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Monday, November 30, 2020

Reader's Diary #2150 - Bret Harte: Tennessee's Partner

I'm not quite sure how to take Bret Harte's short story "Tennessee's Partner", not sure exactly what the point is. 

It's a story of a loyal friend who attempts to get his friend, Tennessee, out of a legal pinch by bribing a judge. Well, not really, but his attempt was misguided and perceived as a bribe in any case, and doesn't prevent Tennessee from heading to the gallows. 

With that summary, I suppose it could be seen as highlighting the definition of a true friend. But the tone is off, and I admit, a bit hard for me to gage because of the antiquated language. Tennessee and his partner couldn't be less alike, and yet somehow they remain friends and I don't know if that's meant to be played for comedic effect. Or is it meant to be a tragedy? Or tragi-comedy?

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Reader's Diary #2149 - David Kyle Johnson (editor): Black Mirror and Philosophy

I've really grown to love the Blackwell and Philosophy series and Black Mirror and Philosophy marks my 4th. I'm starting to recognize some of the more common philosophical ideas and theories as well as philosophers. I can't always match up the philosopher with the the philosophy but that's not why I enjoy the books anyway. Basically, I like how they take me deeper into the ideas of pop culture, ones that the creators intended or the ramifications even if they didn't. 

Of course, as fans of the Black Mirror TV show know, there's typically a lot of obviously intentionally provocative ideas about technology and society, so in that regard the philosophers writing for this book had a lot of their initial work done for them. Still, in the Blackwell series fashion, they explored the show more comprehensively and complexly, but in a conversational, usually amusing manner. Still, I doubt it would be of much interest of those who didn't see the show or the particular episodes discussed.

In this book we get the expected debates such a show would
inspire: should we be concerned with the direction technology is leading us in? Are our actions online and in the virtual world a reflection of our true selves and what are the ethics of such behaviours? Can technology help us gain real immortality? And so on. These are all handled expertly in the book and as an added bonus, it made me rethink certain episodes. For instance, I always felt that the very first episode, while good, was a weird way to start the series as I don't find it really representational of the series overall. The discussion in Black Mirror and Philosophy made be appreciate its positioning much more.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Reader's Diary #2148 - Daniel Hudon: Our Universe

Daniel Hudon's flash fiction "Our Universe" is only faintly disguised as science fiction. He waxes nostalgic for a time when "our" universe was small. But the clue is right there, it's "our", not "the" and I suspect it's as much about a time when he really wasn't much concerned for the world outside his neighbourhood, but awareness, as it often does, began to change everything. 

It's mildly humorous (the opening line riffs on Dana Carvey's "Grumpy Old Man" character from Saturday Night Live) but not without poignancy. Yes there's nostalgia but underneath there's an acknowledgement that change was inevitable. 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Reader's Diary #2147 - John Michael: The Surgery

John Michael's flash fiction, "The Surgery" is a bizarre but entertaining story about a dentist who is so determined to get the job done that he will stop at nothing, including a flood that has entered his office. 

What has caused the flood is never explained, and while I was expecting an answer, I wasn't too disappointed by the lack of one. Likewise, I was never able to determine whether or not the flood was supposed to be symbolic (for fear, perhaps?) but was fascinated by it regardless and impressed with the rich description (even when at one point the description is particularly gross). 

Monday, November 09, 2020

Reader's Diary #2146 - Hannah Storm: Winners and Losers, 2004

Hannah Storm's flash fiction story "Winner and Losers, 2004" details a journalist amidst a soccer celebration in Haiti. The idea, it would seem, would be for the Haitians to have moment's peace, a break from the recent violence that has fallen upon their home. 

However, you can tell the journalist isn't buying it and as the story progresses we get a little more insight into her cynical outlook. 

It's an excellent premise though at times I found the story a bit choppy and disjointed.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Reader's Diary #2145 - James Joyce: A Painful Case

James Joyce's short story "A Painful Case" is an excellent character study, though of an unlikeable character. I was left to decide at the end if the central character was a fatalist, an ass, or both. 

It deals with a man who likes to think of himself as tolerant of other people, though he quite clearly views himself as superior. Then, suddenly, a woman comes into his life who seems at first to break down his defenses against getting closer to other people. Alas, the second she makes a move he's put off. His bleak outlook is essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy.