Imagine living your whole life in the depths of a deep, dark cave, miles underground ... in a tiny oasis of light in the darkness, the City of Ember,Imagine living your whole life in the depths of a deep, dark cave, miles underground ... in a tiny oasis of light in the darkness, the City of Ember, which (although you do not realize it) is the last hope for the survival of humankind. As goes the Song of Darkness, sung once a year by the citizens of Ember during The Singing, "Black as sleep and deep as dreaming/ Darkness like an endless night/ Yet within the streets of Ember/ Bright and bravely shines our light". But the Generator, the source of all power and light for the city, is failing ... and as the power outages and periods of darkness last longer and longer, you wonder if one day the lights will not come back on. And you do not know the way out. As far as you as concerned, Ember is the whole world—as it was also for your parents, your grandparents, their grandparents—and there is nothing else. Brilliant in its simplicity, this is the story of two twelve-year old citizens of Ember who stumble upon a secret—the way out of Ember—and who must first make the fearful journey themselves and then convince a skeptical populace that there is a world beyond Ember. As I read this book to my sons, it reminded me of Plato's Allegory of the Cave: that our experience of reality might be far less than reality itself. Painted with swift, broad strokes, the book could easily be read by a serious-minded ten-year old. There is apparently a sequel, The People of Sparks, which I have not read. There is also a movie which, although quite different from the book in several details, is also enjoyable and moving....more
I began reading this book shorty after my own initiation weekend into The Mankind Project, wanting to compare my experience with the author's and to c
I began reading this book shorty after my own initiation weekend into The Mankind Project, wanting to compare my experience with the author's and to consolidate my own transformative experience. I found his style extremely intuitive and New-Agey, for lack of a better term (lots of talk about Spirit Guides and too-amazingly coincidental discoveries and dreams and mysticism), and to be honest, this turned me off; not to say that his autobiographical approach wasn't valid, but I found myself writing "WTF?!" more than once in the margins.
That being said, the last 20 pages of summary were the most valuable part of the book for me. The author recognized that his own healing process was happening in layers, from easier to more difficult, "the difficulty probably related to consciousness, the less conscious it was the more difficult it was" (p. 219)—and a large part of being conscious means being aware what I am feeling in any given moment or situation. I was struck by the author's assessment that addiction is actually the polar opposite of consciousness, and that many men use addictions to counterbalance their own numbness and pain. And I will end by quoting the author's penultimate statement about the kind of personal change that occurs during the course of the MKP Weekends: "To become conscious is to change, and change means dealing with fear. Men with deep wounds create behavior patterns to cope with the wounds. To heal the wounds is to let go of the behavior patterns, and the letting go means change, means stepping into the unknown". (pp. 229-230).
I suppose every single man who experiences these weekends could write his own story, and each story would be different. We each have a "Shadow"—the parts of ourselves and our early experiences that we hide, deny or repress—and the voyage towards wholeness involves facing and confronting that of which we are most afraid. ...more
Had a hard time respecting Bryson and his buddy's rather slacker approach to hiking the AT, but that's because I tend to get all spartan and extremis
Had a hard time respecting Bryson and his buddy's rather slacker approach to hiking the AT, but that's because I tend to get all spartan and extremist about challenges like this. Hitchhiking into town to shower and stay in motels and do laundry doesn't strike me as the way to do a thru-hike, and skipping large sections of the Trail and dropping out with the end in sight left me shaking my head. That being said, I did enjoy the humorous perspective of life as a thru-hiker and the Laurel-and-Hardy style relationship between Bryson and Katz was a lot of fun. And I think I learned enough about the Appalachian Trail to realize that I do not want to hike it; I tend to agree with the author, that 2,000+ miles of trees, trees, trees is a little much and it would have been nice for the Trail to occasionally pass through villages and hamlets....more
Disturbing and heart-breaking. I found the story of "The Hunger Games" to be a synthesis of movies like "The Running Man" and "The Truman Show" whereDisturbing and heart-breaking. I found the story of "The Hunger Games" to be a synthesis of movies like "The Running Man" and "The Truman Show" where spectators live vicariously off of televised characters, TV series like "American Idol" or "Survivor" or any of several other reality series where each week a contestant is 'eliminated' down to the final survivor, and Shirley Jackson's devastating short story, "The Lottery". The idea that the contestants were children I found chilling. The story spun out smoothly and I came to care about the main characters and fear for their safety....more
Fascinating take on the adaptive value of religion and belief in God from an evolutionary psychology perspective. These forces are so interwoven intoFascinating take on the adaptive value of religion and belief in God from an evolutionary psychology perspective. These forces are so interwoven into our social and emotional survival that they will not soon disappear, nor be easily replaced, even for the scientific mind. Bering uses examples from history, popular culture and his own life, so his writing is far from dry and academic. He gave me a lot to think about concerning "theory of mind" and its simultaneous role in empathy (the foundation of human morality) and in the attribution of meaning and intent to inherently meaningless events and processes. He could have explored this trail further: "life has no meaning" we could reframe as "life has infinite meaning"—meaning that we have the freedom to construct for ourselves. And finding a pattern and meaning to the events of our lives is not predicated upon the belief in Divine Will alone: our innate human capacity for pattern recognition can be essential in the choice and construction of what will ultimately prove to be a 'meaningful' life, even for a non-believer.
I look forward to reading Bering's next book!...more
Just finished reading this fast-moving and rollicking adventure story out loud to my sons, aged 8 and 10. Read it from my iPad which just seems wrongJust finished reading this fast-moving and rollicking adventure story out loud to my sons, aged 8 and 10. Read it from my iPad which just seems wrong somehow, but it was a free public-domain version, so what the heck. I must say this was a fun book to read out loud, especially when I got to change my voice for the narrators—young Jim Hawkins and Doctor Livesay mainly, although John Silver and the mutineers had lots of salty dialogue; all of the Pirate-speak left my throat a little hoarse on some evenings, but sure and it was worth it, matey, by Thunder! Good and bloodthirsty, just as stories for boys of this age should be, and my sons loved it. I first encountered this story myself when my Grade 6 teacher read it out loud to us many years ago, and I was pleased to note that it hasn't become old and musty since then. The animated feature "Treasure Planet" does an excellent job adapting this story to a different world, in my opinion, even capturing the essence of Long John Silver's ambiguous mentoring relationship with young Jim Hawkins.
Enjoy passing this fine story on to the next generation, shipmates!...more
Fascinating glimpse into the personality, relationships and impact of Steve Jobs. The author is fair and balanced, presenting the good as well as theFascinating glimpse into the personality, relationships and impact of Steve Jobs. The author is fair and balanced, presenting the good as well as the bad. As well, we learn many behind-the-scenes details about Apple and about how our iMacs, iPods iPhones and iPads came to be. ...more
Plot: 8/10 Characters: 6/10 Dialogue: 5/10 Potential for increasing your paranoia towards all electronic devices and for provoking flashes of panic thatPlot: 8/10 Characters: 6/10 Dialogue: 5/10 Potential for increasing your paranoia towards all electronic devices and for provoking flashes of panic that your iPhone might one day turn against you: 10/10 Recipe: "I, Robot" + "Terminator" + "The Singularity Is Near"
When I heard that Spielberg had bought the rights to make this novel into a movie (scheduled for 2013, if the world survives 2012, lol!), I began imagining just how he would likely do that, and this perspective helped me synthesize in my mind the rather disparate chunks of this novel. It is written as a series of recorded incidents involving "heroes" (so-named with grudging respect by Archos, the Singularity himself) who played a role in the New War between Humankind and Robotkind. The sweeping lines of the plot are quite interesting, although I had to blur them a bit in my mind to keep the flow - and a plot device which I'm sure appealed to Spielberg was that of introducing main characters in vignettes and gradually merging the various characters' individual stories as they eventually met up and joined forces. (This reminded me quite a bit of the TV sci-fi series "Heroes"). Some characters were memorable, but others I kept mixing up in my mind; I couldn't picture them, and occasionally had to turn back to the chapter where I first met them to remind myself who they were. Dialogue tried to capture different cultures, personalities and levels of education of the various narrators, but it was often quite strained, especially when soldier-"grunts" ended up slipping into rather poetic descriptions, which seemed unlikely. (And Spielberg will have to purge quite a bit of the swearing if he wants to capture a PG rating). I did like how the author took us inside the mind of the robots on occasion and gave us their own perspective and internal dialogue, which was revealing and sometimes quite humorous.
What did I like best about this book: The sense of credibility which came from knowing that the author has a Ph.D. In robotics ... the diversity in our "heroes", who ranged from a little girl to a cocky Native youth to an elderly Japanese man ... the chilling sense of the unknown as the robots began systematically exterminating their human owners and as they began evolving in new directions ... the surprise twist near the end involving help to the human army from an unexpected direction ... and the portrayal of Archos as a shy little boy, trying to understand and carve out his place in an unfathomable universe - which might have even been poignant had it not involved blowing up, crushing, stabbing or otherwise wiping out our own kin. I feel like the plot device of reviewing recorded incidents from the New War didn't quite work, and it would have been better to let the incidents of the war spool out rather than revisiting them retrospectively.
I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more novels with similarly dystopian themes as we approach 2045 (the year we reach Singularity, doncha know!), and I would like to see the occasional best-case scenario "ET" to balance out all of the "War Of The Worlds", to balance horror with hopefulness.
I really wanted to like this book—but unless one is a fervent Latter Day Saint, one will likely find somewhat tiresome Ty's frequent deferences to theI really wanted to like this book—but unless one is a fervent Latter Day Saint, one will likely find somewhat tiresome Ty's frequent deferences to the established authority of the Mormon Scriptures and church presidents and leaders. This book is largely an apologetic addressed to other Mormons, both those who may be 'struggling' with same-sex attraction and those who may be judgmental towards those in the Church who are struggling. Due to the primacy of his faith, Ty's own felt needs must be subjugated to his theological beliefs. As a result, this book contains a rather emotionless, cognitively-oriented argument in favor of understanding and accepting same-gender attraction—without ever giving in to it. I believe that Ty is a good and sincere man trying his darndest to integrate his Mormon/ Christian beliefs with his same-sex attractions. He tries to reconcile the two, and his book is likely most helpful for the homophobic church member who has zero empathy for those who struggle with same-sex attraction—but not as helpful for the same-gender-attracted individual who may be less theologically inclined....more