"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bookish Opinion of the Day

William Grimes writing in the NY Times about "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die."

Not only is it not necessary to read “Interview With the Vampire” by Anne Rice before you die, it is also probably not necessary to read it even if, like Lestat, you are never going to die.

So there.

There is a link to the actual list. I've read 176, give or take.

526. Day of the Triffids -- I'm surprised this made the list, but pleased.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Shaken, Not Stirred

Not only do martinis contain antioxidants in much greater concentration than you'd find in gin or vermouth alone, they also contain proof that James Bond, creation of writer Ian Fleming, has a genetic preference for beautiful women. It's because he can't taste how bitter the olives are. Or something.

Anyway, this article describes Bond cocktails, visual cues, muzak's effect on drinking, supertasters and more.

The concept of supertasters, the 1/4 of the population who are very sensitive to bitter tastes, gives me an idea why there are some foods I thoroughly *hate* that others seem to find inoffensive, like those bright green Florida avocados. Give me a nice brown Hass avocado any day.

Any supertasters out there want to weigh in? Speaking of weighing in, there is a lot of press lately about Oolong (Wu long) tea being good for losing weight. I am partial to Oolong tea, myself, for the flavor, so was happy to hear the good news. Green tea is too bitter (aha!) for me, and black tea in large quantities just doesn't agree with me.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Geek Chic

Man steals laptop. Woman takes his picture remotely with installed web cam. Man is arrested.

I really like stories like this. Technology, smart people, bad guys getting their comeuppance.

Now, if they had a really cool, flexible, washable, glow-in-the-dark keyboard, it would be complete.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

An Alien Walks into a Bar

No, really. You can get college credit for this now. And it's NASA-funded, meaning, your tax dollars hard at work.

Why didn't we have classes like this when I was in college?

An alien walks into a bar. Bartender says, "What can I get you?" The alien says, "A primitive civilization on the rocks." Bartender says, "You've come to the right place!"

The comments are not to be missed.

And remember, "All writing is writing for extraterrestrials." That's a quote from the teacher. Now, professors who declaimed the unfathomable, that's something we did have when I was in college.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Another Highly Prized Letter

Albert Einstein's 1954 letter to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, which just sold for $404,000 (yes, four hundred and four thousand dollars), is critical of religion:

The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These subtilised interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them. Read more.

Story at the NY Times.

The variety of opinions about religion is always interesting to me, from deep, unquestioning, even fanatical belief, to absolute certitude that it is nonsense, and everything in between. I agree that science, physics particularly, gives us a closer view of reality than most traditional religions. I find it disappointing that just one world religious leader, the Dalai Lama, recognizes that religion only makes sense when it agrees with what actually is, rather than being an illogical set of beliefs that people defend out of some sense of threat to their tribal identity. But I am glad that at least he realizes it. That's one.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Stupidest Person in New York

At least in Jonathan Franzen's opinion.

Why? Because she called his memoir "an odious self-portrait of the artist as a young jackass: petulant, pompous, obsessive, selfish and overwhelmingly self-absorbed"?

More hatchet jobs at the Guardian blog.

My Favorite Comfy Chair

The bibliochaise from nobody & co.
Although it would look comfier if the books on the top row were all the same height.

From the Abebooks blog.

Top Ten Books That Screwed Up The World

I can think of many books I didn't like, but screwing up the world, well, that takes special talent. Quite a list, from the NY Times. Go to the link. The comments are worth it.

“The Communist Manifesto”
“The Descent of Man”
“Beyond Good and Evil”
“The State and Revolution”
“The Pivot of Civilization” (by Margaret Sanger)
“Mein Kampf”
“The Future of an Illusion” (Freud)
“Coming of Age in Samoa”
“Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” (aka The Kinsey Report)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Bloody Disaster

says Doris Lessing, of winning the Nobel Prize.

"It has stopped, I don't have any energy any more. This is why I keep telling anyone younger than me – don't imagine you'll have it for ever. Use it while you've got it because it'll go, it's sliding away like water down a plughole."

Lessing's age and the media demands attached to winning the prize have conspired to make Alfred and Emily her last book, she says. A sad note, but a long and illustrious career.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Depressed Guy in the Basement

Who also does standup comedy, and writes novels like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Sherman Alexie interview at the Guardian.

I've always liked Sherman Alexie. Maybe it's identifying with the outsider perspective -- I also grew up in a house where there weren't that many books. It gave them that subversive cachet that was probably enough to get me hooked. Not that my house was anti-book, just indifferent, although trips to the library were a big treat in my childhood.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Say What You Will

The governor of New York has signed legislation protecting New York authors against foreign libel judgments.

The results of libel laws in the UK, for instance, can be shocking to Americans. We're used to writing whatever we want, especially in the last fifty years. I wonder, though, if the greater penalties indicate that people elsewhere take books more seriously, whereas Americans figure that nobody cares much, anyway?

Does Anyone Actually Pay Attention

to a 60-year-old man complaining about his mother? Even in France? Maybe if she complains back?

It always surprises me when people's dirty laundry gets elevated to public discourse, and one man's resentment of his mother into fodder for some imbecilic perfect mommy paradigm. What did he expect from his mother anyway? And why do people who expect perfect parenting have no qualms about being indifferent parents themselves? He doesn't like his mother. Okay, we get that.

Not so green

Read about celebrity "hippy-crites."

Although it's a cute coinage, the land of actual hippies is a bit more green than that, with composting toilets, thermostats set to 60 (15C) (and it was a cold winter, people) and people driving twenty-year-old Hondas that get 45-50 mpg (19-21.5 kpl). My old station wagon gets 27 mpg (that's 11.5 kilometers per liter, here's the conversion link) -- check your gas economy and boast to your international friends. I work at home, however, so I don't have to cover too many miles in a given week.