September 28th, 2012

Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

For starters, I finished the last required text for the Fantasy and Science Fiction Literature class I've been taking free online at Coursera.org, which was Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow. I found it a very fast read, rather than the slogging that led to me not finishing Herland or The Left Hand of Darkness, also for the class. It deals with privacy and the results of 9/11 in America, with the erosion of personal freedom here, ostensibly to "protect" us. I found the book way too plausible in the USA that it depicts, though I hope he's wrong. I'd recommend a read to anybody who likes SF.

Once free of the study constraints, I blew through two more books. First was Osprey Campaign #38: Colenso 1899: The Boer War in Natal which didn't really interest me nearly enough, but I finished it just because I was feeling my oats. I find the Boer War history disturbing, what with the concentration camps and the destruction of Boer infrastructure to force the win. Then, I read Osprey Campaign #62: Pearl Harbor 1941: The Day of Infamy. I knew how it ended, as I've read a number of books on the topic going back to junior high school, but they had some good graphics, especially in the maps.

I've been running roughshod over the eMatic electronic reader, and I expect to burn through several more books this month.
Jesus

Book #58: I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan by Alan Partridge



This is a spoof autobiography of the fictional Alan Partridge, the most well-known character played by Steve Coogan, on various TV and radio shows from the 1990s and 2000s. It is written in typical Partridge style, being incredibly self-indulgent, boastful and arrogant, and is hilarious throughout, not least because of the number of footnotes that often provide completely irrelevant information (such as explaining what a footnote is).

I loved the way that this book was written as though it was just written out quickly, without a large amount of editing, as the narrative often goes off on bizarre tangents, as though Alan Partridge is actually telling you it face-to-face. A lot of what is in the book is completely original, but there are numerous references to Alan Partridge's TV shows from the BBC, including The Day Today, Knowing Me, Knowing You and I'm Alan Partridge. There are a lot of good touches, although I did notice that you really have to have watched the TV shows to get some of the stuff; particularly when the book completely changes a situation from the way it appears, to give the impression he is trying to pass himself off as a nice guy. I found it somewhat amusing, because I knew that this wasn't exactly what happened, but anyone who read it without watching the shows would not get the humour; the other drawback is that of course the book glosses over the hilarious moment from the TV show when Alan runs out of a restaurant yelling, "Smell my cheese". I also found it vaguely amusing how the book constantly refers to the character Lynn as "My assistant", as though he can't be bothered to actually name her.

Overall, very good and entertaining for fans of the show, but don't read if you have no idea who Alan Partridge is.

Next book: Stardust by Neil Gaiman
weird

#30: Adding to our nonexistent "unpopular opinions" tag

Look, I understand that Pema Chodron is hailed as one of the most accessible English-language Buddhist writers and that When Things Fall Apart is one of the most popular Buddhist books in the West. The people with whom I read it certainly loved it. But, man, oh man, I don't know. It promises solace for those bereaved or in pain or in a bad stage of life, which in Chodron's strain of Buddhism means essentially coming to terms with life's lack of lasting peace and appreciating what one experiences in the moment. Chodron, though, further asserts that if you haven't grasped this truth, you just haven't suffered enough - and therefore, you dope, you need to suffer and suffer and suffer some more until you do. Is this philosophy really compatible with the Middle Way? Her message isn't developed, just browbeaten, and she's constantly banging on about how rotten and inadequate and lowly humans are. I understand that coming to terms with impermanence and suffering are pillars of Buddhism, but there's a relish of them in how Chodron writes, a malice, that seems at odds with the Buddhism practiced by, say, Thich Nhat Hanh. When I voiced my reservations, I was told that some readers like her "confrontational" approach, which was apparently true in my reading group. Myself, I could barely abide it, quite frankly.