Aside

Proust is annoying . I mean, it’s not JUST that he goes on at such
ridiculous length about such mundane things, it’s that it doesn’t
even make any sense! Ooh, I wake up and I have no memories! I
have no idea where I am! Then I still don’t know where I am but at
least I start to remember all the other rooms I’ve ever woken up in!
I’m too sleepy to move so I have to figure out from the way I’m lying
and how my arms and legs feel where all the walls and furniture in
the room are… Proprioception is my only sense, screw normal ones
like vision. And I’m immediately going to think I’m a child and in my
childhood home again, because of course I do.

I just started reading Swann’s Way and have no idea how people
get through this stuff.

If you really want to hear some truly epic digressions on all manner
of things that, nonetheless, has an actual story to digress FROM,
then go read The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson. It narrates a
fictionalized history of the “pre-Enlightenment”, the dawn of the
Scientific Age. It prominently includes a lot of the real drivers of
history – Newton, Hooke, Leibniz, John Wilkins, Christopher Wren,
Louis XIV, William of Orange, just to name the major ones- and
introduces several fascinating original characters in the
Stephensonian mold. The series contains 3000 pages set in the late
17th- early 18th century, and ranges all the way from England to
France to Denmark to Vienna to Algiers to the Caribbean to Surat to
Malabar to the Arctic to California to Boston and back, with several
additional back and forths along the way. It is gripping throughout,
frequently hilarious without trying very hard, and always manages to
pull you back just when you think it’s safe to put it down.

It has now been 38 days since I came to this rig, and my manager
has finally said I can get off next Tuesday, which will make it 44,
which is more than enough time for anyone to spend on a metal
structure in the middle of the ocean. Hopefully, at that point my tone will become a lot less cranky.

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A Case of Exploding Mangoes (Mohammed Hanif)

Image

I had bought this book and kept it on the virtual shelf for a while before I went ahead and read it, because I wasn’t quite sure if it would be depressing or funny and I wasn’t quite sure what sort of book I wanted to read. It turned out not to matter since it was both, and neither – every review of this book I’ve seen has made the Catch-22 comparison, but it’s very well deserved! it is all the more raw for being set in Pakistan in the mid-80s, and recognizable and disturbing for that very reason.

The central event of this book happens on August 17, 1988, when the plane carrying the dictator General Zia, the US Ambassador and several top generals crashes. The story covers the months before and flits between General Zia, increasingly paranoid about attempts on his life, and Ali Shigri, a cadet at the academy who harbours suspicions on the manner of his father’s death. It describes the increasing Islamisation of Pakistan under General Zia, the attendant absurdities and hypocrisies, and the frustrations of a certain Saudi construction company representative known only as “OBL” at the US Ambassador’s faux Afghan tribal barbecue.

It’s a book that relies more on atmosphere than plot, but there are genuine moments of reveal, doled out almost nonchalantly, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, so: Read it.

In defence of Chetan Bhagat

Photograph of Chetan Bhagat, Novelist, while h...

Chetan Bhagat-Image via Wikipedia

So the man isn’t really a good writer, all right? I mean, he can string sentences together in a perfectly competent manner, but you would never read a passage from his books and think it came from Rushdie or Roy, for instance. But nonetheless, it rings throughout with- and I hate using this word, but for once I mean it- authenticity. Now, there currently exists in the front sections of most Indian bookstores rows of perfectly authentic (Indian) writing that also happens, alas, to be unreadable excrescence in many cases (I would have said most, but I couldn’t bring myself to try out a larger sample size, and saying most would be intellectually dishonest.) But Chetan Bhagat manages to pull off authenticity and still not grate, which is a rarer achievement than you would expect. Of course the fact that most conversations are in fairly colloquial “Indian English” means there’s at least one thing “wrong” in most paragraphs, but you only have to tune out your pedantic inner self a little, not stuff red-hot pokers up every possible orifice until it finally stops screaming.

Authenticity, however, isn’t even the main thing that makes him worth defending. The reason he is unambiguously a “good thing” to happen to this country is that he is a reasonable man, in the most obvious sense of the word, who also happens to be enormously popular. I’m not really familiar with his political positions in any detail but his books- books that literally millions of Indians who have read practically nothing else of a similar length in the English language- pushes mostly secular, liberal, universalist views on a populace that cannot by and large be described using those words[1]. I have no idea how much of an impact he’s having, if at all- I do know that the man sees himself as more than just a writer, perhaps as an activist of some sort, and I remember articles mocking him for his “pretensions” when what he does, essentially, (at least according to that reviewer) is sell pulp- but every bit counts, right?

