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Old 19th February 2014, 07:02 AM   #4561
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But this is somewhat beside the point. The Horgan critique is closer to what I'm interested in.

Even if there's no partying, no hedonism, no group-think: What's all that sitting *for*?

Sure, anything goes. One way of living is as (morally) good as another -- barring violence or deceit.

I'm interested in "what it's like". "What it's like" to feel some realization, some enlightenment, and then feel the aftermath, the inevitable come-down.

But again, I'm only a tourist, a bystander.
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Old 19th February 2014, 12:30 PM   #4562
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I've just finished Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham Billingham is a British crime writer who is probably best know for his Tom Thorne series.
This is a standalone book (with a cameo from Thorne); three British couples meet up in a Florida resort at the same time that a local girl - 13 years old and learning-disabled - disappears; her murdered body turns up weeks later. In the meantime, the three couples get together for increasingly fraught dinner parties at each others houses and another 13-year old learning-disabled girl disappears, this time in England.
Although I would have liked to have known more of their backstories, the six people are well drawn; each of them is shown to have secrets they keep from each other and it steadily becomes clear that one of them is the killer. All the way through, Billingham throws in plenty of red herrings to keep you guessing, enough so that the twist at the end came as a genuine shock - for me at least.
It was more than just a cleverly-written crime puzzle - it was very good writing that almost took it out of the crime genre altogether.
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"Nature is floods and famines and earthquakes and viruses and little blue-footed booby babies getting their brains pecked out by their stronger siblings! ....Nature doesn't care about me, or about anybody in particular - nature can be terrifying! Why do they even put words like 'natural' on products like shampoo, like it's automatically a good thing? I mean, sulfuric acid is natural!" -Julia Sweeney
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Old 19th February 2014, 12:32 PM   #4563
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Double posted because of internet connectivity silliness.
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"Nature is floods and famines and earthquakes and viruses and little blue-footed booby babies getting their brains pecked out by their stronger siblings! ....Nature doesn't care about me, or about anybody in particular - nature can be terrifying! Why do they even put words like 'natural' on products like shampoo, like it's automatically a good thing? I mean, sulfuric acid is natural!" -Julia Sweeney

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Old 19th February 2014, 01:39 PM   #4564
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Annihilation by Jeff Van Der Meer. I'd read his City Of Saints And Madmen some years ago and liked it.... This is the first book of a trilogy.
Concerns an expedition into a very strange area that's formed along what we believe to be the East coast of the US.
Very odd goings-on in there. The expedition, like the expeditions before, immediately runs into trouble leaving the narrator to try to puzzle things out.
It's pretty good, surrealistic in places... You're never quite sure if what the narrator is relating is real, induced hallucination, or something else yet.
I'll likely read the further volumes.
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Old 20th February 2014, 09:41 AM   #4565
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David Weber's Like A Mighty Army, the seventh in the Safehold series.
Next up is Mary Robinette Kowal's Shades of Milk and Honey,
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Old 20th February 2014, 11:27 AM   #4566
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Been reading Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. Want to finish this up so I can reread Stalingrad by Theodore Plievier. A truly horrific account of the destruction of the German 6th army on the banks of the Volga. It can be in the middle of summer and I will be cold while reading this book.
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Old 23rd February 2014, 07:37 AM   #4567
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Have just finished the novel The Abominable by Dan Simmons -- noticed in my local library, and picked up out of curiosity. Until thus happening upon said book, I had never heard of this guy: I discovered, though, that he is a very prolific author in -- and straddling -- assorted genres of fiction. I'm not in America; suspect that Simmons may be less well-known elsewhere in the world, than in his native USA.

The themes of this novel (set in the 1920s) are Himalayan mountaineering plus international spy- and covert-war-type skulduggery. To be honest, I thought it was fairly awful. The author's prose flows smoothly enough; but he's very discursive and wordy, and the book is hugely long -- 650-odd pages; I felt that it would be improved by being cut to half of that. The length is largely because of the author's indulging himself in colossal, IMO often needless, info-dumps about all kinds of subjects: with some indications that the veracity of that info, may be suspect. In all, I am not feeling inclined toward any further exploration of Dan Simmons's works.
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Old 23rd February 2014, 09:03 AM   #4568
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The Crimean War: A History, by Orlando Figes, 2010.

I have gotten to page 141, and the war itself is just beginning.

Appalling statistic:

"The vast majority of Russian soldiers were not were not killed in battle but die from wounds and diseases that might not have been fatal if there had been a proper medical service.... during the Hungarian campaign of 1849, only 708 men died in the fighting but 57,000 Russian soldiers were admitted to Austrian hospitals. Even in peacetime the average rate of sickness in the Russian army was 65 percent." [p 119]
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Old 23rd February 2014, 01:47 PM   #4569
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Originally Posted by fleabeetle View Post
Have just finished the novel The Abominable by Dan Simmons -- noticed in my local library, and picked up out of curiosity. Until thus happening upon said book, I had never heard of this guy: I discovered, though, that he is a very prolific author in -- and straddling -- assorted genres of fiction. I'm not in America; suspect that Simmons may be less well-known elsewhere in the world, than in his native USA.

