IMWAYR 1/30/17; I haven’t read what I’m supposed to.

“Mankind barely noticed when the concept of massively organized information quietly emerged to become a means of social control, a weapon of war, and a roadmap for group destruction” (Black 20)

Image result for IBM and the holocaust

My friend suggested that instead of blogging about books today, I should blog about the TV show I’m watching on Netflix right now, since I am technically reading the subtitles. I was going to sadly  dismiss this as impractical, but then I remembered that this is my blog, and I can do what I want! So that’s what I’m going to do.

I am currently watching the Netflix original TV show “Morning Call“. I initially watched it because I didn’t know that Netflix made Japanese Drama, and given Netflix’s track record with their original shows, my interest was immediately piqued. So far it has been more or less what I expected; a dumb (in a good way) fun show. That said, the existence of the male protagonist is very annoying; he is a jerk, plain and simple. But however obnoxious he may be, the female protagonist is quick to forget, even though one of her defining personality traits is that she is one of the few people who can resist the male protagonist’s “charm”. Buuuuut that is pretty much par for the course for a japanese comic book adaptation, so whatever, the show is still fun.

Moving on to the point of this blog, I’m currently reading two books, neither of which are actually for this class. They are Tom Clancy‘s The Hunt For Red October (page 325) , and Edwin Black‘s IBM And the Holocaust: The Strategicc Alliance between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation (page 187). I’ve been reading Red October for well over a month now, but I keep on getting distracted by other books, so the going has been pretty slow, but I’ve been enjoying it. I’ve picked up IBM And the Holocaust more recently after it was mentioned to me by a friend of mine. It’s appeal is certainly less broad than that of Red October; if the idea of complicated international legal and financial falsehoods being maintained by horrible people doesn’t sound interesting to you, you probably won’t enjoy the book.

The book that I am supposed to be reading is The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, but I haven’t started that yet, so I don’t have very much to say about it. From what I have heard, it is an extremely contentious book, with reactions about evenly split between loving it, and finding it profoundly moving, and hating it. So we’ll see how that goes.

(435 words)

 

Slaughterhouse-5 Review; excellent with few conditions.

“One thing was clear: Absolutely everybody in the city was supposed to be dead, regardless of what they were, and that anybody that moved in it represented a flaw in the design.” (113)

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Having finished the book, I’m still not entirely sure what I was expecting when I picked up Slaughterhouse-5Kurt Vonnegut‘s most well known work. Going in, all that I knew was that the book was about World War II, and that its protagonist was a pilgrim of sorts. Based off of this, I probably had only the most general of expectations; that it would be about war, and that it would have some spiritual aspect to it. However general these expectations may be, I cannot say that I was correct on either count. Slaughterhouse-5 reads more like a book of parables than anything else. It is broken up into many nonlinear subsections, some under a page in length. Each subsection tells its own small part of the story of protagonist Billy Pilgrim’s life, rarely in chronological order, and each weighed down with a profound sense of meaning. The end of almost every subsection left me staring blankly into nothingness, trying to decipher what was being said, and what was being meant.

The book follows the life of Billy Pilgrim, a physically weak, emotionally distant boy, who is drafted as a chaplain aid in WWII. In this regard it is a war story, but very little of the story is about the war itself, or even the plight in which the war places thousands of soldiers, Billy included. The book is better described as the story of Billy, who happens to have partially existed in the same time and space that the war existed in. Vonnegut considers the books to be his recount of the bombing of Dresden, but all in all very little attention is paid to the bombing itself, or even its aftermath.  In a manner similar to Tim O’brien’s The Things They Carried, Slaughterhouse-5 effectively uses its writing style to communicate deep feelings of isolation, and the otherness of being a soldier. But unlike The Things They Carried, this is never fully in the spotlight. It is shown, but never spoken, and the books is far more flexible for it. Slaughterhouse-5 is the sort of book that if ten people read it, each will likely have a very different opinion on the book and what it meant. If those ten people are of a mind to contemplate what Vonnegut was trying to say, they, like I, will probably enjoy the book very much. Though its nonlinear nature is initially confusing, it is ultimately a self solving problem. Because the order matters so little, there is little to be confused about after the initial shock. Every subsection can mostly stand on its own, and the most it is likely to miss is a slight tie-in with another subsection.

