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Monthly Archives: November 2012

100 Greatest Novels: 1984

I haven’t read this book since high school. I always enjoy comparing my thoughts on books when there is that much time in between reads. Then, I was seeing proof that the totalitarian government like in this novel was going to come about at anytime. Now, I don’t believe it as prophetic. The benefit of the novel is to show us what the political ideas of the early 1900s would be like taken to their extreme. What would Nazi Germany or Communist Russia be like if they had complete control over the world, the people, and to an extent, the thoughts of the people?

20121130-083708.jpg1984 follows Winston Smith, a member of the government party that isn’t sold on ingsoc, English Socialism. His antigovernment thoughts becomes little rebellious actions (buying a journal, for example). With telescreens in every room and Thought Police in every crowd to watch and listen to you, Smith can only go so long like this. He already considers himself a dead man. Then he finds love.

As for the world of 1984, there is now 3 countries: Oceania, Euraisa, and Eastaisa. The are perpetually at war with one another. Big Brother is the leader of Oceania and his posters are everywhere with the caption, “Big Brother is Watching.” The motto of Oceania is “WAR IS PEACE, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY.” Winstom Smith lives in London, Oceania, and works for the Ministry of Truth. His job: change historic records to fit the needs of the government. Somebody is “disappeared?” They need to be erased from any records, newspapers, everything. Telescreens are in every room and can see and hear everything that you’re doing. Anybody could be an informant of questionable behaviour. Sounds pretty nice, eh? Utopia…

I’m a huge fan of George Orwell’s writing. No matter what topic he is covering, humorous or otherwise, he writes in such a clear, crisp language. He can say so much in so little. He can drag you into any scene with the fewest descriptive words. Whether he’s telling you about the Spanish civil war in Homage to Catalonia or being incredibly poor in Down and Out in London and Paris, he has a powerful ability of storytelling with all the wit, humor, and emotion needed. I recommend picking up any of his books.

1984 is number 13 in the 100 greatest novels. Next, I’m reading I, Claudius by Robert Graves.

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Posted by on November 30, 2012 in 100 Greatest Novels, Literature

 

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100 Greatest Novels: Under the Volcano & The Way of All Flesh

Sorry for the short break since the last “100 Greatest Novels” post. I had to wait for Under the Volcano to come out on the Kindle. Anyways, let’s get back to it.

Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

I’ve never heard of Malcolm Lowry before this. Even with being #11 on the 100 greatest novels, it’s not an incredibly popular novel. Under the Volcano is the story of Geoffrey Firmin, a British consul living in Mexico and fighting alcohol addiction. It’s an incredibly accurate (as far as I know) description of alcoholism and the effects different types of alcohol has on a person. Interesting love triangle, interesting back story. What really blew me away was the last two chapters. Entailing the same one hour period or so from two points of view, the second to last chapter follows Geoffrey’s wife and is pretty quick while the last chapter follows Geoffrey and fleshes out everything that happens in that hour. It’s intense.

The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler

Until now, I have never heard of this book or author. I’m very glad to have been introduced. This novel is about Ernest Pontifex (and the 3 generations preceding him). It follows most of his life from childhood to priesthood to author, from faith to disbelief, and all the lessons in between. What made this semi-autobiographical novel so powerful wasn’t the story or the “hero” but the narrator, Mr. Overton, Ernest’s godfather. His narration, his humor, wit, and insight made the book just incredibly enjoyable to read. His disdain for some characters and his unforgiving interest in others pushes the novel forward no matter how interesting the story or protagonist is at the moment. I highly recommend this book and will be looking into some of Samuel Butler’s other works very soon.

Up next is 1984 by George Orwell. It’s been a while since I’ve read this novel so I’m looking forward to getting back into it. Thanks for sticking with me.


 
 

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist

White rapper from Seattle with Irish heritage…

Doesn’t sound promising, huh? Well, think again.

I’d like for you to meet Macklemore and his producer, Ryan Lewis. They independently released their debut album, The Heist, this year to surprisingly huge fanfare. The album went to number one on iTunes the night it was released. It also gained high praise from the likes of Hip Hop DX, Soul Culture, and XXL.

Macklemore is a poet. He’s one of the most honest rappers you’ll ever hear. Whether he’s speaking about his past drug addiction, his forays into the music business, gay marriage, or thrift shopping, he’s speaking as truthfully as you’ll ever hear in any genre.

