Ideas and Society Newsletter for June
Science and literature appear together in this newsletter every month, but this month sees an attempt at breaking down the science of literature in Plotto. It has drawn some cynicism, see this thread for example, but it is a very interesting idea. Elsewhere in our new additions are plenty more interesting ideas, including a fast-paced retelling of the Lincoln assassination, “humanure” and tips for writing for the web – perhaps I should’ve dipped in before starting on this paragraph!
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It’s often the bad guys and girls who make the most impression on us as we read – the wicked are always more interesting. Creating realistic villians and manipulative, scheming women will give your story a real punch and give you hours of harmless fun. It is, however, quite an art, and Jessica Page Morrell’s book will give you invaluable help.
Bullies, bastards & bitches : how to write the bad guys of fiction / Jessica Page Morrell.
“Get to Know Your Character’s Sinister Side. A truly memorable antagonist is not a one-dimensional super villain bent on world domination for no particular reason. Realistic, credible bad guys create essential story complications, personalize conflict, add immediacy to a story line, and force the protagonist to evolve. From mischief-makers to villains to arch nemeses,Bullies, Bastards & Bitchesshows you how to create nuanced bad guys who are indispensable to the stories in which they appear. Bullies, Bastards & Bitchesis your all-encompassing bad-guy compendium to tapping into any character’s dark side.” – (adapted from Globalbooksinprint.com summary)
Plotto : the master book of all plots / by William Wallace Cook.
“Plot suggestions for writers of fiction. A classic how-to manual, William Wallace CooksPlottois one writers personal method, painstakingly diagrammed for the benefit of others. The theory itself may be simple “Purpose opposed by Obstacle yields Conflict” but Cook takes his “Plottoist” through hundreds of situations and scenarios, guiding the readers hand as a dizzying array of purposes and obstacles come to a head. Cooks method is broken down into three stages: First, the master plot. This four-page chart distills the most basic plot points into a three-line sentence. Next, the conflict situation. Each master plot leads the reader to a list of circumstances, distributed among 20 different conflict groups (these range from Loves Beginning to Personal Limitations to Transgression). There are over 2,000 unique conflict situations in the book, and each is cross-referenced with designs for how the situation might have started, or where it might go. Finally, there are character combinations Cook offers an extensive index of protagonists, each cross-referenced with various supporting players themselves tied to various conflict situations, for what appears to be an inexhaustible reservoir of suggestions and inspiration.” – (adapted from Globalbooksinprint.com summary)
Writing for the web : creating compelling web content using words, pictures, and sound / Lynda Felder.
“With Writing for the Web, you’ll learn everything you need to know to create effective Web content using words, pictures, and sound. Follow along as instructor and write Lynda Felder combines easy-to-follow guidelines with photographs, lists, and tables to illustrate the key concepts behind writing nonlinear, interactive stories; creating succinct and clear © and working compelling images, motion graphics, and sound into your content.Many books offer instruction on how to use software programs to build Web sites, podcasts, and illustrations. But only Writing for the Web explains when and why an author might choose an illustration over a photograph, motion graphics over text, or a slice of Beethoven’s Fifth over the sound of a bubbling brook. Focusing on storytelling techniques that work best for digital media, this book describes the essential skills and tools in a Web author’s toolbox, including a thorough understanding of grammar and style, a critical eye for photography, and an ear for just the right sound bite for a podcast.This clearly written guide provides a fun and practical approach to Web writing for busy students. ” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Have you ever thought deeply – really deeply – on the subject of human excrement, or “humanure”? Joseph Jenkins has, and he aims to teach us how to flush our toilets goodbye this month in The Humanure Handbook. Politician free examinations of the finacial crisis, “Redneck Socialism” and Piha Surf Life Saving Club are other topics covered in another varied pile of new popular non-fiction books.
The humanure handbook : a guide to composting human manure / by Joseph Jenkins.
“There are almost seven billion defecating people on planet Earth, but few who have any clue about how to constructively handle the burgeoning mountain of human crap. The Humanure Handbook, third edition, will amuse you, educate you, and possibly offend you, but it will certainly pertain to you–unless, of course, your bowels never move.” – (adpated from Syndetics summary)
Piha : guardians of the iron sands : the first 75 years of the Piha Surf Life Saving Club / [writer and editor] Sandra Coney.
