Mesa, AZ, United States
Jonathan Haidt give a nice social science explanation for how we align politically and how we are built to disagree. This is one of those books that seems to fit in the same evolutionary psychology space as Bob Wright's 'The Moral Animal'. It is a combination of ethnography + evolutionary psychology + experimental psychology.
In 'The Righteous Mind', Haidt isn't seeking simply to explain why some people vote Left and others vote Right, or why some people believe in God A and other believe in God B. Haidt's bigger purpose is to explain how we are all hardwired to use reason NOT to MAKE our moral decisions/choices, but rather to use reason to BUTTRESS the choices (about God, politics, etc) that we've already made.
While I think his approach is a bit too simplistic, I still use his Moral Foundations Theory to explain why my father and I might have some overlap in values but different political views. I like the whole matrix of:
1. Care/harm: cherishing and protecting others.
2. Fairness/cheating: rendering justice according to shared rules. (Alternate name: Proportionality)
3. Liberty/oppression: the loathing of tyranny.
4. Loyalty/betrayal: standing with your group, family, nation. (Alternate name: Ingroup)
5. Authority/subversion: obeying tradition and legitimate authority. (Alternate name: Respect.)
6. Sanctity/degradation: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions. (Alternate name: Purity.)
Do I agree that liberals rank certain of these values higher than conservatives? Yes.
Do I agree that conservatives might value some of these foundational values more than liberals? Yes.
Do I agree that this list is the end-all, be-all of our Moral compass? No.
I think this is a good beginning. It is another social science draft that gives another way to look at how we think, how our thinking has evolved, and how we interact with each other. Any theory involving the human brain is bound to be a bit of a game in the dark. I think there are answers and many of the answers are compelling, but not all answers will be final or correct.
Look, there were certain parts of this book that just felt right, so I will spend a bit of time building a rational reason why it feels right and then post that reason on Audible.
Seriously, anytime I fantasize about writing a book I read a Hilary Mantel novel and become discouraged. Reading Mantel is like watching Michael Jordan play basketball or Federer play tennis (or back in the day watching Tiger Woods play golf). Unless you are born blind or stupid you realize that these people just don't exist on the same field or plane as the rest of humanity. No matter how many swings, shots, or hits I practiced, I could never play at the level of those masters.
No matter how many books I read or words I write, my brain recognizes that Mantel's skill with a sentence is almost superhuman. She is elegant and strong. She doesn't waste a word. Her prose seems to float with a bold efficiency and beauty that is hard to balance. It is like watching a ballerina kick Mike Tyson's a$$. And I haven't even got to the fact that she can choke you with emotion and knock you out with a surprise twist and well-played verbal throw down. The normal laws of gravity and axioms of art do not apply to Mantel's prose. Her words float. Her sentences run forever. Mantel DOES not f#c% around with the English language. She owns it. Read her novels (or her stories) and she will sit on your chest and own you too.
“For every action, there's an infinity of outcomes. Countless trillions are possible, many milliards are likely, millions might be considered probable, several occur as possibilities to us as observers - and one comes true.”
- China Miéville, 'The Scar'
At some point there was an infinite number of possibilitites with this novel. This is the follow up to Perdido Street Station, book 2 in the Bas-Lag/New Crobuzon trilogy. There are chapters and lines and threads of this novel that contained amazing prose, brilliant ideas, funky characters, compelling themes, etc. I loved the motifs and themes China used: possibilities, scars, home, books, politics, community, etc. But there were also just too damn many pages. It could have been edited better. I'm not shy about books over 500 pages, but I don't want to read a 600+ page novel that really is just a fat 400 page novel.
Also, someone (a puissant editor, perhaps?) should have told China to stop using the word puissant (or its variants) and gout (gouts of water, gouts of blood, gouts of pleasure, gouts of relief, gouts of binding energy, gouts of smoke, gouts everywhere; enough gouts to form a trip or a tribe). Unless you are Cormac McCarthy (and there is only one CM) you need to be VERY careful when dropping the word gout casually in a novel. A reader who is paying attention is going to allow a word like gout or puissant to pop up just a few times in a novel that is 600 pages. Once you start dropping it in almost every chapter it practically begs the reader to start snickering or slap their forehead.
