Thursday, July 23, 2009

Zen Physics by David Darling

Since I was about 3 or 4 I have been afraid to die. Of all the people I know, I might be the most intensely afraid. Despite a largely Christian upbringing, my rational mind does not accept its teachings and all I can see is an infinite void, utter annihilation of my self. So ever the loving father, my dad tried several different times to frame death in a way that did not scare me so. Essentially, he told me that even if death were nothing, I would never know, cuz it's nothing. This never helped. And that's the message of this book, if death is truly nothing and the self is only a construct of a living brain, then there will be no self to experience death, and therefor we can only experience life. Why this book put my mind at ease and not my dad? Dunno, but David Darling rocks. Despite a detailed description of what happens to the body in the weeks after death and a vivid tour of Japanese ritual suicide, I have never read a more uplifting affirmation of life. Using findings from quantum physics, he illustrates how the brain is not a source or conduit of consciousness, but a limiter and prison of it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America by Victor Tan Chen and Katherine Newman

Wow, each one of these stories was more depressing than the last. I don't mean this in a bad way, I mean you know going into it that it's a sad subject. If anything it made me feel gratitude for what I have in a time when I was really lacking it. However, all the subjects were from the same little area in New York and 98% of them were immigrants who barely spoke English. The problem with this? It's not about the near poor in America, it's about immigrants and their difficulty getting a foothold here. That's ok, just call it that. I agree with all the reforms and programs proposed at the end, but so what, it's just a book. If only books could change things like they used to. They made an important point in warning not to let the American principal of if you work hard you will prosper become a lie. But it already is a lie. People who have it good think that the people who don't make a lot of money deserve it because they are lazy. These people work their asses off. All employed people work their asses off. Working your ass off in America isn't rewarded equally. Another realization is the effect of two simultaneous fucked up events. On one hand over here you have welfare reform booting a bunch of single mothers into the workforce. Ok yay, punish those welfare queens. On the other hand over here you have No Child Left Behind resulting in all kinds of extra academic demands on children and their parents. So now you have a bunch of kids of single mom's failing school because their mom's can't get off work to be a force in their children's academic life. So now their kids are gonna be undereducated (stupid) and will have to take their own shitty paying benefit free exhausting job. I'm not really describing this properly right now because I am also watching "Obese and Pregnant" on TLC. Anyway, point being, those of you "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" people forget that not everyone has boots. Yes we do expect people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and welfare isn't supposed replace effort, it's just the boots. To those of you who begrudge them this I say wow, good for you, I sure admire the choices you made before you were born, aren't you glad you didn't go get high the day parents were handed out like those other losers.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse by Gregg Easterbrook

This must have been written before the "recession" "depression" "economic downturn" we seem to be currently experiencing. Well, at least I am, everyone around me seems to be doing dandy. Maybe it's just because I didn't go to college and made the wrong choices with my personal life, lied to myself about what I really wanted in life because I thought I couldn't have it, and am therefor stupid and deserve less security than everyone else. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, so since we all aren't dying of plague, dumping our poo out the window onto homeless people, and have food (any food) we should all be happy now. He totally tortured the statistics to prove his case and must live in some gated community where he doesn't have to look at poverty. He's right to make fun of all the garbage there is to buy and all the people desperately spending dollar after dollar hoping to fill the void left by their jobs which can never pay enough to make up for the portion of the soul they've taken. Anyway, I didn't finish it, the guy was a silver spoon asshole.

The High Price of Materialism by Tim Kasser

Pages and pages of statistics and examples of painfully obvious psychological questionnaires. I don't disagree with the premise, but the material was dry. Plus it seemed like a rehash of something we all now intuitively, but it sure didn't make me feel any better about being poor.

It's a Boy!: Your Son's Development from Birth to Age 18 by Michael Thompson Ph.D., Teresa Barker

So, I guess I'm gonna home school my kid or he'll be dead inside and illiterate.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to 2012 by Synthia Andrews, Colin Andrews

It started out as an engrossing reference about the Maya. I had fun practicing writing numbers in Mayan. It got a little less and less interesting as it went along, really bumming me out somewhere at the 60% mark with all the doomsday prophecies, then just trailed off to where I slowed to a skim and only read the bold headings until the end. Morgellons, are they kidding me? How about just telling us where to move where it's safe. Texas maybe? Siberia? Be sure to keep extra batteries and canned food for when the gamma rays dissolve the planet. A little more on the Maya, a little less on the wackadoos, except that Edgar Cayce guy, he sounded interesting.

There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind by Anthony Flew

Reading this conjured images of elbow patches, beards, and tobacco pipes. Ok so apparently they actually did the monkeys and typewriters experiment to see if they'd come up with Shakespeare. So by taking the number of actual words they typed including the letter a with spaces on either side (very few if any) in however many pages they typed, they calculated how long it would take them to come up with a Shakespeare sonnet. The outcome was like 1 in some number that was greater than the number of particles in the known universe. So essentially, not possible. So then he shows us the statistical probability of the first elements creating amino acid chains for life as 1 in some other number even ridiculously bigger than the monkey one, point being, not really in the realm of extreme possibility. Therefor there's a God. I dunno, maybe.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Body Wars by Margo Maine

Excellent cause, good effort. Just a little simplistic, fighting fat phobia is a lot harder than this little volume would have you believe. It is a great resource if you need a list of resources. I didn't feel like I read anything I didn't know. A few more facts to back up her arguments would have been helpful. Just the wrong subject matter for where I'm at right now. I'm losing this baby weight not conceding to the cake and expecting movie theaters to make bigger seats for my butt.

Sit Down and Shut Up: Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, and Dogen's Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye by Brad Warner

Hardcore Zen was awesome and I'm pretty sure I gave it rave reviews on my old site from some other life. I even exchanged a message or two with the author, very cool. Sit Down and Shut Up was also good if just a little crabbier, but that's ok, I'm crabbier these days too. I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't get everything which I am not used to. Unfortunately, I just got the idea to keep track of books I read a month or so after I finished this, so I don't remember too much but I wanted to mention it. I didn't hate it or love it. But that's not a commentary on the book, just my own attitude about everything at the moment.

Why Men Fall Out of Love: The Secrets They Don't Tell by Michael French

I enjoyed the sneak peek into the minds of men, but I hope not all men. From what I can tell the subjects all had mommy and daddy issues and found women who also had mommy and daddy issues. No one ever wants to get over their mommy and daddy issues cuz it's hard, so everyone blames each other and breaks up cuz they're babies. Not a crappy book, but longer than necessary due to the subjects suddenly deciding to make up for their lifetimes of manly silence.

You Want Fries With That: A White-Collar Burnout Experiences Life at Minimum Wage by Prioleau Alexander

This guy had me rolling with laughter for the first, like, two thirds. I really enjoyed his style and sense of humor. He comes off as someone everyone can relate to at first. His description of life sitting at home with a working wife is strikingly familiar. He made a tour of shitty jobs interesting and fun. But he lost me towards the end where he pretty much forgets everything he said at the beginning and returns to his white collar la-di-da elitism. In the beginning he gives these minimum wage jobs their due and accurately surmises that if all of these workers were to walk off the job one day, life would stop and that everything you spoiled soft civilized people have is because of them. But having experienced this life, he decides he's too good, encourages us to run as far as we can from these jobs. So let's all read the book, get office jobs, and sit around in our own crap looking at each other blankly wondering when the pizza is gonna get here.