I can read!

Some thoughts on some books I've been reading, now that I've dug into the pile acquired around my recent birthday:

The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman - This volume accompanied me on my recent vacation. If you find wit and absurdity amusing, as I certainly do, you'll have no reason to dislike this book. I did find that the list of 700 Hobo Names became a little bit of a chore to get through, but there are enough gems in it to be worth your time.

Quantum Evolution by Dr. Johnjoe McFadden, PhD - A pop science book, one of a genre I've always loved, applying quantum theory to the questions of the definiton of life and the mechanism of evolution via natural selection. His propositions, in a poor summary of a nutshell, are: 1. that conditions in the "primordial soup" (whatever its nature may have actually been) could have been such as to allow quantum superpositions of aggregations of whole molecules allowing the seemingly-improbable genesis of self-replicating proteins, 2. that quantum effects on codons within DNA lead to adaptive mutations, 3. that human consciousness may be the result of oscillations in the brain's electromagnetic field(s) which behave in a quantum manner. It was an intriguing read, though one does have to wade through a lot of layman's-terms explanations of quantum theory which are not significantly different than those used in many other related books. This is necessary, I suppose, but can lead to skimming if you're accustomed to reading a lot of pop-quantum theory. And who isn't?

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins - I'm ambivalent about this book. It certainly lays out in clear terms the mechanisms by which the oligarchy of which we are citizens operates, and while these revelations should not come as surprise to anyone who's been paying attention it's still a worthy examination of the history and development of the current state of world affairs. However, it often feels as if Mr. Perkins were writing a movie treatment or prose screenplay. Some of his recollections of events are simply too detailed to not raise an eyebrow... dramatic pauses for a character to sip a drink, etc. I was also irked by what felt to me like over-repetition of key points. This is difficult to criticize as, clearly, provision must be made for readers with poor memories and those unwilling to flip backward in the book to re-read anything. Still, I'd recommend this book to anyone who desires to have their last illusions about How America Really Works shattered. Assuming, of course, you believe his story.

Imperial America by Gore Vidal - This is mostly a repackaging of Vidal's essays and speeches from the past thirty years on the topic of American Empire, with a smattering of new writing thrown in. Heavy on repetition, since most of the above writings mirror each other in scope and content. It's certainly interesting to see the paralells between our current situation and those stretching back to the Nixon administration (and most all in between), and the overall lesson, of course, is that Nothing Has Changed. That current events seem surprising is support for Vidal's observation that we are the United States of Amnesia in which no history is remembered and neither are we desirous of remembering it. This book will provide you with Vidal's arch take on the history of American Empire beginning, more or less, with the Mexican War or the Spanish-American War of 1898 depending on which essay you're reading. Both are convenient benchmarks for When Things Went Wrong, said Wrongness finding it's apotheosis in the years immediately following World War II and, after a minor dip for a decade or two, surging forward now. Still, it's a repackage ripoff in many ways. Borrow a copy if you're interested.

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