Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Omnivore's Dilemna.

How to sum up a book like The Omnivore's Dilemna? Michael Pollan's tome-sized follow up to The Botany of Desire goes far beyond the normal levels of a well-researched book. He gets out of the library and gets his hands dirty; he works on farms, tours others, goes hunting, forages mushrooms, among a host of other things. In the process he deeply probes the question of (essentially) how to eat sustainably. He's not an idealist and takes into full account that the modern industrial world is here to stay, for as long as we can make it last. He's also not sold on too many ideas that most liberal-minded people (such as myself) accept as fact these days; organic is always better, not eating meat is always a more concious way to live, etc. He's perfectly willing to approach these assumptions with the open-minded possibility that they may not be true. From this, he investigates the business of "industrial organic," in other words, how organic products are manufactured for millions of people. He finds that, while they are better in that they don't use chemicals on their lands, they go against most of the original principles of organic by growing monocrops and often using more petro products in the process by using extra machinery in the place of chemicals. Not to mention the gas used on the long-distance shipping most of these companies do. He has a long meditation on the ethics of eating meat, which at points is like an argument against vegetarianism (a well-formed argument, but not one that swayed me).
While most of his conclusions land more towards the liberal-minded truth side, he makes the point clear that there's often another level (or levels) we're not seeing, a removal from how the food we're eating got to our plate and anyone's roght answers/better ways of eating could be just different ways of looking at the same thing.
A constantly engaging writer, he supplies all the hard facts that any other health/food ethics book could easily do, but making it (sometimes humorously) informal and real. Concious Eating for those who still want to be able to share a meal with their family and friends.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Pattern Language

please let me build a city for us all to live in based off of this book! I will make you hearty foodstuffs and we will gather around in convenient and comfortable places where we will be ushered easily into our whole potential...this winter i started a project where i was illustrating ideas for how i thought a city really should be. it was a fun and playful arsty thing, but i was kind of serious about it. i really wanted to be specific about how each area of this imaginary city was going to interact, what it'd be made out of ...all these kinds of specifics. but somebody beat me to the punch. and they did an amazing job.
this book asks: why aren't things orchestrated with the true needs of humans in mind? a city where pedestrians are treated kindly, the car is not king, originality, beauty and functionality are valued paramount in architecture and city planning...where moving and standing water are regarded as fa(u)cets of the city that are just as important as bus terminals and banks...where the universities are acknowledged as skill enhancement centers on par with apprenticeships all over town....
just read it, crawl into my fantasy world.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

the zines (part 2).

When I took a couple weeks off work recently, I took four or five books with me on my travels and all of them ended up...I won't say "sucking", but not being what I expected. The only one I made it all the way through was the one fiction book among these, which was kind of crappy (despite the fact I've heard two or three people describe it as "perfect"). Read bits and pieces of books since I got back, but zines have been the only literature I've been getting very excited about.
There was a few days in a row where I got a new zine everyday, first I got Eaves of Ass #5 from my friend Craven, which is all about Autonomous Mutant Fest. Craven is in full negative-with-bouts-of-hope-for-the-world form here. Pretty funny stories about this last year's fest, which had the most festival types that he's seen in his seven years of attending, plenty of good old fashioned making fun of Rainbow guys who bum off everybody and don't give anything back, running flashlight jokes and much more.
Next I got Ilse Content #4, which is much more prose-like than any previous issue, encounters with interesting people, a beatiful long story about her grandmother, overall veryvery nice.
While making copies of Ilse, I borrowed Glossolia #4 from Alexis, which is a zine by a girl named Sarah Contrary who took a bike trip from Washington to Arizona. I think this might be my new favorite zine, she's such a good writer (especially by zine standards), her trip was inspiring and her sidetracks were normally thought-provoking or funny or beautiful. Highly recommended.
Right now, I'm reading a zine that's probably four or five years old, but acquired a copy from the Fuckumup Private Library. It's called Hessian Obsession and it's by a fella named Quitty, who I'm pretty sure I met while living at The Phoenix House, but only remember him by a Stranger "Drunk of the Week" that was on our fridge, where him and a friend sat on the steps of The Stranger office late at night asking for jobs and calling them fags. Anyway. Hessian Obsession is all about heshers; he uses a much more specific definition of hesher than I've ever used, something along the lines of: long-haired metalhead dudes that smoke pot and cigarettes and do things along the lines of memorizing guitar solos and quoting Slayer. He doesn't actually say this, he just says "It's kind of like pornography--you can't really describe it accurately, but you know it when you see it." Tons of hilarious hesher stories here, plus a Slayer crossword puzzle (also a "Slayer Fun Activity" where you use Slayer lines in conversation, like: Q: Hey, what's up? A: Oh, ya know, ripping apart, severing flesh, gouging eyes, tearing limb from limb.), and general pet peeves that are mostly unrelated to heshers. Fantastic.
These are the zines for now.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

one harsh miss.

