What're you readin'


#425

I’m reading Kevin Mitnick’s autobiography thingy and a lot of it comes across as a patting-himself-on-the-back but it’s still enjoyable and I’m really enjoying all the summary of how he carried out all that phreaking back in the day. If it’s a subject that interests you it may be worth a read.


#426

I am of an age where the greater portion of the relevant period of this unfortunate era has already been wasted, ruined, or both; I can’t imagine words of any kind with the potency to spoil the rest


#427

Lately I’ve been revisiting the Animorphs books, which were a huge influence on me when I was a child. I was just reading The Ellimist Chronicles, and this book came up with the premise of The Three Body Problem trilogy, 8 years before it!


#428

God, I devoured those books.


#429

I’ve started reading Kurt Vonnegut
I’ve read Breakfast of Champions, Cat’s Cradle, and some of the shorts from Bagombo Snuff Box
Right now I’m reading Slaughter-House Five

Anyone here have any opinions regarding which Vonnegut books are the best ones?


#430

I recently read Back to Methuselah: A Metabiological Pentateuch > by George Bernard Shaw. The gist of it is that after World War I Shaw concluded that we must become more Wise to govern society and transform through desire crystallized into force of will. This would happen with the combination of science and religion into the Life Force. So he wrote a play to propagate this idea.

This thing is nutty and I had a lot of fun reading it. I don’t know where to begin with quoting this thing so here’s one excerpt:

THE VEILED WOMAN [unimpressed] How did you get in here?

NAPOLEON. I walked in. I go on until I am stopped. I never am stopped. I tell you I am the Man of Destiny.

THE VEILED WOMAN. You will be a man of very short destiny if you wander about here without one of our children to guide you. I suppose you belong to the Baghdad envoy.

NAPOLEON. I came with him; but I do not belong to him. I belong to myself. Direct me to the oracle if you can. If not, do not waste my time.

THE VEILED WOMAN. Your time, poor creature, is short. I will not waste it. Your envoy and his party will be here presently. The consultation of the oracle is arranged for them, and will take place according to the prescribed ritual. You can wait here until they come. [she turns to go into the temple].

NAPOLEON. I never wait. [She stops]. The prescribed ritual is, I believe, the classical one of the pythoness on her tripod, the intoxicating fumes arising from the abyss, the convulsions of the priestess as she delivers the message of the God, and so on. That sort of thing does not impose on me: I use it myself to impose on simpletons. I believe that what is, is. I know that what is not, is not. The antics of a woman sitting on a tripod and pretending to be drunk do not interest me. Her words are put into her mouth, not by a god, but by a man three hundred years old, who has had the capacity to profit by his experience. I wish to speak to that man face to face, without mummery or imposture.

THE VEILED WOMAN. You seem to be an unusually sensible person. But there is no old man. I am the oracle on duty today. I am on my way to take my place on the tripod, and go through the usual mummery, as you rightly call it, to impress your friend the envoy. As you are superior to that kind of thing, you may consult me now. [She leads the way into the middle of the courtyard]. What do you want to know?

NAPOLEON [following her] Madam: I have not come all this way to discuss matters of State with a woman. I must ask you to direct me to one of your oldest and ablest men.

THE ORACLE. None of our oldest and ablest men or women would dream of wasting their time on you. You would die of discouragement in their presence in less than three hours.

NAPOLEON. You can keep this idle fable of discouragement for people credulous enough to be intimidated by it, madam. I do not believe in metaphysical forces.

THE ORACLE. No one asks you to. A field is something physical, is it not. Well, I have a field.

NAPOLEON. I have several million fields. I am Emperor of Turania.

THE ORACLE. You do not understand. I am not speaking of an agricultural field. Do you not know that every mass of matter in motion carries with it an invisible gravitational field, every magnet an invisible magnetic field, and every living organism a mesmeric field? Even you have a perceptible mesmeric field. Feeble as it is, it is the strongest I have yet observed in a shortliver.

NAPOLEON. By no means feeble, madam. I understand you now; and I may tell you that the strongest characters blench in my presence, and submit to my domination. But I do not call that a physical force.

THE ORACLE. What else do you call it, pray? Our physicists deal with it. Our mathematicians express its measurements in algebraic equations.

NAPOLEON. Do you mean that they could measure mine?

THE ORACLE. Yes: by a figure infinitely near to zero. Even in us the force is negligible during our first century of life. In our second it develops quickly, and becomes dangerous to shortlivers who venture into its field. If I were not veiled and robed in insulating material you could not endure my presence; and I am still a young woman: one hundred and seventy if you wish to know exactly.

NAPOLEON [folding his arms] I am not intimidated: no woman alive, old or young, can put me out of countenance. Unveil, madam. Disrobe. You will move this temple as easily as shake me.

THE ORACLE. Very well [she throws back her veil].

NAPOLEON [shrieking, staggering, and covering his eyes] No. Stop. Hide your face again. [Shutting his eyes and distractedly clutching at his throat and heart] Let me go. Help! I am dying.

