Reviewing Cradle to Cradle

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…

Soon I Will be Invincible by Austin Grossman, a review

Austin Grossman’s debut novel is as spectacular as it’s subject and characters. Tackling the much maligned genre of comic super heroes, Grossman eschews the over the top action, thin to non existent story lines, and bad dialog that seem to hamper the genre. He has approached his subject seriously, putting the focus on the people rather than their powers. Assuming all the assorted tropes that every long running comic uses (other dimensions, time travel, magic, etc., etc., etc. ) to extend its life and make some small sense of their convoluted, contradictory stories, he creates a believable world. The book is populated by even more believable characters, characters with body image, self-esteem and assorted other issues. No “whams”, “biffs”, or “kapows” can be found in the pages of the book. Instead he emphasizes the very real problems of alienation, solitude, and being an outsider. Taking a look at the psychology of his characters as opposed to their super physiology. A look that I found both fascinating and compelling.

The story centers on two characters: long time super villain, Dr. Impossible and a brand new super hero, Fatale. Impossible has broken out of super prison again and immediately puts into action his latest plan for world domination. Fatale, a cyborg and former NSA assassin, has recently joined the world’s premiere super hero team. Her new team was that put Impossible into prison. The story revolves around these two characters and builds to the conclusion one imagines when thinking of comic books. A secluded island fortress bristling with the latest and deadliest technology,and a team of super heroes assaulting it. A violent conflict ensues with Impossible facing down the super team. This, though is not the point. Grossman uses the settings and super hero trappings merely as dressing. Dressing for a much richer and meatier exploration of what it means to be alienated. Remember back to your middle school or high school years, were you part of the in crowd? Were you one of those people who everyone was vying to sit with at lunch, hang out with after school, or even just be somewhat associated with in any way? It is likely you were not, even if you were I know you were troubled about just where you fit into things and how. This is the bulk of Grossman’s book. Exploring the emotions and feelings of alienation and being an outsider. What strange alchemical reaction turns some kids into ‘winners’ and others into ‘losers’? What damage does this do to their psyches? How long can it last? Most of us outgrow the sense of alienation or rejection we sensed in high school and earlier and at times the characters can appear juvenile for their continued existence in a world that largely ends once the growth spurts stop. But, perhaps this is more subtle commentary by Grossman, comics it seems have never grown up, nor have the characters that populate their pages. Perhaps those of us who reading them have yet to as well…

If you’re interested in checking it go to your local library, bookstore or check it out here at amazon. Mr. Grossman’s website can be found here.

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