The themes of this novel (set in the 1920s) are Himalayan mountaineering plus international spy- and covert-war-type skulduggery. To be honest, I thought it was fairly awful. The author's prose flows smoothly enough; but he's very discursive and wordy, and the book is hugely long -- 650-odd pages; I felt that it would be improved by being cut to half of that. The length is largely because of the author's indulging himself in colossal, IMO often needless, info-dumps about all kinds of subjects: with some indications that the veracity of that info, may be suspect. In all, I am not feeling inclined toward any further exploration of Dan Simmons's works.
He's a very wide ranging author, with a slew of well deserved awards; his Hyperion series (sci-fi) is probably his best known but Drood (based on Dickens' life) and Song of Kali (urban horror) are better IMO.

Originally Posted by xterra View Post
The Crimean War: A History, by Orlando Figes, 2010.

I have gotten to page 141, and the war itself is just beginning.

Appalling statistic:

"The vast majority of Russian soldiers were not were not killed in battle but die from wounds and diseases that might not have been fatal if there had been a proper medical service.... during the Hungarian campaign of 1849, only 708 men died in the fighting but 57,000 Russian soldiers were admitted to Austrian hospitals. Even in peacetime the average rate of sickness in the Russian army was 65 percent." [p 119]
That was true into the twentieth century. In the Spanish-American war deaths from disease outnumbers battle related deaths by seven to one, fro example. The history of military medicine often seems to be a fascinating and tragic one of a few pioneers fighting their own military organisation to save soldiers' lives. There's a huge debt owed to people like Ambrose Pare, Dominique Jean Larrey, John Jones, Carl Reyher, Paul Leopold Friedrich, Antoine Depage, Harvey Cushing and of course Florence Nightingale.
The Crimean was (like the ACW) a 'transitional' war; technology and industrialisation allowed mass armies to be fielded but the knowledge of how to support them, especially medically, wasn't there yet.
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Old 26th February 2014, 03:51 AM   #4570
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_Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist_

_Buddhism Without Beliefs_

_Living with the Devil: A Meditation on Good and Evil_

all by Stephen Mitchell.


For me, Mitchell is best when he sticks to autobiography, worst when he tries to write a form of existential philosophy.

I find that I don't accept his outlook. Buddhism really is religion, not psychology. There are good things to learn here, but I disagree with every single sentence, and with the overall thrust of what he says.

Overall, I was disappointed that he wasn't a more tough-minded critic of Buddhism in general and of American Buddhism in particular.

He seems reasonably smart and well-intentioned, but it seems to me he's essentially an artist-type who's spent most of his life translating sacred texts or imbibing Buddhist philosophy.

Sure, things are impermanent. Sure, there is suffering. I don't believe that there is a cure -- just temporary solutions, projects, and human relationships.

I remain unconvinced that we need to experience radical groundlessness any more than some of us already do in the ordinary course of our lives.

Mitchell is really espousing a blend of Christianity, humanism, and Buddhism. It's not bad, it's not vile. It's just not all that interesting to me.

If there is an issue here, it's that Buddhists are pretending that what they do is psychology when it's really religion/ideology. Some of the vagueness, or slipperiness, or equivocation* in Mitchell's writing is really about persuasion.
It's not so bad -- trying to persuade readers to look at the world the way he does. It's just not some of the better philosophy I've read.

I prefer philosophy that deflates rather than philosophy that builds myths or that looks at things in terms that are too general. While that sort of deflation might have been the "historical Buddha's" project, Buddhism has been overlayed with so much religious content, and takes so much from Hinduism, that I can't accept it.

Also, Mitchell seems to love every myth and grand story he's read. I'm too literal-minded to find much value in myths, beyond entertainment.

* for example, the meaning of nirvana.
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Old 6th March 2014, 02:58 PM   #4571
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The five book H. Beam Piper/John F. Carr Lord Kalvan; Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, Great Kings War, Kalvan Kingmaker, Siege of Tarr-Hostigos and The Fireseed Wars
Sort-of A Conneticut Yankee meets the Renaissance in a balkanised north America colonised by Aryans. With parachronic travellers.