THE ORACLE. Do you still wish to consult an older person?

NAPOLEON. No, no. The veil, the veil, I beg you.

THE ORACLE [replacing the veil] So.

NAPOLEON. Ouf! One cannot always be at one’s best. Twice before in my life I have lost my nerve and behaved like a poltroon. But I warn you not to judge my quality by these involuntary moments.

THE ORACLE. I have no occasion to judge of your quality. You want my advice. Speak quickly; or I shall go about my business.

NAPOLEON [After a moment’s hesitation, sinks respectfully on one knee] I—

THE ORACLE. Oh, rise, rise. Are you so foolish as to offer me this mummery which even you despise?

NAPOLEON [rising] I knelt in spite of myself. I compliment you on your impressiveness, madam.

THE ORACLE [impatiently] Time! time! time! time!

NAPOLEON. You will not grudge me the necessary time, madam, when you know my case. I am a man gifted with a certain specific talent in a degree altogether extraordinary. I am not otherwise a very extraordinary person: my family is not influential; and without this talent I should cut no particular figure in the world.

THE ORACLE. Why cut a figure in the world?

NAPOLEON. Superiority will make itself felt, madam. But when I say I possess this talent I do not express myself accurately. The truth is that my talent possesses me. It is genius. It drives me to exercise it. I must exercise it. I am great when I exercise it. At other moments I am nobody.

THE ORACLE. Well, exercise it. Do you need an oracle to tell you that?

NAPOLEON. Wait. This talent involves the shedding of human blood.

THE ORACLE. Are you a Surgeon, or a dentist?

NAPOLEON. Psha! You do not appreciate me, madam. I mean the shedding of oceans of blood, the death of millions of men.

THE ORACLE. They object, I suppose.

NAPOLEON. Not at all. They adore me.

THE ORACLE. Indeed!

NAPOLEON. I have never shed blood with my own hand. They kill each other: they die with shouts of triumph on their lips. Those who die cursing do not curse me. My talent is to organize this slaughter; to give mankind this terrible joy which they call glory; to let loose the devil in them that peace has bound in chains.

THE ORACLE. And you? Do you share their joy?

NAPOLEON. Not at all. What satisfaction is it to me to see one fool pierce the entrails of another with a bayonet? I am a man of princely character, but of simple personal tastes and habits. I have the virtues of a laborer: industry and indifference to personal comfort. But I must rule, because I am so superior to other men that it is intolerable to me to be misruled by them. Yet only as a slayer can I become a ruler. I cannot be great as a writer: I have tried and failed. I have no talent as a sculptor or painter; and as lawyer, preacher, doctor, or actor, scores of second-rate men can do as well as I, or better. I am not even a diplomatist: I can only play my trump card of force. What I can do is to organize war. Look at me! I seem a man like other men, because nine-tenths of me is common humanity. But the other tenth is a faculty for seeing things as they are that no other man possesses.

THE ORACLE. You mean that you have no imagination?

NAPOLEON [forcibly] I mean that I have the only imagination worth having: the power of imagining things as they are, even when I cannot see them. You feel yourself my superior, I know: nay, you are my superior: have I not bowed my knee to you by instinct? Yet I challenge you to a test of our respective powers. Can you calculate what the methematicians call vectors, without putting a single algebraic symbol on paper? Can you launch ten thousand men across a frontier and a chain of mountains and know to a mile exactly where they will be at the end of seven weeks? The rest is nothing: I got it all from the books at my military school. Now this great game of war, this playing with armies as other men play with bowls and skittles, is one which I must go on playing, partly because a man must do what he can and not what he would like to do, and partly because, if I stop, I immediately lose my power and become a beggar in the land where I now make men drunk with glory.

THE ORACLE. No doubt then you wish to know how to extricate yourself from this unfortunate position?

NAPOLEON. It is not generally considered unfortunate, madam. Supremely fortunate rather.

THE ORACLE. If you think so, go on making them drunk with glory. Why trouble me with their folly and your vectors?

NAPOLEON. Unluckily, madam, men are not only heroes: they are also cowards. They desire glory; but they dread death.

THE ORACLE. Why should they? Their lives are too short to be worth living. That is why they think your game of war worth playing.

NAPOLEON. They do not look at it quite in that way. The most worthless soldier wants to live for ever. To make him risk being killed by the enemy I have to convince him that if he hesitates he will inevitably be shot at dawn by his own comrades for cowardice.

THE ORACLE. And if his comrades refuse to shoot him?

NAPOLEON. They will be shot too, of course.

THE ORACLE. By whom?

NAPOLEON. By their comrades.

THE ORACLE. And if they refuse?

NAPOLEON. Up to a certain point they do not refuse.

THE ORACLE. But when that point is reached, you have to do the shooting yourself, eh?

NAPOLEON. Unfortunately, madam, when that point is reached, they shoot me.

THE ORACLE. Mf! It seems to me they might as well shoot you first as last. Why don’t they?

