Why We Hate Us

The new rule for our book selection process is that we will pick each pick three books in turn and the other person will get to pick one of the three to read together. I think he just picked the shortest one, but that’s ok.

This one is about why America finds America so obnoxious, and the basic reason will be low self esteem. Just like in individuals, Low Self Esteem has nothing to do with that which is entitled to you, but all about perceptions and love. As we have a crappy societal definition of love (which I am reading about in this book), and a very successful marketing environment that creates perceptions, we are pretty much screwed. But! We will see how this book goes about addressing that, and if it is worth a read after all. 
UPDATE:
We decided not to continue reading the book, because it seemed more like a collection of articles, and often repeated itself. It was too hard to say engaged. Though, that does still make it true that if I pick a book, we don’t read it. I pretty much give up on expecting to be able to read a book with my husband, even though it seems like such a great idea. I’m usually the one forcing the momentum and without trying to find books for both of us to read, I’ve read like 12. Shrug.

The Elegance of The Hedgehog

My husband and I are trying to read books together. Let me first recap on our book reading history:
1. He picked first, we read The Hobbit. It was fine, but you know, it’s the Hobbit. Having read it before, he read some of it and then stopped.
2. I picked Night, a short, true, and sad account of the holocaust by a survivor. Once he found out it was sad, he pretty much refused to read it. The books stayed checked out for over a year.
3. About two years later, we resumed with him picking The Elegance of the Hedgehog. It sucks.

 For the story that it ultimately aims to tell, The Elegance of The Hedgehog could have told better. With a little bit of editing, it could have told a slightly different story much better. The first half after the jump will remain spoiler free, the second half will not. Seeing as I don’t advise you read the book, I think you should read the spoiler section too.
The book is written in a quickly tiring journal entry style, like novels I remember from my childhood. The two main characters write in alternating entries. One is a concierge in her fifties, the other a young girl who is very intelligent for her age. They both live in the same building and mostly despise everyone else there. The concierge is well read and spends her days assuming the role of a moron, because she doesn’t want anyone to know. The little girl does this to a certain extend as well, as she feels her brilliance will bring unwanted attention. The girl intends to kill herself due to little faith in humanity. One day, a new tenant moves into the building and changes everything.

I understand that tone of the reasons for writing in first person is to show a bit of style for your character, but the concierge was maddening to read. There were so many superfluous adjectives, and the sentences never ended. The style is sensible for a journal entry, but it was exhausting to read. The girls entries were more bearable to read. Both had some good points and interesting moments. At its best, it still felt like a disjointed collection of opinions on different matters comprised into a loose telling a story about two similar souls.

 Here are the SPOILERS (for this book and Harry Potter):

A little more space here so you can’t accidentally see…

Just a little more…

Ok the concierge dies. she chases a homeless drunk man into the street and dies. And the little girl decides to live because the concierge dies. This is after waiting forever for the man mentioned on the back of the book to show up in the story, and only moments after he brings harmony to their lives. It almost seems like they can live happy, interdependent lives, without regarding the separation imposed upon them by society and their differing economic levels. The concierge dies as if to fulfill the prophesy of her sister, who also died after fraternizing with a different class. The concierge had grown up poor, and believed if she grew close to rich people, she would die. As soon as she did, well, she did. Die, that is. It also took 100 pages to get to the plot of the story, which makes sense I suppose if all you are going to do is kill someone. You’ve got to waste a bit of time first.

I’m not against killing some one off in a work of fiction. Let me clear that up. I am against spending a great deal of time divulging details and seemingly useless omens to them only ascribe to them in the end, after the character has chosen to abandon them. I am against people dying because an omen forbade them from talking to rich people. And, for that reason, it was an irrational and senseless death. She felt she died as a consequence of her better life, after chasing a drunk homeless man into the street. The real lesson here?

DON’T CHASE DRUNK HOMELESS MEN.

Especially when you’re life is going so good. It’s great that she felt love and all before she died, but letting someone experience love and then die is sort of like saying that love dies on earth, that once you are elevated above your depression you are released from your life. Which would mean that life is ultimately depressing while you live it. That I strongly disagree with, and feel a bit annoyed that I would spend time in my life, which I enjoy very much, reading a book that tells me that I don’t enjoy life, because if i did, I would be dead.

I know that I am manipulating a small point of the story to be more dramatic than it really is, but this is a protagonist that was killed at the end of a rather boring book. I guess I need the ends to justify the mean in literature, and even though the middle of the book was not all that bad, it lead to an unjustifiable end.

Of course, the ends don’t always justify with the means in life, but this was not a non-fiction story. I find lazy to let it end this way. And, if you are going to lazily end a story, make it a lazy happy ending, not a lazy disaster. Something about that seems so careless to me. I felt the same way about the 6th book of Harry Potter. Something about the circumstances leading to death were so lazy. Sure, the seventh book was about as good as it could be, but it had to heal the lazy death in the sixth. To be clear, I don’t have any issues with the death in the fourth book. I don’t think that no one should die in fiction, but i do think when you kill someone in responsible fiction, you need not make it lazy.

