reading log for the past few months

Have not been reading anywhere near as much of late, a combination of being kinda busy, and just not quite that motivated to read. Anyway. Here is what my diary says I read. There was other stuff too, much browsed, particularly coaching and business related.

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All Things Must Fight To Live – Mealer

War reporting from the Congo. The war there over the past decade has claimed more lives than any conflict since World War 2. Naturally it is massively under-reported, and chances are you know next to nothing about it, as I did.

So far I have only read one 50 page chapter, but it was pretty much the most disturbing thing I have ever read. You do not want to know. (Or, if you do, I can lend you the book.) Recently I observed that Game of Thrones was a really barbaric reflection of human action. In the light of Congolese reality, GoT is a pale reflection of what humans do to each other, and are doing, right now in the world. (Of course, we can barely even report on or acknowledge what is actually happening, but we can approach such things through the remove of story and trappings of fantasy.)

 Theaetetus – Plato

The founding book of philosophy of Epistemology. Plato is quite clever, and the dialogue is a really excellent form for exploring ideas. (Yes, somehow I had never read any Plato first hand.) Still going on this.

 Cinema – Helen Rickerby

Recent book of poetry by a friend of mine. Pretty good, darker and more intense in places than I expected. I enjoyed it. If poetry is your bag, well worth a look.

The Odyssey – Homer (T E Lawrence translation)

Laboured and long-winded story telling from another age, but still pretty entertaining. Contains many familiar iconic tales, and has obviously been massively influential. Gives new meaning to deus ex machina. Glad I finally got around to it; glad when it was over.

Ragnarok – AS Byatt

Quite beautiful retelling of Norse mythology, with an oddly personal framing story about belief. Short and worthy.

The Simulacra – Philip K Dick

Really excellent PKD novel from the 60s. Uncomfortably prescient social horror, his usual reality questioning themes through a more social control lens. Read it on one sitting, good times. Though this was not one of his best prose efforts stylistically, Dick is one of the authors I can pretty much always read, though I think I may now have read all of the obvious shining jewels in his output. One of the essential authors of the modern age. Still heaps of lesser known stuff to go though, so who knows.

 Getting Started in Personal and Executive Coaching – Fairley & Stout

 Purely focused on the business side of the coaching business. Extremely useful.

 Poor Charlie’s Almanack – Charlie Munger

Read some more of this. The last lecture is the most valuable one – the summation of his insight into human psychology, and his checklist for thought. A smart insanely successful guy telling you how he thinks; well worth tracking down.

 Business Stripped Bare – Richard Branson

I never realised Virgin was such a big deal, as they never really extended into the NZ market. A refreshing take on business, in any case, by the biggest maverick fish in the pond. Worth a skim.

Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer

Recent SF. Alright. Expedition on an exploration of a weird zone runs into weirdness. Light, easy and quick to read but sort of unsatisfying in the end. Go and read Roadside Picnic by Strugatsy instead, which is the obvious forerunner from a Russian SF in the 70s, as that is much more interesting, emotionally affective, and just better and more people should read it anyway.

The King In Yellow – Robert Chambers

Reread this classic of weird horror due to its True Detective links. The good stories are still pretty good. It must have read as completely mad at the time.

Weathercraft, Congress of the Animals, Fran – Jim Woodring

3 graphic novels featuring the inimitable Frank. The term psychedelic gets thrown around a bit too loosely, but Woodring’s art definitely falls in that category. His wordless narrations of cartoon animals in a bugfuck weird world with its own internal logic are like nothing else in art, and a definite treasure. Do yourself a favour and check it out if you are unfamiliar with his indescribable output.

Principia Discordia; or, How I Found Goddess, and What I Did To Her When I Found Her – Malaclypse the Younger

Random reread of this underground classic from the 60s. Hail Eris! Still very funny, still pretty genius, and still makes you think. You can make a religion out of anything; if you are doing it right, the good parts will flow through whatever vessel you give it.

restaurant review: Burger King

So it was Friday the 13th and a full moon, and such are the type of unhallowed irregular circumstances under which I countenance breaking my vegetarianism. I was with a client who was eating at Burger King, and in a fit of madness I ordered a meal. (I have not had Burger King in perhaps a decade or more.)

Let us examine it piece by piece.

Cheeseburger:

On reflection, the most terrifying thing about it was that it was prepared fresh; I had to wait for it to be made, and yet it was as it was.

The bread was not like bread. Soft, insubstantial, textural; iconic, appearing as a burger bun, yet not.

The meat was not like meat. It is pretty creepy to think about what it might have been. I am not sure what it tasted like.

Perhaps there was something cheese-like in it. I don’t really recall. It may have been lost among the various sauces, and a gherkin, abundantly smeared through it to give it an approximation of flavour.

The burger was some kind of bizarre facsimile, a simulacra, a degraded copy of what a burger might be. It was a form of material and texture. It was not satisfying.

Fries:

This was by far the easiest portion to consume, a pleasant amalgam of fat and saltiness, wrapped around some kind of easy to chew material. I have eaten potatoes. I am not sure what the chips are made of – a bit like processed potato chippies, which bear a texture and nature far removed from their origin – easy to eat, but curiously empty and unsatisfying. Potatoes have a kind of weight to them: you know when you have eaten potatoes. These lacked that weight.

Sundae:

I know what ice-cream is like. I even know what snow-freeze ice cream is like. I am not sure what this was. An unknowable texture, cold and white, with caramel syrup gunk. Again, a peculiar simulacra of an ice cream sundae. Deeply unsatisfying.

Drinks:

(I very rarely drink soft drinks.) First I tried a Lift. It was odd; I sort of remember what it tasted like, and it is less offensive than many dense syrup concoctions, with its overt lemonyness. Found it useful to attempt to cleanse the palate with, and send down to help dissolve the material previously consumed.

In a particularly foolhardy move I went for a refill, this time going for a Fanta. Wow. Holy fucking shit. Three sips was enough; the third just to confirm what had gone before. Undrinkable, hideous, almost acrid. (Perhaps we can blame the entire Nazi movement on their soft-drink? No, that is too far.) But truly shocking to the palate after a maybe 20 year absence. How can something so full of sugar taste so horrific?

Summary:

On the whole, it was not recognisably food. I felt less overtly ill than I had anticipated, but did not feel great after.

I am left somewhat stunned that this sort of thing is what people pay money to eat. (And I recognise a past incarnation of self that did eat this sort of thing.) It speaks volumes about our culture. Perhaps the Matrix is here, concentric overlapping rings of reality itself. Platonic ideas of food radiate outwards, ever degenerating as we get further from the source. Shadows eating a copy of a copy, fuelling shadow lives.