1. I had to do a spot of clothes shopping recently to have some fresh duds for the new job. This is among my least favorite things in the world to do, since left to my own devices, and in a vacuum, I would spend all of my waking moments wearing loose fitting gym shorts and a t-shirt, ideally with a grocery store or progrock logo on it. I wouldn’t own a pair of socks, either, if I didn’t have play nice in proper society. Or shoes, when you get right down to it. My feet get on just fine without such extravagances. But, anyway, life is what it is, and expectations are what they are, so I dress the part in the corporate world, and I do it well, when I need to. I bought three new dress shirts at one store last week and upon getting them home, I went through the usual insane ritual of removing pins, bits of plastic, strings with labels attached to them, cardboard, more plastic, more pins, and some little sacks with extra buttons or collar stays in them. I have never been able to figure out why so much packaging is required for men’s dress shirts. I would be just as happy buying them hanging on hangars, where I could see the cuts of the collars and cuffs just as easily as I can when they are mounted with pins-plastic-cardboard, as though they were works of taxidermy determined to show you what shirts would look like if they were worn by two-dimensional, one-armed men. Shirt manufacturers, stop the madness!!!
2. I do most of my reading these days on a Kindle, wrapped in a zip-lock bag. Yeah, yeah, I know, I know, I’m a Philistine destroying centuries of literary tradition by sacrificing the magic of the printed page for the cold heartlessness of a hunk of plastic and silicon chips, and that does bother me on some plane, though not as much as it used to bother me when I wrecked expensive hard-cover books by sweating on them at the gym or dropping them in the hot tub. But, at any rate, one of the interesting features about reading books on a Kindle is that you get a little bar on the bottom of the page that marks your progress toward the end of the book as a percentage. I read a lot of nonfiction, so it has been really interesting to me to note how often I find myself at 65% or so, thinking I’ve got another solid day or two of reading ahead of me, only to find myself crashing to the end of the meaningful text, with 35% of my purchased product consisting of end-notes, bibliographies, author acknowledgements, indices, appendices and/or glossaries that I’m not actually interested in reading. Now, on a Kindle, there’s no cost to the publisher or the reader to providing these wasted pages, but it makes me wonder why publishing houses feel the need to provide all of that useless paper (for most readers) at the back of their print editions, when they have to factor paper and binding costs into their economic model. Wouldn’t it make more sense to end the print editions where the main text ended, with a little tag saying “If you really care about notes and cites and appendices, please visit our website at obsessedbookgeek.com”? My hunch is that they don’t do this, and that the end-notes and cites and other junk at the back of books are actually expanding in volume, because of fears about claims of plagiarism against the authors and publishers. That level of stringent documented rigor once only appeared in graduate school thesis papers, but it now seems to be a requirement for popular nonfiction as well. I did a totally unscientific survey on this topic by pulling a bunch of older nonfiction books off my personal library shelves, and I will note that many of the classics of the genre have virtually no post-text addenda in their printed editions. Why is this? I would welcome others’ thoughts on this trend, since I just find myself saying: Book publishers, stop the madness!!!