Stephen Leeds is a mentally disturbed (enhanced?) man. He has a lot of imaginary friends, but they are all very real to him. He is able to interact wi...moreStephen Leeds is a mentally disturbed (enhanced?) man. He has a lot of imaginary friends, but they are all very real to him. He is able to interact with them in almost every way, but he knows that no one else can even detect their presence. Each has unique special talents, knowledge, and experience which they use to help Stephen solve very difficult cases. The case that presents itself in this story is the theft of a special camera that can supposedly take pictures of the past.
The plot moves quickly, and the pacing and length are both just right for this kind of a story. It all unfolds to a satisfactory conclusion in only 84 pages, and, as it should, it leaves some important questions left unanswered that should leave readers pondering some ethical, philosophical, historical, scientific, and religious concepts.(less)
So, what is the background of old Jacob "dead as a doornail" Marley? How did events play out after his death that allowed him to visit Scrooge? What w...moreSo, what is the background of old Jacob "dead as a doornail" Marley? How did events play out after his death that allowed him to visit Scrooge? What was Marley's ghost doing while Scrooge was being taught by the three Christmas Spirits? What more of Scrooge's story was there to tell? And finally, was Marley in any way able to attain some form of redemption?
These and other questions are all answered in the book Jacob T. Marley. Entertaining to a degree and interesting in its ideas and speculations about the unknown and the things left unwritten in the original A Christmas Carol, it delivers a good message about the meaning and purpose of life and the hereafter, and how service to those in need who are all around us is our key to a happy and meaningful life.
Even though I found this book to be a little preachy and dogmatic at times, I enjoyed it as a good alternative reading for the Christmas season. But I can't help wondering how Mr. Dickens would have written this story, or weather he would be displeased greatly that somebody actually did.(less)
A not very interesting story about a girl, Franny, from a family of famous and intelligent child actors who seeks to escape the phoniness of the world...moreA not very interesting story about a girl, Franny, from a family of famous and intelligent child actors who seeks to escape the phoniness of the world around her. This desire leads her to explore and adopt a specific spiritual avenue and to abandon some of her earlier dreams of college and career, which in turn eventually leads her to experience some kind of a nervous breakdown. Her family attempts to help her, and her brother Zooey ends up giving her some interesting, reasonable, and persuasive advice about respecting everyone regardless of their level of intellect or degree of phoniness.
The story was okay, the moral and the message were commendable and worthy of thoughtful consideration, but the dialogue and the delivery were pretty annoying to me. The use of swear words was just over the top in my opinion, as well as the constant descriptions of smoking. The conversations were quite unrealistic. I just cannot imagine family members talking to each other in the way depicted in this book. Glad it was short.(less)
"Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion." -- Edward Abbey
Okay, I have never done this before on goodreads, but I am padding my rating on thi...more"Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion." -- Edward Abbey
Okay, I have never done this before on goodreads, but I am padding my rating on this one. No book of this type will ever really deserve 5 stars, and neither does this one. It is non-fiction, so it's not great literature. It's a scientific book, but it does not reveal or shed light on any great scientific discovery. Instead, it merely explains, in very simple language, exactly what is known about the phenomenon known as Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) that is currently in progress and is guaranteed to continue for many more decades, and probably centuries.
The fact that millions of Americans buy into the corporate-funded propaganda that tells them to ridicule and deny the findings of the science behind AGW is an extremely sad commentary on our nation. One half of our two viable political parties is bought and paid for by these corporations. This party (obviously the GOP) refuses to allow within its ranks any dissent whatsoever on the subject. Instead, its elected representatives are required to publicly and officially deny science simply because it doesn't tell them what they and those who fund their campaigns want to hear. Meanwhile, Fox News and a host of talking heads on radio and television (all of which are directly or indirectly funded by the same corporate sponsors) bombard the non-inquiring, non-reading, willfully ignorant public with what they want to hear: tales of conspiring scientists and politicians who are maliciously trying to deceive the world in a concerted attempt to impose some kind of sinister new order on the world or perhaps simply for the selfish purpose of acquiring increased or continued government funding for their pet project.
Here are just a few of the simple facts that a large percentage of the American public has been brainwashed into denying:
1) CO2 in the atmosphere has increased from 285 parts per million (PPM) 150 years ago to 400 PPM today.
2) CO2 in the atmosphere is consistently increasing at a rate of about 2 PPM per year.
3) The historic 285 PPM number has been extremely stable (varying only slightly) over the entire history of human civilization.
