best to cultivate) of explaining complicated things clearly without losing the complexity.
I hold myself to the same standard: the desire to know my material backwards and forwards, not to rely on notes, so that I can talk about what’s needed, in that moment, with those people, to help them understand the core of what we’re doing. I believe strongly that people can (and will) look up the details, once they can put the arcs together. The details matter, but the shapes they make matter even more. People understanding, being able to take another step forward, matters most.
And all of that, I learned from him. In the big ways and the little ways. All of how to be the person in the world who keeps learning, who keeps being interested. Who is passionate about several things, not defined by one and only one.
Still learning. Always learning. Always up for something new.
Per their blog, there are several notable things today:
1) The iPad app is out, so if you prefer reading on the iPad, have fun. (You do need to be running iOS7 – the join page, linked below, has device specifics info.)
2) They’re removing the invitation system (and you get a free month trial) – you can join here.
3) They’ve added the ability to browse their catalog on the website (you still can’t search, but if you’re trying to decide if there are enough books you might want to read, the browsing will be a big help.)
I’m still very happy with it, but I know there’s a number of people who were interested in finding out more, or who were waiting for the iPad app.
I mentioned last week that I intended to do a review of Oyster, so here it is, because I know more than a few people who are curious about it.
The basics: It’s been described as like Netflix for books, which is fairly accurate. Their FAQ and help info is on their website.
It is invitation only, but they are rolling out invites steadily (I got mine about 6 days after requesting one.)
My take: For my reading patterns (more below the cut) this is a worthwhile service for me right now (and I’ll note that I do almost all of my booklength reading on my phone). It may or may not be the right fit for you, or right now.
It is clearly a service in process: there are some things about the interface it’s taken me a while to get used to, and there are some glitches (described below) though none of them have been dealbreakers for me. Obviously, too, whether they have content you want is going to be a good question. (It is probably not the right fit for you if you only read in a couple of specific genres, or read a book or less a month from their catalog, or mostly read very recently released work.)
I’ll also note that I expect to use Oyster the way I use Netflix and Spotify: I take in a bunch of content (and love having the chance to try things out without having to store it – even digital storage takes management!) but I continue to buy things I know I want to keep or have access to even if licensing agreements change, or when I want to make sure the creators get encouraged to make more things like that.
The biggest note I’d make is that books you read are default public (you can mark individual titles private) in their sharing service. I am extremely weird about sharing what I’m reading with other people, and I wish you could default to making things private.
Onward in much more detail