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What Book are you reading now? (Other than Star Wars)
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 PostPosted: Tue Apr 09, 2013 4:20 am Reply with quote  
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  Life Is The Path
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Oh, you didn't offend. It's just that the sentence seemed odd to me. It stuck in my craw, if you will, but not for the usual reason of offence. If you're interested (or if others are), I know a good video that explains the No True Scotsman fallacy by Theramintrees. I quite recommend his videos, as well as that of his brother, Qualiasoup (strange names, I'm assuming their parents were hippies).

However, I do disagree with your first point. I don't think arguments should be respected at all. I think it's much better to respect the person. Arguments and opinions cannot feel pain, or grievance. People do. Personal offence, though, is not 'real' harm, and should not, I feel, be enough to curtail an argument on, in this case, theology. Opinions should, by all means, be poked and prodded and, if laughable, suitably mocked. If harmful, justly scorned and, if possible, abandoned. For example, just this morning (it's still morning, technically) I read of an atheist blogger being killed in Bangladesh for his 'blasphemous' posts, as well as a list of names being handed in to the government and calls for those people on the list to be killed. To be clear, the punishment for blasphemy is 10 years in prison, there, but there have been vociferous - and wide-spread, this isn't a minority - calls for their death. (I'll provide the links at the end of this post). This is, of course, and extreme case, but it is a good example of my point.

As to your second point, I think you should read this book, as that is not really what he espouses. He certainly does say that there is almost certainly no god, but he doesn't say 'there is absolutely no god', and takes the time to explore arguments from 'the other side', and fully explains why 'the god hypothesis' is fairly weak, and can, for the most part, be shown to be logically fallacious. Although, it was written six years ago. He may have changed his mind. I'm really not conveying his views well, here (I dislike speaking for another), so it may just be best if you did read it. I don't know if you'll find it to your liking, ultimately, but you will gain an understanding (of the man and his views) better than the one I can ever provide.

One last point: I do think that there's a slight difference in the weight of the offences you mention. On the one hand, you have atheists saying there is [probably - very important] no god. On the other, you have creationists trying to throw out, not just biology, but nearly every science we have. Such as geology (six thousand year old earth) astrophysics (god made earth, the universe) and astronomy (same things). Atheists aren't seeking to curtail the rights and freedoms of religious people. However, creationists are trying to brush away nearly every scientific advance of the last couple of hundred years. For my money, I'm going to go with the atheists. All they're doing is exercising their right to say 'you're wrong[, and here's why].' Creationists, on the other hand, are actively trying to create a theocracy and push the pseudo-science into the classroom. There is certainly a middle ground, as you say - and Dawkins has expressed no problem with this - but I do think you're misrepresenting one side, and inflating their actions, and the offence, to a degree that is inaccurate.

Links to the story: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/02/22/thousands-riot-in-bangladesh-over-writings-of-atheist-bloggers/
http://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2013/02/16/killers-hacked-rajib-first-then-slit-his-throat-police
http://rt.com/news/bangladesh-protest-muslim-blogger-431/

Wow. I really am a windbag. Sorry about that. I think I was more than a little miffed at having read those articles above, as well as some other recent, related material.
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I am a Star Wars fan. That doesn't mean that I hate or love Jar Jar. That doesn't mean I hate or love Lucas, or agree or disagree 100% with him. That doesn't mean I prefer the PT over the OT, or vice versa. That doesn't mean I hate the EU, or even love all of it (or even read all of it). These are not prerequisites. Being a man is not a prerequisite. Being a geek is not a prerequisite. The only prerequisite is that I love something about Star Wars. I am a Star Wars fan.


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 PostPosted: Tue Apr 09, 2013 5:19 am Reply with quote  
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  Dog-Poop_Walker
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While this discussion is appropriate for this thread as a book review, it might be more appropriate for the existing thread that is devoted to religious discussion, no?
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 PostPosted: Tue Apr 09, 2013 7:24 am Reply with quote  
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  Taral-DLOS
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Dog-Poop_Walker wrote:
While this discussion is appropriate for this thread as a book review, it might be more appropriate for the existing thread that is devoted to religious discussion, no?