4) Human activity is directly responsible for this increase in atmospheric CO2, mostly by the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas).
5) CO2 is a greenhouse gas. It stores heat and causes increased temperatures. This has been known and understood for almost 150 years.
6) Humans and our civilization are completely dependent on nature.
7) The health and bounty of nature is directly affected by climate.
8) Changes in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations affect the world's climate.
9) Rapid changes in climate will adversely affect nature and our civilization which depends on it.
10) The next 50 years are already locked in. Even if all man-made CO2 emissions were stopped today, it would take 50 years before we would be back to the condition we are at now.
11) Scientific predictions on this subject have been remarkably and increasingly accurate, with most of the error being on the conservative, optimistic side (in other words, reality is probably worse than the scientists predict). However, unavoidably and expectedly, an extremely small number of mistakes have been made and a tiny number of predictions have been missed, and these have been fraudulently and deceitfully trumpeted as the norm by the numerous well-funded foes of science.
This book deserves more attention and acclaim for the simple fact that the world would change dramatically if everyone would read it. It seems to me like it would be the best book out there for the Deniers to read. But, alas, as I have bemoaned in the past, few, if any, of them will ever read such a book. They will continue to satisfy their "itching ears" by listening to Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and the other corporate shills who tell them what they want to hear: that we can continue to burn fossil fuels indefinitely without negative consequences as long as the "liberals" will just get out of their way. (less)
Conor is a young boy who has to deal with all the many issues that all stem from his mom's battle with cancer. A nearby yew tree transforms itself int...moreConor is a young boy who has to deal with all the many issues that all stem from his mom's battle with cancer. A nearby yew tree transforms itself into a monster. The monster visits Conor and tells him stories with confusing and ambiguous meanings, where the heroes often turn out to be the villains and vice-versa. Conor struggles to understand what purpose the monster's visits and stories could possibly serve. A very good book that deals with subjects (serious illness and death) that tend to be ignored or glossed over too frequently. (less)
Ancient sunlight refers to fossil fuels - coal, oil, and natural gas. These fuels are stores of sunlight that fell upon the earth hundreds of millions...moreAncient sunlight refers to fossil fuels - coal, oil, and natural gas. These fuels are stores of sunlight that fell upon the earth hundreds of millions of years ago over a time period that itself lasted tens or hundreds of millions of years. Beginning only about 150 years ago humans began extracting and burning these fuels at increasingly obscene rates so that we now are threatened with their imminent exhaustion within mere years or at best decades.
The main focus of this book, however, was not (as I had expected) the consequences of rapid depletion of non-renewable natural resources and how to avoid or alleviate them. Instead, the author goes to great lengths to explain the superiority of primitive sustainable cultures over our modern, exploitive, non-sustainable culture.
In the last third of the book he describes what we can do about the upcoming disaster as the fuel that feeds our culture and makes our huge world population possible becomes increasingly more scarce and more expensive. His solution is to simply learn about primitive cultures, individually try to emulate them as much as possible, and spread the word to others. At first I thought this was ridiculous -- that's no solution at all. The world could barely support a tenth of our population under those conditions. I also recognized that much of what the author said was not even correct. For example, his continual praise of primitive culture's harmony with nature contradicts much of what we know about them. Today we are quite certain that these primitive people hunted many large, slow-moving mammals (e.g. the wooly mammoth) to extinction in a relatively short period of time.
Eventually, I realized, however, that the main premise of his argument is actually correct. Technology is not going to save us. There is not going to be a magic market-driven solution to get us out of the huge hole we have dug ourselves into. At some point in the near future our culture of materialism and consumerism is going to decline and come to an end. Thus, there is no solution to save our culture and our civilization. The only solution is an individual solution -- a return to the kind of lifestyle that sustainably supported all of our ancestors for thousands of generations.
I enjoyed this book because of its topic, which has always been fascinating to me. It is very similar to Jerry Mander's In the Absence of the Sacred which is probably my favorite on the subject. Both of these books contrast the failure of modern culture and technology with the proven endurance and success of primitive cultures.(less)
Q: How did the Russian author commit suicide? A: He jumped off of one of his novels.
Russian author Leo Tolstoy is deservedly considered one of the worl...moreQ: How did the Russian author commit suicide? A: He jumped off of one of his novels.
