11 Ironic and Puzzling E-Books

There are lots of valid reasons why electronic books have been soaring in popularity over the last few years: they’re easier to transport than conventional books, often less expensive, and offer a variety of ways to heighten the reading experience (the ability to record notes, look up words, and so on). However, there are some cases in which a simple good old paper book probably would have made a bit more sense.

1. Living off the Grid
Numerous guides for living off the grid can be had for the popular Kindle or Nook reading devices. And, while some may argue that e-books are ultimately more environmentally friendly since no trees are cut down to create them, I’m sure the irony of a new type of energy dependence isn’t lost on those trying to recharge their e-readers with their own homegrown energy source.

2. The Unabomber Manifesto

When Unabomber Ted Kaczynski penned his 35,000-word manifesto – officially titled Industrial Society and Its Future – it probably wasn’t his aim that it would one day be available in an easily downloadable version for digital consumption. After all, Kaczynski spends most of the essay railing against the “industrial-technological system” and trying to incite a “revolution against technology.”

3. Nook Guides for the Kindle
As with any new technology, there are tons of guides available for Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader. In fact, a lot of them are available as Kindle books. The audience for those seems awfully specific: people that own a Kindle and a Nook, know how to use the Kindle but not the Nook, really want to learn how to use the Nook, refuse to read a paper book and don’t mind how odd they look holding one of each device and repeatedly glancing back and forth from one to the other.

4. Kindle Guides for the Kindle
How do those people described in the previous example learn the Kindle in the first place? Well, they read a guide to the Kindle, of course. And like the Nook guides, these helpful step-by-step Kindle instruction manuals are also available as Kindle books. The question then is: How do you buy the Kindle version of a Kindle guide, open it, and read it so that you can learn how to buy it, open it and read it? It’s a real modern day chicken or egg scenario.

5. Coloring Books
Every child loves a good coloring book. That is, of course, if they’re allowed to actually color in it. I can’t imagine that many parents are handing off their Kindle and a box of crayons to their kid. That means the strangely large number of coloring books available as e-books – like Jeremy Winslow’s Hours of Coloring Fun with Shapes and Patterns – don’t seem like much fun at all.

6. Origami
The e-book version of Origami Kit for Dummies is really appropriately named – considering what actually makes the hardbound version a “kit” and not just a “book” is the fact that it comes complete with “25 sheets of 5x5" origami paper in five fun colours”. They’ve come a long way with digital downloads but somehow I doubt those vibrant paper squares make it to your home – meaning your beautiful paper swans are most likely going to be made out of lined notebook paper.

7. Technophobia
If you suffer from Technophobia – defined as the “abnormal fear of or anxiety about the effects of advanced technology” – and you want to learn more about your condition, you can always download Marc J. Brosnan’s aptly-named book Technophobia right to your Kindle, Nook, iPad, computer or smart phone.

8. The History of the Printing Press
Sit back, relax and enjoy The Story of Gutenberg and the Printing Press via the very technology seeking to make it obsolete.

9. Touch & Feel Books
The Cloth Book Buzzy Bee, Bright Baby Touch & Feel Baby Animals, and Baby Touch & Feel Easter Bunny are among the wonderful books designed to teach toddlers through texture and touch. For some odd reason, they are available in various e-book formats – ensuring that any child that grows up using them will think every animal on Earth feels like glass.

10. A Pocket Guide to Amish Life
While the specific attitudes toward modern technology can vary greatly from one Amish community to another, the vast majority of them would probably agree that a book describing their simplified lifestyle might not best be read on a device that can also scour the internet, make phone calls, play games, and hold thousands of songs.

11. The Office 2012 Day-to-Day Calendar
Sure, Michael Scott, Dwight, Jim, Andy and the rest of the team at Dunder Mifflin aren’t real. But if they were, they would surely implore you to go with the trusty, reliable paper version of this calendar.

