Lion of the Blogosphere

Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Guido researchers have been reading my blog

Here’s the proof.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 6, 2019 at EDT pm

Posted in Books

Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein

Spoiler alert: I do give away the ending as part of this review.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

April 24, 2019 at EDT am

Posted in Books

Does Ovid need a trigger warning?

I mentioned Ovid in the previous post.

This was written in the Columbia University student newspaper a few years ago:

During the week spent on Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” the class was instructed to read the myths of Persephone and Daphne, both of which include vivid depictions of rape and sexual assault. As a survivor of sexual assault, the student described being triggered while reading such detailed accounts of rape throughout the work. However, the student said her professor focused on the beauty of the language and the splendor of the imagery when lecturing on the text. As a result, the student completely disengaged from the class discussion as a means of self-preservation. She did not feel safe in the class. When she approached her professor after class, the student said she was essentially dismissed, and her concerns were ignored.

Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” is a fixture of Lit Hum, but like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom. These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

April 9, 2019 at EDT pm

Posted in Books

The story of the daffodil

I saw a lot of daffodils this morning on the way to work, and it reminded me of the story of their origin, as told by the ancient Roman poet Ovid (who also wrote the worlds’ first book about PUA and game).

Narcissus was this good-looking bodybuilder type. He was also gay.

One day, he was walking through the woods, and this nymph fell in love with is great looks and his buff body with six-pack abs. Narcissus told the nymph to get lost. The nymph, devastated at being rejected, this being the first time that a man had ever rejected her, succumbed to mental illness and spent the left of her life alone in the woods until she faded way into an echo.

Aphrodite was pissed off at Narcissus’ treatment of the nymph, she lured him to a pool deep in the woods where he saw his own reflection in the water. But not being familiar with how light reflects off water, he thought he saw his perfect gay lover, and looked admiringly at his perfect gym body. When the reflection refused to return his love, Narcissus melted away and turned into a daffodil.

The moral of this story is don’t be a gay bodybuilder.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

April 9, 2019 at EDT am

Posted in Books

19 years of being an Amazon.com customer

Before I had broadband. I bought this book using dial-up! (Or maybe I bought it from work, which did have broadband.)

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 29, 2019 at EDT am

Posted in Books, Technology

Confirmed that the boys don’t read

At Thanksgiving dinner, in response to questions on this topic, my 12-year-old nephew said, “Even if there were no iPhones, I still wouldn’t read, because reading is BORING.”

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

November 23, 2018 at EDT am

Posted in Books, Education

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I finished reading this book by J.K. Rowling. I’m not sure what to think.

In case you’re not familiar with this book (and if you’re not, what rock have you been living under?), it was first published in England in 1997 and then in the U.S. in 1998, and soon became a runaway bestseller, and in fact is the third best-selling book of all time after The Lord of the Rings and The Little Prince. The book is allegedly aimed at 8-12 year-old readers, and the protagonist, Harry Potter, is 11.

I remember The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum being a much better book, but if I reread that as an adult, maybe I would also find it full of faults. (It’s strange that it has been 79 years since the last time they made a movie version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. During a much shorter time period, there have been two movies made based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. With modern special effects, they could make a talking lion that looks like a talking lion rather than some guy wearing a lion costume. And the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is in the public domain, so the movie studio wouldn’t even have to pay anyone for the rights.)

The story is, to put it bluntly, stupid. Harry Potter has these impossibly mean step-parents who make him live in a “cupboard” under the stairs. Which in this case means a small closet, but when I think of a “cupboard,” I think of kitchen cabinets. This is an example of the many Britishisms that are used throughout the book, which increase my surprise that this book became such a big hit in the United States, given that there are so many language usages that wouldn’t make sense to an American child, or for that matter to most American adults.

Also, the book is largely a satire of British boarding schools, with a made-up fantasy sport of Quidditch substituting for rugby. This seems like a strange foundation for a book that would become such a huge bestseller in the United States.

I think of it as a modern children’s book, but being 21 years old, it’s no longer really that modern, and as such it has elements of political incorrectness in it, such as the main girl character, Hermione Granger, being described as a “bossy know-it-all.” (“Hermione” is a name I would not have known how to pronounce if I had not seen the movie.)

The basic story concept and plot is silly and aimed at children rather than adults. A bunch of children manage to save the world from the evil Voldemort, while all of the adults running the Hogwarts boarding school are totally clueless and inept. Admittedly, this is a typical conceit of children’s literature. The real lives of children are actually very boring and inconsequential.

However, J.K. Rowling doesn’t shy away from big words or complicated sentences. At Thanksgiving dinner, I will attempt to determine if either of my nephews, aged 10 and 12, have read this book. I suspect that they haven’t, because they don’t seem like readers to me.

There is zero in the way of romance in this book. Of course, the characters are only 11 years old, and how many 11-year-olds hook up with the opposite sex? L. Frank Baum also kept romance out of his children’s books. It just isn’t a concept that children relate to. Especially not boys.

If this book were written today, The main character would probably be a girl instead of a boy. In 1997, the ideal main character for a children’s book was a boy, because conventional wisdom was that girls would read books with boy protagonists, but not the other way around. Joanne Rowling was asked to use the pen name of J.K. Rowling to hide her sex in in order not to scare away boy readers.

Today, the conventional wisdom is that so few boys read books that the commercial value in trying to appeal to them is limited, and it’s no big deal to write a book that alienates boy readers. However, there is a popular series of books about a boy named Percy Jackson that, I believe, is targeted to middle-school-aged boys.

The Harry Potter series is, perhaps, the last great young adult literature written in the third person. Nowadays, the vast majority of books aimed at this age group are written in the first person.

Do I want to read the next book in the series? Strangely, kind of yes, I do.

* * *

A minor, specific complaint: I couldn’t remember if Filch was a cat and Mrs. Norris was its owner, or vice versa. J.K. Rowling should have repeated that information more than once. How are kids supposed to remember all those names?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

November 21, 2018 at EDT am

Posted in Books

Novel update

The overweight teenage girl protagonist’s house was blown up by whoever is after her.

She flees with her “bad boy” robot bodyguard, a self-aware self-driving car, and a sexbot with a heart of gold. They head to a mysterious address in Staten Island found in an encrypted message on the dark web, her only clue.

I couldn’t resist the satire of naming the sexbot Cherry 2000. I suspect that only a tiny percent of readers will get it.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

November 7, 2018 at EDT pm

Posted in Books

New story idea

The story takes place in the near future.

The protagonist is a 16-year-old girl, who is fat. She has low self-esteem because she’s fat, and she’s also a loser at school, bullied because of her weight.

She’s also a straight A student with an aptitude for computers and engineering. For her science project, she’s building a robot detector from the sensor she took from a self-driving car and hooking it up to a smartphone.

She also has a secret psychic power. But I’m not sure exactly what that power is.

There’s a new boy at school, a total hunk, tall, muscular, a “bad boy” who was expelled from his previous school for unknown reasons.

For reasons at first mysterious, the new guy takes an interest in our fat protagonist, but she’s snippy to him in return because she can’t believe anyone as hot as the new guy could be interested in a fat girl.

But then, she’s in for a surprise when she points her science project at the “bad boy” and she discovers that he’s a robot!

The robot was sent by a mysterious benefactor to be her bodyguard. He was programmed with a “bad boy” persona because they know that’s what kind of fiction she likes to read on the internet, and the robot was intended to be attractive to her. (Of course she’s outraged when she discovers that everything she does on the internet is being spied on.)

We don’t know who sent the robot or who she needs protection from, but it has something to do with her secret psychic power.

And I’m not sure what happens in Act II. But I think it should be about how she saves the world.

UPDATE

About the superpower:

I have a secret superpower.

I bet I know what you’re thinking. First, you’re thinking, I want to know about the guy who sat down next to you on the bus. Don’t worry, I’m getting to that part.

