Yesterday I finished reading The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy by Two Guys. I didn’t finish the book but I am done with reading it. I should have just picked up the original article these two wrote. I don’t need a 400 page, immaculately researched, and backed up book to tell me that Israel gets a free pass here in the United States. Turn the news on and you see it does. As do all our other brutal but anti-terrorist friends in the world. Is this going to change anytime soon? Probably not, the book quotes innumerable politicaians and organizations that all say the same thing, “The Israel Lobby is the most powerful in Washington”, and “They control the public discourse relating to Israel and the Middle-East in this country”. That is a depressing thought, it is also depressing to think that even bringing up the topic of a bias in American discourse towards Israel gets you immediately labeled a new anti-Semite. So I guess that is what I’m going to be looking forward to, when I say that Carter is right and what is going on in Israel and along the West Bank is Apartheid and there is no excuse for it in a democratic country. There is also no excuse for anyone who thinks that it is okay to do so, regardless of the reasoning behind it. Racism is Racism, Hate is Hate. You don’t get rid of it by building walls around it, or killing it.
Enough of the depressing, soul wrenching dump we call the Middle East.
I also just finished Hardcore Zen by Brad Warner. I liked the book, but then Buddhism appeals to me Zen in particular because there is no religiousness about it. It’s a practice and it’s solely concerned with the here and now, this existence. If more people were doing that instead of getting weepy eyed and hopeful about what might happen after were dead, the world would be a better place. I didn’t need all the talk about the punk scene in the 80’s but that’s Warner’s life and this is his book… So he can do what he wants. Stripping all the bull out of practice though, I liked that. Also the talk about Godzilla rocks, he needed more of that and less of Ultraman, who likes Ultraman?
In conclusion, if you’re interested in learning about Zen Buddhism without all the ritual and formula and tricky words, without all the baggage you should pick up a copy of the Hardcore Zen. If you need all the references to back up what you already knew about American foreign policy towards Israel pick up the first book and flip to the back, there is pages of it. Oh, and pointing out the truth doesn’t make you a bigot. Some people just don’t like the truth… Screw them.
I just finished reading Cradle to Cradle by W. McDonough & M. Braungart. It’s an interesting book, big on ideas sadly short on details. The book is about changing how things are designed in our world today. Most designers approach their project as a cradle to grave affair. Create a product that will breakdown after X years and then have the consumer throw it away. They advocate a paradigm shift of creating products that when disposed of can be upcycled instead of downcycled (recycled) or when thrown away give something back to environment. They list a couple of projects that they’ve worked on that did just that or at least started down that road. They don’t acknowledge though the enormous difficulty in restructuring an entire economic system, especially one in which billions of people and trillions of dollars are heavily invested.
There’s nothing to disagree with in the book because of its abstraction. There isn’t anything here to attack because everything is only intellectual. The only complaint that can be leveled against them is their lack of concrete details. There isn’t any plan here to get done what they want to get done. It’s easily to build castles in the clouds, it doesn’t take anything to do so. The difficulties arise when you start devising a plan, a plan that not everyone is going to agree with. A plan that some are goingto vehemently oppose. No one, no one wants to destroy the planet. Everyone agrees it should be cherished and protected. Say when you say that you’re preaching to the choir. When it comes to the “how” that is where the trouble starts. McDonough and Braungart don’t offer any hows though so their book ultimately goes no-where and does nothing…
I finished A.J. Jacobs soon to be released book, The Year of Living Biblically. It wasn’t a bad read, it was easy and Jacob’s prose flows quite nicely. You can pick up the book read a quick 10 pages and set it back down, without ever losing the flow of the narrative. Most importantly I think for the book, considering it’s topic how Jacob’s approaches religion both with respect and skepticism, and a little humor. This keeps the whole text from getting bogged down in some of the bizarre religious beliefs he shares.
A little about the book, is in order. Jacob’s writes for Esquire magazine. His previous book was The Know-It-All, about reading the entire encyclopedia Britannica in a year. This book is about him following every law in the bible, both old and new testaments. The book is his attempt to live them all and how it effects his and his family’s lives. He also makes a number of trips to meet religious figures, who are mostly, off the map. People like snake handlers, his crazy orthodox Jewish, former uncle in Israel, etc…
I enjoyed reading the book, my problem with it though is its lack of any conclusion. After A year of living the bible as faithfully as possible, interacting with devout people of various faiths. He gives the literary equivalent of a shoulder shrug. It was good and I feel good about myself, and I feel but nothing really has changed. I have a feeling he is being disingenuous here. He has to stay light, funny, and somewhat edgy, lest he loses his cred and job at Esquire magazine. Nor can he come down and say religion is hogwash, for fear of insulting the people who helped him throughout the year, and the majority of his readers. So he gives a non-committal answer and quickly wraps the book up.
I finished Chabon’s book, the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, it won him the Pulitzer prize. I don’t deny that the writing is good, his prose kept me reading through the book, no matter how surreal it gets in parts. I don’t know what about his writing though makes it Pulitzer prize worthy, what is the mission of the committee that decides who wins and who loses? What must a piece of literature possess in order for it to be considered? What does it have that sets it above its contemporaries? I don’t know, though I suspect I have read better pieces of fiction by authors who have never won the prestigious award. This says one of two things, either the award is not all it is presented to be, or my opinion is not very educated. I’d like to think that it’s the former though I suspect my friends and family would look to the latter. I took the book off of the list to the right and added in a new one, which through the mysterious alchemy of my decision making process jumped ahead of every other book to end up in my lap right now. It’s a small one though so I expect to be reading the Sixth Extinction very soon.
I finished the review I have for Steampunk Magazine and submitted it. I’m hoping when I check my e-mail tomorrow there’ll be something in there from the editors… Something good. I’ve also signed up for my GREs I’ll be taking the test on September 25…
Well, I got down on my knees and I pretend to pray