Thursday, July 25, 2013
The Forgery of the Old Testament and Other Essays, Joseph McCabe. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1993. e-book, 139 pps.
Joseph McCabe (1867-1955) was an Franciscan priest in the U.K. who after a time found his faith lacking and turned atheist. He was a prolific writer of scholarly critiques on religious subjects. His many essays appeared in a series of "little blue books". The essays in this book were first published in 1926 and 1927.
This book presents Joseph McCabe's thoughts-- and a bit of his research-- on the Bible, the question of eternal life, and the truthfulness of religious scholars. He proposes that monks and scholars had their hands and inkwells close by the books that we now know of as the bible and that these books were significantly altered. Joseph McCabe was proficient at reading Hebrew. He stated that some of the Old Testament was plucked from Babylonian legends or Persian legends, some was a re-manufactured rendition of historical events which become quite something else in their re-telling, and that the older manuscripts demonstrate several versions of Hebrew and thus were written in different time periods. He correctly pointed out that Old Hebrew, Middle Hebrew, and Modern Hebrew-- similar to Old English, Middle English, and Modern English-- were clearly distinguishable from each other. Because they appear to follow each other in some number of Old Testament books [or Hebrew Bible as it is referred to today], the supposition that each book was written by one author during a specific time period cannot be supported. What most people think they know of the early Hebrews and development of Judaism ain't necessarily so. Religious scholars attempt to appease the masses by pointing out what McCabe referred to as "kernels of truth." History has been falsified throughout the Old Testament. Anyone who uses the Hebrew Bible as an accurate history would do well to read some Joseph McCabe.
sapphoq reviews says: Joseph McCabe's work has certainly earned its place in the library of any knowledgeable skeptic interested in religious questions. Although bits of the vocabulary is outdated by virtue of when he lived and published, there is much to be gained from reading his words. His arguments demonstrating exactly how Christianity's most sacred books came into being and how playing loose with the truth had a hand in the creation of those books certainly deserves a careful perusal by skeptics, rational thinkers, non-theists and Christians alike. Highly recommended.
The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom, Slavomir Rawicz. Guilford, Ct.: Globe Pequot Press, 2010. e-book, 253 pps.
Slavomir Rawicz, Lieutenant of the Polish Cavalry, was arrested on November 19, 1939 at his home during a party welcoming him home. He had barely gotten in the doorway and managed a few hellos before the Soviet Secret Police came for him. His supposed crime was espionage. After spending a miserable year in the Lubyanka hellhole, Rawicz was given a three day trial. At the end of the trial, he was sentenced to twenty five years of hard labor. He was briefly returned to Lubyanka.
The next several months found Slavomir Rawicz rounded up along with other political prisoners into a train of cattle cars with standing room only, and then a rough march through part of the wintry and bitter cold Siberia to Camp Number 303. A chance conversation with an Ostyak in Russian got Rawicz seriously thinking about escape.
Deliberately, Rawicz plotted the escape. Six other prisoners joined him. Together they walked down the side of the then Soviet Union, through parts of Mongolia and then Tibet, and into British India. The landscape was forbidding. Starvation was a perpetual companion. Through the hospitality of many poor villagers, Rawicz and his buddies were enabled to carry on.
Not everyone survived. Among those that did was one American. The American had been arrested and subsequently denied his right to contact the American Embassy. The band of escaped prisoners were pretty beat up by time they reached India and help. Rawicz had intentions of returning to Poland immediately to continue fighting the war. He hadn't realized how much in need he was of medical attention and recovery. Having lost everything, Rawicz did return to fighting in the war. He never had contact with his companions again.
sapphoq reviews says: I appreciated the immense history behind this book. The events did not occur in a vacuum, but rather with the distinct backdrop of World War Two. The Long Walk gave me a real sense of what it might be like to live in the Soviet Union during wartime, when the Secret Police snatched people up with impunity and carted them off to various Soviet prisons and concentration camps. What Slavomir Rawicz and his comrades went through in fleeing from Siberia is a tale that left me with both a certain grittiness and a deep admiration for them. Highly recommended.
Solomon's Oak, Jo-Ann Mapson. New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2010.
Solomon's Oak is an outstanding novel. From the first pages, I was transported into the life of Glory Solomon, a widow still grieving for her husband. She has money problems and hits on an ingenious way to address the bills coming in. She hosts a wedding in the chapel which her late husband built. In the midst of the festivities, a social worker drops off Juniper, a teen with a bit of an attitude and nowhere else to go. Glory's camera quits and a guy named Joseph with a camera happens to wander through, saving the day. What happens afterwards is a delight.
sapphoq reviews says: I found much about this book to love. The lyrical language and vivid descriptions in Solomon's Oak transported me almost immediately into the world of the small Californian farming community. The characters were well-drawn and likeable. Each character had a history and a family history attached. There was a flavor of Mexico throughout the book and I found that to be appealing. Even the farm animals were imbued with personalities and their own quirks. Every detail built up to the crescendo and then led me to a satisfying ending.
If you are seeking a fast-action book, look elsewhere. If you want a book that is far more than chick lit that is to be slowly read and savored, this is the book for you. Highly recommended.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Daylight Atheism, Adam Lee. self-published via Smashwords.com under Bigthink.com, 2012. e-book, 609 pps., with footnotes beginning on page 532.
note: Adam Lee's blog can currently be found here at:
and Adam Lee himself can be found on Twitter as @DaylightAtheism.
Atheists certainly aren't winning any popularity contests [as of yet]. There is an assumption that only a belief in a deity can provide an individual with a moral compass; that the atheist is void of any sense of goodness or direction. Atheists are denied the right to run for public office in some places, and sentenced to death in others. The atheist knows that false perceptions are harmful. Adam Lee has a blog from the perspective of an atheist and has followed up with a book by the same name.
Here in Adam Lee's own words, on pages 6 -7 from the Prologue of Daylight Atheism, are what an atheist is and what an atheist is not:
Yes, I am an atheist. No, I don't kick puppies or steal
candy from babies. I don't hate God, but I don't have
any secret desire to worship him either. Nor do I worship
Satan. I haven't had any bad personal experiences with a
church, nor did a religious person do something to hurt me
at some time in the past, nor did I have a bad relationship
with my father. I don't hate any country, and I'm not a
communist, an anarchist, a nihilist, or a moral relativist.
I don't want to outlaw religion. I'm not angry or depressed.
In fact, I'm a person just like you. You probably wouldn't
recognize me as an atheist if you passed me on the street.
But I am indeed an atheist. What this means, very simply,
is that I don't believe in any gods. ...they're all imaginary--
mere products of the human imagination and nothing more.
Adam Lee goes on to address the objections to atheism-- apologetics, superstition, synchronicity of all belief systems into an uneasy product and why that fails, which god, facts and interpretations, logical fallacies-- and also the advantages and hope that atheism holds out to the world. It is heady stuff. Adam Lee handles many threads of information rather well. His arguments are logical and easily understood. He is knowledgeable about both religions and atheism.
sapphoq reviews says: Fans of Adam Lee's blog Daylight Atheism will feel quite at home here with his book. Those who tend toward fundamentalism more than likely will not find anything good in its pages and that is a pity. Those mystics who scour the internet for references to Jesus and anti-Jesus in order to defend their god against "personal" attacks will likely want to stage a book burning with this book as the center.
Folks who might be interested in gaining a better understanding of what it is like to be an atheist in today's present-day society would do well to read this book. Common myths are easily shattered. The disadvantages to using mysticism as a basis for belief along with literal interpretations of old texts are carefully delineated here.
Atheists as a whole tend to be well-informed about various religious teachings and sects and their sacred books-- sometimes better informed than the believers. There is no use of ad hominem in Daylight Atheism. Athough some believers on Twitter and elsewhere degenerate into name-calling on a regular basis, Adam Lee sticks to arguments from reason.
Highly recommended for thinking high school students on up to the most ardent believer and the most dedicated atheist alike.
Two Lines, Melissa Marr. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2011.
In this short story authored by Melissa Marr, Eavan is a young woman caught up in a world not of her choosing. Her mother is a glastig and her dad is human. Eve is human and wishes to stay that way. For a hobby, she is chasing a human fellow named Daniel around. He is an evil dude who turns women into zombies. Eve wants to stop him. She does rescue a woman from time to time and then dumps them on her hawt bisexual glastig friend Muriel. Eve's granny Nyx is a bit put out by her granddaughter's behavior. Glastigs are supposed to live together in a communal heap but Eve refuses, and furthermore is resistant to the idea of losing her humanity. If Eve has sex and makes a kill within a month, she will become what she considers to be a monster.
sapphoq reviews says: I found Two Lines to be a very satisfying short story. The characters have personality and spunk. The predator Daniel operates like predators do. Eve is resourceful and finds a way to do what must be done. Those readers who are in early stages of recovering from sexual assault may find this offering to be too triggering. Recommended. Fans of Melissa Marr's gothic fantasy style will especially love this and will want to read more of Eaven in the future. I know that I certainly do.
The Rapture of the Nerds: A tale of the singularity, posthumanity, and awkward social situations, Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow. New York: Doherty, Tom Associates, L.L.C., 2012
Huw Jones is sort of a Luddite. He's not really into helping to build a Mothership in order to leave the planet Earth and technology behind. But he certainly doesn't want to upload into the Cloud, like so many of his contemporaries are doing, leaving his dead body behind him. His parents are rather opposite in their worldview and indeed have done so, dumping him for the wild hedonism and freedom promised by the Singularity. Huw Jones likes his body and his appearance just fine, thank you.
But there is a party and an ex whose name is Bonnie. And a sort of traveling tattoo that insinuates itself on Huw's forehead and several other places, a call to jury duty, and an unwelcome gadget that deep throats Huw without permission. Huw it turns out is a fall guy.
There are fundamentalist post-rapture christians who have their own designs for Huw, a Libyan courtroom, and a djinn in a teapot. Many djinns in teapots as it turns out. Huw is forced by the circumstances to rent out his bicycle, a symbol to him of Luddite pride to a sort of hippie going off into the desert with two beautiful women. His bike is like an old friend. His old friends and party buddies appear at times to not be trustworthy. And Huw is forced to go to the one place that he doesn't want to go to.
sapphoq reviews says: Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow have produced a winning entry in cyperpunk fiction. Huw Jones is a different kind of character than the ones we are used to Cory Doctorow creating, yet I liked him just the same. There are several exciting scenes-- including ejection over a swamp somewhere in the Carolinas-- which add to the twists of this novel. This is the stuff that I can relate to. Keeping in mind that both authors write for audiences which are technologically sophisticated, absolutely highly recommended for the hip and the anti-Luddite crowd.
Monday, July 15, 2013
Into the Abyss: An Extraordinary True Story, Carol Shaben. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2012 and 2013. e-book, 295 pps. with footnotes, bibliography, and pictures.
Four men survived a snowy plane crash in 1984. Six passengers died. The plane was a small commuter plane that was flying in Northern Alberta on an icy and snowy night. The author Carol Shaben is the daughter of one of the survivors. Larry Shaben is a politician. The other three survivors are the young pilot Eric Vogel, a cop by the name of Scott Deschamps and his prisoner Paul Archambault. Carol Shaben's dad never talked much about the crash. So she had to find out from the others what happened.
The pilot worked for a small company. The pressure was on to deliver, to fly in all kinds of weather regardless of safety issues, to keep the little planes running. So in spite of his misgivings, Eric Vogel flew the commuter plane as scheduled. A series of mishaps added up to the disaster. The four spent a bit of time out in the snow near the wrecked hull of the plane until rescue came.
Once rescue came, things did not go back to the way they were before. There was a brutal inquisition ahead for the pilot and the company. The prisoner went on to some hard times. He managed to clean up his life a bit but in the end, it wasn't enough. The four survivors continued a friendship of sorts. Even so, their lives remained touched by the tragedy.
sapphoq reviews says: Carol Shaben has researched and written an excellent book about the plane crash that her father and three other men survived. Although it dragged in places out of necessity-- certain aviation regs have to be explained to the general audience in order to make sense of the aftermath-- Into the Abyss offers a snapshot of four lives frozen in time long after they emerged from the wilderness. For those who like true stories about survival, highly recommended.
The Book of Nonsense: Sacred Books, Volume 1, David Michael Slater. Austin, Tx.: CBay Books, 2011 and 2008. e-book, 125 pps.
I've enjoyed several books of late featuring creepy bookstores. David Michael Slater's offering for middle school students and tweens is sure to satisfy. Daphna and David Wax are twins. Their dad Milton is a book hunter and is away all too frequently hunting up rare books in foreign places. Mum died many years ago. David is upset by Milton's absences. He deals with it by going off on his own. Daphna shares Milton's love of old books. When the Antiquarian Book Center [A.B.C.] opens up near their home, she can't wait to tell Milton about it.
It is just before the twins' thirteenth birthday when Milton returns from a trip. Predictably, David has vacated the premises. Daphna can't wait to show her dad the new A.B.C. Milton has brought home a rare book. Together they take it to the bookstore. But things don't quite go as planned. A.B.C. specializes in magic books. The magic swirling around the store owner and his assistant is not the pleasant kind.
sapphoq reviews says: David Michael Slater shines at developing realistic and interesting characters. During the story, we are introduced to a group of oldsters at a nearby home that Daphna reads to weekly, Latona Pellonia or Latty who is the housekeeper for the Wax clan and rather overprotective of the twins, and some bullies who serve to humiliate Dexter. The bullies are quite realistic. The oldsters aren't, but they fit in quite well with the story. The Book of Nonsense builds in suspense to a satisfying conclusion. I liked it and I think middle school fans of fantasy and mystery will like it too. Highly recommended.
Sunday, July 07, 2013
Phoenix, Chuck Palahniuk. San Francisco: Byliner Fiction, 2013. e-book, 27 pps.
