Cloud Library

Here’s yet another unplanned post, mostly because there was something important I forgot to mention yesterday, but also because I started watching three different Netflix shows (or maybe call it two-and-a-half), and all three are fit for a Sci-Fi Saturday post, so here I am again.

I dither about three because one of them was wasn’t new, it was season two I started of Siempre Bruja. But I hadn’t yet seen any of Lost in Space or the new Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I’ve been suspicious of the former, and the latter isn’t quite my cup of tea on several counts.

But first you should know about (Your) CloudLibrary!

I first ran into it as an app that caught my eye in the Apple App Store, but you can access it as a website, and you can get apps for iOS, Mac OS, Android, Windows, Fire, and Nook.

What it does is give you online access to ebooks from your local library.

It does take a library card to log in, but if you don’t already have one, you can get one from your local library for free. Just ask — they’ll be glad to have you.

I’ll mention that the system is interesting in that books are checked out, and checkouts are apparently limited. Once you check a book out, you have a time limit of 21 days in which to read it.

I think I noticed a feature that lets you extend a check out if needed, but I don’t really know what happens at the end of your time. (The book might just go away from your Reading list.)

I don’t know if there’s a limit to how many books you can check out. (I would guess yes.)

It’s possible, just as with physical books, for a book to not be “on the shelves” so to speak. You can, also as with physical books, put a book on hold for when it becomes available. (I haven’t tried this yet, so can’t report on how it works.)

There is also a Save list you can use as a queue for books you’d like to read later. And, of course, you can browse through available books.

I downloaded the iOS app ages ago, but never used it. With the whole staying home thing, I thought I’d check it out again, and I’m glad I did. There are a number of books I’d love to read, but I’m not interested enough to actually buy them.

For instance, I’ve found some Ellery Queen — only two, unfortunately (and no Earle Stanley Gardner, damn it) — but when I finish those, I’ve got a bunch of Anne Hillerman queued up (I’m a huge fan of her dad’s Navajo Tribal Police series, and she’s continuing it) along with the Kim Stanley Robinson Mars trilogy and Douglas Adams’ The Salmon of Doubt.

So I’m pretty excited about the app and thought it well worth mentioning.

§

I watched season one of Siempre Bruja (Always a Witch) last year and found it quite palatable.

The stars are all attractive, the setting of Cartagena, Colombia, is both relaxing and energizing (like a tropical vacation), and there is a joy and innocence flowing through the story. And the Spanish language is so pleasing to the ear.

I can’t applaud loudly enough for a delightful show with a strong black female lead.

With foreign stories (the show is made in Colombia), it’s hard to know what cultural references one is missing or what is missed in translation of subtitles — I suspect a significant number of things just don’t cross over well. That can make the story seem to skip parts one would expect or to provide behaviors that don’t quite make sense.

I enjoyed the first season, mostly on an emotional level, but I didn’t always follow the story details. Re-watching season one for season two did slot more things into place, but I still think the rules of witchcraft are a little ad hoc in places. I can’t commend the show for its world-building.

But it’s definitely tropical drink tasty.

The story stars Carmen Eguiluz (Angely Gaviria, who is a delight), a witch being burned at the stake in 1646 Cartagena. But she vanishes from that time and appears in 2019 Cartagena, and we discover she’s been sent on a mission by the sorcerer, Aldemar. But she’ll have to watch out for another sorcerer, Lucien.

There are some twists and turns, and the season, of course, ends with a showdown between witches and wizards. (Credit good sense, and perhaps budget, for not going with a lot of flashy CGI but keeping it more human.)

The second season seems a bit tighter and more controlled to me. I haven’t finished it yet (three episodes to go), but I’ve found the story more down to earth and engaging somehow.

Overall, it’s a very attractive diversion. I give it an Ah! rating.

§

I’ve been debating whether or not to watch the new Lost in Space. Until last night, I was giving it a miss.

I was a huge fan of the original TV show when it aired, and Judy Robinson is one of my first big screen crushes. (While we’re on the topic of witches, Samantha Stevens from Bewitched was another.)

