Before someone sees this rating and assumes I've degenerated into a chauvinist pig, a little clarification: this is one of the best books I've ever reBefore someone sees this rating and assumes I've degenerated into a chauvinist pig, a little clarification: this is one of the best books I've ever read with which I disagree to a very large extent. In spite of fairly violent differences with the author's argument regarding feminism and the place of the woman, his desire for a return to a simpler way of life, family and soil, resonates with me as the descendant of a century's worth of Missouri farm stock.
Even when dealing with the thorny issue of feminism and its fate (thorny for a male writer, pretty much regardless of his conclusions, just by virtue of his gender), Carlson makes several good points. And, having said that, the issue has become thorny for me as well. While in places, the rhetoric is downright insulting (e.g., "Women cannot successfully raise children on their own" [p.129]), he does indicate several areas in which the movement doubles back on itself, as in the case of breastfeeding and its ineluctable ties to gender differences, which makes it less than popular with those Carlson calls "equity feminists." (This argument comes, by the way, not from Carlson himself, but from a 1997 article by Dr. Judith Galtry in the journal Feminist Economics.) Men do have constructive things to say about feminist issues; unfortunately, Carlson's next-to-last chapter, on the inevitability and desirability of patriarchal social arrangements, counteracts his perceptiveness with a healthy dose of condescension and sarcasm.
As much as I relate to the author's agrarian thought, though, the book as a whole is undone really even before the regular pagination kicks in, in the "introduction" on the theory of the "natural family" and its place as the basis of the "natural society". The disturbing aspects of this essay are in what he almost says, but not quite. For instance, in defining the right of citizenship, Carlson tacks on a fairly vague (and ominous) qualifier: "acceptance by one's neighbors" (xx). This seems to prescribe a level of conformity and arbitrariness at which even the most conservative among us might balk. Further, the author argues that the success of a nation, insofar as it succeeds on grounds of cooperation, depends on shared characteristics like religious belief, language, and (most disturbingly) blood. While it may not have been his intention, it is very difficult to read this section and not notice any racist undertones. What is more, in the melting pot that is the United States, it is not terribly constructive to suggest that differences mean perennial failure (even if, at times, it is hard to look at our lack of communication skills of the last few years, and envision any level of cooperative success). Simply put, with an introduction like this, who needs the rest of the book?
Carlson's book is very disturbing. But it is also very well written, and if the reader is willing to wade through the objectionable and listen for the perceptive, there is a deal of value to what he has to say. I loved this book, and I hated this book. As such, it underscores the importance of engaging opposing views and learning to really hear what others are saying. As it turns out, it is possible to disagree with someone, and learn from them at the same time.
If you're interested in world hunger, and in ways to address that need, this book is a good place to start. The nature of global organization means thIf you're interested in world hunger, and in ways to address that need, this book is a good place to start. The nature of global organization means that acronyms will fly fast and thick throughout the text, and it might behoove you to compile a list as you go, so you don't (as I did) spend most of your reading time thumbing through previous sections trying to remember what a given set of letters stands for. However, if you're willing to wade through all the agency names and covenant titles, there are many ideas here worth working for.
The book runs the gamut, from the extremely broad (moral responsibilities vs. legal obligations, extraterritoriality, etc.) to the extremely focused (breastfeeding, the eradication of worms, measles, and malaria, and school feeding programs). Many of the issues addressed are ones that "northern," "developed" folks might not think about as global dilemmas, since they do not affect us as deeply as they do people in "southern," developing nations; I must admit that, not having children of my own, the difficulties of the breastfeeding mother and the problems caused by formula advertising were not exactly on my radar screen. These are the issues, though, that we most need to think about: the ones we tend not to. By far the most interesting chapter, from my perspective, was Cohen and Ramanna's on the right to access to seeds, another issue I hadn't really considered in any amount of detail.
The one weakness of the book is perhaps one that is almost inescapable: if it is true that no proposed global strategy so far can really be taken seriously, then further multilateral conversation, which is recommended in almost every chapter, seems both vitally necessary and somewhat beside the point. The trick, then, is not to leave that discussion to the UN or other impersonal, intergovernmental agencies, but to bring it down to the level of those these conversations affect directly: the small farmers, the new mothers, the communities in development around the world, and ultimately each one of us as members of the global community.
