Sunday, January 31, 2016

On The Nightstand: January 11-31 2016

The Thin Red Line by James Jones
I’ve been asked, as a veteran, to come up with a few words on a novel that resonates personally. It didn’t take long to say yes and that I would like to take another look at the 1962 milestone by James Jones. He’s more known for From Here to Eternity but it’s The Thin Red Line that went deep into the hell that is war.

Basic Math and Pre-Algebra by Denise Szecsei
I DESPISED math as a kid. My parents hired a tutor because I had fallen so far behind in school, but I still refused to learn it (poor Mrs. Mudge! I apologize for being such a snot, dear lady). My recent interest in CERN and various physicists has sparked a fire to learn higher math. Just bought Basic Math and Pre-Algebra as a refresher ... it's amazing how those basics can fade from memory. So, start at the beginning, right?

Six Guns at Sundown by Eric Beetner
Along with Little d (the real force behind BEAT to a PULP since its inception), I’ve been editing Eric’s first of two Lawyer novellas that pick up the narrative first laid down by Wayne D. Dundee in Stay of Execution. Both gentleman have done an outstanding job and for some foolhardy reason I have said that I will write the fifth installment. 

Higgs Discovery: The Power of Empty by Lisa Randall
I’m almost obsessive with learning more about CERN’s latest accomplishments. Ms. Randall’s book is easy for simpleton’s like me to grasp.

Graveyard Love by Scott Adlerberg
My full review was published at Macmillan's Criminal Element blog. A sample: Adlerberg’s storytelling is reminiscent of Julio Cortázar conjuring up the befuddled photographer, in “Blow Up” (1959) or Vladimir Nabokov’s unhinged chocolate factory worker from Despair (1934) who erroneously believe he’s found his doppelganger. Both represent unreliable narration from a first-person psychotic point of view—doing their best to convince us they are 100% sane. Kurt is no different, telling us how he’s poles apart from other such obsessive stalkers but the more he makes a case for clear rationality the more it’s obvious he’s just plain nuts.

“Where is Planet 9” blog post by Mike Brown.
I’ve been an amateur astronomy buff since I was a kid. And as I now tell my daughter… we live in exciting times. I follow astronomer Mike Brown (he takes full glee in downsizing Pluto to dwarf status) on Twitter and noticed he tweeted that his daughter had suggested the name Lilah for the new 9th planet. So I replied, resulting in this exchange:

My four-year-old daughter, Ava, was opting for Sally. Her daddy has no idea why but thought I should pass it on.
Mikes' reply: it's now on the list.
You just made her day! Thanks, Mike.

And it did. She's aware the chance is slim of her suggestion being realized but having the scientist who's leading the search consider her proposal is a big, and exciting, deal.

 "The Singular Mind of Terry Tao" article.
I get annoyed when I hear the word genius batted around carelessly. Terry Tao, however, was one at nine years of age. Fascinating piece on a child prodigy and what he's up to today.

A Universe from Nothing: Why there is Something Rather than Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss
A theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Krauss has written a book that even my dense understanding can comprehend, uh, most of the time. Not just a book of facts and figures but also human interest stories. Example: how Edwin Hubble (a name we all know quite well) owes quite a bit to the unsung Henrietta Swan Leavitt who was employed as a "computer" at the Harvard Observatory.

The Age of Reason; Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology by Thomas Paine
Perhaps it’s because political posturing is going into that tedious full pitch with Republicans and Democrats running to their corners, sharpening their daggers that I, once again, turn to Tom Paine. A revolutionary that had the cojones to take on George Washington. Not that The Age of Reason has anything to do with legislation of government—Paine’s Rights of Man and Common Sense handle those questions—but I like his logical voice and the topic of religion has been on my mind extra burdensome of late. Also pulled off my shelf this week is Jack Fruchtman’s Thomas Paine: Apostle of Freedom. And below is an audio clip of the late Christopher Hitchens on NPR discussing the man who coined the phrase, “these are the times that try men’s souls.”


Charles Gramlich said...

I remember being shocked particularly by one particular scene in the Thin Red Line. I suppose I had lived quite a sheltered life.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Some very eclectic reading going on there.

oscar case said...

I read "Eternity" and "Some Came Running" and was going to read "The Thin Red Line", but I never started it due to an interruption and never got back to it. I'll vote for Sally to be the name, sounds as good as anything else. Your reading gets into the "deep" subjects that most people wouldn't pick up without a personal interest in the subject. Interesting.

David Cranmer said...

Its that kind of book, Charles. All others pale in comparison for me.

Patti, I've never kept such a close record before and am a little amazed myself. I may keep this record going for the year.

Oscar, I just told Ava that another person backs Sally and she did an enthusiastic "yay!" As for the reading, I don't want to go to my grave with math having conquered me. For whatever reason, at 45, I'm totally fascinated by the subject.

Sarah Laurence said...

I admire you for taking another shot of math, despite your disheartening start. You may need it to help Ava one day too. Good luck!

David Cranmer said...

Good to hear from you again, Sarah. And thanks for the well-wishes. Yes, helping Ava was definitely a factor in my taking up math again.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

David, I'd like to read "The Thin Red Line" some day. I read sections of "Age of Reason" in college/university for my political science class, though I hardly remember any of it now.

David Cranmer said...

Prashant, Paine is essential reading for me. He's really a big (emphasize BIG) reason why there's a United States and it's sad to think of all the monuments in DC he's not represented. Of course, he probably wouldn't give a damn one way or another.