So I watched two episodes, and I’m not sure I’ll be watching more. (Maybe. They managed to sink some plot hooks that now I’m vaguely curious about, damnit.)

The problem I had is the extremely high level of pure bullshit that constantly took me out of the story. A constant cliche-ridden stream of “Yeah, but…” The show is high on visual spectacle, but low on narrative substance.

Let me put it this way: Until Will met the robot, I was convinced I was watching a VR test the Robinsons were undergoing in preparation for their trip. There’s even a flashback line about Will coming out of the tank. The level of bullshit was so high, I wasn’t buying any of it as a real story. I was certain it was some kind of “it was all a dream” fake out.

I fully expected major characters to die and then wake up in their VR chambers for the debriefing, because it was all so absurdly ridiculous: Spaceships crashing, problems with the ice, magnesium fire (!!), the forest fire, an alien robot (that can’t get out of a tree), the projectile story, and the lyin’ eyes of Doctor Smith. Holy Cow, talk about piling on.

And the parents are kind of cliche. The absent dad, the mom cheating and reminding me of college scandals. The almost divorced couple forced to be together and who will, no doubt, find themselves again.

It’s one trope after another, cliche after cliche, plot convenience after plot convenience. (Lots of convenient radio comms.) The robot has handy heat coils when necessary. Bets on whether it ever uses them again?

Underlying the visuals is an over-amped music track desperately trying to convince me how serious and stirring all this is. (The music got to be so annoying I’m tempted to watch with sound off.)

One thing that really caught my eye: No one puts life craft on the inside of the main craft. The fleeing of the Resolute illustrated exactly why. That design is insane.

And entirely characteristic of the style-over-substance (or logic) approach modern storytelling — especially modern visual SF — gorges on and which I disdain. The robot is another good example of “looks great, but WTF” storytelling.

I could go on. Suffice to say I’ll have to be pretty bored to return for more episodes. Overall I have to give the show a Meh! rating (very nearly a Nah! rating). I was seriously underwhelmed (and frequently hooting in derision).

I think part of the problem is, for being so filled with bullshit, the show takes itself way too seriously. If it acknowledged how silly it’s being (this is Irwin Allen, for crying out loud), it would be a lot easier to swallow. And do something about that damn music track.

§

When it comes to Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, I have the same problem I had with Buffy the Vampire Slayer: a show that centers on a 15-year-old-girl activates some of my skin crawl vibes. I’m not always sure these shows are entirely on the up and up.

It isn’t the show so much as the fans that I wonder about. And I will say that Kiernan Shipka (Sabrina) doesn’t have that sexual tang that Sarah Michelle Gellar (and Alyson Hannigan) did. I gave up on Buffy in season two; it just made my skin crawl too much. That show got too overtly sexual for my taste.

The original Sabrina TV show (with Melissa Joan Hart) was a family sitcom, no sexuality at all. The Netflix reboot manages to delve into the (non-sitcom!) horror side nicely, but has (at least in the first episode) de-emphasized the sexuality.

Horror isn’t really my cup of tea, but I found the first episode of the show engaging enough that I’ll return for at least a few more. I’ll give it a tentative low Ah! rating for now.

I will say that co-stars Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto look so much like Caroline Rhea and Beth Broderick that for a moment I wasn’t entirely sure they hadn’t brought them back (through a time machine, obviously).

I also got a kick of out seeing Michelle Gomez. I really enjoyed her as The Master in Doctor Who. Excellent villain! (I really can’t stand the current The Master, and I’ve just about concluded the Chris Chibnall era is a fail for me.)

§

Too bad Parker Posey (Dr. Smith) isn’t playing a witch. This post could have been about three witches, and covens often do follow the rule of three.

Instead there is one show I recommend, one I don’t, and one I’m not sure about yet, but which seems okay so far.

There is also the ninth season of Archer (they’re doing Firefly this season!), but that’s a whole other thing.

