Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
You know I take literary characters to heart and like a story more if I like the main character. In this case both Jackie and I are uncertain of how we feel about either the boy or the woman. They are both flawed. Although the woman's seduction of the boy and also actions she took prior to meeting the boy are worse on the surface than those of the boy, I found myself more sympathetic to the woman. There is a court scene where she asks a judge in her trial what he would have done in her situation. She didn't ask the question as a calculated move; she truly could not see other options that may have been available to her. The boy was cold in his relationships after parting from the woman and perhaps it was due to the affair or is just how he is. Regardless, he had the power to make a number of relationships better and did not.
The book is a sparely written 218 pages that could be finished in one day. If you are thinking of seeing the movie that is just arriving in theaters, read the book first. I can't tell if any of our bloggers will love this, hate this, or be in between. I think I'm in between.
Monday, December 01, 2008
I've read two of Vowell's previous books: "Assasination Vacation" and "The Partly Cloudy Patriot" and LOVED them, so I was really looking forward to this one. And it didn't disappoint. This one is a little less funny, though, what with all the Native American slaughter and such.
Relying heavily on John Winthrop's journals and famous sermon "A Model of Christian Charity" as a worldview lens, Vowell takes the reader on an eye-opening tale of the founding of the Massachussetts Bay colony. She interweaves Winthrop's story with those of John Cotton, Anne Hutchinson, and John Williams, among others.
What I found most interesting about this history was the contradiction between our Puritan founders' ideals and those of most modern Americans. In fact, evangelical Christians, who seem to stake a claim as the voice of "our nation's Christian founders", probably diverge from the Puritans ideals most of all (although many might agree with the "eye for an eye" justice meted out in Puritan courts!) Vowell dives to the depths of Puritan theology and how that worldview shaped everything in their lives, encompassing both their charity (sharing with one another) and ruthlessness (burning Indian women and children alive.) It's a complex, brutal, and ultimately, enlightening story about some of the founders of this complex, brutal, and enlightening nation. A must read.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
From the beginning, Jackson's life was an adventure. He fought in the Revolution at 13 and was orphaned in the same year. He fought duals, had a controversial romantic life, fought Indians and the British, and reshaped American political and governmental life. It is a life that a fiction script writer would risk criticism for inserting so many near-death experiences, national firsts and bigger than life characteristics. He is justifiably controversial for having elevated the presidency to its modern executive status, for moving almost all eastern native American tribes to lands west of the Mississippi, for balancing the budget for the first time since the Revolution, changing national banking practices, etc.
When I read about FDR last month I came away with mixed emotions due to his character flaws and strengths combined with some governmental successes. He pales in comparison to Jackson, both for his flaws, his strengths, and his governmental outcomes. What was most surprising was the many similarities to issues that were addressed in this last election. Jackson took actions that reminded me of Bush, except Jackson was more courageous and competent. He also took stands that Democrats would applaud, especially since he created the Democratic party. He probably reminds me most of Teddy Roosevelt but is a unique individual. You will not be bored with this story and will come away with an excellent understanding of people like Calhoun, Clay, Webster, J.Q. Adams, and those presidents who followed Jackson into the 1840's. A worthwhile read and one that will leave me thinking about a president's place in the American governmental triumvirate for a long time.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
The story is told as a single monologue to an anonymous person who the main character, Changez, meets and sits down with at a cafe. Changez is a young Pakistani who is educated in the US (Princeton), falls in love, and is working at a great firm making a great living. But, while out of the country on 9/11, he finds that, upon his return to the US, the way in which he is perceived, and hence, the way he perceives the country as a whole, has changed drastically. He is profiled and experiences prejudices he never thought possible and eventually returns home to Pakistan to find that his perceptions of his homeland have changed as well. He seems to have an almost knee-jerk reaction to what he sees as a typically American snobbery, elitism, and entitlement. So, he becomes...yep, you guessed it! A reluctant fundamentalist.
It's a quick read and an interesting book, catching a glimpse inside the struggles with identity and sense of pride for your home that I'm sure many people experienced in the months and years after 9/11. But, again, I just couldn't really come to care about the character too much and really just found myself wanting to like this book more than I did. Could be a case of just reading it at the wrong time, or could just be the fact that it didn't click with me. Overall, I don't think any of you would really be riveted by this book, but I'm glad I read it. Fulfilled my curiosity and was a pleasant way to spend a few days. Not a glowing review, but they can't all be "Stori Telling"!
