Friday, July 29, 2011

Books, Books, and Nooks

My appetite for reading books seems to be ever increasing. I don't recall being this excited about books when I was in school when they were required reading. My argument is that if I had a choice in books being read, I would have read every book on the list. The fact of the matter is that not every book is going to be a great book. Some are harder to read than others. Just because a book is consider an American Classic doesn't mean it is a good read.

I find comfort in being able to escape into a good book. The fact of having a Nook makes my reading experience worthwhile. Sure, It is not the same as buying the actual book and having it on display for no one to see in a library no one looks at, but I like the concept of reading an entire book in a small space. It has also shown me the importance of the e-book format. I think it is very important that moving forward, all books should be available in this format.

I think about how expensive text books are for college students. Imagine having them on an e-reader where students can read at their discretion. That would also avoid the whole book bag problem. I hated to carry books from class to class, it was a problem. The best part of having something like the nook is that it reads PDFs. So if I had to read something for work I can load it as a PDF and I would be straight. However, I tend to just use my e-reader for personal reading only.

I also tend to read books that now only come in the e-reader format. It saves paper for those who are environmentally friendly. One thing that I really try not to do when I did buy real books was bend the cover or break the spine. I paid for it and I did not want it to look horrible. Now, I do not have to worry about that.

Some people have asked me what books am I reading and what would I recommend. First and foremost, I recommend that people join the site Goodreads. This is where I have cataloged most of my read books. I can track what I read and what I want to read. I think that if you are into books then that is the place to start. I have read six books this year and I am currently on my seventh. My goal is to read 15 and I am behind on that mark. Goodreads allows me to track and know that type of information.

Out of the 6 books I have read I would recommend The Hunger Games, The Shack, Fish Out of Agua, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Fountainhead. I picked these books to share with you because they have all had an effect on me in some way. For example, I read the Hunger Games in less than 24 hours and The Fountainhead was an epic journey. The one book that really spoke to me was Fish Out of Aqua by Michele Carlo. I enjoyed that book so much that I am working on bringing her to speak at Syracuse University for Latino Heritage Month.

What has me bugging out is putting something that I wrote into the e-reader. It becomes a great place to store all my written information in case I need to show someone a poem or a short story that I have written. It makes what I am trying to do a little more tangible. This is a piece of technology is something that I am glad I got my hands on.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

ISBNs and Things

Been doing some research over the last few weeks in regards to doing some actual publishing. I want to publish something soon and in order to do that I need to look at all my options. So my first thought was to go to createspace and start with the a basic design of my first book. I decided a while ago to put all my poetry into one volume and go from there. The only thing left to do wast to start the process.

So, I did some playing around and I realized I need to do some template work since I have to decided what sized book I want to publish. That was something that seemed pretty easy, of course I would have to reformat whatever I pick, but I think that is something that just comes with the territory. Of course, I would have to figure out a cover. This is a point in which I feel I need to take a picture of whatever I feel really displays the essence of my book and the poems within. In terms of the title, I have already thought one up.

It took me awhile to get to a title. I had been thinking about it for months actually, but last week it just hit me. I have decided to call it My Twisted Life Through Lines of Poetry. It just hit me when I thought about all the poems that I have written over the last few years. When I give some thought to the things I have written, I try to imagine the frame of mind I was in when I wrote them. I came up with the scattered works on a canvas. Since I am very much a Gemini, my work seems to be random but yet with a specific purpose. I feel the title embodies me. I just need to work on getting a picture that will speak to me as well.

Creating the actual book seems to take as just as much creativity as writing the text within. So, I have come to fully expect that this process may take awhile. I do not want to rush getting this done, but at the same time...I want to get this done. Which brings me to the part about a very interesting thing about something called an ISBN.

