Time for some Doubleplus Ungood Badthink

The Brat Pack of science fiction has concocted a cynical ploy to disturb the genre’s Purity of Essence; they’re giving away e-books. I wasn’t too sure about this until I read John Scalzi’s pithy recommendation. “This is bullshit” exactly sums up my opinion of his latest strawman social-justice snoozer Locked In.  So he’s become my anti-oracle. Continue reading Time for some Doubleplus Ungood Badthink

You Crosstalk too much

I s-o-o-o wanted to enjoy Connie Willis’ latest book, Crosstalk, and I settled down in great anticipation to read her latest screwball comedy.  The characters and situations are familiar to Willis fans who liked To Say Nothing of the Dog, “Blue Moon”, or the underappreciated Bellwether.  There’s even one of Willis’ hilarious lists, this time D. B. Schwartz’ Rules for Lying, peppered throughout the book: Stick to one story (p. 78) Never say any more than you absolutely have to (p. 77) Have a cover story ready in case people start asking questions (p. 108) Keep your stories straight (p. … Continue reading You Crosstalk too much

Glamour from the 20th Century

Recently finished Virginia Postrel’s The Power of Glamour, and finally understood what all the fuss has been about. Although people often equate them, glamour is not the same as beauty, sylishness, luxury, celebrity, or sex appeal….Glamour is, rather, a form of nonverbal rhetoric, which moves and persuades not through words but through images, concepts, and totems….By binding image and desire, glamour gives us pleasure, even as it heightens our yearning.  It leads us to feel that the life we dream of exists, and to desire it even more. (p. 6) After reading the whole thing, I’ve concluded that America has … Continue reading Glamour from the 20th Century

The Invention of Nature

I’m neck deep in Andrea Wulf‘s biography of Alexander von Humboldt, and it’s absolutely riveting.  Von Humboldt was some kind of scientific maniac, who caught the interest of everyone from Goethe to Thomas Jefferson to Simon Bolivar.  Von Humboldt was arguably the first naturalist to think ecologically, as well as one of the earliest abolitionists.  He didn’t get to go everywhere, and he didn’t get to meet everyone, but damn close. Continue reading The Invention of Nature

Two-fourths of a good idea

Uncle Sam wants kids to read more, so he blankets the web with ads like this: Which I think is pretty cool because (1)  I’ve been an Edgar Rice Burroughs junkie since junior high school; John Carter and Tarzan turned me into the voracious reader am I today, and (2) I can’t wait to see the movie, and I’m sure a whole generation of boys are going to read the books to get “the rest of the story.” But it’s also not so hot an idea because (3) It wouldn’t hurt to get GIRLS to do a bit more reading, … Continue reading Two-fourths of a good idea

Worrying about princesses is a “princess problem”

Virginia Postrel explains why girls are still fascinated with being princesses. For all its Victorian stoicism and sense of duty, this princess dream shares the mixture of openness and elitism that gives princesses their contemporary appeal. Like the superhero, the princess has a special identity and destiny. She is more than an ordinary girl. But her value is not determined by playground hierarchies. You don’t have to be popular to be a princess. You can be an iconoclast, even an outcast, but you must be worthy. You must be good. In this version, as my then-5-year-old niece once wrote me, … Continue reading Worrying about princesses is a “princess problem”

My latest self-improvement book

My students frequently complain that I stay up late at night dreaming up fiendishly difficult homeworks and exam questions for them.  To which I reply, I do much of my best work in the morning.  But now I have help and inspiration!  During a recent visit to the local Barnes and Noble to pick up the latest Erast Fandorin mysteries, my wife spotted Justin Rosenholtz’ delicious little volume, Deliberate Acts of Needless Meanness.  It contains 366 suggestions of creatively mean things to do to friends, family, co-workers, and complete strangers.  Two of my favorites: Day 78:  Think people are going … Continue reading My latest self-improvement book