Media roundup: sci fi, electronica, the tragedy of suburbia, and public radio

And now, a brief list of things produced by fellow humans I enjoyed reading, hearing and watching in the past few weeks.

Books:

  • Larry Niven’s Ringworld

    I was drawn in by the concept of a ringed artificial habitable structure orbiting a star — one of the inspirations for the Halo universe. I was pleasantly surprised to find not only did Niven deeply expand upon the technical considerations of such a structure, he managed to weave a captivating story alongside. Niven has an odd, matter of fact writing style but his unique alien characters clearly punched through his plain style.

  • Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead, his sequel to Ender’s Game

    I was pleasantly surprised with Speaker. It took an abrupt turn from Ender’s Game, which was primarily a space-war novel. Speaker is a philosophical anthropological ‘what if’ tale — what if humans colonized a planet with an existing sentient species. I found it very rewarding.

Music:

Online:

  • Reddit.com – best described as “the new Digg.”

    Like Digg, Reddit accepts submissions of web links. But, unlike Digg, clicking on a link in Reddit doesn’t lead to the ‘link metadata page’ before actually bringing you to the external site — it just links to the external site. Reddit encourages you to read the ‘link metadata page’ by way of its perfectly threaded and moderated comments. This encourages thoughtful and complete discussion, whether the external link in question is a silly picture of a dog or a depressing world affairs story.

    I enjoy the discussions, but I recognize a significant bias toward libertarian viewpoints. (Ron Paul has an unusually high share of voice on the site. Frequent posts argue for returning to the gold standard.)

  • James Howard Kunstler speaks about the tragedy of suburbia. I feel similar emotions as he expresses, but never have I felt comfortable expressing it publicly in such a way. Watching his speech is a pleasure as he strongly emphasizes our nation’s real tragedy: poor city planning.

    Choice quote, “…When you think about those young men and women who are over in places like Iraq, spilling their blood in the sand, and ask yourself, ‘What is their last thought of home?’ I hope it’s not the curb-cut between the Chuck-E-Cheese and the Target store, cause that’s not good enough for Americans to be spilling their blood…

Radio:

  • Selected Shorts – Odd Couples. I loved the first story of this program, Aimee Bender’s “The Meeting.” It starts around 7 min, 30 seconds. (MP3 Link)
  • Fareed Zakaria on KQED’s Forum speaks about post-Americanism — what is America’s world role now that it’s waning as a super-power? I was also inspired by Mr. Zakaria’s array of statistics pointing toward the positive direction, a nice break from news stories I usually see in the media about the falling of the sky.
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