Russian author Leo Tolstoy is deservedly considered one of the world's greatest writers. This collection of eleven of his short stories would be a great introduction to Tolstoy's amazing talent for those who might be put off or intimidated by his very lengthy but more famous works like Anna Karenina and War and Peace. Here is a short summary of all eleven stories. Obviously, spoilers follow:
The Prisoner of the Caucasus (4 stars)
A Russian officer is captured and held for ransom in a Tartar village. Knowing that no ransom will be forthcoming he escapes with his fat co-prisoner. They are re-captured after several hours and many miles, in large part due to his companion's physical failings and ineptitude. They are again imprisoned in the village, but this time they are kept shackled in a miserable hole in the ground. A young girl who has grown fond of the officer eventually helps him escape. This time his companion is too weak and ill to go along, and so this second escape attempt is successful – but just barely.
The Diary of a Madman (4 stars)
A man writes about his experiences with his mental illness. He suffers from some kind of anxiety disorder which seems to affect him only infrequently, most often when he finds himself in unfamilar lodgings. He also has a deep sense of empathy for the needy and unfortunate which sometimes brings scorn upon him when he refuses to take advantage of such people in order to increase his own standing. He fears death, but fears the futility and hopelessness of life even more, and he questions the existence of God despite his earnest attempts to exercise his faith. To me, only the anxiety syndrome seems anything like a mental illness. In fact, at the beginning of the story the man explains that the experts' diagnosis of his condition is inconclusive. His other fears, concerns, sympathies, and doubts all seem very normal – I know I feel the same way to some degree in all of these regards. Maybe Tolstoy is insinuating that it is society itself that is mentally ill -- that people who don't conform are actually normal and only seem mentally ill in a society that is itself mentally ill. This 12-page story was left unfinished at Tolstoy's death despite his having worked on it for 19 years.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich (4 stars)
Ivan Ilyich, a lawyer of some note, becomes ill with some form of terminal illness (cancer?) which presents itself as persistent and increasing pain in his abdomen and a disagreeable taste in his mouth. He loses weight and becomes increasingly unhealthy in appearance. He realizes that he is dying, as do others around him, yet no one admits it, much less openly talks about it. Death is the proverbial elephant in the room that everyone notices but no one wants to talk about. Ivan Ilyich is very distraught that he is dying. He suffers terribly – physically, mentally, and emotionally. He has experienced the death of others often in his life. In fact, several of his own children died, apparently without affecting him in the way or to the degree that we would think a loving father should be affected. Yet he is completely unprepared, surprised, and angry that death is coming for him. He questions the religious teachings concerning death and the hereafter, and he worries that his life was not what it should have been -- that maybe his attention to business and material possessions should not have been so important to him all his life. After intense suffering, he dies. His colleagues pay their respects. His family mourns and deals with the necessary arrangements. Then life continues.
The Kreutzer Sonata (3 stars)
A man on a train spends 70 pages telling another passenger the story of how he came to murder his wife. His story details how he enjoys women, but feels it is impossible to stay “in love” with one woman for a lifetime. His marriage started out fine, but soon all the troubles and concerns that always accompany marriages began to occur. He and his wife fought against each other in every way. Eventually, suspicions of infidelity arose, and the man is filled with rage and jealousy. Upon returning to his house unexpectedly late one night, he discovered the suspected adulterer there with his wife practicing music. In his rage, the man stabbed his wife to death. He spent nearly a year in prison awaiting trial, before being acquitted for family honor or some such absurdity.
The Devil (4 stars)
A young man (Evgeny) inherits his father's manor along with all its debts, of which there are many. He works hard to keep the business afloat, but his horniness leads him to frequently consort with a young married peasant woman whose husband is nearly always away. He eventually finds a truly devoted and respectable young woman to marry, and he remains very faithful to her. But the peasant girl keeps showing up in her day-to-day activities, and the young man finds it impossible to keep her out of his mind. She obviously would like to resume her past relationship with the young man, but he desperately want to be faithful despite feeling tempted far beyond his ability to resist. He comes to the conclusion that the girl must be the Devil, and that the only way the situation can ever be resolved is for either him or his wife or the peasant girl to die. Tolstoy provided two endings for this story. Both of them are extremely tragic, and both end on this note: “And indeed, if Evgeny was mentally ill when he committed his crime, then all people are just as mentally ill, and the most mentally ill are undoubtedly those who see signs of madness in others that they do not see in themselves.”
