Better than reading a book

I did a literal double take while walking through the train station this morning. I carried on, then halfway up the stairs decided to go back and take another look. This is what I saw:


That’s right. Using a Kindle Paperwhite feels “like reading a book”.

So then, despite the device likely having more power than the operating systems that allowed NASA to send men to the moon, the Kindle Paperwhite’s main selling point is that it emulates the feeling of reading a book.

Can you even imagine the tedium of the poor programmers’ jobs, where they’re tasked with taking this great new technology and recreating something we’ve had for thousands of years. When I thought about this concept, it became even more bizarre. It’s like Jaguar creating a car that gives the sensation of walking.

When someone visits the cinema, they may choose to see a film in 3D because it FEELS like they’re going to another world. Or when a person visits Disney World it FEELS like a slice of good old fashioned Americana. These are things that aren’t really obtainable by any other means, so people are investing in something that allows them to experience an otherwise unavailable sensation. In the case of the Kindle ad, we’re being asked to invest in the premium product, the “upgrade”, in order to experience something very ordinary, affordable and available – the predecessor, the book.

Now I know that electronic book devices can be handy. I recognise their practicality, for reading on the move or space-saving. How about making the selling point “Kindle Paperwhite – you don’t have to lug books around anymore”.

Even more worryingly is the idea that Amazon are actually preparing us for some kind of dystopian future where books are no longer available. The groundwork is there already. By 2016 it’s predicted that at least 1000 of the UK’s libraries will no longer be around. Perhaps we’re being conditioned, slowly, before the printers shut down and the books are burned, and we are longing for the sensation of what it felt like to read a book…

Ultimately, for now at least, I want to tell the woman in the advert “Read a fucking book, then”.

Harold Ramis

So long, Egon

It goes without saying that Ghostbusters is one of my favourite films of all time. It might even be my favourite of all time, I’m not sure – and I’m not sure I even want to make that decision. I’m way too fickle.

Growing up as a child of the late 80s and early 90s, I was as big a fan of Ghostbusters as possible. I had the Ghostbusters action figures (no likeness, but they were brilliant), the accompanying Ghostbusters fire station (including slime that dripped through the building and couldn’t be removed from the carpet), the Ghostbusters Proton pack (with foam stream)… I sat through endless episodes of the cartoon. We had the toy trap that never opened, no matter how much you hoped or tried to pry it open with scissors.

A glasses-wearer and blonde hair, naturally I was Egon – despite how much I thought I might grow up to be Venkman (I never did). But Egon had his gadgets, and I had my Commodore 64, so I knew I was in good company. Our copy of Ghostbusters was a taped-from-the-telly VHS. Before it was an episode of The Simpsons, followed by an episode of Only Fools and Horses. Not that it mattered. The Librarian ghost terrified me, so I’d skip that part too.

We were coming home from somewhere late, and I must have only been four or five. We picked up a Wimpy (I know, right), and as part of the meal was a Ghostbusters can that had a glow in the dark Slimer inside. When we got back to the house, Barry Norman was talking about Ghostbusters II, and they showed the courtroom scene in all it’s glory. That’s how I remember it, and who knows if that’s how it really went, but I’m sure that it’s one of my first proper memories.

Watching Groundhog Day in Thai is a strange experience, but I’ve seen it almost as many times as Phil Connors repeated the same day, so it wasn’t a problem. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of poor Ned Ryerson being punched in the face, or Bill Murray’s manic theft of the titular groundhog. I travelled alone in Thailand, and suffered with almost instant anxiety and nerves. Switching on the TV to see Gobbler’s Knob in all its glory was like a quick trip home.

My Dad and I won tickets to a special screening of Analyze This, which took place at the always-glamourous Colchester Odeon. The old classy one, not the souless new one. ┬áThis was the first time I ever went to anything resembling a preview, or special screening – something I know that I take for granted now. We went to a good few films together around that time, and while it was hardly wild, this was probably the most adult movie I’d seen at a cinema before. I felt like an adult.

I too felt frustration that we might not get to visit Wally World in National Lampoon’s Vacation. I felt like I was joining in with the camaraderie of Stripes. I felt the love when Seth Rogen’s soon-to-be dad asked his own father (Ramis) for advice. What Ramis did, whether it was on screen or behind the camera, seemed to be an ability to bring warmth and generosity, and have that felt by the audience.

By all accounts, and there are LOTS, Harold Ramis was wonderful and lovely, and all those things that make it even harder to swallow that he’s not around anymore. I never had the honour of meeting him, and I’ve never been in his company, but without Harold Ramis and his catalogue of work, I wouldn’t have these memories. And for that, I thank him.

Harold Ramis: November 21 1944 – February 24 2014

Photo credit – (It’s beautiful, right?)