While individually many of the panels were compelling, they were rarely fluent in tandem. The dialogue was similarly disjointed, and I often found mysWhile individually many of the panels were compelling, they were rarely fluent in tandem. The dialogue was similarly disjointed, and I often found myself reading the speech balloons in the wrong sequence. If the story was meant to be some deep allegory, that didn't translate. By itself it wasn't enough to provoke either thought or intrigue....more
This volume consisted of the "Great Fables Crossover" and "Werewolves in the Heartland" story lines, neither of which impressed me much. The dialogueThis volume consisted of the "Great Fables Crossover" and "Werewolves in the Heartland" story lines, neither of which impressed me much. The dialogue was cliche, the stories resolved themselves on the side of the "good guys" too easily, and the coloring of "Werewolves of the Heartland" reminded me of a dated magazine cover. I was still entertained....more
Mimi Pond's memoir about her stint as an employee at the Imperial Cafe in 1970's San Francisco reminded me a lot of my own days working at a FuddruckeMimi Pond's memoir about her stint as an employee at the Imperial Cafe in 1970's San Francisco reminded me a lot of my own days working at a Fuddruckers in central Pennsylvania. These are places where the characters are crude and over-the-top but immensely likable, nothing is sacred, and insurmountable amounts of work always somehow get done. Turbulent workplace romances are enough to divide the employees in two, and convivial drug use and fraternizing follow many a hard day's work. For Mimi and her crowd, the location for decompressing was a ritualistic old dive bar; for us it was midnight glow bowling. Just like her, I never did feel like I was fully "in it," but in a strange way, it provided a sense of camaraderie that I haven't quite felt since....more
Completing "The Lord of the Rings" is about as satisfying an experience as a reader can have. The final third of "The Return of the King", in particulCompleting "The Lord of the Rings" is about as satisfying an experience as a reader can have. The final third of "The Return of the King", in particular, felt like a leisurely ending to a long, hot, eventful summer day, when friends remain in each other's company yet are content to be silent. One might expect a 100 page denouement to be overkill, but when you see the end of a story you love creeping nearer you will relish every moment of its continuance. The Battle of the Bywater and reclaiming of the Shire, and the subsequent demise of Sharkey and Wormtongue, are especially compelling. But above all, Tolkein is a master of mood, and upon the departure of each new character, and the realization of what has been lost and may be gained in the realm of Middle-Earth, one can harbor no less than a tear of nostalgia or of hope....more
In "Fortunately, the Milk," Neil Gaiman transforms a mundane trip to the grocer into a fantastic adventure through time and space. A father makes a quIn "Fortunately, the Milk," Neil Gaiman transforms a mundane trip to the grocer into a fantastic adventure through time and space. A father makes a quick breakfast run for some milk and returns with the most incredible story. If Keyser Soze were a loving father and not a calculating psychopath, then here is how he would be.
This book is charming, funny, and smart. Its plot bounces along with an almost perfect rhythm. Hilarious illustrations by Skottie Young invade every page, not only accompanying the narrative but actively advancing it. Its guest list consists of aliens, vampires, pirates, dinosaurs, piranhas, ponies, and aborigines, and it includes two clever treatments of the paradoxes of time-travel. The lesson at the end about fatherhood is enough to make you cry, and you'll finish the whole thing in less than an hour.
What you should ask yourself is, why shouldn't you read it?...more
I bought this book for the illustrations, which are funny and richly-colored. The story was interesting, too, even if it was a little short. But I wasI bought this book for the illustrations, which are funny and richly-colored. The story was interesting, too, even if it was a little short. But I was not overly pleased with the cadence of much of the dialogue. The original version was written in Dutch, and I read the English translation, so I'm not sure whether the author, Lewis Trondheim, or the translator, Kim Thompson, is to blame, but much of the dialogue could have benefited from some minor tweaking. It was a minor weakness, though, and the book remained enjoyable, especially in light of the dark turn that it takes during its denouement....more
I was in middle school during Allen Iverson's heyday. Even though I could never relate to his "thug" persona (I am a suburban white kid through and thI was in middle school during Allen Iverson's heyday. Even though I could never relate to his "thug" persona (I am a suburban white kid through and through), I saw in Iverson an average-sized player who was dominating in a league full of giants and I was inspired. The Sixers became my favorite team--as an elementary schooler, I preferred Jordan's Bulls and Malone and Stockton's Jazz--and living in central Pennsylvania allowed me to watch almost every game on TV.
I never cared about Iverson's off-court antics. I was a kid in search of fantasy. If Iverson could succeed in the NBA, maybe you didn't have to be some Frankenstein to do it. Even then, I recognized that Iverson's ridiculing by the media was indicative more of the pettiness and prejudice of the media itself than anything to do strictly with himself....more
Deirdre McCloskey is an adequate writer, which is to say, a better writer than almost all economists. Most writing handbooks are exactly what they mosDeirdre McCloskey is an adequate writer, which is to say, a better writer than almost all economists. Most writing handbooks are exactly what they most admonish: unreadable. They tend to be dry and uninviting. Understanding that irony well, McCloskey has imbued "Economical Writing" with just enough wit and excursus to make it pleasurable. The book's funniest moments are when she sneaks the mistakes that she is describing into her descriptions of them, as in the chapter titled "The Order Around Switch It Until It Sounds Good". Who knew that I could finish 90 pages of advise about how to write? Evidently Deirdre McCloskey did.
Beyond being merely readable, the book is also useful. McCloskey is wary of rules, so instead she provides a list of heuristics. Some of her guidelines are to "Avoid Boilerplate", "Control Your Tone", and "Make Your Writing Cohere". Even though these are things that everyone should know, they are also easy to forget. As any writer either already knows or has yet to learn, writing is a process of constantly disciplining yourself, and of avoiding the various pitfalls that can trap you when you're engrossed.
