Monday, May 10, 2010

It's Monday!

Currently Reading:

The Closing of the American Mind by Alan Bloom

In Pursuit of the Gene by James Schwartz

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy

Economics: A Very Short Introduction by Partha Dasgupta

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Finished:
I haven't finished any books this past week. I'm not sick---I'm just working two jobs. (Yay, money!)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Book Paraphernalia: Cigarette Books

Finally, I have found a way to smuggle reading material into dangerous places (bars, school playgrounds, church).Books disguised as cigarettes!It's genius!
And yes. They do have The Metamorphosis.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Book Review: Voodoo Histories by David Aaronovitch

Title: Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History
Author: David Aaronovitch, journalist
Rating: 8/10
Publication Year:2010
Borrowed from the Library
Similar books: Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer


It all began with Kevin. Kevin was a cameraman with a conspiracy theory, the theory that the NASA lunar landing was a hoax- a motion picture masterpiece filmed by the government. A conversation with Kevin inspired British journalist David Aaronovitch to write a book.

“It wasn’t that I was forearmed with arguments to disprove his theory,” Aaronovitch writes “it was just that it offended my sense of plausibility . A hoax on such a grand scale would necessarily involve hundreds if not thousands of participants.”

Drawing from this experience, Aaronovitch set out to provide a resource for those who also find themselves on the wrong end of a conspiracy conversation. The result is
Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History, an intelligent promotion of logic, clear-thinking and research over insinuation and 'woo'.

From tracing the origins of the 'holy bloodline' of Jesus myth (the basis for The Da Vinci Code) to re-hashing the details of Princess Diana's death, Aaronovitch points out flaws in the counter-arguments of conspiracy buffs and considers their role in popular culture.

More than just a good beach-read for Skeptical Inquirer subscribers, Voodoo Histories examines the story behind each theory-- it
isn't just a matter of whether Oswald shot Kennedy but also when people begin to doubt that he did.

After reading Voodoo Histories, do I consider myself "forearmed"?

Yes...to an extent. Aaronovitch doesn't even address the lunar landing 'hoax', which was the inspiration for the book. It wouldn't be hard to do- Wikipedia has an excellent page on the subject and if Wikipedia can do it...

It should be a rule in the skepticism/debunking genre: never leave something unaddressed.

A book that tried to deal with all conspiracy theories would be huge- like the Encyclopedia Britannica. But if the idea was to examine their role in modern history, there were more important theories the author could have examined-- the idea that HIV does not cause AIDS (& those perpetuating the belief that it does are part of a grand "hoax") has caused thousands of deaths but it doesn't merit a mention.

Still, Voodoo Histories was a nice book to curl up with. It's informative, strengthens your powers of inquiry and debate and arms you with answers to the minor details that only obsessive conspiracy theorists usually have. It's a great addition to an anemic genre- if there were as many debunkers as there are peddlers of nonsense, the world would be a better place.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Top Ten Things To Eat While Reading

Pizza

Pizza is my favorite food and would have ranked higher except that it tends to be messy. Not everyone loves the smell of mozzarella and fontina on their literature, so it's not always the ideal. I eat it when reading my own books, to avoid splattering library books with oil and tomato sauce.

If you roll it a little, though, you can make less of a mess. It's true. I've done research.

Goldfish
These are not my favorite cheesy snack but they are good and they don't leave Cheeto stains on the pages.

Sandwiches
See the pattern here? This is all food you can eat with one hand and a sandwich is the champion of fistable foods (hmm..."fistable" is not my best made-up word). The beauty here the variety- you can have egg salad, tomato with swiss and lettuce, hot gooey grilled cheese. Private eye Kinsey Millhone from Sue Grafton's Alphabet series, loves peanut butter & pickle sandwiches. After years of reading about her eating them, I made and now it's one of my favorites.

Don't knock it 'til you try it.

Fries
Fast food is designed to be eaten one-handed. This way, your driving and texting don't interfere with your eating (least this seems to be the idea where I live). If you must have ketchup, you can drizzle some, but I often go without.

An Apple
Sometimes, usually after eating pizza, fries, some Goldfish and a sandwich, you feel bloated and start worrying about your state of health. Which is where one-handed fruit comes in. It's so classic, sweet and crispy. And it makes you feel like less of a fat @ss.

Bagel
They're so versatile. Stuff I put on my bagel:Cream cheese with strawberries, Cream cheese with granola and honey, Butter with cinnamon and sugar, Cream cheese with shredded cheddar and sliced green olives

Those Quaker Oates puffed rice cake things
Ugh! Really, You like those?

