Sunday, February 26, 2006

Ranting Nerd

Ranting Nerd is a blog with rants about science, technology, politics, science fiction, and whatever else comes to mind.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Schopenhauer Cure by Irvin Yalom

The Schopenhauer Cure is a wide-ranging and exhilarating exploration of psychotherapy, philosophy, and humanity.

The plot centers on Julius Hertzfeld, a successful therapist in San Francisco, who is shocked to learn that he suffers from terminal cancer. Moved to reassess his life's work, he contacts Philip Slate, a former patient who he was unable to cure of sex addition.

Much to Julius's surprise, Philip has become a philosophical counselor and requests that Julius provide him with the supervisory hours he needs to obtain a license to practice. In return, Philip offers to tutor Julius in the work of Schopenhauer. Eventually they strike a bargain: Julius agrees to supervise Philip, provided that Philip first joins his therapy group. What follows is Philip's entrance into the weekly therapy group and a gripping exploration of loss, suffering, sexual desire, death, and the search for meaning.

Throughout the novel, Yalom weaves Schopenhauer's life and work into the narrative. In addition, a parallel biographical account of Schopenhauer's life sheds light on the philosopher's intellectual triumphs and emotional difficulties.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Dame Edna

The Tony Award winning comedic stage show Dame Edna was in Buffalo this past week, and I was fortunate enough to attend one of the shows.

For the unfamiliar, Dame Edna is one of the alter egos of Australian actor Barry Humphries. Edna's humor is decidedly British in its acid-laced, sugar-coated content. Edna does a great job of interacting and playing to the audience, including calling out latecomers, bantering with the crowd, and bringing a couple onstage for some marriage counseling. In the end, it was all silly, hilarious fun.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

Consider Phlebas is the first of Iain Banks' speculative fiction Culture novels. It is space opera on a grand scale, set in the middle of an immense war between two galactic empires, the Culture and the Idirans.

The plot centers around Horza, a humanoid shapechanging agent of the Iridans, who undertakes a clandestine mission to a forbidden planet in search of an intelligent, fugitive machine whose actions could alter the course of the conflict.

The book is very compelling, in large part because it is morally ambiguous. While Horza despises the machine intelligences and moral laziness of The Culture, his embrace of and alliance with the Iridans reveals them to be intolerant, racist, religious zealots.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Feminist Author Betty Friedan Dies at 85

Betty Friedan, whose manifesto "The Feminine Mystique" became a best seller in the 1960s and laid the groundwork for the modern feminist movement, died Saturday, February 5, her birthday.

Friedan asserted in her 1963 best seller that having a husband and babies was not everything and that women should aspire to separate identities as individuals. The feminine mystique, she said, was a phony bill of goods society sold to women that left them unfulfilled, suffering from "the problem that has no name" and seeking a solution in tranquilizers and psychoanalysis.