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Book Review: Dignity by Ken Layne

To my brothers and sisters dispersed across the Internet:

This is the Great Recession novel for which I have been waiting!

Dignity by Ken Layne.

I came across it this weekend when Chris Clarke, via Google+, mentioned his review of it was up on KCET.org.

It is one of the better books I've read in a while. For me there is a certain science fictional feel to it, but I grew up on a steady diet of science fiction/apocalyptic fiction, so I often confuse the two.

Chris Clarke calls this a "modest utopia." Layne successfully lays out his utopian ideas without saccharine or schmaltz. There is a dystopian threat there, too, but it stays in the background even as it drives the story forward. Layne embraces the didactic voice necessary to convey his vision, but the conceit of the epistolary successfully covers any awkward soliloquies or "infodumps."

Rejecting spiritual or prescriptive pretexts so often found with such bold visions, Layne sets out his ideas as an epistolary. The narrator, N., writes to various communities around California. Some are thriving, others withering, and most are persecuted by a society and government that distrusts and fears anyone who would propose an alternative arrangement of society. Through his letters to these communities, written twenty-some years after the first group met for a communal dinner in Los Angeles, we learn of the founding of this movement and of its enigmatic, serene founder, B.

This book has stuck with me since I finished it earlier tonight. I read it in a few short hours, which is a rarity for me. Books always have an impact on me for a while after I finish them, but I think this one will join the short list of books that have stuck with me long-term. I felt mildly uncomfortable reading it on a Screen - my kindle - but I can't resist a $2.99 novel. I don't think I'm in danger of abandoning the circumstances in which I live, but Layne presents a tempting, provocative, and somewhat attractive alternative to our way of life.

Census Meme

I'm not from the UK, but I did live there during the previous census, so I think I can play along.

2011 - Living with my wife, two cats, two turtles, and a handful of birds in a townhouse back in my hometown of Bellefonte, PA. Working as an Assistant Public Defender (criminal defense lawyer).

2001 - Lived in a multi-bedroom flat with roommates in Lincoln, England. Dating she-who-would-be-my-wife, who was living in Barcelona, Spain. Studied English and Journalism.

1991 - Lived with my parents and sister in the same house my parents have lived in since 1970.

1981 - Lived with my parents just outside Bellefonte, PA. So I'm told. I was two years old and can't remember anything before 1982.

1971 - 'twas but a dream.


In Amongst The Shelves

This picture captures my favorite place... and my worst fear.

The End of New Deal Liberalism

Writing in The Nation earlier this month, William Greider lays out the case for the end of New Deal Liberalism, and what its heirs must do to effect change in the future. Greider also has three suggestions for overcoming the conditions faced by would-be reformers today, "conditions similar to what the Populists and Progressives faced: monopoly capitalism, a labor movement suppressed with government's direct assistance, Wall Street's 'money trust' on top, the corporate state feeding off government while ignoring immoral social conditions."

Some choice excerpts below the cut, but it is well worth reading the whole thing.Collapse )

Getting Back on the Food Horse

What Amanda is talking about in #1 here I actually did in 2009, complete with reading Bittman's Food Matters (highly recommended, btw). I did really well with it, too. Being "vegan until 6," I managed to lose weight. Unfortunately, I fell off the food wagon in 2010 and gained it all back, plus some. I'm not in "lose weight or die" territory by any stretch, but I'm not healthy, either.

Perhaps I'll have to dust off my copy of Food Matters and get reinspired. I really do like a good salad for lunch.

Since our usual CSA is taking some time off this year (at least from veggies - you can still get fresh-cut, organic flowers from http://www.fullcirclefarms.com/), we're going to take a year off, too, and spend the money we would have spent on the CSA at local farmers markets. We have an amazing one here in Bellefonte, and the one in Millheim is also great on quality and value.

As for cooking, we started the year off right with a stir fry dish last night (This one from Mark Bittman, in fact) and fresh-baked bread. It was a disappointment on both parts, with the broccoli coming out overcooked and the bread coming out bitter. But getting back in the habit of cooking and baking feels right.


More Tales of the Oligarchy

iPhone is an OnStar product now, at least according to local media in Wichita Falls, Texas:

"Due to contractual reasons, OnStar is the only tracking service able to be named in our newspaper."

A few of my LEGO Creationary creations

This has been the most fun I've had with a Christmas gift in several years: LEGO Creationary.

Here are a few of my LEGO creations from the game (Flickr set).


Julian Assange, Part II

It would appear that Charles Stross agrees with me on what Julian Assange is doing. It is nice to be ahead of Charlie on an issue for once.