Monthly Archives: June 2011

50 Books (that I own) That I Want to Read

I have a lot more than 50 that I haven’t read, and this list could be different if I made it a month from now. I did learn today that I supposedly own a book (it’s in my database) from my 50 Books (that I don’t yet own) That I Want to Read list, but I couldn’t find Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration Into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel on my shelves (I borrowed it from the library.)

I wonder how many of these I’ll read before I dig into others not on the list.

{Update July, 2014: all but Will Bunch’s Reagan book were lost in the fire a year ago, and while Myth is pretty smoky, it survived. Not having them on my shelf in front of me means I’ll likely never get to them…}

  1. The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman – I started it in Korea, but set it aside during the move and never went back
  2. Hot, Flat and Crowded, (also) by Thomas Friedman – Andrea just found this one, so I’d better get on The World is Flat soon
  3. The Stuff of Thought by Steven Pinker
  4. The Science of Good and Evil by Michael Shermer – I got this first and realized that it was preceded by two other books; after I got and read them, I haven’t gotten back to this one
  5. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
  6. Star Trek, I’m Working on That: A Trek from Science Fiction to Science Fact by William Shatner – I started it years ago and set it aside for whichever distracting reason at the time
  7. Asimov’s Guide to the Bible by Isaac Asimov – curious to see what he had to say, knowing how he viewed it
  8. Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 –I’ve not read a lot of his fiction, but I still see him as a fascinating man
  9. Time Detectives: How Scientists Use Technology to Unravel the secrets of the Past by Brian Fagan
  10. The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett – because Andrea read it aloud to Dylan and Drew and I heard some of it and laughed; add to that all the rest of Discworld, some of which I have and most I don’t…yet
  11. The Universe on a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking
  12. John Adams by David McCullough  – I don’t like McCullough’s lack of footnotes, but I do like his writing style
  13. My Life by Bill Clinton
  14. Conservatives Without Conscience by John Dean – the myths abound
  15. Ulysses by James Joyce – because if I can force myself through Robert Anton Wilson’s nonsensical Schrodinger’s Cat trilogy, I should be able to get through that
  16. Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future by Will Bunch – I started it, but set it aside; Reagan is my least favorite President
  17. The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore
  18. The Gospel of Judas by Rodolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer, Gregor Wurst and Francois Gaudard
  19. Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaardner – a novel incorporating the history of philosophy
  20. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein – it’s been on my shelf for a very long time, but I could never get into it {Update: I read it in 2012, this being the last of Heinlein as I tried valiantly to read all of his stuff before throwing in the towel…it – and almost all of Heinlein – was so awful I couldn’t finish them fast enough}
  21. How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines by Thomas C. Foster – because it couldn’t hurt
  22. Against All Things Ending by Stephen R. Donaldson – this will be a struggle as Donaldson has gotten even more tedious in this last series of Thomas Covenant
  23. Lots of Clive Cussler – despite his style annoyances and pat conclusions, I still find them diverting and entertaining
  24. Asimov’s Foundation universe – I just finished The Robots of Dawn and started Robots and Empire; working my way forward to Foundation and Earth; I’ve already read the Foundation trilogy and a couple of the others, but none of the Galactic Empire or Robot novels (until this year)
  25. The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design by Richard Dawkins – yes, I’m working him backwards
  26. The Universe Next Door : A Basic Worldview Catalog by James Sire – because it apparently isn’t a worldview catalog, but a very biased (toward Christianity) worldview
  27. The Koran – I’ve read some, but not much; I do know the 72 virgins appears nowhere in the book – it came from the extra authors much later, like a lot of Christian dogma
  28. The Retief books by Keith Laumer – Thanks to my father-in-law, I have many of these now, and I understand them to usually lead up to a pun
  29. The End of Faith by Sam Harris
  30. The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas – I know the …okay, versions of the…story so well, it’s time I read the real thing
  31. The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexander Dumas – same here
  32. The Man Who Found Time: James Hutton and the Discovery of the Earth’s Antiquity by Jack Repcheck – dispelled the beliefs of 6,000 year-old Earth for most rational people
  33. The Travels of Marco Polo edited by Manuel Komroff
  34. Pandora’s Keepers: Nine Men and the Atomic Bomb by Brian VanDeMark
  35. Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds – Colin has been wanting me to read this ever since I gave it to him to read when we were in Korea…sigh
  36. The Federalist : The Famous Papers on the Principles of American Government (Hamilton, Madison & Jay) ed. by Benjamin Wright – I’ve read some, but not all
  37. Age and Guile Beat Youth,Innocence,and a Bad Haircut; 1970-1995: 25 Years of P. J. O’Rouke by…P. J. O’Rourke! – I like his stuff, found this years ago, and someday will read it
  38. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy – because I started it, but didn’t get far and it’s another story I know, but should actually read
  39. Stephen Baxter’s Manifold trilogy (Time, Space and Origin)
  40. The Neptune File: A Story of Astronomical Rivalry and the Pioneers of Planet Hunting by Tom Standage
  41. Heretics and Chapterhouse: Dune by Frank Herbert – if I can ever make it through God Emperor of Dune (I read it when it was first published and never made it far into Heretics)
  42. Baghdad Diaries: A Woman’s Chronicle of War and Exile by Nuha al-Radi
  43. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – enough recommendations…I have to see for myself {Update 06/29/11: I pulled it off our shelf yesterday and finished it today; my wife was right – it drew me in too. Not sure about the sequels…)
  44. Darwin, His Daughter & Human Evolution by Randal Keynes – looks to be quite interesting
  45. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis
  46. Blameless in Abaddon by James Morrow – Towing Jehovah was irreverently funny, and this is the sequel
  47. The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A. J. Jacobs – I heard about this book, found it for one dollar {Update: I read this in January 2012}
  48. A Fictional History of the United States (with Huge Chunks Missing) by T Cooper and Adam Mansbach – Andrea found this and thought I’d like it; I’m sure I will
  49. The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works by Roger Highfield – I like this kind of stuff and never read it when I found it years ago
  50. In the Blink of an Eye: How Vision Sparked the Big Bang of Evolution by Andrew Parker (mine’s a hardcover, but Amazon doesn’t have that available for some reason)

Neuromancer – a supreme waste of ink

I don’t quit books easily, or lightly. I started William Gibson’s Neuromancer under the impression that it was one of the best of new (published in 1984 kind of “new”) scifi – unfortunately, I deem it one of the worst. I really don’t know how it can be seen otherwise.