I first became aware of Chuck Palahniuk when my buddy Walt recommended that I read Fight Club. I read it and I liked it, finding the writing to be edgy and satisfying. I am definitely a Chuck Palahniuk fan.
Phoenix is a delightfully evil little short story about a jilted wife named Rachel who had plotted revenge on Ted, her crappy husband and his cat Belinda Carlisle. As a result of Ted's refusal to give up his greasy feline, Toxoplasma gondii was transmitted to their offspring April as a fetus and she was born blind.
Interspersed between the telling of the tale of revenge, Rachel-- who is away from Seattle on business in Orlando-- becomes increasingly concerned over the well-being of April. April has been refusing to speak to her mother on the phone all week. There is possibly a dog.
sapphoq reviews says: I enjoyed Phoenix. It is an excellent taste of Chuck Palahniuk's brusque and raw style. Highly recommended to all but the most wussy and genteel readers.
Friday, July 05, 2013
Love Struck, Melissa Marr. New York: Harper Teen (Harper-Collins Publishers), 2011/ 2008. e-book, 53 pps. [previews of two novels begin on page 28].
Melissa Marr can be found on twitter as @melissa_marr .
Love Struck is a delightful short story about a high school student named Alana. She lives near the beach with her mother. Alana is at a beach party when a hot stud puts the make on her. She refuses the offer of his jacket and just wants him to go away. Spooked, Alana leaves the party and walks by the ocean. There is a hawt surfer guy out in the waves who speaks to her. His name is Murrin. Very quickly, but not quickly enough, Alana realizes what Murrin is.
sapphoq reviews says: Love Struck is a cute romantic short by Melissa Marr. The imagery was satisfying and I was able to insert myself into the goings on. Although considered to be for teens, this one is bound to satisfy any woman who likes the ocean and who is not looking for hot adult sex action. Highly recommended.
Wednesday, July 03, 2013
You've Been Hacked: 15 Hackers You Hope Your Computer Never Meets, William Webb. Anaheim, Ca.: Absolute Crime, 2013. e-book, 74 pps.
A very short read. Nothing new here. The continued villification of hackers in general (except for Sami Kamkar). History was taken mainly from Wikipedia with other citations included. What I would have liked to read was actual conversations or interviews with the hackers included in the pages.
sapphoq reviews says: Skip this one.
The Absolute Crime website does offer at this time seven free e-books in PDF and e-pub form. Get them here at : http://www.absolutecrime.com/free-books.html
Monday, July 01, 2013
Seeing Voices, Oliver Sacks. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group/ Vintage Books (Random House), 2013/ 1989.
e-book, 207 pps. extensive Notes begin on page 109.
I remember when Signing Exact English (S.E.E.) was all the rage. The educators were screaming that deaf kids had no sense of syntax when writing because in Ameslan, the word order is different from English. What those same educators did not say was that although most deaf kids can catch on to S.E.E., the deaf community as a whole rejected it because communicating in S.E.E. was tiring to many deaf adults. Before Signing Exact English was the rage, oralism-- forcing deaf kids to communicate by voice and using speech reading only-- was the educational order of the day. At some point, teachers [who were mostly not deaf, sigh, because deaf teachers were shut out routinely from advocating for the deaf kids] combined S.E.E. with oralism.
Fortunately, the deaf community began to have a real voice. When the college students at Gallaudet protested, demanding a deaf president to replace one that had resigned, the selection committee was forced to listen. The students had organized, and shut down the campus for seven days. Ameslan has been recognized as its' own language instead of some kind of inferior communication crutch. Deaf teachers and professors began to get into the mix of education jobs which involved running classrooms for deaf kids. There are two deaf acting troupes that I know of.
I've had contact with deaf high school students at a state-run residential school. They boarded there during the week and went home on weekends. At the time, I thought that forcing kids to go to a boarding school was awful and wrong. Oliver Sacks in his book Seeing Voices enlightened me on that subject. Many deaf kids are fairly isolated in their home communities. Exposure to other signing kids in the dorms becomes a wonderful thing.
Oliver Sacks related quite a bit of history of deaf culture and of educating the deaf. Tying in neurology with his subject, Sacks illustrated how syntax arises naturally out of the brain. The kids forced to learn S.E.E. were able to learn syntax. Older deaf kids and deaf adults exposed to S.E.E. later in life have problems with it. Deaf aphasics had different problems with Ameslan and placement of signs than non-aphasics. Those who learn sign as a secondary language, rather than as a primary one, never quite achieve the fluency and the nuances available to the deaf kids who began learning signs as young babies. Sacks himself came to studying deafness late in his career but I am glad that he did.
sapphoq reviews says: Seeing Voices is an excellent, albeit too short, read. I enjoyed this book and I think anyone with a deaf relative or friend should read it along with the classics in deaf studies. Highly recommended.