Tuesday, November 21, 2023


This was a long book, and it took me awhile to read it. It would like to be read a little faster than I did (on and off for six months maybe), because there are a lot of parallel characters to follow. This is the second Richard Powers book I've read (the first was Orfeo) and his approach to novels seems to be to have his characters explore a technical topic of some kind. In Orfeo, it was avant-garde music of the 50s and 60s. In the Overstory, it is the science of trees. The novel was absolutely gorgeous and a delight to read. (Minor spoilers ahead). The structure of the story follows about a dozen characters who initially each have their own chapter, and then, mid-novel, they start to come together. It took me some time to realize that this was like the roots of a tree merging into the trunk. To my mind, this analogy continued, with the characters separating again, and each eventually flowering in their own way. 

Of course it is a story about how humanity is changing the environment. Typically these stories end focused on dire warnings, and I worried that Powers wasn't going to bring any further message than that - but instead he pulls a rabbit out of his hat, and executes a marvelous turn that had me in tears. More and more I have come to realize that viewing humans as something outside of nature does more harm than good. Highways are as much a part of humans as anthills are a part of ants. Of course humans are having a tremendous effect on the planet, as we have found better and faster ways to communicate. Modern man is a meteor that has struck the planet, and things are changing - they have to. We do indeed need help from all quarters - and this book helped me to understand where that help will come from. Also, I learned a lot about trees. 

Saturday, January 7, 2023

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

As much as I liked Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, I think I enjoyed this even more. I always like a story about a bookstore, and this is one of those. Literary and interesting, and full of amazing characters. Nobody writes a story about books like an author! Oh wait…

I heard there is a movie, I kind of don’t want to see it, because the characters are precious to me, and I’d like to keep them how I have them.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

This was a picture of the indie game world and the personalities in it that was so realistic I wondered how Gabrielle Zevin learned so much about it. There were little things that were off (eating fruit does not let Pac-Man eat ghosts, etc.) but so much, especially with the nature of deals and the motivations that game devs have was spookily accurate. I definitely recommend this to anyone in the game industry. And it got me reading other Zevin books. More importantly, it made me reflect on why I make games.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022



This was so fun! No, it has no relation to the 80’s movie. This is a Norwegian Godzilla. And it’s really good, you should watch it. If there is a sequel, they’ll have to call it… Troll 2. But I bet it gets a subtitle.

Now Is Not the Time To Panic

I really enjoyed this. It is an exploration of the relationship between Art and Life, and as such is related to The Moon and Sixpence, Edward Scissorhands, and of course, A Bucket of Blood. To quote the immortal Maxwell H. Brock, “Life is and obscure hobo, bumming a ride on the omnibus of Art.” It felt so genuine when I read it, and as the author explained in the afterword, that’s because it was. Many people don’t know what it is to be owned, to be consumed by art, to feel that purity from another world coursing through you, using you, taking you over to make something happen that you could never do, but somehow happens through you. But clearly, Kevin Wilson knows what that means. I definitely want to check out his other books.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television


You might have noticed it's been a few years since I made any entries in this blog. I guess I got a little behind, and then it felt weird to catch up, because I'd missed so many entries. Anyway, I'm going to try to get back into it again, though my entries will likely be more brief than before. 

I read the first half of this, and skimmed the second half. It came out in 1978, which of course was a very different time than now in terms of media. Back then, television really was a dominating force in culture, and the author makes a lot of good points about the unhealthy side of television. 

To this day, as television has changed so much into an overfunded "pick what you like" streaming buffet, I still wonder at the power of film and video as media, and wonder at their future. Watching shows like "Ridiculousness" on MTV, which is all clips of people doing weird or dangerous things, a curated YouTube, I see how prescient that Ray Bradbury was describing similar shows in Fahrenheit 451. 

The author concludes that it is unlikely that we will be able to eliminate television -- but he also reminds everyone that doing so would not be impossible -- we would just have to believe enough in the downsides of it to decide to regulate it. We face the same question today with social media, arguably a more deleterious force that television ever was -- since television's business model requires a certain amount of decorum, and for better and worse, it shies away from too much risk taking. Social media leans the opposite way -- anonymity leads to too much risk taking, and too much cruel communication. Media of all kinds is just the human race talking to itself -- I hope we can find ways to make that communication kind and helpful. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave

This is one of those books everyone is supposed to have read, but I certainly never had. It's very powerful because he talks in detail about the realities of slavery, some of which I had never contemplated. Most disturbing was the fact that so many slave owners would get their female slaves pregnant. Frederick Douglass was most likely the son of his master, and that let him speak first hand of the horrors of what that means. Not only does it mean being ostracized by other slaves for being lighter, and being hated and punished by that master's wife, but also being treated worse than the others by the master because he wants to show that he is not giving any special treatment. He talks at length about the less obvious horrors of slavery, some of which gets deep into interesting human psychology. Observations about how the more religious a slaveholder is, the crueler they are likely to be are thought-provoking, as was his discussion of the nature of the Christmas holiday in slaveholding households, where slaves were encouraged to get drunk to the point of extreme discomfort so that returning to work seems more comfortable, coming away with the unconscious message that one is better off not being free. I particularly liked his tales of how he learned to read, and how the fact that his master forbid him learning to read served as a primary motivator to actually do it. One thing I thought was very clever was that after moving to the city, he would make friends with free white children, and challenge them to writing contests, learning from them in the process.
Eventually, he tells tales of attempting to escape, but unfortunately, when he does actually escape, he doesn't share details of how it actually happened, because he doesn't want to incriminate those who helped him. Maybe he tells that story in another of his works -- I wonder. Regardless, the thing that makes the book great is the frankness and the details. Reading it, it paints a clear picture of how barbaric life was just a few generations ago, and makes it hard to understand how slavery could have lasted so long.