[1] Do I sound like a tool here? I’ll admit that it sounds classist to paint such vast swathes of his readership with the same brush, but I’m pretty sure it’s applicable to a good portion of them.

Top 100 Books Meme

These are Time magazine’s “All-TIME” 100 best novels.I glanced through, so I already know my ignorance is going to depress me when I’m done.  The ones I’ve read are bolded.

1. The Adventures of Augie March (1953) by Saul Bellow
2. All The King’s Men (1946) by Robert Penn Warren
3. American Pastoral (1997) by Philip Roth
4. An American Tragedy (1925) by Theodore Dreiser
5. Animal Farm (1946) by George Orwell
6. Appointment in Samarra (1934) by John O’Hara
7. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (1970) by Judy Blume
8. The Assistant (1957) by Bernard Malamud
9. At Swim-Two-Birds (1938) by Flann O’Brien
10. Atonement (2002) by Ian McEwan
11. Beloved (1987) by Toni Morrison
12. The Berlin Stories (1946) by Christopher Isherwood
13. The Big Sleep (1939) by Raymond Chandler
14. The Blind Assassin (2000) by Margaret Atwood
15. Blood Meridian (1985) by Cormac McCarthy
16. Brideshead Revisited (1945) by Evelyn Waugh
17. The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927) by Thornton Wilder
18. Call It Sleep (1934) by Henry Roth
19. Catch-22 (1961) by Joseph Heller

20. The Catcher in the Rye (1951) by J. D. Salinger
21. A Clockwork Orange (1962) by Anthony Burgess
22. The Confessions of Nat Turner (1967) by William Styron
23. The Corrections (2001) by Jonathan Franzen
24. The Crying of Lot 49 (1966) by Thomas Pynchon
25. A Dance to the Music of Time (1951-1975) by Anthony Powell
26. The Day of the Locust (1939) by Nathanael West
27. Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927) by Willa Cather
28. A Death in the Family (1956) by James Agee
29. The Death of the Heart (1939) by Elizabeth Bowen
30. Deliverance (1970) by James Dickey
31. Dog Soldiers (1974) by Robert Stone
32. Falconer (1977) by John Cheever
33. The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) by John Fowles
34. The Golden Notebook (1962) by Doris Lessing
35. Go Tell it on the Mountain (1953) by James Baldwin
36. Gone With the Wind (1936) by Margaret Mitchell
37. The Grapes of Wrath (1939) by John Steinbeck (bloody depressing, by the way, more than anything else)
38. Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) by Thomas Pynchon
39. The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald
40. A Handful of Dust (1934) by Evelyn Waugh
41. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940) by Carson McCullers
42. The Heart of the Matter (1948) by Graham Greene
43. Herzog (1964) by Saul Bellow
44. Housekeeping (1980) by Marilynne Robinson
45. A House for Mr. Biswas (2001) by V. S. Naipaul
46. I, Claudius (1934) by Robert Graves
47. Infinite Jest (1996) by David Foster Wallace
48. Invisible Man (1952) by Ralph Ellison
49. Light in August (1932) by William Faulkner
50. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) by C. S. Lewis
51. Lolita (1955) by Vladimir Nabokov
52. Lord of the Flies (1954) by William Golding
53. The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955) by J. R. R. Tolkien
54. Loving (1945) by Henry Green
55. Lucky Jim (1954) by Kingsley Amis
56. The Man Who Loved Children (1940) by Christina Stead
57. Midnight’s Children (1981) by Salman Rushdie
58. Money (1984) by Martin Amis
59. The Moviegoer (1961) by Walker Percy
60. Mrs. Dalloway (1925) by Virginia Woolf
61. Naked Lunch (1959) by William Burroughs
62. Native Son (1940) by Richard Wright
63. Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson
64. Never Let Me Go (2005) by Kazuo Ishiguro
65. 1984 (1949) by George Orwell
66. On the Road (1957) by Jack Kerouac
67. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962) by Ken Kesey
68. The Painted Bird (1967) by Jerzy Kosinski
69. Pale Fire (1962) by Vladimir Nabokov
70. A Passage to India (1924) by E. M. Forster
71. Play It As It Lays (1970) by Joan Didion
72. Portnoy’s Complaint (1969) by Philip Roth
73. Possession: A Romance (1990) by A. S. Byatt
74. The Power and the Glory (1940) by Graham Greene
75. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961) by Muriel Spark
76. Rabbit, Run (1960) by John Updike
77. Ragtime (1975) by E.L. Doctorow
78. The Recognitions (1955) by William Gaddis
79. Red Harvest (1929) by Dashiell Hammett
80. Revolutionary Road (1961) by Richard Yates
81. The Sheltering Sky (1949) by Paul Bowles
82. Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) by Kurt Vonnegut
83. Snow Crash (1992) by Neal Stephenson
84. The Sot-Weed Factor (1960) by John Barth
85. The Sound and the Fury (1929) by William Faulkner
86. The Sportswriter (1986) by Richard Ford
87. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1963) by John le Carré
88. The Sun Also Rises (1926) by Ernest Hemingway
89. Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) by Zora Neale Hurston
90. Things Fall Apart (1959) by Chinua Achebe
91. To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee
92. To the Lighthouse (1927) by Virginia Woolf
93. Tropic of Cancer (1934) by Henry Miller
94. Ubik (1969) by Philip K. Dick
95. Under the Net (1954) by Iris Murdoch
96. Under the Volcano (1947) by Malcolm Lowry
97. Watchmen (serial, 1986-87) by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
98. White Noise (1985) by Don DeLillo
99. White Teeth (2000) by Zadie Smith
100. Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) by Jean Rhys

