Imagination and Meaning in Calvin and Hobbes by Jamey Heit

Filed under:Humor,Philosophy,Technical — posted by Randolph on September 20, 2012 @ 8:02 pm

Imagination and Meaning in Calvin and Hobbes
by Jamey Heit

This book is an analysis of the Calivin and Hobbes comic strip through the eyes of philosophy. In some ways it reminds me of the popular culture and philosophy series, but here the focus is on building a better understanding the comic rather than philosophy, philosophy is the tool for the understanding.

At first glance, the book does remind me of more traditional philosophy books. It has a smaller font, dense pages with few breaks, and a serious list of footnotes. On starting to read it the same impression continued, high information density and heavy at times. Sometimes it became difficult to follow, but the focus on the comic brought recurring themes of humor.

Difficult as it may have been, I never considered giving up. The book reveals a lot of information about the comics, calling on specific themes and even individual strips to support its arguments. While reading the book, I gained insights in to the strips, and a great desire to reread the series with my new understanding.

Watterson drew heavily on philosophers for his inspiration, from the very name of the strip and characters. The book discusses themes and how they relate to philosophy, from flying dinosaurs, Spaceman Spiff, Calvin as god of his snow creatures, and Hobbes appears real to the reader so long as an adult isn’t in the strip.

My two issues with the book is that I would have liked some comics included to help break up the book’s text, and having just finished it, I’m already having trouble remembering many portions of it due to its heavy content.

I do recommend the book for anyone who has enjoyed the comic and has any interest in philosophy. I’m going to reread the comics, and my try tacking the book for a second time, some day…

Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

Filed under:Humor,Mystery,Series,The Spellmans — posted by Randolph on August 30, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

The Spellmans are back in their typical dysfunctional way. D (Demetrius Merriweather), an ex-con introduced in Document #4, has joined the crew. We are also introduced to Sydney Spellman, David’s daughter, who seems to have her own neurotic association with bananas. Rae is sitting in trees. And Grammy Spellman is coming to live with the family, if only someone could get along with her.

Investigations are starting to interfere with each other, they have to introduce a Chinese Wall. And then someone in the family will have to defeat it. There is a real shake-up brewing in the Spellman home.

Investigations introduce a neurotic mathematician, someone broke into his home and made toast. Then there’s the family who want to investigate their daughter, and another man who just wants to be followed. A wife who wants to have her husband followed, and whose brother wants her followed.

Naturally, Izzy has to cross everyone she meets, pushing her own luck with the company. She is still seeing ex-boyfriend #13, but for how long?

This book answers a lot of questions:
* Why doesn’t David seek revenge on his sister, Rae?
* Has D been dating a single woman in secret?
* Have D and Grammy Spellman founded a friendship, or a conspiracy?
* Who broke into the mathematician’s house to make toast and do other forms of sabotage?
* How can they get rid of Grammy?

Just in case everything might become reasonable in the Spellmans home, they introduced nicknames. But there is little risk of functionality in this family.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: A Novel by Helen Simonson

Filed under:Fiction,Humor — posted by Randolph on May 14, 2012 @ 11:24 am

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel by Helen Simonson

This book is the story of Major ernest Pettigrew, retired. It is set in contemporary England. The Major is a bit stuffy, everything has to be proper and just so. The book has a lot of subtle (to an American) British humor scattered throughout in the situations the Major encounters and his prim and proper reactions to them.

The Major is a bit materialistic, especially when it comes to a pair of guns, a pair of Churchills. These were given to his father for an account of bravery. These were split on his father’s death. one going to each of his sons. The Major wishes to mount them so he can impress people of higher status than himself.

The book opens with the brother’s death, now the second gun comes back to the Major and the two are reunited. The death leads the Major to come acquainted with Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani and owner of a grocery.

The relationship between Jasmina and the Major grows through the book, blossoming into a romantic relationship.

The two guns seem to be symbolic of the Majors own emotional state, or perhaps his relationship to Jasmina. Early in the book, the one acquired from his brother is poorly maintained, as is the Major. He takes to cleaning it, and his own state improves as his relationship to Jasmina develops. The loss of the second gun seems to occur as the relationship solidifies, suggesting the two would be united.

the story explores some predjudism through the relationship between the Major and Jasmina.

The Major’s son also plays prominently in the book. He is a bit rude and lacks the refinement of the Major. The Major admonishes the son for characteristics that he does not see in himself.

Although reasonably well written, I found the book difficult to get into. It took half the book before I found the Major likable and was able to appreciate the humor in the book. I don’t regret the time reading the book, but I think I would have enjoyed others more.

Mr. Monk in Outer Space by Lee Goldberg

Filed under:Humor,Mystery,Series — posted by Randolph on November 14, 2011 @ 8:14 pm

Mr. Monk in Outer Space by Lee Goldberg
In this, book 5 of the series, Monk faces the shooting of a dead man, and Mr. Snork shooting the producer of a popular science fiction series.

Monk has to take his phobias into a science fiction convention for a series, thinly veiled reference to Star Trek with its obsessive version of Trekkies.