For those who worry that all of this amounts to dreamy-eyed speculation (and it feels like it might in some parts of the book), George Kent wraps up the collection with a series of reflections on the subject that are plain-spoken and very down to earth. Even if, he writes, we're able to establish some multilateral, global governing body that succeeds in turning responsibility into obligation, at the nation-state level, obligations must be voluntarily accepted rather than dictated from without. The fact that the United States, the home of rugged individualism, stands as a stumbling block in a large number of these cases, is evidence of this. So, Kent leaves us with the question not just of HOW we can meet these needs worldwide, but WHY we should do so. "When it comes to looking after the well-being of others, people do not care because they have obligations. They accept obligations because they care" (p.222). As research moves forward, then, there is as much need for ethical reasoning as for policy creation, and that is not only the purview of scholars, but of anyone with a heart and/or a brain. So start thinking...
Every once in a while a book comes along that takes all the thoughts you’ve had milling around in your brain fThis is the best book I have ever read.
Every once in a while a book comes along that takes all the thoughts you’ve had milling around in your brain for years but have been unable to express, and puts them into words. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is one of those books for me. I find myself connecting with Pirsig’s thought processes on an almost visceral level: the neverending, almost obsessive search for the Quality that underlies daily experience; dismay at the extent to which the world has abandoned the Good in the interests of pursuing the Reasonable; frustration with the orthodoxy outside of which one risks being labeled a fool or a lunatic. Pirsig’s words resonate in me with surprising clarity, they strike a chord deep inside my soul (as they have done with countless others since their first publication in 1974). They help me to understand who I am and where I’m trying to go. Which is...right here...
At the heart of his book lies the quest to overcome the duality that has become so entrenched in the Western mind that we no longer accept any other angle of perception. Unless we overcome the cognitive divide that separates us as individuals one from another, we will never truly understand this world, this reality, that we inhabit.
“What guarantees the objectivity of the world in which we live,” he writes, “is that this world is common to us with other thinking beings. Through the communications that we have with other men we receive from them ready-made harmonious reasonings. We know that these reasonings do not come from us and at the same time we recognize in them, because of their harmony, the work of reasonable beings like ourselves. And as these reasonings appear to fit the world of our sensations, we think we may infer that these reasonable beings have seen the same thing as we; thus it is that we know we haven’t been dreaming. It is this harmony, this quality if you will, that is the sole basis for the only reality we can ever know” (p. 343).
The only real objectivity, then, is reached by way of multiple subjectivities. We need each other to be able to fathom this world we live in. What is more, we need each other in order truly to understand ourselves. Quality, the centerpiece of Pirsig’s book, is the source of both subject and object, located in the intersection between the two, without which neither can truly, substantively exist. We learn ourselves through interaction with the other. We become who we are because of who others are. We define one another, and Quality is the touchstone for that process.
Quality resides in any “objective” encounter: between the individual and nature, between the individual and occupation, between the individual and the smallest of ideas. Until I pick up the hammer, it is not a hammer at all; it becomes a hammer only when I come to appreciate its uses and its purpose through using it to drive home a nail. I am not a carpenter, until that hammer allows me to complete the carpenter’s task through driving home the nail. In other words, until both object and subject allow the other to tap into the Quality that resides in each, neither is complete. They need each other to be who and what they truly are.
As a library cataloger, this is a particular stumbling block for me. It is very easy to fall into the trap of seeing “just one more book,” of forgetting the Quality that lies within both the object and myself, and that is activated and realized through my interaction with it. A piece of myself is taken by the object. I am, in a very real sense, IN the record I produce and the book on the shelf; without me, it could not be as it is. I, at the same time, take a piece of the object. Each volume that passes through my hands, each new cataloging challenge (and they are many) increases my knowledge and expertise, adds to the Quality of “library cataloger” that resides in me. This awareness of underlying Quality, of the true nature of the interaction between myself and the work that I do, brings to the task at hand a refreshing sense of intention and joy. There are no meaningless tasks. Everything is meaningful.
This is a book everyone should read. Given this emphasis on work (especially, as Pirsig notes, the dull kind) and the Quality inherent in it, this book is one which lends itself to use as a training tool for supervisors in all lines of work. It holds the key to change, and opens the eyes to the potential for creativity and meaning in every aspect of daily living, however mundane it may seem.
It really doesn’t matter whether you ride or not: “the real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself” (p. 417). ...more
Dawkins' The God Delusion is by far the most frustrating book I've read in a very long time. I so desperately wanted to love it, as it's been recommenDawkins' The God Delusion is by far the most frustrating book I've read in a very long time. I so desperately wanted to love it, as it's been recommended by several people whose opinions I value. But the best I can go is two stars out of five: the author makes some very good, very perceptive, very necessary points, but they are swallowed up by all the points he doesn't quite land (including his central point), and by the tone of the book in general.
The author declares that the anthropic principle "provides a rational, design-free explanation for the fact that we find ourselves in a situation propitious to our existence" (p. 136). However, the anthropic principle, on its own, is of no explanatory value: it is tantamount to arguing that the building one is standing in is a Macdonalds because the building one is standing in is a Macdonalds. It is a tautology at best: as Dawkins uses it, the presence of life in the universe is explained by the presence of life in the universe (we're here because we're here), which is not so much to provide an answer as it is to beg the question. As such, the anthropic principle is not an "alternative" to the creationist stance, as Dawkins claims. It is not an "alternative to" anything. It is a starting point, not a conclusion.
Dawkins espouses natural selection, in part, as the means by which the anthropic principle worked itself out in the case of planet Earth. In this regard, he does a fairly decent job of arguing his case: it is an actual explanation for the ways in which life came about on this world. Many may find it more convincing that the creationist stance--for that matter, so do I. But it is still only AN argument, as is the creationist stance itself. The same may be said of the other mechanisms he suggests whereby the anthropic principle may have found expression in our solar system/universe. They are each continuations of the anthropic principle; without them that principle applies to nothing. While Dawkins accuses religious thinkers of misunderstanding the anthropic principle, one is left with the distinct impression that he has not understood it himself (or that he has, and has chosen to use it anyway, hoping no one will notice the difficulty).
This, however, is not the biggest issue I take with his book. In the final analysis, Dawkins is an elitist and a bully. Throughout the book, contrasts are drawn between the atheist sophisticate and the unsophisticated religious thinker, the "Brights" and the "Dims," if you will. He makes it very clear, if implicitly so, that disagreement with the Darwinian point of view equals a lower-level intellect, immaturity of mind, etc. It is impossible, in his opinion, for a rational thinker to arrive at any conclusion other than his own. Thus far the elitism. As for the bullying: the natural outcome of Dawkins’ attitude to what he considers unjustified opposing viewpoints is itself fairly Darwinian. One wonders how many “Dawkinsians” came to their position freely, and how many did so because to do otherwise would consign them, willy-nilly, to the stupid, uneducated junk pile? In the case of the “evidence from majority scientific opinion,” how likely is a scientist openly to embrace a religious worldview if the inescapable consequence is being (literally) laughed out of her profession? Ultimately, Dawkins does not allow for honest opposition or argument, not unlike the religious thinkers he criticizes.
Again, Dawkins makes a number of very good, quite necessary points with which even lifelong religious adherents might easily agree. The idea of pasting religious labels on children before they are able to form any concept of what the labels mean is ludicrous and potentially harmful, whether psychologically or simply as affects intellectual openness and honesty. It is laughable for Christians to embrace scientific discovery when it supports what they believe and reject it as soon as it begins to contradict. And so on. Ultimately though, the tone of the book (at least in my opinion) overshadows its content. It is a good rule of thumb to distrust anyone who insists that others think as they do in order to be judged intelligent. This is exactly what Dawkins does, again and again throughout the book.
I am no disciple of any particular faith tradition, but having read this book I am also no disciple of Dawkins. The points he makes are often good; the manner in which those points are made is off-putting at best, completely alienating at worst. The old saying is true: you catch more flies with honey. Dawkins has chucked the honey pot out the window. ...more
It is a sign of a fantastic writer to be able to write the same book twice and end up with two completely different (and equally fascinating) stories,It is a sign of a fantastic writer to be able to write the same book twice and end up with two completely different (and equally fascinating) stories, which is precisely what Orson Scott Card did with Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow. With Shadow of the Hegemon, he continues to develop the story of Bean, and it becomes harder for me to deny that of the two characters, Ender and Bean, the latter is by far my favorite.
Card does a phenomenal job of writing history that's yet to happen, and seems remarkably prescient in many ways, suggesting logical outcomes of present-day processes that are quite convincing. His anti-Roddenberrian outlook is both frightening, and in a way, refreshing--humans are and always will be who they are: humans. There will be infighting and outfighting everywhere, and stuck in the pockets between, those individuals who stand in greatness for the race as a whole, who can see past political boundaries and cultural differences, and who offer hope to us all......more
The authors of Queer (In)Justice set out to prove two complementary theses. The first deals with the tendency of the "criminal legal system" to deal mThe authors of Queer (In)Justice set out to prove two complementary theses. The first deals with the tendency of the "criminal legal system" to deal more harshly with LGBT citizens than with others, and to assume guilt or criminality on the basis of that orientation/identity. It is difficult, based on the evidence they produce, to disagree on this point.