Every book has an identifier that seems to very much be a bar code on the back cover. This is a code that identifies this book as whatever it is. I can choose one or have one chosen for me, but there is a catch. See, I can get a free ISBN and publish by week's end, the only problem is that it is not a universal identifier. It would only be recognized by Amazon and sold in that manner, thus I would have issues if I wanted it sold by a chain like Barnes & Noble. However, if I wanted a universal ISBN that is recognized by all (including libraries), I would have to pay a fee of $99.  That does not seem too bad, however I am currently trying to work through my budget and that is something that I simply have not planned for. I have often made the joke that when you are broke...everything seems to cost a thousand

So, I asked a friend who is currently selling his book on the Barnes & Noble website. Andre Cole is the author of The Unholy Servants and a very good friend of mine. We both attended Syracuse University and survived. I knew that he had self published and quite frankly this seems to be the way to go. I knew that he would have some answers about the ISBN thing for me. Not that I did not believe what I was being told, but I need to talk to someone who went through this process.  He basically told me that he bought a bunch of these! I am assuming I got this correct when he told me that every format will need its own ISBN. Hmmm....this is proving to be an investment (nothing wrong with that of course).

It made me think a little more clearer on a another project that I started. I would really want whatever it is that I write to be in as many formats as possible. What would be the point of any book if you cannot provide the reader with a format they may find convenient. So now,  I know what it is I need to do in order to get my work published. I cannot help but feel very proud that a good friend of mine has published. No, he is not the first person I know, but Andre is the closest, which gives me the motivation to work harder on this.

It is not easy to find the time and the energy to sit down and write. I have plenty of ideas in my head and I wanted to use the collected poetry as a starting point so that the second time around I know what I need to do. My countdown to get things done as begun in my head. I will need to focus on this and this is something that I know I can do because I have already written the material. With that being said, I do plan on writing new material so that all the poems published are not all from my blogs.

Please take time to click the link to The Unholy Servants. The e-book is only available at the moment but  we are eagerly awaiting the hard and soft cover editions. I have not read this book yet, but I plan to add it to my book club reading list. This way I am helping him out as much as he is going to help me out in this process.

Hip Hop (as I know it) is Dead.

Sometime last week I mentioned on Twitter that Hip Hop is dead. I have said this before and will probably say it again. It just so happens that days before I tweeted this, I was over a friend's house and a bunch of us were talking and listening to Music Choice from Time Warner Cable. The channel was set on Hip Hop and R&B and I was not impressed for the entire night, which lead me to my statement that Hip Hop is dead.

Of course, people felt the need to argue with me and tell me that Hip Hop was indeed alive and I had to find it. Perhaps, but my point is that Hip Hop as I know it is dead and gone. I found it hard to articulate why I felt a certain way. I can only look back at the past and point out that (and this is my opinion) the greatest 2-3 year span of Hip Hop music was between 1991 - 1993. I actually expanded this to include 1991 because I think there were things that happened that year that kicked off the following two years. That era is important when you think about the apex of the genre. This is not to knock the 80's at all, but take in to account some the albums that came out those years and the amount of music that was so good.

I was thinking about all this before I saw the documentary "Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest". After seeing it, I realized I was right in my assessment. Hip Hop is a whole different animal than what I remember it. This documentary was amazing and it took me to a place I haven't been too in a very long time. This was when I loved rap music so much.  A Tribe Called Quest was that the center of it all with their albums that were just ridiculous. But, it was more that just the music, it was feeling, an intangible thing that no words could describe. It is like one of those stories that end up with the phrase "you just had to be there."

I didn't know at the time that I was in witnessing one of the greatest eras of  Hip Hop at the time. Sure, I grew up with it. My brother had a Boom Box and we would listen to cassettes, but this particular time was me in college buying my own CD's and cassettes. I would make play-lists for people and record them. At one point I made my own rhymes and even a small song (it was horrible). I loved it and respected the industry for what it was. At one point during the documentary, Quest Love, from The Roots, says "The second Tuesday of October '93, I consider that the last great day in classic Hip Hop. Two very important albums came out that day: Enter the 36 Chambers by Wu-Tang and Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest" This is the very basis of my argument.

Let's talk about how many artists and albums came out during this period and think about the quality. Look at the industry now and you should see that anyone can be a rap artist now.

