Saturday, 30 March 2013

Goodreads and Amazon, or where do I keep my book info without having it stolen by market monopolisers?

By now every Goodreads user knows it has been bought by Amazon. This has started a typical online fiery reaction, with a lot of people yelling (or capslocking) that they are going to leave the site for good and move to an alternative. When I started sharing my thoughts on that on twitter my friends commanded me to organize my info and post it. Some even ordered me to write in English, so they could share it. This all seems a bit foolish and not at all typical of me (I rarely follow orders like this) so I did it. (I don't get it either - perhaps my work was rather bothersome today and I needed a break).

So I'll start by saying what it is I think is troubling with having Amazon owning Goodreads. Well, everything. Amazon is not only a monopoliser, which by itself is already bad enough, but it's a very aggressive one at that. Everyone that reads and deals with them must have already heard about the way it treats authors, small publishers or stores and worst of all, how it allows the subcontracted warehouses to explore its workers. If you haven't, please search it, the internet is packed with those stories so there's no point in me aggregating them here. But my problems don't end with Amazon's lack of ethical concerns. There is one other thing that is perhaps most unnerving and that is the independence claim. Goodreads was always supposed to be a community made for and by its people. When Amazon last tried to get a grip on it all the librarians helped to save the database. I was one of them. I've been a librarian ever since I found that I could be, and have helped with adding books, correcting information, aggregating doubled insertions or different editions for years now. I have, as most that were there almost from the beginning, helped build not only the database but also the community, calling my friends there and sharing my reading status through other social networks. So when it comes to this, I feel somewhat robbed of a thing that was not only useful and full of my info, but also a thing that was, in a way, partially mine.
Therefore, we have a giant company very interested in controlling the book market buying its third (that I know of) social network for readers, and this time one that was picked precisely for being independent from stores and publishers and allowing both positive and negative reviews and ratings without any kind censorship.
Finally, I've just heard from a friend that there are already rumours of comments being deleted on the post that talks about the transaction.

And now, to speak about the possible alternatives, for those who are already considering to leave, though I haven't really tried most of them (I've been looking for info on their respective sites, trying the logged off experience and searching the web to produce these comments):

Anobii - Seems like a nice, graphically appealing alternative to Goodreads. The one thing I don't know if it has is author pages, give-aways and other author-reader interaction experiences. It includes on its list of backers / investors, companies like HMV Group, HarperCollins, The Random House and Penguin. So, might not be as bad as having your info on Amazon's hands in your opinion, but it's by no means an independent venture. The privacy policy does state that you can decide if you give your info to their fellow companies or not, so its some kind of protection. Another good thing for some people is that Anobii also has an app that scans barcodes, something I've found really useful when building lists of things to check or buy later while exploring bookshops.

Bookish - Though it is affirmed that the site is editorially independent, the platform was jointly founded by Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group USA and Simon & Schuster. So if one wants to avoid giving information to big publishers or sellers, this is not the place. I also seem to recall a problem with the site's terms of use or privacy statement, though I don't know if that situation has ever changed.

Booklamp - This is not a social network or a collection organizer, so it isn't an alternative to Goodreads. All that aside, it seems an interesting project of its own, trying to describe books in terms of their DNA, in other words, the features and themes that are part of the book. And they do this with computational tools, trying as much as they can to differ from social networks' book recommendation system.

BookLikes - A social network for readers and bloggers, this platform appears to be a good alternative to Goodreads. It allows for bookshelfs, reviews, comments, recommendations and on top of that lets you have your own sort of customizable blog and timeline with your thoughts and favourite quotes. I don't think they have author pages or give-aways integrated, but that isn't why I use these platforms anyway (I might miss some authors' thoughts on books). It is a Polish start-up, but I have no info on its current status as independent. I do know they have a direct link to on the book pages, but so did Goodreads once upon a time. I've also read it used to have an integrated bookstore but I see no further evidence of this.

