Pure candy with so many laughs--my wife kept getting annoyed at my chuckles as she was trying to sleep or focus on her own book. Also, fun to get to k...morePure candy with so many laughs--my wife kept getting annoyed at my chuckles as she was trying to sleep or focus on her own book. Also, fun to get to know a bit about Gaffigan and the two-bedroom apartment he shares with his wife and FIVE kids. (less)
It worked for me. A timely read as I'm trying to establish a solid meditation practice. What I most liked was the integration of deep philosophical an...moreIt worked for me. A timely read as I'm trying to establish a solid meditation practice. What I most liked was the integration of deep philosophical and psychological insights with very pragmatic tidbits (focus on the sensation of air coming in your nose, do not force distractions out of your mind etc). At times it sounds a little preachy and almost religious in the western sense but I think there may be some cultural difference there; also, I just skimmed those parts. I will say the afterword was a wash for me as it got into Buddhism, the different traditions etc. which do not really concern me. I'm interested in what works to help me meditation, which this book did well, but I have no interest in which tradition is more true or closer to what was actually practiced by the Buddha. (less)
What a treat! as my great grandmother used to say. The writing is spot on throughout and on the ride you get all kinds of history and wacky facts abou...moreWhat a treat! as my great grandmother used to say. The writing is spot on throughout and on the ride you get all kinds of history and wacky facts about candy bars.
Here is an example, "The peanut crunch was now ready to be covered in chocolate, a process known as enrobing. Enrobing is the money shot of candy production, a sight so sensual as to seem pornographic. The conveyor belt carried the naked Clarks forward, into a curtain of chocolate...It is this illusion of liquidity that I have always found so seductive."
A freakishily good and surprisingly honest memoir of chocolate. (less)
I completely and totally devoured this memoir and its disquisition on death and belief, but I'm NOT recommending that any one read it...especially if...moreI completely and totally devoured this memoir and its disquisition on death and belief, but I'm NOT recommending that any one read it...especially if you are under 40, or maybe 50. Barnes is unrelenting in his examination of death, boring deeper and deeper into the rabbit's hole until there is scarcely much hope or light. Of course that is, as Barnes insists, our lot in life like it or not: we are all dying--you, me, children, everyone.
Barnes mixes his conversations about death and religion with his philosopher brother (even more so a rationalist) with the words of many a famous writer (Flaubert, Maugham, Montaigne, Wittgenstein, and a ton from Jules Renard whom I'd never heard of). While Barnes' look at belief and death is unflinching, his tone is much softer than say a Hitchens or Dawkins as witnessed in the first line, "I don't believe in God, but I miss Him." This tone resonates with me eschewing the pompous-I-was-never-a-stupid-believer screed of some new atheists, while never giving an inch of comfort or reverence to the sacred: "religion lasted" Barnes insists, "because it is a beautiful lie."
For me Barnes offers the only truth and hope available: to gaze on the reality of our surprising and puny time here as humans and proclaim I choose life til death do us part. And he gives perspective, "Why is death happening to me?" The theologian John Bowker replied, "Because the universe is happening to you." Or: "Time is eternity's way of showing us mercy." Or, pulling even further back pushing mightily against all ethnocentrism, to comment on the Big Death: "It will not be humans who watch the sun's demise, 6bn years from now."
Some, probably many, will see Barnes' "obsession" with death morose and oddly too much. But not me for my mind already goes there; therefore, I find comfort in this brave soldier committing to paper the thoughts which unsettle me on a sleepless night when I fully sense my mortality and realize my children are none the safer for my worries.
This book sucked me in with its overall question, "How is there something rather than nothing?" (note his shift from "why" in the title to "how" which...moreThis book sucked me in with its overall question, "How is there something rather than nothing?" (note his shift from "why" in the title to "how" which what he is really interested in). I was also pleased with Krauss' plea to the religious, "don't discount the remarkable adventure that is modern science because it doesn't console you," a central tenet reiterated throughout, including his epigraph by the oft-quoted Jacob Bronowski, "dream or nightmare, we have to live our experience as it is, and we have to live it awake." Probably a rhetoric that won't work for the conservative, but I still appreciate the move in a scientific book to directly address and engage those who would discount his entire premise.
The middle section lost me at times as Krauss establishes several key ideas (expanding inflationary universe, cosmological constant, multiverse, a flat universe, dark matter, the uncertainty principle, virtual particles, asymmetry between matter and anti-matter) as back drop for his overall argument that there is possibly a way to explain *how* there is something rather than nothing. Many ideas here that I didn't really ever quite fully understand.