Monk’s brother, Ambrose, plays a role in this version, even getting involved in the investigation. We see a bit more of his character which comes out in the solution to the mystery.

The book is true to the series, and feels very much like seeing a tv episode. If you enjoy the series, you’ll enjoy the book.

The Reading Group Handbook by Rachel W. Jacobsohn

Filed under:Humor,Mystery — posted by Randolph on May 5, 2011 @ 10:23 pm

The Reading Group Handbook by Rachel W. Jacobsohn

I was a bit disappointed in this book. It was a bit light on content.

The book started off with a definition of a reading group, goals and what to expect. Then discussed member types, what they contribute, what to expect, and potential conflicts. Then it gets into organizational details, selecting locations, issues of food, rules of order, focus, leadership, and such.

These elements are good and I had hoped Rachel would delve into these a bit deeper. But she spends a lot of time on the value of reading and reading groups, which I think is unnecessary given that the reader has selected this book.

Another problem I had is that the book had a very strong focus on women’s reading groups. This wasn’t apparent from the cover or the little research I did. I have doubts about a lot of the material and how much it can be generalized. The reading list, for instance, has a strong slant toward women authors and women’s issues.

The author is a professional book group leader. She spends a chapter on why you should have a professional leader, and lists a few other professional leaders in other areas of the country. This portion just felt like an ad, I couldn’t accept it as real advice since she seemed to be pushing her services a little too much. She does discuss a reading list newsletter she offers – for a fee, for instance.

Almost half the book is appendices. These list book suggestions in several categories, syllabi from several reading groups, and a glossary of literary terms, among a few others.

I don’t feel the book was a waste of time, but there are undoubtedly better books out there.

The Spellmans Strike Again: A Novel by Lisa Lutz

Filed under:Favorites,Humor,Mystery,Series,The Spellmans — posted by Randolph on May 19, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

The Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa LutzThis is book four in Lisa Lutz’es series of The Spellmans. The books is a humorous look at a family of instigators, only they are dysfunctional.

In this book, Izzy deals with ex-boyfriend #12, the doorknobs are disappearing from the family home, Izzy pays an actor friend to be a spying butler, Rae blackmails a school drug dealer into giving her free rides, Izzy is going on blind dates with lawyers because her mother is blackmailing her, Rae kidnaps her sister Izzy, Rae has everyone wearing “Free Schmidt” t-shirts, and Izzy is still trying to get the dope on their competitor, Harkey. So, it’s just typical stuff.

This is a great read and lives up to the previous volumes.

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

Filed under:Chief Inspector Armand Gamache,Humor,Mystery,Series — posted by Randolph on February 16, 2010 @ 3:47 pm

The Brutal Telling by Louise PennyThe Brutal Telling is the fifth book in the Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny. In this book, Gamache investigates the death of an unknown man who’s body is found in the local Bistro. As the story unfolds, secrets are uncovered in layers.

I’ve enjoyed all of Penny’s stories. The characters are very rich and well developed, the stories are well told. The characters continue to develop and sometimes evolve in each of the books, giving something to look forward to in the next installment.

From time to time, I feel that Gamache is making an unreasonable leap, not following every possibility, but it is forgivable since the story is so well told. In the end, everything is tied up and the story makes perfect sense.

Asterix and the Magic Carpet by Albert Uderzo

Filed under:Fantasy,Humor,Series — posted by Randolph on January 6, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

Asterix and the Magic Carpet by Albert UderzoAsterix and the Magic Carpet, by Goscinny and Uderzo

[skipping preliminaries as most people know the characters]
In this adventure, the great Fakir Watziznehm has come to Gaul seeking Cacofonix. India is in a serious drought. Hoodunnit wants control of the kingdom, and has arranged for Orinjade to be executed if it doesn’t rain within 1001 hours. So Asterix and Obelix escort Cacofonix to India…

Revenge of the Spellmans: A Novel by Lisa Lutz

Filed under:Favorites,Humor,Mystery — posted by Randolph on August 20, 2009 @ 12:00 am

Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa LutzThe third installment of the Spellman saga. Izzy has her usual life, nowhere to live so she sneaks in her brother’s place, and she has to spy on him to figure out his secret. Her therapy isn’t going so well, she needs two doctors. Someone is blackmailing her to go to the museum and wash her father’s car. And she doesn’t know why! Meanwhile, Rae cheated on the Psssats, so her parents cancel their disappearance. Did I mention she has a job to spy on a man’s wife? And someone is tailing her. Then she was offered a big bribe, but for what?? Its all explained in the third book [now available in hardback.

My Man Jeeves: A Collection Of Short Stories. by P. G. Wodehouse

Filed under:Humor,Series — posted by Randolph on August 15, 2009 @ 7:18 pm

My Man Jeeves by P. G. WodehouseThe Jeeves stories are fun, but not all the stories in the book involve Jeeves. The book started with three of them, and ended with another. The stories in the middle were not as good, and ended with more of a down note than is typical of the Jeeves stories. Wodehouse seemed to be experimenting with a different style that didn’t work as well. Skip those.

The Jeeves stories will meet your expectations, Jeeves is a step ahead of the rest of the world and provides insights and a small surprise to every situation.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace