Lots of people hate this book because it takes jabs at stereotypical hipsters and pretentious music or book lovers (themselves) with wit that they wis...moreLots of people hate this book because it takes jabs at stereotypical hipsters and pretentious music or book lovers (themselves) with wit that they wish they possessed. I think. Lots of people think Chuck Klosterman is the annoying nerd at the party who corners you and beats you to death with the cultural significance of children’s breakfast cereal. Well I love nerds, and Klosterman’s observations are interesting, intelligent and amusing. Saturday night I got cornered by a fire alarm tester who was convinced he was going to purgurtory for “very very bad things” he has done but wouldn’t describe in detail and a guy who was convinced that due to the fact I said “I am not going to sleep with you” meant “I want to sleep with you.” Corner me away, Chuck. I am coo-coo for coco puffs! I literally laughed out loud during parts of this book. Read it. Do not take it too seriously, Chuck Klosterman does not (even though many people insist he does.) It is just plain enjoyable. (less)
I read an except awhile back about Einstein and his faith, and I immediately wanted to read the whole thing. But when I saw the book in the bookstore,...moreI read an except awhile back about Einstein and his faith, and I immediately wanted to read the whole thing. But when I saw the book in the bookstore, I thought there was no way I wanted to invest myself in a 700 page book. But I finally gave it a chance and I'm so glad I did. This book does a great job weaving every aspect of Einstein's life into a coherent portrait of a very complicated person with a complicated story. It discusses the war, Einstein's personal life and family, his Judaism and concept of God, pacifism, the Atomic Bomb, and his complicated theories in a very understandable way. I sort of fell in love with Einstein a little bit -- his scientific intelligence impresses me as it DUH always has, but I am also impressed by his intelligence in other areas... math, foreign policy, religion, etc. I was also UNimpressed and surprised to read about the tumultuous and sometimes maddening relationship he had with his first wife and sons. If you're thinking about reading this, give it a chance. If you start to dislike it you can put it down, but I bet you won't. (less)
I liked this book a lot more before I learned the author is the speech writer for Sarah Palin. I have a hard time believing that Scully is not passion...moreI liked this book a lot more before I learned the author is the speech writer for Sarah Palin. I have a hard time believing that Scully is not passionate about vegetarianism. The book is incredibly dramatic. You can tell he is a speech writer -- he writes as if he is before 100,000 people trying to enliven them for battle or something. I am a passionate vegetarian, and there were times that even I was like, okay Matthew Scully enough enough enough! So where is his inauthenticity? How can he believe all of this and support a woman who is cool with aerial shooting and hunting and doesn't give a shit about polar bears?
Whatever. I liked the book, and I didn't feel overwhelmed by his conservative/religious bias, although I disagreed with him about some moral issues. Like, it was interesting to see where he draws the line on killing animals and then abortion and stem-cell research. Most vegetarians are liberal and are cool with stem-cell research and women's rights. Most. Matthew Scully breaks that mold. So I guess it makes you realize how fuzzy all the lines really are.
Scully makes a lot of valid points and says them better than I ever have. I liked this part:
He was saying people are always like (paraphrasing: "humans have thought and conscience so we obviously are better than animals, we have dominion over them, so we can eat them because they don't and they're stupid and they have no idea what's going on." They are? They don't? Fine, then: (now I'll start quoting Scully...)
"When people say that they like their veal or hot dogs just too much to ever give them up, and yeah it's sad about the farms but that's just the way it is, reason hears in that the voice of gluttony. What makes a human being human is precisely the ability to understand that the suffering of an animal is more important than the taste of a treat." (303)
"Let's just call things what they are. When a man's love of finery clouds his moral judgment, that is vanity. When he lets a demanding palate make his moral choices, that is gluttony. When he ascribes the divine will to his own whims, that is pride. And when he gets angry at being reminded of animal suffering that his own daily choices might help avoid, that is moral cowardice." (121)
See what I mean about the dramatic stuff?
Anyway, read this book, if only to be confused about how someone could do such a brilliant job encapsulating such a complicated issue so beautifully and simply, and yet churn out the words for a woman who says things like "Talibani" and "Gee Willikers*".
