April 20, 2015

On Siddhartha

I first read this years ago.
I was trying to impress a girl.
I didn’t get it. I was too young. Maybe so was she.
I read it again. I didn’t have to impress a girl.
Still the girls were impressed.

My wife had read this copy before me. The pages are dog eared.
There’s little in terms of plot. Sid just goes from one thing to the next.
But it is reflective of life, though few have his gifts.
Still the girls were impressed.

It is put aside now.
In years the time will come; I’ll pick it up
Again, or pass it along.
The girls won’t matter then.

Robert Putnam's "Our Kids": Compelling Argument Poorly Argued

There’s an epidemic out there. Poor kids these days don’t have a chance, and it’s getting worse.

Robert Putnam, with the help of an uncredited assistant (on the cover, at least), gathered storied of young adults and melded those stories of haves and have-nots with larger statistical trends to tell the story of how the educated class is ,moving away from the uneducated class. There are copious charts and graphs.

I really wanted to like this, since it covers a lot of the same ground as the recent Charles Muarry Book “Coming Apart,” and for ideological reasons I don’t want to read Muarry. The problem is that there’s no hook. The kid’s stories should be what grips you and pulls you into the text, but it doesn’t work. I think there’s too many so I can’t fully live their stories, or perhaps Putnam and company are better analytical thinkers than storytellers for generating pathos. Whatever it was, I was unengaged. It was good enough to finish, but it did not compel me to write marginalia. If you have to read this for a class, it will be readable but it might not pull you in if it is leisure time reading.

April 7, 2015

New Agnostic Front - The American Dream Died (But It Lives!)

I got this from Nuclear Blast on a pre-order. They shipped early, so I have been able to rock this in my car for several days.

For the first several listens, a couple of tracks stand out. I like the sing-along vibe of "Old New York." There are a couple of other tracks that use an effects pedal and a nice chord progression that I was jamming along without even really listening to the lyrics. I think track six is the one that sticks on that level. There are also nice use of samples, that reinforces the titular theme - that of a longing for an ideal past. Though I would argue that the American Dream writ large is still alive. The debate is over how close the current reality is to the perceived ideal (and if that ideal is what we should be striving towards).

But I digress. The main complaint here is that the album is too short. You're jamming to the intro and the next thing you know the intro is repeating itself. No worries. It just means that I have to troll the back catalog to satiate the AF hunger. Thankfully they have plenty back there.

April 5, 2015

Palmer Eldrich's Fourth Stigmata

I have liked the previous things I have read by Dick. These books include “The Man in the High Castle,” “Ubik,” and “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”. All of them were marvels of world building and storytelling. They were also fun mind-trips that set your thoughts of the future racing.
That said, I never really got into “Three Stigmata”. I’m not sure what it was. Maybe it was me first realizing the sexism in the book, where women are good pretty much for one thing. But I can let that pass. People still smoked everywhere in the book too. There’s a planet to moon videophone call that needs an operator to set up. I get that fiction is as much about the time it is written as it is about the time it is supposed to portray.
Maybe it was the plot, based on the drugs that people use to escape reality. Not sure..

Wait a minute. I know what it was. It was the ending, It didn’t really resolve for me and I have no idea what was going on. The book got too far wound up with its competing realities and it never really unwound, even reading slowly and rereading.

You, however, may like it. Clearly you are smarter than I am.