I'm not usually a big fan of beat poetry apart from some of Ginsberg's work, but this stuff was really quite evocative. I may be favorably biased due...moreI'm not usually a big fan of beat poetry apart from some of Ginsberg's work, but this stuff was really quite evocative. I may be favorably biased due to the subject matter, and having heard a reading of much of it previously, but hey: I dig it, man.(less)
This was a highly entertaining and rather original read. I've consumed a fair quantity of sci-fi over the years, and most of what I read these days fe...moreThis was a highly entertaining and rather original read. I've consumed a fair quantity of sci-fi over the years, and most of what I read these days feels derivative, or like "more of the same," which leads me to read progressive less of it unless that's what I'm looking for. So, while I grabbed this expecting "more of the same" after reading Lord of Light, the variance in tone, plot, and style was a welcome surprise. I particularly enjoyed the somewhat sparky humor of the protagonist, and his rebellious character, and that I guessed almost none of the plot twists before their time. Everything else I can think to say beyond that, and the few quotes available here, strikes me as a spoiler, so I'll just stop there and say read it if you like original sci-fi, and don't require it to be "hard SF." (less)
It seems like a lot of Elric fans are kinda down on this installment of the eternal saga, but I can't really see why. Moorcock's voice here seems to h...moreIt seems like a lot of Elric fans are kinda down on this installment of the eternal saga, but I can't really see why. Moorcock's voice here seems to have matured well, and I found it on the whole quite an enjoyable ride. If I were to complain about anything, just to have something negative to say, I'm a bit surprised that his editor let him get away with quite so many monstrously long run-on sentences, but that's a quibble. Highly recommended for fans who do not resemble Comic Shop Guy. (less)
This was my first foray into Ligotti's work, being the only one I could find in the aftermarket, though his work has long been recommended to me by se...moreThis was my first foray into Ligotti's work, being the only one I could find in the aftermarket, though his work has long been recommended to me by several people. On the whole, I found it enjoyable, though I don't think it quite lived up to the hype—however, it should be duly noted that this was not among the volumes being hyped.
This collection struck me as a very solid entry in the world of short weird fiction, much in the tradition of all the classic Weird Tales authors, though somewhat modernized. This particular collection, however, struck me as deliberately anachronistic: written in the 21st century, it reads like the early 1960s as they might have existed in areas that were still experiencing the late 1940s. This worked just fine, since the whole genre generally retains a patina of outdatedness, and did from its very inception, yet for whatever reason it threw me a bit.
Fans of dystopian literature should find much to enjoy here as well, as a number of the stories seems to be set in a particular milieu which implies a thinly-described land of bureaucratic nightmares redolent of Kafka, though with less a flavor of despair than of a low-grade, vaguely Lovecraftian malignancy. So, while this only gets three stars for "I like it," I will continue to seek the more highly lauded volumes in the hope that they better deserve the praise.(less)
There are not many publicly-available books on Chöd practice, so from that perspective this book is an invaluable resource no matter which tradition o...moreThere are not many publicly-available books on Chöd practice, so from that perspective this book is an invaluable resource no matter which tradition one practices. Also, there are obviously many common elements running through the various Chöd traditions, and this speaks well to those underpinnings.
That said, this is a distinctly Gelug approach, and as a Nyingma practitioner myself I found a very few elements either jarring or simply inapplicable. Easy enough to ignore those. Also, like most tantric practices, one must really learn from a qualified teacher; texts are a supplement to, not a replacement for, direct instruction. This is particularly obvious in this case: while the notes regarding melodies for specific segments of the practice may be useful for those who have been instructed, I see no way anyone could possibly construct them properly from the text sound-unheard. (Supposedly, there are CD recordings available from this tradition, I have not looked into those.)
Bottom line: if you're not overly sectarian in your approach, and you've had some Chöd transmission and instruction, this is a very worthwhile supplement to your studies. If you are curious about the practice and want to see if you might be interested without a large investment, this might do the trick. Otherwise: move along, nothing to see here.(less)
I have long been a fan of Brunner, and have all but worshiped The Shockwave Rider in a manner most geeks reserve for bigger SF names since my teens....moreI have long been a fan of Brunner, and have all but worshiped The Shockwave Rider in a manner most geeks reserve for bigger SF names since my teens. I was, therefore, predisposed to like this book.
If you, dear reader, are not likewise predisposed, I would urge a moment's caution. Without providing any spoilers, let me note that the central themes of this book deal directly with topics about which a great many people have extremely strong feelings. I seriously doubt whether it could be published in Britain or the U.S. today. If you have ever entertained the thought that any book should be banned for its content, you would almost assuredly count this book as a prime example.
On the other hand, if you are open to or in search of a sort of near-future, sci-fi mystery/gumshoe/detective story that reads like a cross between A Clockwork Orange and Lolita, if somewhat less "literary" than either, then you need look no further.(less)
As Ken Wilber put it, one can no more afford to ignore the work of Adi Da than one can afford to become his student. This edition of his teachings on...moreAs Ken Wilber put it, one can no more afford to ignore the work of Adi Da than one can afford to become his student. This edition of his teachings on dietary practice predates the tendency of the First, Last, and Only Seventh-Stage Realizer to Capitalize virtually Every Damn Word, in an Obscure Pattern like some mad dyslexic german, and it is therefore far more readable than much of his later work. Also, while the book is certainly intended in part as a recruiting tool for their community, The Daist Free Communion or whatever they're called these days, they do not lay it on too thick, and specifically attempt to make the suggestions useful even to those outside their community. There are some true gems of wisdom in here (see the quotes page here for examples) and lots of dross, especially if you have no plan to grow your own sprouts and forever eat like some 70s-era Marin County hippie.
Unlike many spiritual teachers, he does allow science in, and several health professionals and physicians are cited, along with the experimental results of the Daist Free Communion themselves. He also allows for humor, and makes good use of several syndicated cartoon reprints to lighten the intellectual load. The advice on fasting practices seems to me quite useful—if you're into that sort of thing, which periodically I am, though not for nearly as long at a stretch as they recommend for advanced practitioners—and I'm certain I will infrequently return to look over some of the health tips, especially when I'm feeling particularly unwell but short of sick.(less)
This is a reasonable overview of the basic philosophical underpinnings of the Buddhist path (i.e., abhidharma) from the Tibetan point of view. Based o...moreThis is a reasonable overview of the basic philosophical underpinnings of the Buddhist path (i.e., abhidharma) from the Tibetan point of view. Based on a text by Ju Mipham, this lengthy work draws heavily on the sutras, including such Mayahana texts as the Lalitavistara Sutra, as well as the standard works of Nāgārjuna and Candrakīrti, and especially the Abhidharmakośabhāṣya of Vasubandhu. Technical terms mostly are given somewhat beginner-level explanations, and are covered in English along with transliterated Sanskrit and Tibetan, but no Tibetan script, U-chen or otherwise.
As a result, I found this book useful, and yet a little frustrating. Having studied various streams of Buddhist thought for some 20 years—thought seeking a fuller understanding of the varying doctrines on Śūnyatā (generally translated as "emptiness")—I have difficulty knowing if this is really a good book for beginners. So much of it struck me as "yes yes, I've covered this before, thanks for the reminder," but I cannot really tell if someone new to the information would find it as simple. I suspect not. Some concepts that were relatively new to me did not seem to be explained thoroughly enough to really give me a sense of what they mean and why they're important, so I suspect the same could be true of the rest if one does not already have some grounding in the material.
My understanding is that this volume, like many of the Buddhist Studies titles from Dharma Pubs, was intended to be a textbook of sorts for classes at the Nyingma Institute. It is possible that the lack I felt represents a gap that would be filled in by lectures or the opportunity to ask questions. I would therefore say, in general, unless this book has been assigned to you, or you intend to use it as a handy reference/primer for abhidharma studies in other sources, this is probably not the book you want.(less)
This book was incredibly frustrating and disappointing to me. Ngakpa Yeshe Dorje, the Dalai Lama's weather-maker, always seemed such a colorful charac...moreThis book was incredibly frustrating and disappointing to me. Ngakpa Yeshe Dorje, the Dalai Lama's weather-maker, always seemed such a colorful character that I was quite excited to get my hands on a biography. That excitement did not last long.
Not that he isn't still colorful. The main body of the text is essentially a translation of Rinpoche's own life story, recorded by the principle author. Unfortunately, neither of the authors appear to have invested any real effort to understand any of the underlying concepts that render the Tibetan system(s) unique in the Buddhist World, nor to enlist the aid of a qualified editor. As a result, the book is riddled with factual and contextual errors ranging from the infuriating to the ridiculous. My personal favorite describes the Phurba—the three-sided ritual dagger (Sanskrit: Kila, "nail" "tent-peg") key to the practice of the unmentioned tantric deity Vajrakilaya, often applied to the "lower activity" of weather control—as a "sceptre," which even a cursory search of the literature would show to be not even close.
Thus, while I am glad this book exists, and that I had the opportunity to read it, I cannot rate it highly, nor recommend it either as an introduction to Tibetan practice, nor even as a representative example of Lama biography. Many better such books are available on a range of figures from the last several generations. Almost the only positive thing I can say is that the authors were too unfamiliar with the traditional forms to turn this into the sort of legendary hagiography that plagues the literature of the notable figures of prior centuries. (less)
This is a solid entry in the continuing trend of engaging the Thelemic system of Aleister Crowley through the lens of Eastern philosophy, particularly...moreThis is a solid entry in the continuing trend of engaging the Thelemic system of Aleister Crowley through the lens of Eastern philosophy, particularly Hindu Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism. Drawing largely on the Upanishad tradition, and especially the Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya Sutra ("The Heart of the Perfection of Transcendent Wisdom," commonly: the Heart Sutra), with more than a little tongue-in-cheek humor and copious references to related ideas from Western philosophy (ahem, Nietzsche, cough), this book takes a far less praxis-oriented approach than either Tantric Thelema or Stellar Tantra while complementing both well.
The philosophical approach herein provides a means for filling in some of the gaps in the linkage leading from Crowley's own writings on Eastern systems—such as "Science and Buddhism" and Eight Lectures on Yoga—to these later adaptations of his work by examining ways in which key ideas from Thelema (such as the "0=2 formula") may be seen as recapitulations of ancient principles recast in the more scientific language of modernity and stripped of much of their religious trappings. The author's style manages to keep potentially heavy material comparatively light hearted, though his wit occasionally may be deemed sarcastic by some.
In sum, I can readily recommend this book to anyone who is not too uptight about rigorous scholarship or doctrinal purity while also interested in aligning the apophatic views of these variant, yet closely related, religio-philosophical systems.(less)
This is not only a good overview of the specific case at hand, but serves also as something of an insider view on how constitutional jurisprudence fun...moreThis is not only a good overview of the specific case at hand, but serves also as something of an insider view on how constitutional jurisprudence functions in 21st Century America: the behind the scenes work that brings a viable case to the Supreme Court in such a way that a centrally important issue can be adjudicated. In this case it is especially telling in that, for Lawrence to prevail, previous precedent would need to be overturned, which is never taken lightly by The Nine, no matter where they fall on the left-right spectrum.(less)
While providing quite a balanced and exceedingly well-researched overview of the life of Hutten, this fairly slim volume necessarily leaves out a lot...moreWhile providing quite a balanced and exceedingly well-researched overview of the life of Hutten, this fairly slim volume necessarily leaves out a lot of historical context. While it was deliberately revised from the German original for English-specking audiences under the presumption that late-Medieval German history is not exactly common knowledge in that market, I found that I needed to turn to Wikipedia routinely to fill in what felt like blanks: the identities of the Roman Popes in the era addressed; the political structure of the estates in the Holy Roman Empire; what exactly is meant by the term "humanism" in this context; the philosophical underpinnings of the humanist–scholastic debate; and the like. I probably spent almost as much time digging through other sources as I did reading the book itself. Nevertheless, it is a solid overview of the man himself and a good launching pad for further study, if you're into that sort of thing, and frankly there's not much competition in the market for Hutten studies in English as there is in German.(less)
One of the better popular-science books I've ever read, and certainly the best I've read recently. Well written, engaging, and well-referenced, it not...moreOne of the better popular-science books I've ever read, and certainly the best I've read recently. Well written, engaging, and well-referenced, it not only improved my understanding of General Relativity, but made the very concept of time—both in terms of the experience of its flow and it's scientific sense as a dimension of unified spacetime—both clearer and more diffuse: what is time after all? How can it even be defined in any meaningful way? These questions may seem ridiculous on their face, as time is measured by every clock. But what exactly is that clock measuring, and how? Once you start scratching at that surface understanding, one finds rather little substance holding it up.
Naturally, I will go on to use this as a further justification of my habit of procrastination. Eventually.(less)
The various blurbs floating around are accurate enough in terms of describing the plot without spoilers. In terms of theme, however, there are two thi...moreThe various blurbs floating around are accurate enough in terms of describing the plot without spoilers. In terms of theme, however, there are two things perhaps worth knowing about this book before jumping in.
The bulk of the story is set against a background of chronic poverty: the incidental characters are the sort of folk one sees in virtually every episode of the old reality-TV show Cops. The view of them through the eyes of the principle characters is not flattering.
The principle theme, however, seems to me to be a polemic against the social work system, the portrayal of which is more unflattering still. It is, in fact, deeply cynical. This didn't bother me, but it might bother some, especially social workers. For example:
Social workers are almost all women, and women talk about problems. They don't do things about them. If John and Marsha's house catches fire, John wants to put the fire out. Marsha wants to sit down and discuss it—to find out why the fire feels hostility toward them.
Overall, though, I found the book enjoyable enough, though entirely unlike the author's more well-known fantasy work. No magic here, at all.(less)