Finally, Miéville seemed unembarrassed by his use of steampunk cliches. He seemed to drag every single New Weird/Steampunk cliche into the light and wave it like an ensign. Obnoxious. But still I liked the novel. Hell, there were hours at a time when I REALLY enjoyed it. I devoted a few days to reading it. I loved its potential, and my review is just me letting off some steam (ba dum tss) about it not living up to what I hoped. I will, eventually, read his other books. I just don't feel compelled to read Iron Council tomorrow.
So, I was hoping for another: Perdido Street Station - 5 stars
And I didn't think it was equal to: Embassytown or The City & the City - 4 stars.
For me at least, I felt the same let down after reading Kraken - 4 stars (but maybe 3).
But hell, the guy still has managed to turn out better SF than most. Miéville's bottom stuff (that I've read) is way more compelling than a lot of the genre stuff out there. It was infinitely better than Cherie Priest's Boneshaker. Seriously, I had to bell, book and candle that piece of steampunk garbage. Only time healed those stupid steampunk wounds and I still have the scars.
A nice collection of essays that originally appeared in the New Yorker (most of McPhee's writings can be traced back to the New Yorker):
1. 'Irons in the Fire' (December 20, 1993) - About cattle rustling in Nevada.
2. 'Release' (September 28, 1987) - About Robert Russell, a blind professor at Franklin and Marshall College,in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
3. 'In Virgin Forest' (July 6, 1987) - About Hutcheson Memorial Forest in Franklin Township, New Jersey.
4. 'The Gravel Page' (January 29, 1996) - About geological forensics.
5. 'Duty of Care' (Jun 28, 1993) - About recycling tires.
6. 'Rinard at Manheim' (Dec 4, 1989) - About the Manheim Exotic Auction in Pennsylvania
7. 'Travels of the Rock' (Dec 4, 1989) - About Plymouth Rock and its re-mortaring.
There are several FANTASTIC pieces and several pieces of mortar holding it together. Not his best collection, but I have yet to regret reading a McPhee book and this is no exception. Essays to not miss: 'Irons in the Fire', 'In Virgin Forest', 'The Gravel Page', 'Duty of Care', 'Travels of the Rock'. I think my favorite of the whole book were 'Irons in the Fire' and 'The Gravel Page'. Amazing pieces.
'Irons in the Fire' explores the ranchers, the Brand Inspectors, the rustlers, and the cattle land of Nevada. These are cowboys. These are the hard-core libertarian Mormons that produced Cliven Bundy and his ilk. These are the mountains and deserts where Utah, Nevada, and Arizona all meet. This essays was poignant for me because one of the characters/rustlers/ropers/breaker of horses in the essay (Wayne Lee) was a direct descendent of John D. Lee. John D. Lee was an adopted son of Brigham Young who was later shot for his direct role in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
John D. Lee was also the husband of my 5th Great-Grandmother (Abigail Schaeffer Woolsey Lee), and my 5th Great-Grandfather's (Joseph Henry Woolsey) two sisters (Rachel Woolsey and Agatha Woolsey). No direct blood, but a helluva lot of history and stories. If you want to figure out why this section of Nevada and Utah produce such fundamentally hard people, McPhee's essay is as good a place as any to start.
'The Gravel Page' was originally three linked essays in the New Yorker: 'The Gravel Page', 'Balloons of War', and 'Death of an Agent'. This is where McPhee is amazing. You put McPhee in a room or a car with the right person, start having him talk to them about Geology, Ecology, Arts & Crafts, or Sports and something magical happens with the narrative. These are the stories McPhee was born to write.
The Gravel Page presents three different facets of forensic geology. The first essay focuses on the investigation of A. Coors murder using geology. The second essays explores how early scientists from the Geological Survey were able to establish where the balloons that Japan was drifting over America came from. The final story details how forensic geologists at the FBI were able to track down where a DEA agent was killed and buried in Mexico using geology. His love of the subject and the characters AND place enables McPhee to weave a story that transports the reader around the world, while having on McPhee's every sentence.
Anyway, seek them out. Look them up. Buy them. Read them. Read them again.
"Life is composed of reality configurations so constituted. To abandon her would be to say, I can't endure reality as such. I have to have uniquely special easier conditions."
- Philip K. Dick, Now Wait for Last Year
This is a book for married couples (having difficulties), suicides, drug addicts, politicians, and time travelers -- and it just happens to be one of my favorite PKD novels ever (although ever with Philip Kindred Dick is always a fluid thing).
