Engaging summation of the current understanding of, well, how we learn. Benedict Carey pours through centuries of research to debunk myths, expose couEngaging summation of the current understanding of, well, how we learn. Benedict Carey pours through centuries of research to debunk myths, expose counter-intuitive methods, and remind us how much work our brains do while we rest. I've been interested in evidence-based learning methods for a while so nothing really came as a shock; but it's an excellent reminder - and even better primer - on the most effective ways to study, process and synthesize information....more
Sagan spends the first part of PALE BLUE DOT reminding us of the insignificance of Earth and it's denizens within the enormity of our universe. The seSagan spends the first part of PALE BLUE DOT reminding us of the insignificance of Earth and it's denizens within the enormity of our universe. The second part looks at what we've done to expand our existence beyond one planet, with special attention to the Voyager missions. The third part becomes more speculative, acknowledging that the Sun and Earth are not infinite. That, if we want to survive, we will eventually - in about 7 billon years - have to leave Earth if we don't want to get swallowed up by the Sun. His argument being that it is never too early to start thinking about Plan(et) B.
The first chapter, where Sagan describes the Pale Blue Dot image of Earth as captured by Voyager while leaving Saturn's orbit, is simply my favorite written passage in all of human history. The prose is beautiful, the ideas astonishing in their complexity, the message profound in its simplicity. I have listened to that passage well over a hundred times. The book as a whole though, while fantastic, doesn't quite live up to it's opening. The arguments, history and sci-fi predictions are laid out in greater depth, with Sagan's typical poetic accessibility; but nothing else resonates like that astonishing passage.
That is to say, if you read nothing else in your entire life, at least read the first chapter of PALE BLUE DOT. And if you have plenty of life and reading plans left, the rest is certainly worth catching up with.
The character sketches, short stories and poetic interludes of the first two sections were more resonant for me than the third's extended scenario; buThe character sketches, short stories and poetic interludes of the first two sections were more resonant for me than the third's extended scenario; but Jean Toomer's hauntingly beautiful glimpse ay early 20th century race experiences is an essential work of the Harlem Renaissance. ...more
This early Steinbeck novel follows an attempted unionization of apple pickers after their wages are slashed. While obviously sympathetic to unions, StThis early Steinbeck novel follows an attempted unionization of apple pickers after their wages are slashed. While obviously sympathetic to unions, Steinbeck critiques the bald opportunism of the "Reds" without creating a false equivalency between the strike leaders and the company thugs. The narrative centers around Jim who has just joined the "Party" and shows great promise for organization and strategy. As Jim's dedication increases, his individualism starts to fade away. Like the other Party characters, he sacrifices mind and body to the Cause. The novel questions some of the Party's tactics, but never the goal. The shame is placed on the laws and business interests who so corrupt society that its heroes must behave unheroically just so that men can get a fair wage for fair work.
It'd be interesting to see a similar novel set in today's political landscape. With so many unions busted (less than 12% of US jobs are unionized) and socialism still a dirty word, economic inequality is rampant and the controlling interests more sly and less obviously villainous. ...more
As a college freshman, I attended the Ebert/Scorsese Wexner Center interview which acts as the centerpiece to this critical/career retrospective. ThisAs a college freshman, I attended the Ebert/Scorsese Wexner Center interview which acts as the centerpiece to this critical/career retrospective. This was over 15 years ago now, so much of the content felt absolutely fresh; but there were many ideas that I've since owned to a point I truly believed they were my own thoughts. When people claim to not like horror, musicals, melodramas, etc. I often try to explain that genre doesn't matter, what is done within the genre matters*. I now suspect this has roots in Ebert's line "A film is not about its subject; it's about how it's about its subject." The interview is fantastic, full of wisdom, trivia, humor and humility. The problem with the rest of the book is that it is a compilation rather than a whole. While the interview is a naturally flowing dialog, the rest of the book is a complied chronological overview. Ebert's reviews and articles on each film are given, but no editing has been done in the assembly. The same brilliant insights are offered over and over and over, until the depth of an observation is lost to familiarity. This may work better as a reference book where, after reading the essential interview, it is kept handy and picked up only after viewing a specific film.