Charles Oman The Art of War in the Middle Ages
James Pritchard A Bridge of Ships- Canadian Shipbuilding during the Second World War
Cassandra Parkin Lighter Shades of Grey - A (Very) Critical Reader's Guide to 'Fifty Shades of Grey'
Allen Steele V-S Day: A Novel of Alternate History
Aaron Bobrow-Strain White Bread- A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf
Carol Off Bitter Chocolate- Investigating the Dark Side of the World's Most Seductive Sweet
Tom Standage An Edible History of Humanity
Sarah Rose For All the Tea in China- How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History
Douglas Perry Eliot Ness- The Rise and Fall of an American Hero
David Wise Cassidy's Run- The Secret Spy War Over Nerve Gas
Ervand Abrahamian The Coup - 1953, The CIA, and The Roots of Modern US-Iranian Relations
Annie Jacobsen Operation Paperclip- The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America
Paul A. Offit Deadly Choices- How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All
Alan Brooke & David Brandon Tyburn- London's Fatal Tree
Jim Mahaffey Atomic Accidents- A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters- From the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima
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Old 18th March 2014, 12:22 PM   #4572
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Raising a Soul Surfer by Cheri Hamilton The story of Bethany Hamilton's parents (young surfer who got her arm bit off by a shark). It gives insight as to how religion plays a role in the lives of those who believe and how an accident changed the lives of a whole family. Definitely not a book for most of you.
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Old 19th March 2014, 06:24 AM   #4573
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My latest pile, DTF, epub and audio:

In Laymon's Terms, an anthology of stories inspired by Richard Laymon.

The David Drake/Janet Morris ARC Riders "series" of two books, moderately good time travel.

Tim Bradford: The Groundwater Diaries - Trials, Tributaries and Tall Stories from Beneath the Streets of London. Fascinating so far, history and urban exploration under London.

Kenneth Ackerman's Boss Tweed- The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York. A different kind of city building.

Jeff Guinn: The Last Gunfight- The Real Story of the Shootout at the O K Corral and How It Changed the American West. Another interpretation of those thirty seconds, focusing on the effects of the myth of the gunfight, and subsequent events, on popular society.

Jennet Conant: 109 East Palace - Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos.

Pat Brown: The Murder of Cleopatra: History's Greatest Cold Case.

Peter Watson: The Age of Atheists - How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God.

Holly Tucker: Blood Work - A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution.

Christianna Brand's Buffet for Unwelcome Guest. A collection of short stories from a somewhat forgotten mystery writer best known for Green for Danger though she also (sort-of) created Nanny McPhee.

Judith Walzer Leavitt's Typhoid Mary - Captive to the Public's Health

Louis A. DiMarco: Concrete Hell - Urban Warfare From Stalingrad to Iraq.

Elizabeth Moon's Legend of Paksenarrion series (currently Paladin's Legacy). Probably the best ever take on the paladin or holy warrior in fantasy, though Weber's The War God's Own is nearly as good.

Two by Dossie Easton and Janet W Hardy: The New Topping Book and The New Bottoming Book. BDSM

Who Thinks Evil
, The latest Professor Moriarty novel by Michael Kurland.

David J Eicher: Dixie Betrayed- How the South Really Lost the Civil War. A good examination of the South's terrible political leadership.
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As human right is always something given, it always in reality reduces to the right which men give, "concede," to each other. If the right to existence is conceded to new-born children, then they have the right; if it is not conceded to them, as was the case among the Spartans and ancient Romans, then they do not have it. For only society can give or concede it to them; they themselves cannot take it, or give it to themselves.

Last edited by catsmate1; 19th March 2014 at 06:27 AM. Reason: Fixed formatting and typos, reduced wall of text.
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Old 19th March 2014, 10:08 PM   #4574
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The NIST report.

But in all seriousness, I'm wrapping up the Inheritance trilogy with Book 4.
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Old 20th March 2014, 06:39 AM   #4575
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Originally Posted by catsmate1 View Post
Two by Dossie Easton and Janet W Hardy: The New Topping Book and The New Bottoming Book. BDSM

Somehow, I don't think the public library will have these....
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Old 20th March 2014, 08:00 AM   #4576
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Originally Posted by xterra View Post
Somehow, I don't think the public library will have these....
Well my college library does..... But I got my own copies.
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Old 20th March 2014, 08:10 AM   #4577
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The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
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Old 20th March 2014, 08:39 AM   #4578
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Originally Posted by catsmate1 View Post
Well my college library does..... But I got my own copies.

Interestingly, the public library does have Easton and Hardy's The Ethical Slut: A roadmap for relationship pioneers.

I'll check it out.*


*Pun intended.
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Old 21st March 2014, 07:05 AM   #4579
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One Second After.

Totally sucked. I mean, bad.

Ostensibly about the after-effects of an EMP, it was written from a clear political standpoint (Republican, neh), which didn't necessarily bother me too much, except for its extreme cluelessness about how real people act.