Stay bewitched, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

25 responses to “Cloud Library

  • Maggie Wilson

    If you can tolerate subtitles, you might enjoy Call My Agent – the French title is Dix pour Cent.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Does it have witches or robots? 😀

      • Maggie Wilson

        mmmm, no. I think this would be a hard pass for you. goofy me. 😉

      • Wyrd Smythe

        The subtitles are not an issue. I was born with bad hearing and decades of rock music made it worse (my left ear is just about shot).

        What draws you to the show?

      • Maggie Wilson

        now that’s a good question! I resisted Netflix notifications that suggested it would be a good fit for me – I am not usually drawn to the usual Hollywood type stories about Hollywood, or the movie making business. But I was bored and so I tried it.

        The French dialogue is possibly part of the lure… the novelty of it – as is the contemporary European culture – something I have no experience with.

        Also, the cast are not super glamorous, certainly not in the typical bleached/Botox’d way – yet they are appealing. And likable, in spite of their characters flaws.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        It being French could be interesting. I’ve seen a number of French movies, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a French TV show. (European TV shows, in general, so seem more willing to cast actors who look like real people than we are. The Brits, especially, seem to really enjoy character actors. It gives things a richness and reality that I find engaging.)

        As a former student filmmaker, stories about the movie business do have some attraction. Something to keep in mind if I ever finally work through the queue of books and TV shows I’ve already got pending.

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    Wow Wyrd. I don’t think you should listen to my recommendations anymore. They just seem to cause you grief. Sorry!

    I have some friends who got into checking out library ebooks. I’ve never dug into it because I hate reading deadlines. I was always terrible about returning library books on time in the old days. I am in Kindle Unlimited and do read checked out books there, but I’ve had some books checked out for a long time.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      It’s not your fault, Lost in Space was always on my list to try. Your recent review might have moved up the date of my trying slightly, but mostly I was willing to poke around looking for a new SF TV show.

      There’s something I always liked about Parker Posey. She made a pretty sexy vampire in Blade 3 and I’ve enjoyed her work in the Christopher Guest films. Her cast as Dr. Smith sounded interesting. (I’m reading her book, and it’s slightly ruining my attraction. She’s kind of new-age actress flaky. [sigh])

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I just poked around CloudLibrary to see if I could find out about prolonging checkout but didn’t find anything. It just says your local library sets the limits (if any) on how many you can check out at once and one how long you can check them out.

      It does mention that libraries purchase ebooks and licensing requirements don’t allow lending them to more than one user at a time. And, of course, they only buy so many copies. (Just like with books.) So the time length makes the same sense — they need to insure others have a chance to see the book.

      It’s not as great as Kindle Unlimited, but it’s a nice resource if you find something that’s only available through the library. Like older stuff. (I was really surprised there was no Perry Mason. Hard to find at all.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        It’s worth noting that Kindle Unlimited cost money, a monthly subscription fee. The library is free. (Or, well, included in your tax payments.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Right, and I’m so roped into the Apple music and book ecology that I’ve been reluctant to get into Unlimited. But what Amazon is offering through Prime seems reduced from what it used to be, and I’m not finding much value there. Even Prime video removed shows I was into (Perry Mason was a low blow Amazon… really pissed me off on that one). They used to have the Doctor Who reboot catalog not including the current season in Prime; that’s gone now, too.

        I’ve always been a little guilty being any part of Amazon (or Google, but what can you do). Now they’re actively pissing me off…

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        You have to wonder how long the current library model will last, being based on the old physical book model. I wonder if people in 2050 will be wondering why the system seems so arbitrary.

        My big issue is that the expensive books I sometimes get interested in are really expensive, and pretty specialized. For instance, I’ve considered checking out Carolyn Dicey Jennings ‘The Attending Mind’, but I’m not sure I’m willing to shell out the $60 price tag, and it’s probably too specialized for any library to bother with.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Exactly. (I really liked the Jennings interview Richard Brown did. I like her thinking.)

        Electronic media really change the equation, and we haven’t really caught up with the change yet. We’re still trying to treat digital like physical objects. The library system is a perfect case in point. And, of course, it’s all because of money — people wanting to make the most money possible. (It utterly appalls me that I live in a culture that sees failing to maximize possible profit as a loss.)

