Monthly Archives: March 2020

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in AmericaStamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A friend, one of the most intelligent people I know (in person) said of this book “Reading recommendation (still): “Stamped from the Beginning” by Ibram Kindi. If you’re still quoting Sowell, want to debate race, and have not read it, don’t come at me bruh.” I never quote Sowell (you probably don’t want to know what I think of him), have debated race only sparingly over the years though not often with racists because there are too many and I really am unqualified, and… though I’m almost two years late in getting to this, I now have read it. I cannot relate, nor will ever be able to, because I have not experienced this from the receiving end. I have observed, responded, observed more, empathized, tried to understand what a White (Kendi capitalizes Black and White) man of edge-of-poor beginnings who sits comfortably in the middle now can only see and hear from the outside. What Mr. Kendi says here should not surprise anyone who makes the least effort to understand racisim, and certainly not anyone who experiences it, but too often, the problems are framed with too close temporal limits – things happening now, within the past year or three, or even in the past 50 – and not considering that this has been a problem from the beginning of this country. Oh, slavery is known, and usually taught, but the arguments for and against in the historical record are many, varied, evolving and cyclical, and, bottom line…still prevalent. My longest review to date… Continue reading

Tom Swift and His Flying Lab by Victor Appleton II

Tom Swift and His Flying Lab (Tom Swift Jr., #1)Tom Swift and His Flying Lab by Victor Appleton II

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I started collecting Tom Swift books a couple of years ago, partially for nostalgia, having read a few when I was young, and partially for preservation…I can’t rescue all of the old books, but I hate to lose these snapshots to public disinterest. As of this writing, I have 16 of the 33 Tom Swift, Jr. series and six of the original 40 (I was surprised there were so many.) After picking up Tom Swift and His Atomic Earth Blaster the other day, I realized I now had 11 of the first 13 and decided to read this one as a quick diversion from some of my more serious reading.

The Stratemeyer Syndicate churned out a lot of series aimed mostly at adolescent boys and some at girls. This was published in 1954 and full of imagination. Tom Jr. manages to invent a new alloy in hours, engage in high adventure with his best bud, Bud, survive cliffhanger danger every other chapter or so, and hobnob with renowned scientists at the tender age of 18 (oh, they are suitably impressed with our hero and confer with him for solutions to their problems!) The bad guys in the formula for this book are a combination of “Eurasian” and South American (just a tad ethno-offensive with “beeg” plane questions, etc.)

I found the original series to be highly offensive, if still intriguing. I know from memory that this series has its moments, but I’ll still pull one and another off the shelf this year to break up the reading depth. They are a nostalgic fun. I was rather surprised to see one word in here: obsteperous. The ten year old me in 1971 would have been opening up the dictionary!

My copy is the yellow cover reprint from sometime after 1966, as the series listed on the back goes up to #27.

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The Gaming Mind: A New Psychology of Videogames and the Power of Play by Alexander Kriss

The Gaming Mind: A New Psychology of Videogames and the Power of PlayThe Gaming Mind: A New Psychology of Videogames and the Power of Play by Alexander Kriss

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a review copy of this from the publisher The Experiment through NetGalley, published previously in the UK with the title Universal Play: How Videogames Tell Us Who We Are and Show Us Who We Could Be. Though I finished it quickly, a little more than a week ago, I’ve been struggling a bit with “reviewer’s block”. Several non-book related and one that is particular to the copy I received (for which I am grateful): I couldn’t highlight anything on the secure PDF except the watermark, and that is a hindrance. I understand and respect digital rights, but I’ve had many others that would let me copy at least highlight the text on the page, if not copy it for the review. It makes deciphering my notes more difficult and that will unfortunately end up being an unintentional disservice to the author. Anyway, in his Preface, Kriss says his goal with the book was to “defang” videogames and psychotherapy. I’m not sure if he achieved that for the latter, but I do think he made good points with respect to the former. His age shouldn’t necessarily be a factor, but it bears thinking about. He drops hints, such as he was around 16 when he started therapy for a personal issue and playing Silent Hill 2, which came out in 2001; that would make him 35ish. He grew up in a world with video games…for some of us, and I presume not an insignificant number of his fellow therapists, that is a more recent intrusion, development, bounty, …take your pick of meaning. And he plays. It wouldn’t be credible to comment (write a book) on a subject with which one has little to no direct experience. Many do so, and they are, well, not as credible. Continue reading

The Fabulous Riverboat by Philip José Farmer

The Fabulous RiverboatThe Fabulous Riverboat by Philip José Farmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t know why I’ve had “reviewer’s block” so much lately, but I have. I’ve got a couple of other books that I’ve finished and need to review but … So I try the Reader’s Block trick of reading an old favorite, or one of a series. Is this dated? Oh, is that and understatement? The short-lived 1970s subcultures pop out here. (He also has Sam drinking “at least a fifth of ethyl alcohol mixed with fruit juice.” – a measure long gone out of vogue.) Cliched? Well, sort of goes with he dated part. But it is still quite imaginative. And a mix of writing skill.

When recounting a story within the story of a boat traveling upRiver, Farmer says of the narrowing of the River, “[n}ow and then, the line of mountains curved in toward each other, and the boat shot through canyons where the narrow passage forced the current to boil through…” So, tacking against the current and wind, the boat “shot” through?

And then he has Sam Clemens say a brilliant thing now and the: “Of course, I’m only indulging in mankind’s vice of trying to make a symbol out of coincidence” (Note to self: see if that shows up in any of Clemens’s writings…stories or memoirs.)

And astute observation, also maybe the real Clemens wrote about: when recalling the Chinese of Nevada and California in the early 1860s, Farmer had Clemens thinking “But the Chinese believed in time; time was the Chinese ally.” So true today (Martin Jacques wrote a book titled “When China Rules the World” and observes the same patience, in contrast to the Western immediacy.)

And on human nature: “Invincible ignorance always upset him [Clemens], even though he knew he should just laugh at it.”

I need to get to the other reviews, and finish a couple in progress before moving on to a reread of the third book. Sure. That’s what I’ll tell myself!

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