No, I haven’t actually read 1984 or Lord of the Flies. I started on 1984 but found it a little too depressing and I was in the middle of something-I forget what, probably exams, as usual- and then I just never picked it up again.  The same for Gravity’s Rainbow, which was too tough, not too depressing-probably a mistake trying to read it off a computer. I’ll try again once I get a physical copy. I started reading On The Road, again as an ebook, but after the first few pages the formatting was all awry, so yet again I’ll wait till I get a physical copy.

I don’t really claim to be much of a literary critic- I stick firmly to a read what you like, only if you like it policy- but I’m a little surprised at the choice of books, specifically in the absence of some. But given that I’ve read so little of what they’ve selected, and all the ones I’ve read certainly deserve to be on the list, I suppose I can’t complain.

Random Thoughts

Second stab at twilight, brought short by this:

“…I stifled a gasp.His white shirt was sleeveless, and he wore it unbuttoned, so that the smooth white skin
of his throat flowed uninterrupted over the marble contours of his chest, his perfect
musculature no longer merely hinted at behind concealing clothes. He was too perfect, I
realized with a piercing stab of despair. There was no way this godlike creature could be
meant for me.”

I tell a lie. I actually completed it this time. Along with a couple of other books, all today. I’m spending too many days, too much time in this…haze, I can’t think of another word to call it. It’s like being constantly high, of course without the euphoric side effect, so it’s just sad, it’s like the first time I tried pot, where all I could do was sit around waiting for this to END, somehow, before I made a (bigger) fool out of myself.

My keyboard works fine now but I have no idea how long it’ll hold. Ah, what a relief, just to type this fast again. Does that sounds stupid? People talk about the pure, visceral joy of running as fast as you can,running free across grassy plains- why can’t we children of the digital age have our own “physical” pleasures?

I finished Preacher a few days back, and I felt intensely depressed. Not because it was a sad ending, not because it was all too predictable or too flawed, but just because the entire series produced this feeling of being trapped in your destiny that the ending just didn’t seem to resolve clearly enough.

Just bought Xmas gifts for all my broters/cousins, and for myself (which makes sense, because theoretically, these are from my parents, it’s just that they delegated the buying to me). I’m not supposed to show them before it’s all neatly gift-wrapped and placed under the tree, which is something we’ve only done once before, but I suppose there’s no harm telling my picks to a bunch of random strangers. And my brother’ll find some way to figure out what he’s getting anyway. So:

