Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Babylon Bee: 8.12.2019

New Study: We found a map of everyone whose President is Donald Trump!

Infinite Wisdom: Death By 1,000 Cuts

Ralph Smart on how we allow our energy and optimism to be drained away. Inspiring!

Rain and Duduk

Calm music: https://youtu.be/23XFSUWItbI

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Book Review: Patrick Kendrick's 'The Savants'

I enjoyed this tale of a group of gifted young people under a psychologist's guidance who bring their talents to bear on solving a problem that has stumped leading scientists. Watching them riff on each other and grow, and learn life-lessons as much as skill-lessons, and bringing it together to credibly tackle a global crisis is impressively done. 

My only objection was the now-familiar designation of far right nativists as the bad guys who have to be taken down. This is rather surprising when the West is most certainly being torn apart, but not by such forces. That aside the writing and pacing and storytelling here makes for an entertaining read. 

From the book description:
“Put Kendrick on your must-read list, and move him near the top of the pile.” —Booklist 
Dr. Stephen Pevnick is a world renowned behavioral scientist as well as an advisor to the President of the United States. He has gathered the world’s most prodigious savants—people with astonishing intellectual abilities—to his research center in Maine. His intent is to conduct an unprecedented experiment, to have the savants work on a common project together; a major challenge because the savants, while gifted, do not possess the social skills that might enable them to work as an effective team. 
But, soon after they gather, a catastrophic event occurs that threatens to destroy the Eastern Seaboard. The world’s best scientists are helpless to stop it as panic grips the country, and a sinister conspiracy emerges with the potential to eradicate the free world. Can this group, plagued by their own insecurities and doubts, come together and use their incredible skills to save the world, or will the dark forces that set this disaster in motion prevail?

Book Review: Renee Spyrou's 'Seraphympire, Guardians of the Gateways'

I enjoyed 'Seraphympire, Guardians of the Gateways' for its large cast of diverse and richly-textured characters, their shifting loyalties, and the epic-level of violent emotions at play. It definitely works as Paranormal Fantasy Romance, a vampire tale with a difference. Kayla/Makayla makes a complex, sympathetic, and visceral double heroine. Alexander, Zack, Reece, and the tangibly evil Zobiana all combine to create an above average vampire tale. Overall the characters are both believable and larger-than-life, a nice balance. 

The plot would benefit from a tighter focus, perhaps set within a 3-Act frame. Even so, it was always clear what each character wanted, why, and the decisions and actions they each take in trying to reach their goals. So the characters' roles within the plot works fine. The climax in Act 3 is especially good, and succeeds in bringing Makayla's story to a satisfying, provisional, and resounding close. Her struggle will continue in Book 2 of Guardians of the Gateways.

From the book description:
The world is on the verge of apocalypse. A designer drug contaminated with a mutated strain of the Porphyria virus, V5, has hit the streets of London. Humans are on the threshold of an evolutionary change that will bring about their extinction – they no longer need to be bitten to become Vampires. An ancient artefact, the Trinian Globe, has been stolen, and a sinister force is preparing to take control of Earths hidden gateways.
Makayla Uriel is the one being that can stop the world’s inevitable destruction; and the one person least likely to. She lives on the edge – the fringe of a world that is not her own – where legend is reality. Most days she wants to escape what she is, a Seraphympire, a Vampire Seraphim with two souls, and a craving for rare bloods. When she is saddled with a new partner, she is forced to confront her demons – realising that it’s alright to trust another, even if it means sacrificing all that she has ever known.
The clock is ticking. Will Makayla and an elite group of warrior’s, the Shadow Seekers, save the inhabitants of Earth from annihilation? Can they stop the global distribution of V5 and discover who is behind the burgeoning Newblood infestation before it’s too late? More importantly, will they recover the Trinian Globe before it’s used to destroy Earth?Who will triumph?

Book Review: Colin Garrow's 'How the World Turns'

This selection of short stories is compelling, with all of them evoking very different emotions. Some are horrifying, others funny, others suspenseful, so the range is excellent. 'If the Worst' will have you laughing at Ellen's metamorphosis; 'Her Ready-to-Wear Life' is like one of the better Twilight Zone episodes; 'How the World Turns' gives a fable's p.o.v. on thermodynamics; 'Bed Death and Breakfast' is straight-up suspense/horror, cinematic in its intensity. Several of the stories sent me off on thought experiments, tangents, musings about my own life, an influence that fiction only rarely has on me. Enjoy!

From the book description:
He thinks that when he walks, his own feet propel the earth: that his movements keep the world going round. Literally. Each stride supplies the momentum for another motion forward, the ground shifting backwards beneath him, away into the distance.
Except, when he stops walking.
But then, it's quite possible that the earth doesn't need to move all the time, that in fact, it could probably manage quite well, hanging around, as it were, while he sits in the Cafe Noir, sipping his cappuccino, listening to the idle chittering of the waitress birds.

Book Review: Young's 'A Harem Boy's Saga 1: Initiation'

I enjoyed this book on many levels. Based on my visits to Penang, Young’s description of Malaysia rings true. The story’s narrative voice changes as the hero, Young, matures – going from Malaysia to Britain to Dubai, so it works well as an autobiography. Young’s story is eventually less about sexual awakening than the role of the senses in spiritual and social fulfillment.

Young and Andy’s time in Venice is an enjoyable Odyssey of food, piazzas, canals, car trips, days in the countryside, and the human form in art, sculpture, and Young’s own adventures.

Much of this book surprised me, especially his time in Dubai. Young’s closeness to the Arab families was moving and revealing. The richness of homosexual sensuality described eventually erases its aura of being strange and 'outside'. It emerges as simply part of the human journey. Moreover, it becomes clear that for Young it’s not something he learned or adopted, but felt deeply from the outset. Sexual orientation is thus not a choice or learned or constructed, but is essential to who a person is. The choice involved is acknowledging its presence, not denying it. That was a refreshing, resonating message free of sexual politics.

The pacing and narration is handled well. Dialogue works fine, and really excels in places. It’s in the nature of a biography that it doesn’t build to an Act 3 crisis/climax. This story does resolve relationship crises near the end, so the Act 3 resolution also works well. Overall Young’s interest in and compassion shown to others comes through very strongly throughout.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and came to respect the author's 'old soul' humanity.

From the book description:
This provocative story is about a boy who was initiated into a clandestine sexual society. He was spirited to the Middle East, from his UK boarding school. He attended the Bahriji School (Oasis,) in The United Arab Emirates in preparation for serving in harems for the wealthy and elite. 
It is also a love story between the young man and his ‘Valet’ who served as his chaperone and mentor during the boy’s Harem service.
I had a privileged and unique upbringing in Malaysia, where I was known as a "sissy boy." Following in my brothers' footsteps, I was sent to an exclusive boarding school in England. It is there that I was inducted into a clandestine organization, E.R.O.S. The Enlightened Royal Oracle Society. For four years, unbeknownst to my family, I was willingly and happily part of a Harem.
My story has been kept under wraps for close to 45 years. The correct moment has arrived for me to make known my unique education.