  • A Tribe Called Quest - Low End Theory
  • NWA - N****z For Life
  • Cypress Hill - Cypress Hill
  • Naughty by Nature - Naughty by Nature
  • Public Enemy - Apocalypse '91: The Enemy Strikes Black
  • Black Sheep - A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
  • Leaders of the New School - A Future Without a Past
  • Main Source - Breaking Atoms
  • Nice & Smooth - Ain't a Damn Thing Change
  • De La Soul - De La Soul is Dead
  • Dr Dre - The Chronic
  • Redman - Whut? Thee Album
  • The Pharcyde - Bizarre Ride II Tha Pharcyde
  • Pete Rock & CL Smooth - Mecca and the Soul Brother
  • EPMD - Business Never Personal
  • Ice Cube - The Predator
  • Das Efx - Dead Serious
  • Diamond D - Stunts, Blunts, & Hip Hop
  • Gangstarr - Daily Operation
  • Eric B & Rakim - Don't Sweat the Technique
  • A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders
  • Wu Tang Clan - Enter the 36 Chambers
  • Snoop Doggy Dogg - DoggyStyle
  • Souls of Mischief - '93 til Infinity
  • Black Moon - Enta Da Stage
  • Queen Latifah - Black Reign
  • Run DMC - Down With the King
  • Lords of the Underground - Here Come the Lords
  • Onyx - Bacdafucup
  • The Alkaholics - 21 & Over

I picked 10 albums from each of these years that have solidified the era I am referring to. Before people starting digging through their collection on albums that came out in 1994, I just want to mention a few things. Nas dropped one of greatest albums in 1994, that is a given. However, he was in a single by Main Source in 1991 (Live at the Barbeque) and he had a single in 1992 (Halftime). The Notorious B.I.G, arguably the greatest rapper of all time, had a single in 1993 (Party & Bullshit) on the Who's The Man soundtrack. Jay Z was in a group called Original Flavor that had a single in 1993 (Can I get Open). Common debuted in 1992 with his first album: Can I Borrow a Dollar?

This is the Hip Hop that I am missing. Can you name 10 albums that came out last year that was really good? I can name 2-3. Sure, we now have the Kanyes and the Drakes but we lack what this genre used to be. Now, it is all about the commercialism and the fame, which is fine because people need to eat. But, the artistry of Hip Hop has been reduced to fake rivalries, auto tunes, twitter beefs, and dance songs with one verse.

Maybe I have been spoiled with being born at at time when Hip Hop was beginning. Perhaps I am spoiled with being alive to understand that I have lived through the golden age. Hip Hop as I once knew it is dead. I wish I could say different but even Nas made a song about. I just have a question that was raised by Public Enemy, Who Stole the Soul?

Monday, July 25, 2011

28 days later...

Something funny happened during my 28 day vacation from this blog. I think I found something that I haven't had in a long time. As a matter of fact, I do no think it is something that I have ever mentioned on this blog in the 2 years that I have been writing. While, I am not entirely sure that I have been searching for this and I hardly think I have even mentioned that is was what I was looking for... I think I found a way to be happy.

Before the realization of this sets it, there has always been a certain understanding that I have had with the universe and that was that my life would continually be difficult. I have felt on numerous occasions that my luck has run out, that I reached the threshold of things to pray for. But then, things just seemed to click. It was as if I woke up one day and the world around me was moving just a little bit slower and I was still going at the same speed.

This is not to say that I am not plagued with the same everyday issues that I had just 28 days ago, I am just more in tuned with myself. I see things differently when it come to the goals I have placed for myself. There is no more "ifs" in my world there is only "when". For far too long I have been living in a world where I talk about if things will happen. They either will or will not. I will either make things happen or I don't. It is really that simple.

I have also taken the time to smell the roses. Stressing about things is not going to make my life better. Thankfully, I have never been one to panic in any given situation, but I have been known to over analyze. During this 28 day stretch, I have not over analyzed a thing. I have let things come to me. I have also trimmed the things and the people who have been a distraction to my goals. Unfortunately, I have also been very quiet with family and friends which has led to false impressions on my intentions and for that I sincerely apologize. I believe everyone needs a break from their lives and from themselves.

I have kept to myself for the same reason that I stopped writing on this blog, I wanted to stop talking about things...and actually do the things I said I would do. I do love the people in my life who have been there for me. I am not snubbing them or disregarding them in any fashion. I just needed to time to get my head straight. I need time to see the me for the individual that I am. How can I expect anyone to love me if I am not willing to see myself for who I am? How can I expect a bunch of strangers hire me if I cannot show them how dynamic I can be? How can I expect to gain and retain the respect of people I work with if I cannot consistently be creative and innovative?

28 days later... I realize that living in the moment is more important than living for the moment.

My silence is now broken.


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