*To be fair, I have a tendency to avoid War films....more
Fittingly, I finished this exploration into the minds of conspiracy theorists the week Tila Tequila started defending Hitler and wrote the lyric "So nFittingly, I finished this exploration into the minds of conspiracy theorists the week Tila Tequila started defending Hitler and wrote the lyric "So now they call me a Nazi/No, bitch, I'm just good at Yahtzee."...more
At times Stephen King's JOYLAND feels like adolescent wish fulfillment at its most blatant. A young virgin gets dumped, saves a helpless child and a dAt times Stephen King's JOYLAND feels like adolescent wish fulfillment at its most blatant. A young virgin gets dumped, saves a helpless child and a despicable man, all while befriending a dying kid with a hot mom. It's also a kind of clumsy mystery, with too few suspects and sporadic interest in resolving things. When describing the plot to a friend, I unfairly dismissed it as TWILIGHT for boys. I still think the plot is light on intrigue and heavy on idealized male experience; but King's talent for atmospheric locations and engaging characters still made JOYLAND a worthwhile and entertaining read. Still working in the reluctant nostalgia of 11/22/63, JOYLAND immerses us into the per-regulation world of CONEY ISLAND style amusement parks. He brings a developed culture, language, and camaraderie that almost makes you long for the days you could lose a few fingers on a rickety roller coaster and nobody made much of a fuss about it. Sure it's a funnel cake that's half-baked and mushy on the inside, but the powdered sugar, crispy crust, and everything that the treat represents make the meaningless calories worth it. ...more
I started listening to this on my way to Brooklyn, while somewhat lost on the back roads of Pennsylvania. It was dark out, and the road was obstructedI started listening to this on my way to Brooklyn, while somewhat lost on the back roads of Pennsylvania. It was dark out, and the road was obstructed by a thick haze of mist. Every so often small rural houses were visible. It was the perfect atmosphere to begin an audiobook which opens with a detailed chapter on the murders and fetishes of Ed Gein. As the narrator told of Gein's grave robberies, lip collection, and skin suits, I felt more genuinely creeped out than I have been in years. It was glorious.
The rest of the book chronicles the making of PSYCHO in a meticulously detailed, and endlessly fascinating fashion. It takes a pretty linear tone, moving from the true story of Gein, to Robert Bloch's pulpy novel, to screenplay, production, editing, release, reception, and legacy. Rebello takes an objective look at some of the more notorious controversies (Saul Bass' alleged direction of the shower scene) and layers anecdotal evidence of those involved against each other, in a way that gets as close to a truth as is possible in Hollywood lore.
I was surprised to espy a stack of Richard Wiseman's book PARANORMALITY in the Religion section at HALF PRICE BOOKS a few weeks ago. It doesn't entertI was surprised to espy a stack of Richard Wiseman's book PARANORMALITY in the Religion section at HALF PRICE BOOKS a few weeks ago. It doesn't entertain the notion that supernatural events are real for a moment, so its place alongside new age drivel is delightfully ironic. But the reason I yelped in disbelief is because the book didn't find a publisher in the United States. While Wiseman's previous books - including 59 SECONDS, an evidence based entry in the self help genre, and QUIRKOLOGY, his exploration into weird science - found a home in the US, PARANORMALITY was denied an entry visa.
While Americans devour the rambling rants of countless Chopraesque gurus, they are not so keen on books that call bullshit on flim flam. Though PARANORMALITY was a best seller abroad, publishers felt Mary Roach's 2005 SPOOK was all the skepticism towards the unrealdead we need in the U.S. of A. thank you very much, and good day sir.
This is a shame because PARANORMALITY is a fantastic read. Wiseman offers short anecdotes of ghost stories, mind readers, fortune tellers, etc; succinctly and humorously explains why they are bunk; then uses the experiences as a springboard to delve into the latest scientific theories and hypothesis on our faulty cognition. The section on the Jonestown Massacre was one of the most interesting I've read. Especially refreshing was that, unlike many skeptical authors, Wiseman encourages using his lessons to frighten, fool, and fuck with friends*. He also provides links to short videos of experiments, tricks and interviews throughout the text via QR tags. The book ends (spoiler alert) with a nice thought on the beauty of disbelief, "To believe that the findings of supernatural science remove wonder from the world is to fail to see the remarkable events that surround us every day of our lives. And, unlike those who appear to talk with the dead or move objects with the power of their minds, these amazing phenomena are genuine."
Despite the lack of a major release, Wiseman self-published and you can find the Kindle version here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00572B4BK. And, last I checked, there were still copies of the British version at the Half Price Bookstore on Lane (still hiding out in the display section of the Religion section).
*I'm concentrating on your right ring finger. Place your hand palm down on your desk, and spread out your fingers. I'm now going to hold your right ring finger down with my mind. Hmmm. Not working is it? I think I'm getting bad psychic vibrations from your middle finger. It seems to be flipping me the bird in my mind, disturbing my chi. Please hide it by bending just that finger under your hand at the second joint. There. That's better. Now, with the rest of your fingers spread out as before, I'm using all of my mental force to hold down that ring finger. I'mmmmm puuuusssshhhinnnnggggg doooowwwnnnn onnnn ittt nnnnooooww... TRY TO LIFT IT AND BEHOLD MY POWERS!!!
(don't worry, the other experiments are better, this was just the easiest to do from afar.)...more
Roger Ebert never struck me as the type of guy who lost his virginity to a South African prostitute; but, he is. I was also surprised to learn he starRoger Ebert never struck me as the type of guy who lost his virginity to a South African prostitute; but, he is. I was also surprised to learn he started reviewing movies on assignment, not out of deep love of cinema - which developed through viewing and time. As with many modern memoirs, it is actually an expanded patchwork of previously published blog entries. Each of the 50 plus chapters explores a specific theme, memory, or character but, when experienced as a novel, the overlaps and omissions start to stand out. The first part, chronicling Ebert's childhood through adolescence, is meticulous in the minutia of subjective memory; in this section, his voice is one of a director. However, the perspective becomes more distant, more objective once his life as a film critic begins; and here his voice if one of, well, a critic.
The audiobook was narrated by Edward Herrman (the vampire step dad in LOST BOYS), and he's fantastic. Ebert, for reasons detailed in the book, no longer has a voice of his own. Herrman treats the reading like a role, and inhabits the character of Ebert. Though I can still vividly recall Ebert's actual voice from the countless weekends spent listening to him on AT THE MOVIES, I was able to accept Herrman as a worthy substitute.
I probably should have actually read END THIS DEPRESSION NOW! instead of listening to the audiobook version. Not only could I not see the multiple chaI probably should have actually read END THIS DEPRESSION NOW! instead of listening to the audiobook version. Not only could I not see the multiple charts Krugman cites, but my mind also wanders more easily during the dry segments. I figured I listen to enough political podcasts that I could trust myself to pay attention, but nope. Half way through an explanation on the dangerous economic side effects transferring to the Euro caused Greece and Spain, my stupid brain starts wondering about the last movie Angelina Jolie showed her boobs in (Original Sin? Taking Lives maybe...does Beowulf count?). It's like my brain doesn't realize how imperative it is that I pay attention to this stuff; because any second of the day my conservative friends and cousins could be posting unfunny tea-party memes on facebook, and the fate of our nation's future lies in the quality of my response posts debunking them.
Strangely, I think I was actually more attentive listening to Thomas Sowell's THE HOUSING BOOM AND BUST (despite Sowell's ability to make Ben Stein seem as animated as Jim Carrey). But that was more because BUST was so jaw dropping in its up-is-down conservative claims, I couldn't help but pay attention. Krugman's latest is more a repeated call for Keynesian stimulus, and repeated critiques of the ineffective and harmful results of austerity. If THEY LIVE type glasses existed to decode subliminal intent, each page of this would read: I FUCKING TOLD YOU SO....more
I love this book, in part because it made me feel a little bit better about how much worse I'm doing "it." Michael Ian Black represents my Platonic idI love this book, in part because it made me feel a little bit better about how much worse I'm doing "it." Michael Ian Black represents my Platonic ideal of myself. Had I been born with greater ambition, actual talent, a sharper sense of humor and better looks, I can see myself reaching the apex of my potential as a mildly depressed C-list celebrity like Black. His book isn't the type of complex classic with flowery prose and a propulsive narrative I usually reserve the 5 star rating for. Black's insights aren't necessarily deep; they are something I currently find more fulfilling: honest about their mundanity. I became too embarrassed to read this in public because every page had some passage which made me howl with laughter, or weep with empathy. I love this book....more
Jon Ronson reads his novel with a tone that is at once deeply soothing and somewhat anxious. THE PSYCHOPATH TEST, an excerpt of which was featured onJon Ronson reads his novel with a tone that is at once deeply soothing and somewhat anxious. THE PSYCHOPATH TEST, an excerpt of which was featured on THIS AMERICAN LIFE, is his follow up to the George Clooney movie THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS. Ronson uses his somewhat more marketable name to continue to open doors of eccentrics who are always fascinating, and occasionally terrifying. While the book does focus on Psychopathy, and the checklist which inspired the title, it is more organized around what separates madness from sanity. We know the psychopaths are crazy, but what about the doctors who feed them LSD, let them roll around in their own feces as an expression of freedom, and make visitors wear crime scene photos around their necks so as not to disturb the extreme environment? Or the Scientologists who try to free potential psychopaths to discredit the field of psychiatry? Or the ex-MI5 9/11 Truther transvestite who thinks he's Jesus? Or the journalist who seeks these people out and tells their stories for profit? Ronson unearths fascinating history and the individuals behind it while also keeping the story personal and self-deprecating. Some stories are more fascinating than others, and I found my mind wandering during some of the final, less sensationalistic chapters; but the subject and subjects are memorable and - despite Ronson's multiple warnings against non-professional use - the Hare Checklist has kept me busy spotting psychos since I started the audiobook. ...more