I love a good apocalyptic novel like Lucifer's Hammer, When Worlds Collide, etc, but this one was not just poorly written, it was horribly edited as well. Tons and tons of dialogue, talking about events that had already happened, putting the exciting stuff in the past instead of any sense of immediate peril. All the characters say "would of", "could of", "must of", instead of "would have", etc. I might have chalked this up to a local thing, except the couple times when the same character later says "would have", in the same context. Typos, missing words, sentences that don't end.

The main character whines when society goes bad, "But, but, but, we're Americans, aren't we? We don't do that!!!"

I stuck it out to about halfway through, then started skimming. I don't remember how it ended, and I don't care. I can't believe all the highly-voted reviews on Amazon for this tripe.

I'm now reading Alas, Babylon (which was actually referred to in this book) and find it very compelling.
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Old 21st March 2014, 07:37 AM   #4580
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Originally Posted by alfaniner View Post
One Second After.

Totally sucked. I mean, bad.

Ostensibly about the after-effects of an EMP, it was written from a clear political standpoint (Republican, neh), which didn't necessarily bother me too much, except for its extreme cluelessness about how real people act.

I love a good apocalyptic novel like Lucifer's Hammer, When Worlds Collide, etc, but this one was not just poorly written, it was horribly edited as well. Tons and tons of dialogue, talking about events that had already happened, putting the exciting stuff in the past instead of any sense of immediate peril. All the characters say "would of", "could of", "must of", instead of "would have", etc. I might have chalked this up to a local thing, except the couple times when the same character later says "would have", in the same context. Typos, missing words, sentences that don't end.

The main character whines when society goes bad, "But, but, but, we're Americans, aren't we? We don't do that!!!"
It's terrible dreck, there was a thread here on it last year.
Forstchen is a hack (he co-wrote a few books with that other eagar advocate of missile defense spending, Newt Gingrich) with no scientific background and no knowledge of EMP (his crap was demolished by Yousaf Butt, amongst others, years ago).

Originally Posted by alfaniner View Post
I stuck it out to about halfway through, then started skimming. I don't remember how it ended, and I don't care. I can't believe all the highly-voted reviews on Amazon for this tripe.
Amazon reviews are utterly worthless; highly biased and subject to easy manipulation.

The writing is indeed terrible, reminiscent of Slade in the numerous grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes, and both Slade and Kratman in his inability to plot, write believable dialogue, create plausible characters, eschew his political bias, avoid preaching, misogyny, single minded jingoism and the Mary Sue protagonist.

Originally Posted by alfaniner View Post
I'm now reading Alas, Babylon (which was actually referred to in this book) and find it very compelling.
It's rather good, the first of the genre really. A bit too slow and thoughtful for the Slade/Kratman/Forstchen fans.
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As human right is always something given, it always in reality reduces to the right which men give, "concede," to each other. If the right to existence is conceded to new-born children, then they have the right; if it is not conceded to them, as was the case among the Spartans and ancient Romans, then they do not have it. For only society can give or concede it to them; they themselves cannot take it, or give it to themselves.
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Old 21st March 2014, 02:34 PM   #4581
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Reading 'Bad Science". Although not all that informative to me, it's quite enjoyable.
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Old 21st March 2014, 05:15 PM   #4582
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"All Quiet On The Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque.

Over halfway through, thoroughly moving read.
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Old 24th March 2014, 06:09 AM   #4583
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_Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening_ -- by Joseph Goldstein

For this reader, another disappointment. Everything in the title is misleading.

There are no good critical reviews on Amazon -- which tells me that "mindfulness" has become a word saturated with piety.

From a good -- but uncritical -- review, here is what this book is:

Quote:
The book is derived from a series of lectures on a particular sutta (talk) of the Buddha, the Satipatthana Sutta, which is found in a collection of talks called the Majjhima Nikaya. (The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, edited by Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, Wisdom Publications). However, the sutta itself is also to be found as an appendix in Goldstein's new book. Goldstein's lectures were given at the Forest Retreat of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. Goldstein used, for these lectures, a recent interpretation of this sutta by a Buddhist monk Analayo, named Satipatthana: the Direct Path to Realization, Windhorse Publications. Over a series of retreats Goldstein systematically commented on every verse of the sutta,using the Venerable Analayo's commentary as an comparative guide for his own commentary. This kind of commentary is a classical method of working with a sutta in the Buddhist world. ( Also, Sounds True has issued the actual talks as a three part cd series, Abiding in Mindfulness.)

The Satgtipatthana Sutta is meant to be a complete and sufficient description of a particular form of meditation that is called vipassana or Insight Meditation. (This meditation has also just been called Mindfulness and has become increasingly popular as a means for reducing stress.) The Buddha says that if this sutta's methodology is strictly adhered to, it will led to realization or Enlightenment. Goldstein takes that claim very seriously. His book reflects a careful, years long, relationship to both this sutta and to the meditations revealed by the Buddha. I believe Goldstein's work to be one of the most complete and beautifully written books about Buddhist meditation, I have read in the fifty years of my own Buddhist practice.
Which is to say, the book is mostly concerned with ancient commentary on an ancient text, with a little contemporary lacquer.

http://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-A-...owViewpoints=1

I've really come to think that this kind of bland, opaque piety is really what many people seem to want.