BookRabbit - This is not an independent site, it belongs to Redberry Digital. a multi-disciplined creative agency that works with multiple companies, such as Sony or Waterstones, but at least it isn't part of a massive online bookstore. The network itself has a purpose quite like Goodreads, with bookshelves, reviews and ratings, but I saw no evidence of author pages, give-aways or groups. A thing that worries me is that there are no links to alternative editions. Each edition stands on its own, as if they were all different books. Another problem I have with it is that it shows a list of people who own each book. Not just a list of reviews or ratings to the book, but a direct list of owners, an information that seems directed at companies such as Amazon and not at all useful for the site's users. A final note that is definitive in my opinion is that it allows no other language but English, prohibits so-called foul language and may revoke posting rights if you answer too many times with "wtf" or "lol".

BookShout! - This is a mix of a store and a review sharing site, so I don't think it's what I'm looking for here.

Bookwormr - This one seems like an alternative, but as happens with others, it doesn't seem to have author pages, collection management / shelves, groups or give-aways. So it's another review / rating sharing page and it doesn't look very active. On the other hand, the site has a new version, introduced in February 2013, so it deserves a better look.

LibraryThing - Owned partially by Amazon so this isn't an alternative to anything. It doesn't make for a very good user experience comparing with Goodreads, at least it didn't when I tried it a few years ago. It is more independent from Amazon than Shelfari or Goodreads because, according to Tim Spalding, he remains the owner of the majority of the company. But one is still working in Amazon's interest here so I'd rather keep on Goodreads or else move to a totally independent site.

Readernaut - Another social network for readers, though I couldn't see how it worked without registering. On the other hand, I do know that only Amazon books can be added so this is far from the freedom Goodreads allows. I don't know if it sports a recommendation system, if it allows for book reviews or to follow authors.

Reader2 - This place looks quite abandoned and the interface is barely developed. Anyway, it would be a place to do lists and look for recommendations based on keywords and similar books, but not to manage collections, shelves or read and share reviews. An alternative if all you want is a place to list your books and a basic recommendation service. I don't know if the reader is able to contribute to the recommendation system as it is on Goodreads. Also don't believe you can have the experience of following or interacting with authors.

Revish - This one has been around for a while and seems to offer a similar experience to Goodreads, but actually doesn't. This isn't a collection manager, it's a review manager, where you are encouraged to follow some guidelines and produce well-thought and developed comments on the books you've read. The terms of use are quite typical of these platforms, though they prohibit swearing and can at any time moderate or eliminate user generated content without prior warning or explanation, which is something I really don't like. This is, sadly, the general practice of these websites. It appears to be quite independent from monopolisers. It's something to try if all you're interested is in reading people's book comments.

Riffle - This site doesn't allow any kind of unregistered exploration. So I went around the internet to try to find out something about it. It seems to work through Facebook and it's basically a pin-board (Pinterest like) for books, with some direct connection to the publishing houses. Check it if you are interested, but this isn't an alternative to Goodreads nor is it particularly good for those with information sharing concerns, considering the association with Facebook.

Shelfari - Also owned by Amazon so no alternative here either.

SocialBooks - This is a place to share thoughts and discuss books. Without registering I couldn't see how it works, but the announcement on the home page is for the first read in November so either it's from last year and has been abandoned or it's this year and it's not yet working. There's also no place to read the terms of use. So this isn't an alternative to Goodreads but it might be interesting on it's own.

TheReadingRoom - This seems like an overall good social network for readers, which also includes advanced copy request, free chapters and its very own eReader app for Apple or Android tablets and phones. The site includes recommendations, bookclubs and reviews, so most of the experience we get from Goodreads. The one thing I failed to find is if they have some kind of librarian participation, one which allows the user to add books and edit information.