The second thesis is equally compelling, although less thoroughly argued or defended: within the LGBT community at large, LGBT individuals who also belong to minorities are both more persecuted by the legal system and, largely, ignored by LGBT rights groups in favor of the more easily defensible white gay male. In fairness, this second point is harder to demonstrate due to the susceptibility of minority status in general to such discrimination, but even so, the authors choose somewhat weak targets: for example, increased violence toward LGBT Muslims in the aftermath of 9/11 may have little to do with their LGBT identities and much to do with their overarching religious or ethnic backgrounds. There may be a case here to be made, but a choice of less ambiguous examples would be warranted in order to make it.
In any case, whether or not the second hypothesis is warranted, the first in itself demands attention. The authors highlight specifically the weaknesses inherent in the dominant "hate crime" approach to dealing with anti-LGBT violence: giving enhanced punishment capability to law enforcement is pointless if it is law enforcement that ignores these crimes in the first place.
"The choice to pursue strategies that rely on increased policing and punishment to produce safety for queers requires a leap of faith that the system can and will be able to distinguish between the "good” or reputable gay, lesbian, or transgender victim and the “bad,” presumptively criminalized queers. Such faith is deeply misplaced” (p. 146).
Since the LGBT community cannot rely on legal institutions to provide for their security, the authors argue, it is necessary for the LGBT community to create innovative ways of protecting (and policing) itself. They point to action groups that are networking with local businesses to establish Safe Spaces and Safe Havens as unofficial refuges for victims of anti-LGBT violence, and developing HIV/AIDS education and support mechanisms within the American penitentiary system. The only way to get out of the box LGBT individuals have been placed in by the structural deficiencies of the criminal legal system, they argue, is to think outside of it.
Queer (In)Justice is a fascinating and extremely disturbing, yet totally indispensable read, and gives important insight into the plight of the LGBT community in the United States and the extent to which they continue to struggle for equality before the law. As the authors seek to illustrate, LGBT inequality goes far, far beyond the issue of marriage; in many ways, they argue, that is the least of their concerns. ...more
I have been immersed in this book for a little over a month, and it has been one of the more fascinating reading experiences I have had in a very longI have been immersed in this book for a little over a month, and it has been one of the more fascinating reading experiences I have had in a very long time. As one who has come fairly lately (at least openly) to the ongoing LGBT debate, I feel that my eyes have been opened by Miller's work. Exhaustively researched and personably written, it invites the uninitiated into a world redefined: I have met many of my favorite historical personages again, in many ways for the first time, and I have a much better understanding of the role played by gays and lesbians in the unfolding history of the last century and a half. I'm left wishing that more mainstream accounts of history would incorporate more of these elements, and I am left hopeful (if Miller is correct in his assessment of the inevitability of the LGBT movement) that one day this will be the case. Given developments in the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" saga since Miller wrote his book, he may be right.
Although he does tend to "out" historical figures from time to time without much evidential support, he is careful to point out that, given the very different mores of the earlier periods in his narrative, it is both tempting to assume and difficult to prove more than the evidence allows. He cautions care on the part of the reader in making these logical leaps; however, he also points out that these very mores that make it hard to determine the Victorian sexual identity are more likely to suggest that the true identity might be hidden beneath the different language used to describe it.
Miller is also very fair, as open about the negative aspects of the gay and lesbian movement as he is about the good ones. This provides a well-rounded picture of gay and lesbian history, and succeeds in underscoring the basic humanity of the LGBT community, with all the strengths and weaknesses shared by the rest of us.
His dates also leave a little to be desired at times (he describes, for example, the death of Harvey Milk at one point in 1977, followed shortly by a photo of Milk following his city council election in 1978). However, these are minor points that in no way diminish the impact of the work as a whole. Anyone who is interested in learning more about the LGBT movement would do well to start right here....more
This is a decent read for those who have opinions on one of the thornier issues of our time, but who don't necessarily know the science involved. WhilThis is a decent read for those who have opinions on one of the thornier issues of our time, but who don't necessarily know the science involved. While the science is still a bit robust in places for me, the author manages to cut to the chase while providing some interesting insights into the ways we think about genetics in relation to other, more philosophical subjects: morality, law, religion, etc. And there is no false bravado here: Hamer admits that his experiment still leaves many questions unanswered as to the role of biology in sexual orientation, and encourages others to take up the study and either build upon what he has discovered or disprove the conclusions he has reached. ...more
This is my first foray into Allingham's fiction, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Campion as a character is infinitely more satisfying than Marple orThis is my first foray into Allingham's fiction, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Campion as a character is infinitely more satisfying than Marple or Poirot. And just when you think it's spiraling into utter predictability, the story twists and drags you full-speed into the final page like a runner into a brick wall.