There's this live Mountain Goats song where he introduces it by saying that he sometimes wonders if he's a bad person for doing such things to the characters he creates. With this in mind, I'm left to wonder what personal struggles Ms. Flannery O'Connor may have gone through.
I've always wanted to read Flannery O'Connor, but have somehow managed to never actually do so until now. About all I knew about her was that she wrote the short story "A Good Man is Hard To Find," which is just a good title, not to mention a damn fine Bessy Smith song. I also had heard that she was Christian, but hadn't remembered that until now. So, with my limited knowledge, I picked up A Good Man is Hard To Find and Other Stories. Now, I guess I didn't realize how, well, hardcore, Ms. O'Connor is. The title story made my stomach turn and from there it is an amoral playground of perfectly unlikable characters. The book is fantastic. She creates some pretty amazingly awful situations where, if the characters aren't inherently bad people, they are either obnoxious or ignorant to the point of being unlikable or violent. I will admit this I might be generalizing/exagerating, probably not every character in this book fits this description, but, for the most part, the world of Flannery O'Connor is dark and ugly and completely entrancing. Very hard to shake off.

mark kurlansky is a jerkface.

The current trend in non-fiction seems to be histories of one broad subject: Ice, Hunger, The Pencil, Collapse, Water, Peace, Clay, Rubble, these are all completely seperate books, most of which have come out in the last six months.
At first I thought this was just odd, but, as more and more came out, I've grown more and more pissed off that all these people think they can cover any kind of history of these subjects in 300 pages. Now, I will say that I haven't read any of these. I've checked out a little of Collapse and it seems really good, but it's also the only one where the size of the book fits the subject. So I will say that possibly some of these books might do a good job with the subject they tackle, you never know, it's possible.
But the trend itself just reminds me of the foolishness of humans, thinking we can know more than we can, attempting to rationally understand everything. I want to say history will prove us meek and small, but that's sort of undermining my own existance, so I won't.
It's like all these authors went to the same workshop, where the leader of the workshop was like "try to write a whole book on one really large, really general topic." I realized the other day that, if there was such a workshop, it was probably lead by Mark Kurlansky. Kurlansky is the author of such popular books as Salt, Cod, and 1968. Now, again, I've never read these books, and from what I hear, he's a good writer, but I'm not a fan, simply because he seems to be the one who popularized this pseudo-genre and proved a successful career could be made out of such attempts at omnipotence.
I wonder if this will just continue until every last thing has a whole book about it. Is everybody just running out of ideas? Are writers just like, "I need a new book, but what shall it be about? I have no ideas. What's something I like...Oh, ribbons! Ribbons: The Social and Cultural History, this'll be great!"
The future doesn't look bright. Or, at least it looks really boring.

Friday, December 23, 2005

yes and more yes

1. it's not outright brilliant, or soul provoking, but it is irresistible and highly entertaining. it's called whatever by heather woodbury. it's has such an addictive quality to it, i couldn't put it down, it drew me in like a soap opera or wb sitcom. 12 sterotyped characters in the early nineties play out one of those shakespearean tangle-knot comedies between new york, seattle, santa cruz, and portland. one of the most fun things about this book is that it operates in several different vernaculars, including early 90s surfer rave talk. ha ha. her writing is good, although can give a feeling of let down when she falls back on old cop-outs and predictability. but it's pretty damn ambitious, and i really liked it. 2. this book makes me ache in a way that is bliss. return of the soldier by rebecca west. beautiful imagery. sometimes when i pick up a 'penguin classic' book with that mint green border and the usually boring cover picture i am afraid that the contents will read like mildew so old and unpalatable. but this book feels fresh- although she's not often blunt, her writing is perfectly accurate. there are a couple passages that have run on flowery indulgences but they are no harm to this gorgeous book. it details the homecoming of a soldier to his immaculately kept home, tidy life, cousin jenny-the narrator, and his wife, kitty. however, this is complicated by him having suffered memory loss so that all he remembers is the last day that he spent with his first love, who is now a poor, shoddy woman. the way west describes his happiness while he is only living in one part of his life is just SO GOOD. read it. it's not long, only 80 or so pages. mmmm.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


The beautifully illustrated graphic novel Blankets by Craig Thompson is a wonderful ride. I picked it up a while back at work and opened it to a super-over-the-top-teenage-love moment and wasn't too sure if it was something I wanted to read at all. Finally gave it a try and it sucked me in. The illustrations are enough, almost 600 pages worth of small panel masterpieces. While some of the story is too much like songs sensitive high school boys write, it doesn't really matter when you're in the story. You relate to what you've felt before and ignore the fact that out of context some of it would make for a good laugh.

Friday, December 02, 2005

seasons in the city.

Couldn't sleep the other night, so I go to finish a short book I had been reading, I lament to Ariel how it's ok, but kind of cheesy and I'm not that into it. Then I dive into the last four chapters, which were completely awesome. The book is Marcovaldo or Seasons in the City by Italo Calvino, I know most people that read this blog have read it, but oh well. Giant soap bubbles flying through the city; being the only person left in a city in the heat of the summer; the world of cats, a cat restaurant; the Destructive Gift, a Christmas gift that creates more consumption because it's used to destroy other gifts. So good. Maybe I was just in the mood for the book when I read these and the other times it wasn't what I wanted, I don't know. Looking back on the rest of it, there was a lot of good moments, cool ideas, but its way of creating these extremely exageratted siuations wasn't really that amusing to me for most of it. But it's so short that what I didn't like about it can be easily excused.