        Books have always had that characteristic of being information, but the physical reification was always costly. Now it’s not, and what does that imply for copyright? There are arguments for abolishing the concept as outmoded in the digital era.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        It does seem though that we have to come up with some way for content producers to be paid for their work. A lot of these brain books take enormous work, research for years, hiring artists to create diagrams, etc.

        But even a fiction author typically slaves away at a book for several months. If we do away with copyright, and everyone can just take their work, we’ll see a lot less of it. Most people don’t get into that business for the money, but many of them need it.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        The anti-copyrights proposal (and I’m not saying I’m completely down with this) is that content creators are paid for their time, just as any worker is paid for their time. It does mean people won’t get rich off their work from royalties, but they’d certainly get paid.

        We’ve tended to view authors as special providers and paid them very well for being so special. But the ease of self-publishing now takes away a lot of that specialness. It depends a lot more on what one can produce. Someone who can produce good work that’s in demand can command a higher price that someone who cranks out mediocre romance novels, for instance.

        I’ve invested years of my work life on corporate projects and was only paid for my time and abilities. That work did give me a reputation that kept me employed in a changing IT scene. What makes an author or musician that different, especially in a world with so many people writing and playing?

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I don’t know. My question would be, who’s paying the hourly rate? Where is the money coming from? And what prevents whoever or whatever that source is from becoming yet another hated gatekeeper?

        It’s worth noting that most authors make very little money. We tend to focus on the Stephen Kings and J.K. Rowlings, but they represent a very small slice of authors. Only a minority of that population even earn enough to quit their day job. An hourly rate might be a step up for them, but that makes me even more suspicious of its economic viability.

        I’m in the same boat of having been paid for my time and abilities. But, at least in my case, there was always a clearly identified customer (my employer), who derived a clear economic benefit. If authors are paid by someone other than readers, then I wonder who their real customer becomes, and how that effects what they produce.

        Right now, in an era of self publishing, what makes writing viable as a potential income source is the money coming in from an author’s backlist. If that backlist is in the public domain, that viability disappears. Even reputation benefits disappear if others can simply copy their work without attribution (or attribute it to some famous author, such as Mark Twain, to get more attention).

        I’m not saying the current system is perfect. (Far from it.) But I think we need to be careful that any changes actually improve things rather than make them worse. I get that people want stuff for free, but good content takes work, and without some incentive, I doubt that work will happen.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “I don’t know.”

        😀 I think what you mean is, “Oh, hell, no!” Which was pretty much my exact response back in the late 1980s when I got into a long-ish USENET debate with an anti-copyright thinker. In the decades since I’ve thought about it a lot, and I’ve found my view shifting. I’m not saying I’m anti-copyright, but I did begin to see the merits of the argument.

        A lot pivots on how digital makes content copying trivial, and the sheer numbers of both creators and consumers. Back when I first had this debate, those were just starting to become factors. Part of what has shifted my view is how those factors have become major. There is also that digital simply makes the copyright concept more challenging, so it might be good to consider other approaches.

        Some of this is gut-level. The wannabe author in us all (especially us blogger types) feels emotional outrage at the idea of possible fame and fortune being taken away. (Hence my reaction back in the 1980s.) We tend to see writing at valuable and privileged (which is part of why some get outraged at damage to books) rather than something we all can do.

        Imagine a world in which we subscribe (for a tiny fee per post) to bloggers whose writing was good enough in the public perception that they had lots of subscribers. Copyright laws could still allow protection — no one else could sell your content — but it’s true individuals could copy and share with friends. (So fresh content sells while old content loses value, but that’s kind of the model we already have today.)

        Some SF novels I’ve read speculated that, in a world of easy duplication, there could be a shift towards regarding authenticity as valuable. Copies, even though perfect, are rejected simply because they are known to be copies. Perhaps something similar happens with artistic content. Perhaps we shift towards live feeds from the commanding authors.