  1. For me(and, if you didn’t know, I’m 20): Blindness, by Jose Saramago. Because I want to read it, but doubt I would if I got it as an ebook,ergo…
  2. For my 18 year old brother, “Made in America”, by Bill Bryson. Partly because I don’t know what his tastes are besides the usual SFF that he reads because it’s in the house, partly because he’s in the US and I figured he could use some historical knowledge, and partly because I love Bill Bryson and wanted to read it. Although from what I’ve seen, not as funny as usual.
  3. For my 15 year old brother, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger. Also mostly because I wanted to read it.
  4. For my 14 year old cousin brother: “The Rule of Four”, by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason. Absolutely fabulous book. He might be a wee bit young for it, but he’s a smart kid, he’ll deal. 🙂 I would’ve got it for my brother except that we already have a copy in the house(@Mathew: YOUR copy, which I would return if you were somewhere within a 1000 miles of here 🙂 )
  5. For my 13 year old cousin sister: “Twilight”, by Stephanie Meyer. Partly because in spite of my objections it’s really quite a decent book, especially for her particular demographic. And she’s going to read it somewhere anyway: even though the craze hasn’t quite hit India yet, and it’s nice if she thinks her much older brother is “clued in” 🙂
  6. For my (I think) 12 year old cousin sister: “George’s Secret Key to the Universe”, by Lucy and Stephen Hawking. Just read it through. Sweet and informative(although I skipped most of the little lecture bits, because I already knew) and hopefully not too big a deal. I have no way to guess beyond her age, because I’ve never had ANY meaningful conversations with her, let alone about her favourite books.
  7. For my (again, I think) 10 year old cousin sister: a Great Illustrated Classics version of “The Picture of Dorian Grey”, by (but of course, not quite by, because its abrigded and heavily edited) Oscar Wilde. Same disclaimer as above, but I know this one has huge text and lots of pictures that she can look at, at the very least.

I already bought the books and I don’t think I’ll return any of them, but any suggestions/comments?

Tentative Plans for December

The key word being tentative.

“Constructive” Stuff:

Where constructive is defined fairly loosely.

  1. Do my own version of NaNoWriMo, in December*. Wish I could have done it in November with everyone else, but endsems are a pain.
  2. “Prepare” for next semester. Yeah, really. All my courses depend to a very large extent on prior knowledge which I’m supposed to have gained sometime during the last 2 and a half years, but almost certainly haven’t.
  3. Find something to do for the summer. This deserves a bullet point, for reasons that shall be explained later.
  4. This may not really fit, but: get both computers working the way they’re supposed to. Which includes mailing the Dell service center guys and asking them if they can come to Kottayam instead of Chennai to fix the display for the laptop, fixing whatever the reason is for me not being able to play practically any games at all on the laptop, and getting a whole new keyboard,mouse and possibly speaker system for the desktop. All dependent on what my father’s willing to pay for, of course.

*I DO plan to do this, but it’s more of an exercise to see if I CAN still write any longish(and this will be longer by far than anything else I’ve tried) story, rather than actually trying to write The Novel. I have no intention of putting it up for review by anyone else, at least not under my own name, which means not on this blog. I haven’t really decided the plot -which is bad, because as of an hour back this is officially December- but this will almost certainly be SF/F (by which I mean, it’ll be far-future SF, but whether I make it sound scientifically plausible is a whole other question), very likely some sort of a cliche, and almost certainly bad.

Reading List:

Fiction:

Any recommendations? I have a whole bunch of pulpy stuff that I plan to read if there aren’t, but I was hoping for something solid which is still fun. And preferably easily available. Classic SF/Fantasy would be good, because there’s a chance that any reasonably famous book is somewhere within my 4 GB collection, or can be found on the net. Although, looking to expand, so try me anyway.  Meanwhile, will try and finish Snow and The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Non-fiction:

  1. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, by John Maynard Keynes. By all indications, something I should be reading at this time. Should be particularly helpful if Tyler does in fact go ahead with the Book Club. Also have Capitalism and Freedom to browse through, however. 🙂
  2. The Road to Reality, by Roger Penrose. I’ve had this for a VERY long time now, and still haven’t got past the first few chapters, partly because it felt a little too much like a textbook. More specifically, because I peeked ahead and read from in between and those chapters feel exactly like a textbook. But since I’m quite determinedly and shamefully jobless, I guess I’ll try harder.
  3. Guns,Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond. Ditto. Although I didn’t really try very hard on this one.

Graphic Novels/Comics:

  1. The Preacher (only because it was there. I have no idea how good it’ll be.)
  2. Marvel 1602
  3. JLA Elseworlds
  4. Batman (specifically, re-read Arkham Asylum, Year One,The Dark Knight Returns, TDK Strikes Again, and the Killing Joke)
  5. The Dreaming*
  6. Fables*
  7. Lucifer*

*Found a great website through a hacked google search that has the entire collectionof all these, plus a lot more. Actual reading will depend on how much I can download. Thankfully, net at home is between 5 and 20 times faster than the connection here, depending on the time of day, so this SHOULD work.

