Sunday, June 26, 2016


It took me a while to understand what was going on in Leviathan. It sounded like a World War I novel. Were walkers and airships real things? Wait, they are creatures created by "Darwinists". There is obviously some science fiction involved. And finally once it is a third of the way through, I'm finally starting to get the characters and understand what is going on.

The story takes place at the dawn of World War I. One main character is a boy who is the son of the "guy with the funny hat" whose assassination started the great war. He gets to pilot a "walker" to a safe house on a glacier where he discovers that he is next in line to rule the empire. The other lead is a girl who is disguised as a boy to join the British military and work on a living "airship". The end up meeting and help each other out.

Once I realized what was going on, I liked it. The history is a million miles removed from the actual "real" history. However, it just took a few minor turns to get there. The story isn't much. However, the setting and the characters make up for it. We'll see if the next few books in the series start to focus more on plot.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Understanding the Human Factor: Life and Its Impact

And times, the Gary Sojka can come across as a little pandering. However, he balances it with quality communication and a great story to tell. The bulk of the lectures deal humans' domestication of plant and animal species.

In one intriguing lecture he details how our grocery stores present a wide variety of products all originating from a few small "wild" parents. I had realized that a large amount of out processed products come with multiple different corn products. However, I did not realize that our vegetables also come from a few common origins. Many of the vegetables have descended from the same few parents, with different parts being selected for.

He also presents a balanced accounting of large scale farming. Many farmers see large corporate feeding operations as a benefit to allow them to keep their farms. Consumers like the uniformity that the factory farms provide. The large scale farming also allows humans to feed more and more people. (But you have to wonder, with all these animals in close proximity, will some eventually rise up and overthrow their masters? Sounds like a great science fiction work.) However, they do have costs, especially with antibiotic abuse and waste disposal. How do we balance people's food needs with the environment? Will we eat and breed too much and drive ourselves to extinction like the Elk on the northern island?

Thursday, June 02, 2016

So Yesterday

So Yesterday is a dated, fun book about corporate trend setters. Corporate brands are "alluded" too regularly, but rarely explicitly mentioned. Some of the allusions show the fragility of corporate hegemony. (That Finnish cell phone maker? Well, yeah, they were kind of bought by Microsoft, written off, and are trying to come back around.)

The story focuses on shoes. The protaganist, Hunter, is a teenager on the lookout for what is cool. He is paid by the big corporations to find cool shoes. He finds a girl that has a cool way of doing her laces, and from there the adventure begins. They find the coolest shoes they've ever seen (Anti-Nikes), nearly get kidnapped, try to rescue a kidnapped marketeer, spend thousands for expensive clothes to attend a party for the ultra rich and "fall in love" (sort of). He also tells us about the different "places" in the trend setting scale, from the people that start trends, to the people that stay forever behind the trends. He was "cool" in Minnesota, but total dorkus when he got to New York City. He goes out on all these crazy adventures, but then stops back home to eat dinner with his parents. It is a fun book that manages to be "cool" while still being a lot of fun.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

TS Eliot: Voice of the Poet

TS Eliot: Voice of the Poet is part of a series of recordings of poets reading their own work. However, TS Eliot died in 1965. The quality of recordings in his days was not what it is today. (Think scratchy vinyl.) It does seem nice to get a recording from the actual poet. Thus you can hear what the pronunciation and rhythm are really supposed to be. However, why does this matter? Part of the beauty of the printed word is that it leaves the interpretation up to the reader. And besides, even if this is how the poet said things, is this really how he thought when he wrote things down?

As for the poems, this were some of his greatest hits. They have there strong points. However, you might as well read them instead of listening to a CD of Eliot reading them.

The Will to Power: The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche

Professor Kathleen M. Higgins and Professor Robert C. Solomon are a husband and wife team that give these lectures. They divide things up a bit, giving the others an aura of expertise in the lectures.

I did not know that "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" came from Nietzsche. It seems like such a cliched phrase today. Nietzsche and Wagner also had a friendship. Alas, the 2001 theme, though it sounds very Wagnerian, was actually written by Richard Strauss. Thus spoke Zarathustra was structured as a novel. That sounds like something interesting to read. The lecturers stress that Nietzsche was not a Nazi (he died long before National Socialism was even started.) They also show that he had a great deal of sympathy towards Jews - and in fact was playing on the Antisemitism of others to help make his points. Other tidbits include the fact that he was insane for the last few years of his life, and that his father died when he was young, living him to grow up in a house full of females.

One theme that he mentioned was the difference between "Morality" and "morality". Nietzsche did not like the "M" version that a society forced upon others. However, he thought it important for individuals to have their own moral code.

The lectures made more more interested in Nietzsche. He seemed like the type of guy that would make strong, controversial ideas and over-sweeping ideas - even as he lived a much more conservative lifestyle.