Alan Watts may have not been the real deal, but at least he could write. If there's an insight or a flash of humor in Goldstein's book, I've yet to find it. I've browsed through most of it. Dull, dull, dull. Never seems to touch down in anything like reality.

Now, there have been quite a few books that are not bland in overall tone. But it's very hard to find one in which someone is critical of the core Buddhist ideology itself.

There have been wannabe stand-up comics writing Zen memoirs, and former Zen monks. But even these jokers don't seem to question the belief system itself that much, if at all.

Search continues.

So far, the best critical commentary is still this one by John Horgan:

http://www.johnhorgan.org/why_i_can_...hism_19872.htm

If I were smarter, perhaps I would understand why good criticism is so hard to come by. It must be a little like the lack of good criticism of free jazz, except free jazz isn't trendy, isn't catching on. (I mean that for something to be criticized adequately, someone has to muster the passion and do the research.)
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Old 24th March 2014, 06:30 AM   #4584
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Pricksongs and Descants - Robert Coover (re-read)

Arguably - Christopher Hitchens
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Old 24th March 2014, 12:45 PM   #4585
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One second after by William R Forstchen,forward by Newt Gingrich. a fiction with non fiction facts as to what would happen in the US if someone set off an EMP (electronicmagnetic pulse ) this is a scary story, because our enemies have the capabilities to do this now.
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Old 24th March 2014, 03:57 PM   #4586
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Originally Posted by COLONEL View Post
One second after by William R Forstchen,forward by Newt Gingrich. a fiction with non fiction facts as to what would happen in the US if someone set off an EMP (electronicmagnetic pulse ) this is a scary story, because our enemies have the capabilities to do this now.
There's damn all non-fiction in that book. Forstchen & Gingrich's propaganda piece has been utterly debunked.
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Old 27th March 2014, 06:02 AM   #4587
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Two that are related to skepticism about Buddhism:

_The Guru Papers_

_After Ecstasy, the Laundry_

plus various articles I've learned about from the reviews -- pro and con -- of these books, including this one:

http://www.buddhanet.net/crazy.htm *

I found this section particularly interesting:

Rubin explains that enlightenment in Theravāda Buddhism is described as completely purifying the mind of the defilements of greed, hatred and delusion. This ideal assumes that the mind can be permanently and completely purified and therefore transformed (83-4 & 87). However, Rubin points out that in 1983 "five of the six most esteemed Zen Buddhist masters in the United States" were involved in grossly unenlightened behaviour such as sexual exploitation and stealing money (88). The question arises: How can these scandals occur if these people are supposed to be enlightened? How can this have happened? Rubin concludes that these scandals suggest that:

... psychological conditioning from the past that inevitably warps personality cannot be completely eradicated and that there is no conflict-free stage of human life in which the mind is permanently purified of conflict. This is consistent with psychoanalytic insights about the essential nontransparency of the human mind; that is, the inevitability of unconsciousness and self-deception.

For an individual to be enlightened, they would have to be certain that they were completely awake without any trace of unconsciousness or delusion. Even if that existed in the present, it is not clear to me how one could know for certain that would never change in the future. From the psychoanalytic perspective, a static, conflict-free sphere - a psychological "safehouse" - beyond the vicissitudes of conflict and conditioning where mind is immune to various aspects of affective life such as self-interest, egocentricity, fear, lust, greed, and suffering is quixotic. Since conflict and suffering seem to be inevitable aspects of human life, the ideal of Enlightenment may be asymptotic, that is, an unreachable ideal (90).

From the context of the Four Noble Truths, Rubin has just torpedoed the third truth. He does this in an attempt to integrate Buddhism and psychotherapy, to create a new Buddhism more suited to Western culture. Unfortunately, Rubin is so confused about Buddhist teaching that he seems oblivious to the fact that he is not adapting or integrating Buddhism, he is simply destroying it. We referred earlier to the Buddha’s teaching that to see one of the Noble Truths is to see all of them. These truths form a pattern which is so closely interwoven that to deny one of them is to deny all of them. If there is no cessation of dukkha, there is no path leading to the cessation of dukkha. And if there is no cessation of dukkha and no path leading to the cessation of dukkha, then the Buddha was a very confused fellow indeed. Since enlightenment is psychotherapeutically impossible, then the Buddha was not enlightened. In other words, there never was a Buddha. Rubin’s version of Buddhism is a Buddha-less Buddhism. And a Buddha-less Buddhism is in the same position as a Christ-less Christianity - non-existent.