Movies I Downloaded:

Not picked or ranked in any way, just a random assortment of movies that I’d like to see, or see again.

  1. Tortilla Heaven
  2. The Jesus of Montreal
  3. The Breakfast Club
  4. Burn After Reading
  5. Broken English
  6. A Cinderella Story(Yeah, I know. But I NEED something like it sometimes.)
  7. Trainspotting
  8. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
  9. Love Actually (Hey, it’s SWEET! I need something I can watch when I badly need to get the warm fuzzies. Summer of 2007 I went with “You’ve Got Mail.” Hopefully, this’ll work,too. )
  10. Return of The Jedi 😀
  11. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 😀

Games I’m taking in the faint hope that they’ll work on the desktop back home:

  1. SPORE!!! (Oh, please,please,please work!)
  2. Caesar 4 (Only because I remember Caesar 3, besides being the very first game I ever bought for myself, as the only computer game my father ever liked playing, a long,long time ago… back when I was actually into playing games while others offered helpful comments from the sidelines.)
  3. The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind
  4. Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri: This, and the next 2, mostly because they actually work on my laptop.
  5. Monopoly -just the board game, nothing special, but good when you just want to waste time.
  6. N! Best flash game ever! Tough, and addictive. Mostly good when your fingers start to itch. Also has the advantage of being something to do when you want to listen to music, but not “just”.

Also have a bunch of TV shows/anime that I don’t really want to bother listing. And I’d like to go somewhere for the hols, even if that doesn’t seem very likely right now, especially alone. Also hope they’ll finally let me take the car out on my own. Wish me luck!

Writing

I know I’m far too young for this part, but I want to write a story with a major character “who drifted through high school, went to community college, dropped out and had a kid, then years later matured enough to return to school, got a degree (in physics, gargoyle studies, bootyology, whatever) and then saved the world.” Of course, purely for personal ego-fulfilment, I’d also want to have a major character who’s “special”, just like in every other SF/F/anything story I’ve ever read. I want to have morally ambiguous characters whose morals are ambiguous enough that readers never know who to support… and I still want a “happy ending”. I have no idea how I’ll accomplish that… maybe by having chapters from everyone’s viewpoints, “heroes” and “villains” alike. I want to write a novel that would pass the Bechdel Test if it was made into a movie, and fulfil as many other conditions mentioned after the jump as I can. I want nonlinear story-telling that you don’t have to read thrice to get. Twice, if you’re not too smart, but not thrice unless you’re really stupid. (Where MY definition of stupid is,say, anyone with an IQ below 100, and really stupid is below 90, which is slightly elitist and not the conventional definition. I think.)

Also, at some point I want to try my hand at writing an actual story that is neither Science Fiction nor Fantasy, which is something I haven’t done since middle school. But I highly doubt I COULD write a comtemporary novel, so this will have to be a short story, at best.

In other news, the entries are rolling in for the conventional category, but still far too few for both Short Sketch and Fan-fiction. I’m considering extending the deadline by say another week for both of those categories, especially since the judges for those don’t have any problems. I’ll decide after seeing the total entries by midnight. I just finished the “dry run” for the On the Spot event, and have just been told that I DO only have one vol, so THAT’s going to be a problem. 😦

Little Brother and the War on Authority

Post written at 3:02 AM IST 05/05/2008:

I just finished reading “Little Brother” by Cory Doctorow which he has just released as a Creative Commons download here. In one sitting. 500 pages( .lit version from the site) .From 11 to 2.30.

I’m scared.

Post continued at 12 PM on 06/05/2008:

…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness…

I’ll start with the key words: gripping, informative, thrilling, “unputdownable”, rousing, must-read,  brilliant,  speculative, furious, action-packed, “scarily realistic”…and hyper-aggressive.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great book. For one thing, its one of the very few 150+ page books that I’ve bothered to read in one sitting, holiday or not. It is all the wonderfully short descriptions I gave above. It is also a tad over the top. It deals with several of Doctorow’s pet topics: activism, free speech and censorship, civil liberties, surveillance, the internet, security, technology. In fact, it has several very informative asides and practical tips on all these things. Truly fascinating information, especially if you’re already interested in one or more of the above. Aside from these, the book has a couple of “policy statements” by Doctorow at the beginning, and two extremely interesting afterwords, by Bruce Schneier, the security expert, and Andrew Huang, the (ex) MIT doctoral student who cracked the XBox, on real-life applications/incarnations of the various technological tools that Marcus (or w1n5t0n, or m1k3y, the internet avatars of our brave young hero) uses, among other things.

