Thursday, April 12, 2012

Death by Soap? Marlowe and the Spacewoman

Farce -a light dramatic work in which highly improbable plot situations and exaggerated characters are often used for humorous effect. A comedy characterized by broad satire and improbable situations.

    Now it might not surprise you that I like a good farce. I absolutely love the TV shows Eureka and The Big Bang. I read Midsummer Night's dream when I was 13 and adored it.  Not to mention that I collected the Myth Adventure series by Robert Asprin, loving every minute of the tongue in cheek adventures. However, it is better when you know something is meant to be a farce!
    I settled down to start reading  Marlowe and the Spacewoman, thinking I was in for some serious science fiction reading.  The first few pages were a little strange - talking dog and acid rain - but I survived. Then our hero gets killed by a bar of soap who bubbles "Nothing personal" as it removed the needle from Marlowe. "Just business."
     It is then I begin to think this book is maybe a little too strange for me. By  end of the next ten pages, light has dawned and I have a slumped forehead caused by the slap of the heal of my hand as I said over and over, "So this is that kind of book." Had I taken the time to truly read the "Praise for the modest Ian M Dudley's Work" section in the front of my Kindle copy, I might have sussed  the situation from the very beginning. I won't spoil the fun for you but do take a minute and read it when you get your copy.

Marlowe and the Spacewoman
By Ian M. Dudley
Published by Pallmark Press
Pages 324

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Battle Between the Ears: "The Righteous Mind"

The Righteous Mind:  Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
Jonathan Haidt
Pantheon Books, NY  (2012)
419 pages

You hear it everywhere now, in those discussions at the water cooler at work, in the line at the coffee shop, on the news, at dinner, at parties:  “I don't understand how everything has gotten so vicious in politics."  "Why can't they ever agree with us on anything?"  "Why do they have to be so nasty?” 
“There should be some way to have a civil conversation and get agreement somehow.” “Can't we just get along?”

Yet, in those same conversations, we hear “they were the ones who screwed things up, [people, that is, belonging to the party that's not ours] and we're just trying to fix it.” “Why can't those idiots [those that aren't me and mine] understand why what we believe is so crucial?” “Aren't they listening to anything the other side says?” “What are they using for brains?” “They are morally bankrupt” “They are all just [insert insulting name here] trying to get what they want.” “We are the ones trying to make things work.”

What is there in our psychology that makes us so sure, regardless of which side we are on, that we are absolutely right and the “other side” is wrong, and that we should never compromise? What is going on between our ears?

That is the question that Jonathan Haidt attempts to answer in his book “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.” Haidt is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and a visiting professor of business ethics at New York University's Stern School of Business.” He was recently (2008) thrust into the limelight with a talk given for Creative Commons' TED program, which has been widely quoted around the internet.

I was very interested in doing this review because of the title of the book, but when I looked up the author and found the talk, I was completely fascinated by how it was parsed by both the left and the right. Each side took offense to something he said, rallying to defend their position and claiming he was dumping on their preferences. Or they took something he said that reflected badly on their party and insisted he was supporting the other side. In fact, he was attempting to find a way to understand why we choose to pick sides, and defend them so vigorously, in the first place. This was very interesting, and I definitely wanted to hear more.