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Bad Moods Might Make You More Productive
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iStock

Being in a bad mood at work might not be such a bad thing. New research shows that foul moods can lead to better executive function—the mental processing that handles skills like focus, self-control, creative thinking, mental flexibility, and working memory. But the benefit might hinge on how you go through emotions.

As part of the study, published in Personality and Individual Differences, a pair of psychologists at the University of Waterloo in Canada subjected more than 90 undergraduate students to a battery of tests designed to measure their working memory and inhibition control, two areas of executive function. They also gave the students several questionnaires designed to measure their emotional reactivity and mood over the previous week.

They found that some people who were in slightly bad moods performed significantly better on the working memory and inhibition tasks, but the benefit depended on how the person experienced emotion. Specifically, being in a bit of a bad mood seemed to boost the performance of participants with high emotional reactivity, meaning that they’re sensitive, have intense reactions to situations, and hold on to their feelings for a long time. People with low emotional reactivity performed worse on the tasks when in a bad mood, though.

“Our results show that there are some people for whom a bad mood may actually hone the kind of thinking skills that are important for everyday life,” one of the study’s co-authors, psychology professor Tara McAuley, said in a press statement. Why people with bigger emotional responses experience this boost but people with less-intense emotions don’t is an open question. One hypothesis is that people who have high emotional reactivity are already used to experiencing intense emotions, so they aren’t as fazed by their bad moods. However, more research is necessary to tease out those factors.

[h/t Big Think]

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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
The 10 Wildest Movie Plot Twists
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

An ending often makes or breaks a movie. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as having the rug pulled out from under you, particularly in a thriller. But too many flicks that try to shock can’t stick the landing—they’re outlandish and illogical, or signal where the plot is headed. Not all of these films are entirely successful, but they have one important attribute in common: From the classic to the cultishly beloved, they involve hard-to-predict twists that really do blow viewers’ minds, then linger there for days, if not life. (Warning: Massive spoilers below.)

1. PSYCHO (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock often constructed his movies like neat games that manipulated the audience. The Master of Suspense delved headfirst into horror with Psycho, which follows a secretary (Janet Leigh) who sneaks off with $40,000 and hides in a motel. The ensuing jolt depends on Leigh’s fame at the time: No one expected the ostensible star and protagonist to die in a gory (for the time) shower butchering only a third of the way into the running time. Hitchcock outdid that feat with the last-act revelation that Anthony Perkins’s supremely creepy Norman Bates is embodying his dead mother.

2. PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

No, not the botched Tim Burton remake that tweaked the original movie’s famous reveal in a way that left everyone scratching their heads. The Charlton Heston-starring sci-fi gem continues to stupefy anyone who comes into its orbit. Heston, of course, plays an astronaut who travels to a strange land where advanced apes lord over human slaves. It becomes clear once he finds the decrepit remains of the Statue of Liberty that he’s in fact on a future Earth. The anti-violence message, especially during the political tumult of 1968, shook people up as much as the time warp.

3. DEEP RED (1975)

It’s not rare for a horror movie to flip the script when it comes to unmasking its killer, but it’s much rarer that such a film causes a viewer to question their own perception of the world around them. Such is the case for Deep Red, Italian director Dario Argento’s (Suspiria) slasher masterpiece. A pianist living in Rome (David Hemmings) comes upon the murder of a woman in her apartment and teams up with a female reporter to find the person responsible. Argento’s whodunit is filled to the brim with gorgeous photography, ghastly sights, and delirious twists. But best of all is the final sequence, in which the pianist retraces his steps to discover that the killer had been hiding in plain sight all along. Rewind to the beginning and you’ll discover that you caught an unknowing glimpse, too.

4. SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)

Sleepaway Camp is notorious among horror fans for a number of reasons: the bizarre, stilted acting and dialogue; hilariously amateurish special effects; and ‘80s-to-their-core fashions. But it’s best known for the mind-bending ending, which—full disclosure—reads as possibly transphobic today, though it’s really hard to say what writer-director Robert Hiltzik had in mind. Years after a boating accident that leaves one of two siblings dead, Angela is raised by her aunt and sent to a summer camp with her cousin, where a killer wreaks havoc. In the lurid climax, we see that moody Angela is not only the murderer—she’s actually a boy. Her aunt, who always wanted a daughter, raised her as if she were her late brother. The final animalistic shot prompts as many gasps as cackles.

5. THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995)

The Usual Suspects has left everyone who watches it breathless by the time they get to the fakeout conclusion. Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey), a criminal with cerebral palsy, regales an interrogator in the stories of his exploits with a band of fellow crooks, seen in flashback. Hovering over this is the mysterious villainous figure Keyser Söze. It’s not until Verbal leaves and jumps into a car that customs agent David Kujan realizes that the man fabricated details, tricking the law and the viewer into his fake reality, and is in fact the fabled Söze.

6. PRIMAL FEAR (1996)

No courtroom movie can surpass Primal Fear’s discombobulating effect. Richard Gere’s defense attorney becomes strongly convinced that his altar boy client Aaron (Edward Norton) didn’t commit the murder of an archbishop with which he’s charged. The meek, stuttering Aaron has sudden violent outbursts in which he becomes "Roy" and is diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, leading to a not guilty ruling. Gere’s lawyer visits Aaron about the news, and as he’s leaving, a wonderfully maniacal Norton reveals that he faked the multiple personalities.

7. FIGHT CLUB (1999)

Edward Norton is no stranger to taking on extremely disparate personalities in his roles, from Primal Fear to American History X. The unassuming actor can quickly turn vicious, which led to ideal casting for Fight Club, director David Fincher’s adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel. Fincher cleverly keeps the audience in the dark about the connections between Norton’s timid, unnamed narrator and Brad Pitt’s hunky, aggressive Tyler Durden. After the two start the titular bruising group, the plot significantly increases the stakes, with the club turning into a sort of anarchist terrorist organization. The narrator eventually comes to grips with the fact that he is Tyler and has caused all the destruction around him.

8. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)

Early in his career, M. Night Shyamalan was frequently (perhaps a little too frequently) compared to Hitchcock for his ability to ratchet up tension while misdirecting his audience. He hasn’t always earned stellar reviews since, but The Sixth Sense remains deservedly legendary for its final twist. At the end of the ghost story, in which little Haley Joel Osment can see dead people, it turns out that the psychologist (Bruce Willis) who’s been working with the boy is no longer living himself, the result of a gunshot wound witnessed in the opening sequence.

9. THE OTHERS (2001)

The Sixth Sense’s climax was spooky, but not nearly as unnerving as Nicole Kidman’s similarly themed ghost movie The Others, released just a couple years later. Kidman gives a superb performance in the elegantly styled film from the Spanish writer-director Alejandro Amenábar, playing a mother in a country house after World War II protecting her photosensitive children from light and, eventually, dead spirits occupying the place. Only by the end does it become clear that she’s in denial about the fact that she’s a ghost, having killed her children in a psychotic break before committing suicide. It’s a bleak capper to a genuinely haunting yarn.

10. MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)

David Lynch’s surrealist movies may follow dream logic, but that doesn’t mean their plots can’t be readily discerned. Mulholland Drive is his most striking work precisely because, in spite of its more wacko moments, it adds up to a coherent, tragic story. The mystery starts innocently enough with the dark-haired Rita (Laura Elena Harring) waking up with amnesia from a car accident in Los Angeles and piecing together her identity alongside the plucky aspiring actress Betty (Naomi Watts). It takes a blue box to unlock the secret that Betty is in fact Diane, who is in love with and envious of Camilla (also played by Harring) and has concocted a fantasy version of their lives. The real Diane arranges for Camilla to be killed, leading to her intense guilt and suicide. Only Lynch can go from Nancy Drew to nihilism so swiftly and deftly.

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