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Showing posts from July, 2017

Book Review: Galileo's Middle Finger by Alice Dreger

Galileo's Middle Finger
Alice Dreger
(Penguin)(Note: this review covers some controversial ground, especially in the discussion of transgenderism).
From the title, I thought this was another "so you think you know history" book, a glib volume of bawdy historical incidents (like the time Galileo flipped off the Pope, apparently?) What I found instead was at first simply baffling - what the hell did this have to do with the 15th-century astronomer and his erstwhile digit? - But ended up being utterly engrossing. By the end of this book I was amused, outraged, and zealous for truth at all cost...but also unnerved and unmoored by a simple question: how can we believe anything we read - even this book itself?
Galileo's Middle Finger is hard to pigeonhole; it seems to lie somewhere between a memoir and an expose, with a bit of personal defense thrown in. Alice Dreger is a bioethicist, author, and part-time activist who specializes in some of the most tendentious scientific-res…

Book Review: Rapedome by Alan Houston

Alan Houston
(Astronaut Books) (Full disclosure: the author of this novel is the ex-husband of a good friend of mine. This review is purely for my own interest, and not intended for promotional purposes).
I'm not a huge fan of shock fiction - you read one Chuck Palahniuk novel, you can plot out the next ones fairly easily. And while I appreciate postmodernism, I find most of the efforts in that direction dubious at best. Pynchon is an attention-starved bore; Vonnegut had a moment of brilliance and then got tweedy; Tom Robbins is annoyingly self-righteous and earnest. David Foster Wallace is a shining exception, but even he gets off on his own cleverness at times. Ultimately the cardinal sin of these authors is that, for all their razzle-dazzle, they forget to just shut up and tell a story.
Rapedome is different. Out of obscurity comes an author who finally makes postmodern literature fun.
Just from the title, you can tell Houston is here to rattle some cages. The plot revolves …

Why do reptiles want to be mammals?

That's an odd name for a post, and I'm aware that my amateur status opens me up for all kinds of criticism; I'm a dabbler, not a scientist. The reader could also infer a sort of "mammalian chauvinism", i.e. the concept of evolution that divides nature into "higher" and "lower" forms, with the "lower" forms all striving to become more mammal (read: human)-like. This is the sort of 19th-century thinking that produced the "evolutionary dead-end" fallacy about dinosaurs, arguing that the most successful and long-lived tetrapod family on the face of the earth was simply too dim-witted and sluggish to survive. We now know these creatures to have been intelligent, dynamic, and adaptable in their own right - in fact, they live among us today in bird form. Our mammalian ascendancy, when you get down to it, is down to sheer luck.

At the same time, as I survey the record of life, I can't help but notice some odd patterns emerging …

Comic Book Review: Wet Moon by Sophie Campbell

I'm back to reviewing stuff! That's right, folks...every so often, whenever I feel like it, I review some comics or books or movies or whatever that I think are either really good, really bad, or just important. For my first review in a long time, here's Wet Moon by Sophie Campbell.

Wet Moon
Book 1: Feeble Wanderings
Sophie Campbell
Oni Press

I was handed Wet Moon Book 1: Feeble Wanderings by a friend with little introduction except a mysterious look, a kind of sidelong glance that could indicate mischief or apprehension. Glancing at the cover, I was immediately struck by the fact that, despite showing its main character, this image and title gave away absolutely nothing. Who is this cute, pudgy goth babe? Why does she appear to be shrinking from encroaching blackness, yet leaning forward with a hungry, curious look? What the heck does "Wet Moon" mean?
Whatever it means, this is one hell of a weird, funny, haunting comic...and gives new meaning to the phrase, "Sou…