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review 2015-10-12 11:40
The Tyranny of Pleasure
Logan's Run - William F. Nolan,George Clayton Johnson

I was wondering through a second hand book shop one day and found a book called 'Logan's Search'. I picked it up and discovered that it was the third book in the Logan trilogy, which made me realise that that really awesome movie that was made in 1975 was actually a book, and in fact the first in a trilogy. So began my quest to find a copy of the original book (as well as part two, which was easier than finding the first book, which I did eventually accomplish, otherwise I wouldn't be writing this commentary). Anyway, I found it, and I read it, and I must say, I so much preferred the movie, which is generally odd because it is that the book is supposed to be better.


Now, I could give you a run down of the plot to this book, but I won't waste my time. Rather I will direct you to the IMDB page relating to the movie which was made of the book, and if you want to read my review of the film you can do so here. So, rather than go over old ground, I think I will simply jump straight to what this book is about and the themes which arise from it. In a way this book (I keep on wanting to write movie because, as I have said, the movie is substantially better than the book) is very much like 1984, though unlike that novel this book has a happy ending because the blinkers are taken off of the eyes of the people and they are freed from their dystopian world to be able to think for themselves.



This book (or movie) is about freedom and how, in many ways, what we think is freedom may actually enslave us. In this dystopian world people live a hedonistic life. While there are basic laws (I suspect murder is still illegal) there is no barrier to any hedonistic desire. There is no marriage, no commitment, and no property. Everybody has everything they want and they can take anything they want. However, there is still some barriers, because it appears that people have a right to say no (as Jessica does to Logan's advances). However, there is a catch: they must die at the age of 30 (21 on the book).



I suspect the age of 21 is more relevant, and by raising it to 30 in the movie undermines this somewhat. Basically what is happening is knowledge is being destroyed. The only knowledge that is stored and allowed to be stored, is by the computer (while there appears to be no government, there is a government and it is a dictatorship of the machine). Simply put, by preventing people from growing old, and in fact by preventing multiple generations from being alive concurrently, the machine is able to control knowledge. Nobody is able to pass knowledge down from one generation to another, and thus people live in blissful ignorance.



Society, in Logan's Run, is stagnant. It simply does not move. There is no incentive to learn, and in fact it is quite clear that one of the major crimes is to think. Further, by destroying marital relationships the machine is further able to control society. There is no bonding, no friendship, and thus no ability to rebel. Further, there is no family unit, which is another means of control and another means of destroying knowledge. Without a family unit, there is no respect, and no older person from which one can learn, and as such the computer once again controls the people.



I have seen that this is the case in this world. In one way the sexual revolution in the sixties freed us from the tyranny of the religious right only to enslave us in the tyranny of the hedonistic world. Fifty years on we can see that the tyranny of hedonism has become almost complete. We are bombarded with advertisements telling us that what is important is to feel good. While we have legalised abortion and prostitution, which in one sense frees us from one form of tyranny, it also enslaves us in another form. I am not one to seek to overturn those laws, I believe those laws are necessary, but what we need to do is to realise that our desire for pleasure is what enslaves us, and this is a tyranny of the mind, a tyranny that convinces us that we do not need to think, that we do not need to open our minds, and that we only need to live for the now and for what makes us feel good.



The second tyranny is the tyranny of the generation, and that is where we are denied the wisdom of the older generation and only able listen to those of our peers. Let us consider the first chapter of the first book of kings. The son of king Solomon, is faced with a choice. The people approach him and ask him to release them from their burdens and the older generation tell him that it is wise to do that because if he does that the people will respect him as a king. However, the younger generation tell him that if he were to release them of their burdens then they will be uncontrollable, and the fact that they are free to grumble about their predicament indicates that they are a danger and therefore they need to be oppressed more. The choice the king has is whether to listen to the wisdom of his elders of the wisdom of his peers. He chooses to listen to the wisdom of his peers, which results in a disaster for him.



I see this problem in some churches that I have attended. The generations are separated, and are led by their peers rather than their elders. As such, the young Christians are deprived of a vital source of wisdom and their minds are clouded by the ignorance of their peers. I suspected that this was a problem and noted that none of my peers would listen to me, coming up with half-cocked excuses as to why it could not work. So, I decided to test the theory out myself, and found a church of elders rather than peers, and have since discovered that I have learned more in eleven weeks amongst my Christian elders than I did over eleven years amongst by Christian peers.