* eta: This article seems to have a number of problems. It's interesting but not to be believed without skepticism. The author is a True Believer. Evidence for this? The quote below:

Quote:
What’s the alternative? In one word, faith. Faith involves a surrender to the tradition, which in Buddhism is expressed as taking refuge in the three treasures of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
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Old 27th March 2014, 07:22 AM   #4588
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_American Fun: Four Centuries of Joyous Revolt_ by John Beckman.

With an emphasis on the recent past, this is a fairly well-written history of democratic ballyhoo, hijinks, pranks, shenanigans, skylarking, sagging off, antics, capers, tomfoolery, debaucheries, orgies, street theater, demonstrations, monkeyshines, gags, frolics, conniptions, revels, sports, follies, and rollicking jests. Also dance marathons. And hip-hop.

I can't help being amused by the bio of the author: He teaches at a naval academy, is early-middle aged, and has an infant daughter. Which is to say: All ingredients for a mid-life crisis, or at least the need to keep such a crisis at bay. As Bill Murray said in Lost in Translation:


Quote:
Bob: It gets a whole lot more complicated when you have kids.
Charlotte: It's scary.
Bob: The most terrifying day of your life is the day the first one is born.
Charlotte: Nobody ever tells you that.
Bob: Your life, as you know it... is gone. Never to return. But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk... and you want to be with them. And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life.
Charlotte: That's nice.
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Old 27th March 2014, 07:56 AM   #4589
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Ubik - Philip K. Dick.

Been on a bit of a kick reading his catalog lately. Probably late to the party on him, but I'm enjoying it. Read A Scanner Darkly before that. And went through a few of his short stories I could find via Project Gutenberg and Manybooks.net.

Fahrnam's Freehold - Robert Heinlein was another recent finish.

Was reading some Stephen Baxter stuff before that - but ran into Empire and couldn't finish it. Started off with an interesting alternate history premise than seemed to just devolve into a dragged out depiction of plausable and unplausable events in the day to day lives of individuals that led to other stuff that happened in history. Don't think I'll be following up on that series.

I did enjoy Flood and Ark by Baxter. Feel like there's another story in the space ark that could be written. I thought Light of Other Days was good as well.
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Old 27th March 2014, 11:22 PM   #4590
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While I'm still plowing through the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (I've decided to quit waiting for any sort of unifying plot and just view it as a series of loosely related short stories), I picked up "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" (the third of the "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" books) while I was on a recent vacation, so I'm taking a break to read that.

It's entertaining, although difficult in parts because I don't really care so much about the organization chart of the Swedish Secret Police. I understand why it's important to the story, but it still drags the book down occasionally.
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Old 28th March 2014, 03:25 AM   #4591
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_Blood Will Out_ -- Walter Kirn

There's a very gripping true crime story at the center of this. Clark Rockefeller wasn't only an imposter and someone who was willing to kidnap his own daughter in a custody dispute. He was stranger and nastier than that.

Kirn happened to become friends -- of a kind -- with Rockefeller, and was fooled by him. Kirn rationalized every odd thing Rockefeller did as the eccentricity of the rich.

I could have done with a little less of Kirn's life, and a little more about Rockefeller, but that's a quibble. The book is really about how we are taken in, and so the first-person perspective works very well. It makes the story creepier.

I'd give this 4 out of 5 stars, with a star removed because it starts to get a little less interesting as it nears the end. But Kirn is a good writer.

There are a lot of dumb reviews on Amazon, as usual.
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Old 28th March 2014, 07:48 AM   #4592
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Originally Posted by COLONEL View Post
One second after by William R Forstchen,forward by Newt Gingrich. a fiction with non fiction facts as to what would happen in the US if someone set off an EMP (electronicmagnetic pulse ) this is a scary story, because our enemies have the capabilities to do this now.
Originally Posted by catsmate1 View Post
There's damn all non-fiction in that book. Forstchen & Gingrich's propaganda piece has been utterly debunked.
Yes, there may be "facts" in the book, but so are there "facts" in the Bible. As I noted above: the book sucked.

I finished Alas, Babylon and quite enjoyed it.
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Old 28th March 2014, 07:57 AM   #4593
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I'm enjoying some of the recipes in The Unofficial Distorted View Bar Guide and listening to the audiobook of The Drunken Botanist

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Old 28th March 2014, 01:00 PM   #4594
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Plowing my way through The Curse Of The Mistwraith by Janny Wurts.

Although I use plowing more as a neutral term. The book is good so far, but it's also rather big.

I'm not sure if I'm going to read the entire series.

Next up is a book on music from the West Coast (60's and early 70's), with 4 CD's full of music, and information about each song.