*I have never heard her say "Gee Willikers, but I bet she does." (less)
This book has changed me. I just realized I can't judge any one or any situation, after hearing the stories of the residents of the Robert Taylor proj...moreThis book has changed me. I just realized I can't judge any one or any situation, after hearing the stories of the residents of the Robert Taylor projects in Chicago. It got me thinking about gangs and drugs and how awful they are -- but how they are absolutely necessary, encompassing, and unavoidable they are for poor people in these situations. Sometimes I thought Venkatesh was a bit over dramatic (I'm actually not sure I bought the whole back story to the "gang leader for a day" part) but he describes these gang members in such a personable way that I sort of fell in love with them all. Like, I wonder where they are now. And I wonder if their lives are any better now. And I get very very sad thinking about how this kind of life is normal for so many people. But then, I don't think the Black Knights want me to be sad for them. I don't think the victims of the Black Knights want me to be sad for them. I think they'd just like a little understanding, which I guess is what Venkatesh is trying to do with this book. It made me sort of realize that we are all pretty much the same. The only reason I'm not a crack addicted hustler is because of where I grew up and who I grew up with. I'm pretty lucky. This sounds so sappy! But I loved this book. Pick it up.(less)
One of the most fascinating things about Jesus, if you ask me, isn't how he could have walked on water or was born of a virgin. Whether I believe that...moreOne of the most fascinating things about Jesus, if you ask me, isn't how he could have walked on water or was born of a virgin. Whether I believe that those thing happened or not is a different story. What is amazing (and completely proven) is that thousands of years ago Jesus was able to attract the attention of Jews and convince them that he was their savior -- and today, thousands of years later, that legend has survived. The question is, what exactly did Jesus do to make such an impact? The only answer that I can come up with is that, whatever it was, he must have been pretty fan-freaking-tastic. That's why I don't give a shit if he preformed miracles or not; I don't need them. I am convinced that Jesus was extraordinary based on his legend.
I asked myself the same question when reading about Charles Mason in Helter Skelter. Mason wasn't educated or famous; in fact, his life sucked from the very beginning, he had no guidance, and spent about 90% of his life in jail or in orphanages, foster homes, etc. But his skills in identifying with weak people (and then perfectly capitalizing on their weaknesses) allowed him to attract the following of hundreds of people with loyalty so strong they would murder for him without hesitation. Manson referred to himself as "MAN SON" and Jesus Christ, and it's impossible to ignore how much the two had in common.
Both were revolutionaries warning of change and an imminent Armageddon. Both carried incredibly unpopular messages that were very popular with a select few -- and in both cases some of the most devout followers were females. Both believed that all was one. Both said the only thing important is love. (Manson was quoted in Rolling Stone saying, "There has been no true love since the pharaohs. Except for J.C. He knew what love meant.") Both were put on trial. People have killed for both of them. I could keep going.
Similar results, as well: a hard-core following of people who are willing to kill and be murdered for their leader, and dedicate their lives to carry out their leader's message.
The biggest thing they didn't have in common is that they are actually TOTAL OPPOSITES. Manson was Christ-like in his attempt to be the Anti-Christ. Manson gained followers using sex, drugs, isolation, music, and his charismatic personality. Jesus carried only a powerful message. (And perhaps miracles. But if you don't believe in his miracles, the fact that people followed him so devoutly is even more notable.)
I think in order to gain control like Christ, Charles Manson and Hitler had, the stars really have to align. The environment has to be ripe for change. You have to be able to coerce enough weak people that you can save them. The Apocalypse is a great word to throw around. I'm trying to think... is Osama Bin Ladin like this? Or is it totally different?
Anyway, Helter Skelter is an UNBELIEVABLE story told in a captivating way. I had a nightmare the first night after reading it and I have been super-suspicious of my new neighbors, who moved in the same day. I have spent an embarrassing amount of time spying on them through the peep-hole. This is a great story for any interested in law, human nature, religion, murder, The Beatles, Hollywood, and down right fucked-up-ed-ness. That all is there. Along with creeeEEEeeeepy pictures.
Something that also carried me through the book: Charles Manson was incredibly hot. That man had some lustrous locks! (less)
Do NOT read this book without following it up with Janet Malcolm's The Journalist And The Murderer -- it is a necessary companion. The Journalist and...moreDo NOT read this book without following it up with Janet Malcolm's The Journalist And The Murderer -- it is a necessary companion. The Journalist and the Murderer This is a powerful, complete portrait of a total maniac and his unbelievable story. You'll probably finish frustrated, like I did, wanting to know the truth. (less)
This story is pretty unbelievable, so maybe the writing doesn't have to be great. am I the only one who gets bothered by Eggers' writing? I like what...moreThis story is pretty unbelievable, so maybe the writing doesn't have to be great. am I the only one who gets bothered by Eggers' writing? I like what he does and what he is involved with, but his words are too... precious. Overly dramatic? Not that interesting? But here, the characters are well developed and the plot unfolds well. And books about Katrina READ. LIKE. FICTION. I admire this kind of journalism and writing though, capturing a factual story in an almost mythical way.(less)
When my mom became a vegetarian in the early 90s, she read Diet For A Small Planet. I remember thinking, “wah wah wah my mom is such a boring loser mo...moreWhen my mom became a vegetarian in the early 90s, she read Diet For A Small Planet. I remember thinking, “wah wah wah my mom is such a boring loser moron head.” I pitied her for picking up a book with the words “diet” and “small planet” on it—and a pile of grain, to top it all off. This was around the time that I hid all the “Now Serving Veggie Burgers!” pamphlets from our favorite diner, because I didn’t want that nasty crap on my table. But Mom was onto something. Although it was written in 1991, Lappe’s book is forward thinking about the social and personal importance of eating simply, healthfully, and meatlessly. I lost my paper copy years ago when it fell to pieces, and I’m bummed, because there was a killer recipe for Mulligatawny stew inside. (Oh, look! I found it. I love the internet.) And come to think of it, the idea of eating for a small planet is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? God I was such a loser moron head when I was a kid.(less)
**spoiler alert** I know a lot of people struggled with the beginning of this book, but I absolutely loved it. It was like a really cool fairy tale. I...more**spoiler alert** I know a lot of people struggled with the beginning of this book, but I absolutely loved it. It was like a really cool fairy tale. I struggled with the end. (Umm, spoiler alert?) When Cal runs away, I really didn't care. Cal's character changed so much after the runaway, that it was not believable to me. I kept thinking "Callie would not do that." And after the grandmother retreated to her bedroom for three years, I constantly wondering "what is she up to? did she die and I didn't notice?" And I was NOT okay with the explanation at the end, as to why she disappeared. But these complaints aren't really fair, I actually couldn't stop reading this book and for the most part, with the exception of the very end, I believed every word that Eugenides said. (less)
The tragedy in Jonestown (remember... the Kool-Aid Suicide Gang?) in 1978 is a story about a lot of things, and though Tim Reiterman did a great job t...moreThe tragedy in Jonestown (remember... the Kool-Aid Suicide Gang?) in 1978 is a story about a lot of things, and though Tim Reiterman did a great job telling the story in his book Raven, I felt there were things he was leaving out. How did the government not catch on to Jones' brainwashing and illegal activity? The beatings? The stealing? Not paying taxes? How is it possible that the families of more than 900 people weren't objecting to the sudden, FUCKING BIZARRE behavior of their loved ones? Some of them did, but none of them who had members deeply entrenched in the Temple were able to pull them away. I'd like to think that if I was talking about suicide, miraculous (and obviously fake) healings, and claiming this random guy from Indiana was my Savior, my mother would fucking snap me out of it. If I thought she had joined a suicidal cult, I would drug her and bring her to Antarctica, lock her in my bathroom, or do whatever was necessary to keep her away. That's right, mamma. That's how much I love you. Lots of people dropped the ball, and Reiterman does not say who, exactly.
I picked Raven up in the first place because Helter Skelter is one of my favorite books of all time, and I figured this story would be equally thrilling. In some ways, it's creepier. Manson brainwashed some aimless teenagers to murder for him. Jim Jones convinced almost a thousand children and educated, settled adults that he was their savior and they needed to kill themselves in the name of socialism. (The two crazies had very similar childhoods, though. Both were pretty much abandoned losers who were looking for attention.)
So please. I beg of you. If I display the following behavior, please sit down with me and let's have a conversation. Smack me if you must. Let's be safe and expect the worst.
* I start studying Russian. Words on my vocab list: socialism, guerilla warfare, Hail Chairman Mao. * I start shopping for warm-weather clothing and express interest in vacationing in South America. * I start sleeping with an image of Jim Jones over my heart to protect myself from death. * I adopt fourteen children and let them live in my studio apartment. * I work for 21 hours a day and turn all my money over to a church. ("It's cool -- the end justifies the means.") * I lose 40 pounds and my skin turns grey. * I start referring to a human being as my savior. * When you ask me what I did last Friday night, I say "Suicidal Ritual Drill". * I've been deathly afraid of airplanes my entire life but I suddenly get my pilots license so I can start shipping cargo to South America for the guy I'm sleeping with. * And oh yea, the guy I'm sleeping with is a "preacher" 40 years older than me, and he has a wife, ten mistresses, and fucks guys just to make them think they're gay. * I move into a Co-op and will not receive your phone calls. * Every time I see you, I am recording our conversation with an old tape recorder from the 70's. * I burn a cross into my forehead. Oh, wait. That was the Manson Family. But look out for shit like this, as well.(less)