The album’s production is top notch. To save money, they used no samples, bringing in numerous singers and instrumentalist to record the tracks. This also led to the discovery of great local musicians like Mary Lambert, Wanz, and Allen Stone (to name a few standouts for me). Ben Birdwell, this singer of Band of Horses, also performs on the track Starting Over. This is an incredibly moving song about him falling off the bandwagon after being clean and sober for a few years:

But before I can make it somebody stops me and says are you Macklemore?
Maybe, this isn’t the place or time
I just wanted to say that if it wasn’t for “Other Side” I wouldn’t have made it
I just look down at the ground and say thank you
She tells me she has 9 months and that she’s so grateful
Tears in her eyes, looking like she’s gonna cry.. fuck!
I barely got 48 hours, treated like I’m some wise monk
I wanna tell her I relapsed but I can’t
I just shake her hand and tell her congrats

The whole song is an emotional roller-coaster about the heartache of relapsing. Well, before you get too depressed, let me show you their humorous side. Here’s Thrift Shop, a song about everything you’d imagine it would be with a name like that:

The song that originally blew me way, that first told me Macklemore was different, was Same Love. When I heard this, I had to play it over and over so the words could sink into my soul. It’s such a powerful statement, a game changer for someone in hip-hop to take a stand like this. Plus, the music video is just beautiful:

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2012 in Music Review

 

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Why I Voted for Obama

I wasn’t planning on talking about politics too much on this blog. I think meaningful debates are impossible behind the keys of the keyboard. But I did want to be clear about who I voted for and why. Read through my reasons, check out the linked articles, and feel free to comment on why you disagree. I most likely won’t reply to the comment but I will read all that you post and any articles you link. Let’s do this.

1. I am glad Obama has ended the war in Iraq and brought the focus back on the war in Afghanistan (and eliminating Bin Laden). I think Obama takes the right approach in foreign affairs and is a very calculated, clear thinker when it comes to difficult decisions that need to be made. Military leaders from both sides of the aisle have had high praise for his leadership. I also agree with his stance on ending “enhanced interrogation” (torture). Note: I do disagree with his use of drone strikes.

2. I was overjoyed to see the unjust law of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repealed. Any citizen that has the desire to fight for our country and our freedoms should be free to be open about who they are. They should not have to lie. Also, studies have shown that the repeal of DADT has had no negative effect on our fighting forces.

3. Obama becoming the first sitting President to vocalize his support for gay marriage was an incredible step towards equality. Every tax-paying citizen should be equal under the law and banning gays from marriage denies them over 1000 rights that Halie and I will enjoy once we’re married. No religious argument can be used against gay marriage because we are a secular society that is open to all religions (and lack thereof). Christians would not want Jews outlawing pork or Muslims outlawing alcohol. Also, Obama has extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

4. I think Obama’s Affordable Care Act was a major step in the right direction. I think it has its flaws and these flaws can be fixed. Repealing and “replacing” is not the answer because we would lose so many great things from Obamacare with no guarantee of any serious replacement. I would lose my healthcare, people with preexisting conditions would too. Women would go back to being charged more. Ezra Klein has a great article about what is at stake when Romney talks of repealing Obamacare.

5. I believe Obama’s plan to continue the Bush tax cuts for everybody except those making $250,000 or more in taxable income is the right thing to do. Our tax rates for the wealthiest are at some of the lowest points ever and it is a contributing factor to our debt being so large. There is no proof cutting taxes for the richest few lead to more jobs and trickle down economics has never and will never work. Job creation happens in the middle class and we need to support them. Obama has.

6. Obama’s policies have made strides in women’s rights. From not being charged more in health care plans to the Lily Ledbetter Act, women are better off because of Obama. He also increased funding for the Violence Against Women Act.

7. Worried about jobs? Obama has created more private sector jobs in 2010 alone than Bush did in all of his 8 years. Obama has had 32 months of job growth totaling over 5 million private sector jobs. And this is also with Republicans blocking many attempts they’ve made at passing jobs acts (even the Veteran’s Jobs Act!).

8. He has done much to help young Americans in college and recently graduated. He’s significantly expanded Pell grants. Mentioned earlier, Obamacare allows people to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan until they’re 26. Not free healthcare but better access to healthcare to help the recently graduated until they get a steady job where they can afford healthcare. I currently fall under this category and am very glad for this. So when Romney speaks of repealing Obamacare, I hear him speaking about taking away my insurance.

9. We need a strong federal government. I don’t trust a politician that runs for a position (job) in the federal government by saying it is evil or it does not create jobs. Maybe so, but it sure created your job, Mr. Politician. Recent events in the Northeast have reminded us that in times of need, there needs to be a leader there to help. State aid is fine for state issues but when there is a disaster that is across many states, we need an organization (FEMA) to coordinate aid and to help the states cover the cost. All of us have the potential of having natural disasters at home and there’s a good chance we’ll need these aids one day.

Conclusion: I am proud that I voted for Obama in 2008. I am proud of what he has accomplished in 4 years. And I was proud to vote for him again. He is just a man, he has his flaws. I have disagreed with decisions he’s made. I have wished him to focus on some other issues that I deem important. That said, he has taken our country out of the Great Recession and has put us back on the road to recovery. He’s made large strides in the ongoing fight for equality. All of this in the face of historic pushback, racism, misinformation, and right out lies from the other side.

Here’s a quick video of what President Obama accomplished in his first term:

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2012 in Politics

 

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