After one of my favorite writers said that "the Ebola epidemic has apparently taken another large step toward fulfilling its pot...moreHalloween 2014 book #3
After one of my favorite writers said that "the Ebola epidemic has apparently taken another large step toward fulfilling its potential as the Black Death of the 21st century," I wanted to learn a bit more about the original Black Death and see if I can imagine experiencing something similar in this century. Others in Greer's comments section wanted to do likewise, and for us he recommended this book to which he is partial "because I read it in my misspent youth." And what would make better Halloween reading than a book about a disease which killed approximately 1 in 3 Europeans in less than five years?
The book did not disappoint. It was well-written and engaging, while also being thoroughly researched (as of the state of knowledge in 1969) and footnoted. While it bogged down a bit in its hyperfocus on the Black Death in England (no surprise, given the nationality of the author and the initial target audience), it regained speed and power in its description of a fictional English village and its imagined experience of living through the plague. (This fictional account of how things must have seemed was especially chilling in light of daily headlines about how cases of ebola continue to multiply exponentially, and how a handful have established themselves on this side of the Atlantic. Now, as with then, what started as an exotic rumor became far too swiftly anything but a rumor.)
The author concludes with thoughts about the role of the Black Death in catalyzing the change from the medieval to the modern world, and I could not help but wonder what, if any, changes the present potential pandemic will catalyze in our postmodern, globalized world.
And what an oddly colorful cover for such a bleak topic, no?(less)
At first I didn't know what to make of the comic or its namesake, but as the story developed I came to really dig both. (view spoiler)[What's not to l...moreAt first I didn't know what to make of the comic or its namesake, but as the story developed I came to really dig both. (view spoiler)[What's not to love about the surreal (yet not entirely implausible!) revelation of a psychedelicized Lovecraftian horror in the guise of Suessian anapestic tetrameter and gobbledygook? Why hasn't somebody else lampooned (if not implicated) Anton LaVey, Jim Jones, and David Blaine in the same conspiracy theory? Is this the first time anyone else has tied together California's biggest cash crop, Robin Hardy's 1973 masterpiece The Wicker Man, and the Black Rock Desert's annual Burning Man festival, in the singular event of Blazing Man, and, if so, why? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, why did I have to look up the two artists referenced in Howard Chaykin's back-cover blurb (Jack Davis and Wally Wood) to understand what it was about the artwork that seemed so familiar? And to think I call myself a comics fan. (hide spoiler)](less)
Two or three vignettes gave me chills, and a few of the stories are great examples of spooky folktales, but the annoying comment...moreHalloween 2014 book #1
Two or three vignettes gave me chills, and a few of the stories are great examples of spooky folktales, but the annoying commentary on the part of the authors seriously detracted from my enjoyment.
And I hate to be pedantic [wife: no he doesn't] but I have to pass along a distinction I learned recently. While the title is Graveyard, the sites discussed herein, including the Union Cemetery, are "cemeteries"; now practically synonyms, the two words used to have more specific meanings, with "graveyards" referring to hallowed burial grounds within church boundaries and "cemeteries" referring to their secular, municipal counterparts. Just wanted to pass that along. (less)
Clearly written and thoroughly illustrated reference for bringing a new dog, whether puppy or adult, into your home. We've referred to it twice this y...moreClearly written and thoroughly illustrated reference for bringing a new dog, whether puppy or adult, into your home. We've referred to it twice this year: first as we finally made the leap and adopted a dog only to find that she wasn't right for us, and second, after our daughter brought home a little puggle she found abandoned and tick-covered in Lake of the Ozarks State Park. It has proved invaluable for both dogs, and I am certain we will continue to refer to it in the coming years. (less)
This book is wonderful from so many different angles that it almost boggles my mind (like, wow, man):
—the author's Gen X sensibility and sense of hum...moreThis book is wonderful from so many different angles that it almost boggles my mind (like, wow, man):
—the author's Gen X sensibility and sense of humor;
—his lovely illustrations, charts, and diagrams;
—his choice of the "altered states" of consciousness to explore here, most of which the "normal" human being experiences on a regular basis, and without ingesting anything: parasomnias, hypnagogia, slow-wave sleep, "the Watch," REM dreams, lucid dreams, hypnopompia, trances, daydreams, SMR (sensorimotor rhythm), "the Zone," and the "Pure Conscious Event";
—his interdisciplinary literacy, reading in and interviewing with Buddhist monks, neuroscientists, psychologists, dream scientists, philosophers, anthropologists, neurologists, cognitive scientists, mystics, and consciousness researchers;
—his phenomenological approach, his attempts to get into the states of mind he discusses, whether through meditation retreats, exercise, keeping a dream journal, or wearing a lucid dreaming mask to bed; and
—his openness to uncertainty, to a sense of the mystical without indulging in New Age tropes, and to the possibility that mind might be an emergent property of matter via the brain.
