I picked up this early edition paperback at the used bookstore. A nice find. I originally read the book not long after it was published and I can honeI picked up this early edition paperback at the used bookstore. A nice find. I originally read the book not long after it was published and I can honestly say I enjoyed it more the second time around. If you've seen and recall the film version (which just happened to run on TCM recently) you'll be surprised at how closely it followed the book. Crichton's imagry and dialogue put the reader in the time and place perfectly and you'll find yourself rooting for the robbery to succeed despite all its obstacles and for the robbers to triumph. A fun read. Thoroughly enjoyable. ...more
Inspiring story, unfortunately written for young adults. All of the characters are flushed out nicely and the story builds to its stirring inevitableInspiring story, unfortunately written for young adults. All of the characters are flushed out nicely and the story builds to its stirring inevitable climax as it should (considering we all know the outcome). For me, the real drama was contained in the kids avoiding deportation and how this dark cloud hangs constantly over young lives. I admire the authors detail even though I began to dread some of it. For example: every person the kids come in contact with gets his back story told. We go back to the founding of the company when the kids attempt to buy a pressure gauge. But this is a petty complaints and the little diversions never last more than a couple paragraphs--easy to skim. The pose is utilitarian, and, like I suspect, written for young people (and Hollywood—since I hear there is a film coming out in the spring). I never seem to get my fill of books and movies about inspiring teachers, since, hopefully we all had at least one. If it weren’t for an hour spent with the author on NPR I probably would have missed this book. Even though it only took a few hours to read, I’m glad I didn’t (miss the book, that is, not read it)....more
Since 1991, serious violent crime in the United States has dropped by 40%. In the same period, the US prison population has more than doubled to moreSince 1991, serious violent crime in the United States has dropped by 40%. In the same period, the US prison population has more than doubled to more than two million. Matt Taibbi shows that the increase in prison population is the product of cruel public policies that are incarcerating more and more non-violent people. In addition, policing policies such as, "CompStat" in New York, have cast dragnets over whole communities and criminalized common legal behavior. He tells the story of a bus driver who was arrested in front of his own home for obstructing pedestrian traffic (but it was 1:00 AM and there was no pedestrian traffic.) "The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap," illuminates a world that the middle and upper classes rarely see. Where just being poor makes you a target for predation by the prison industrial complex.
At the same time, he shows us that the wealthy have become immune to prosecution even for heinous crimes. For instance, the HSBC bank admitted to laundering money for the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, Iran and terrorists and the Holder Justice Department sent no one went to jail. (The bank just paid a fine.) Taibbi presents case after gut wrenching case of banksters who have robbed everyone that has a credit card or a 401k and suffered no penalties, but rather are lionized by fawning financial rags and their "journalists."
The contrast is stark and unmistakable. America is not living out the promise of our ideal of, "justice for all," but slipping backwards into the age of the Robber Barons where corporate executives are striving to re-create the aristocracies of old Europe.
Taibbi is a Cassandra, cursed to predict the future to an unbelieving populace, but his prose is very readable and his style is amusing and often hilarious as he skewers the rich and criminal. He makes a persuasive argument for systemic reforms and we ignore the evidence at our peril. (Unless you are wealthy, then everything is hunky dory.)
Taibbi picks up the standard of the Muckrakers of the last century, Ida Tarbell, S.S. McClure, Upton Sinclair, Nellie Bly, Lincoln Steffens, and Ray Stannard Baker. His book is a clarion call for a new Progressive movement, a new crusade to right the wrongs that have been woven into our political system by a new class of would-be oligarchs. ...more
Pretty good bathroom book! Not meant to be offensive, but this collection of forgotten moments in American History are each about 4-6 pages long and aPretty good bathroom book! Not meant to be offensive, but this collection of forgotten moments in American History are each about 4-6 pages long and about the right length for—well, you know. Andrew Carroll went on a cool road trip, visiting interesting places throughout our country where some not-so-monumental, bizarre, and/or tragic events have taken place.
Some of the places seem to beg for more attention in historical importance, such as the disaster of the SS Sultana which is America's biggest maritime disaster, but forgotten due to Lincoln's assassination. Carroll takes us to the small privately owned Hawaiian Island which saw the first US Military action of World War II, examines the fossilized poop of the oldest civilization in North America, and stops by the small New Hampshire town where one of George Washington's run-away slave hid out for years (this is actually an interesting story, ripe for a Lifetime movie).