Monday, November 03, 2008
So I borrowed this book from Natalie, who highly recommended it. She and I typically have pretty similar book taste and exchange books often. However, this was one (much like "Middlesex") that I did not take to quite like she did.
Some of the most satisfying reading for me is to be immersed in a culture very different from my own and following an interesting human dilemma using points of view that blend the familiar human condition with the unique issues associated with a different culture. In his best books, Hillerman pulled it off well. If you want to get a feel for his writing, try some early books, although this one stands alone as a decent mystery.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Envision the story of the birth and beginning of the life of India as told by Forest Gump on crack. Add in the magic story telling of (I can't think of anyone else who can make up this stuff) and you've got what I think "Snow" was supposed to do for Turkey but failed miserably. To help you out, the narrator gives you a running start by giving you two generations before he was born at exactly midnight of the day India became a nation. As it turns out, anyone born around that hour was gifted with some kind of magic power, from changing their own sex at will, to multiplying fishes, to really being able to do magic, to (well, you get the idea). As a conglomerate, they are called midnight's children.
Now, it would probably help if you knew the background of the gazillion deitys that make up the Hindu religion but he gives you enough background to know a guy named Shiva will not be the hero of the story. It would also help to understand whichever language is Rushdie's native tongue (India has about as many languages as it does gods) so you would know when the thing he is eating (or is floating down a river) is a fish or a sweet piece of cake. In the end, it's sort of fun to figure it's either and see which way you like the story best.
Finally, I like his style. He tells stories with lots of parenthetical asides, as do I. Although some may find it annoying (present reader's company excepted), it worked for me. Of our faithful readers, Amanda would probably like this best but it really is a heck of a story and worth the 533 pages (did he say 533?) to tell the tale. Enjoy.
Monday, September 01, 2008
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Briefly, this is a story of a Turkish poet in exile who returns to Turkey and goes to a back-water town near the Iranian border to write about Islamic girls who are committing suicide but also because he might be able to hit on a beautiful woman he briefly met in college who is now divorced. Sounds like a page turner.
Well, the poet is a shallow, self-center child of a man at 47. What an idiot. This is the kind of book Becky talks about where the dialogue makes you want to curl up on the couch and overdose on something (booze, pills, "Friends" reruns). After 250 pages of this inane dialogue I thought of quiting the book but decided the story might come together in a brilliant conclusion. After all, John Updike said "...A major work...with suspense at every dimpled vortex (whatever the heck that means)...Pamuk [is Turkey's] most likely candidate for the Nobel Prize." John must have gotten a different edition than the one I read. I now feel like the little boy on Christmas morning who sees a giant pile of horse manure in the yard and starts digging to the bottom because he's sure there's a pony in there somewhere. Take it from me, after 426 pages, there is no pony.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
This book almost won the Pulitzer prize when it came out and I've seen it over the years but have put off picking it up until now. It's definitely a book I can see a young 20-early 30-something guy relating to quite well. But being an (early) 30-something gal, there were definitely bits I could relate to as well (like when he tried out for the San Francisco season of The Real World...I never did so, but all of the references made complete sense to me, as they would most people of my generation).
Anyway, it's a literary autobiography about this guy who moves to San Francisco from Chicago after the death of his parents to start a hipster paper, raising his younger brother and dealing with being a young guy trying to support his family. He has to deal with his other siblings who are more or less in the picture when it's convenient, all while trying to figure out who he is.
Sometimes the writing style got on my nerves with it's stream of consciousness feeling, and going back and forth between the past and present took a second to get used to. But for the most part it helped the book flow and move quite well, and there were definitely some laugh out loud moments.
Do I think it's one of the best books I've ever read? No. But typically when I read books that have been up for or have won the Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award, etc., I feel as if it's praise for something maybe not quite worthy. Or maybe I just don't get it.
But that's not to say I didn't enjoy the book, I actually really enjoyed it. But it was a book about a guy who dealt with some really heavy family stuff pretty early in life and had to grow up (though whether he actually did grow up for a while there is still up in the air) earlier than most. It's a "coming of age" piece that I think has really resonated with a lot of people for no other reason, perhaps, than because he was able to put on paper what others can only partially conceptualize. It was good. A quick(ish) read and a book I think will find itself worked into literary and pop culture references for years to come. Worthy of the Pulitzer Prize? Probably not. Worthy of your time? Yep.
Most everyone who reads this review (hell, everyone) will undoubtedly lose most of whatever respect they had for me. But I don't care. That's right, people - I bought AND read Stori Telling by Tori Spelling. Soak it up. Breath it in. You're related to me.
Why did I pick up this book, you ask? A few reasons. One, it's summertime and dammit, I wanted something to read at the beach. Forget the fact that I read this on a sunny, hot Hoboken day laying on my leather couch for 7 hours until I finished it. Forget all of that. Forget the fact that I called several Barnes and Nobles (and, admittedly, a few Border's) to see if anyone had a copy. Sure, maybe it should've made me a bit embarrassed that this book was sold out everywhere (meaning that "the masses" were picking it up, and that usually isn't good). But I was shameless. I called everywhere saying "Do you have Stori Telling by Tori Spelling?" trying to sound as intelligent and worldly as I am while also really hoping they would put it on hold for me.
Second? I was curious. Maybe it stemmed from getting sucked into a marathon of her reality show on the Oxygen network "Tori and Dean." Maybe it is because I grew up watching her on 90210. Maybe it was because I always kinda thought she was an idiot and spoiled and entitled and annoying, and then when I watched that stupid marathon thought "Wait, she's kinda funny." Who cares. I bought it, and that's that.
So. The review? Well, none of you will read it, I'm sure, and that's just fine. I proudly have it displayed right up there with "The Bell Jar" and "Anna Karinina" and "Memoirs of a Geisha." Well, maybe not proudly, but it's there. And I am going to stick by this purchase because it was funny. And light. And a quick read. And it didn't make me curl up into the fetal position and contemplate the best ways to take your life. And I'm a firm believer that not every book has to change my life. Sure, it'd help if I learned something from it, but does it count that I learned that Tori Spelling only had one nose job as opposed to the several it's always reported she has gotten? Yeah, didn't think so.
Sure, it's fluffy and ridiculous and I'm sure you all have your opinions of Tori Spelling and her life so I won't bother trying to explain any of it away. I stand by it. I own it. It's a toss up between what was fluffier this summer, Stori Telling or Valley of the Dolls. But both have lots of pink on the cover, so that counts for something, right? Ok, you may proceed to mock me now.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Saturday, August 09, 2008
As promised, a FUNNY book. "Helping Me Help Myself" was perfect! I don't know if we were seperated at birth or something, but Lisick seems to be some sort of soul sister. Basically, Lisick, a determined skeptic of self-reflection and gurus, decided it might be a kick to try out different "self-help" theories throughout the year and see if she might get something out of it. Embarassingly, I've read most of the authors/gurus she wrote about: Julia Cameron ("The Artist's Way" - to help her creativity,) Deepak Chopra (to help her find her spirit,) and, of course, Richard Simmons! It was a riot!
Of course, my favorite chapter might have been when she tried to take some advice from a parenting book to get her 4-year old to behave. Reading about her trying to get him dressed in the morning brought tears to my eyes because I could relate on such a deep level. And like any great comic writer, she had me laughing at every awkward, painful experience. Seriously, I was afraid of waking some kids up in the nap room because I was having such a hard time stifling my laughter.That being said, can I send a shout out for some recommendations of cheerful/funny books I can read? Dad's latest "Stealing Horses" might fit the bill, I'm not sure. But basically, I have had to put down two books recently that were just miserably depressing. Alice Sebold's (of "The Lovely Bones") "The Almost Moon" and Jeannette Walls "The Glass Castle" were both painful in their own way. I got about 3/5 of the way through both of them before stopping. Sebold's was about a woman who murdered her dementia-stricken mother and I just didn't care that much about the main character. Plus, I couldn't relate at all...seriously. Did you hear that mom, couldn't relate at all. Her mom was pretty messed up and was basically never there for her daughter emotionally. And "The Glass Castle" was similar in the sense that it's a memoir about Walls growing up with her emotionally disturbed parents as they dragged she and her siblings across the country. The parents in both books were so horrible, I just didn't feel like reading any more. I understand that some parents are horrible but it's just not entertaining to read about such miserableness. At least, not right now. Not after "The Road." So any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
If I could only resist when someone said I really shouldn't do something, last Sunday and Monday would have been fine. I would have watched a little TV, maybe a movie, and cared for my ill daughter. But no. Becky had to say "You know a book you would really find interesting, but no, you really shouldn't read it. Amanda, you shouldn't. Never mind." Um, no. I can't never mind. And she handed over the name of it: The Road. She had given me a brief rundown: father and son on the road during some sort of nuclear winter...very bleak, depressing, yadda yadda yadda. I thought "Hey, I'm peak oil girl. I'm down with depressing. Gotta' embrace it, if you're gonna' face it, right?" Wrong. I shouldn't have read this book.