The extent to which this handbook concerns the subject of economics as opposed to any other discipline is that most of the examples provided pertain to economics. The rest is good advice for any writer to heed.
The best criticism gives breath to certain arguments that hitherto only resided on the tip of the reader's tongue or the outskirts of his conscious miThe best criticism gives breath to certain arguments that hitherto only resided on the tip of the reader's tongue or the outskirts of his conscious mind. It is the highest praise to be able to say that "The Culture of Narcissism" does just that.
"The Culture of Narcissism" is the kind of book that helps to ground a person's entire intellectual outlook. As an exercise of cultural criticism, it furnishes the reader with a new language that can be deputized to promote a better understanding of all sorts of social phenomena.
It's central thesis is the claim that throughout the twentieth century, American culture had experienced a shift from traditional forms of paternalistic social control toward a more bureaucratic one, and that the impersonal nature of this control, combined with its tendency to strip individuals of their sense of personal responsibility and civic involvement, has inspired narcissism as our culture's dominant personality type. With broad strokes, Lasch discusses the interplay of the narcissistic trend with society's most important institutions, including politics, economics, education, the home, art, and sport. While at any point in the course of reading one may find a point on which to quibble, I found it impossible to disagree with its overarching conclusions. If anything, Americans' narcissistic proclivities have only become more pronounced since the book's publication in 1979. Even then, I imagine, most people would have considered much of our common behavior on the internet to be embarrassingly absurd. Now, though, to continuously post pictures of oneself on Instagram is to demonstrate the maintenance of a healthy social life. What dismays me most is that few people think much else of it. ...more
If you read the "Chronicles of Narnia" series in order of publication, as I have chosen to, then "Prince Caspian" is the second novella in the series.If you read the "Chronicles of Narnia" series in order of publication, as I have chosen to, then "Prince Caspian" is the second novella in the series. In most ways, this book is markedly better than its predecessor, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." It's tone is less sententious and it's symbolism is less blunt. Lewis has also wisely done away with his clumsy use of direct address. This all makes for a Narnia that audiences can dive into and see more clearly. If there is one feature of the book that I can still nitpick, however, it would be that Lewis often fails to employ the right tempo. Some events occur too quickly, while other, less intriguing ones seem to dawdle on for pages. Aslan, meanwhile, is just as much a mythical* black box--your literal deus ex machina--as ever.
*I mean this word in the Aristotelian sense, merely to mean "related to the plot."...more
"The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" is the first-published book in a series of Christian allegories written for children. Although I intend to fin"The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" is the first-published book in a series of Christian allegories written for children. Although I intend to finish the series, after reading this installation I am not excited by the prospect. This book bears all of the ostensible features of a long fable, but little of the underlying charm. It is heavily plot-driven, morally shallow, and clumsy in its narration. The author, C.S. Lewis, has tasked himself with presenting a defense of Christian ethics and beliefs. Asland is the Christ figure, the children represent various facets of mankind (I guess), and the Professor is the author's scholastic surrogate. Overall, the characters (including Asland but excepting the Professor) are vapid, and somehow the symbolism manages to be obvious and meaningless at the same time. Except in the case of Edmund, who wants either cake or to stick it to his brother Peter, it is never clear what is motivating the antagonists, either. They are all just melodramatic stand-ins. Finally, I was especially bothered by the sporadic use of direct narration, which functioned to remove me from the fantastical setting and was usually the conveyance of some wan simile. I hope that the world of Narnia becomes a little bit richer as I read further. ...more
This is one of the funniest books I have ever read. Biff is Jesus' childhood friend, narrator of the majority of the story, and self-styled inventor oThis is one of the funniest books I have ever read. Biff is Jesus' childhood friend, narrator of the majority of the story, and self-styled inventor of sarcasm. Lamb offers an apocryphal account Jesus' missing years as portrayed by Biff. As Jesus learns how to perform his role as the Messiah, Biff accompanies him. On their journey, the two manage to come in close contact with other religions and cultures, mostly in China and India. By consulting the wise men of those regions, Jesus comes closer to understanding what he wishes to be the defining message of the New Testament. Biff, meanwhile, is mostly just out for sex.
While the title might mislead prospective readers to assume that "Assholes: A Theory" offers either a lighthearted assortment of anti-asshole yet thorWhile the title might mislead prospective readers to assume that "Assholes: A Theory" offers either a lighthearted assortment of anti-asshole yet thoroughly assholish quips or an amoral guidebook in the manner of Machiavelli's "The Prince," what this book really delivers is a complete account of the psychology, morality, and social bearing of the common asshole.
James is a serious philosopher, and "Assholes" is a serious piece of ethics. James handles the asshole phenomenon from every angle. The "asshole," as he defines it, is someone who systematically allows himself special advantages in his relations with others out of an entrenched sense on entitlement that leaves him inoculated against the legitimate complaints of others. It is that very failure to acknowledge others as moral equals that makes them so frustrating to others. Yet even when we do fight back, assholes come equipped with a set of defenses that leave them invulnerable to capitulation. If assholes are left unchecked, or worse, if they are encouraged, by society, then it can create a host of interpersonal and societal problems, some of which may spiral into ever worse social outcomes.
As a philosopher, James is quite careful about every facet of his argument, drawing on such great ethicists as Plato, Kant, Rousseau, and Hobbes to deploy his message. The asshole may in fact be a given and inescapable part of life, yet to the extent that we can, we should strive to support a society that discourages assholes and encourages cooperation. ...more