Love: The Song of the Universe
Writing about something as vast as love is a daunting task, and errors of omission are likely—especially considering its scope as outlined in this book’s description. Writing a gift book makes the task more challenging as the book has be compact and include not only words but also illustrations. For this book, a double page serves as a section that can stand on its own, or as part of the entire work. The title describes which facet of love is covered in the two-page spread. One page provides a brief description and draws primarily from medieval Western history, and the other page contains appropriate black-and-white or gray-scale pictures that are also primarily culled from medieval Western sources. Given the space limitations dictated by gift books, the text may sometimes seem like random factoids forced together under a unifying theme. There are examples—both in the text and illustrations—that are drawn from non-Western sources, but these are scarce. An appendix at the end phonetically lists “I love you” in sixty-seven languages (however, the terms that are given as being different are so close as to be from the same language). Overall, this book would make an appropriate Valentine’s Day gift.
Just a Bunch of Crazy Ideas
There has never been a more accurately or honestly titled book than that of Just a Bunch of Crazy Ideas. From kitty litter and calories to space exploration and the stock market, Ponnapalli ponders whatever crosses his mind in search of a solution, and those solutions run the gamut from surprisingly simple to mindbogglingly unfeasible.
I must admit, there is a proactiveness and ingenuity to Ponnapalli that is really engaging. I appreciate anyone who sees a problem and, instead of simply accepting it or bemoaning the unfairness of it all, tackles it head-on with gusto. His enthusiasm for each topic is obvious, and his willingness to appear silly or to be criticized is well-tempered by his overwhelming positivity. If you can imagine a melange of straightforward outside-the-box thinking, you’ve got an idea of Mr. Ponnapalli’s style.
He pulls from his personal experiences — including an ongoing struggle with weight management and a harrowing accident while hiking — as well as his physics and IT background in order to examine problems both trivial and crucial.
Yes, some of these ideas are pretty crazy. We certainly differ in our opinions on where the new Star Trek film should head, for example. And I don’t know about the feasibility of his building-cum-stepping-stones approach to the space elevator — for instance, where could we build it that could offer both the necessary land and the population to make it a viable workspace? — but I did experiment with both of his proposed revisions to chess with great results. The book is a bit of a mixed bag.
As a handbook of solutions to major and minor problems, it falters a bit, but as a conversation sparker, Just a Bunch of Crazy Ideas is a success.
Medium7: Evidence of the Afterlife and Predictions
Mediumship: the very word evokes an immediate, gut-level response. Those who believe in the ability to communicate with the dead may proceed to shudder- or sigh. Those who do not believe may either grimace or laugh. Either way, the supernatural world plays its own role in our lives, and we can choose to embrace, ignore, or give the subject no credence at all. But kudos go to Donna Smith-Moncrieffe for her choice to investigate the subject matter in as close to a scientific manner as possible. Medium7 is a great book for the novice who has no real knowledge of the subject of life after death. Smith-Moncrieffe, in simple, easy to understand language, provides basic definitions, easy explanations and reasonable analogies as she explains difficult concepts.
Chapter One provides an overview of five key concepts that are prerequisites to understanding the afterlife. Those ideas validated by current scientific evidence are compared with those which are not. Are humans vibrational beings, made of energy, with a soul that can survive physical death? Is the physical world merely an illusion? Scientific research yields answers to these questions via such tools as quantum physics and mathematical equations, and many of us may be surprised by the facts.
Smith-Moncrieffe goes into great detail, explaining the differences between mental and physical mediumship. Would you like to know what mediumistic phenomena are? Perhaps you would like to be introduced to clairvoyance and her sisters, clairaudience, clairempathy, and clairsentience? Would you like to experience involuntary or automatic writing and drawing, and to hear prophetic utterances of spirit? This introduction to the field of mediumship may be just the right step toward that long journey of self-knowledge.
Here, in the more than three hundred pages of Medium7, is a great starting point, filled with brief histories of the subject including references to important names in the field, such as Edgar Cayce, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Deepak Chropa, Lisa Williams, and Elizabeth Kubler Ross.
Smith-Moncrieffe goes into detail regarding perceptions of the afterlife and the Christian Faith. Important questions may be posed, such as “If mediumship is considered by some a tool of the devil, then are all supernatural phenomena inherently evil? Do Satan and his angels impersonate dead loved ones in order to deceive the living? At death, do Christians “sleep until Jesus comes,” or when the body dies, are Christians immediately “at home with the Lord?”
There is the discussion in the ninth chapter entitled “So what?” Why should we care about the afterlife if it can’t make a difference in the here and now? That is a question that might be answered if we allow ourselves the time to read, think, and consider a point of view that may be foreign to us, but which may open the door to a dimension we’ve been unaware of for far too long.