NAPOLEON. Because their love of fighting, their desire for glory, their shame of being branded as dastards, their instinct to test themselves in terrible trials, their fear of being killed or enslaved by the enemy, their belief that they are defending their hearths and homes, overcome their natural cowardice, and make them willing not only to risk their own lives but to kill everyone who refuses to take that risk. But if war continues too long, there comes a time when the soldiers, and also the taxpayers who are supporting and munitioning them, reach a condition which they describe as being fed up. The troops have proved their courage, and want to go home and enjoy in peace the glory it has earned them. Besides, the risk of death for each soldier becomes a certainty if the fighting goes on for ever: he hopes to escape for six months, but knows he cannot escape for six years. The risk of bankruptcy for the citizen becomes a certainty in the same way. Now what does this mean for me?

THE ORACLE. Does that matter in the midst of such calamity?

NAPOLEON. Psha! madam: it is the only thing that matters: the value of human life is the value of the greatest living man. Cut off that infinitesimal layer of grey matter which distinguishes my brain from that of the common man, and you cut down the stature of humanity from that of a giant to that of a nobody. I matter supremely: my soldiers do not matter at all: there are plenty more where they came from. If you kill me, or put a stop to my activity (it is the same thing), the nobler part of human life perishes. You must save the world from that catastrophe, madam. War has made me popular, powerful, famous, historically immortal. But I foresee that if I go on to the end it will leave me execrated, dethroned, imprisoned, perhaps executed. Yet if I stop fighting I commit suicide as a great man and become a common one. How am I to escape the horns of this tragic dilemma? Victory I can guarantee: I am invincible. But the cost of victory is the demoralization, the depopulation, the ruin of the victors no less than of the vanquished. How am I to satisfy my genius by fighting until I die? that is my question to you.

THE ORACLE. Were you not rash to venture into these sacred islands with such a question on your lips? Warriors are not popular here, my friend.

NAPOLEON. If a soldier were restrained by such a consideration, madam, he would no longer be a soldier. Besides [he produces a pistol], I have not come unarmed.

THE ORACLE. What is that thing?

NAPOLEON. It is an instrument of my profession, madam. I raise this hammer; I point the barrel at you; I pull this trigger that is against my forefinger; and you fall dead.

THE ORACLE. Shew it to me [she puts out her hand to take it from him].

NAPOLEON [retreating a step] Pardon me, madam. I never trust my life in the hands of a person over whom I have no control.

THE ORACLE [sternly] Give it to me [she raises her hand to her veil].

NAPOLEON [dropping the pistol and covering his eyes] Quarter! Kamerad! Take it, madam [he kicks it towards her]: I surrender.

THE ORACLE. Give me that thing. Do you expect me to stoop for it?

NAPOLEON [taking his hands from his eyes with an effort] A poor victory, madam [he picks up the pistol and hands it to her]: there was no vector strategy needed to win it. [Making a pose of his humiliation] But enjoy your triumph: you have made me—ME! Cain Adamson Charles Napoleon! Emperor of Turania! cry for quarter.

THE ORACLE. The way out of your difficulty, Cain Adamson, is very simple.

NAPOLEON [eagerly] Good. What is it?

THE ORACLE. To die before the tide of glory turns. Allow me [she shoots him].


#431

Thanks for that, I enjoyed reading it.


#432

i wanna read some fantasy books everybody but i definitely do not need another In The Name of the Wind in my life


#433

Unrelated: I am reading Septimania in which a young English chap who can trace his lineage back to both Isaac Newton and Charlemagne finds out he’s the long lost King of the Jews and unknowingly anoints Pope John-Paul II. I’m about a third of the way through.

The book is better than that sounds.


#434

mary gentle’s “ash: a secret history” is on the top of my to-read list when it comes to fantasy; only heard great things about it


#435

reading the book about theranos, still don’t understand how they got away with this grift for so many years


#436

The whole Theranos story really makes me dream about utterly fleecing the richest rubes in our country and then using the profits to fund socialist movements. White collar crime is so rarely prosecuted, we should use this flaw in the system against the system.


#437

But I guess the problem is, you only get in trouble if you’re fleecing the rich.


#438

I read The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut.
It’s really good, and also feels like a Kilgore Trout novel idea that was actually written out.


#439

you can read multiple books at once??


#440

are all torturers stubborn assholes or just Severian


#441

It was better than it sounded but maybe got a little maudlin at the end, and luckily, did quite a bit to steer clear of any hand-wavy math or science stuff because it is sure full of hand-wavy historical contrivances. What the hell, let’s call it a B+


#442

I really like The Revenants by Sheri S. Tepper

  • she has lots of solid books. But that one strikes a particular chord, for me.

*Grass is supposed to be her best. I have it on the shelf, but haven’t read it.


#443

I will check it out. I have never read Ursula Le Guin, or finished anything by Pyncho nand I wanna get that done this year, as well as just well

buying more books that seem good.


#444

Today I am reminding myself that some divides just seemed unbridgeable to ol’ stick in the mud Dunsany