Wednesday, June 29, 2011


See over on the left where it says I'm currently reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra (unless you're using google reader)? That's kind of a lie. Truth is, I'm completely failing at reading it, and it might be time to give up. I took a break to read Ta-Nehisi's last  book club book (What this Cruel War was was decent), and the most recent Sookie Stackhouse book, which I've already mentioned. I powered through another 10 or 15 pages of it, trying to regain some kind of rhythm, or at least push myself through. It's not really working though. I have absolutely no desire to read it and no sense that I'm really getting anything out of it.

This is kind of a big admission for me. Reading difficult material is something that I would generally claim that I'm fairly good at. It's not just a comprehension thing, but a mindset. I always felt like one of my advantages in school is that I would keep reading even when 50-70% of the information was going over my head (or the entire book was in French or Russian and only a small fraction was making any sense to me at all). You'd be amazed how valuable understanding 30% of something can be if you don't give up in the first few pages. Of course, you have to pair that with need to be careful about using something you've read as evidence when you know you didn't understand it completely. Maybe I don't always do that as well as I should. I think there is a place in the world for imperfect knowledge though, and I see my ability to navigate that place as one of my strengths.

I can't really even identify the 30% that I'm picking up from Zarathustra though, or the ten percent, or the five percent. I feel like I'm picking up about as much as I would sounding out words in Finnish. Part of it is that I'm not putting as much effort into as I could. I couldn't read Hume on the bus, but I made a point of finding quiet time at home to concentrate on it because I really wanted to understand it. I'm just not excited enough about Zarathustra to do that...I am reading at home, but not under the kind of "try to talk to me and die" conditions that I might make for another book. More like "hey is that a distraction? yay a distraction!!!" Apparently I have some scholarly cover on this, even the prologue to the book mentions that it's not always highly regarded by Nietzsche-ists, so that cuts into my motivation even more. But mostly, it just seems like it's time to give up. And find something else to read. I'm not really sure what yet...Ta-Nehisi & Matt Yglesias have both mentioned some interesting sounding books lately, but then again maybe I need to branch out. Also, George R.R. Martin book is coming out in a month or I actually going to have to pay money for that?

Anyways, there you have it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Not to make this the all Sookie all the time blog (oh and probably some kind of spoiler alert here, I'm really lazy about spoilers)...but damn the season premier of True Blood was disappointing. Mostly because I'd already predicted the primary premise of the fourth book/season wouldn't fly with the TV folks. Male characters being dependent on female characters is after all, incredibly unsexy. Sexiness in men is defined by brooding, inner torment, amazing abs, and very little else. I honestly expected them to just tweak it a little though, not throw it out completely in favor of a mind-numbingly horrible sequence with fairies so that we could be bored to death by the emotional gushing about a completely new character that we have never been given any reason to care about. Omg I'm so happy you're alive! Omg I'm so sad that you're dead now! Omg who the fuck are you?

(of course I'm still going to watch the next episode though...there were witches! maybe all is not lost!)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hidden Depths

(spoiler alert for the most recent Sookie Stackhouse book)

So, stuff happens in Dead Reckoning, which is the most recent Sookie Stackhouse book. Not like big important plot advancing stuff...which I guess is kind of disappointing...but little moments that I think help hint at where Charlaine Harris is trying to go with this series, and that I actually think support the idea that there's a more to her writing than just cliched trashy vampire fantasy. Not that I'm trying to elevate it into being great literature or anything like that, but the books are fun and enjoyable and extremely why not analyze what exactly is in them a little?

I think there are a couple meaningful developments in this last book. The first is that they do a lot to clarify what supposedly makes Sookie special. Admittedly, this hasn't been the most tightly written plot point ever. At one point, it was obvious that Sookie's telepathy made her special...but how many thoughts does Sookie even really read this time around? Most of her interactions are with people who for one supernatural reason or another can't be read, which is I guess the logical place for her to end up based on the premise of the story, but there's been a definite shift away from exploring how real telepathy might affect a person's life. Then Sookie became (or turned out always to have been) part fairy, and that made her special because vampires loved her and fairies loved her and there she was getting all mixed up with both of them and complicating her life. But part fairy took a backseat this book too, and it turns out what REALLY makes Sookie special is the "essential spark," which might be somewhat supernatural in that some magical beings know it when they see it, but it can also exist in a completely mortal human being like Sookie's grandmother, and it's outward manifestations include crazily magical attributes like being nice to people who are different than you and being curious about the world.

The second is that they focus on what's really going to come between Eric & Sookie. This actually kind of follows a similar arc to the question of why Sookie is so special. The original reasons why it's problematic to date a vampire are dramatic and high impact. People will try to kill you, a lot. The vampire you're dating may even try to kill you in a weak moment. Danger is everywhere. But by Book 11, the danger has faded into background noise. It may not have gone away, but you don't really notice it anymore. Now the real problem is the emotional disconnect. Even a vampire who is not a rampaging murderer,* is still kind of offputtingly cold. For that matter, so are fairies. So is the whole supernatural world.

Which brings us back to the essential spark, a very human and regular world type of magic that is fascinating even to the supernatural. Remember that Sookie thought Eric would be angry to find out that he had become so vulnerable and weak when he lost his memory...but instead he was amazed that he had been able to be open to so much feeling? Or that at one point Bill mentions that Sookie & Eric share a certain vitalness, and that's what brings them together. I have no idea where Charlaine Harris intends to take the plot at this point...presumably Sookie ends up figuring out who her true love is, or maybe there will be a independent woman cookie dough kind of ending where she doesn't need to end up with any of them, but I think many there are many possibly endings that could flow organically from this point (and there could always be a completely stupid, Veronica Mars style end too). I'm pretty sure in one way or another it will end up being about the essential spark though. Which is really kind of cool.

*and in the Sookie Stackhouse universe...remarkably few of them are. Eric & Pam don't reminisce about past massacres the way Spike & Angel did. You get the feeling that life as a vampire, even before the great reveal, was always a bit more like being in the mob than being the living embodiment of evil. Interestingly, this seems to be an area where the True Blood tv show has decided to diverge from the books.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Never underestimate the potential dumbness of politicians.

So, Anthony Weiner. And his weiner. I don't really have much to say.

But it occurs to me that the best way out of the "should he resign/should he not resign" question is pretty simple. Presumably he knows someone, very possibly someone who works as his campaign manager or something, who shares his political views but has not recently been caught sending pictures of his crotch to college aged girls. He should ask that person to run against him in the next primary, without animosity, to give the voters in his district a chance to be represented by someone who won't be held back by a scandal. Or the voters can opt to tolerate the scandal in order to keep their representative who's established himself as someone who can go head to head with Fox News types. My guess is that he'd win, and with renewed credibility.