Monday, April 02, 2018

Parallel Universes: The Search for Other Worlds

Any detailed discussion of space-time in quantum physics and what it means in terms of classical Parallel Universes (Simon & Schuster, 1990) is not an exception. But I must add it is one of the books on the topic that can keep a reader engaged all along by some really cool examples and scenarios.

Committed to the its title—parallel universes—the book starts with the fundamental physical phenomenon of wave-particle duality that actually serves as the basis for quantum phenomena and parallel realities—or possibilities, to be more precise. Things are easier to grasp and visualize at this stage of the story.

Read complete review on Word Matters!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Gandhi and Beyond

Gandhi and BeyondFor all the decades of their astounding technological advance and expansion in many fields of education, mankind has persistently faced one big failure: attain peace. In the 21st century, we face not only war but the dark reality of terrorism, gang culture, organized crime, and continued oppression of minorities, leading to more hatred, anger, and ultimately violence. What’s the answer to this constant question of violence?

In one word, it’s nonviolence. This solution, sounding simple at first, is easier said than done. Yet there is an inspiring history of nonviolent social action in human history. David Cortright, peace activist and educator at the University of Notre Dame, discusses the work of the most influential nonviolent social activists of the 20th century in his book Gandhi and Beyond: Nonviolence for a New Political Age (paradigm Publishers, 2010).

Cortright starts with the legendary Indian social activist Mahatama Gandhi and his philosophy of nonviolence materialized in his movement for freedom and social justice in the British Colonial India. The following chapters of the book detail the struggle for social justice in the west by leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and activists such as Barbara Deming, Cesar Chavez, Dorothy Day, Margaret Sanger, and others. The influence of Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence was present in most of these later activists though there were certain differences in strategies and approaches to social change.

Cortright also discusses the role of various institutions – public and private – in facilitating or obstructing the goals of a social action movement. For this, the book draws on historical examples in 20th century and illustrates how social change is influenced by various factors, including media.  

Gandhi and Beyond is informative, especially for those who don’t know much about the history of social movements, as well as inspirational and motivational toward adopting a philosophy of nonviolence as the only solution that can lead to lasting peace against the constant existence of violence. Cortright ends the book with a letter to a Palestinian student, sharing his thoughts on the movement for justice against Israeli oppression of the Palestinian masses in the disputed territories of Israel-Palestine region. His concluding sentences reads: “New struggles for freedom lie ahead. If guided by Gandhian principles, they can wield a higher power and greater hope of success.”

ISBN: 978-1594517693

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Friday, November 29, 2013

The McDonaldization of Society – 6

The 6th edition of George Ritzer’s The McDonaldization of Society (SAGE Publications, 2010) critically
examines the fast food model of social life in modern urban societies. Taking the United States as the prime example of an increasingly McDonaldized society over the decades, Ritzer discusses the evolution of a number of key social institutions along the lines of the fast food restaurants – hence the name “McDonaldization”, after the fast food giant that has expansively established itself in US and is also growing steadily abroad.

The book discusses four core principles of McDonaldization: efficiency, predictability, calculability, and control. Each one is discussed separately as well as in relation to social structure and social relations. Ritzer illustrates how an overemphasis on these principles is leading to deterioration of our status and values as humans, increasingly being mechanized by the McDonaldization model whether in feeding, education, health, or a number of other areas in our daily life.  

Perhaps the most revealing aspect of the Ritzer’s book is showing the self-defeating nature of the 
McDonaldization process, or what he terms as “irrationality of rationality”. His examples from various social institutions explain to readers how standardized procedures characteristic of a McDonaldized system work against it such that efficiency turns into inefficiency, predictability gives way to uncertainty, and so on.
This book has a good deal for the reader to digest including a few examples of potentially DeMcDonaldized systems or those that have not been completely taken over by the McDonaldization principles. 

This edition of The McDonaldization of Society is a good read for any serious readers and particularly for those studying social institutions, modern societies, or more recent history of the American society.  
ISBN: 978-1412980128