Still, I did grasp onto several concepts--better said implications--which amaze and humble:
1) Krauss admits there may not be a theory of everything, but instead physics may actually *only* be an environmental science, explaining one subset of possible rules in one particular type of universe;
2) quantum fluctuations may imply that nothing is unstable and that nothing always produces something if for only an instant--therefore, that there is something is simply an ephemeral eventuality which had to happen;
3) AND, most amazing and potentially frightening, that in contrast to our idea that "something" will persist it is "far more likely, based on everything we know about the universe...that the future, perhaps the infinite future, is one in which nothingness will once again reign....A universe dominated by the energy of empty space is the worst of all universes for the future of life."
From this perspective we may be living during an infinitesimally small sliver of time in which there is anyone to observe the something going on in the universe. (less)
Amazing, brilliant, beautiful, almost as important for me personally as his *Noonday Demon: an atlas on depression*. A great book for parents of child...moreAmazing, brilliant, beautiful, almost as important for me personally as his *Noonday Demon: an atlas on depression*. A great book for parents of children, children of any size, shape, or type. I've been gnawing away at this book since December. Have already used sections in my Children's lit and Diversity in American lit courses. Solomon is genius, the deep burrowing, interview 300 families yet be able to maintain a sense of theme throughout type of genius.
His overarching thesis is distilled nicely in this quote which, btw, is the opening paragraph of the book:
"There is no such thing as reproduction. When two people decide to have a baby, they engage in an act of production, and the widespread use of the word reproduction for this activity, with its implication that two people are but braiding themselves together, is at best a euphemism to comfort prospective parents before they get in over their heads . . . Parenthood abruptly catapults us into a permanent relationship with a stranger, and the more alien the stranger, the stronger the whiff of negativity. We depend on the guarantee in our children's faces that we will not die. Children whose defining quality annihilates that fantasy of immortality are a particular insult; we must love them for themselves, and not for the best of ourselves in them, and that is a great deal harder to do. Loving our own children is an exercise for the imagination."
Hence, he argues more broadly that diversity is what unites us.
He then plays out this thesis through specific groupings of children--downs syndrome, autism, transgender, prodigies etc. The engaging presentation of the information and case studies is enough to make this a great read. On top of that we get this overall perspective/thesis about our difficult yet imaginative relationship with our children which makes the book amazing and beautiful.
My one suggestion: read the first intro chapter and then let yourself wander through the other chapters reading 5 or 6 pages on autism then jumping to the first 5 or 6 pages on prodigies. Each chapter can be a bit overwhelming. I also allowed myself to skip chapters I had less interest in. Lastly, after jumping around a bit, I'd read the last chapter, "Father," which ties together, of course, the themes about parenting. It's a conclusion you don't want to miss.(less)
A compelling read about a president I knew nothing about--what an amazing man and what a horrible loss. So so difficult to read the last 1/3 of the bo...moreA compelling read about a president I knew nothing about--what an amazing man and what a horrible loss. So so difficult to read the last 1/3 of the book as I was seething at the ironically named doctor, Bliss, who unintentionally killed Garfield. What an incredibly prideful idiot. (less)
A book about a father, about Flynn's relationship with his father, even though his father is rarely present in the story, certainly never fully presen...moreA book about a father, about Flynn's relationship with his father, even though his father is rarely present in the story, certainly never fully present. Flynn is experimental, edgy, philosophical, but still maintains a narrative arc, a comprehensible story. I like this balance. The title itself announces his edginess, his unwillingness to simply write the story down Oprah style (and there is a big payout when the reader learns the origins of the title). The chapter called "Same again" is not narrative yet is central to the narrative. It is a poetyic list of drinking terms which goes on for four page "The usual I say. Blood of Christ I say. Essence. Spirit. Medicine. A hint. A taste. A bump. A snort..." The list reads both as a meditation and confession of the devastating impact of hard drinking on his father and on the author himself.
And: I'm predestined to engage and enjoy the strained father-son relationship story, most certainly because I have as yet to figure out my relationship with my own father. He both abhors and loves is homeless, crazy father. Can't stay far enough away but can't stay completely away and is haunted by him at every turn, especially when Nick starts to work in a homeless shelter. At one point his father tells him, "You are me." Paradoxically, he can neither fully find nor completely escape his father; maybe he can't fully escape him *because* he can't actually find him. And with supreme irony NICK Flynn writes an actual book about his father to fulfill? supplant? compete? render? the mystical, non-existent book his father, Jonathon, has "written" and talked about his entire life.
A favorite quotes comes in the the "aftermath," certainly non-standard Q and A at the end, where he answers the question "Was writing the book cathartic for you?":
"Whatever happens clings to us like barnacles on the hull of a ship, slowing us slightly, both uglifying and giving us texture."