In a way, many religious people actually fear knowledge because knowledge causes us to think, and then to question. Thus to prevent us from thinking and from questioning, they starve us of a vital source of knowledge, and that is the wisdom of our elders. Consider this picture (which many of us have probably seen already, but I think that it illustrates my point quite clearly):


Weapons of Mass Instruction


Granted, it deals with the Taliban and the education of women, but I believe that it extends quite further beyond that. In fact it extends even into Christianity, and not necessarily the Religious Right. A church that I have been too would regularly encourage us to read the Bible, but only prescribed texts relating to the Bible. Further, they would tell us before the sermon that we should look in the Bible so that 'we should see that what they were saying was true'. One thing they did not have at the end of the sermon, though, was a question time. This was something that I pushed for because I believe that being able to ask the pastor a question in front of the congregation is a means of holding him accountable. However, the catch was that when they did open the floor to questions they would be filtered through a mobile phone. Further, only the experienced pastors would field the questions because they could be assured to be able to follow the party line. When I asked why one of the junior pastors did not field questions I was simply told that it was because he would find answering questions a little too difficult.


I want to finish this off with the question of abortion. You may ask what this has to do with knowledge, and I will simply say it has more to do what what they don't say than what they do say. Now, before I continue, I will say that I do and always will support the voice of those who do not have a voice. That includes the unborn, however, the pro-life movement cares less for the rights of the unborn than they do for the oppression of the rights of women. Consider this, would a ban on abortion turn an unwanted pregnancy into a wanted pregnancy? Highly unlikely. Either it will force the woman to have an unsafe abortion, or force a child into a horrible existence. In fact, by banning abortion, it is more likely that poverty will increase, as a single mother looking after a child will be unable to work therefore leaving both of them in poverty.


Now, you notice how I said single mother? Guess what, a woman seeking an abortion is much more likely to be single than to be in a relationship. The reason I say this is because pregnancy punishes the woman more than it does the man. So, why should a woman be punished more for engaging in fornication than the man? Does that seem just? To me it is not, because the man can simply disappear leaving the woman carrying the burden of his lust. Sure, the man will no doubt face judgement come judgement day, but the woman is left in a situation that in reality is untenable. This is what I mean about the denial of knowledge and the denial of the ability to be able to think. Thus, while they scream and cry about the rights of the unborn, they distract us from the fact that what they are really doing is oppressing women. What needs to be done is to make birth control more readily available, and moreso, a change in thinking about the pleasures and the desires of sex. What we really need to do is to turn away from our hedonistic thinking and actually open our eyes up to the world around us. We need to stop living for the now, and actually start living for the future.


Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/449798145
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review 2015-08-16 14:01
The dark side of eternal youth
The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde,Jeffrey Eugenides


I'm not really all that sure where I landed up with my copy of this book, but when my bookclub saw the cover today they all thought that it was really, really cool. In fact as I was reading it I kept on looking at the cover and thinking – wow, this cover is just so cool – it looks like a painting by Pablo Picasso:


Cool Dorian Gray Cover



Anyway, as I mentioned I really can't remember where I got my copy of this book – it sort of just landed up on my bookshelf one day. Maybe I was going through some books that one of my friends was getting rid of and I saw it amongst the rubbish that he had collected over the years and decided to keep it. Anyway, I remember picking it up, reading a few pages, and deciding that I really could not get into it, so put it back on my bookshelf where it remained, unread, until my bookclub decided to pick it as this month's book. So I reluctantly removed it from the shelf and began to read it again, this time with the intention of finishing it.


I must say that it was much better than I expected. I had seriously under-estimated Wilde's gift as an author. I remember seeing a performance of The Importance of Being Ernest last year and being really surprised at how good it was, so I guess sooner or later I was going to give Dorian Gray another shot. Obviously I have now succeeded in that task.


I always thought that Dorian Gray was about some guy who landed up with a painting of himself and instead of him growing old the painting would grow old, and that was basically it. However it is a lot more than that – it is about the seduction of art and how if we look beyond its superficial exterior it can draw us into a world of madness. It is also about how our looks go far beyond age. Many of us seem to think that out looks deteriorate simply through age – our hair goes gray and begins to fall out, our skin winkles, and our gut expands. However Wilde suggests that it is much, much more than that. It is not necessarily time that makes us grow old, but how we spend that time.


Consider this before and after photo:


Meth: Before and after




Okay, I know, it could quite well be propaganda, but the suggestion here is that living a drug fuelled lifestyle can destroy you physically, and that is exactly what Wilde is suggesting in his book. Gray indulges in all forms of hedonism, yet he does not physically age – his painting does. In a way he feels as if he can literally get away with murder – which is what happens throughout the book. The corruption and guilt of his actions does not transform him physically – it transforms the painting. In a way he is able to live a debaucherous life without suffering any of the consequences of his actions.


Yet does he escape the consequences of his actions? I think not. He becomes ever more paranoid and ever more reclusive to the point that his friends all decide that they want nothing to do with him. He become overtly obsessed with the painting, to the point that he does everything in his power to protect it. It is his phylactery – it holds the essence of his soul and as long as the painting remains intact he is in effect immortal, yet this immortality comes with a price – his sanity. While the physical effects of his actions may be absorbed by the painting, the mental effects are not.


