• My year for a personal website

    So apparently 2019 is the year of the personal site. So was 2018, and probably 2017 and 2016. But in 2019 it’s probably more pertinent, given the recent downfall of Tumblr and Medium struggling to stay relevant and whatever happened to LiveJournal after the Russians bought it, anyway? I had an LJ account and spent almost a decade recording my thoughts and the details of my life there before people drifted away, with most of them ending up on Facebook. I thought about Medium but isn’t that where tech bros go to give hot takes? And Tumblr just… yeah. Never mind.

    Anyway, here I am, rebuilding my personal site after many years of dormancy. And this time I’ve got a blog to write down my thoughts, of which I’ve had many lately. Though most of my potential audience lives on Facebook, it’s not exactly the best place to show off your writing.

    True story: I once made a long post about a dead coworker and, because Facebook required long posts to have titles, I titled it “I don’t like titles.” And someone decided to reply with “why don’t you like titties?” Which, besides showcasing that this person is an idiot, also illustrates why Facebook is just a poor place for writing. Despite the fact that a bulk of our society’s communication is written now, no one really writes. I’m not going to change that with a simple blog, but I can certainly do myself a favor by creating an outlet to get out the random trains of thought that haunt me so.

    And it’s just so much better with an audience.

    Hello. My name is Kris Naudus. I am a writer and an editor. I’ve written news articles, editorials, reviews and even video game strategy guides. I’ve edited books, posts and TV scripts. I’d like to write a novel some day. But I need to put the work in. I need to write. So here we are. Let’s see where this thing takes us.

  • Birb watching

    I got into my head to start birding a few weeks ago. I used to really love it when I was a kid. Now, it’s a great excuse to go outside, and May is prime migration and nesting season so I should see a lot of different species if I keep an eye out.

    Things I have learned from my first week of being an amateur birder:

    • Pigeons are not as common as you think.
    • Sparrows, however, are everywhere. (I don’t mind because I like them.)
    • Identifying birds in the wild is more fun than playing Pokémon Go.
    • Identifying birds in the wild is a lot harder than playing Pokémon Go.
    • Birds are dicks.
    • I finally understand why birders are crazy.
  • 28 Days Later

    I’ve been busy this month! I may not have been writing much here, but I assure you that I’ve been a busy little bee in February 2019, so I’m gonna just give you a rundown since I won’t be able to update the other sections of this site just yet.

    Entertainment

    Toy Fair

    Mobile World Congress

  • On “to read” lists and thematic coincidences

    I’ve been reading a lot lately. Not entirely sure why, but it’s probably connected to my desire to write more, as well as the fact that I’m trying to simplify my life. And part of that simplification is consuming less television and movies. (And maybe even video games.) When did TV become such a chore? It really stresses me out, so I’ve dropped a few shows and refuse to watch some of the new “hot” series people keep talking about. It’s been quite relaxing.

    So I’ve ended up reading a lot of books — as of today, 12 since the year started. Most of them were full-length prose works too. I even finished some titles that had been sitting on my “currently reading” list for years. Yes, years. It’s been a huge relief.

    However, a book sitting on my currently reading for years pales in comparison to the fact that I have had books sitting in my “to read” list for decades.

    Just before I started college, I stopped by the used bookstore near my high school for a bit, and the owner asked if I needed a job. I did, so I ended up taking the offer and worked there for a few months until the place lost its lease. (But that’s a story for another time.) I ended up spending a bit of time that afternoon bringing some boxes in from the sidewalk, and at the end I said, “Hey, I’ve worked about 15 minutes, how about I just take some of these old books as payment.” So I took home old copies of Elmore Leonard’s Touch and Killshot, and Carl Sagan’s Contact.

    I read Killshot maybe a year later? (I’m not entirely sure.) But the other two… they’ve just kind of sat around, with me sometimes looking at them and thinking, “I should get to those soon.” And then I didn’t. Those books I got in college… have been mine long enough to go to college! I’ve even moved twice since then, though in my current apartment I ended up just shelving them since it had been so long.

    I haven’t thought about them much since then.

    So far this year I’ve read Jeannette Ng’s Under the Pendulum Sun, which is about a woman going to fairyland in search of her brother, a missionary who yes, is trying to convert the fae folk. And then there was The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey, about a murder in a medieval village, from the perspective of the local priest. I finally cracked open Shusaku Endo’s Silence (which I found as a street book a few years back), where two Portuguese priests have snuck into Japan during a period of Christian persecution to find out what happened to their mentor. Sensing a theme yet?

    It was completely unintentional.

    I finished Silence, and started thinking, “I should read Touch next. Now is the time. I will finally read it. It doesn’t look very long, either, so there’s nothing stopping me.”

    And what is Touch? A novel about a former monk who heals people and displays the marks of stigmata when he does so. One of the other characters is a traditionalist priest who wants to exploit this to promote his church.

    I didn’t know. I really didn’t. I finished the book a few days ago, and I enjoyed it, even if I didn’t completely love it. I felt like it just sort of… ends. It’s a bit unsatisfying but I couldn’t tell you any other way the book could have ended.

    But the odd theme in my 2019 reading has me wondering if maybe the reason I kept putting off reading this book is that on some level, I felt I wasn’t ready for it. That it was being kept in hold for this exact moment in time. My subconscious is playing tricks on me. Or it’s just a big coincidence.

    The next book I read was about a killer cyborg, so I really shouldn’t overthink these things.

  • Book Store… or Museum?

    So, a confession: I don’t really love used bookstores.

    I have nothing against used books, per say: A significant portion of my personal book collection comes from used bookstores, thrift shops and stoop sales.

    But the romantic idea that people have of used bookshops, with dim lighting, shelves that reach to the ceiling, stacks of books on the floor and a cat somewhere in all that… I don’t love it. I’ll pop into one once in a while, poke around and be like “oh, look at this gorgeous old cover” and “oh wow I’ve never heard of this one” but I rarely buy anything in them.

    They tend to be kind of dusty and maybe outright dirty, and I don’t particularly enjoy having to wash my hands just from browsing in a store. And things can be really disorganized; books stuffed haphazardly wherever they can fit and not in any discernible order sometimes. At least two friends have told me that it was once the Strand’s policy to leave things messy. I don’t really understand the logic of that; perhaps they believe people will buy more if they have to study the shelves in more depth. And some people like that treasure-hunt feel but, for me, all it does is keep me from the books I actually want.

    French bookstore "Bloody Mary"

    When I travel abroad, I always like to visit one chain bookshop. Maybe this seems odd to you: After all, aren’t chain bookstores generic by design? They’re not quirky or oddball and their stock is going to skew toward the mainstream. Well, that’s the point for me. If I want to get an idea of what the publishing scene is like in a foreign country, a chain bookstore is the best place to do it. A used bookstore will probably be stocked up with classics, while an independent shop will go a little off course with its selections. If I would like to see what the average person is reading, a chain bookstore is the place to do it. It’s as enlightening to me as walking down the street in a far-off city, because instead of seeing how people live I can see how they think.

    Quirky, cluttered used bookstores don’t feel like places you really shop to me, and a lot of the reviews of them on sites like Yelp tend to reflect that. “I love browsing the shelves,” they say. “The piano in the corner and the big comfy chairs are just so charming,” they’ll extoll. “I love the cat.” But what about the book? What did you buy?

    One of my favorite places to hang out in high school was a used science fiction and mystery bookstore. The kind of place I’ve been complaining about in this post: Shelves to the ceiling, a bit of grime everywhere, books shoved in every nook and cranny. Sometimes I did actually buy stuff: I think a good portion of my collection back then was from that store, and I still have many of those books now. But when I started working there I took it upon myself to start straightening stuff up. I organized a lot of the shelves, made little signs for different genres, and cleared up enough space to put more stock out. And you know? People bought more stuff when I did that. We had a huge collection of old science fiction magazines from the ’50s through to the ’80s and once I made room for them and put them in order and made a little sign the shelves started to empty out. It was a pretty great feeling to see people discover things they might not have seen because they were out of place or hidden.

    Short Stack cookbooks

    I don’t hate used bookstores. One of my favorite stores right now is the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in SoHo. It’s a pretty great place, with well organized shelves and a nice big space for events. The stock has constant turnover because the prices are good and stuff is easy to find. I love browsing the cookbook section and my personal collection of food-related books has tripled as a result. I’ve even had my own personal bit of treasure hunting luck there too, as I’ve found eight volumes of the Short Stack Editions there recently tucked away in parts of the store that were decidedly not the cooking section.

    Love your used bookstore all you want, but when you extoll its virtues, make sure that it’s a place you actually shop at. Otherwise it’s just a curiosity. A museum piece.