'Now Wait for Last Year' is something rare: a selcouth piece of pulp that if judged by its cover or sales (I'm guessing here), could easily be discarded. It is always a joy to find a book that resonates with you in a visceral way in a place you weren't expecting. This book really is the last/best self-help book for couples and suicides.
I thought this was just going to be another middle-of-the-road, funky, throwaway PKD from the mid-60s (1966 to be exact). Look, there are definitely better written Dick novels, but for even mild fans of this amazing author, I would definitely check this one out. There is a unpretentious sophistication and depth to it that some of his messier, early novels lack, but there is also a helluva lot of heart. It really is something haunting to finish a novel where you can almost smell and taste the chemical density of the blood the author pumped into the ink on every page.
"In a way there are no freaks, no abnormalities, except in the statistical sense. This is an unusual situation, but it’s not something to horrify us, actually it ought to make us happy. Life per se is good, and this is one form which life takes. There’s no special pain here, no cruelty or suffering. In fact there is solicitude and tenderness."
- Philip K Dick in Dr. Bloodmoney
What do you call a man with no arms and no legs floating dead (after an atmospheric nuclear accident) in the pool?
What do you call a man (a Thalidomide baby) with no arms and no legs who fixes things, has strong powers of psychokinesis (which helps a man with no arms and no legs to fix things), and has survived a nuclear holocaust?
What do you call a man with no arms and no legs in a pile of leaves after a near-lethal adventure inside of an owl?
What do you call a conjoined twin brother/sentient fetus/homunculus/tumor baby within his sister's body, who talks to the dead and has been yearning for an independent existence?
What do you call a dog with no hind legs and steel balls that chases mutant rats?
What do you call a man who was launched into space to colonize Mars, but ends up trapped in a satellite rotating Earth and somehow ends up becoming an omnipresent disc jockey in orbit?
What do you call a man with no arms and no legs no head and no torso?
What do you call one of my favorite sic-fi writers who wrote like 45 novels and kinda redefined sic-fi after 1970? A guy who writes crazy characters, has a funky relationship with God, man, and drugs?
PHILIP K DICK!!!
“It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.”
- Albert Camus
Probably somewhere between 2.5 and 3 stars. First, full disclosure: I went to a private school in Provo with several of Stephen R. Covey's kids. Not Sean Covey. He was older, but one of two of his younger brothers. My wife also worked for the Covey Leadership Center (and later FranklinCovey after the merger) while I was finishing college. I am very familiar with the FranklinCovey business model (could probably vomit the 7-habits on demand) and business strategy approach. In many ways I'm biased by my own agnosticism towards Franklin Covey. I think Stephen R. Covey was brilliant at building a consultant business that structured time-management, strategy, and execution ideas into highly marketable programs (notice I don't say books) that could be sold in several formats and applied in multiple industries. The ideas were common sense, but the packaging and marketing was brilliant. Stephen R. Covey died a couple years ago from a mountain bike accident in Rock Canyon (oh the stories I could regale you with about the dangers of Rock Canyon). Anyway, the Covey mantle has evidently been passed.
This book is the management/leadership book equivalent of the novelization and franchising of a successful movie (see Star Wars, etc). 4DX was developed by FranklinCovey as an addition piece of their large consulting and content-delivery arsenal. IT was almost the reverse process that works with other leadership coaching/books. First you birth the book, than you try to exploit the success of the book into a bunch of CDs, webinars, videos, consultant workshops, certifications, yaddas and yaddas.
Anyway, I think the 4DX approach is just fine (see my agnosticism line above). But like Mark Twain once wrote when reviewing 'The Book of Mormon', "Whenever he [Joseph Smith] found his speech growing too modern—which was about every sentence or two—he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as “exceeding sore,” “and it came to pass,” etc., and made things satisfactory again. “And it came to pass” was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet." The team that wrote the 4 Disciplines of Execution didn't include "and it came to pass" once, but if you removed all the hyping of 4DX, the internal and external reviews of how much it helped "Business A" or "Organization X", all the subtle and not-so-subtle references to 4DX CDs, certifications, consultants, etc., it might not be a book, it might only have been a pamphlet (and you can't sell a pamphlet for $30 to the State of Georgia).
So, why do I give this 3-stars while I gave a recent (and rare) read of a business management book only two-stars (Executive Toughness)? Well, the simple answer is: polish. At least the development team of writers, consultants, VPs, staff, and family at the FranklinCovey Organization know how to write and edit. When I read this I didn't laugh or gag once, and that is (I guess) at least worth one additional star.