Utopia is an amazing book, offering an array of contradictions sufficient to supply new discoveries to multiple readings. Between More and his narratoUtopia is an amazing book, offering an array of contradictions sufficient to supply new discoveries to multiple readings. Between More and his narrator, Hythlodaeus, one is never quite sure where the author is being serious, where he is being facetious, where his satire ends and a complete lack of self-awareness begins. No work of fiction will ever recommend more introspection and dialectical awareness on the part of a reader than More's does. And in the end, the Utopian ideal highlights a personal yearning for perfection that persists within us all and an idealism that none of us, even the most hardened cynic, can ever really shake.
Meanwhile, Turner's translation leaves, in my opinion, a great deal to be desired (and gets a rating of maybe three stars). He argues in his introduction that More may be more serious than he is given credit for in recommending the Utopian way of life, but his Anglicization of place and people names militates against this conclusion (for example, the land of Tallstoria, the folks known as Stywards, and Hythlodaeus' great friend, Tommy Rot). All of these names seem calculated to highlight the sarcastic while playing down any real support on the part of the author for what his narrator, rendered in Turner's version as Raphael Nonsenso, describes as the greatest social system on the planet......more
Not a bad read. I'm not sure I would call it "well-proportioned," as apparently some critics have. Little slow in building the story, little quick inNot a bad read. I'm not sure I would call it "well-proportioned," as apparently some critics have. Little slow in building the story, little quick in bringing it down.
Given Eliot's "free-thinker" identity, the book carries with it a surprising view of the Divine (although Mrs. Winthrop's use of the plural does indicate some doubt as to the exact definition of that concept). It was also refreshing to have some threads left hanging, as in the instance of Lantern Yard. Happy endings all tied up with string may be satisfying, but they rarely ring true....more
Whereas Allen at times offers social commentary of astonishing subtlety, the opinions expounded in The British Barbarians are about as subtle as a traWhereas Allen at times offers social commentary of astonishing subtlety, the opinions expounded in The British Barbarians are about as subtle as a train wreck. This is essentially a two-hundred page sermon on the evils of a society in which the author apparently found little worthy of praise. While many of the points he makes are worth considering, the manner in which he makes them bears so much resemblance to a fair boxing of the reader's ears as to render them a good bit irritating and empty of much lasting impact.
This is considered a work of science fiction (which in my opinion is a questionable notion), but Allen's past as a failed publisher of scientific non-fiction comes painfully to the fore in a great many places. Add to this the extremely doubtful qualifications of Bertram Ingledew as a social scientist of any kind (the character not only disregards the fourth wall but engages actively throughout the book in an attempt to tear it down), and the suspension of disbelief, such an indispensable element in the reading of sci-fi of any kind, becomes fairly impossible.
In a word, preachy and haughtily superior in almost every way. One tends to agree with a critic of Allen's "hilltop novels" that this one, at any rate, is an exercise in so much self-righteous manure artfully fashioned into the form of a rose......more
This is a massive tome. I have read the whole thing, but only in four or five separate runs at it. If you are interested in academic research, this boThis is a massive tome. I have read the whole thing, but only in four or five separate runs at it. If you are interested in academic research, this book offers all the information you could ever want (and more); if you're in it for interest's sake, open at your own risk. It will swallow you whole, and it is not for the faint of heart.
My four-star rating isn't meant to reflect on Charles-Edwards' scholarship. Far be it from me to question one of the leaders in the field. However, my own personal tastes would have enjoyed some sort of pronunciation guide (or at the very least, more of a narrative style). Anyone who's at all familiar with Old Irish name forms will understand what I mean. Although again, not remotely a popular work, so I guess perhaps all is as it should be......more
Hunter's book is a perfect example of the disconnect between professional and amateur Celtic studies. In his defense, the author is up front about hisHunter's book is a perfect example of the disconnect between professional and amateur Celtic studies. In his defense, the author is up front about his lack of expertise in most things Celtic, but this is not an encouraging bit of honesty when it comes to the practical application of his book. Similar to saying "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV," to a patient right before the anaesthesia kicks in.
The application of Bible scholar-style hermeneutics to material from hagiography to history is far from satisfying to one whose interest is primarily historical, and rather than reinforcing an interest in "Celtic Christianity," tends to support the protestations of many scholars that no such entity ever really existed. In other words, it is a fabulous flight of fancy, and as a missiological text it contains a good deal of insight. But that is a far stretch from claiming for Hunter's theories any but the most tenuous of connections with the Celtic past. ...more