Master and Man (4 stars)
A wealthy, money-hungry landowner embarks on a winter journey with his hired hand to close a deal in a nearby town. They travel in a sleigh pulled by a trusty horse. The snow is deep and the road is difficult to follow. A snow storm makes things even worse and covers their tracks. They lose their way and end up in a different village than they planned on, but they set off again for their original destination only to go in a circle back to the same village. A kind-hearted villager offers them lodging for the night, but the man, in his desire to beat his competition to a great deal, refuses, and they continue on once again only to get hopelessly lost in the darkness and blowing snow. They realize they will have to wait out the night and likely perish, but the man determines to save himself and rides off on the horse, abandoning his companion. The weary horse simply returns to the sleigh and the freezing hired hand. The man then recognizes that he can save his companion with his own warmth. He lays on him and covers him with his fur coat. The man and the horse freeze to death, but the hired hand is saved. A good story which contrasts two different perspectives on one's looming death: the poor worker did not fear it, but the rich man did.
Father Sergius (4.5 stars)
A dashing, intelligent, and up-and-coming young officer rises in fame and social stature. Not having been born into the upper classes, he seeks to attain status by becoming engaged to a beautiful, upper-class young woman. But when she reveals to him that she had previously been the mistress to the Tsar himself, he becomes disgusted, and in his anguish he enters a monastery. His story spreads far and wide. Visitors flock to him despite his sincere attempts to remain a recluse. One visiting woman was determined to seduce him, but in his determination to prevent her from invoking sinful thoughts in his mind he chops off his finger with an axe – much to the horror of the woman, who thereafter became a nun. His fame increases when he develops a reputation for being a healer of the sick. In his later years, while blessing a young woman, he succumbs to sexual temptation. Tormented with guilt, he leaves the monastery incognito, visits his cousin whom he had cruelly teased in his childhood, and begs forgiveness from her.
After the Ball (3 stars)
An elderly man describes an experience of lost love from his youth. He becomes enchanted and smitten by a beautiful young woman at a dance. The feeling is obviously reciprocated. Near the end of the dance, the young man meets the young woman's father, a military officer, who dances tenderly with his daughter. Later that night, unable to sleep because of the romantic excitement he feels, he goes for a walk. He encounters a military exercise in progress in which a captured deserter is being forced to run (actually led through) a gauntlet. The young man sees that the officer in charge is his beloved's father, who on one occasion savagely assaults one of the soldiers in the gauntlet for striking too softly. Witnessing such a horrific spectacle doomed the relationship he was previously so excited about.
The Forged Coupon (3.5 stars)
A desperate young man forges the value of a bank note to gain a mere ten roubles. The forged note is then knowingly passed on to a few others. The effects and side-effects and after-effects of this dishonesty ripples around and through several people and communities, being the cause or possibly just a catalyst for changes in the behavior and attitudes of several people – often for the worse, but occasionally for the better, and sometimes both, one after the other. The interweaving of people and events is complicated and intricate, and the unfamiliar Russian names made keeping track of everyone more difficult than I was prepared for.
Alyosha the Pot (4 stars)
A rather simple-minded, but very diligent and optimistic boy is put into servitude to a rich merchant by his father. Because he consistently does his errands well and quickly, he is given ever more work to do. He bears all this with a simple and bright outlook. When he and the manor's cooking girl fall for each other his father forbids their marrying and even their romance. Being the loyal and dutiful son that he is, he complies. After experiencing a serious accident, he eventually succumbs to his injuries. Throughout his agonies he remains cheerful, convinced that the next world will be just as good as this one.
Hadji Murat (4 stars)
A mountaineer rebel leader (Hadji Murat) who has fought against the Russians for years decides to join forces with the Russians in order to fight against the supreme rebel leader. His only request of the Russians is that they bargain with the rebels in the trade of prisoners for his family members. The Russian bureaucracy balks at this. Eventually, in despair, Hadji Murat flees the Russians in a hopeless attempt to save his family or die trying. He and his few loyal aides are tracked down, and after a bloody last stand, they are all killed. (less)
I Am David tells the fictional story of one of these children. The story is told in the third person but strictly through David's eyes. Having lived his entire 12-year life in the concentration camp he is ignorant of many things normal children take for granted -- even the concepts of smiling and playing are foreign to him. He is exceptionally intelligent however, and he has been tutored by a loving French inmate named Johannes, so that when David escapes he has some of the knowledge and skills necessary to make his way to his destination: Denmark.
Some plot holes and unbelievable coincidences occur in this book that bothered me, along with the fact that the history of the Soviet Gulag was left completely unexplained. I also felt that the author tried too hard to express or explain David's perspective. Maybe it is a strategy that works well for younger people (whom this book is intended for), but for me it became a little annoying (less)