Carroll's writing is fun, occasionally witty, (could use some Bill Bryson attitude) and captures his excitement at finding these all but forgotten locations. It's amazing at just how much history seems to be on the cusp of lost. Pretty sure there will be a Volume II next year—save a space in the bathroom. Again: take no offense. ...more
This clarifies how our country has been hijacked over the past 20 years. While most Americans prefer to keep their head in the sand and continue to waThis clarifies how our country has been hijacked over the past 20 years. While most Americans prefer to keep their head in the sand and continue to watch silly TV or root for overpaid football players there are those who want to understand how and why our economy has gone from one in which the American dream was possible into one where we are all working for the elite top 1% to buy additional mansions. If you want to understand what happened and how it continues unabated - you absolutely must read this book. It's honest, biting, and genuine. No holds barred. He writes with realism and punch. (I checked out some reviews, and a lot of people seemed to object to Matts language and take-no-prisoner gonzo attitude. Uh…he writes for Rolling Stone. What were you expecting? Get a grip. Truthful sarcasm and a little name calling now and then is good for you!) ...more
There are parts of this book that are very funny in a way that only Sedaris is capable of. But some disturbing tendencies are starting to creep in toThere are parts of this book that are very funny in a way that only Sedaris is capable of. But some disturbing tendencies are starting to creep in to his writing. Some of these pieces have "a message" and Sedaris makes them very obvious -- and the specter of self-importance is looming (a few times, instead of just saying "I was in a particular city...", he finds it necessary to make the unnecessary point that he is in a particular location to give a lecture, which, as it has nothing to do with the story most of the time, seems to be added just to try to impress us). Not a good sign. But the book is enjoyable, although not as much as his previous works. ...more
Listen to Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 – this is how you will feel while reading John Muir. Exhilarated. Joyous. Passionate. Alive.
This book is neListen to Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 – this is how you will feel while reading John Muir. Exhilarated. Joyous. Passionate. Alive.
This book is never far from my reach. It is my inspiration for life.
Take a few minutes and read a sample:
“Here, we are camped for the night, our big fire, heaped high with rosiny logs and branches, is blazing like a sunrise, gladly giving back the light slowly sifted from the sunbeams of centuries of summers; and in the glow of that old sunlight how impressively surrounding objects are bought forward in relief against the outer darkness.”
“Watching the daybreak and sunrise. The pale rose and purple sky changing softly to daffodil yellow and white, sunbeams pouring through the passes between the peaks and over the Yosemite domes, making their edges burn; the silver firs in the middle ground catching the glow on their spiry tops, and our camp grove fills and thrills with the glorious light. Everything awakening alert and joyful; the birds begin to stir and innumerable insect people. Deer quietly withdraw into leafy hiding-places in the chaparral; the dew vanishes, flowers spread their petals, every pulse beats high, every life cell rejoices, the very rocks seem to thrill with life. The whole landscape glows like a human face in a glory of enthusiasm, and the blue sky, pale around the horizon, bends peacefully down over all like one vast flower.”
“Every morning, arising from the death of sleep, the happy plants and all our fellow animal creatures great and small, and even the rocks, seemed to be shouting, ‘Awake, awake, rejoice, rejoice, come love us and join in our song. Come! Come!’ Nevermore, however weary, should one faint by the way who gains the blessings of one mountain day; whatever his fate, long life, short life, stormy or calm, he is rich forever.”
“…it seemed the most romantic spot I had yet found—the one big stone with its mossy level top and smooth sides standing square and firm and solitary, like an altar, the fall in front of it bathing it lightly with the finest of the spray, just enough to keep its moss cover fresh; the clear green pool beneath, with its foam-bells and its half circle of lilies leaning forward like a band of admirers, and flowering dogwood and alder trees leaning over all in sun-sifted arches. How delightful the water music—the deep bass tones of the fall, the clashing, ringing spray, and infinite variety of small low tones of the current gliding past the side of the boulder-island, and glinting against a thousand smaller stones down the ferny channel!”
“Now comes sundown. The west is all a glory of color transfiguring everything. Far up the Pilot Peak Ridge the radiant host of trees stand hushed and thoughtful, receiving the Sun’s good-night, as solemn and impressive a leave-taking as if sun and trees were to meet no more. The daylight fades, the color spell is broken, and the forest breathes free in the night breeze beneath the stars.” “How beautiful a rock is made by leaf shadows! Those of the live oak are particularly clear and distinct, and beyond all are in grace and delicacy, now still as if painted on stone, now gliding softly as if afraid of noise, now dancing, waltzing in swift, merry swirls, or jumping on and off sunny rocks in quick dashes like wave embroidery on seashore cliffs. How true and substantial is this shadow beauty, and with what sublime extravagance is beauty thus multiplied.” ...more
This is a surprising piece of work. Tom Wolfe writes most of the book seemingly from the view of the Merry Pranksters. However, his tone seems to becoThis is a surprising piece of work. Tom Wolfe writes most of the book seemingly from the view of the Merry Pranksters. However, his tone seems to become distanced and coldly objective as the book concludes. Ultimately the reader may (if not deluded into thinking the lifestyle a virtual utopia) see flaws and ultimate failure of the lifestyle. I did not find the Merry Pranksters amusing, free, or admirable. I found much of their behavior to be mindlessly hedonistic, self-destructive, and generally sheep-like in following the teachings of a raving loon. However, I think the problem lies not in the writing of Tom Wolfe (I enjoyed his other books) but in the subject matter. The hippie movement really did go away quickly didn’t it? Interesting, some of the stuff it left behind....more
Read this whenever it came out (what, 10-15 years ago?). Thought it was very Ayn Randish. And since I was into Rand at the time would have praised thiRead this whenever it came out (what, 10-15 years ago?). Thought it was very Ayn Randish. And since I was into Rand at the time would have praised this book for it’s virtue of selfishness. With his current antics, I am just embarrassed.