Medium7 is written in favor of mediumship, and because such a fair (though very biased) argument is presented, even the harshest skeptic is encouraged to read this book– if they aren’t afraid…
There is much that is mystifying in Daniel M. Harrison’s Butterflies: The Strange Metamorphosis of Fact and Fiction in Today’s World. Mystifying, but far from edifying. For instance, why is Butterflies classified under “Philosophy?” To characterize the book as such implies that thought-provoking analyses bolstered by the promise of plausibility might be contained within its pages. Not so. With its concatenation of logical fallacies, factual inaccuracies and cheap, drugstore mysticism doubling as ersatz vatic insight, Butterflies is an insult, rather than a contribution to that discipline. Moreover, it is difficult to decide which is more unsettling, that Butterflies has enjoyed commercial success or that this sham of a book was published—and not by a vanity press? Butterflies has been called “ambitious” and “challenging.” Those adjectives apply, but not on account of staggering insight, complexity, or originality—what makes the Harrison’s work challenging is its conceptual aimlessness.
The author often muddles recklessly through concepts and fields he does not fully grasp, from hard sciences to the humanities feigning a knowledge that his claims and blatant absence of legitimately cited research bely. In its prologue, Butterflies promises readers access to “hyper-reality,” defined as a “zone of hard-core truth.” This slighting treatment of a concept supposedly foundational for the narrative is symptomatic of the diseased superficiality that pervades Butterflies. Harrison’s definition of “hyper-reality,” elides the term’s place in intellectual history, overlooking how “hyper-reality” was a contested term of semiotics that surfaced most visibly in French Structuralism of the 1960s, a movement that would influence fields from musicology to history for decades to come. It still does. Harrison’s shameful oversimplification is either an intentional erasure, a sign of unpardonable ignorance, or tacit assumptions about the audience’s ignorance.
Butterflies has its virtues, however. Harrison brings 20th century geopolitics, globalization, and recent economic trends together with skill and in approachable, conversational prose. Also, the structure of Harrison’s work is creative. Each chapter oscillates, forming a braid between chapters on non-fiction and fiction. This interlacing of the two gradually becomes a chiasmus — fact comes to seem as improbable as fiction, while fiction adopts a degree of unrelenting brutality generally reserved for reality. Moreover, this structure harmonizes with a key theme in the book about the notional separation of those two categories.
Still, creative structure cannot forgive the lack of intellectual rigor, coupled with counterfeit certitude that pervades Harrison’s roughly non-fictional chapters. In one non-fiction passage, Harrison challenges the theory of relativity. Sadly, his obvious ignorance of basic physics makes his posturing as a Wunderkind- juggernaut ready to crush basic precepts of the field ridiculous. Elsewhere, Harrison alludes to historical moments and figures with varying degrees of inaccuracy, at one point presenting what is little more than a simplistic, unconvincing inversion of the Platonic Theory of Forms, as if it were a revelation. Is the author indulging in parody at his own expense or is Harrison merely delusional? The fiction chapters, which often glamorize a dissipated elite, high on ephemeral pleasures and hollow successes, are nearly unbearable. The reason for discomfort is not related to explicit sexual content, but because it is written so poorly (and exhibits a peculiar obsession with grounding description of girls [eerily] and women by their breasts, cup size, and all). Perhaps Harrison believes that what is provocative is, a posteriori, compelling. If the author had demonstrated the ability to use, rather than abuse, language (errors are not merely stylistic, but grammatical), these chapters might have been less agonizing to read. Though one might object that Harrison is transcending the conventions of the English language, that defense would only be valid if he had first demonstrated mastery of it. One press release advertised Butterflies as a “manifesto of the millennial age.” If so, Harrison’s work is little more than an inadvertent, likely unearned, condemnation of a generation and an epoch.
This reviewer fervently hopes that Harrison has not captured a new Zeitgeist–one where charlatans are sages and ‘wisdom’ is spouted by the ignorant or, worse, by those who prefer to pander to ignorance, rather than erase it. Perhaps he is merely constructing a vast cautionary tale. At least the Lost Generation, poised at the start of the 20th century, produced some writing that one hopes is as lasting as Butterflies is ephemeral.
Seamless Subtleties is one man’s journey to understand the meaning of existence, and its tight connection with humanity amid inconceivable pain. Drawing from his harrowing past, Raymond explores his traumatic experiences to extrapolate what makes people tick discordantly. Zeroing in on the two-dimensional existence of human beings — the tangible (cerebral) and the intangible (spiritual). Raymond’s eclectic journey is replete with specific tools to help others (especially those in the unbelievably inhuman conditions) live beyond the temporal to become “more creative and more connected to who we are” — all for the purpose of achieving being “one with the energy of life.”