Wattpad - It's not really the same kind of platform. This one allows you to publish your work and ask readers for feedback or, as a reader, to be a spotter of new talent or new works from already established authors who choose to start by showing a part of their next book there. Wikipedia describes it, and rightly so, as a "Youtube for electronic text stories".

weRead - I've heard this one wasn't working any more, but that doesn't seem to be the case because the website is online. It started as a Facebook application but had expanded into a privately owned website of its own with connections with multiple social networks and offering an experience very similar to Goodreads, with lists, reviews, comments, and author pages. It was bought by Lulu and then by Flipkart, an online store like Amazon, in 2010. The community doesn't seem to be very active currently, considering all the books with no reviews or comments. It also doesn't seem to include book ratings but we all know that those pesky stars are both good and bad.

YourNextRead - This is a recommendation system, based on some algorithm and people's input. No platform to keep a collection or share reviews, but a different way to look for books worth trying.

What did I take from all this? I'll probably keep using Goodreads for now, but I'm growing favourable to the possibility of leaving or at least diminishing the information I share there. There's really no complete alternative and most of those who get close to do it, like Anobii, Bookwormr or weRead aren't exactly independent ventures, currently don't have organized communities contributing with their opinions and ratings or don't allow for collection management. Some have such terms of use that wouldn't even consider them (see BookRabbit above). If I was to change, or if I eventually decide to do so as a consequence of this process or of any changes to Goodreads experience or privacy policy (if they change the "all is allowed in reviews" policy I'll leave immediately), I'd probably try TheReadingRoom or BookLikes first, or ask my friends if they are already using any of these and how good they actually are. One of the most important things in this transition would be to keep at least a good part of the people that I share reading with in Goodreads and get them to the new platform. In spite of this, if I can't do it, it won't stop me from leaving the previous community.

Last, but not least, I am even more determined to reduce my purchases from Amazon and its owned stores. There are things that I can't afford if not from there, but there are others that I can or will make an effort to. There is no point in complaining about what Amazon does to people and small companies and then remain a client. So I'd also be glad if people can tell me not only alternatives to Goodreads, which I'll keep adding here, but also alternatives to Amazon in terms of books written in or translated to English.

Edit #1

I've heard of some more options but haven't listed or spoken of them yet because none offered to be on par with the best choices above. Anyway, here are some names people have told me:

WhichBooks - essentially a tool to look for a specific kind of book based on factors such as funny vs serious, gentle vs violent, optimistic vs bleak. Not really my kind of recommendation system, but it might be cool on some instances. No Goodreads alternative though.

ThirdScribe - this in still under construction but people have been promising it might be a cool platform for those who liked Goodreads, though I still don't know what it is going to offer exactly.

Storyverse - this is, again, not really a social platform for readers or a collection manager. It's a tool to find what was referenced inside a book. If you look up American Gods, for example, it will show you what mythological figures, songs, books, authors and other stuff Neil Gaiman decided to mention or draw from in the book. Do check it out. (heard about it here, through WhiteLady3's comment below).

Skoob - This one is a real alternative but for one limitation: it's in Portuguese and directed towards Brazilian readers. I didn't reference it initially because I think one of the very best things about Goodreads was how multicultural the community was and I wouldn't want to narrow my scope now.

Bookworms - on the same note as the previous one, this one is directed to Portuguese people and written in Portuguese and was referenced by Telma in a comment below. I've also heard it hasn't been updated in a while or is no longer worked on, but can't really be sure right now.

Edit #2

Libib - This is a collection manager, not only for your books, but also for movies and video games. You can also publish reviews to the items you have collected. It seems much less of a social network and much more of a catalogue, and I like the idea. I'm considering registering and using it as a general backup of the items I actually own even if I also start using a new book social network to speak about books, review them, check other people's opinions and look for recommendations. Thanks Sofia for reminding me of this one.