I am including this in my electronic list of books—because—well—I actually did read it.
The physical book itself is off the family bookshelf, carefully dissected, parts of which are being used for old coffee grounds, washing windows and lining the bottom of the birdcage. He has always been a marginal jerk. Now, he is unredeemable. ...more
“Only YOU would go around carrying a copy of Herodotus.”
What did my friend Richard Halverson mean by ‘only YOU?’
Doesn’t everyone find the big H. inte“Only YOU would go around carrying a copy of Herodotus.”
What did my friend Richard Halverson mean by ‘only YOU?’
Doesn’t everyone find the big H. interesting and funny?
My summers as music apprentice at Chautauqua Opera gave me tons and tons of free time and (if you’ve ever been there, you know) opportunity to read things outside any syllabus. While waiting for some prima donna director to mount the perfect ‘Turandot’ I spent hours buried in ‘The Histories.’
Now, I am re-reading this – and finding it as wonderful as before.
Herodotus is not your ordinary historian. He makes things up (my kind of guy). He uses legends and dialogue to explain things—but then again if it weren't for Herodotus there would be no historians. Herodotus' account is vivid, pertinent, exciting, insightful, and often hilarious as he recounts the people, places, customs, and occurrences in early Greece leading up to the Persian invasion.
Perhaps the most significant portion of this book deals with Xerxes and his invasion of Greece. This story contains the famous Battle of Thermopylae in which the 300 Spartans hold the Persians at bay. Herodotus bridged the gap between oral story telling and the more detailed factual accounts of later writers, such as Thucydides. Fantastic, readable if not completely reliable! ...more
I have been on a Sagan jag these past few days re-reading some of my favorites.
This is one of his best.
Brace yourself for an engrossing discussion onI have been on a Sagan jag these past few days re-reading some of my favorites.
This is one of his best.
Brace yourself for an engrossing discussion on the subject of science in relation to our modern world.
Go back in history to the beginning of time and trace the development of scientific, and not so scientific, thought leading up to the present day. Delve into the relationships between science, religion, magic, alien life forms, and many more fascinating interfaces that you may never have contemplated before. An extraordinarily well written text that brings scientific principles to the common man in understandable fashion. Carl Sagan may be gone, but with this work, he certainly will not be forgotten.
This is an insightful look into the credulity that has and does plague humankind. Dr. Sagan gives many credible examples of how superstitious and uninformed beliefs continue to be propagated even as our knowledge of reality increases. He makes a passionate plea for science to hold firmly to the scientific to illuminate understanding reality. Without such a method, discernment is not possible and humankind is doomed to gullibility and wishful existence.
Sagan makes a special plea to scientists and politicians to focus on informing the public on the essence and utility of science; and how it can give them the tools they need to move beyond ancient myths and into the modern age of science and discovery. ...more
This book is good for all, but exceptionally interesting for those studying the human brain, the function of the human mind, or the human condition inThis book is good for all, but exceptionally interesting for those studying the human brain, the function of the human mind, or the human condition in general. The stories which serve to illustrate Sagan's theories are presented exquisitely. The statistics which support Sagan's points are laid out in a logical and easy-to-understand fashion. The book is short enough to get through in one sitting. A must read. Period....more
Flea Market bookseller comes through again. I think I sort of remember when this book was everywhere. I might have even owned a copy at one time. But IFlea Market bookseller comes through again. I think I sort of remember when this book was everywhere. I might have even owned a copy at one time. But I missed the hippie age by a few years—so even if I had this book, even then, I probably considered it antiquated from another era. I am glad to have another cringe inducing chance to turn flush and embarrass myself. No one captured the drug-crazed revolutionary spirit of the time more than Jerry Rubin. (Except, I sort of remember ‘Steal This Book’ as its contemporary equal). Intellectually, it isn't much. Maybe that is part of the reason every hippie carried this copy like a new-born evangelist caries a copy of the Bible under the arm like a five day pad. But it's a wild self-indulgent, absurd, stoned insight into the hypocrisy of everyday people, tearing at the walls of illusion so many hide behind. People secure in their delusions wrote this off as garbage, yet it fueled the fire of youthful rebellion like gasoline. There's something very potent about Rubin's message. But there's also something very self-destructive, indulgent, and irrational. In any event, an entertaining read from past rebels without a cause. ...more
There's not much dirt on the people involved, but enough to keep your interest.