Arguably yes, but we were trying to focus the discussion on why we would/should/could read books by a specific author Smile

@Life: I think I agree with pretty much everything you said. Especially your last point about differences in weight of offence. I think I was trying to balance the viewpoints (I work in diplomacy, you see) but I agree that discounting science is a significantly greater problem. And I may have to check out this book, just to see what it has to say.

Hashtag Informed Opinions Smile
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 PostPosted: Wed Apr 10, 2013 3:27 am Reply with quote  
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  Life Is The Path
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@Walker: I thought it was appropriate to the book discussion, but I guess I was drifting away from that point.

@Taral: Glad I could be of help Smile . One thing that I didn't like about the book, though, that I should mention, is that it's not very comprehensive. There are several points that I'm aware of that he either completely misses (like hell as a just punishment in chapter 7, I think, and our ability of pattern recognition wasn't discussed in the roots of religion chapter) or doesn't elaborate as much as I'd like (such as the Beethoven fallacy - hell, even I've written a chapter-long essay on that). However, it is a good book to get a summary of (nearly) all the arguments, and he does an excellent job of providing site addresses for further reading.

It may be that I'll have to read some of his other books to gain a firmer grasp on this. Though, to be honest, after his mentioning Douglas Adams, I really just want to read Adams' Dirk Gently books, which I've been putting off for quite some time.
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I am a Star Wars fan. That doesn't mean that I hate or love Jar Jar. That doesn't mean I hate or love Lucas, or agree or disagree 100% with him. That doesn't mean I prefer the PT over the OT, or vice versa. That doesn't mean I hate the EU, or even love all of it (or even read all of it). These are not prerequisites. Being a man is not a prerequisite. Being a geek is not a prerequisite. The only prerequisite is that I love something about Star Wars. I am a Star Wars fan.


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 PostPosted: Wed Apr 10, 2013 7:59 am Reply with quote  
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  Darth Skuldren
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I finished Emilie & the Hollow World by Martha Wells. It's geared as a young adult novel but it has some nice escapist, exploration and adventure elements to it.
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 PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 3:59 am Reply with quote  
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  Life Is The Path
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Read Serenity: Better Days and The Shepherd's Tale. Now reading Mastermind: How To The Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova. One interesting thing: when the brain attic was mentioned in the novels, I'd thought it was another name for a thought palace. Yet this book posits that it means the mind, our memories, thought processes - basically our mental software.
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I am a Star Wars fan. That doesn't mean that I hate or love Jar Jar. That doesn't mean I hate or love Lucas, or agree or disagree 100% with him. That doesn't mean I prefer the PT over the OT, or vice versa. That doesn't mean I hate the EU, or even love all of it (or even read all of it). These are not prerequisites. Being a man is not a prerequisite. Being a geek is not a prerequisite. The only prerequisite is that I love something about Star Wars. I am a Star Wars fan.


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 PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:03 am Reply with quote  
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  Caedus_16
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Life Is The Path wrote:
Read Serenity: Better Days and The Shepherd's Tale. Now reading Mastermind: How To The Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova. One interesting thing: when the brain attic was mentioned in the novels, I'd thought it was another name for a thought palace. Yet this book posits that it means the mind, our memories, thought processes - basically our mental software.


Other common terms for this are the Memory Warehouse or the Data Core. Psychologically there are those who can fully control their memory and store new data, organize it, while also deleting old data. Its amazing what we can do these days.
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 PostPosted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:05 am Reply with quote  
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  Life Is The Path
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It certainly is amazing. I vaguely recall those who use thought palaces, also known as the method of loci, to recall pi to 65,000 digits. Past World Memory Championship winners have used the method to memorise 52 decks of cards in order. It's absolutely fascinating how we've managed to develop such mnemonics to aid us, and through the application of neuropsychology. I have a link if you're interested in learning to do it yourself: http://anotherboywholived.tumblr.com/post/16156334049/how-to-build-your-own-mind-palace

I've built a thought palace, but I keep forgetting to use it. Kinda embarrassing Embarassed
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I am a Star Wars fan. That doesn't mean that I hate or love Jar Jar. That doesn't mean I hate or love Lucas, or agree or disagree 100% with him. That doesn't mean I prefer the PT over the OT, or vice versa. That doesn't mean I hate the EU, or even love all of it (or even read all of it). These are not prerequisites. Being a man is not a prerequisite. Being a geek is not a prerequisite. The only prerequisite is that I love something about Star Wars. I am a Star Wars fan.


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 PostPosted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:54 pm Reply with quote  
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  Reepicheep
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I'm re-reading the "Guardians of Ga'Hoole" series. I loved these books when I was younger and re-reading them is pretty nostalgic. I don't know if I'm going to read the whole thing back-to-back (there are 15 books in the series) or with breaks in between.
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 PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 1:56 pm Reply with quote  
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  Crash Override
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I've been reading a lot of fiction from the 1920s, specifically HP Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. HP Lovecraft's works are all in the public domain and can be read for free and legally online (http://www.hplovecraft.com/). I'm not sure what the legal status of Howard's works are, I have a few of his Del Rey collections, all his Conan stories which I'd started reading in order of publication, though I haven't read any in a few months. I'm currently at "The People of the Black Circle"; his next story is "The Hour of the Dragon," which is essentially a novel, though it was first published in serialized form in Weird Tales magazine.

I've never been particularly interested in Conan the Barbarian because I think the popular conception of the character isn't appealing, but there's a disparity between the way that the character is written by Howard and the subsequent form the character takes in public consciousness, probably informed mostly by the two Arnold Schwarzeneggar films (which are actually enjoyable, IMO, although the sequel less so). My friend got me to read the first two stories, "The Frost-Giant's Daughter" and "The Tower of the Elephant" and I became hooked, especially since the former is evocative of mythological tales.

I think Star Wars fans should give them a try though, as I think the pulp storytelling of the 1920s and 1930s informed the Flash Gordon serials that inspired Lucas to create Star Wars, so if anything it's interesting from that perspective. That said, thematically speaking Lovecraft's writing is pretty much the diametric opposite of Star Wars, in which there's really only one, arguably perhaps two stories in which the protagonist "wins," and the stories really aren't even concerned with Manichean opposites or some sort of morality play but cosmic horror. But after his death, August Derleth, essentially the 1930s equivalent of an EU fan, took it upon himself to structure Lovecraft's work into the Cthulhu Mythos, while kind of missing the point of Lovecraft's work by assigning it a more traditional Judeo-Christian Manichean duality, which may interest those that prefer their stories to have that sort of thing. He wrote quite a few stories of his own in the universe with that sort of thematic underpinning after Lovecraft's death.

Howard's work is more concerned with barbarism vs civilization, with Howard taking up the side of the former. I think Star Wars fans would find Howard's work more interesting that Lovecraft's, at least in the sense that it's more similar to Star Wars. In a lot of ways, I think Howard's Hyborean Age *is* the Star Wars galaxy with the science struck from the science fantasy, though even some REH pastiches introduced science fiction elements into the setting, such as "The Crawler in the Mists". Even the second written Conan story, "The Tower of the Elephant" features what is essentially an extraterrestrial.

I suppose that in a lot of ways, the short fiction of Howard reminds me of the earlier days of the Expanded Universe, when it was built up through short fiction in Star Wars Adventure Journal and the Tales collections. I guess those weren't very profitable.

I guess it's worth noting that since Howard and Lovecraft both wrote in the 1920s and 1930s (both tragically dying young in the late 1930s), that their works are indicative of the time, and feature some racist and misogynist undertones of that time period, so if that sort of thing would ruin a story for you, I definitely don't recommend that you read them, although I think for the most part it is limited to specific stories. For Lovecraft, his stories written while in New York, specifically "He" and "The Horror at Red Hook" are the ones that explicitly feature it, and for the most part they don't. "The Call of Cthulhu" sort of skirts the line, but other good stories that he wrote like "The Music of Erich Zann" and "Pickman's Model," "The Dreams in Witch-House," "The Whisperer in Darkness," "At the Mountains of Madness," and "The Shadow Out of Time" are pretty much devoid of it.

Howard's Conan writing is mostly devoid of it, though "The Vale of Lost Women" is probably the worst offender in both categories that I've read. Some of his other stories do feature helpless women dependent upon Conan, however some of his stories feature strong women like "Queen of the Black Coast" or "Red Nails," and Howard invented "Red Sonya" which inspired the Marvel Hyborean character "Red Sonja" which inspired a horrible movie. I think his depiction of helpless women is more a function of his "barbarism vs. civilization" theme, as the helpless women are the "civilized women" while the "barbaric women" are self-sufficient.


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 PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:16 pm Reply with quote  
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  Dog-Poop_Walker
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Good stuff Crash!

As you say there are some problems with those stories from a modern social viewpoint in that they show off tropes common to the pulp age stories such as "damsels in distress" and the "jungle savage" and use of outdated racial lingo. I do think that it's important to understand in particular where H.P. Lovecraft comes from. He was an Anglophile and I believe that his hostility towards the immigrant community in his hometown comes from his romanticism and rejection of modernism more than outright racism. In other words it's more of an indicator of him being a big dork and a Victorian fan boy than him following along with prejudiced social standards of the times.

If you didn't know, I'd also recommend the works of Clark Ashton Smith, a cross and crossover, between his buddies Howard and Lovecraft. And their earlier inspirations Arthur Machen's "The Great God Pan", Robert Chamber's "The King In yellow", and Ambrose Beirce's "The Damned Thing".
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 PostPosted: Sun Apr 21, 2013 12:20 am Reply with quote  
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  Crash Override
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Yeah, I initially was going to list Robert W. Chambers along with them, as I have The King in Yellow and I've read a few of the stories in that, most specifically "The Yellow Sign" and "The Repairer of Reputations," which I understand to be his two best stories. I wanted to get Clark Ashton Smith's complete collection. Night Shade Books put out a five volume set of his stories but the first two volumes are out of print. They're available on Kindle so I might just settle for that. I don't know if CAS is in public domain... he lived quite a bit longer than Howard and Lovecraft.

I also considered listing Machen, Bierce, and Algernon Blackwood, but I haven't read nearly as much of their stuff as HPL and REH ("The Great God Pan" and "The Willows," plus the two Bierce stories named below). I am going to guess that maybe you listen to the HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast? I subscribed to their pay podcast when they completed Lovecraft's collection and went into weird fiction that inspired Lovecraft, and they're having Ambrose Bierce month and just did "The Damned Thing" and "The Death of Halpin Frayser."

I've been hoping that they would do Robert E. Howard, but I imagine if they do get to that it will not be for another year or two, and they would probably do Clark Ashton Smith first since he did more weird tales than Howard, who was fairly diverse. But they also like to do stories that are in public domain so that their listeners can read the story in the preceding week along with them, and I'm unclear about whether REH and CAS are in public domain. I've heard that the Weird Tales versions of REH's stories are in public domain, though.

I'm kind of curious to read Machen's "The Novel of the Black Seal," which I believe is said to have had an influence on "The Call of Cthulhu" in the same way that "The Great God Pan" influenced "The Dunwich Horror." There's a lot of really interesting horror and weird fiction that is not well known from the turn of the century leading up to the Great Depression. Another good one is "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell, which was written shortly after Lovecraft died that inspired quite a few films including John Carpenter's The Thing.

The podcast had an interesting discussion about whether the ending to The Shadow Over Innsmouth is indicative of Lovecraft coming to terms with his racism, or whether the Deep Ones are racist in their depiction, which is pretty interesting. I guess it could go either way. I think you're right that Lovecraft's racism was more about nostalgia for Colonial America moreso than white supremacy or anything like that, as he did marry an Ukrainian Jew, which he was fine with because he felt she was assimilated into American culture, so it was a cultural issue for him.

Another thing I've been doing is listening to Actual Plays of RP sessions for Call of Cthulhu. One group in particular does a lot of Hastur/Carcosa inspired adventures, which is what piqued my interest in Chambers. What I find interesting about the Cthulhu Mythos is how things have evolved through it. Bierce coined Hastur, Hali, and Carcosa in "Ha´ta the Shepherd" and "An Inhabitant of Carcosa," and Chambers apparently liked the names enough to use them in "Repairer of Reputations" and "The Yellow Sign," but I guess the implication in those is that Hastur is a place rather than a person. Lovecraft name dropped them in "Whisperer in Darkness" (which I think invented the concept of alien abduction, in the same way that "Dreams in the Witch-House" invented the chestburster from Alien!) and even created the idea that the Mi-Go are in conflict with them, but given the context it's up to the reader as to whether this Cult of Hastur even exists, let alone is at conflict with the Mi-Go. Lovecraft was pretty ambiguous with his writing.

I just thought of another writer, Lovecraft's friend, Frank Belknap Long. I read his story "The Hounds of Tindalos," but his "The Space-Eaters" is another story on my list to read. One story I recommend if you haven't read it is "Challenge from Beyond," which was a round robin featuring CL Moore, Abraham Merritt, HP Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Frank Belknap Long, in that order, with Moore starting the story, Merritt continuing it, and so forth. The transition between HPL and REH is amazing.


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 PostPosted: Sun Apr 21, 2013 2:00 am Reply with quote  
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  Dog-Poop_Walker
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I actually don't follow any podcasts. I think I read about some of those primarily in Lin Carter's A Look Behind The Cthulhu Mythos. I've read those Belknap Long stories, they both are in Tales of The Cthulhu Mythos. I don't know about the later volumes by modern writers, but the first one is pretty good for the stories by HPL's associates.

I don't really know anything about public domain books, but it's cool that there is a resource there for those stories.
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 PostPosted: Mon Apr 22, 2013 3:32 am Reply with quote  
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  Life Is The Path
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Finished Mastermind, and now on to the Noticeably Stouter edition of the QI Book of General Ignorance.
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I am a Star Wars fan. That doesn't mean that I hate or love Jar Jar. That doesn't mean I hate or love Lucas, or agree or disagree 100% with him. That doesn't mean I prefer the PT over the OT, or vice versa. That doesn't mean I hate the EU, or even love all of it (or even read all of it). These are not prerequisites. Being a man is not a prerequisite. Being a geek is not a prerequisite. The only prerequisite is that I love something about Star Wars. I am a Star Wars fan.


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 PostPosted: Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:36 pm Reply with quote  
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  Crash Override
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I've got a question maybe someone can help me with:

One of my favorite books is Zodiac: An Eco-Thriller by Neal Stephenson. I read it first, then about two months ago listened to the audio book, and the reader perfectly fits Sangamon Taylor's character. I've read a few other of Stephenson's books like Snow Crash and The Big U, and I've started to read Reamde, but it seems starting with Snow Crash which followed Zodiac, his writing started to become extremely digressive from the plot. I have Cryptonomicon and that book is over a thousand pages.

My question is whether anyone knows of any books that are similar to Zodiac in style or plot? It's commonly classified as science fiction but it's not, it was written and takes place in the 1980s. I dunno, I think it has the perfect balance of plot and Stephenson's digressive lectures on interesting stuff, and I think that balance veered too far toward ideas he finds interesting in lieu of plot afterward. I suppose Reamde doesn't have the same issue but it's still taking forever in audio book format to get anywhere after listening for quite some time.

Kim Stanley Robinson's Antarctica sounds like a similarly eco themed novel, albeit one that is actually science fiction. I haven't started it though. Maybe I'm just looking for a novel that is a "thriller," I dunno. Maybe Stephenson's other contemporary novels like Reamde and Cryptonomicon fit the bill and I just need to commit to them.


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