The only problem is, I think I can be fairly sure that if I showed the exact same thing to the vast majority of my friends, they wouldn’t find them quite so fascinating. In fact, they would probably call it clutter. And while I would disagree with that from a literary point of view, I would find it much harder to convince them that Cory Doctorow didn’t want to wage war on the entire American/western legal system.

Book summary from his site:

Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.

But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.

When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.

A few disorganized comments:

  1. Clearly, the boy is a stylized,teenage, Peter-Parker version (in the sense of having a powerful alter ego 🙂 ) of Doctorow himself. He feels deeply about (see huge list above), he’s very much into computers, alternate reality gaming, cosplay/LARP (Live action role-playing game)and as m1k3y he “leads” a group of rebels and has an enormous fan following.
  2. I found the final, climactic scene of the novel rather ironically resemblant of the similar point in the story in Ayn rand’s iconic “Atlas Shrugged“. Marcus is shackled on a bench, being tortured, and just when it gets really bad-not that the preliminary stages of waterboarding aren’t bad enough- the cavalry arrives, except unlike in Atlas Shrugged it is not the final victory, just more reasonable captors.
  3. Doctorow indicated that he wasn’t taking a firm stand on this by making Marcus partially repent, but this raises interesting questions on  the exact nature of “civil disobedience“.  Is it still disobedience when you’re not just disobeying the laws, but making sure that other people are caught for it? Marcus and his friends start their more aggressive activities when they decide to “jam” people, by making it look as if they had been places/done things they hadn’t done, by scrambling their “arphids” (RFIDS, or radio frequency identification tags, one of the many surveillance devices used in the book that are available on store-shelves today).
  4. I acknowledge that this story is set a little into the future, but I still find it completely bewildering that there are no adult voices of dissent till the very end,  when evidence of actual torture comes to light. How is it that they simply do not care about the very obvious gradual theft of their civil liberties?

There’s more, but I’m too full, too tired and too pissed off that I can’t download the full driver for the wifi on my laptop before the connection resets to continue. I’ll leave you with Dan Gillmor’s comments:

“Little Brother” sounds an optimistic warning. It extrapolates from current events to remind us of the ever-growing threats to liberty. But it also notes that liberty ultimately resides in our individual attitudes and actions. In our increasingly authoritarian world, I especially hope that teenagers and young adults will read it — and then persuade their peers, parents and teachers to follow suit.

Go here for my review of Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.  I would normally direct you to the wikipedia entry for Little Brother, but it has far less than what I’ve written here, incomplete as it is.  Go to http://www.boingboing.net or http://www.craphound.com if you want to know more, they have a lot more info, quotes and so on. Happy reading!

Time and Money

Two fascinating articles on how people spend their time, and the interesting phenomenon of a decreasing reading habit being accompanied by an increase in the number of people wanting to put their words out there.

Gin,Television and Social Surplus -from the author of the critically acclaimed “Here Comes Everybody”.

So how big is that surplus? So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project–every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in–that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it’s the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.

And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that’s 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus. People asking, “Where do they find the time?” when they’re looking at things like Wikipedia don’t understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of this asset that’s finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation.

You’re an Author? Me Too!!-at the New York Times Sunday Book Review

In 2007, a whopping 400,000 books were published or distributed in the United States, up from 300,000 in 2006, according to the industry tracker Bowker, which attributed the sharp rise to the number of print-on-demand books and reprints of out-of-print titles. University writing programs are thriving, while writers’ conferences abound, offering aspiring authors a chance to network and “workshop” their work. The blog tracker Technorati estimates that 175,000 new blogs are created worldwide each day (with a lucky few bloggers getting book deals). And the same N.E.A. study found that 7 percent of adults polled, or 15 million people, did creative writing, mostly “for personal fulfillment.”

In short, everyone has a story — and everyone wants to tell it. Fewer people may be reading, but everywhere you turn, Americans are sounding their barbaric yawps over the roofs of the world, as good old Walt Whitman, himself a self-published author, once put it.

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