Michael Raymond’s debut book is a chilling memoir, with a philosophical twist. Raymond opens with background from his dysfunctional childhood, quickly followed by his theoretical viewpoints. A matter of much more than mere semantics, Raymond differentiates between the brain (a power tool) and the mind (consciousness), and that one needs to be wary of the brain’s trappings to overtake enlightenment that can eventually whittle one’s identity “to the point of feeling meaningless.” Raymond breaks that down even further with an explanation of very detailed tools: his “SEER TRAPS” system, “fourteen reasons why we should value our intangible essence,” and the difference between wisdom and knowledge.
While his is an incredibly sad upbringing, Raymond only begins to scratch the surface of his past, before delving into his eclectic findings. Readers may confuse Raymond’s truth-seeking observations as leaning toward another bizarre attempt at metaphysics, until they read the remainder of his story. In fact, this reviewer is certain that no one will be prepared for the succession of heartless and unconscionable situations that heavily lace Raymond’s account. A victim of covert surveillance and harassment and familial treachery, Raymond candidly shares how his successful career and happy marriage suddenly took a nosedive. What follows is a disturbing list of experiences. Besides incarceration and institutionalization, including the associated physical and mental torture, Raymond states, “I’ve been stalked, invaded, robbed, vandalized, harassed, humiliated, demeaned, defamed, emotionally and physically tortured twenty-four hours a day for more than ten years.”
Since Raymond’s well-written memoir reads more like a creatively gripping thriller, one may momentarily forget that his first person narrative is a work of fact, not fiction. Unfortunately, “sicken” and “sordid” are but a few descriptive words that capture the essence of Raymond’s story. Yet amidst extreme duress, Raymond miraculously finds solace in silence by seeking mental awareness (via his tools) as a means of survival.
In closing, this reviewer believes that Raymond pens it best when he says, “writing this was the only way to get anyone to actually become fully aware of my whole story. The reader can select how much pain they can tolerate and when. This was my only avenue of expression left.” While highly recommended as a must-read, readers, pay heed to Raymond’s words since Seamless Subtleties is undoubtedly not intended for the faint of heart.
The Philosophy of History: Naturalism and Religion
Here’s a challenge for you- combine a lengthy discussion of philosophy, naturalism, and religion and come up with a means to effectively explain the basic tenets of historiographical research to those who are unfamiliar with any of these topics. No, wait- James Stroud has already done all of the work for us. Our mission, (should we decide to accept it)is to develop a better understanding of the interplay of these subjects by reading the book, The Philosphy of History: Naturalism and Religion: A Historiographical Approach to Origins.
Author James Stroud explains the differences between naturalism and science, and how the concept of miracles as referred to within the religious arena cannot be measured using scientific methodology, and also cannot be logically explained using traditional scientific methodology. Stroud observes that it is pre-suppositional beliefs that form the basis for many traditional scientific conclusions regarding human origins, rather than empirical evidence. Science rejects supernatural concepts and explanations yet cannot objectively disprove phenomena via the laws of science, Stroud maintains that “…any closed- philosophical paradigm that does not allow the inference to the best explanation should be abandoned or at least challenged…”
In discussing the philosophy of history, Stroud encourages the reader to consider the nature of historical evidence, in light of the fact that history cannot be repeated. The reader is encouraged to question the degree, to which objectivity is possible, the challenges to correctly determining the accuracy of past historical reports and current inability to verify the absolute truth, due to human philosophical bias.
Stroud contends that the theory of naturalism is untenable and confines one to “… a strict pre-suppositional interpretation of the data.” Ultimately, Stroud supports an “open philosophy of history” as a science, rejects the current “closed philosophies”, and believes that the theories of deism and theism are plausible explanations to be considered and supported as viable alternatives to philosophical naturalism.
In support of his argument, Stroud submits four historic events for consideration: Historic Event number one: Origins of the Universe and Cosmological Constants; Historic Event number two: Origin of Life- Cambrian Explosion and Human Origins; Historic Event number three: Origin of Civilization before the Common Era; Historic Event number four: The Common Era of the Historical Jesus.
Stroud also invites readers to consider such profound questions as the place of religion in history, the objective meaning of history and what drives that meaning, the proper unit of study of the human past, broad historic patterns, cycles and irregularities to be discerned and objective measures of historic progress. There is also a consideration of many of the ways in which western thought’s linear path opposes the mythical conception of history and time.
Those who seek a deeper understanding of the basis of theories of human origin will very much enjoy the insights provided within this book. The theories of great philosophers such as Hegel, Nietzsche, and Focault may not be the usual fare for novice philosophers, and one must certainly put a “thinking cap” on before settling into this most provocative read.