Sunday, March 10, 2013

2013 VNSA Used Book Sale

A sampling of my finds from our yearly trek to the VNSA Used Book Sale:

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson -- a modern classic sci-fi author that I have never gotten around to and what is considered his best book

Cyteen and Downbelow Station by C.J.  Cherryh -- another "classic" modern author that I have not read before
Anvil of Stars by Greg Bear -- a sequel to Forge of God, which I've already read and liked
Fleet of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner
Earthclan:  Startide Rising & The Uplift War by David Brin -- I have read other Brin stuff and liked it.
Science Fiction:  The Illustrated Encyclopedia by John Clute --This is a really nice coffee-table book with a fairly comprehensive overview of all science fiction (movies, TV, books, comics, etc.)
When looking for new sci-fi books, I let my own experience guide me but I also referred to several lists of the the top science fiction books of all time, including:

David Pringle's Science Fiction:  The 100 Best Novels
Sci-Fi Lists:  Top 100 Sci-Fi Books
NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels

Science Non-Fiction 

Chaos:  Making a New Science by James Gleick
Quantum Man:  Richard Feynman's Life in Science by Lawrence M. Krauss -- Feynman and Krauss ... two of my scientific heroes. 

Not a Drop to Drink:  America's Water Crisis by Ken Midkiff

General Non-Fiction & Philosophy

Don't Eat This Book:  Fast Food and the Supersizing of America by Morgan Spurlock -- a companion piece to the excellent documentary Super Size Me
The Island at the Center of the World:  The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America  by Russell Shorto
Letters to a Young Teacher by Jonathan Kozol
Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier -- I'm a modernist nerd and this is considered one of the "bibles" of modernism.

Postcards from Ed (Abbey):  Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast
Bertrand Russell:  A Collection of Critical Essays edited by D.F. Pears

"For me science fiction is a way of thinking, a way of logic that bypasses a lot of nonsense. It allows people to look directly at important subjects." -- Gene Roddenberry

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Political Song of the Day: Glorified G by Pearl Jam

Glorified G by Pearl Jam

Got a gun, fact i got two
That's ok man, cuz i love god

Glorified version of a pellet gun
Feels so manly, when armed
Glorified version of a pellet gun ...
Don't think, dumb is strength
Never shot at a living thing
Glorified version of a pellet gun
Feels so manly, when armed
Glorified version of a pellet gun ...
Always keep it loaded ...
Kindred to be an american...
Life comes...i can feel your heart...
Life comes...i can feel your heart through your neck...
Like some...i can steal your heart from your neck...

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Podcasts of the Week

OK, "podcasts of the week" has turned into "podcasts of the year" because that is just about the frequency with which I post.  Sorry about that.

Some of you might have heard about the documentary that musician Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) made about a famous recording studio in LA called Sound City.  Many classic 70's, 80's and 90's artists recorded there, including Nirvana (the iconic Nevermind).  This studio was closing and Grohl saw it as symbolic of the passing of a generation of music.  He purchased its one-of-a-kind custom-made sound board, interviewed many of the artists (Neil Young, Cheap Trick, Rick Springfield, Stevie Nicks, etc)  that used it, and made some new music on that board with those artists   And he documented the whole thing.  What transpires is a great rock documentary.  Here's a bit more about the documentary:  Sound City.

In this podcast interview with Nerdist, Grohl talks about Sound City, but also just about everything else.  It's nostalgic and funny, irreverently so as is often the case with Nerdist.  It might not be safe for listening to at work for that reason.  Here's the podcast:  Dave Grohl on Nerdist

For another great Nerdist podcast, also check out this one with Tom Morello, political activist and guitarist with Rage Against the Machine.  Morello is one of my heroes for his music, his erudition and his political beliefs.  Tom Morello on Nerdist.

And, finally, I'd like to recommend an NPR interview with Tony Kushner, screenwriter for Lincoln.  I liked Lincoln a lot, more so than my wife and kid.  And for the very reasons that they didn't like it ... the political "wheeling and dealing" minutiae.  What makes that political banter so enjoyable are the words of Tony Kushner and the great actors speaking those words.  Kushner is a great writer, known for Angels in America and Munich, and this interview gets into the process of how he wrote it and how he helped to convince the sublime Daniel Day Lewis to act in the movie.

I've just recently started working through all of the episodes of The West Wing on Netflix and Amazon Prime. I'm not exactly sure why I never watched this show before, perhaps a combination of timing and receptiveness to the subject matter.  I'm about halfway through season 1.  It's become obvious to me that I'm an idiot and deprived myself of a remarkable show.  Aaron Sorkin's remarkable writing is in full force here.  Even though the episodes that I'm watching are almost 15 years old, the topics could be about today ... gun control and budget battles.  Why I bring this up is that the oratorical style of the main character, Josiah Bartlet - played by Martin Sheen, involves frequent folksy story-telling to illustrate a political or moral point.  Though often met with grins and rolling eyes by those present, the stories make their point.  This style is exactly how Abraham Lincoln, as portrayed by Lewis, directed by Spielberg, and written by Kushner, makes his political points.  There's a lot of Lincoln in Bartlet, perhaps intentionally so.  Do yourself a favor and check out the Kushner interview here:  Kushner's 'Lincoln' is Strange, but also Savvy.  And why you are at it, watch The West Wing.