A Simple Christmas: Twelve Stories That Celebrate the True Holiday Spirit

by Mike Huckabee

Another Saturday, another review.

This is the second book I ever got signed by the author (I have that R. A. Salvatore book ’round here somewhere…). Like I have noted before, I picked it up before the clemency insanity started (which has seemed to more-or-less blown over until Huck decides to run for office again). In a sense, it was rather surreal reading this book after the blogosphere episode.

The premise is that Huck goes through an autobiographical look at his Christmases to help us focus on the true meaning of Christmas: the miracle of Christ’s incarnation and how that should unite us to Him and each other. A good message simply spoken.

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Read a Book!: Tea Chings

December 7, 2009

Tea Chings:The Tea and Herb Companion

by The Republic of Tea

Again, the Huckabee book got delayed, this time by my tea order, which included this book. And, yes, the company actually claims to have written the book as a corporate entity. And, yes, the pun is quite intentional; they use it at every turn.

A side note, I like Republic of Tea’s shtick. It’s filled with visions of British colonialism instead of the usual irritating hippie route that most American based tea companies take (I’m looking at you, Yoga Tea!). Making me feel like one of the ultra-rich overlords of some imperialistic tea plantation while I sip my full-leaf is half the fun.

Unfortunately, this book has two pretty glaring flaws. One, it offers very little information I did not already discover when I tried to figure out just how I wanted to get me some full-leaf tea. Sure, it gave me a few ideas on how else to brew iced tea (Mason jar on a windowsill) and a couple of tea varietals I want to try (exemplia gratia, Pu-Erh), but most of the contents of the book I have already found on the Interwebs for free.

The second one, in retrospect, I should have already imagined. Beneath that imperialist veneer lies the cold, lifeless void of the hippies. This is especially apparent in the herbal section, which regularly takes stabs at Western civilization while praising various herbs in their medicinal uses.

Mayhaps the reason why good tea is so under-drank in America is the fact that, no matter what route you take, you are supporting liberal ideology.Whether it is the relatively independent Yogi Teas that make it overt, the Starbucks owned Tazo Teas, the British tea companies steeped in the status quo of Euro-socialism, or my very own Republic, you just cannot escape their liberal claws. I mean, they are called “Tea Parties” based on an event of people resisting the liberal establishment, not because they actually drink it.

It is good to “read against one’s type”, however. If you know absolutely nothing about what goes into a proper cup of tea and consider your time more valuable than $19.95, it is a quick read (I got my book on Friday afternoon and finished it by Sunday).

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by John Hodgman

Obviously, I could not resist the siren’s song being emitted by Hodgman’s book.

I thought I reviewed the previous book in Hodgman’s fake almanac series (The Areas of My Expertise), but, apparently, I was mistaken. Or should I say that “More” (as it is abbreviated on the spine) is a continuation of the previous book? I mean, even the pagination continues from the first book.

Anyways, this book is filled with more facts Hodgman made up, but it is a little less enjoyable than the first. The page-a-day calendar stunt is a little off-putting and makes what could have been an interesting highlight of the book (Richmond, Virginia’s war to be declared Strange Rain Capital of the World) disjointed. The highlights from this book are less engaging than the previous ones (I mean, philosophe Mole-men instead of dust-storm summoning hobos? Really?).

All in all, though, Hodgman is the only Daily Show regular that is not a hack. Maybe, if enough people buy his book, they will replace John Stewart.

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Read a Book!: Brave New World

September 2, 2009

Brave New World

by Aldous Huxley

I do not quite remember who started my search to read this book (you remind me, I’ll give the appropriate tip of the hat), but I finally found it at a decent price (ironically enough, at the local used book store in Denton) and devoured it in 2 days.

Some of the criticisms aimed against the book are valid (a little too sex focused; what caste was the love interest in?), but the analogy is scarily apt. Big brother coming in the form of hedonistic instant gratification is a tempting beast; one only needs to look at America’s partial descent into it’s arms to see that. I probably would have enjoyed the book a little more if I did not read the forward (Huxley seemed to have missed his point on a couple of things), but it still was a good read.

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Sometimes, your roommate throws a book at you before leaving on a roadtrip to Omaha. Sometimes, that book is entitled “The History of Farting.” And, sometimes you just have to semi-liveblog about it.

Here at Liber Ex Machina, we have a policy to only liveblog about inconsequential things. And reading a book about farting is as inconsequential as one can get. So, as soon as I get set up after stopping my computer from asking me to reset it, I will get started.

Okay, so that 5 minute break turned into a 2 hour one, filled with showering, Price is Right, Jeopardy, and lunch, but I am about to get started. Let’s get the “judging a book by it’s cover” thing done first. I note that the roommate paid a whooping $3.98 for this classic piece of literature. I also note that the author’s name is supposedly “Dr. Benjamin Bart”. Teehee; “Bart” rhymes with “fart”.

On that note, I am going to have a running tally of me laughing like a schoolyard boy over potty-humor words. Current count: 1.

I will start reading 12:10 local time, posting in huge typed chunks. Spelling will be checked at the end.

12:11 (page 7)- Heehee. Anus.

12:13 (page 10)- Heehee. Rip (Giggle count:3)

12:14 (page 11)- How could that lady blow up a cow with a fart? Tell me! Oh, wait. It is an unpictured Fred who blew up a cow with a fart. That makes sense.

12:17 (page 19)- I think Carruthers smells like that all the time. Don’t you?

12:19 (page 23)- Chapter 1 done.

12:20 (page 24)- What is a dunny? Anybody know? Is it the same thing as a loo? I’ll just assume and move on.

12:24 (page 38)- Heehee. Rump. Eww… lump. (Giggle count:4)

12:25 (page 39)- What does it mean when Descartes farts? A question for the ages.

12:26 (page 40)- War crimes!

12:28 (page 49)- Chapter 2 done. Going to take a quick break to handle some comments.

12:30- Back. Heehee; back.

12:32 (page 52)- Heehee. Rectum. (gigglecount: 5)

12:35 (page 59)- Chapter 3 done. Rather lame chapter about a vaudeville farter. On to Chapter 4!

12:36 (page 60)- Hooray! Back to limericks!

12:38 (page 65)- Eww… Horrible way to die.

12:39 (page 67)- Chapter 5 awaits. Ooooh. Physiology.

12: 41 (page 71)- How does one blow out the sidesof a nightgown with a fart? One would think the material would not hold in the pressure enough to take out the stitching. The path of least resistance would probably be typical wear points (the bum [hee; bum], mayhaps the knees).

12:46 (page 75)- Interesting. Borborygmus is fancy-smancy term for the gurgling sounds your digestive tracts make. Learn something new.

12:48 (page 82)- Chapter 5 down. Now to the glossary chapter.

12:51 (page 86-7)- Bathtub farts. Watch the gases be expelled in all it’s visual glory!

12:53 (page 88)- Lighting farts. Classic.

12:55 (page 92)- Dogs are not people. Dogs are dogs. One would think a doctor could tell the difference.

12:57 (page 96)- Hippie. Capitalize God, especially when you are thanking him for making elephants too big to be kept indoors.

1:01 (page 107)- I farted. While reading about the old Icelandic saying “everyone likes the smell of his own fart”. Ironic, is it not?

1:04 (page 114)- Kamikaze farters. This reminds me of part of my “cows trying to destroy us all” conspiracy theory. Remind me to talk about it one day.

1:10 (page 132)- I farted again. No real irony this time.

1:16 (page 147)- I need to start including “yuff” in my everyday language.

1:21 (page 159)- It makes perfect sense. Levitation acts are caused by massive farts! Magicians watched the yogis do it and caught on. Probably due to the smell.

1:22- and done.

Well, once you take the time out for typing and whatnot, I finished it in an hour. Mildly amusing. No scratch ‘n’ sniff section, fortunately or not. Good for a laugh or two.

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Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

by Jared Diamond

A coffee shop patron recommended it (saying it was life-changing) and I saw a 2003 paperback version on sale, so I got it.

The premise is certainly interesting. Mr. Diamond uses biogeography (the study of biological patterns across geographic patterns, if you need a working definition) to try to explain every difference in cultural advancement in every culture in human history. And, he mostly succeeds in his endeavour.

I have two problems with his execution, though. The first is his (in all fairness, expected) multicultural secular humanist perspective. While not going so far as some popular book writing intellectuals (he does admit that religion is useful for social cohesion), he still denies the divine spark and puts all cultures as equals. This makes his answer incomplete. Without that inclusion, he never answers why humanity tries to better itself (and, yes, moving from hunter-gatherer groups to modern society is an improvement on the human condition).

The other problem is that he wants to elevate the study of history to the methodology of his so-called “historical sciences” (evolution, anthropology, whatever the appropriate sub-fields in astronomy and geology are called, et cetera). This is a bad idea. He even admits in the middle of his argument that these “sciences” cannot follow the scientific method in the traditional sense. The idea that we let unverifiable “experiments” call itself science dilutes how the scientific method is supposed to work. There are limits to the method; we ignore them at own peril. In fact, his “historical sciences” should not be called science at all. It is bad enough we have to put up with political “science” case studies and the like; making speculative claims about history using science as snake-oil will make things worse.

It is certainly an interesting and dense read. Flawed, in my opinion for the reasons stated above, but interesting. It is always good to read against one’s type (if one can handle it).

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

I have not read the rough draft version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (that, for some reason, bookstores also sell), but I imagine it is much like other Victorian Era women’s literature: vapid, shallow teen and twenty-something girls having polite conversations with each other waiting for some guy to propose getting hitched with them. Jane Austen must have wanted to buck the trend with her final draft, so she asked for assistance from Seth Grahame-Smith, noted hippie and zombie lover. How does he help? He adds kung-fu training and battling zombies to the girls’ things to do. It improves the book significantly. I cannot imagine ever reading the rough draft.

It was a quick read (319 pages, less than 24 hours). I did not notice any major tell between Austen’s vapid writing and Grahame-Smith’s writing in tone (though it is kind of obvious in subject matter). And no zombie nightmares that usually occur when I read zombie-related materials. I enjoyed it (though mayhaps renting it from the library would be the way to go here; no need to give money to hippies and Victorian Era women’s literature authors).

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