I had been hoping to come away with a better understanding of California's (and the West's) water situation - perhaps a sort of updated Cadillac DeserI had been hoping to come away with a better understanding of California's (and the West's) water situation - perhaps a sort of updated Cadillac Desert with a focus on the Owens Valley, Mulholland, and the Gilded Age. After an interesting start I got bogged down in details and began to skim for passages that provided me a broader perspective. Some readers will certainly be the opposite of me, and will relish the details - I know Standiford has loyal readers. This excerpt from the LA Times review describes his approach in this particular history:
Standiford's strategy for conveying the scale and complexity of the aqueduct's construction, it seems, is to pile on details of competing bids, annual reports, bonus systems, revised deadlines and precinct vote tallies. Rather than explore the drama of personality flaws or clashes, the author relies on logistical quandaries for suspense: "How to transport a section of steel pipe thirty-seven feet long and one and one-eighth inches thick weighing 52,000 pounds, up several miles of dirt road?" As a result, the book comes closer to a project-management assessment than a historical narrative or a portrait of a man and his motivations.
Nope. Nope. I listened to an hour and I just don't want to stay with these people. Life is short. Thank god for Overdrive audiobooks that I can borrowNope. Nope. I listened to an hour and I just don't want to stay with these people. Life is short. Thank god for Overdrive audiobooks that I can borrow and return without going broke....more
The other day a new friend happened to mention that she is a foodie and that she has a great "pork shoulder" recipe, or something like that. I quicklyThe other day a new friend happened to mention that she is a foodie and that she has a great "pork shoulder" recipe, or something like that. I quickly explained that I'm a vegetarian, though perhaps she already knew that, because she immediately asserted that her meat is ethically okay because it's obtained from local organic farms etc.. So I wanly reassured "Oh, okay, I guess that's different" and "my ethical objections are to factory farming" (and environmental reasons too, although I didn't mention that). I tried to hide my discomfort.
But why did I feel I needed to reassure her? And why did she think her explanation was sufficient? Aside from the obvious social implications of initiating a fraught conversation with someone you don't know well? I had never yet thought this out fully, only noticing that when offered some meal prepared with flesh from "humanely-raised" animals I have still turned it down. I say "Oh, I ate earlier" or "Thanks, but I'm just in the mood for salad tonight....."
Now after reading this book I'm considering this anew. I don't actually need that meat to live, and there is no guarantee that a locally grown pig or chicken lived a natural life or is disease free or never received antibiotics or, most importantly, did not suffer at its death. There never was a guarantee - that we think that way is the result of a story ethically-conscious consumers tell themselves and that agribusiness + the food industry exploits and relies on, all the while contributing to the North American "omnivore's contradiction." Whether factory-raised or homegrown those chickens, cows, and pigs have only been bred and raised to be killed and eaten by us.
I have to say I was surprised by this book's message and the author's accusations against Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Barbara Kingsolver, and especially, Jonathan Safran Foer. (See Eating Animals) McWilliams claims that the food reform movement is on an "intellectually dishonest foundation" and he calls them complicit in supporting unnecessary suffering and furthering the industrial food industry.
This book is very well-written, but its message is radical. I wouldn't recommend it to someone just exploring the idea of going vegetarian or vegan, but to those like myself who have already made a switch after absorbing all the data about factory farming. One could find points to disagree with, but McWilliams's practical application of ethical philosophy leaves me plenty to think about. And perhaps a polite new way to respond to ethically-conscious meat eaters. ...more
Silence is not difficult to read or particularly scholarly, as some reviewers have complained. (As a scholarly indexer I know academic writing, and thSilence is not difficult to read or particularly scholarly, as some reviewers have complained. (As a scholarly indexer I know academic writing, and this is not scholarly.) But it assumes a groundwork of knowledge on the part of the reader and it is highly detailed, while at the same time vague and meandering. What I mean is: these were originally lectures and as such cover a lot of ground quite quickly and without depth. The prose reads/sounds complex until one realizes it's often just a lot of names and retellings of Christian church history that other writers (and MacCulloch himself) have written about in more detail. Silence in Christianity can mean many things: it's been sought, disparaged, elevated, hidden, sanctified, shameful, and politically necessitated. I don't have any points to quibble with, nor praise, nor anything to really dwell on. It's not a bad book, and often quite interesting, but it left me dazed....more
Opting out!!! Andrew Ervin in the NYT Sunday Book Review:
It’s not revealing too much to report that the readers most likely to enjoy this novel are t
Opting out!!! Andrew Ervin in the NYT Sunday Book Review:
It’s not revealing too much to report that the readers most likely to enjoy this novel are those who can tolerate nearly 600 pages of pidgin English and those who are nostalgic for the Cold War. Personally, I’d like to meet the individuals who fit in the middle section of that particular Venn diagram.
What an odd little novel. I thought I liked Jill Ciment up to now (or I liked Heroic Measures), but I'm not sure if this was any good. Was it a farce?What an odd little novel. I thought I liked Jill Ciment up to now (or I liked Heroic Measures), but I'm not sure if this was any good. Was it a farce? Meant to be light and humorous or morally thoughtful and unsettling? Was it some sort of cli-fi with toxic mold? The "killer mold" that sets the plot rolling was rumored to have been caused by a combination of Hurricane Sandy and the Greenpoint oil spill, but that's not discussed extensively.
I will say the black mold and mushrooms-growing-in-the-rental-house subject hit rather close to home. I lived through that little nightmare myself some fourteen months ago. I know too much about the insurance policies and the "acts of God" clauses and finding oneself temporarily homeless with a lot of questions your landlord doesn't want to answer. So I was particularly critical of Ciment's handling of the matters. Why did the tenants not worry about finances, getting compensated for living in hotels or receiving their rent back? Why no "mold remediation" instead of burning the dwelling down? The treatment of this subject became campy and silly, sort of over-the-top with panicky reactions and absurdities. Okay. So it's a humorous novel!
Lastly, I don't keep track nor give much thought to reading an equal balance of books by male and female authors. But if I were to count then I want extra points for this novel: it's full of women characters, old and young, with only a couple men in supporting roles. Two elderly twin sisters, a beautiful Russian immigrant (with some of the best scenes in the novel), a crazy cat lady, and an actress named "Vida" (whose name brought the author-count statistics to mind)....more
Okay so this is a sort of unorthodox memoir-cum-true crime account by an up-and-coming not-young American writer who probably never imagined publishinOkay so this is a sort of unorthodox memoir-cum-true crime account by an up-and-coming not-young American writer who probably never imagined publishing in either genre. Ballantine has a definite style: highly detailed with odd twists of language, and exceedingly thoughtful. He's no David Foster Wallace, but he's no ordinary writer, either. I liked this book: Ballantine made a small, eccentric Nebraska town interesting, even though I don't want to imagine living there. Skip or discount the fawning and gushing introductory endorsement by Cheryl Strayed (I like her fine and I hope her praise sold a few books for him, but it read as if she composed it on hotel stationary while strung out and tipsy during one of her book tours.)...more
European. I've meant to read Peter Stamm for some time now. I liked the first third quite a bit. Thought of Jennifer Egan's Look at Me throughout. ThrEuropean. I've meant to read Peter Stamm for some time now. I liked the first third quite a bit. Thought of Jennifer Egan's Look at Me throughout. Three weeks hence I'm recalling images of the car crash and the transformation of the female character....more
Gazzaniga is a wealthy man. Not just a comparatively fortunate academic and cognitive scientist - a rich man. And so what? He's apparently great at fuGazzaniga is a wealthy man. Not just a comparatively fortunate academic and cognitive scientist - a rich man. And so what? He's apparently great at fundraising and gaining endowments and never burning bridges and ... it's not important. But I learned far more about his real estate investments, financial interests, and his friendship with William F. Buckley than I could ever care about or want to know. His depictions of split-brain research were interesting, but this was too much of an artless autobiography. I thought I'd want to read Gazzaniga's book on free will (topic du jour), but I've gleaned that it's a repeat of the experiments chronicled in this book plus what I fear could be a drift into libertarian politics. Iconoclastic reading experience....more