Saturday, November 10, 2007

Life of Pi - Voted Worst Book Ever!

Some years ago, before I had quit the Santa Cruz reading group to which I belonged (the drive over the hill was getting to be a bit too much for me), we decided to read Yann Martel's "Life of Pi."

I didn't know much of the book at the time, except that it had won the Booker Prize (a prize I've since come to associate with lackluster books of dubious quality). And hey, it had received many recommendations (even from a second-cousin of mine, who'd read it twice). It must be good, right?


Not long into the book, the author Martel (through his character Pi) makes the claim that this was "a story that would make you believe in God."

Whoa! What the hell did he just say? He's going to make me believe in God? Who doe this joker think he is, the second coming?

Right. Good luck, buddy!

I won't bore the reader with a detailed recounting of the plot, but I'll simply say that it concerns a boy marooned with a tiger in a lifeboat after the ship they were on sinks, and many fantastic things happen to the pair before their boat finally reaches safety. Now, Martel can sling together a sentence better than some, unfortunately he's way out of his depth thematically, and much of the book comes across as needless verbage: trite and unsatisfying. But what really raised my ire and caused me to throw the book across the room was the ending...

Pi is visited by two Japanese officials who need to file a report of how the ship sank. He recounts his story of his adventures with the tiger (annoyingly named "Richard Parker") , which the officials find enjoyable but not satisfying. Pi then relates a much darker, horrific (and in my opinion, much more realistic) tale, and asks them which of the two tales they prefer. The two officials admit that the lighter tale is the better one. "And so it goes with God," replies Pi.

What the hell? Was that supposed to make me believe in God? That we should believe in God because it's the prettier story, and that this was preferable to looking life, with all its beauty and its despair, full in the eye?

Who does Martel think we are, children? God, what a dork!

I was pissed off. I can't tell you what angered me the most: the arrogance of a hack writer like Martel actually believing that his story was an important story, and that I'd be swayed by it to believe in God, or that I'd wasted money and time on his ridiculous book.

Hell, I'm still pissed off! I could have used the bucks instead to buy a bottle of plonk. Martel - you owe me, you talentless bastard! Cough up!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Why, of course there's a God!

From the 6 November 07 broadcast of The Newshour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. (Link to broadcast)

SUSAN DENTZER: This is one of the many memorials to the genocide in Rwanda that killed upwards of 800,000 people in 1994. Memories of that unspeakable horror still haunt many Rwandans to this very day, but many also told us that the battle against HIV and the U.S. assistance in that effort have played a role in the nation's post-genocide healing.

Nowhere is that more evident than here at AVEGA, the Association of Genocide Widows in Rwanda. That's where we meant Winifred Mukagihana, now 48. Her husband -- like her, a Tutsi -- was killed during the genocide, as were two of her three children. Imprisoned in a church, she was repeatedly raped by her Hutu captors, so many, she told us, that she lost count.

WINIFRED MUKAGIHANA, HIV-Positive Rwandan (through translator): After about a month and 20 days, there came a soldier who wanted to rape me. And I told him, "Please, instead of treating me like this, why don't you shoot me so that I can at least get some peace?" And he said that he cannot waste his bullets on me. That's when he got a bayonet and pierced me in the groin.

SUSAN DENTZER: Mukagihana was eight months pregnant with her late husband's child when the genocide ended. Her captors sliced her Achilles tendon so she could only crawl away.

WINIFRED MUKAGIHANA (through translator): I delivered the baby alive, but I couldn't move, and I couldn't help myself. There were dogs all over the place that came and ate my child. They ate my baby.

Just after the war, I tested positive for HIV, so I started coming just after the war, as soon as AVEGA was born. So they've been caring for me and providing me with treatment. They kind of became my parents.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Secrets of the De Anza Swapmeet REVEALED!

At the September, 2007 swapmeet, Tamara Keith interviewed a number of the attendees (including me!) for a segment that aired on public radio. Hear it now at: Geek Flea Market

What I hope God looks like...