What really makes this a fun read, though, is the inside info you won'There's not much dirt on the people involved, but enough to keep your interest.
What really makes this a fun read, though, is the inside info you won't find in any other books. For example, I had no idea that the Schuyler Chapin administration was the almost complete failure described by Ms. Fiedler (Head of the Met Press Department for many years, regular panelist on the Opera Quiz, and Arthur Fiedler's daughter), nor had I ever read this much inside info on James Levine, a man who's always prided himself on keeping his public and private lives separate.
Let me just say that, whether you're an opera buff, or just interested in classical music in general, you'll find "Molto Agitato" a fascinating read. And yes, the title is one of the best parts of the book. Be warned: Ms. Fiedler may know ‘press’ but she doesn’t seem to know much about opera. Some of her mistakes sent shivers. ...more
Milano, for me is La Scala. There is no other reason to visit. Although, once, on a bored afternoon, I decided to take a detour to see The Last SupperMilano, for me is La Scala. There is no other reason to visit. Although, once, on a bored afternoon, I decided to take a detour to see The Last Supper. It is located in one of the ugliest little buildings imaginable. The lines to get in are long. Once inside, there it is—in all its doorway-cut-through ragged peeling warped spender. Did I say ‘spender?’ Huh. The thing is a wreck. I couldn’t decide while standing in front of it, if the world has been sold a cosmic joke for four hundred years or if I was really standing in the presence of genius. To this day, I still don’t know. I mean, uh, it’s nice and all, but to be reproduced a billion times?
Voila! Now another intellectual, rigorous book about da Vinci's Last Supper, with fresh perspectives on how to analyze and interpret the painting—amalgamating an enormous amount of information. Including that feeling of ambiguity you get after looking at it for more than a few minutes. Kinda like my experience. Unlike myself, this author is profoundly in love with the paint on the plaster.
The author shows how Leonardo possessed an advanced understanding of perspective and created an impossible location; and the book contains an overview of Last Supper copies throughout history. No discussion of John the Baptist being a woman or more speculative aspects of the Last Supper such as secret society messages—only an analysis of the painting, unearthing the why and how Leonardo da Vinci put paint to brush to wall. ...more
This is a wonderful book. Not definitive in any way -- but pleasurable as a good guilty read.
Bach's Cello Suites are perhaps the most intriguing pieceThis is a wonderful book. Not definitive in any way -- but pleasurable as a good guilty read.
Bach's Cello Suites are perhaps the most intriguing pieces of music ever written. Largely forgotten for almost two centuries—incredibly found by the man who would become the world's greatest cellist. Eric Siblin, a former pop music critic has written a great book about the suites and their mysterious history. It's also a mini-biography of Bach and Pablo Casals, the cellist who discovered them at the age of thirteen and was responsible for making them what they are to the world today, which is simply one of the most divine pieces of music ever written.
Siblin breaks the book into chunks based on the order of the suites; so six sections with six chapters each. Each section usually starts with a description of the related prelude, an interesting device to set the stage. For example, he ties the melancholy second suite to the death of Bach's first wife, the romantic third to the meeting of his second wife. The first few chapters of each section usually coveres Bach, the next few Casals, and then the last reserved to tie the pieces together through Siblin's search for the lost original manuscript of the suites (something of a holy grail for musicologists as there is currently no version that has the composer's own instructions for performance, which explains the wide disparity between interpretations) and his emotional exploration of the suites.
Siblin speaks credibly about the transcendence of the music, using language that is not too overblown, a common mistake in many books on music. Though there are many mysteries about the Suites still left at the end of the book, the thrust is still about the transforming power of music.
I have several recordings of the Suites and found it helpful to listen to them repeatedly as I read the book. Not only did it shed a new light on the suites but also enhanced the reading of the book, tying me to the journey. ...more
Chronicle of a 1973-1975 walk from New York to New Orleans. For the entire trip (west), you have to buy the sequel. Check your local library or buy frChronicle of a 1973-1975 walk from New York to New Orleans. For the entire trip (west), you have to buy the sequel. Check your local library or buy from the quarter bin at a flea market. Any more time or money invested in this book is a waste.
I do envy the guy his journey—sort of. I was curious to learn about the logistics of undertaking such a long hike. Unfortunately he would rather write of his love affair with his "forever friend" and make up lame similes for every little thing he encounters. I needed an insulin shot about half way through.
