Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The monthly reading list for Aug 06

A brand new tradition, for as long as I keep it up, that is. Meant to post this up last week, but life happened.

16 hour plane rides to and from the U.S., plus summer vacation here in Japan, afforded me even greater opportunity than usual to get through these books...

Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies, & the Truth about Reality - great no-bullshit book based on the principles of Soto Zen. Occasionally wacky, frequently insightful. Fascinating read, even if it gets occasionally "this is the way" on ya. Author keeps a blog here: http://hardcorezen.blogspot.com/

Ecotopia - fictional utopia out in northern California, Oregon, and Washington that secedes from the Union. Noted as one of the first "green" utopian novels. Interesting ideas, worthwhile read. Found it's commentaries on the nature of people and relationships more interesting than it's environmental angle, actually. Planning on picking up the sequel at some point.

Jennifer Government - funny satire on an uber-libertarian society where government becomes just another corporate interest group. Great send-up of modern capitalism and corporatism. Fast, fun, smartass read.

The Last Assassin - the fifth in former CIA employee Barry Eisler's thriller novels about John Rain, a half Japanese, half American assassin. Great insights on Japanese and American culture, martial arts and philosophy all wrapped up in action, adventure and the yakuza. Pull quote/observation of the book - Japanese love nature the way Americans love peace. [If the irony escapes you, give it some thought.] Awesome book. Author keeps a blog on politics here: http://www.barryeisler.com/blog.html

Practical Spirituality: How to Use Spiritual Power to Create Tangible Results - James Ray, the author, was one of the participants in the intriguing documentary The Secret. He reminded me of the better aspects of some of Tony Robbin's NLP stuff, with a slightly more metaphysical bent. His demeanor resonated with me for whatever reason, so I picked up his most recent book. Interesting book, both thoughtful and practical while delving into some of the "bigger" issues in life. Highly recommended to anybody who ventures into the whole "meaning of life and how to live it" area of the world.

The Italian Secretary - a Sherlock Holmes pastiche by Caleb Carr, whose period mystery work The Alienist I'd really enjoyed. An enjoyable and servicable Sherlock Holmes story, but having read The Alienist, I'd expected better, frankly. It was perfect airplane reading though. Cotton candy for the mind. Tasty, but not particularly filling. But a good book, if you dig Holmes or period mysteries.

A Slight Trick of the Mind - another Sherlock Holmes pastiche, one I actually enjoyed a great deal. Not in the vein of traditional Holmes stories... there's no "real" adventure mystery here, as the "mystery" becomes more of a character study piece. [Making it more like Michael Chabon's The Final Solution: A Story of Detection I guess, though I didn't enjoy that one nearly as much, for whatever reason.] But I really liked A Slight Trick of the Mind. Partly as it examined Holmes' struggle with advanced age - he's around 90 in the book- and partly because a portion of the story involved Holmes taking a trip to Japan, an unexpected surprise that, expating here, made for interesting reading. Recommended if you've any love at all for Holmes or post WWII Japan.

DC Universe: Last Sons - Superman, Lobo and the Martian Manhunter in a "cotton candy for the brain" space adventure. Not big on the intergalactic sci-fi, but the story is mostly told from Lobo's perspective, so at least it was pretty funny.

DC Universe: Inheritance - story focusing on the former teen sidekicks of Batman, Green Arrow and Aquaman. Nightwing [formerly Robin], Arsenal [formerly Speedy] and Tempest [formerly Aqualad] work with their mentors to head off an international terrorist plot. Enjoyable despite a thin plot. Good characterizations, except for a very weird Green Arrow. Also some strange homoerotic subtext [take that Fredric Wertham!]. But a good book if you dig the Teen Titans or the generational aspect of superheroes, which I do, geek that I am.

Comic Book Trade Paperbacks -

Queen and Country Declassified Volume II and Volume III - Greg Rucka writes the best spy novels and thrillers in fiction, for my money. Try to follow me now... these are miniseries offshoots from the comic [Queen and Country Vol I: Operation Broken Ground] that launched the series of novels [A Gentleman's Game and Private Wars, so far] about the "Minders" of the British SIS/MI6, as dysfunctional and damaged group of spies you can find. Volume III actually written by Rich Johnston, not Rucka, but a good read. Wanna read about British spies without devolving into a James Bond pastiche wank-a-thon? Pick any of these up.

The Couriers 03: The Ballad Of Johnny Funwrecker - Brian Wood and Rob G's third foray into the world of the Couriers is a prequel to the other two - The Couriers 01 and The Couriers 02: Dirtbike Manifesto. The last volume completes the trilogy of ass-kicking fun and aventure in the world of the NYC courier underground.

The Future is Now (Teen Titans, Book 4) - Geoff Johns and Mark Waid write some of the best, straight-up superhero coolness in the business. Firing on all cylinders here, as the Titans meet their future despotic and dark selves. [I'm a sucker for a good time travel story.]

JSA: Black Vengeance - the heroes of WWII's Justice Society keep fighting the good fight and training the next generation of heroes. Great comic books.

Birds of Prey - Gail Simone writes some of the most entertaining, complex and kick-ass female characters in comics. Black Canary, the Huntress and Oracle take on a religious cult. Good superhero adventure comics with intelligent characterizations.

And, of course, too many comic book singles to mention...


There are a few books I make sure to at least try to read once a year or so. Books that, in one way or another, hit me in a certain way at a certain time in my life so that they profoundly changed the way I look at and try to live my life.

I first read Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman and Illusions by Richard Bach back in high school. Peaceful Warrior I was tipped off to in the letter column of Denny O'Neil's The Question series [and I thought Illusions was too, for the longest time, but having just recently re-read through those columns, there's no mention of it there, so there's another mystery unsolved].