Another idea that comes from this book is the idea of art and the dark side therein. Basil, the painter of the portrait, wanted to create something great, something different, something in which his soul has been infused, and in doing so he creates this painting. However his creation takes on a life of its own – it ceases to be Basil's painting and in turn becomes the portrait, and this portrait in turn ends up destroying Dorian.


At the time the book was written we are seeing great changes within the artistic community. For centuries the general idea was to paint things as realistic as possible, however this was beginning to change due to one invention – the camera. Now one could create life-like pictures in an instant without the need to painstakingly work the canvas. As such artists began to move away from the traditional styles to attempt to capture different forms in their paintings. We see this especially with the impressionists, who sought to emphasise colour above all else, and many of their paintings were very dreamlike in form. This is what Basil is trying to do – using his art to capture a different form, to focus on different aspects, and in doing so the painting escapes him and becomes a thing of its own. Sure, it blesses Dorian with eternal youth, but with every blessing there is a cost.




Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1359694495
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review 2014-01-06 00:00
Dignified Hedonism
Dignified Hedonism - Scott Meyer I’m not trying to be a big shot or anything, but I do have an autographed copy of this book. Scott Meyer even personalized his signature, writing that he hoped I enjoyed the book. With a felt-tip pen. (I mean that’s what he wrote with, not that’s what he hoped I enjoyed the book with. I think.)

This is almost embarrassingly personal, as personalizations go, but I wanted to share it anyway.

So. “Basic Instructions” comics are exactly what they sound like: helpful tips to guide the reader through tricky situations. Each tip in the four-panel comic is accompanied by an illustrated conversation.

Usually Meyer has fun contrasting the problem in question as a straight-man with the comic itself. The text of “How to Help Someone Confront Their Prejudices,” for instance, is serious and includes actual good advice:

“Prejudices are counterproductive and ugly. The sad fact is, we all have them. ...Your best bet is to produce examples and evidence that gently prove your point.”

So, what kind of prejudices are the characters in the comic (always Scott Meyer and a friend, coworker, or his long-suffering wife) arguing about? Racism? Sexism? Anti-Semitism?

“Windows might be an okay operating system, but I can’t use it. Bill Gates is such a jerk.”


Meyer’s reply to this is brilliantly disconcerting: “If you’re gonna refuse to use a product because the founder of the company was a jerk, you’re gonna have to stop using...products.” (Ellipses in the original.)

Meyer goes on to point out: “If you won’t use anything produced by a jerk, you can’t drive a Ford, talk on a telephone, or use anything invented by Edison.” “Edison?” “The man used to electrocute animals.” “Well, science--” “As a marketing gimmick.” “Yeesh! What a jerk.”

This gives a good sense of the pacing, humor, and general nerdiness of the comic. It’s not the funniest one in the collection, of course. The funniest one might be the one where Scott’s boss complains that his cell phone was stolen. “Your phone was taken by someone who would want a pink RAZR. Meaning the phone was taken by you, or a thirteen-year-old girl.” “There has to be another option,” the boss protests. “Could’ve been you AND a thirteen-year-old girl. I doubt you could pull this off on your own.”

Or maybe the funniest one is “How to Understand Men’s Fashion,” which I love because Scott Meyer and my teenage son both only ever wear black T-shirts. Meyer insists this isn’t technically the case, because he owns shirts that are “Dark charcoal. Ultra-dark blue. X-treeme gray.” (yes, all those E’s are in the original.) His female coworker replies, “Your closet must look like a rainbow, re-imagined by Tim Burton.” I intend to say this to my son as soon as I finish writing this review.

Or maybe the best one in this collection is “How to Be a Good Husband During ‘Ladytimes,’” if only because I am a nine-year-old boy and the word “ladytimes” cracks me up. (Which is good, since something about ladytimes should make me happy.)

Okay, okay. They’re all good. And I have to add that although Meyer doesn’t generally aim for sweetness, he hits it in “How to Avoid a False Bargain,” in which his friend bought some factory-second perfume for his girlfriend’s birthday. He says this is fine, because “It’s perfume. Its job is to smell good.” Scott replies, “No, it’s a gift. Its job is to make your girlfriend happy.”

I just thought that was really sweet. Even when he went on to suggest that the guy might instead buy her “some factory refurbished chocolates.” (I’m pretty sure he was being sarcastic.)

So: read this book, or at the very least, check out the comic at basicinstructions.net

And while you’re over there, tell Scott I’m still giggling and blushing over his inscription in my book. (A felt-tip pen! You rascal!)
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review 2008-07-09 00:00
The Hedonism Handbook: Mastering The Lost Arts Of Leisure And Pleasure
The Hedonism Handbook: Mastering the Lost Arts of Leisure and Pleasure - Michael Flocker It was cute, but nothing groundbreaking. Stop and smell the roses, right? Be here now. Lie in till noon. All good advice, fun to revisit, but nothing you don't already know.
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