Yeah. Those things are awesome. Of course, I am talking about the flavored kind- the white cheddar, chocolate chip and the caramel.
The plain ones seem to just be styrofoam in a bag.

Pockys
I used to eat these in Japan when I was little and the first time I saw them in the States I was excited. My mother use to take us for walks. The beach was perhaps a five mile walk (to and from) the beach. On the way, there was a tiny convenience store. My sister would pick out a bouquet of flowers and we would get some kind of treat--ice cream or Pockys. They had them in every flavor.

Cookies

Cookies are also versatile. It is even possible to dip them in milk one-handed without dripping on the page.

Chocolate
I am a member of a religious sect in which the only sacrament is chocolate. So far, I am the only partaker but since I keep my beliefs to myself this isn't surprising. I would try to convert the heathen to eternal truth by proselytizing- but the converts might want some of my chocolate.

And then somebody's gonna get shanked.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Book Review: It's Not News, It's Fark by Drew Curtis

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2009 - Reindecision 2008 and Beyond
www.thedailyshow.com

Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Title: It's Not News, It's Fark
Author: Drew Curtis, Founder of Fark. Com
Rating: 5/10
Publication Year:2007
Borrowed from the Library
Similar Books: I Am America and So Can You by Stephen Colbert, America: The Book by Jon Stewart, Bias: A CBS INsider Exposes How the Media Distort the News by Bernie Goldberg

The above video is The Daily Show's spoof of CNN's best political news team. The sensationalist nature of the news and their hilarious overuse of graphics is always a target for television's number one fake news show (okay, number two. I love The Colbert Report!).

More criticism of the mainstream news comes from It's Not News, It's Fark: How Mass Media Tries To Pass Off Crap As News by Fark.com founder, Drew Curtis. If you like The Daily Show, you will probably enjoy this book.

Fark.com began as a site where people shared absurd or unusual news stories. It eventually grew to play a role in the mainstream media itself- stories submitted to Fark.com get a lot of hits, and radio and tv stations often refer to the site when looking for interesting news to share.

In the book, Curtis uncovers the not-so-subtle ways the 24 hour news networks search out meaningless stories. He criticizes them for fear-mongering, advertising and contradicting themselves when they should be reporting the news. Fark is divided into 8 sections where actual stories are given as examples, followed by comments from the site (so funny).

My favorite chapter is "Headline Contradicted By Actual Article"
Actual Headline: DNA Hints At Jill the Ripper
Actual Article: The results are inconclusive, and furthermore this article should have been about the testing procedure and not a different overhyped conclusion.
Apparently, the body of the article let it slip that the DNA sample was "so old, very small and poorly preserved" that they really couldn't come to a conclusion. It's speculation--but the headline doesn't say that. It doesn't take a careful reader to find something like that and it makes you wonder about the modern attention span.

I also like the "Media Fearmongering" chapter and "Equal Time for Nutjobs"- the last is a pet peeve of mine.

This book was published in 2007, the media still does the same crap, but it felt dated because of several pop culture references.

In the epilogue, Curtis points out that the media does what it does because people demand it.
We read this stuff, watch it, lend credence to things that, on second thought, are totally stupid and while you can say that a select group or organization like a news station needs reform, what can you do when an entire culture begs for it?

I liked this book,the way I like some of those extra-long, witty comments that intelligent trolls post on Youtube videos and online articles- it's funny and I agree with it but I won't re-read it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

It's Monday!

Finished:

A Mind of It's Own: A Cultural History of the Penis by David M. Friedman
I may be enjoying this book too much. Just a little.

Fruits Basket (v.3) by Natsuki Takaya
This is my first foray into manga comics since i was small and I didn't read very many then. I can definitely see the appeal this would have for a small girl-like Twilight, it's a pre-teen girl's fantasy in disguise. I would recommend this for young girls, but I hope they'd feel a little scornful of the main character. She is so "nice" and self-sacrificing it borders on suicidal. Kindness is not equal to spineless in my book.
The boys are hot, though.

The Faith Healers by James Randi


Currently Reading:

The Forsyte Saga by John Gasworthy

In Pursuit of the Gene by James Schwartz

Books Recieved in the Mail:

1. The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene (Betterworld Books)
Finally, finally, finally! I have this book. It sits on my shelf, it's cover glistening, I keep shooting it these little happy, sideways glances. Sigh. I read a little of it this Sunday, just before Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking came on.

Books Bought At the Library:

1. Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera
2. The Discoverers by Daniel J Boorstin
3. The Clouds by Aristophanes
4. Representative Spanish Authors by Pattinson and Bleznick
5. Anthropology: Culture, Society and Evolution by John J. Collins