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Pine Island Paradox

First published nearly a decade ago, The Pine Island Paradox (Milkweed Editions, 2004) remains a
timeless read. Author and speaker Kathleen Dean Moore takes her readers along on her personal journey in and with nature on Pine Island, in the Alaskan wilderness. And while camping with her family on the island, Moore makes some vital connections with the place and life there.
Moore’s approach toward living in nature borders on the ecological and the philosophical – a state of finely tuned consciousness that diffuses the boundaries between one’s “self” and nature.  To Moore, the “harmony of the whole” is of prime importance, and that shows in her camping experience on Pine Island where she finds a reciprocal relationship between people and their places: people and the world are co-creators of the future. (126)   
The imagery in this book will literally possesses any reader who has experienced the purity of wilderness, but will also likely engage the attention of those who stay tethered to modern urban settings and have at least some vicarious experience of unadulterated nature. The sounds, colors, and feel of being out in the open enrich one’s reading experience on Moore’s pages – a journal wherein lost connections are discovered.
The Pine Island Paradox has deep ethical implications. Nowhere preachy, Moore’s work calls for “ecological ethics of care”; it is more a call for retrieving our lost relationship with our true nature, the one we have reduced to our ever-rising consumerism. These chapters work against the divide-and-rule view that has sucked our society in over the decades; it is a call for a unite-and-thrive way of thinking and living.
Moore’s book raises a number of important questions for thought. The one that stayed with this writer long after the book was closed is: If the world was created by the separation of one thing from another, the seas from the dry land, the birds of the air from the fish of the sea, will it end with a gradual coming together? (224)     

ISBN: 978-1571312815

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Road-Shaped Heart

Free verse doesn’t always instantiate the freedom of voice carried within its lines. Not so with Nick Purdon. The Road-Shaped Heart (Modern History Press, 2011). The poet from South African liberates his poetic expression from the constraints of time, space, and perceptual confines of man in his book of collected poems

The 25 poems included in this collection explore the dimensions in and beyond the perceptual experience. Purdon’s motifs include the sacred distance, the tenderness of emotion, life as a journey, and the cycle of life and death. His freedom of spirit shows in blending perception with delirium to witness what he terms “blinding synethesia” (p. 15).

Purdon’s use of language has poetic beauty, often fitting short words skillfully to create the rhythm in lines: “I will you to slice me open/I want you to see/how scarlet I am for you” (p. 27).

The message that takes precedence in The Road-Shaped Heart is celebrating this unique journey called life, with “an awesome heart” that is likely to drown in itself – the gift of being able to make our choice of the path we take in life.

This book is lovable for its aesthetic and literary merit.

ISBN: 978-1615990573

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Yearning for Normal

Yearning for Normal
Twenty-two year old Mike was lying in intensive care at the burn unit in a hospital in Ohio. Sitting beside her is his mother. Both are struggling for his life while his nearly dead body is showing signs of its last breath. Will he make it? If he does, will he be able to return to normal life at all?

The story of Susan Ellison Busch, as narrated in her memoir Yearning for Normal: My Son’s Life with Deletion 22q.11 (Tate Publishing, 2013), engages the reader since its very first page. An experienced nurse, Susan shares with readers the story of her second child, Mike, who was born with a less-known genetic condition called Deletion 22q.11 syndrome. This condition, extremely difficult to diagnose, made Mike a special need child who faced a range of adverse, often life-threatening risks, both physical and psychological, since his birth.

But equally, or more so, it was the challenge faced by his mother who, from her experience in the medical field, was torn between hope and despair as to how to save her son’s life from what seemed an inevitable disaster. From rushing her son to emergency rooms to monitoring his breathing and praying non-stop for his life, Susan’s journey is filled with the compassion and strength of a mother that are next only to the divine in this universe.

There is plenty of invaluable health-related information in this book – medical terminology and their meaning, various medical procedures and their importance, things to watch out for, and the way life is affected by medical conditions like Deletion 22q that are difficult to diagnose and treat. Above all, however, this book shows the power of love and compassion, which makes life meaningful and valuable in the face of threats that most of us face at one stage or another in our lives.

Highly recommended for everyone who values life and love.

ISBN: 978-1625106728

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Daddy Versus The Suck Monster

Are you a guy planning to get married and have kids? You need to read this book first. A memoir of first-time fatherhood, Daddy Versus The Suck Monster details the nature and extent of challenges the author experienced with the birth of his first child Keller – aka “The Suck Monster” (the book explains better whence comes the moniker).

Joseph Matthew Nespoli makes full use of his humor to show readers what it is like to be a father for the first time, how it rewards the man as well as bounds the once free-roaming single guy. As a new dad, the author’s challenges ranged from changing stinking diapers to an intimacy crisis with his spouse and embarrassments in public places. At the same time, the new life now breathing – and crying at the oddest of hours – galvanized the machine of life in ways never experienced before. His baby, as readers will feel in the book, is the ultimate gift of life, warts and all. 

In the book, in different chapters, readers also get to know 20 “Essential Rules of Parenting” – witty and attention-grabbing inferences derived from the “thrilling” parenting experiences narrated therein. There is some light-hearted, at times sharp-toned commentary on social issues, usually involving family, gender roles, and stereotypes.

With an adorable cover title showing the little cute “monster”, this book is one of those not-to-miss reads for would-be fathers and humor lovers.

ISBN: 978-1489533975