Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Black Adam The Dark Age - Peter Tomasi

52 made and destroyed Black Adam completely. 52 was extremely well written. A dictator villain find love and slowly changes. He has the beginnings of a family with his wife and her brother. And then tragedy strikes , wife and wife's brother are killed and he snaps to become worse than ever. Typical Schwarzenegger movie, but what makes a difference is when Isis dies , she tells him that all they worked for , all the love , all the forgiveness, all the better way are all wrong, the world doesn't deserve it, and in that instant you see everything from Black Adam's view , and who has betrayed him aren't only Isis' killers, but Isis herself and this story goes from a revenge story to an epic shakespearean tragedy.
And after killing an entire city (or was it country) Black Adam without powers is trying to reunite with his dead wife. Does it match upto 52? not even close. But it is very well written and has ingredients of horror and tragedy but somehow it doesnt have the emotional attachment that made 52 so great. So a very very good book , just not great

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Gospel of the flying spaghetti monster : Bobby henderson

As noted elsewhere by me, one of the signs that a person is too religious is a lack of sense of humour (and its cousin irony ) as well as the inability to recognise sarcasm. It should come as no surprise that this book which uses humour, irony and sarcasm as it's chief tools to make a point will be ignored by the people who should read this book. Written primarily as a means of countering the Intelligent design supporters, indeed the genesis(heh) of the book is a letter written by the author to the Kansas school board (when they were considering teaching Intelligent Design in school) , this book has in my opinion , devastating arguments against the teaching of Intelligent Design. It states that not only was evolution guided by an intelligent designer, they also do know the identity of the Intelligent Designer, ta dah- The flying spaghetti monster. And in doing so they neatly counter every argument put forth by the Intelligent Designers ,including Sen. John McCain. For e.g. McCain : Every point of view must be taught in school. Therefore we should teach children that a flying spaghetti monster designed us is a theory.
Full of pun's (the followers are called pastafarians and say RAmen after a prayer), this book is a hoot. While taking on the Intelligent Designers, the pastafarians also take on my favorite targets - religious fundamentalists. And they do it with their own tools.
For e.g.
How convincing is this argument to you?
P1. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a being which has every perfection.
P2. Existence is a perfection.
C. Therefore, the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists.
Not convinced? Well tell that to St Anselm.(this is his argument for the existence of God , replace FSM with God)

And what does their religion stand for? Everything that is good.
and what is their religion against? Everything that isnt good.
Funny no? But everyone does believe this about their religion.

And also a set of commandments or eight I rather wish you didnt, reproduced here because people should compare with their own religions set of rules and think which one is better

I'd Really Rather You Didn't Act Like A Sanctimonious Holier-Than-Thou Ass When Describing My Noodly Goodness. If Some People Don't Believe In Me, That's Okay. Really, I'm Not That Vain. Besides, This Isn't About Them So Don't Change The Subject.

I'd Really Rather You Didn't Use My Existence As A Means To Oppress, Subjigate, Punish, Eviscerate, And/Or, You Know, Be Mean To Others. I Dont Require Sacrifices, And Purity Is For Drinking Water, Not People.

I'd Really Rather You Didn't Judge People For The Way They Look, Or How They Dress, Or The Way They Talk, Or, Well, Just Play Nice, Okay? Oh, And Get This Through You Thick Heads: Woman=Person, Man=Person. Samey-Samey. One is Not Better Than The Other, Unless We're Talking About Fashion And I'm Sorry, But I Gave That To Women And Some Guys Who Know The Difference Between Teal And Fuchsia.

I'd Really Rather You Didn't Indulge In Conduct That Offends Yourself, Or Your Willing, Consenting Partner Of Legal Age AND Mental Maturity. As For Anyone Who Might Object, I Think The Expression Is Go F*** Yourself, Unless They Find That Offensive In Which Case They Can Turn Off The TV For Once And Go For A Walk For A Change.

I'd Really Rather You Didn't Challenge The Bigoted, Misogynist, Hateful Ideas Of Others On An Empty Stomach. Eat, Then Go After The B*******.