Don’t even get me started on the dog.
Here is what one reviewer said (I laugh and agree): “Guy walks across America, meets girl and God on the way, marries girl in the end. Guy and girl walk across America again (The Walk West), meet with God constantly, make children and write about Him. Today, guy and girl write separately and are divorced and have since remarried. Go figure.” ...more
Another Brit attempts discerning the American character -- this time -- by traveling the Mississippi in an aluminum fishing boat and stopping at everyAnother Brit attempts discerning the American character -- this time -- by traveling the Mississippi in an aluminum fishing boat and stopping at every honky-tonk redneck bar along the way.
Old Glory is not a feel-good National Geographic travelogue, but it's not a negative book either. Mr. Raban treats the landscape and the people he encounters with the affection of a gloomy reprobate. He hopes for the best, but knows that he won't always find it. Raban captures the bittersweet essence of the Mississippi Valley, the lonely and lost quality of American life, and the strangeness of all once-vibrant human landscapes bypassed by "progress" (a la 1997).
Raban continually gives the impression that in his brief stops along the river he ‘figures out’ what the locals have been unable to or have failed to figure out for years. I am sure that Raban did encounter his share of rubes and rednecks, but if this book is to be believed, those types of people are practically the only ones he encountered. It’s an entertaining read – but sir, you are no De Tocqueville....more
I am ever so glad I discovered the used booksellers at the back of the flea market. I am abounding in cheap older published books I would normally nevI am ever so glad I discovered the used booksellers at the back of the flea market. I am abounding in cheap older published books I would normally never read and in some cases never hear about. Case in point: In 1947, six young Norwegians floated in a balsa-wood raft from Peru to the Polynesian islands of the South Seas. The trip took them 101 days and they traveled 4,300 nautical miles across the Pacific without seeing a single other boat or ship. Only occasionally were they able to communicate with the outside world by radio, and the possibility of rescue should their primitive raft sink or break up in the heavy seas they often experienced was slim to none.
It was a foolhardy stunt -- but makes for a great story.
"Kon Tiki" tells the story of the expedition from beginning to the end when the crew of the raft is marooned on an idyllic paradise isle in the South Pacific. I was most impressed with how isolated and empty the Pacific Ocean was and how unexploited was its sealife in 1947. Probably no longer.
Heyerdahl's theories of oceanic migrations from the Americas to Polynesia are still pooh-baahed by archaeologists today, although it seems that the sweet potato by some means made it from Peru to Polynesia in pre-historic times. Whatever your opinion may be regarding Heyerdahl as a scientist the story of the "Kon Tiki" is unique and original. Read it and weep because the opportunity for an adventure of such scope and daring is no longer possible in our over-crowded world. ...more
William Least-Heat Moon, writes of a journey taken away from the "interstates" of the human experience. In the near-forgotten places and continental cWilliam Least-Heat Moon, writes of a journey taken away from the "interstates" of the human experience. In the near-forgotten places and continental corners he passes through, life manages to persist in ways that it does not in the change-racked "fast lane" so many of us are swept into. Nearly three decades have passed and the book is no less relevant in what it says about modernity: In the chain-store franchise, places increasingly appear like every other place, and local color and richness fades--or are bulldozed--into history.
Artistically, Blue Highways is a feast. Least-Heat Moon's poetic descriptions of landscape and mindscape are equaled only by his marvelous ability to capture the varied dialects of America. Like any good travelogue, it endures, from honest look the author takes at himself and where his life is going— to pondering the big universal questions. And though there are no universal answers, this journey deserved the large audience that has embraced it and, by so doing, perhaps have asked themselves the same questions. ...more
Disappointing. Lots of droning and technical motorcycle talk and not a lot of stopping and taking in the local scenery. A lot of self aggrandizing witDisappointing. Lots of droning and technical motorcycle talk and not a lot of stopping and taking in the local scenery. A lot of self aggrandizing with the charity folk who help pay for the trip. Rush, rush, rush, always worried about deadlines and making time. And the condition of the road. And the weather. I was expecting a little more adventure, humor, and anecdotes beyond the TV series. DVD is better. Sorry. ...more
Tracing the waters of the Nile from Uganda to Egypt, this is a journey not only across thousands of miles of Africa but also through a vast diversityTracing the waters of the Nile from Uganda to Egypt, this is a journey not only across thousands of miles of Africa but also through a vast diversity of peoples and their rich and often troubled history. Weaving recent and historical events with the story of his own journey this offers a unique window onto a part of the world all too easily and often ignored.
Furthermore, he casts light onto the diverse forces at play behind the conflicts that occasionally make headlines in West newspapers. What many often portray in simplistic terms as strife between Christianity and Islam, Morrison exposes as complex and fluid allegiances and schisms. Often these are less about religious differences and more about the dynamics between the wealthy and poor, those in power and those outside, competing tribes and families, and other fault lines.
The book's core however is really a travelogue, and it moves at a swift and compelling pace. The first half of the book focused largely on the interplay between Morrison and a long-time friend who has joined him on the first leg of the journey. Unable to get a visa into Sudan, and burnt-out from the oppressive heat and relentless insects, his friend leaves midway into the narrative. Once alone, Morrison spends more time examining the people he meets, the history of the places he visits, and on his own reactions to the situations he encounters.
The narration is occasionally gritty, making the rugged, unpredictable, and often sad lives of the people he meets tangible. Sometimes this tangibility is off-putting, reducing people to the mere the functions of their bodies. More often however the gritty realism of the situation stands in contrast to these people's humble perseverance. Simple dichotomies, between good and bad, friends and enemies are turned on their heads when presumed enemies of friends are gracious and welcoming.
"Life in extremity is difficult to explain-things happen and people don't know why they are happening. Some events were fortunate and others were disastrous and that's how it went."
There are no simple answers in the book. The alliances he examines are constantly reshaped and reevaluated. The landscape similarly is in constant flux, changed by logging, droughts, and streams of garbage. Massive dams threaten rich farmland and traditional ways of life while bringing much needed electricity and development to impoverished towns and cities. Questions are raised, answers are few, and impressions lasting. ...more
First, let me say, I love this guy. Humorous, intelligent, acerbic, gutsy, and a bunch of other adjectives I can’t think of right now. Whenever he appFirst, let me say, I love this guy. Humorous, intelligent, acerbic, gutsy, and a bunch of other adjectives I can’t think of right now. Whenever he appears on Bill Mahar I know it’s going to be interesting. He’s a man unafraid to swear.
In this book (he has a new one, I am about to read):
Tabbi spent time with Matthew Hagee's Cornerstone Church, slowly going through the indoctrination process. He also spent some time with a 9/11 conspiracy group, who believe the US government is responsible, directly or indirectly, for the attacks. He also intersperses chapters on governmental procedures and happenings between his church and conspiracy saga. There's a also a brief chapter describing his embedment with a unit in Iraq.
His premise is basically that in our society, many people have chosen to kind of check out and embrace some of these out there kind of organizations or any kind of group or feedback that supports their own point of view. The stories he tells of the people he meets in these organizations are at the same time sad, frustrating, funny, and uplifting. At times, Tabbi seems to be mocking the people involved, but then he'll find himself sympathizing with them as well. I like the fact that he doesn't come off as perfect in the book himself, or like a detached anthropologist studying people as if they were scientific specimens. The fact that he seems like a jerk sometimes underscores how all of us feel somewhat alienated from each other in this modern society.
The chapters on governmental procedure, namely his description of how unrelated items get added to bills really was eye-opening and more than a little frightening. To see that there really isn't much of a difference between the parties, other than their lobbyist loyalties was somewhat discouraging as well. ...more
My first acquaintance with Rakoff's work was hearing him on "This American Life" recite a hilarious take on William Carlos Williams's "This is Just toMy first acquaintance with Rakoff's work was hearing him on "This American Life" recite a hilarious take on William Carlos Williams's "This is Just to Say" in his Bond-villain voice. I thought it was delightful and brilliant, but failed to read any further until this book came along. "Half Empty" gives you the opportunity to tag along and listen to this master pessimist as he winds his way through post-lapsarian America. During the brief hours you spend with this book, Rakoff, alternatively fascinated and appalled, trains his relentless sarcastic searchlight on subjects as diverse as American optimism, the difficulties of writing and cancer, and also visits Southern California, Utah and Walt Disney World's Innoventions Dream Home.
If the book tends towards the darker tonalities of the spectrum, you somehow feel that Rakoff never really turns on the full power of his sarcasm, which is tempered throughout by a compassion for the shared human condition. There is, for one thing, the self-deprecation that includes this description of himself as "possessed of a certain verbal acuity coupled with a relentless, hair-trigger humor and surface cheer spackling over a chronic melancholia and loneliness," which serves as a pretty accurate approximation of the experience of reading his work. There is also the knowledge of our own mortality and the suspicion that perhaps others have to be perpetual optimists for the temperamentally pessimistic to enjoy certain human achievements: "If one's dreams having to come true was the only referendum on whether they were beautiful, or worth dreaming, well then, no one would wish for anything. And that would be so much sadder." While you may deplore the same things he deplores, you end up hoping the world remains as crazy and nonsensical as it is so that the author can continue to reverse-engineer his delectable writing. ...more
From the liberal, secular halls of Brown University to the hub of Evangelical higher education and back again, it seems like an unlikely journey. KeviFrom the liberal, secular halls of Brown University to the hub of Evangelical higher education and back again, it seems like an unlikely journey. Kevin Roose, a sophomore at Brown, decided that instead of the ubiquitous semester abroad, he would explore, up close and personal, a particular strata of American culture. And so Roose, raised Quaker in a not very religious household, transferred to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, the conservative Baptist school founded by none other than Jerry Falwell. His book, The Unlikely Disciple, records the months he spent undercover there.
