Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Random Thoughts and a Book Review

I can't find my basil. My mom fixed sheep-burgers last night ("nothin' but mutton to eat") and covered them with a tomato sauce. Which screamed basil. And I couldn't find it, so I settled for a little oregano. Didn't seem to do much, which makes sense, cause I use Oregano on salad, sandwiches..that sort of thing. Basil goes best on tomato based dishes. Anyway...


Things have happened recently that have brought back to mind my earlier posts about Neil Postman's The Disappearance of Childhood. We are living in a society where children are treated more and more like adults, expected to learn adult things at an early age, and yet we are shocked when adult things happen to them. Due to the intense flow of information that barrages them everyday without the moral or legal implications to go with it, children must deal with the vices of being an adult far younger than what they used to. Because they know about it. Like I said before, I didn't know any curse words until I moved to Georgia at the age of 10. Nowadays, most kids know all the f's and c's and s's and whatever by the time they enter kindergarten. Not to mention the vices they are exposed to everyday on the internet, cable tv...etc...

But I am not here to try and control the flow of information like most politicians would do, because it is not my place to do so. I will not advocate NetNanny or turning off the TV because that would be restricting the base of knowledge available to everyone including children. Rather, I suggest parents provide sons and daughters with the skills to interpret information and the self-control to know what is acceptable for them. I know this is a near impossible thing to do, for parenting is not what it used to be (and I should know, I've taught the kids and seen them destroying the kid's section at Borders while the parents stand idly by.).

And that is the second half of this little rant. For while childhood is vanishing, so is adulthood. People my age have reduced themselves into an instant gratification, get whatever you want (on credit), epicurean society where consumerism and self-destructive tendencies far outweigh self control and self improvement. And maybe that's because people cannot attain the level of success that their parents sometimes have. But that's okay, because with credit, bankruptcy, and the endless supply of amusement, fast food, drugs, and mindless games that are available, you can easily remain blissfully ignorant of the potential that you have. It's a Brave New World, and we are all being controlled by people who are exploiting us gently, poisoning us with superficial happiness. And I'm just as guilty of this as everyone else. For who would not want to live happily ever after, even if ever after is about 20 years shorter than what you could live. It all connects, all to the profit of consumerists, and all to the determent of you and me. (Oh, and as a disclaimer, I'm not advocating communism. I have a great faith in the free market system, in capitalism in all it's glory. There is nothing more consistent with human nature and the drive for improvement than full blown capitalism. What I am advocating is a need for responsibility. Make money, tons of it, but not by treating your customers as cattle that can be fattened up and served to those that eat them.)


I recently tried to read McCarthy's The Road, since I've heard so much positive reviews about it and I dig post-apocalyptic novels. I've went to Amazon and read the reviews, and for the most part, they were glowing. Except for one that I read that said, "I dont' get it." I agree with that reviewer. I don't get it.

A book must have certain things to be a good read. A plot. Characters that you can sympathize or believe in. Some sort of message would be nice, too. Those are just things you have to have. It's like watching a porn movie. The plot doesn't matter, only the sex scenes. That's why you watch it.

The Road totally lacks those things which make a book successful. I couldn't identify or even believe in the characters, and there was virtually no plot, other than a man and a boy trying to survive in a post-nuclear world. It was like a porn movie with no sex. Maybe I'm missing something. I hope so. I just couldn't finish it.


As a good review, I read The Cosmic Engineers by Clifford D. Simak. It was one of my dad's old sci-fi books, and so I randomly picked a book out of the hundreds and read it. It was a mix of Sagan's Contact and any number of Star Trek episodes I could name. The characters were shallow, but the plot and the themes were strong and driving. It is like I have said before, pure science fiction stories rely on strong, believable science theory, and less on the characters involved. In this, Simak delivered amazingly. The sacrifice to this is to move the people out of the way of the science. In some cases, like Michael Chricton's Andromeda Strain, it makes the book insufferable. But if you take the book and read it as if you were watching an original Star Trek episode, where the message and the cool sci-fi technology outshines these puny things called humans, then it works wonderfully.

I recommend this book highly, if you can find it, or for a better Simak book, try Ring Around the Sun.

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