BookGlutton - I found that I initially also left out this one because it's not really an alternative to all that Goodreads was good for, but seeing as I am already speaking about most of them, here it is. BookGlutton is a social reading platform, focused on public domain and small press books, allowing people to read a book together, comment on specific paragraphs, sections or the overall work and chat with your group while you read each chapter. The creators are also preparing ReadUps, which appears to be a platform to further enhance the social reading and include the possibility of feedback on writing. This is supposed to launch this Spring so if you are interested visit the site or and sign up. I think this would be great for book communities as a preparation for book discussions, meetups or hangouts. Let's see how the new platform comes into being.

Edit #3

my-bookclub - Though more focused on creating book clubs, this platform allows for some collection management (if only 4 shelves), review sharing, and book recommendation. My problem with it is the acceptable use policy. It has far too many rules and limitations to what one can actually write, such as no unjustified caps lock use, no content that is obscene, blasphemous, untrue, misleading, inaccurate or that causes annoyance, all should be civil and tasteful, etc.. my-bookclub looks like a place so tight that I feel incoming social claustrophobia, which is odd for a site that pretends to host clubs. I won't be trying this one out.

I'll me posting mine and other people's experiences with new book sites on the next post.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Cenas (4)

Um post com uma análise muito interessante sobre todos os filmes que ganharam o Oscar de melhor filme ao longo das 85 edições. A Sofia teve o entusiasmo - e a paciência - e nós beneficiamos. Eu pelo menos já sei que, chegado a dedicar-me a este grupo de filmes, vou começar pelos que ela gostou mais e só se estiver muito interessado é que vou progredir para os restantes.

Descobri num dos muitos blogs de livros que sigo (não me lembro de momento qual) que estava disponível gratuitamente na internet uma pequena prequela do Seraphina - The Audition - um livro cujo conceito me intrigava embora ainda não estivesse decidido a ler. Fiquei convencido a experimentar, um dia. Aos interessados, sigam este link para o scribd e depois digam-me o que acharam. Aos que já leram o romance de Rachel Hartman, por favor partilhem comentários ou críticas.

Por fim, deixo-vos com uma análise sobre a ficção pós-apocaliptica e o que motiva a sua fama e a proliferação de livros que dela tratam, publicada pelo SF Signal. É um facto que muitos de nós passamos pelo menos uma fase da vida em que gostamos de livros, filmes, séries que exploram a situação de uma humanidade ou resto dela que sobrevive a uma obliteração da sociedade, por vezes acompanhada de consequências ambientais importantes. Pessoalmente, interesso-me por este tipo de obras dentro da temática da distopia que me parece sempre uma análise importante e quiçá essencial às pessoas, à sociedade e à espécie humana. Como encontrei o artigo num post da Trëma, aqui fica o link para o blog. Aproveitem para dar uma vista de olhos às várias recomendações que o Luís Filipe Silva nos vai deixando por lá no mundo da ficção especulativa.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Introductions to Philosophy - between the University of Edinburgh on Coursera and Nigel Warburton's basics

After reading some philosophical works, some more literary such as Camus' The Stranger, others more academic or theoretical as The Laws of Plato or Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil (reviewed here), I decided it was time to have a proper introduction to philosophy as a whole. I've always been interested in some philosophical fields of study but until recently I felt I knew too little of what it means to be a philosopher nowadays. In order to address this problem I found two simultaneous solutions. One was to participate in an Introduction to Philosophy online course from the University of Edinburgh and the other was read Nigel Warburton's Philosophy: the basics. Most of the themes shared by both I heard first on the course sessions and then reviewed them by reading the book.
I have only good things to say about the course. Most of the speakers were beyond good at introducing the main questions in philosophy and I felt interested in further exploring all of them. Questions addressed went from the concept of philosophy, epistemology - knowledge and skepticism -, mind and morality to things like belief in testimony - more skepticism -, in scientific theories and even the logical plausibility of time travel. Other than the video lectures, the people responsible for each theme also gave advice on further reading, both on resources available online and on books. A cool coincidence was the reference to Philosophy Bites, a podcast by David Edmonds and none less than Nigel Warburton. Most courses in the Coursera platform are repeated after a while so be on the lookout if you're interested. I highly recommend it for those that, like me, have had little or no previous introduction to philosophy.
If I must say that adding the course to the book made it much easier to grasp all the information on each of them, I also must emphasize how well Nigel Warburton's book works as an introduction. Without dwelling much on what philosophy is or what is it's history or it's main authors, the book essentially shows what it is all about by describing and discussing how some important issues are addressed in philosophical inquiry. After a short general introduction about philosophy, the book includes argumentations subject to themes such as the existence of god, the definition of right and wrong, politics, the external world, science, mind and art. In each section we are presented with the main theories for the specific issue, their arguments and counter-arguments, and finally the author recommends further reading for those interested in a deeper analysis.
For those who believe philosophical inquiry to be something theoretical, withdrawn from reality or everyday life, this is a book that will prove you wrong. Some of my favourite chapters, exploring morality (right and wrong), politics or even the concept of art, can contribute to the reader's understanding of some essential ideas, social demands and people's choices or behaviour, and that couldn't be closer to what we need on a daily basis. To realize, even if superficially, where some of the political discourse comes from is fundamental to any active adult citizen, and to know the ideas linked to the ever evolving artistic movements is important to anyone who aims to understand art to its fullness. To save you from a never-ending post, I'll avoid arguing the primordial importance of understanding where our moral standards come from and how they are connected to the reality or to some sense of absolute or relative right and wrong in order to avoid a deeply prejudiced view of the world around us.

Taking all I have just said into account, what I recommend, above all else, is that everyone should be properly introduced to philosophy as a discipline but mostly to what philosophical inquiry has to offer in terms of understanding ourselves and the world around us. If you do this by attending a good course, such as the one on the Coursera platform I mentioned, or by reading a written work on the basics of philosophy, such as Warburton's, or even if, as myself, you do both, it doesn't really matter, as long as you please do something. You'll be doing it for yourself and, in the process, doing something for all of us, because to live in a world of people who understand knowledge, concepts, morals, rules, truths and perceptions would be much better than to insist on keeping what we have now.

Monday, 18 March 2013

The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All by Laird Barron

I asked for an advanced e-version of this book from Netgalley because I really liked the name and cover and also because it's about time I read some good horror stories. The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All is not only the first of Laird Barron's works I've read but also the first time I read a horror anthology. I haven't even read H.P. Lovecraft I'm afraid. So take this as a beginner's review, someone who didn't really have specific expectations or previous works in the genre to compare to. The book will be made available on April the 2nd.

This book collects nine stories and I'll start by talking a bit about each of them.

The first tale is Blackwood's Baby, a nice introduction into the theme and the author's apparent intent. We follow a hunter who gets invited to a special hunt, in a forest known to be haunted or else associated to some supernatural infernal being and those who cut deals with him. We are given all the campfire chills we would expect from such a typical setting, but at a pace and with such a surprising build up and development that puts it miles away from most of the plots we see in horror films. Barron even has space to explore some issues of social hierarchy but the two things that stand out in Blackwood's Baby are the main character, a complex and mysterious Luke Honey who really drives the story, and the ending which keeps nagging you at the back of your mind long after you've read it. I noticed that while at first, just after finishing the story, I was rather confused, probably because I am not used to this kind of theme and storytelling, after delving more into the book I came to like it much more. The fact that the author doesn't put all the evil in the supernatural beings and allows the humans to have the worst intentions and actions gave me hope that this would be something more than a bunch of scary stories. 

After all the weirdness of the first one, The Redfield Girls starts off as a very simple story. Some women who travel on vacations together, this time forced to take a new element, Bernice's niece who appeared without warning at her door the day before the trip. Of course they had to go to a a place with a lake which here represents the unknown and scary and also the place where Bernice's aunt died years ago. The characters are very believable and their actions seem genuine but the plot, apart from one or two good moments, is somewhat predictable and the spookiness didn't work as well as in other cases. I liked The Redfield Girls, mostly for the "girls" themselves and for the play the facts versus its interpretation and people's imagination of lack thereof, but it's far from the best story here.