**Don't think sorry's easily said
Don't try turning tables instead
You've taken lots of chances before
But I ain't gonna give anymore, don't ask me
That's how it goes
Cause part of me knows what you're thinkin'**
Like most of PKD's novels, 'Eye in the Sky' has several things going on at once. It is a not-so-subtle Anti-McCarthyism tract (written in 1957, close to the end of peak Red Scare), showing the absurdity of prosecuting and persecuting people for what they think. After that is is a rather interesting, but still flawed and uneven Sci-Fi novel that shows what happens wen those thoughts are the very thing that controls the Universe. You let the mind of an old, religious dogmatist control the Universe and you end up with a tribal deity, reminiscent of the angry and arbitrary God of the Old Testament (in the novel it is Bábism) that is ALL bluster and thunder. You let the Universe be dictated by a frumpy mother, you end up with a genocide of unpleasant things: weeds, cats, bad smells, and reproductive parts ... poof ... all gone.
Although written in the late 1950s, this novel reminded me a lot of Morrow's Towing Jehovah (1994). Both take the absurd-level of religion or prejudice, or fear and blow them up and examine them. Anyway, 'Eye in the Sky' was fun and clever, but in the end it wasn't top-shelf Philip K Dick. Probably more influential than good. Still, I don't regret reading/listening to it.
**Don't leave false illusions behind
Don't cry, I ain't changing my mind
So find another fool like before
Cause I ain't gonna live anymore believing
Some of the lies while all of the signs are deceiving**
I ended up liking this one way more than I thought I might. I started reading thinking 'Zap Gun' was going to simply be one of PKD's early, pulpy sic-fi novels. Look. The guy wrote over 44 novels (and hundreds of short-stories). Not every book is going to be Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or Ubik, but I had a copy, so...
Yes. I read it because it was there. Was it pulpy? Hell yes, even pulpier than I could have imagined. I'm not sure everything was fully realized in this novel. I'm sure he padded this novel with some unnecessary words simply because he was being paid by the word. It may have been written fast and lose, but there is clean, mad logic to it all. The book feels like a strange combination of Orwell's 1984 mixed with Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle but finished with a bit of Terry Gilliam's Brazil. For me, thus far, it is the funniest of Dick's novels. And no, it wasn't as good as '1984' or 'Cat's Cradle'.
The book also seems to have early seeds of Dick's later religious explorations. It isn't as heavy as his Valis (or Gnosis) trilogy, but it is hard to escape the feeling that already in the early 60s Dick's mind is working over some of his God/gnosis/divinity ideas. Looking at a timeline for Dick, I notice this novel was written right after The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. This makes sense, because they seem very similar (not identical twins, but Irish twins at least). Anyway, if you are a PKD fan, this one should definitely be on your list.
I normally avoid (like a prose plague) ALL business, leadership, self-help, and strategy books, etc., because I find them universally to be poorly written and filled with an almost boundless and unbearable number of cliches, hyperbole, etc..
I was given this book by a co-worker and felt compelled to read it. I also felt a need to at least recognize my own deep cynicism and bias about the whole genre. Maybe, my fear/gag-reflex was misplaced. Perhaps, I had judged the whole genre by a couple really, really bad apples.
Nope. It was everything I feared. I knew it was bad when I was underlining the parts that made me laugh. I needed another pen for all the parts that made me squirm.
Here is an example from his chapter on scripts:
"Scripts can be equally useful to meet your nonword goals. For example, you may have a script like the following to use with one of your children when he or she is having a difficult day:
How about if you tell me what is going on, and I will promise to help. [Pause while listening to the problem.] I can understand why you are upset. Life is sometimes tough, isn't it? I know I have said it a thousand times, but I am going to say it again I love you. I think I can help. Let's see if we can come up with a couple of solutions to the problem -- anything that can make your situation a little bit better. I'll even go first: what do you think about [quick solution]? Your turn for the next one ..."
Seriously? My kids would eat me alive (devour me clothes and all) if I attempted to script them like that. I can't even imagine what my wife would do. The horror. The horror.
Anyway, I could go on and on, but I still gave it a two stars because there actually were a handful of useful strategies buried in there, but ye gads ... I had to wade through a tremendous amount of Orwellian-level mind slaughter to find those nuggets.
Report Inappropriate Content