“Piha Surf Life Saving Club enjoys possibly the highest profile in the country – not only due to the top rating television programme but also as the busiest patrol in the country – performing almost twice as many rescues as the next club. Affectionaltely written by long time Piha afficionado Sandra Coney, Piha: Guardians of the Iron Sands is the journey of the founding and development of the Piha club, its people and purpose…” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Waltzing at the doomsday ball : the best of Joe Bageant / edited by Ken Smith.
“The only collection of Joe Bageant’s essays available in book form, this compilation features 25 essays by the self proclaimed redneck socialist. Exploring the plight of America’s white, “redneck” underclass – a topic considered taboo for the mainstream media – with insight, humor, compassion, and rage, this record is the result of the editorial freedom Bageant gained via the internet. Touching upon politics, current affairs, and sociology, the essays were selected for inclusion based on reader feedback, web-traffic counts, and suggestions from Bageant’s online colleagues.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Religion & Beliefs
The latest additions to the religions and beliefs collection encompass the Amish, Buddha Standard Time, and a Christian view of place.
Buddha standard time : awakening to the infinite possibilities of now, by Surya Das.
“We’re all given the same twenty-four hours a day.We can spend our time feeling hurried and harried, overwhelmed by chores and demands, distracted and burned out . . . or we can awaken to Buddha Standard Time, the realm of timelessness whereevery choice, every action, and every breath can be one of renewal and infinite possibilities. … Drawing on Tibetan Buddhism and other great wisdom traditions, as well as on neuroscience and holistic traditions, renowned teacher and national bestselling author Lama Surya Das shares real world examples, practical exercises, and essential techniques. ” (Syndetics summary)
The Amish way : patient faith in a perilous world, by Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, David L. Weaver-Zercher.
“This second book by the authors of the award-winning Amish Grace sheds further light on the Amish, this time on their faith, spirituality, and spiritual practices. They interpret the distinctive practices of the Amish way of life and spirituality in their cultural context and explore their applicability for the wider world. Using a holistic perspective, the book tells the story of Amish religious experience in the words of the Amish themselves. Due to their long-standing friendships and relationships with Amish people, this author team may be the only set of interpreters able to provide an outsider-insider perspective….(Syndetics summary)
Where mortals dwell : a Christian view of place for today, by Craig G. Bartholomew.
“Where Mortals Dwell provides a biblical, theological, and philosophical grounding for the significance of place in our rootless culture. Bartholomew illuminates the importance of place throughout the biblical canon, in the Christian tradition, and in the contours of contemporary thought. This timely book encourages readers to recover a sense of place and articulates a hopeful Christian vision of placemaking in today’s world. ” (Syndetics summary)
We have some great new history books this month from a Kiwi in Afganistan to when U-boats Attack, and plenty more besides. Enjoy!
Zen under fire : a New Zealand woman’s story of love and war in Afghanistan / Marianne Elliott.
“I am about to be left in charge of the office. I’m not sure I am ready for the responsibility, so I double-check with my boss. He reassures me. ‘You’ll be fine, Marianne. As long as no one kills Amanullah Khan, you’ll be fine.’ By midday, Amanullah Khan is dead.” In 2006 Marianne Elliott, a human rights lawyer from New Zealand, is stationed with the UN in Herat. Several months into her new role an important tribal leader is assassinated while she is in charge of the local UN office. She must try to defuse the situation before it leads to widespread bloodshed. ZEN UNDER FIRE is a vivid and deeply personal account of a young woman’s time living and working as a peacekeeper in one of the world’s most notorious battlegrounds. As well as sharing the incredible details of her UN work in and around Herat and the remote province of Ghor, Marianne tells of the shattering effects of this high-stress, high-danger environment on her and her relationships – and how, amid the turmoil, she begins to find her way back to herself.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)
Killing Lincoln : the shocking assassination that changed America forever / Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard.Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever
“O’Reilly, the popular and controversial cable news commentator, teams here with Dugard (Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone) to cover Lincoln’s assassination in a simple and morally unambiguous style. They offer no new insights into the death of Lincoln, just a sensationalist retelling of a familiar story. In pages filled with conjecture about the mental states of the protagonists, the authors succinctly describe the closing battles of the Civil War, the assassination, and its aftermath. They frequently speculate on conspiracy theories that involved secretary of war Edwin M. Stanton in the assassination plot, but they never make accusations except to say his behavior was “suspicious.” It will be interesting to see whether fans of O’Reilly’s television show will flock to his first foray into history the way they have to his books on contemporary issues. VERDICT Written from an unapologetically northern perspective, this book is not for academics but may appeal to readers who enjoy fast-paced, conjectural popular history. It includes an appendix reprinting the Harper’s Weekly account of the assassination written soon after.” – (adapted from Library Journal summary)
U-boats attack! : the Battle of the Atlantic witnessed by the Wolf Packs / Jak P. Mallman Showell.
“Jak P. Mallmann Showell is the son of a U-boat diesel mechanic, who died in action. Jak is a full-time naval historian, author and photographer. He speaks fluent German. He is considered one of the leading authorities on the Battle of the Atlantic and has produced more than forty books on naval activity during the Second World War, including Hitler’s U-boat Bunkers, Hitler’s U-boat Warriors and Companion to the German Navy (The History Press). He lives in Kent.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)
With this months recent picks, you can learn to build your own time machine, make your own clone, and throughly confuse yourself with physics!!
Build your own time machine : the real science of time travel / Brian Clegg.
“In How to Build a Time Machine, Brian Clegg provides an understanding of what time is and how it can be manipulated. He explores the remarkable possibilities of real time travel that emerge from quantum entanglement, superluminal speeds, neutron star cylinders and wormholes in space. With the fascinating paradoxes of time travel echoing in our minds will we realize that travel into the future might never be possible? Or will we realize there is no limit on what can be achieved, and take on this ultimate challenge? Only time will tell.” (Library Catalogue)
Physics on the fringe : smoke rings, circlons, and alternative theories of everything / Margaret Wertheim.
“Australian science writer Wertheim has an unusual hobby that she freely admits most physicists would wince at. On her office shelves, Wertheim has amassed dozens of manuscripts from fringe engineers and mathematicians touting alternative theories of matter that sharply diverge from those endorsed by mainstream science. In this informative, often witty overview of outsider physicists, Wertheim offers an extended rumination on the role such amateur theorists play in science’s public acceptance. Readers are shown visions of a universe immersed in ether (an abandoned nineteenth-century concept), one that contracts rather than expands, and one that eliminates field theory but embraces a twisted version of quantum mechanics. The crown jewel in her menagerie of eccentric visionaries, however, is James Carter, a do-it-yourself mechanic whose theory of everything has been percolating for five decades. Insisting that physics should be comprehensible to the layman, Carter’s theory features a donut-shaped particle as matter’s fundamental building block. Yet far from belittling Carter, Wertheim uses his inspiring example as a potent reminder that today’s cranks may be deemed tomorrow’s geniuses.” (Booklist)
Unnatural : the heretical idea of making people / Philip Ball.
“Can we make a human being? That question has been asked for many centuries, and has produced recipes ranging from the homunculus of the medieval alchemists and the clay golem of Jewish legend to Frankenstein’s monster and the mass-produced test-tube babies in “Brave New World”. All of these efforts to create artificial people are more or less fanciful, but they have taken deep root in Western culture. They all express fears about the allegedly treacherous, Faustian nature of technology, and they all question whether any artificially created person can be truly human. Legends of people-making are tainted by suspicions of impiety and hubris, and they are regarded as the ultimate ‘unnatural’ act – a moral judgement that has its origins in religious thought. In this fascinating and highly topical study, Philip Ball delves beneath the surface of the cultural history of ‘anthropoeia’ – the creation of artificial people – to explore what it tells us about our views on life, humanity, creativity and technology, and the soul. From the legendary inventor Daedalus to Goethe’s tragic Faust, from the automata-making magicians of E.T.A Hoffmann to Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein – the old tales and myths are alive and well, subtly manipulating the current debates about assisted conception, embryo research and human cloning, which have at last made the fantasy of ‘making people’ into some kind of reality.” (Amazon.com)