Hand of Glory on the other hand is my favourite story of the collection and the only one I felt I'd keep on reading if there was more written on those characters and setting. Johnny Cope - the main character - is a hit-man who was attacked and sets out to investigate and get some good old revenge, something that turns out to be much more complicated that he thought. The whole investigation, the weird people he meets, the dark magic abounding and the overall uncertainty are really well played but the strong point is the development of the character and the insight into who he is, who he thinks he is or even who he wishes he could be. This becomes even better because at the same time he questions himself, his motives or purpose, he also feels he is surrounded by people of unknown or ever shifting allegiances and unreliable information. Laird Barron brings us a truly character driven story with a horror and suspense setting which works just right. Add up references to real people and history with a twist and some unique villains about whom we are never sure of anything and you know why Hand of Glory became one of best short stories I've read.

The next in line is The Carrion Gods in Their Heaven, where we follow an abused wife hiding from her former husband with her girlfriend in an old cabin in the woods. Everybody knows one shouldn't go to such a place if one is a character in a horror story, but if you think it's a bunch of film clichés, think again, the danger might not come from the forest or a haunted shack or whatever. Sometimes it's our own curiosity that dooms us as much as it saves us. This is an original tale based on a known myth of transformation into an animal. I wasn't really hooked by the plot or the characters but I liked the uncertain ending.

In The Siphon we return to what Laird Barron does best, a plot that gives the story a structure while allowing the reader to have some insights into the mind of the weird characters he creates. The main character is a psychopath but so are some others he meets in a tale where the greed of humans is paralleled with the hunger of some supernatural beings whose revelation, description and actions will make you squirm until the very end.

The Jaws of Saturn take us back to the setting of Hand of Glory, though even the very same Phil Wary manipulating and using people to his dark intent isn't enough to make it as interesting a story as the previous one. There is something more predictable and less scary about this plot and its main character. In spite of that, I liked the reference and the feeling I was slowly getting to know Phil, here portrayed as a dark magician in the open, all resistant to bullets, super strength and mind-control.

What to say about Vastation? I think the author had to try an array of psychoactive drugs in order to come up with this kind of storytelling. It's a surreal look into the mind and "life" of a godlike being, someone who is immortal, capable of time-travel and of all sorts of other superhuman things. In spite of all this lack of clarity, Vastation ends up being the best story at evoking a feeling of life (and death) as a circle and of how boring it all would become if one had to exist outside of it. Though it is true for all other, this was the story that most suffered from interrupted reading. If you can, read it all at once or at least during the same day. I believe the experience will end up much better than if you do otherwise.

The Men from Porlock is another very good horror tale that uses a forest to place the characters in a context where everything can happen, where the unknown is full of possibilities, where finding an isolated community who sacrifice people is both believable and terrifying. The name should tell most of the veteran readers that these men are as unwelcome interruption and by now one already knows what Laird allows his characters to do or suffer but it's the way things are revealed that makes this one of the best stories in the collection. And to think they only wanted to hunt for some food.

The last tale, More Dark, gives a weird ending to the book and was, unfortunately, the only one I didn't enjoy reading. This is due not only to the rather confusing text but also and mostly because it is a reference to real people, mostly horror authors I suppose, of whom I know nothing. This, added to the lack of explanation or insight into who the people in More Dark are made me feel uninterested and even bored at times, in spite of the looming darkness the author was still able to transmit. Some kind of metafiction in a genre I know little about couldn't work for me.