After that, The Demon-Haunted World.
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Old 29th March 2014, 04:49 AM   #4595
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My current pile.

Mary Gentle's Grunts. A different take on the Last Battle trope from fantasy.

Sally Putnam Chapman: Whistled Like a Bird - The Untold Story of Dorothy Putnam, George Putnam, and Amelia Earhart

Henry Bradford's Tales of London's Docklands. Interesting urban history.

Archie Barwick's wartime diary, In Great Spirits covering his service from Gallipoli to the Western Front an back home.

Neil Faulkner: Rome - Empire of the Eagles 753 BC-AD 476

David Remnick & Susan Choi: Wonderful Town - New York Stories from The New Yorker

Michael D'Antonio's Mortal Sins about the numerous sex scandals within the RCC.

James Walsh's book on frauds, You Can't Cheat an Honest Man - How Ponzi Schemes and Pyramid Frauds Work. Well worth a read.

Larry Kahaner: AK-47- The Weapon that Changed the Face of War. Rather overblown and with a number of inaccuracies.

Ervand Abrahamian's The Coup about one of the USA's most notable screwups, the 1953 CIA backed coup against the democratic government of Iran, and it's consequences.

Annie Jacobsen: Operation Paperclip - The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America

Jan Toms's The Accidental Assassin- An Island, A Poodle, A Body

Kathleen Kinsolving: Dogs of War- The Stories of FDR's Fala, Patton's Willie, and Ike's Telek. I'm not really a dog person but it's good.

Sharan Newman: The Real History of the End of the World- Apocalyptic Predictions from Revelation to 2012. A fascinating compilation of human stupidity and gullibility.

Alan Brooke and David Brandon: Tyburn - London's Fatal Tree

Jim Mahaffey: Atomic Accidents - A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters- From the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima

Also Ken Hite's series Ken Writes About Stuff from the man behind the old Suppressed Transmission column. Excellent stuff and not just for gamers, Ken is vastly knowledgeable about conspiracies, strange history and general weirdness.
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Old 29th March 2014, 10:25 AM   #4596
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Just finished Monsieur Lecoq (1868) by Emile Gaboriau. The title character is obviously an inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. He is a Paris police detective who makes brilliant deductions, is a master of disguise, and is even mentioned in the first Doyle story (Holmes dismisses him as a miserable bungler). Like several of the Sherlock novels (e.g., A Study in Scarlet), there is an exceedingly long digression where the back story of the murderer and the victims is explained; in this case it takes up almost 2/3rds of the book.
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Old 31st March 2014, 03:00 PM   #4597
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Originally Posted by alfaniner View Post
Yes, there may be "facts" in the book, but so are there "facts" in the Bible. As I noted above: the book sucked.

I finished Alas, Babylon and quite enjoyed it.
If you liked Alas, Babylon, you need to give A Canticle For Liebowitz, by Walter Miller, a try (if you haven't already). It's a classic- a little dated (published, IIRC, around 1960), but no more so than Alas, Babylon. It's roughly of the same genre, post-apocalyptic vision, as Frank's novel, but a little more extended a vision.

My current reading list is mostly non-fiction:

The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher, by Kate Summerscale. About the English country house murder of a young boy by his half-sister in 1860, it's also a good rundown on the development of the English detective and his counterparts in a new (for that time) fictional genre.

Christopher Hibbert's The Destruction of Lord Raglan- a short narrative of the Crimean War that focuses more on the English field commander's travails than the broader war itself; as Hibbert himself says in his introduction, compared to Kinglake's history, it has at least the virtue of brevity.

Cromwell, by Antonia Fraser. I (obviously, but for no particular reason) have an interest in English history; and I'm a sucker for anything by Fraser (Mary, Queen of Scots also highly recommended).

When it comes to fiction, I'm pretty much the kind of "constant reader" who waits impatiently for each new Stephen King book, devours it within a day or so of getting it, then repeats the impatience cycle. I think King is a better, more elegant and thoughtful, writer than he's generally seen to be or given credit for; Hearts In Atlantis is a particular favorite of mine (possibly because I'm roughly of the generation it's about). I resisted his Dark Tower series for a long time, because I just don't care for fantasy; but I finally gave in, and was pleasantly surprised to be swept up in the flow of the story as a whole. I also have to say that I agree with King that the ending he came up with, in the seventh book, The Dark Tower, was the only resolution possible.