I'd Really Rather You Didn't Build MultiMillion-Dollar Churches/Temples/Mosques/ Shrines To My Noodly Goodness When The Money Could Be Better Spent (Take Your Pick): A. Ending Poverty B. Curing Diseases C. Living In Peace, Loving With Passion, And Lowering The Cost Of Cable. I Might Be A Complex Carbohydrate Omniscient Being, But I Enjoy The Simple Things In Life. I Ought To Know. I AM The Creator.

I'd Really Rather You Didn't Go around Telling People I Talk To you. You're Not That Interesting. Get Over Yourself. And I Told You To Love Your Fellow Man, Can't You Take A Hint?

I'd Really Rather You Didn't Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You If You Are Into, Um, Stuff That Uses Alot Of Leather/Lubrication/Las Vegas. If The Other Person Is Into It However (Pursuant To #4), Then Have At It, Take Pictures, And For The Love Of Mike, Wear A CONDOM! Honestly It's A Piece Of Rubber, If I Didn't Want It To Feel Good When You Did It I Would Have Added Spikes, Or Something.

Unfortunately though, the only people who would get a good laugh from reading this book are people like me

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A History of God - Karen Armstrong

A book about 'God' or rather what the three major religions believe about God and how they have changed over the times. An interesting read for people who like to read about such things. This book probably needs to be read by people who believe their faith is absolute and that the religion they follow today is the same as what it was always, since the book has numerous examples of how they were sometimes competing viewpoints in the same religion , of how somethings got added or reinterpreted depending on the times.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jesus for the non religious - John Shelby Spong

This book is more appropriately titled as Jesus for the religious rather than the non religious as I think they will benefit more. Spong a christian bishop of 45 years has evidently concluded that his religion as practised today is far removed from what Jesus (within whom he sees God) taught or experienced. And he goes through and tries to interpret the various miracles that are now treated as literal. He dismisses the concepts of virgin birth, prayers answered, walking on water, even the resurrection as not literally true and point's out time and time again how these events seem to have been copied from jewish tradition with his explanation of that people tried to interpret what they experienced using the only language they knew. He tries to maintain that only after you discard all the various miracles that have accrued around Jesus, can you truly understand the message and even see God.
It is an interesting book and good enough to be read by people who believe in other religions too. Religious people mostly believe that questioning their faith is a sin, is somehow wrong, makes you weaker, takes you on the path to atheism/hell. This ofcourse is absurd. Faith that cannot stand the test of rigorous questioning should be discarded. And this is what Spong believes as well.
He also mentions christianity's irony now. Jesus was the breaker of all traditions, the unifier but now Christianity is the opposite, everyone want to stick to their traditions and the segregation found in Christianity itself is quite startling (The one place where blacks are still noticably segregated from whites is the black and white churches).
Spong however makes the same mistakes that most liberal religious people do. If some of the thing's in your religion's holy book are metaphors/ made up/ interpretations/ just plain lies then how do you know which is or which isn't? e.g. One of his point's is that Jesus didnt discriminate against the Gentile's and points to passages demonstrating it. But if some of the other passages are not literally true , how can we be sure this literally happened? He also avoid's some of the harder questions e.g. How does the concept of Jesus get reconciled with the concept of hell? And if say he does see God in jesus, does he also see God in say the Buddha who also shares some commonality in the tradition breaker, unifier? or does his devotion blind him to the other great teachings that exist?
The book is good though and people of other religions too should read it and see if they can question and investigate their faith as Spong does. I dont agree with all his conclusions but I respect them which is more than what I can say for the Pope!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How would you move mount fuji - William Poundstone

