Archive - 2016
author: Ellen Ullman
average rating: 3.57
book published: 2003
read at: 2016/12/01
date added: 2016/12/03
shelves: novels, own-it, fun
Excellent read. Ullman really captures well both the technology and the mental lives of people in the software industry. The story also has a narrative arc that's relatively non-standard and unexpected - it's not one of those stories where I'm constantly thinking "oh I bet I know what will happen now."
(Also, parenthetically, the short tryst between programmer and system administrator is one of the most erotic sexual subplots I've read in a while.)
Really good, expertly written, and covers such a range of concerns: the social trends involving computers and human-computer interfaces, the personality types of programmers, the economics of startups, the "geek pride" that makes computer people go a little (or a lot) crazy, existential philosophy, alcoholism, sex, love, dashed hopes for life... the list goes on...
Today, still grieving. Still in the stages. Of course the fundamental stage to every modern human's existence these days is always denial.
And so this may be full of various instances of rationalization, cognitive dissonance, and the like.
Nevertheless I will try to make this one concise point about my take on things, which was not my first or second take, but it's inching toward some kind of truth, I think.
At first my thought was, fuck all those racist, misogynist, ignorant, stupid morons. Fuck them and I'm done with them.
But then, looking at the numbers, it's staggering. How can there be that many of those hateful fucks? Well, obviously there are a lot of different kinds of people out there and a lot of different reasons that millions of them voted for a sociopathic rapist to lead their nation. But from stuff I've been reading and seeing, it seems like the number one reason is: A big middle finger to how things have been, to the status quo. And people were so upset at "the establishment" that they were willing to throw minorities, women, refugees, the environment, etc, under the bus to raise that big middle finger, to "the establishment".
So for the most part, I have to believe, it wasn't a conscious referendum on bigotry and hate and intolerance. It's just that those things, when given a binary choice, those things took a lower priority. White people that don't know any Muslims, gays, refugees, polar bears, sagegrouse, or who've never seen a river that's not already full of toxic waste, they just don't care enough about those things when compared with the grievance they feel for how Washington has been working, or how the media has told them Washington has been working. How it has, in their view, made their lives worse.
What this has to mean is that people are suffering, and they're suffering enough that they can't bring themselves to be bothered much by other suffering. Everyone suffers, as Buddhism teaches us. The trick, for the enlightened, or even those who are slightly more wise, is to see that fact, accept it, and have compassion for others who are suffering, despite your own pain. But most of us, alas, are not that wise, or at least not very often.
When I get home from work with a splitting headache that makes me feel like a railroad spike has been driven through my head, from temple to temple, and my wife is cooking, cleaning, and taking care of a screaming toddler all by herself because i have decided it's impossible to do anything but pop some ibuprofen and lay down in a dark room for a while, I'm thinking in one part of my brain, "this is unfair. This is kinda sexist. I should be out there helping." But the rest of my brain wants to stick a pistol in my mouth and end it because I'm in so much pain.
Now, pain is relative. I'm pretty sure that when I have a headache like that, it's not the very worst thing that anyone in the world has ever felt. It's not worse than being raped. It's not worse than a drone blowing up your house. Or some ISIS fanatics beheading your family. Or a cop shooting you dead because your skin is the wrong color (I'm pretty sure, though, that it is worse than the government telling you that you can't graze your cows on land that's not yours, for free.)
And yet, in that moment, the pain I feel is real, and valid. Somehow, if I can, some days, I rise to the occasion, and get up and go help feed the kid and make dinner and do dishes, because I know that's the right thing to do. But often, that's really really hard. It's the fair thing, it's the compassionate thing. And I've been taught to be fair and compassionate.
But some people didn't get that teaching. Or they've forgotten it, or had it been drummed out of them. It's not that they explicitly all hate women and gays and polar bears. They just can't get past their own pain to see others' pain. They never learned that that was a virtue that mattered.
And that's why we have this problem now.
And somehow despite our pain that we have this problem, those of us who see a President Drumpf as a huge huge problem, we need to look past it and recognize the others' pain. We should have done it before. We were blind to it, blind to how many people felt that pain and what they were willing to do about it. Now there's maybe a little time left. Maybe. But the pistol just got put in Amerikkka's mouth.
author: Paul Bloom
average rating: 3.68
book published: 2010
read at: 2016/09/15
date added: 2016/11/10
shelves: fun, spirit-self
It's good. It kind of doesn't go as deep, as philosophical, as I was hoping. but it's pretty interesting. especially the evolutionary biology stuff.
I wish we were more like penguins.
author: Peter Mendelsund
average rating: 3.67
book published: 2014
read at: 2016/10/01
date added: 2016/10/12
shelves: art, fun, to-re-read, wishlist, spirit-self
When I first saw this book I thought, maybe this guy is the new John Berger. He may not be the new Berger, but this book may almost be the new Ways of Seeing. He isn't quite as radical or subversive as Berger, but the book definitely blows my mind in a similar way, about the way we look at things, the way we read things, the way writers make things that we read, and the odd, secret ways our eyes and brains work.
Really really good. and a ridiculously fast read, as it is mostly pictures, diagrams, and large print.
author: John Scalzi
average rating: 3.81
book published: 2012
read at: 2016/08/04
date added: 2016/08/04
shelves: fun, novels, own-it
A worthwhile read, if you're a science-fiction fan with the ability to laugh at the cliches of the genre. This is not great literature, but it was never billed as such. It's a light satire of sci-fi television, but it also gets a little bit heavy and touching during the 3rd act.
The writing quality is a little hit-or-miss. Scalzi is clearly proficient, but the dialog is often straight out of the playbook for bad situation comedies, the kind where every character can't let anything be said without some dumb comeback. Despite this, I found the concepts and the emotional content to be compelling enough to keep me going.
author: David Sosnowski
average rating: 3.90
book published: 2004
read at: 2016/06/11
date added: 2016/06/11
shelves: fun, novels, own-it
This is a funny book. A fascinating book, a piece of science-fantasy with a classic "what if" that is expertly followed through on: What if vampires existed, and they managed to turn basically everyone on the planet into vampires? What would happen? How would civilization go on, and what would it look like? And how many comedic situations would ensue?
It's not extremely literary or complicated or deep. It is a beautiful little story about relationships and parenting and parental love, chosen family, loss, and nostalgia. It's a book that I would think would appeal mostly to vampire fans. In addition to than that demographic, it probably would have done quite well marketed as young adult fiction. It's a very clean, PG-13 book - although it refers to a lot of ultra-violence and super hot and bloody erotic vamp-sex, everything is at a distance, like the old romances where the lovers tumble into bed and then the scene fades to black. The humor, the double entendres, are at time a tad bit too clever and too frequent, but it's that kind of book. (I guess someone categorizing it in a literary way would call it a farce?)
Full disclosure: I am/was a vampire fan; not an obsessive one, but I used to devour Lestat novels pretty ravenously. Also, I knew David Sosnowski years (like almost 25 years!) ago, back when he only wrote poetry and would show up at the Ann Arbor Poetry Slam and pretty much kick almost everyone else's ass. Then he started writing novels. He's a great guy and a great writer and I'm psyched to read this.
(Note: I'd love to read more of this kind of thing that gets even more deep into the possible science of how vampirism could work. Like what's the exact biochemistry of the process? How can blood be enough to sustain them? etc etc... )