And mom, you DEFINITELY shouldn't read this book. You might not even want to read this review.
In short, this book IS about a man and his young son traveling along a bleak road headed towards the ocean. And when I say bleak, I mean everything's dead. Everything. No animals, dead trees, vegetation turned to ash. Oh, and did I mention the cannibals? Because, I suppose technically, some people are alive...and them's good eatin', right? I swear, I read half this book curled up in the fetal position.
With that being said, this was also an amazing story. I found myself overwhelmed by the sheer hopelessness of it all. Nathan was a little confused about why I kept muttering "I'd just kill myself...I really would..." until I explained it to him, at which point he got back to his Facebook poker game. The idea that almost all life has been wiped off the face of the planet and these two people are trying to hold on to the little shred of hope that life might go on, was inspiring. But I'd still kill myself. Like, way before the cannibals showed up.
I can definitely understand why McCarthy won the Pulitzer for this one. It is well written, engaging, and absorbing. You don't struggle with it, in a literary way. You just travel the road with these two people and see the world through their eyes. And you are transformed. Granted, you may be transformed into someone rocking in the fetal position trying to figure out how to most mercifully kill yourself and loved ones without a gun available, but it'll change you! I wouldn't wish this book on anyone looking for a good night's sleep. But, if you're curious, Dad might be able to take it (and take something away from it, too.) Enjoy!
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
In addition to already knowing the route based on Chinese maps, all of the explorers mentioned encountering Chinese or Chinese goods in all those places. It appears that as Chinese ships wrecked in these various places, crews were left in place to set up colonies until future fleets could return to relieve them. DNA from tribes in the Americas, including the Sioux, the Navajo, some in the northeast U.S., plus Central and South America show Chinese ancestry. Even peoples who come from far northern Norway have the southeastern Chinese DNA. Tribes in Peru and on the North American west coast spoke and dressed as Chinese when first encountered by Spanish explorers and priests. The evidence of first contact by the Chinese prior to European exploration is massive, with over 1000 articles and books worldwide written over many decades on different aspects of the subject.
So how come we never heard about this in school. It turns out that when the fleet returned to China, rather than receiving a hero's welcome, they found that the old emperor was dying and the new emperors thereafter wanted nothing further to do with foreign trade and travel. That deep ocean travel and trade had been going on for at least 800 years up to that point. They ordered all maps and writings about the global trek to be destroyed. The deep water ships then in existence were to be destroyed or left to rot and the extensive trading system in the Pacific and Indian Oceans to be all but ended. However, sailors and merchants from other countries, including at least one European had sailed with the fleet for large segments of the journey and recorded their experiences. At least one of the Europeans made his way back to the map making center of Europe and is the probable source for the information on the maps used by Prince Henry.
The same strengths and weaknesses of "Guns, Germs, and Steel" are present in this book. The way that the story is pieced together is interesting and well done. However, the use of the personal pronoun "I" appears with too much frequency. A good rule of thumb in business writing is to never use any personal pronouns; once every 50 to 100 pages is about right in any other literary form other than fiction. The author's self reference is defensible because he takes on such a major paradigm shift in how historic oceanic exploration is currently taught that a little self-defensive rhetoric is understandable. However, it increases near the end of the book and makes the argument more strident than necessary. If you don't become too wrapped up in the names of the Chinese emperors and admirals and in geometric discussions of solving for latitude and longitude, the story flows well. It's a good read and the author makes his case. Once again "history as it's taught in school is bunk."
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
The story is basically about three women trying to make it in NYC/Hollywood, and their lives all become intertwined by a Broadway play. They become friends and share a propensity to be famous/rich and date/marry the wrong men. Oh yeah - and they do a ton of drugs! These women were kinda' messed up, and it made for a great read! (I know that sounds awful...but it's true.)
It's a soap opera sure to keep you turning the pages - if this is the kind of book you're looking for (which...not sure any of you are. But I stand by it!)
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
Why, you may ask, are you reading yet another book on the same topic? I suppose the reason is I'm trying to fully understand the problem. And honestly, I'm trying to find a flaw in these people's argument. I can't. Granted, they are making predictions and predictions can change. But the predictions seem very logical and well-researched. In fact, I've begun to look at the world through the lense of cheap oil and it's amazing how much our society depends on it. So many things are making sense to me now: our motivations in Iraq, the necessity of debt in our economy, Wal-Mart...the list goes on and on. And now I hear people complaining about the high price of gas and wondering why this is happening. The media and politicians are saying "supply can no longer meet demand," and "China is taking up supply excesses," but no one is talking point blank to the American people about what that actually means.
I'm beginning to realize what that actually means and it ain't good. And the fact that we, as Americans, are dragging our heels on renewable energy development, encouraging each other to buy, buy, buy, and sprawling our cities as quickly as possible, shows that when supply starts shrinking, so will we. I highly recommend this book and further research into this pressing problem. Good luck!
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I can't say it enough. This one is a definite must-read for Dad. Becky, you might enjoy it (if you can make it past the squeamish stuff.) Mom, probably pass. While reading this, I was also reminded of Neil Gaiman's "Coraline" which was also impressive. I finished it last year during the blog drought. But if you enjoy this one (and I know you will), check out "Coraline." You'll be glad you did.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
I initially decided to read this biography because I wanted to know more about the American Transcendental movement. Transcendentalism is one of those broad brush terms that gets tossed around in literary circles and one that I never fully understood. As one would expect of a Pulitzer Prize winning book, Matteson has done a superb job of capturing the essence of this 19th c. movement by reflecting it through the lens of the Alcott family story. The narrative pulls you into the life and times of this unique American family and makes you feel as if you have actually known them in life. In Matteson's closing paragraph he writes: "To the extent that a written page permits knowledge of a different time and departed souls, this book has tried to reveal them." I believe he has done a masterful job.
Weisman opens this book with the following question: "Is it possible that, instead of heaving a huge biological sigh of relief, the world without us would miss us?"
I won't give away the answer, but if you like good nature writing (um, Dad), this is a wonderful book for you. Weisman chronicles what the world might look like if people were suddenly raptured away from it (gone extinct, taken by aliens, you get the picture.) At once startling and inspiring, Weisman reveals the inter-connectedness of ecosystems and explains the detrimental (or helpful) role humans play all over the world. From the plains of the Serengeti to the subways of New York City, you see the world as we know it slowly erode before your eyes. Weisman's writing is often poetic, his chapter titles for example: "Unbuilding Our Home, What Falls Apart, Wings Without Us."
I found myself overwhelmed, at times, by the idea of all humanity erased away. It's a sobering reflection. But at the same time, I was full of awe at the amazing ability of life to find a way. One chapter, about the wildlife that has returned to Chernobyl, was both heartbreaking and inspiring. Although some of our animal friends would fare worse than others (sorry, cows), still others would find new niches and possibly evolve to take advantage of new opportunities (housecats, for one.)
This book WAS "one of the grandest thought experiments of our time" as touted on the cover. Read, and enjoy.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
The book follows the experiences of Toru Okada, a (recently) former lawyer who stays at home while his magazine editor wife supports the two of them. Then his "journey" begins with a search for the family cat and this is when a whole new world of characters and experiences unfolds. As characters enter his life, they pull him into their world - literally. He finds himself within shifting interior landscapes, and through multiple eyes, and has an almost dreamlike search for identity in the midst of chaos as it is presented.
