On Education, Freedom, and Liberating oneself. The recommendation toward de-schooling and the formulation of a personal ethics of education. A little...moreOn Education, Freedom, and Liberating oneself. The recommendation toward de-schooling and the formulation of a personal ethics of education. A little dated now, but still powerful and a crucial read for anyone who has ever been let down by traditional educational systems.(less)
This humorous compendium of the marvelous "Science Fiction Future Wasn't" is a little more brief than I would prefer but makes up for it with a fun to...moreThis humorous compendium of the marvelous "Science Fiction Future Wasn't" is a little more brief than I would prefer but makes up for it with a fun tongue-in-cheek attitude and cute illustrations. Basically a series of short articles about various Sci-Fi innovations that would make our lives drastically easier (or at least so much cooler) the book looks at real-world attempts to build such things as self-driving cars (progressing pretty well), jet packs (sadly R&D on this wonderful concept is lacking), underwater cities (soon to open in sunny Dubai!), and hoverboards like Michael J. Fox used in "Back to the Future 2" (loud and slow, but they exist). It's a fun read but lacking in the detail that I would have preferred. Still, I'd keep "Where's my Jetpack" on the back of my toilet for some light reading.(less)
I have a deep and abiding fear of zombies. I spend more time thinking about what to do in the event of a zombie outbreak than is probably good for one...moreI have a deep and abiding fear of zombies. I spend more time thinking about what to do in the event of a zombie outbreak than is probably good for one's mental health. But then I also a good amount of time worrying about giant squid attacks as well, so perhaps my fears aren't the most rational. Regardless, some wise person whose name I have long forgotten once said that if you faced you fears you would realize how foolish they were. I tried this with sharks once and ended up far more afraid than I originally was. This is not the case with Serpent and the Rainbow.
Author Wade Davis is an ethnobotanist from Cambridge who ventures to Haiti after two cases of zombis come to the attention of medical staff on the island. Funded by a group of scientists eager to learn the secret potion used to make one appear dead and then miraculously rise again some time later, Davis begins to peel apart the layers of mystique and tradition that serve to create the soul of Haiti, and which once allowed it to be the only country to successfully free itself from slavery in the history of Western domination of the Americas. As the answer to the mystery of the zombi reveals itself, Davis gains entry into the secret voudoun societies that serve as the spiritual guides and enforcers of Haitian life.
Davis has crafted a fantastically interesting story that combines history, spirituality, and excitement in what can only be described as a real-life Indiana Jones adventure. I've been savoring this book for over a month for good cause, it's just that intriguing.(less)
One of the most interesting and important books that I have ever read. This should be required reading for every eater and food lover everywhere. I da...moreOne of the most interesting and important books that I have ever read. This should be required reading for every eater and food lover everywhere. I dare you to read this and look at a supermarket the same again. Not just this century's The Jungle, though it is a loud call of alarm against our increasingly industrial way of life, but also a fantastic look at another way of producing food that embodies an appreciation for the complexities of nature and the sacred nature of our relationship with the Earth and its inhabitants.
Pollan is a fantastically talented author whose gentle approach to contentious topics serves not to bash the reader's mind against the brick wall of Truth, but rather to illustrate three different ways of producing food and ask the reader to take from each what they will according to their own personal values system. Of course, he also asks the reader to challenge that value system to see if it is worthwhile, but every good author should do that.
I've already passed my copy on to another friend and (if it is ever returned to me) know of a dozen more that I want to have read it.(less)
Worth reading if only for the chapter on UPS and how every single movement of an employee's job is scripted to ensure "maximum efficiency"- everything...moreWorth reading if only for the chapter on UPS and how every single movement of an employee's job is scripted to ensure "maximum efficiency"- everything from scanning packages to having a driver buckle their seatbelt at the same time as they start the truck.(less)
It may seem a little gauche to be talking about the real cost of food while in the midst of complete economic armageddon- these days my budget has bee...moreIt may seem a little gauche to be talking about the real cost of food while in the midst of complete economic armageddon- these days my budget has been broken down to beer and rent- but Michael Pollan is nothing if not a man on a mission. With 2006's Omnivore's Dilemma, Pollan looked into the industry of food- from commercial farms to mass organics to local self-sustaining farms- with often disturbing results.
With In Defense of Food, Pollan tries a different route to the consumer's stomach by looking at the "science" of nutritionism and the various food fads that have engulfed grocery aisles and the diet shelves of many a bookstore. Looking at the claims put forward by industry about low-carb, no-fat, high-fat, pomegranate-enhanced, antioxidant-bearing chemically-created foods he shows first that there is no solid evidence that any of these things on their own can help one lead a healthier lifestyle and secondly that due to all of these competing claims about each new miracle vitamin or mineral, consumers have little to no clue what to eat or why.
Fortunately he provides a few good rules of thumb to follow. I would call these rules mere common sense had he not spent the previous 180 pages explaining that, when it comes to food, we no longer have any common sense. Our senses have been tricked by chemical additives, increased sugars and advertising to think that a McDonald's hamburger (easy target, I know) is not only "food" but a delicious meal. It basically comes down to buying whole foods rather than premade meals or anything containing ingredients with more than 12 syllables.
While I found the book interesting and it helped reignite my love of my garden (come Autumn all I can think of is how much a pain in the ass it has been to take care of for the past 6 months), I didn't find it as gripping as I did Omnivore's Dilemma. This is undoubtedly personal bias on my part- I'm exceptionally interested in the industry of food but get bored to tears when discussion turns to healthy living or how much Vitamin D a person needs. My wife, on the other hand, grew bored with Omnivore's Dilemma within the first 50 pages but flew through In Defense of Food in but a few days.
Different paths to reach the same result: the way in which Western civilization produces and consumes the basic nutrients for life has been completely divorced from an actual relationship with the soil or the farmer's who produce food for us. This has led to a massive increase in the spread of so-called Western diseases such as heart disease and diabetes and the pillaging of ecosystems in exchange for monoculture crops and vast feedlots. It's undoubtedly more expensive, the biggest factor in my eyes at this moment, to eat locally and more fresh foods but Pollan does a decent job of looking at the long term costs of eating the "cheap" foods and the future medical bills this implies to show that, while it may hurt the pocket in the present, the lifetime savings more than make up for it.(less)