These are the books read in May. Hasn’t gotten much read due to a lot of school and work.
- Mignon Fogarty: “The Grammar Devotional” (2009)
- Filled with some great tips on using proper grammar, some already known and some new. I’m not a big fan of the day-to-day structure (read a tip a day), but it works. I felt the quizzes took up a little too much space, but the tips and the background info was all useful.
- Stephen King: “The Wind Through the Keyhole: a Dark Tower Novel” (2012)
- I’ve been waiting a long time for this midquel of King’s Dark Tower series (which finished with the seventh book in 2004). This book takes place in between the fourth (“Wizard and Glass”) and fifth (“Wolves of the Calla”) books of the series, and features Roland retelling two stories from his youth, one from his teen years and one a fairy tale his mother used to tell him when he was a sma’ one. The book basically fulfills everything I hoped for – it’s not an epic exciting story liked the original Dark Tower series, but rather a softer storybook. It’s nice to return to these old characters again, and it’s hard to part with them towards the end, knowing what shall come. I hope King considers producing any future such material, like more stories from Roland’s youth.
These are the books read in February.
- Andrew B. Kipnis: “Producing Guanxi: Sentiment, Self, and Subculture in a North China Village” (1997)
- Except for some excellent examples of real life guanxi production, sadly not all that enlightening as I hoped it would be. Then again the real life examples may well be enough to ask for.
- Kathleen McMillan, Jonathan Weyers: “How to Write Dissertations and Projects” (2007) [in Swedish translation]
- A good summary of the most important things to remember, especially the somewhat short sections on scientific research and scientific conduct.
- Richard Dawkins: “The Greatest Show on Earth: the Evidence for Evolution” (2009)
- If someone has to read just one book on science in a lifetime, this is the book to read. Dawkins goes back to the beginning and produces the plain evidence for evolutionary theory, including magnificent examples and combating many misunderstandings and critical questions. A great book to read both if you have no clue about evolution but are open minded to understand it, and if you – like me – find it interesting and want to learn a lot more, both about what we know and why we know it.
In 1859 Darwin spilled the first splashes
Of his universal acid, and the effects were like magic
Burning human arrogance into ashes
In exactly the same way that Copernican math did
No, the stars don’t shine just to improve the view from earth
No, we’re not the centre of the universe
No, we weren’t created in the image of Jupiter
No, we’re not so special, and yes, the truth hurts
But that’s how evolution works – once it’s been applied
The acid burns into the superstitious side
Of the human mind, and fills it with light
It even dissolves the original sin of pride
The pride that says: “I’m a special creation
And my creator has given me dominion over nature
And he has the power to replenish his creatures
So if species go extinct, he can recreate them later
And if he doesn’t, well that’s just part of his plan”
Ah, but Darwin’s acid is hard to withstand
It plucks the arrogance deep from within the hearts of man
And teaches us never to build our houses on sand
But instead to try to understand why we’re here
One species among millions in this biosphere
Each with millions of ancestors, whose fighting spirits
Combined to give us this great survival gear
These minds, these limbs, these incredible tools
Perfected by millennia of competitive use
And yes, these attention-seeking genitals too
Without them, these living forms could never improve
It’s such an elegant view, full of breadth and grandeur
And yet, some people react with depression and anger
Like: “It’s so unsympathetic, so viciously random!
What’s the point of compassion, or ethical standards?
If this is just a game that organisms are trapped in
Genetically adapting to environmental factors
Then there’s no responsibility for individual actions!
Where’s the governing dynamic?!?”
Well, once again Darwin gives us some answers
He says yes, everything from violence to violets to viruses
Consists of organisms adapting to environments
If you’re alive, it’s because your ancestors were the best survivalists
They were the finalists in the genetic Olympic Games
Every one of your ancestors lived to reproductive age
And they were all better than their competitors at getting laid
Otherwise, you wouldn’t be sitting here today
There’s something inspirational in this vision of Darwin’s
And it goes like this: organisms – like us – are not isolated
Organisms are part of an environmental mix
So your decisions affect evolution – it isn’t directionless
Now, before you dismiss me as a mad environmentalist
Just try to imagine how natural selection applies
To countries that have industrialized
Companies live and companies die
And when customers buy based on a company’s green plan
That affects the economy, just ask Alan Greenspan
Cultural evolution is ours to reinvent
Wait, can we affect current events? Yes We Can
And when we choose who to sleep with and reproduce
Our sexual choices affect the gene pool
So it’s simple, all we need to do is refuse
To sleep with mean people, and things will improve
Especially women – on you the pressure is greater
‘Cause men will always do what it takes to get into your favour
That’s just in our nature, so if selfish behaviour
Was a sexual graveyard, the effects would be major!
In each of these cases, our intentional efforts
Can play the part of environmental pressures
I can say: “This is a space where a peaceful existence
Will never be threatened by needless aggression”
I can say: “This is an ecosystem where people listen
Where justice increases over egotism
This is a space where religions achieve co-existence
And racism decreases with each coalition”
This is my vision of Darwinism, and how we all factor in
Each of us is a part of the environment; we pass through it
And change it, and affect the way that others adapt to it
And after we get to look back and see how we impacted it
And maybe have a laugh if our sense of humour is still alive
And what did Charles Darwin do? Darwin threw some light
On the origin of mankind, and he left us with skewered pride
But he taught us that, yes, there’s grandeur in this view of life
“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one, and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful, and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”
Charles Darwin, Origin of Species
Coraline is a 2009 stop motion adaption of the 2002 Neil Gaiman novel of the same, in the genre of fantasy / horror. It is the tale of Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning), who finds a secret door and traveling through it finds an improved version of her home, with a loving mother and father and a more quiet neighbour. She slowly decides to embrace this new world, until she realises that everything is not as it seems.
I was quite skeptical towards the film, seeing as it’s compared by such wonders as Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and seeing as its plot is rather… clichéd. Still, I was surprised. The film holds an outstanding quality both in its characters and interesting plot, with many turns and twists and foreshadowings, as well as jokes and beautiful animation. The film is described as fantasy / horror, and it is. Few stop motion / animation films keeps my suspense for as long as Coraline.
The book is a true masterpiece, but the movie?
This is simply a book that couldn’t be filmed. Not because of ?special effects or anything, but simply because of the tons of inner dialogues. This film is more or less a series of bland characters walking around in a bland background with a too simple storyline that doesn’t pay off until the very end. Although this ending is well-made and clever, it’s simply not worth two hours of bore before that.?