So. The Elegance of the Hedgehog started slow, became slightly interesting when the plot showed up, but then ultimately felt a bit lazy. The writer is a philosopher, and there is a lot of philosophy in the book, so perhaps there is a better interpretation for all this. Maybe it’s a better book than I understand. All the same, I did not like it.

AVOID.

Other random opinions: Consider, Seek, Consider with a very good point made about the title, Consider

My husband’s opinion? Consider, but he did major in philosophy.

Reviews may continue to be written in this style, where the title indicates whether you should Avoid, Consider, or Get the item being reviewed. I am assessing other reviewers opinions with the links to their articles. My husband’s opinion is based on our post book discussion.

The Fight for English

Hey, remember this post? It was about Japan and English. Well, on the vein of explaining English, One fantastic book I have found is this: The Fight for English: How Pundits Ate, Shot, and Left by David Crystal. It gives a perfectly succinct history on English and how, in trying to make it a legitimate language, we borrowed from most everyone we thought was cool, only to eventually make it all hard to understand and random. For example, I didn’t know that we just added in Latin type spellings for words to show origins as an afterthought. It’s a quick read, good for short trips or a lazy afternoon. I’m somewhat surprised I didn’t study some of this in college.

Welcome to Immisceo

I’ve fooled around with the idea of a book list, which would contain all the things I check out from the library as well as everything I read, as well as my thoughts and reviews about these books. I was originally going to use a tumblr or twitter account, but neither seemed to be a good fit.

The title is some miscellaneous Latin, which means to blend or intermingle. I feel that as you gain knowledge, everything you learn joins into the web of what you already knew, blending together to create wisdom. This blog will often be about books, but also about other things I learn from television shows, documentaries, and maybe just life in general.

It might be full-on reviews, or just quick notes. I’ll be pulling over some old posts from other blogs that are a better fit here, so those will actually pre-date this introductory post.  I’ve also retroactively updated this post… so… some serious timey-wimey stuff happening here.

 

Top Gear

I’ve always liked cars, in an ineffable sort of way. I’m not sure where this started, maybe it’s just always been true. I like matchbox cars as a kid, like driving now and like playing driving video games. I don’t know anything about cars though, really. I just know I like them.

And that’s enough for Top Gear to be one of my more recent, more awesome discoveries. I caught an episode a couple years ago on BBC America and have loved it ever since. You don’t have to know anything about cars or even like them to enjoy the show. I am currently watching every single episode in succession on Netflix. The early years aren’t quite as good, but once they hit their stride the show is simply the best of its kind. My favorite episodes are the ones where they go to some other country and explore the limits of their cars and their selves.

I don’t have more to say than that. This was a bit anti-climactic, so I’ll sum up with some hopes. I hope to know more about cars one day, be able to fix my own car, buy nifty old used cars for kicks, things like that. I don’t need them to be the top of the line because I don’t have any practical use for them. Its much more fun for me to have some lower grade car that you can push to the limits on everyday streets.

Crafty

I started going to the library, for obvious reasons: I had lots of free time, not a lot of money, and wanted to ward off idolatry. I sped through a few novel-type books, then started checking out craft books. The problem was I didn’t want to take them back, because of course I could not complete the crafts in the allotted check-out time. You can renew them or check them out more than once, but that’s not the point. I wanted to be able to remember what projects were in what book, so I could re-check them out, and that seemed tedious. One day I was struck with the brilliant idea to just scan them. I now have (in my opinion) the best collection of crafts and projects from about 20 books.

I highly suggest it.

Why I Want to Learn Japanese

TO PLAY IT FIRST
This isn’t as true as it used to be, but for games Japan has traditionally been the land of play it first. Square still releases games first in Japan, including Dissidia, Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy.

TO WATCH ANIME WITHOUT SUBTITLES
Just a matter of principle here

TO TRAVEL ACROSS THE GLOBE
I know they say you can travel anywhere with a book, but it’s more of a fly over. If you can read the book in the native language, it’s like you’re walking the streets.

BECAUSE ITS NOT SPANISH
I have nothing against Spanish. I took three years in high school. It would be convenient to know, since so many people I see on a daily basis speak it. But, its Spanish. Its a lot like English but easier. Something about languages that do not use the roman alphabet seem impossible to master.

BECAUSE IT’S JUST AS HARD FOR THEM
http://kotaku.com/5737381/forget-dragons-japans-biggest-quest-is-for-english

BECAUSE I THINK IT SOUNDS COOL
That’s on principle too i suppose.

BECAUSE THAT”S WHERE THE COOL STUFF COMES FROM
Ninja Warrior. Unbeatable Banzuke. Pocky. Anime.  Video Games. Robots. You know.