There are quite a few bizarre events that unfold that leaves you somehow accepting each new twist even though some are completely implausible. And what I think dad might find especially interesting is the way the book is able to contrast the Japanese military past with the present state of Japan. All in all, I think a line from the book sums it up the best (took me a while to find this quote, but I knew it was in there!): "There's a kind of gap between what I think is real and what's really real."
And there you go.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
The story itself is an easy read and fascinating. A detective is laid up in the hospital for weeks with a broken leg (how's that for a difference from today's health practice!). To pass the time friends bring pictures for him to look at and the one of Richard III looks nothing like the ogre painted in the history books, according to the detective's instincts for faces and guilt. With help from his friends, he digs into the story and comes to a much different conclusion than is painted in the Shakespearean play and elsewhere. That those plays and histories were written during the Tudor dynasty has a lot to do with the outcome.
This is a quick read, interesting history and an engaging story. Good beach reading and a mind expander when it comes to looking at history as it's been fed to us.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I was really looking forward to this book because:
1.) I haven't finished a fiction book in just about forever...
2.) I read "Stones from the River" (by the same author) several years ago and really enjoyed it.
And the verdict is...definitely worth my time. The story grabbed me from the first page, which is necessary because I'm chasing a 2-year old around most of the time! I just don't have the time to give a book several chapters to get to know one another. But this one delivered from the start.
It's about 2 men and a woman who grew up as close friends. Life becomes complicated (as it so often does!) and the three of them end up raising Annie's baby sister, Opal, after their parents' tragic deaths. Love, hate, attraction, and revulsion pull the three into a dangerous game that they're unable to escape from. I don't want to give too much away in case you read the book.
Before I wrap up, I do want to mention that Helgi gets a bit carried away with her personal politics (which happen to be similar to my own, but I digress.) I don't really like a lot of overt political talk in fiction. It didn't bother me too much since I happen to agree with the author, but the very fact that I noticed it might make it bothersome to someone who is not as liberal as myself. If you don't end up reading this one, I would still recommend "Stones from the River" which came out several years ago. Enjoy!
Monday, May 26, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Crippen was a mild-mannered doctor, who committed the second most famous murder in London (after Jack the Ripper). When his flamboyant, demanding and extravagant wife, Belle, mysteriously disappears her friends suspect him but the police can't find any evidence to hold him and he quietly leaves London with his secretary/lover, headed to America.
The other story describes Marconi's plodding and unscientific efforts to create the equipment that used electromagnetic waves to send wireless transmissions across the Atlantic. Larson goes into a bit too much detail here describing the relentless competition among the various "inventors" who were vying to be the first to master wireless technology. The fact that Marconi even succeeded at all is actually quite amazing because he really didn't understand how or why the equipment worked. For me, this was the most fascinating part of the book...
But in the end, the two mens' stories intersect when Marconi's wireless "invention" is the tool used by the London police track down and capture Crippen (after they did some digging in the garden of his former house), as he sailed across the Atlantic on the SS Montrose, ready start a new life in America. Oops, not so fast Mr. Crippen!
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
The author of this book was interviewed on "The Colbert Report" for his new book "World Made By Hand." I thought he was kind of a kook (but entertaining!) Like everything else, I didn't want to dismiss him out of hand. So I checked into some of his other books at the local library where I came across "The Long Emergency." It sounded pretty apocalyptic but I thought I'd give it a try anyhow...just to see what this guy was about.
Well, the book was fascinating! Basically, Kunstler explains his theory that the world is about to hit peak oil, and what the ramifications of that may be. I'd heard talk about peak oil before but never completely understood what it was. The book uses good references and citations to scientific studies and oil industry insiders. I found many of Kunstler's arguments coherent and well-reasoned. It makes a lot of sense that we're about to (or already have) reached peak oil. It also stands to reason that much of our lifestlye will have to change as oil becomes rarer (and costlier.) I have often thought that our economy will naturally transition to some other, more sustainable, energy source when the price of oil becomes too high. And Kunstler argues that we will definitely try. He lays out all of the alternatives to oil and how they will probably be used after peak oil. He pins his best bets on nuclear energy for running appliances, etc. But the point he made about oil that I had never thought much about before is: oil is portable, ships easily, relatively safe, and abundant. Most other energy will not run our cars (ship our food, make our plastics, fly our planes.) Really, he brought up so many things I'd never thought of before he made me a believer.