Way of the Peaceful Warrior was probably my first real exposure to Zen and eastern philosophy, amongst other remarkable insights in the book. It's an approach to life that was, and is, radically different from the small-town, southern, catholic life I was raised in. Illusions is a book that's hard to classify. One part parable, one part fiction, one part new-age, one part "huh?"... It's completely out of the box, non-traditional thinking that continues to appeal to me to this day. They're both profoundly simple books [in the best sense of the word] and I find I learn something new or find a better sense of perspective every time I read them.

Cosmic Trigger - Final Secret of the Illuminati by Robert Anton Wilson I first read about 4 or 5 years ago. Once again, I owe thanks to the magic of comic books [as I was searching out the influences of writer Grant Morrison]. In the last 5 years no other writer has had a more significant on the way I approach life. In my more lucid moments I aspire to live up to his optimistic, non-dogmatic, sufi and zen infused, multi-modality agnostic views. I've devoured Wilson's whole non-fiction library at this point, and while his later works Prometheus Rising and Quantum Psychology: How Brain Software Programs You and Your World resonate a bit more with my didactic, orderly, unmimaginative mind, Cosmic Trigger Vol I remains an astoundingly insightful book for me, and as it's the autobiographical story of Wilson's own self induced brain-change, it's the most entertaining and probably most accessible.

The more I think about it, I'd say this - Wilson taught me how to understand the world, Millman how to live in it, and Bach how to not worry about it. Though the more I read and re-read them all, the more crossover and confluence I see in them. [Or, as Wilson might postulate, the more crossover I make in them.] Those three books, and those three writers, probably have as much to do with who I am today [whatever that means] as anything else in the world.

Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth is the story of a simple and easy to do yoga routine wrapped up in a Shangri La parable that may or may not have any basis in reality. A fun little read and useful yoga routine though. I'd read a version of the book years ago and lost it, so I picked it up again.

God's Debris is a cool little thought experiment of a book by Scott Adams of Dilbert fame. All about the stuff that fascinates me, like the whys and wherefores of life, the universe and everything. Entertaining, funny and thought provoking. On the re-read, not quite as insightful as I thought the first time, but really, really interesting. A cool thing is that Adams has actually has training as a hypnotist and in reading about the book he's said he intentionally used hypnosis inducing techniques in his writing to persuade and influence the reader. Knowing this now I was able to pick out at least some of the places where his pacing, leading and assumptions help to pull the reader down the rabbit hole. Fun and interesting read, on its face, and on a metatextual level.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Well. No shit.

Children of alcoholics 'damaged'
Children of alcoholics are more likely to become addicted

Children who grow up with alcoholic parents bear emotional, behavioural and mental scars, experts say.

The Priory study said children of alcoholics were four times more likely to be addicted to drink and there was a risk of drug and gambling problems.

I always dug Andre Agassi.

Legend Agassi makes tearful exit
Andre Agassi's 20-year career ended in a 5-7 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 5-7 defeat to German qualifier Benjamin Becker at the US Open on Sunday.


'Crocodile Hunter' Irwin killed'

Australian environmentalist and television personality Steve Irwin has died during a diving accident.

Mr Irwin, 44, was killed by a stingray barb to the chest while he was filming an underwater documentary in Queensland's Great Barrier Reef.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Doug Stanhope... [the comedy of hate].

George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, Chris Rock, Joe Rogan, Patton Oswalt and now... Doug Stanhope.

...on freedom.

...on the rules of war.

...on marriage.

...and on abortion.

If the internet keeps up, women'll be safe as houses.

And yet more evidence that the new Puritans, of whatever stripe, wouldn't have a clue if you handed them one.

Porn Up, Rape Down
The incidence of rape in the United States has declined 85% in the past 25 years while access to pornography has become freely available to teenagers and adults. The Nixon and Reagan Commissions tried to show that exposure to pornographic materials produced social violence. The reverse may be true: that pornography has reduced social violence.

David Brown's interview with Arlen Riley Wilson

Her final interview before passing in 1999.

David Brown's interview with Arlen Riley Wilson
What I have learned is that life is an unqualified good, and living should be unqualified and unmodified...

But the secret of a well-balanced life is to appreciate everything, or at least as much as you can. Many people fall into imbalance and disharmony. There's no doubt about it, having enough money is a unqualified good. But if you decide that having a lot of money is the only good thing then you're in big bad trouble. Then you forget to look at nature, and you forget to look at your friend's faces. You forget to enjoy animals, and you just forget too much. So the thing is to spread the appreciation around.

...I'd like to see a world with more artistic and creatively flowing civilizations, but this is tremendously difficult at present. I knew a lot of painters and other artists in New York years ago. Many of them lived on very little. I knew one first-rate painter who lived on something like $1.36 a day, that he had from a minor stock investment twenty years before. I'm not suggesting that you rush madly to start fasting, but we should be aware that we could live on a fraction of what we consume.

I love this joke [disguised as politics.] Or is that politics, disguised as a joke? Or both?


Little Tony was sitting on a park bench munching
on one candy bar after another.
After the 6th candy bar, a man on the bench across from him said,
"Son, you know eating all that candy isn't good for you.
It will give you acne, rot your teeth, and make you fat."

Little Tony replied, "My grandfather lived to be 107 years old."

The man asked, "Did your grandfather eat 6 candy bars at a time?"

Little Tony answered, "No, he minded his own fucking business."



We will never vote for for any candidate who advocates destroying the second amendment or the tenth amendment. We will never, never, NEVER cease or rest in our efforts to abolish Tsarism and restore constitutional democracy in general and especially the first amendment.