Heck, the list of suggested reading alone is worth the price of admission! (less)
I really enjoyed this book. It has been my favorite of Rucker's transrealist novels thus far, that is for sure. Other reviewers have noted that Rucker...moreI really enjoyed this book. It has been my favorite of Rucker's transrealist novels thus far, that is for sure. Other reviewers have noted that Rucker and his sf is a light-weight PKD, but I would suggest that instead Rucker writes like someone with the security of a non-writing career, and so has the "luxury" of being able to do things like create characters, whereas Dick was writing for a living, and doing so at a pretty low payscale. He generated lots of ideas but not the best prose, in other words, whereas Rucker at his best is awesome ideas and a great story. Here, in a thinly veiled autobiography (and what another reviewer summed up as "Rucker does Catcher in the Rye"), Rucker explores the themes of adolescent alienation, only here the alienation is literal as well as figurative. (less)
If you can get past the stilted prose, the glacial pacing, the lack of a real plot, and the fact that the only protagonist in this novel is "Man," you...moreIf you can get past the stilted prose, the glacial pacing, the lack of a real plot, and the fact that the only protagonist in this novel is "Man," you will be rewarded by a work of imagination that the educated folks call sui generis, without peer. Stapledon's future history of intelligence in the solar system extends as far into the future as the Burgess shale retreats into our past. As a scholarly treatise of sorts, it is a slog, assuredly (the last thirty pages had me skimming) but it is also a pretty staggering creation that inspired works like Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future, Future Man, and even, in imaginative scope though definitely not in content, That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis. (less)
Uses almost no equations to explain the relationships between space, time, and mass as revealed by Einstein's theories of relativity, and even debunks...moreUses almost no equations to explain the relationships between space, time, and mass as revealed by Einstein's theories of relativity, and even debunks some of the analogies and images used by other Einstein popularizers (including Martin Gardner). If you can understand a speedometer and have a few sheets of paper available, Epstein will make you see relativity—this is a very cool book!(less)
Weird, wonderful, and at times over my head (when the equations came out, my eyes glazed over—and I survived two attempts at college calculus) explora...moreWeird, wonderful, and at times over my head (when the equations came out, my eyes glazed over—and I survived two attempts at college calculus) exploration of the universe as a single geometric object embedded in a higher-dimensional reality. Trippy stuff made trippier (and moderately accessible to smart laypersons) by sf head Rudy Rucker. The annotated bibliography alone is worth the admission, and it doesn't hurt to read this alongside the first novel that Rucker wrote, Spacetime Donuts.(less)
Space exploration had been dead for years. They'd sent a few squares out to the planets and back... and that was it. People lost interest in it. One of those astronaut types would come back from Mars... "How was it, Colonel?" "Well, Mr. Straight, it was unpleasant. We had forgotten to bring steak with us and the lighting was poor. I wasn't able to shave for two weeks. My principal feeling when I stepped onto that planet was one of gratitude to the Us government for making this possible. We saluted the flag there, although the dust storms made it difficult. On the whole I'd say that it was worthwhile sending me since I've gotten so much pussy ever since my return." "Thank you, Colonel." (159)
Like the poet describes himself, these poems are "grumpy, sarcastic, grim." They are also personal (often bordering on embarrassingly private) and emo...moreLike the poet describes himself, these poems are "grumpy, sarcastic, grim." They are also personal (often bordering on embarrassingly private) and emotionally honest (often bordering on whiny over-sharing). Several of these poems struck me because what read like free verse was really, on closer inspection, written in sonnet form—weird; wild seeming, yet utterly formal. (less)
Better than many of the other RPG tie-in novels, with a few inventive plot twists and an ending I wasn't expecting given the archetypal Ravenloft prot...moreBetter than many of the other RPG tie-in novels, with a few inventive plot twists and an ending I wasn't expecting given the archetypal Ravenloft protagonist trajectory. (less)