That being said, Kunstler IS rather apocalyptic and believes society will be taken by surprise and have a long, uncomfortable period of converging catastrophes to deal with which will decimate large populations and force much of society to be rebuilt. Some of the other catastrophes include climate change and disease pandemics, along with the depletion of oil. A big part of me says "No way, we won't be caught so off guard. Technology and society will adapt in time to prevent huge population losses, at least in the U.S." And hopefully that's true. But his argument that our entire way of life in the U.S. (i.e. suburbia, constant economic growth, etc.) is incongruent with an oil-less world is awfully compelling.
One last thing: as I was dismissing some of the author's more far-reaching predictions for the near future, he began talking about the housing crisis. He explained everything that's currently happening in the housing market and how that will affect the rest of the economy. The creepy thing is, this book was published in 2004, before any of this started happening. The detail and exactness with which he described the housing bubble and his prediction of how quickly the price of a barrel of oil would shoot up in the next few years (i.e. NOW!) was frightening. It makes me give the rest of his predictions even more credibility.
I don't know if the rest of you would find this as fascinating as I did. But I hope at least one of you reads it so I have someone to discuss it with. I'd really like to know what you guys think. Let me know.
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Mr. Harris suggests there is at least a chance that a similar breakthrough in understanding is possible if we stop accepting items on faith and start applying the same intellectual rigor to the questions of God and an existence different from the one most apparent to use in our daily lives.
He also points out the dark side to not breaking away from faith. That dark side has been apparent in all the monotheistic religions, starting with Judaism, spanning centuries in Christianity and now being demonstrated with Islam. In each religion’s sacred book there are portions that require you to kill anyone, no matter how beloved, who does not believe exactly everything written in that text. In the case of Christianity, it resulted in centuries of the most terrible torture and murder imaginable in the name of God. There is now a certain live-and-let-live aspect to the vast majority of Christian believers who just don’t believe those passages that call for mass death as well as some or all miracles. That approach appears to be changing with the rise of fundamentalist churches and is troubling to our unity as a religious and secular community and nation.
Mr. Harris makes the point that Islam appears to be at the same point as Christianity prior to the live-and-let-live phase. This makes Islam dangerous as long as the silent majority of believers who say they are tolerant do nothing in the face of Islamic believers who act on pure faith and fundamentalism.
I strongly recommend this book for those who care about religion and its place in the world. It’s an easy read and he makes his case. Even if you think that an organized church is still part of the solution after reading this book, coming to grips with the questions he raises will make your beliefs stronger and more relevant to your spiritual life.
Monday, February 25, 2008
This book was great! I saw the author interviewed on Jon Stewart months and months ago and thought this was one I'd probably like. Of course, like is a strong word. I didn't "like" reading most of it because it turned my stomach to think I'm living next to these people. But I'm glad I read it and think all of you should too.
The author talks about the Christiam Right in America as a fascist-like movement that is only waiting for the right crisis to shake the foundation of America before they are able to wrestle control from the hands of liberals, atheists, and heretics. Watching the Bush administration these last 7 years has made a believer out of me. I really think Christian fundamentalists believe in the Apocalypse and would like to usher it in under their watch. They also believe in the Rapture (trust me, they DO!) and believe conformity and adherence to Church doctrine (as interpreted by crazy people) is the path to salvation. When the stakes are that high, you're not playing around people! They want this to be a Christian nation above any democracy, tolerance, or open society.
Now, I know what you're saying. "They're just a bunch of crazies. No way would Americans turn their backs on hundreds of years of progress towards democracy, free thinking, and general cussedness..." Oh no? Have you seen the last 7 years? What do you think 9/11 did for the fundamentalist movement? Great things, is what. And with more people in poverty, cut off from their communities, and just generally feeling alienated and lost, more people are being lured into fundamentalist churches. The churches have easy answers. Granted, you have to give up free thought, Sundays, and premarital sex, but for an eternity in heaven, that's peanuts!
These are some of the ideas the author discusses. He also documents speeches given by different church leaders, programming on Christian broadcasting stations, and seminars on how to proseletize and spread the Word. This stuff is scary but definitely worth keeping an eye on. Check out this book if you get a chance.