And then you’re also thinking, I didn’t sign up to read a superhero story. Tell me about the guy! I wish I was a superhero, but nothing could be further from the truth. I’m just a fat girl who nobody likes. And also, I can move things with my mind.

Not anything big, mind you. It’s not like I can make people levitate. I couldn’t even make my house keys fly to me from across the room. I know, you’re wondering why do I even have house keys? Why don’t we have a fingerprint activated lock? Well for your information, there are a lot of people in this world who are too poor to afford to buy a decent modern lock for their front door, and my mom is one of them. But I’ll tell you more about my home life later.

A dime is just about the heaviest thing I can move with my mind, and only if I concentrate really hard. So you see, it’s not a very useful superpower at all. Even if I saw a dime on the sidewalk, it would be easier to just bend down and pick it up rather than try to use my superpower on it. But I keep it secret because the last thing I need is for people to have another reason to hate me. They already think I’m the freaky scary fat girl, it would only be worse if they knew I had weird powers.

The only people I’ve talked to about my superpower are the other people who post on a message board on the dark web. There are a few other people like me, some around my age, some are older, we all started manifesting these powers two years ago, which was shortly after that nuclear power plant blew up in Iran. Some people on the board thought it was caused by the radiation, but I don’t think that makes any sense. If you remember your history, you’ll know that there were two nuclear bombs used during World War II, and nobody got any superpowers after that. Also, Iran is halfway around the world from me. If the radiation was going to mutate people and turn them into freaks, wouldn’t it happen to people who lived in Iran?

Hardly anyone posts on the message board anymore. I guess they got bored talking about it, because it’s not a very useful power. The last time anyone left a message was two weeks ago.

And now that you know about know about my secret superpower, I can go back to telling you what happened on the school bus.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

November 1, 2018 at EDT am

Posted in Books, Robots

How to become famous on Wattpad

After examining this social media and online book publishing site, I have determined that the overwhelming majority of the site’s users are teenage and college-aged women, and what they want to read is what I would call young adult chick lit, which has a clearly defined format of being written in the first person, featuring a girl protagonist who is average at best, and sometimes downright ugly, who gets involved with a “bad boy.” That’s right, that’s the term that’s used, “bad boy,” and apparently the term is so universally understood by this audience that an author can merely write “John was a bad boy,” without any adequate explanation of why he’s bad, and the audience immediately gets it.

It’s actually a condemnation of the entire female sex that this literature is overwhelming popular. Everything that game bloggers like Roissy have said turns out to be true. You can say, “they are only teenagers, they don’t really know what they want,” but I would say it’s the opposite, they are not sophisticated enough to understand that they are supposed to be more woke about things, and instead they go with their raw emotions regarding what sort of guy gives them what Roissy would vulgarly call “gina tingles.”

The reason why it’s on Wattpad is that mainstream publishers are probably too embarrassed to put this sort of stuff in print, and because girls in that age bracket have very little disposable income (not having jobs and being completely reliant on their parents for money), so reading for free is appealing. And they probably lack the technical expertise to grab free (but illegally so) books from Pirate’s Bay or Library Genesis. Compared to this free young adult chick lit crap, The Hunger Games is like Nobel-Prize-winning literature.

I’m not sure how I, as a middle-aged man, can write convincing young adult chick lit. I suppose by studying the most popular books, and then writing something similar, but with better grammar and a better plot, it’s possible. But reading though this crap is difficult. And putting myself into the mind of a teenage girl with “gina tingles” for a bad boy, that’s even harder. Too bad I’m not gay, that would make it easier to imagine.

On the other hand, last night I reread the first two chapters of Piers Anthony’s book The Apprentice Adept, and I found it quite enjoyable despite it’s horrible dialogue, it’s ridiculousness (a planet where the lower classes aren’t allowed to wear clothes, and where the male protagonist is, therefore, turned on by women who are wearing clothes), and in spite of (or perhaps because of) what modern feminist critics would call “misogyny.” (That Piers Anthony books are “misogynist” but chick lit is never called “misandrist,” that’s proof that we live in a gynocracy.)

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

October 31, 2018 at EDT am

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