Slaughterhouse-5 is a book best treated like a book of Confucian parables. It should be read slowly, and pondered at every break. Even if you lack the time or inclination to do so, it is worth reading purely because it uses interesting ideas about time and existence as fundamental backbone of its plot. The least that someone is likely to get out of this book is an interesting perspective of time and reality, and an unusually human painting of “children” at war. Slaughterhouse-5 is a short book, clocking in at 137 pages in my edition, and while it is certainly best experienced slowly and deliberately, it does not need to be. This is not a book that needs to take very much time. Between all of these observations, I would strongly recommend Slaughterhouse-5.

My only gripe about the books is rooted in its fundamental nature. Books written to communicate a sense of isolation are usually themselves very isolating to read, and Slaughterhouse-5 is no exception. This means that the experience of reading the book is not especially pleasant. This is not necessarily a flaw; not every books must or should be pleasant to read, and there are many books which ultimately benefit greatly for being miserable, depressing reads, or that would have failed to communicate properly if they where anything other than disturbing to read. That said, Slaughterhouse-5 makes less use of this than, for example, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, which to this day puts me in a deep funk every time I pick it up, even if I only skim a few pages.

One final note; if, as I recommend, you read this book, it is definitely worth reading a little bit about the bombing of Dresden somewhere along the way. There are a few pieces of the book which are objectively inaccurate regarding Dresden, and learning even a little bit about the city and the context of the bombing may be very helpful.

(807 words.)

First blog post: introduction

Hi all! This is my first post here, so it’s going to be a general introduction. I’m a 17 year-old high-school/college student. This blog is an assignment for one of my classes, but it may also prove something of a blessing; I’ve been trying to start writing out my thoughts and posting them somewhere (cough cough Tumblr) for a while, and haven’t had much success heretofore. Maybe this blog will change that. So, as a general introduction, here are ten more or less random things about me.

1) I was homeschooled until highschool, at which point I applied to enter a local magnet program, and was accepted.

2) Calvin and Hobbes was one of the first series of books that I really got into. It definitely had a pretty profound impact on me and how I speak and write.

3)  Calvin and Hobbes may have been the first series that I really got into, but it wasn’t my last. For most of my life I have read well above grade level. For example, I finished up Crime and Punishment for the first time during the summer before my freshman year of highschool.

4) Ironically, starting a formal English education actually slowed my overall level of progression in terms of reading ability. However, it did do wonderful things for my writing ability and breadth of reading, so I’m not complaining.

5)  I started with a political base of more or less libertarian, and I have been moving left ever since. And by moving left, I mean jumping straight over into quasi-socialism (or at least what passes for it in US politics). I’m still pretty confused about it. So if you want to know the political perspective of my writings, there you go.

6) I really suck at getting into simple relationships. This is not to say that my past relationships have been bad per-say, but they have been extremely difficult.

7) I am constantly in awe of the fact that somehow I got the room in my house that I got; it has the best view in the entire house.

8) For now, I have four mottoes, or at least sayings that function like mottoes. They are: “Always bring a book”, “Can do!”, “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you, its what you do know that’s wrong” (paraphrased from Mark Twain), and “Most of us can, as we choose, make of this world either a palace or a prison” (John Lubbock)

9) I am generally a nerd, for most definitions thereof. Anime/manga? Kind of yeah. Books? See facts #1-4. Computers? Yeah. Tech in general? Yup. Interest in miscellaneous academic topics? Yup; history, some science, Literature, and to a lesser extent, languages and linguistics.

10) I’m a martial arts nerd. It definitely tailed off some when I started highschool, due to a combination of less time and the main martial arts school I attended at the time moving, but I’m trying to get back into it seriously now. I have done a fair amount of Karate, a decent amount of Aikido, a very small amount of Choy Lay Fut Kung Fu (which I’m hoping to get back to), and I am currently a beginner in Iaido.

 

shihonage
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(526 words)