February 23, 2011

The Hunger Games trilogy; Suzanne Collins

I've enjoyed several other YA dystopian novels over the past few years. The four Uglies books got me started in 2008 and that led to Feed not long after. Both have stayed with me, and have much to be recommended for. Oddly, Feed had the weaker writing but the more resonant, and bleak, message w/r/t technology.

After a couple of days, I'm nearly finished with The Hunger Games. It's difficult to put down and really does deserve all of the attention it's getting. Despite the grim premise (teens fight to the death as retribution for their geographic regions' past rebellions against the Capitol) this is very teen-friendly and thoughtful.

IO9 just posted an article on the rise of dystopian YA novels titled What would it take for grownups to love dystopian fiction as much as teenagers?. The examination of the history of such works manifests this wry comment:

A lot of people credit Star Wars with destroying New Wave Science Fiction, which means you can add the lapse in dystopian stories to the list of things to blame George Lucas for.

Amen. The author asks why the young are latching on to dystopian stories and adults aren't, pointing out that teenagers often feel thrown into a bizarro world, but: Most of us still have the feeling that things are badly wrong with the world, and that powerful people are able to walk all over the rest of us. If you're a progressive, you probably blame big corporations. If you're a conservative, you probably blame big government.

The article also points to the New Yorker piece from June 2010 Fresh Hell: What's behind the boom in dystopian fiction for young readers? I tend to agree with the author's assessment of Uglies and Hunger Games: they're less warnings of impending doom than descriptions of specific anguish. Feed--however--was very much warning.

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posted by sstrader at 12:30 PM in Current Interests , Language & Literature | tagged io9, ya fiction | permalink

February 22, 2011

HBGary, Anonymous, and Wikileaks

This is turning into one of the best stories so far this year, and yet it seems doomed to only be known by geeks. Still spinning quickly, with new revelations daily, but it goes a little something like this:

  1. Three security firms--Palantir Technologies, HBGary Federal, and Berico Technologies--are hired by law firm Hunton and Williams to neutralize the potential threat posed by Wikileaks' releases.
  2. Aaron Barr at HBGary proposes leveraging his experience with social networks to expose the identities of active Anonymous members.
  3. HBGary/Barr publicly discuss their investigations of Anonymous; Anonymous then retaliates with a DDoS on the HBGary web site.
  4. Barr then approaches Anonymous members in an IRC chat as part of his preparation for an upcoming presentation. Soon after: Anonymous compromised the company's website and then copied internal documents and 60,000+ e-mails to BitTorrent for anyone to download. For further fun, they also vandalized Barr's Twitter and LinkedIn. To state the obvious: this was all done in short order and to a presumably skilled security company who had major contracts with the US government.
  5. The leaked documents are poured over by journalists. They reveal that HBGary was hired to spread lies about Wikileaks, its leader Assange, civil rights lawyer and vocal supporter of Wikileaks Glenn Greenwald, and Anonymous. Anonymous has done much digital mischief in support of Wikileaks, including DDoS attacks on the web sites of Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal--all corporations who refused to honor individuals' donations to Wikileaks. Barr viewed Anonymous as both appropriate collateral damage and good publicity.
  6. Further examination reveals that the US govt was behind many of the HBGary plans, including proposed attacks on unions. How timely, Wisconsin.

Interesting links:

posted by sstrader at 10:11 PM in Internet | tagged anonymous, wikileaks | permalink

February 9, 2011

His Dark Materials trilogy, Philip Pullman

lyra + will

I planned on reading these during the Thailand flights, but didn't start until the LA-to-Atl leg home. Ever since I saw The Golden Compass movie, I've had these book on my list. The Kindle purchase for Thailand + the fact that they're relatively inexpensive ebooks pushed them to the top of my list. Still plan on purchasing those beautiful, 10th anniversary hardback editions though.

I finished the last book two days ago and have had the standard sadness after losing characters you spend an extended time with. The story has its quizzical metaphors which don't lend themselves to obvious parsing, and so stay in your head. It's also confusing as, potentially, young adult literature yet with some mature and grotesque scenes. I suspect, as the author has explained, that young adults are better equipped to consume such complexities than they are normally credited.

I read daily and have been largely consumed by the story and by our heroes Lyra and Will. The carving made on the Botanic Garden bench is particularly sweet. I'll miss them and although I'm tempted to get the short stories that he's written with characters from the books, I just don't think the mood will be matched. The trilogy was complete, and that's enough. Not sure what to read now that I'm on an end-of-story downer.

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posted by sstrader at 11:57 PM in Current Interests , Language & Literature | tagged religion, ya fiction | permalink

February 7, 2011

Currently listening to

Chopin Etudes, Op. 10 and 25.

Looking to learn the short Etude in A minor. Desperately need to get my piano tuned; the cold weather has wreaked havoc on it.

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posted by sstrader at 11:35 PM in Current Interests , Music | permalink