I'm with him here: this is ALL that's left when we burrow deeply into the mess we call life. (less)
Shirky opens up an intellectual space for his book with several crucial, almost obvious, yet often overlooked claims:
1. the current generation of youn...moreShirky opens up an intellectual space for his book with several crucial, almost obvious, yet often overlooked claims:
1. the current generation of young people are the first generation watching *less* TV than the previous generation 2. this extra time or cognitive surplus is often dedicated to production rather than pure consumption 3. participatory culture is a call back to the traditional past
From this crafted space he soundly argues that we should stop listening to those people lamenting the rise of the amateur--look at all the crap on Youtube, all the stupid indulgent writing on blogs, the quippy ill-formed sentences on FB and Twitter. And on this point I agree. Historically we have always been nervous about any new technology which allows mere commoners, and especially illiterate youth, to produce content.
Let the crap flood the bandwidth because the young producers are learning about design (see Ze Frank's "I know me some ugly myspace" contest/video commentary) and many other frameworks historically cordoned off for official producers of media content. This is a no-brainer for good teachers--for people to learn they must be given opportunities to practice, fail, make crap. Secondly, let it flow because one out of 100,000 (or whatever) of these productions and social connectors will be amazing, a game-changer. He sites many examples such as Ushahidi (used to track ethnic violence in Kenya) or the chromosome project and many more. My oldest son told me about Ouya, a video game platform, which allows users to create their own video games starting with the open source platform. Withing a few days my son went from a video game consumer to a producer.
To me his most important argument is that when we focus on technology we focus too much on the amazing technology itself rather than how these new technologies connect and create community. Shirkey convincingly argues that if you allow for intrinsic motivation, which he defines as an environment that allows for and promotes autonomy and competency, they will come--thousands upon thousands of users willing to dedicate time to creating and building the community.
Overall Shirkey has a more optimistic view of all this--while I agree with his overall analysis, the cynic in me says that most, if not all of these self-generating communities, will be co-opted by capitalism, purchased, converted to hierarchies and rule-based organizations. I hope I'm wrong. But I absolutely disagree with Shirkey's crystal clear distinction between consumption and production.
At one point he says that all TV watching is less creative and generous than any sort of blogging because bloggers, of course, produce something and TV watchers simply absorb. He seems to discount the many theoretical models which have illustrated active consumption such as Reader Response Theory and many others coming out of Cultural Studies.
While some TV watching may be mindless so is some blogging; watching TV, for example, can be active and engaging without an auxiliary website for fans to argue and produce their own episodes. A good old family discussion, well-placed pause to discuss a show, and the move to connect the current show to a book on the shelf demonstrate as much intrinsic motivation, autonomy and competency as any new fangled social media group. Surely it is small but these discussions can spread like viruses through simpler means--a conversation at work or school the next day. So, yes, Shirkey offers an important push back to the critiques of amateur online culture, but there's no need to overstate or discount slower old-school means of engaging the media. (less)
Rolston defines environmentalism much more broadly than we ever see in the media and more broadly than most environmentalists themselves. He insists w...moreRolston defines environmentalism much more broadly than we ever see in the media and more broadly than most environmentalists themselves. He insists we should conserve natural value in the broadest possible sense--for example he says biological conservation began 3.5 billion years ago.
He ends the book on a moving passage:
"Feel the ground under your feet, hear the water...feel the wind...Feel your biology within and think back across the millennia. Know that you are standing in the midst of planetary circulations that are far more real, far more vital, and almost everlasting compared with the national citizenship that you hold...and we all owe that Earth system far more than we owe obedience to the civic laws, the national history, or even the heritage of our cultural system."
Now that's a big idea.
I have a clear memory of driving to Salt Lake with my English prof father-in-law who is now physically ill and mentally unstable in order to hear Ralston speak at SLCC where I work. Suddenly I like the idea of re-imagining that day now in the context of what Ralston says about our planetary circulations. For me imaging my ailing father-in-law as part of a larger biological heritage is one of the few ways to bring peace, to find meaning in his suffering and the ultimate unfairness in his decline. (less)
I used Eliade's ideas to analyze the LDS notion of the historical Salt Lake Temple when working as a researcher for what was then the Center for Docum...moreI used Eliade's ideas to analyze the LDS notion of the historical Salt Lake Temple when working as a researcher for what was then the Center for Documentary Arts. The idea that sticks is the temple as imago mundi--the sanctuary produces the essence of the universe. In this sense objects only become real as they replicate archetypal truths. (less)