        Technology is already pushing us away from the old model. The question is how we replace it. Right now it’s a lock-maker versus lock-picker battle over digital content. A lot of time and money goes into that battle. Maybe there’s a better way.

        One thing: It isn’t about consumers getting free content. That obviously can’t work. But the digital world is problematic for copyright and that, I think, is something worthy of consideration.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        For me, it’s not so much “Hell no!”, as not understanding what’s being proposed, coupled with a suspicion that the proposals aren’t well thought out.

        It’s worth noting that copyright was originally invented to deal with a technology that made copying far easier than it had been: the printing press. The fact that it’s now even easier to do that copying only exacerbates the original issue, not makes it obsolete.

        I doubt people would be interested if it weren’t about getting free stuff.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I don’t know that anyone is proposing anything concrete. At least, I’ve never heard a concrete proposal. It’s more that people are seeing copyright as problematic in a digital era. (And problematic in a patriarchal control sort of sense. For instance, now digital content one has “purchased for life” can be disabled or destroyed remotely. Other forms require an authorizing server (“yes, it’s okay to play this file”) to always exist.)

        The idea is we should be talking about this and seeing what we can come up with given the new technology.

        The thing about the printing press logic is that it comes from an era of physical copies that require special machines to make, and require physical materials that cost money. There’s even labor costs involved in book production: typesetting, proofreading, press operation, distribution. None of that exists with digital copies. Now the only significant expense is the author’s time.

        Which, of course, deserves compensation. Fair pay for fair work. But what really is fair pay for writing a book? The debate, in a way, is more about what content creators should really get for their work. What makes the work you or I did throughout our careers that much less worthy than, say, the work of Ste[ph|v]en King?

        There is a traditional model where content creators protect their work and try to retain ownership. There is a new model that focuses more on sharing and local interaction. That new model is happening due to digital and the net. Traditional publishing isn’t as viable with digital, so something is going to evolve.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Thinking about it, if I designed it, books would have to be returned. They’d become available to the first person with a hold on them, otherwise go back into circulation, and you could check it out again. That way people waiting get a chance at it, but if it’s not in demand, you could just check it out again. (Otherwise put yourself on the hold list and wait for a copy to come around.)

        The other point: It occurs to me this is a great way to check out non-fiction works that are generally too expensive to buy (e.g. there’s a Philip Ball book, Beyond Weird: Why Everything You Thought You Knew About Quantum Physics is Different, that I’d like to read, but it’s $25 as an Apple ebook — I’m not that interested).

  • Wyrd Smythe

    FWIW, I finished the second season of Siempre Bruja last night, and I definitely think the second season is better than the first (which was fine).

    The season arc story seems more coherent and a little less fantastic, and I found the emotional aspects more compelling. (And Kodos the pirate was a hoot.)

    I might watch a few more episodes of the other two shows I mentioned, just to give them a chance, but I suspect I’ll end up taking them out of my watch list. They’ll likely join Jessica Jones, The Magicians, and Once Upon a Time, as shows I sampled but found wanting.

    I have learned that, if I’m not grabbed pretty much immediately, it’s not likely I’ll be grabbed at all. (Although some shows have managed to sway my opinion of them, which is exactly why I may someday give LoS and Sabrina a few more views.)

    OTOH, (the movie) The Cabin in the Woods was really, really fun. I’ll have to post about that one soon.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Meanwhile, I’m about to binge on my third Anne Hillerman novel in as many days. 😀

  • Wyrd Smythe

    I will say the reader app is very inferior to the Apple ebook reader or the Kindle app. (Talking CL or Kindle iOS apps.) The highlighting is awful, and footnotes don’t work well. Also it insists on using the paper pagination, so multiple pages have the same “page number” which makes something like 200/308 pretty useless. And irritating when, two pages later, it’s still 200/308. (It also has a ridiculous gesture at a page curl effect that you might as well just turn off.)

    But for just reading a book, no real complaints. It’s just a definite third compared to the other two. It feels like it was designed by people who don’t actually use the app, which I think is always a mistake.

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