I am not sure what language Gibson used to write the book – I gave up trying to figure it out after 100 pages or so. Some sort of cross between ganster rap and Jim Rome’s glossary of smack. Perhaps if Gibson had included a dictionary, it wouldn’t have been as bad (my copy was the 20th anniversary edition and didn’t have any.) So abandoning the translation, I tried to look at the characters and plot. No dice; dimensionless, thoroughly unlikeable characters and overly convoluted and poorly written pseudoplot clouded by the bizarre terms introduced without any reference frame, this book can only appeal to those pretentious pseudo-intellectuals desiring to spout nonsense about how deep the work is, or what the artist was trying to convey in his/her painting, or how the scuplture evokes feelings of motion. Tripe.

I tend to be pretty stubborn about books. I’ll set aside a book for a year or more, placed marked, of course, to eventually get through it. I cannot do that with this book. Halfway through, I found nothing to redeem the lost time I invested in reading that far. More’s the pity because Neuromancer is touted as a revitalization of the genre. I guess I’m wrong in my opinion that the genre needed no jumpstart. Certainly not in a form such as this.

Whatever cyberpunk is, this is the nadir and not the apex, and it’s a sure thing I’ll not be reading any more of it. Maybe a long shower will wash away the residue and I can get back to some real science fiction.

The one good thing from the experience  – I only borrowed the book from the library and didn’t spend any money on it. That would have been disheartening.

More books…

…to read. Imagine that.

The lists of 50 are probably getting a bit tedious, so I’ve slowed on posting more. I have a few in draft, but if all I’m writing are lists, then it’s a boring page. I returned Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Impossible Monday after the City Council meeting and went looking for any books on someone else’s list (of “best” science fiction) that that library branch might have – only finding Neuromancer by William Gibson. Surprisingly, I had only read the first of the ten:

  2. NOVA by Samuel R. Delany
  3. THE STARS MY DESTINATION by Alfred Bester
  4. CONSIDER PHLEBAS by Iain M. Banks
  5. NEUROMANCER by William Gibson
  6. AND CHAOS DIED by Joanna Russ
  8. TIMESCAPE by Gregory Benford
  9. SUPERLUMINAL by Vonda McIntyre
  10. LEGION OF SPACE by Jack Williamson

I’ve got some catching up to do. Add to that list, my Book Lover’s calendar recommendation for last Thursday was End Game by Frank Brady, about Bobby Fischer. I checked and found a copy at the branch I was at. I picked it up at the same time and am 2/3 through it already. I like chess (but haven’t played much in the past 25 years), was always fascinated by Fischer, and remember the summer of 1972 and the World Championship. Fascinating insight.

Add Kaku referenced several more books in Physics that I want to find. I need to re-retire so I can read them all.

50 Sitcoms I’ve Watched

Coming up with weekly lists of 50 isn’t as easy as I thought, particularly as I started early. I’d thought of TV shows, and had to split it out into comedies and others. A couple aren’t real sitcoms and only one of these wasn’t active in my lifetime, but then I’m only adding it to one that was…

  1. The Big Bang Theory – the best on television right now, and in years
  2. The Munsters
  3. The Addams Family – started streaming this recently…it’s a lot funnir than I remember
  4. Friends
  5. Cheers
  6. Gilligan’s Island
  7. F Troop
  8. Hogan’s Heroes
  9. Get Smart
  10. The Muppet Show
  11. Everybody Loves Raymond
  12. Happy Days – the inspiration for the phrase “jumped the shark”!
  13. Seinfeld – I didn’t like it when it was on, but it grew on me
  14. Will & Grace
  15. Dharma & Greg
  16. 3rd Rock from the Sun
  17. Saturday Night Live – until the original cast left, then only rarely…Ackroyd, Belushi, et al never used teleprompters
  18. ALF
  19. The Nanny
  20. Soap (and the spinoff…)
  21. Benson
  22. Perfect Strangers
  23. The Brady Bunch
  24. The Partridge Family
  25. Whose Line Is It Anyway? – okay, not a sitcom, but where else do I put it?
  26. M*A*S*H
  27. Taxi
  28. Bob Newhart’s various incarnations
  29. That Girl
  30. The Larry Sanders Show
  31. The Lucille Ball Show (and I Love Lucy, of course)
  32. WKRP in Cincinnati
  33. Petticoat Junction
  34. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  35. Wings
  36. Coach – got to see a taping of a couple of the shows; Andrea’s laugh was very distinctive on one of the scenes…now if I could only remember which episode it was…
  37. Mad About You – saw one of these too
  38. Who’s the Boss?
  39. Mr. Ed
  40. Mork and Mindy
  41. Family Affair – poor Buffy
  42. The Monkees
  43. Green Acres
  44. Home Improvement
  45. The Beverly Hillbillies
  46. Bewitched
  47. I Dream of Jeannie
  48. Three’s Company
  49. The George Lopez Show
  50. Malcolm in the Middle – I only watched season one on DVD, and a few here and there, but the inanity grabbed me