You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


M. T. Anderson's Feed is a science fiction novel about a future that has become completely consumed by commercialism. Everyone's life is essentially manipulated by corporate interests. Education is done by School(tm), an organization whose only purpose is to ready young people for a lifetime of consumerism. Everyone is attached to the feed, a source of information and entertainment much like the Internet but more direct and more useful for sharing dumb shows and texting friends.

Titus is a shallow high schooler who travels to the Moon with his friends and meets a girl he likes named Violet. Soon they are attacked by a hacker who damages their feed connections. They all recover except for Violet, whose nervous system starts to degrade as the feed connection wears down. As he abilities fail, she tries to connect to Titus, but he ends up rejecting her, choosing his fellow shallow friends over the pain of watching her succumb.

Violet is a bit of a rebel in the world. She tries to fight the commercial tide of the feed by examining many different products but not buying them, so that the feed cannot get an accurate picture of her consumer profile. She actually reads about events going on in the world and is dismayed when Titus and his friends have not idea what she's talking about. The other teens think she is snooty and that she rubs their face in their ignorance.

Violet does not receive the proper treatment for her damaged connection due to her not being a "good investment" for the company that supports it, her actions ironically leading to her helplessness. Titus' family, just as shallow and empty-headed as he is, decides to offer him a new car to make him feel better about things, but it's just another empty vessel.

There are lots of humorous and head-shaking passages in the book. Clearly the author has taken the worst parts of today's culture and extended them to create a future of empty consumers instead of citizens. Nobody in the society cares about anything except their next purchase or how to fit in. Styles change so fast that people change clothes and hair almost every day. Trees are destroyed to make room for an oxygen factory. The president spouts nonsense and nobody seems to notice (unfortunately, not so strange an occurrence in today's world).

The characters are shallow, but that's part of the point--they are a part of a shallow world. Titus is unable to form a real connection to Violet, whom he still sees as an oddity in his world. In the end he winds up going down the same path he was already heading down, as just another empty head looking for something else to buy to fulfill himself. B+

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Modern Scholar: Classical Mythology: The Greeks

I picked up this lecture series on Greek mythology because I've always been interested in myths, especially the Greek myths. These myths are the foundation of much of Western literature, starting with the Iliad and the Odyssey. Professor Meineck, whom I discovered in the series on Greek drama, does a great job illustrating the great arc of Greek mythology.

First there's an overview of mythology and ways of looking at myths. The professor discusses the ways that myths worked in the ancient world. One of my favorite ideas is that myths are always fluid and there are often many versions of the same myth.

Much of mythology stems from the creation myths and Zeus' fear that he will be overthrown by his son as he overthrew his father.

Nearly everything ties to the Trojan War or its aftermath. I was intrigued by the fate of Agamemnon and the contrast to the fate of Odysseus. The professor details both of their returns. He also describes the myths of the cities and ties them to events in history. Even though I was already familiar with the myths, I found this series to be most illuminating. I think it should be required listening. It's a definite A.