There is an internet answer to the title of this book - How would you move mount fuji. It's I would tell it a touching story about a boy and his bunny (the bunny dies). Im sure that answer wont get you hired at Microsoft. This book deals with the puzzle questions that Microsoft asks some of the candidates which interview with it. The puzzles are good though I've heard some before and some I've heard for the first time (needless to say I could only solve a couple myself without referring to the answers). The more interesting bit of the book is the discussion on Why most candidates dislike these questions and whether this is a fair way to judge candidates (Also why do question's like What motivates you, Or what are your good qualities get a free pass though the answers to these are rehearsed and mean nothing). As pointed out in this book , this is a decent way for freshers who have no experience to be questioned on. I dont think it's appropriate to ask experienced people this (disclaimer I have some experience :) ) - or in other words dont ask me these questions !. Sometimes I'm glad that in my childhood I did read Martin Gardener and I'm glad that Mindsport lifted a lot of it's riddles from the west , so I'm familiar with some of these!.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The End of Faith : Sam Harris

Sam Harris argues eloquently to leave religion and faith behind, pointing out various problems with the three major religions. As also with his other book, the faithful will be hard pressed to come up with meaningful arguments to counter Harris and would probably dismiss his arguments off hand. A good read but ultimately wont convince the religious and the devout because as usual Harris is appealing to reason which as history show's isnt very effective against religion.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The varieties of scientific experience : Carl Sagan

The subtitle of this book is " A personal view of the search for God". This is a collection of the lectures presented by Sagan in Scotland on varied topics mostly connected with God and religion , but you also get a bit about the search for extra terrestrial life, nuclear weapons, creationism and other views. As always Sagan is very lucid in his writings , and it is hard not be impressed by him , not only for his ability to clearly think , but also for his ability to put across his point clearly. Sagan also is very polite and at least to me fairly balanced in his views when it comes to the evidence of 'God'. If you define God as the sum of laws of nature then he exists, If you define God as love then God exists, If you define God as a bearded white man in the heavens watching your every move then we need more evidence. I cannot easily summarise any of the material here , because Sagan's work is always so easy to understand that the only thing I can do is copy his words. So instead I will quote some of his beliefs from the introduction by Ann Druyan.
"What is wanted is not the will to believe , but the desire to find out" (Bertrand Russel)
"Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you let him live. in a hundred billion galaxies you will not find another"
"His argument was not with God but with those who believed our understanding of the sacred had been completed"
"He never understood why anyone would want to separate science which is a way of searching what is true from what we hold sacred, which are those truths that inspire love and awe"
There is also a question and answer with the attendees of his lecture which is very interesting and informative.
There is something in this book for you, no matter which side of the argument you stand on.
It goes without saying read this book.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Letters to a Christian Nation - Sam Harris

The tragedy of this book is that, the people who dont like religion will find that Sam Harris argues for the danger of religion eloquently, that he demolishes the various illogical beliefs that religious people have but ultimately he tells us nothing that we dont already know. Which is fair enough because he has addressed his book to the believers. And therein lies the tragedy. Astonishingly few believers will read this book , and of those who do, how many will stop and say , Hmm maybe I should think a little more on this topic, I might actually be wrong. Its far more likely that they will read it , denounce it as an atheist's attempt to sway them from the path of the righteousness and repeat that their holy book is irrefutable , is perfect , is the word of god (why? because it says so in the holy book!).

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Brainless (The lies and lunacy of Ann Coulter) - Joe Maguire

I expected more from this book, given the subtitle. However I guess a more appropriate title for this book would be The Contradictions and Hypocrisy of Ann Coulter as the author exposes very few lies (and very few new ones that aren't found in Al Frankens book) but does a decent job of showing the numerous places where Ms Coulter contradicts herself or where she judges herself
(or conservatives or republicans) by different standards than Liberals (or democrats). An OK book , could have been much better if it didn't repeat some of the ad hominem attacks or exaggerations that Ms Coulter uses to makes her living.

The Riddle of Scheherazade: And Other Amazing Puzzles - Raymond M. Smullyan

A book of puzzles - some trivial , some old chestnuts and some using coercive logic. Some paradoxes, some meta puzzles in other words a mixed bag. Its quite hard to wrap your mind around some of the coercive logic puzzles and the paradoxes. A decent read but I would have enjoyed it when I was younger.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Any place I hang my hat - Susan Isaacs

My first ChicLit book. too shallow and too pat though good for light reading. Sigh my tastes are too feminine sometimes.