As a whole, this was a good collection, with a very good but versatile prose and a pervasive unsettling feeling - which probably comes from the fact that Laird Barron tends to describe the scariest moments and revelations as if the characters were in fact hallucinating. Connecting the stories is not only this hallucination but also that sensation that there is always something lurking in the shadows, on the corner of the character's eye (or is it on the corner of my eye?) that we never really grasp. The references to myth and culture and the characters or ideas that appear in more than one story add to the excitement and make the anthology work as a whole. The different ways the author explored death are still with me, making me think about ends, beginnings, transitions and even considering the possibility that most of the moments we see as endings, destructions or disappearances, are thought of as such because of our own lack of knowledge and self-confidence. Most of those moments end up as being little transitions into "more of the same". Might death be, in spite of all the awe and terror most cultures and religions associate with it, just another one of those, a way into something quite like the life we had until then?
As a final note, I must say that even though I'm not really into reading horror - by itself, as entertainment, I prefer epic fantasy or science fiction - Laird Barron convinced me with the main characters he creates, some of the best, most complex and fleshed out I've seen in short fiction. My favourite stories were Hand of Glory, The Siphon and The Men from Porlock, previously published in The Book of Cthulhu IIBlood and Other Cravings and The Book of Cthulhu, respectively.
If you like horror, read The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All. If want to try it out and feel like you need some strong characters and thought-provoking stories to enjoy it, then Hand of Glory is definitely for you. If you don't like horror stories, undefined mythologies and unexplained mysteries, stay away from this. In my case, if I ever return to horror anthologies, I'll be sure to look for Laird Barron in the participant authors list.

The thing that awaits us all, according to Laird Barron, beautiful is not.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Cenas (3)

Devíamos todos pensar no BCE, o estripador dos países em crise, sempre que há uma qualquer argumentação sobre a troika, o ajustamento, o memorando, o "bom aluno", o que quer que seja nesta temática. Não digo mais nada, vão ler o post no Aventar.

Também muito actual, mas noutra temática, um post recente no Viagem a Andrómeda levou-me a a este artigo interessante no Amazing Stories sobre o investimento actual no cinema fantástico. Quem me conhece já sabe o quanto me irrita a multiplicação de sequelas e divisão de histórias para permitir trilogias, tetralogias e afins. Já devem saber o quão triste, embora não surpreendido, fiquei quando constatei que o Cloud Atlas ia ser ignorado por tudo o que é prémio de cinema internacional, ainda que tenha sido não só o melhor filme de ficção especulativa de 2012 mas também dos melhor filmes que vi nos últimos tempos. Este artigo comenta - e critica - esta tendência de cinema de consumo / produção em série / descartável em que se está a transformar a produção sci-fi internacional, particularmente a "hollywoodesca". Não concordo no entanto com a desvalorização de tudo o que tem sido feito recentemente a esse nível. Tem havido alguns trabalhos muito bons (como o Inception, lá referido), mesmo a nível de trilogias (Lord of the Rings  claro, mas também um bom começo dos Hunger Games). Falta ainda fazer o devido reconhecimento aos novos filmes de superheróis, que têm vindo a mostrar que este género específico permite criar obras relevantes e inspiradoras tal como qualquer outro (aqui faço a óbvia referência ao The Dark Knight, esquecendo o último falhanço, mas também a X-Men: First Class e até The Amazing Spider-Man). De notar que eu gosto de regressar a alguns dos "franchises", como Star Trek ou (a esperança é a última a morrer) quiçá Star Wars, e que não me incomodo com "remakes", o que cansa é quando todo o dinheiro e meios de produção vão para estas coisas e sobra pouco interesse, por vezes até do público, para trabalhos verdadeiramente inovadores.

Por fim, resta-me recomendar um site que descobri recentemente - Open Culture - que é descrito como "the best free cultural & educational media on the web". É um agregador de coisas tão variadas como cursos online de várias temáticas e línguas, livros ou filmes gratuitos, notícias ou artigos de opinião, documentários, etc.. A título de exemplo, deixo-vos a peça em referência ao documentário narrado por Leonard Cohen sobre a religião tibetana e o seu livro dos mortos.