Friday, November 25, 2016

Technopoly by Neil Postman

This is one of the hardest book reviews I've ever written. I had pages and pages of relevant quotes that I had to keep culling out. They were so helpful and so good that it hurt to cut them away.

Though not as readily accessible as Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman's Technopoly has a lot to add to the discussion of the surrender of culture to technology (the book's subtitle). I expected it to be dry, but found many nuggets of truth that kept me eagerly reading. I skimmed the chapters that were outdated, but those were very few because this book is more about the philosophy rather than the mechanics of technology.

Postman is not a Luddite who disdains all technological advances. But he wants us to be very careful to realize the difference they will make in our lives. "Their gifts are bountiful, but not without cost." He describes America as a Technopoly (the submission of all forms of cultural life to the sovereignty of technique and technology) because of our unquestioning acceptance of all technological advances.

We are currently surrounded with zealous prophets who see only what new technologies can do and are incapable of imagining what they will undo. (p. 5)

How did Technopoly find fertile ground on American soil? Postman gives four interrelated reasons. The American distrust of restraints (our "Anything is possible," can-do mentality), the exploitative genius of technological pioneers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (Morse, Rockefeller Alexander Graham bell, Edison, Ford, etc.), the successes of technology in providing Americans with convenience, comfort, speed, hygiene, and abundance. (Why question it?), and the devaluation of traditional beliefs brought on by a growing faith in science to solve problems. (p. 53-55)

We scoff at Luddites, but fail to see that they are calling us to re-evaluate how various technologies dehumanize us. Postman prefers to call those who abstain from adopting every new technology as "resistance fighters" and points out that their resistance is a thoughtful and careful rebellion in order to preserve that which really matters.

I've been quoting this book non-stop since finishing it three weeks ago. A very worthwhile read.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Book Loot & Book Report

I just returned from a whirlwind visit to the U.S. to visit my mom and my sons, so no book review today. When I wasn't visiting family, I was scouring stores for book bargains for Dan and me, as well as looking for gifts and prizes for a women's retreat I'm leading next week. A good time was had by all.

Some of the titles I bought: 3 Betsy-Tacy novels, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, P.D. James' book on detective fiction, Pen of Flame (about Salvation Army poet/hymn writer, Catherine Baird, and a new Killer Sudoku book. For my husband, I brought Saving Eutychus, The Sky is Not Falling by Chuck Colson, What Works by Cal Thomas, AND the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings.

While traveling I finished Wiersbe's Be Basic (on first 11 books of Genesis). I also read Escape from Colditz, Rescuing Finley, and made it halfway through The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. (I'm not sure what I think about it since I'm reading it in Portuguese and get about 75% of what's going on.)

 I also cringed through Summer's Fury, a Christian Fiction novella that suffers from the usual ills of that genre: unlikable characters, choppy writing and a heroine who "just happened" to know how to set a horribly broken leg even though she is an absolute wimp.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Worthwhile Movie #15 - The Railway Man

I rarely like a movie more than the book on which it is based, but Railway Man is one exception. I read the book a few years ago and felt the conclusion was flimsy.

It tells the story of a young soldier in WWII, tortured by his Japanese captors. After the war he spends many years planning how he will take revenge. But when he finally meets his arch enemy, things turn out quite differently. Yet the motivation for forgiveness is never quite clear.

That's where the film fills in the blanks. The movie invents quite a bit of drama regarding the reconciliation of Lomax and Takeshi, which makes the reconciliation more believable.

I like films that are more cerebral than action-packed and this one does not disappoint. (Although mercifully few, the flashbacks of torture scenes are very violent. Pressing the mute buttons helps me to get through them.) The filming is excellent, the dialogue good, and the acting understated. I've heard mixed reviews on Colin Firth's acting ability, but he plays the silent sufferer to perfection. Nicole Kidman is quite good even though the film makers were unsuccessful in making her look like a plain housewife.

Unbroken, To End All Wars and Jacob De Shazer's personal testimony are more satisfying stories than the one by Lomax, but I highly recommend this film to fans of WWII POW history for it's fine filming, excellent dialogue and redemptive truths.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Books I Read in October

October was a great time to finish up three books that I'd been reading for many months: A Year with G.K. Chesterton (reviewed here), Chesterton's perplexing book of poetry, and Amy Carmichael's classic on pain, Gold by Moonlight (reviewed here).

Christian fiction continues to disagree with me: I read (and did not enjoy) 2 CF titles: Roanoke by Hunt, (free) and The Pursuit of Lucy Banning by Newport.

I got a kick out of the 1970's Library Fuzz stories which were a spoof on the detective fiction of the 40s and 50s. (99 cents)

I squeezed in one vintage fiction novel, Who Was the Heir? (1890) and one brief Bible commentary on the book of Esther, Be Committed, which was not my favorite Wiersbe title.

To Kill a Mockingbird was the highlight of the month (maybe the year). Reviewed here.

Looking forward to more reading in November!