June 07, 2005

Lila: An inquiry into morals/ Robert M. Pirsig

This isn't a sequel from Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It's a totally different story, although it does make extensive reference to Pirsig's earlier work. I think this book might make more sense if you read the earlier book, but even if you don't, you won't lose too much. I can't help but think this book is even more of an autobiography of Pirsig.

NLB Call No.: PIR
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Chapter 3, P.33: Starts talking about a Professor Verne Dusenberry (there was such a person) who studied Native American Indian culture. The thesis (I think Pirsig's) was that modern (White) American culture and values (like "freedom") arose from Native American Indian values. Intriguing. I thought this part was like Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, in that it brought on an "intellectual hyperbole" of sorts.

P.34 - 35: Seems to me that Pirsig suggests there is no need, or one is unable, to have "objectivity in anthropological studies. Like saying that it's the same in Journalism . Somehow it reminds me of Carol C. Kuhlthau's Information Seeking Behaviour (see here or here).

Chapter 4, P.55 - This chapter provides that continuity from Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It reinforced that the Phædrus character was a reference to mean Persig 'cos it says Phædrus published a successful book and Lila picks up the story 6 years later. Also mentions that Phædrus/ Pirsig had "enormous problems" (the death of Pirsig's son?), and that the book was on the subject of Quality.

P.66 - More references to Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Chapter 6: Switches from narrative from Phædrus' point of view to 3rd person "the author" - a literary device perhaps... Later I realised chapter 6 was written from the character Rigel's point of view. A bit disorienting but quite an interesting literary device.

p.91 - Rigel admonishes the message in Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Pirsig taking a dig at himself? Or mocking his critics?)

p.116 - Interesting point made on the Platypus -- that when the Platypus was discovered, scientists said it was a paradox. But Pirsig's point was it was never a paradox or an oddity. It didn't make sense only to the scientists because they viewed the nature of animals according to their own classification, when nature did not have any.

p.164: Quote:
A thing doesn't exist because we have never observed it. The reason we have never observed it is because we have never looked for it. And the reason we have never looked for it is that it is unimportant, it has no value and we have other better things to do.

p.185 - Quote:
Just as it is more moral for a doctor to kill a germ than patient, so it is more moral for an idea to kill a society than it is for society to kill an idea.

Chapter 20: p.286 - Pirsig makes reference to his schizophrenia.

p.312: Mentions background to the John Scopes "Monkey Trial" (1925), made into a movie "Inherit the Wind".

p.317: Quote:
Morals have no objective reality. You can look through a microscope or telescope or oscilloscope for the rest of your life and you will never find a single moral. There aren't any there. They are all in your head.

P. 331: A glimpse into the root of Lila's neurosis.
See also chapter 30.
End of chapter 31: The link between Rigel and Lila becomes clear... you have to read the book.

P. 342: A discourse on the development of Philosophy.

P.355 - That you cannot deal with crime by talking crime to death. Quote:
Intellectual patterns cannot directly control biological patterns. Only social patterns can control biological patterns. The instrument of conversation between society and biology has always been a policeman or a soldier and his gun. All laws of history... all the Constitutions... are nothing more than instructions to the military and police. If the military and police can't or don't follow these instructions properly they might as well have never been written.

P.442: Quote:
In cultures without books, ritual seems to be a public library for teaching the young and preserving common values and information.

June 05, 2005

Science goes to war: The search for the ultimate weapon, from Greek fire to Star Wars/ Ernest Volkman

Found this highly entertaining. A history lesson on the development of war and warfare, from ancient times to modern and speculates what might be beyond.

It reads like episodes from the Discovery Channel -- very entertaining and I couldn't put it down. You have to read it to know what I mean.

This is not just a book "for the boys". I've gained insights to the rise and fall of Greek/ European civilisations, the descent into the Dark Ages, the development and demise of the Arab/ Muslim era, to name a few.

It's like a concise History of the World, from the war perspective.
NLB Call No.: 355.809 VOL (General section)
ISBN: 0471410071
[Check for item in NLB Catalogue]

June 04, 2005

Understanding comics: The invisible art/ Scott McCloud

What better way to understand comics than to have a book done in the comic artform. It could have been easily titled "The world of comics, according to Scott McCloud" (p. 214).

Alan McKenzie's "How to draw and sell comic strips for newspapers and comic books" was focused on the practical aspects of comic strips. This book by Scott McCloud focused more on the concept and theory of comic art. Like a textbook on comic theory. But far more engaging than the typical textbook.

NLB Call No.: 741.5 MAC - [ART]
Click here to check for item availability.
(ISBN: 006097625X)

Chapter 1: Setting the Record Straight
Tries to define what is "comics". Very interesting overview on the history of comics -- including interpretation of a pre-Columbian picture manuscript, the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Norman conquest, an Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Chapter 2: The Vocabulary of Comics
I understand this chapter as trying to say that comics can convey meaning using icons, symbols and pictures, rather than just words. That "visual iconography" being the vocabulary of comics.

Chapter 3: Blood in the Gutter
Explains the concept of "Closure" in comics (its grammar). I liked this particular quote:
Every act committed to paper by the comic artist is aided and abetted by a silent accomplice. An equal partner in crime known as the reader.

I may have drawn an axe being raised... but I'm not the one who let it drop or decided how hard the blow, or who screamed, or why. That, dear reader, was your special crime. Each of you committing it in your own style.
Explains various types of sequences (e.g. "moment-to-moment", "aspect-to-aspect"). Analyses the differences in styles from different countries. Pages 84 and 85 show how scenes can be cut and still retain the story in different perspectives.

Chapter 4: Time Frames
Shows how time sequences can be depicted using single panels or a series of panels, or repeat scenes, or even the length of the panel (something I in comics all the time but don't necessarily pay them any attention). Also motion lines etc. There's an interesting panel layout on P105, where reading it from any possible direction would tell you a different story.

Chapter 5: Living in Line
How lines rendered in different ways can convey different meanings.

Chapter 6: Show and Tell
Piecing together the words, pictures, panels, and sequencing to convey the story. Pages 157 to 160 shows how a simple storyline of a person going out of the apartment to buy ice-cream could be depicted in different ways.

Chapter 7: The Six Steps
Details the six steps (or aspects) to be considered in comic art: Idea/ purpose, Form, Idiom, Structure, Craft, and Surface. I found this chapter very theoretical.

Chapter 8: A Word About Color
Short chapter on the concept of color in comics.

Chapter 9: Putting It All Together
Well, as the chapter says, it sums all the previous chapters... Quote (p.199) on understanding comics:
The first step in any such effort is to clear our minds of all preconceived notions about comics. Only by starting from scratch can we discover the full range of possibilities comics offer.

A word to describe this book -- Wow (apparently, Tinkertailor felt the same way too).

This was like an undergrad course on comic art. It's precisely that the theory and concepts were conveyed via the comic artform that it makes it all so convincing.