Roose didn't intend to pretend he was something he wasn't, had no interest in tricking anyone, and didn't want to write a sordid expose on the religious culture of Liberty. Yet, in order to understand the school he was attending, even briefly, he had to pretend to be evangelical himself and make sure the students and instructors really believed him. But he quickly found himself surrounded by a student body that could quote scripture effortlessly, prayed all day, and lived by a strict moral code. The classes he attended focused on defending evangelical theology to the world (his science class was "young-earth science," which rejects evolution and asserts that the earth is a mere 6,000 years old).
When not in class, he prayed with his new friends, dated girls he was not allowed to kiss, attended lectures by Sean Hannity and Karl Rove, and sung in the choir at Falwell's local megachurch. Still, he and his friends and dorm mates also snuck in R-rated movies, talked about sex, smoked cigarettes and complained about "The Liberty-Way," the school's strict code of conduct. While most students at Liberty accepted the rules and the religious movement's social parameters, there were those who challenged them, even if just a bit.
The Unlikely Disciple is witty and well-written, and Roose's style is readable yet expressive. What is most interesting here is not the examination of such a fascinating school (though that makes for a compelling read), but the balancing act Roose must perform as he tries to find empathy for a group of people who are just as often close-minded, bigoted and intellectually rigid as they are kind, generous and sophisticated. Because he is a young man, Roose is open to many emotional possibilities, and while on the one hand he deplores the homophobia he witnesses daily, he comes to find comfort and strength in the type of prayer and community Liberty is based on. These contradictions he duly records, and so we readers are privy to not just the inner sanctum of Liberty University but the inner sanctum of Kevin Roose as well.
At turns funny and frustrating, Roose's is more than promising and his objectivity commendable. Telling, though, is that he begins to run out of steam towards the end, the narrative stalls just a bit, and he gets repetitive. There are plenty of ideas left for him to mine (the bigotry, intolerance, the rejection of mainstream science he encounters are all very real), but readers will sense a hesitation: he has become, perhaps, a tad too close to his subject, and the people he thought he would never be like have become friends and love interests. This wishy-washiness is important as well because we are watching a young man questioning and then questioning the questions he set out to ask.
Despite any minor blunders, The Unlikely Disciple is a great read, and Roose is an excellent tour guide to a world of purity promises, literal biblical interpretation, holy-rolling hip-hop, Christian support groups, street corner missionary work (in Daytona Beach during spring break no less!) and much, much more. ...more
You’re preaching to the choir Sam (big fan, by the way). Yet again you have brilliantly provided insight into morality, religion, and ccience. While tYou’re preaching to the choir Sam (big fan, by the way). Yet again you have brilliantly provided insight into morality, religion, and ccience. While this book is less about religion, it is never too far away from his argument. Basically, you do not need religion to be moral and we should not be afraid to admit science can provide a moral compass. We have become a society that allows any possible belief to be valid and worth discussing and worse, we are so afraid to say something is truly wrong or right. Murder not in self defense is always wrong. Molesting children is always wrong, yet we have a Religious sect in America called the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) which was run by Warren Jeffs. We can not call this a Religion when they oppress woman, children, molest and engage in sexual intercourse with Children, often discussed murdering people in the name of God if they did not conform to all of the FLDS rules. We should not allow any group to be wrapped under a Religious blanket and be untouchable. The pure scientific method is always searching for the truth even if it results in an answer we do not want to hear. Science does not torture, kill or intimidate people in order to conform to its world views yet all religions do to some degree (oh come one, you know that’s true). We do not need religion to be moral...as a matter of fact it should attempt to be so—science can give us moral values as a compass base. It does not take away from disagreements on many topics and important issues. The thing is, we have to move beyond the basic issues of right and wrong. Here the argument is laid before us....more
After moving his family all over Gods half acre, Benjamin Mee finally settles in a French barn/house and set about writing some sort of “great” book.After moving his family all over Gods half acre, Benjamin Mee finally settles in a French barn/house and set about writing some sort of “great” book. Then his father dies and his siblings begin to consider purchasing a zoo. His 76 year old mother supports this idea, but negotiations fall apart and each sibling goes about their way. Mee, his wife Katherine, son Milo and daughter Ella are busy with daily life when a health problem strikes Katherine. The Mee family goes into survival mode. In the midst of this, the zoo becomes available again and after protracted negotiations and countless compromises the family, minus one brother purchase the zoo and relocate back to England.
Life at the zoo is a continuing series of struggles as the family tries to return the park to a financial success. The children and the staff come to respect and love the animals. Of course there are unexpected crisis...escaping cats, sick animals, sick family and the countless health inspections. ‘We Bought a Zoo’ is a curious glimpse into what it takes to run a small private zoo and a peek at what might be referred to as the eccentricity of the British. I appreciated the honest account of one family's plunge into chasing a dream. While the story sometimes holds the reader at arm's length, and Benjamin is kind of not very likable most of the time, it is still a heartwarming read. I am assuming the movie will be a little less caustic and a lot more eccentric. ...more
If you've read America (The Book), know first that this book is different. America makes itself out to be a mock textbook, and has many long, hilariouIf you've read America (The Book), know first that this book is different. America makes itself out to be a mock textbook, and has many long, hilarious text passages that skewer politics and education at the same time. However, there are also the occasional pages that are infographics, with jokes both in the images and the captions that take up complete pages.
Now imagine that the entire book were made out of these commented infographics, with the subject matter shifted from the USA to the entire planet, and aimed at an audience of aliens who find the Earth deserted after the human race spectacularly manufactures its own demise, and you have Earth (The Book).
It's a digest that delightfully destroys all aspects of society, from our perceptions of aliens to the planet itself; to commerce, religion and culture. It can be picked up occasionally and flipped to a random page, as each joke is encapsulated and confined. Or, it can be read large sections at a time, with every word and picture perused until you can laugh no more. There is at least one brilliant joke per page, and quite often more than that.
This book pokes fun at anything and everything, and you may find the finger pointing at yourself now and again. If you can't laugh at your own idiosyncrasies and beliefs, skip this book and recommend it to someone with a sense of humor. If you can't take a joke, this book isn't for you.
The only down side, one that America (The Book) has less of a problem with, is that some of the jokes can't stand the test of time in the long term. In 50 years, the numerous pop culture references throughout the book will be largely forgotten, lost to the winds of time. It's better that way, of course, as their shallowness is a significant reason why this book makes fun of them. So perhaps this won't be one of the great literary classics, discussed and venerated for all time, but there's certainly enough timeless humor in here for it to be funny at least as long as you'll be alive. Get it now, and leave it in a conspicuous place when you're not reading it (the coffee table, perhaps?), so that when we do destroy ourselves, the aliens can see this message....more
I guess comparisons to the TV series Green Acres are inevitable. Sure there are colorful local folk but they are not rubes. The lead characters are boI guess comparisons to the TV series Green Acres are inevitable. Sure there are colorful local folk but they are not rubes. The lead characters are both from rural heritages and not the befuddled city slickers that got their comeuppance by the locals on an ongoing basis like the moronic show. This is a heartfelt fish out of water tale with surprising depth of character and sincere earnestness. And lots of self-deprecating humor.
Author Josh Kilmer-Purcell is a Type A advertising executive and best-selling memoir writer/contributor to the gay publication Out Magazine who has fallen under the spell of Oprah. His long-time partner, Dr. Brent Ridge, is a Type A physician who is working for Martha Stewart's empire where he is a frequent on-air contributor to her television program as well as her fussiest disciple. As Josh writes, "He was Martha Stewart Living. I was Living My Best Life."
As part of their traditions as a couple, once a year they leave Manhattan and drive upstate for apple-picking. On one of these excursions they wind up in Sharon Springs, NY where, by accident they find the Beekman Mansion, a 19th Century classic home that just happens to be for sale.
Quicker than you can say "You go girls" the guys decide to buy the house with the goal of ultimately giving up The Big Apple for the apple orchard on the property and living a more authentic life as their lives barrel towards the dreaded age of 40 ("It was the growing realization of the half of my life that was gone that was making me so determined to enjoy the half that was left of it.")
Then comes the 2008 and the economic meltdown that throws both their lives into hyper-drive.
"The Bucolic Plague" is the story of how they succeeded and failed both personally and professionally, as they made the transition from gay culture to agriculture, including ghosts, goats and goats' milk soap, a cow named Cow, zombie flies, heirloom vegetables, Wabi Sabi, marimbas and a boom or bust Internet website and a Cable TV show "The Fabulous Beekman Boys which I found accidently surfing (I mean, come on, does anyone watch Planet Green, or Green Planet, or whatever the hell it’s called?) and liked enough to watch the whole series and ultimately find this book.
A quick and enjoyable read with a big heart imbued by Kilmer-Purcell's well written acerbic, skewed, hilarious point of view, "The Bucolic Plague" is honest, unfussy and well worth rolling up your sleeves and harvesting its pleasures. ...more