I used to read a lot of science fiction, just about exclusively of the "hard" kind; reading Frederik Pohl's Heechee series has sort of ruined that for me. Premise- at the beginning of the Universe, the conditions and constants that defined that universe (as perceived by humans in what Pohl calls "gosh numbers") were frozen in place. Suppose you had a race to whom those conditions were good enough to allow their evolution to the present, but not good enough for anything further? Solution- roll back the universe, and begin it again, tweaking those constants to make a more comfortable one- change the "gosh numbers." Pi is different, Planck's Constant is different- and the Universe really is the result of a normative impulse. The series begins with Gateway, but doesn't, IMHO, really get going until the second book in the series, Beyond The Blue Event Horizon. It's just been difficult for me to find anything since that's appealed to me on this sort of grand, universal scale.
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Old 4th April 2014, 08:49 AM   #4598
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Duce! by Richard Collier, a biography of Mussolini (guess I didn't need to tell you that). Because he started research in 1968 and published in 1971, Collier had the advantage of being able to interview a lot of people who lived through Benny's life and career, even Rachele Mussolini, his much-tried wife.

It goes at a galloping speed and makes good entertainment, even though Collier wrote a bit like a newspaper scribbler. Dunno about his tone at the end; I think he wants us to see Musso as Willy Lowman, and I fear I can't squint that hard.
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Old 4th April 2014, 05:00 PM   #4599
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I'm trying something rather unusual for me, I'm reading a game tie-in novel (trilogy, technically, in an omnibus edition) based in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. I typically avoid tie-in novels of any sort, due to the dismal quality of the writing on previous forays into the genre. However, this one is turning out to be a pleasant surprise. It's hardly Lord of the Rings, but it's relatively well-written, and captures the setting well, and manages to portray the characters as more than just flat stereotypes.

The Path of the Eldar trilogy by Gav Thorpe, consisting of three books - Path of the Warrior, Path of the Seer, and Path of the Outcast. They're written from the point of view of one of the Alien races, the Eldar; who are effectively classic fantasy Elves in space, but owing a bit more to traditions of the "Fair Folk" than to the Tolkienian archetype. Previous attempts to write from their viewpoint have been... less than successful, so I approached this one with a bit of trepidation; though with some optimism, since Thorpe is one of the architects of the game, and has contributed heavily to the design and backstory of that particular race.

As said, I was quite surprised. The setting was everything I could have wanted; and he was very effective at portraying an alien mindset, steeped in its own distinct culture, mythology and history. Again, not LotR or Dune, but still well written and building on an already highly detailed world. All three books tell essentially the same basic story from the point of view of a different character, all three indirectly pivotal to the development of the plot. The author does a good job of weaving three very individual stories around the central plot; and the characters are surprisingly well developed. My only complaint is that they are a bit too humanized, not quite alien enough (for starters, Eldar minds, unlike humans, are highly compartmentalized, and capable of true multitasking); but that's clearly a tradeoff when writing for a popular audience, and there's a fine line between distinctly alien and completely incomprehensible (Stanislaw Lem is a great one to read if you want the incomprehensibly alien). The only other possible quibble I can see is that he doesn't delve much into the world, so those not already very familiar with the game find themselves a bit lost at times.

Overall, a very entertaining set of books if you're already familiar with the world.
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Old 5th April 2014, 01:33 AM   #4600
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_The Examined Life_ by Stephen Grosz

A psychoanalyst tells some of his stories.

I experienced a kind of dizziness at first reading this, because it was if the moral-intellectual rules I've grown accustomed to with skepticism and JREF and my own life (all slightly different things) had been suspended or changed.

Truth/evidence? Not so important. Rather, stories shared and pondered between two people -- patient and therapist. Anecdote is all, here.

Strict honesty or will to truth? Again, not so important. Many of the patients lie. The stories themselves certainly have details changed, and were probably improved in the telling.

Outcomes? Not so important. No one is "cured". If insights are attained, it makes no difference to these stories.

JREF (or Internet) moralism? Not so harsh here. Softened. It's as if there is one wise, forgiving father (Grosz) who listens but doesn't judge. Very different from the crowd of stone-throwers, jackals, and hyenas. (In any crowd large enough, there will always be at least a few willing to disapprove, harshly.) The patients behave rather badly, and somehow, this is expected. Something in their past made them do this, you see. And it's poetry.

It's the feeling that someone might see one, and actually understand, that is so seductive and so unrealistic, here. Not gonna happen. Not gonna. Na Ga. One may go gentle or go angry, but one is first summarized, then simplified, then forgotten completely.

There is no time when we shall see each other face to face. A beautiful dream.

In my world, there are no stories that have any reality, and no wise, forgiving mutual understandings. There are just people with agendas, needs, and prejudices, scurrying about their business, or hunkering down, digging in their heels.

But it makes a great read.

And no, not worthless. As comforting as the sound of rain.

Heh.

You and me and rain on the roof
Caught up in a summer shower
Drying while it soaks the flowers
Maybe we'll be caught for hours
Waiting out the sun

You and me, we're gathered away
Dreamin' conversation, sitting in the hay
Honey, how long was I laughing in the rain with you?
'Cause I didn't feel a drop
'Til the thunder brought us to
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