Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Con Reading

It's sad, but one of the few times I really get to read anymore is when I travel by myself - which is basically to and from gaming conventions. This last trip, I got through a good two and a half books - pretty remarkable.

The first tome I read was The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of Public Relations - yup, a business book. If that doesn't show you how far I've journeyed into the dark side, nothing will. It was actualy relatively informative, although, like most business-related stuff, the 300+ pages could have been summarized in a 10-page pamphlet. I was sitting there thinking, man, how often are they going to keep repeating themselves? But I did find its premise quite useful - that cutesy advertising isn't often worth a damn as far as sales go (and, statistics often show that it can cut into sales significantly). Sales are generated by positive public relations, and then advertisements are created to support the public perception of a product. I can't believe I'm even typing this crap, but there ya go. I'm a business guy now, baby! Where's my giant TV?

On the religion side, I read John Krakauer's Beneath the Banner of Heaven, which he says is basically an indictment of organized religion. The book supports its premise that organized religion feeds mentally-unbalanced individuals and even encourages them to commit horrible crimes by exploring murders committed by two excommunicated Mormons back in 1984. I found that he actually made a pretty weak job of supporting his thesis, and I don't share his dismal opinion of religion, but the book did offer a fascinating look into both the history of Mormonism (which I am woefully ignorant of) and the current fundamentalist sects within Mormonism - namely, the polygamists. Did you know there is an entire town in northern Arizona populated entirely by polygamists? I'm not talking about a small village either - it's 10,000+ people. I found the book informative, and repellant in the descriptions of incest, abuse, torture, and misogyny that have occured in the name of this religion, but I am also aware that these things make up a relatively small part of Mormonism, just as they make up a relatively small part of any other religion. A lesson I learned at DHS: even athiests beat their kids.

The half-book I got into was a biography of Benjamin Franklin, a bit of a departure from me, but it was on the NYT best-seller list so I picked it up. It's not the most exciting biography I've ever read, but it kept my interest, and I'm going to try to finish it now that I'm back. I'll reserve judgement until I'm through the entire book.

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