An excursion into non-fiction #1: Frans de Waal, The Bonobo and the Atheist (2013)

Some time ago, inspired by Bart from one of our favorite blogs, Weighing a pig doesn’t fatten it, we decided to start including some non-fiction on Re-enchantment. While the initial idea was to go for books that provide wider context for popular genre fiction, ultimately we decided to start with one that provides some insight into the very human nature, by exploring the social nature of other primates. Frans de Waal, world-famous (there’s even a TED 😉 ) Dutch-American primatologist, is on Bart’s list with several of his books, we’ve both read The Bonobo and the Atheist recently, and it was a thought-provoking experience, although it provoked slightly different thought in each of us.

Author: Frans de Waal

Title: The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates

Pages: 289

Format: Paperback

bonoboIn search of Humanism Among the Primates de Waal looks not only into the militant chimpanzees, but also the famously peaceful bonobo. Lifetime of research, combined with his private interest in art and philosophy, guide this journey to discover the origin of our species’ morality – and spirituality – in the societal structures and the psychological and social makeup of our closest animal relatives. If all the primates share not only social nature, but also empathy, it was arguably also present in our common ancestors, and our nature is not as rotten as some of us were convinced since childhood. Moreover, he provides us with ample examples of other species showing self-awareness and kindness previously attributed only to humans, and if on decidedly smaller levels, it’s a matter of degree.

Empathy requires awareness of the other and sensitivity to the other’s needs. It probably started with parental care, like that found in the mammals, but there is also evidence for bird empathy. […] If both birds and mammals have some measure of empathy, that capacity probably goes back to their reptilian ancestors.

He does it skilfully, being not only an incredibly skilled and competent scientist (as his resume informs us), but also a gifted storyteller. Consequently, The Bonobo and the Atheist is a great book for both a casual and a scientifically-inclined reader; in addition to its atheism-related theses, already mentioned in the title, it gives us valuable insight into the current state of research of other primates’ social nature.

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Deadpool 2 (2018)

And… it’s another Marvel Movie Review (albeit the previous one was from a different studio). What can we say, they hit cinemas about as often as westerns used to in the olden times, and when we add various TV series…

But it’s ok, ’cause it’s freakin DEADPOOL!

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Deadpool 2, to be precise.

We attended a mini-marathon that featured both, and laughed pretty hard from the opening credits of Deadpool till the end of the last post-credits scene of Deadpool 2.

Piotrek: I’ll say again – Deadpool franchise is, for me, another proof superhero genre is mature enough to cover all the bases. We have your solid blockbusters, in the likes of Infinity War, light-hearted family comedies like Guardians, politically significant movies like Black Panther, really meaningful and moving Logan, and both Deadpools fill in the niche for smart, irreverent, fourth-wall breaking parodies. When we add TV, we have one of the best depictions of modern veterans in Punisher, very innovative Legion, and I’d even argue there are echoes of The Wire in Luke Cage.

Ola: …and Shaft 🙂

Piotrek: I have a feeling you really like Shaft. Maybe I should give it a second chance, I remember not being awed, but it was… about 20 years ago?

Ola: It’s not about this movie’s internal values as a piece of filmmaking – it’s about Shaft’s undeniable impact as a work of culture 😛 Majority of the new movies concerning African American, especially in the drama/thriller genre, consciously or subconsciously relate themselves to Shaft, because it was the first of such movies.

Piotrek: New Deadpool though… fun for everybody but the snobbiest critics! We’re so well entrenched the domination might last a while, and there are no significant threats on the horizon – although, to be honest, dinosaurs were certain of that too, right until the meteor hit.

Ola: It does seem the studios are exploiting this niche for all its worth. Your western analogy is very apt – movies based on comic books are similarly uniform in style and content, and as with westerns you can find magnificent movies right next to the epitomes of mediocrity. There was another movie genre in olden days that followed the same path of success and forgetfulness – movies based on the history and mythology of Roman Empire 😀 And there are some I wish I could unsee – like Jason and the Argonauts from 1963…

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Spelling Bee :)

We came across an interesting challenge lately, taken up by two fellow bloggers whose sites both of us frequent often: Chris at Calmgrove and Paula at Book Jotter. The challenge was borrowed from yet another interesting blog, Fictionphile. A silly but fun thing, really, to spell a blog’s name in books from your TBR list.

my-blogs-name-in-books(Piotrek – And let me just take a moment to complement background graphic of the Fictionphile, I have mixed feelings about B&N hardcover classics, I own only their psychedelic Lovecraft, but they look just great there!!)

With rules as follow:

Rules: 

1.  Spell out your blog’s name. (this is where you wish your blog’s name was shorter LOL)

2. Find a book from your TBR that begins with each letter. (Note you cannot ADD to your TBR to complete this challenge – the books must already be on your Goodread’s TBR)

Well, neither of us keeps a Goodread’s TBR, so we decided to just use what we have – vast numbers of books waiting patiently for their turn on our bookshelves.

Calmgrove had 9 books to find, we – 23. But we are gonna make it, the entire name of our humble blog, including of the and even the world 🙂

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Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Spoilers ahead, beware! I’d say, with this movie the statue of limitations is short, and everybody is going to see it anyway, so there’s no point in writing a spoiler-free review 😉

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We went our friend Rodzyn to see the new Avengers movie on the very first day it was being played in Poland. It certainly is a complex, carefully constructed story of epic proportions, aiming to be a climax of the entire theatrical MCU so far. Most of the heroes we’ve met meet to fight the ultimate threat – Thanos. He’s been looming on the horizon since The Avengers, and now stepped up to become THE villain.

So… did they succeed, is it the greatest team-up, the biggest foe, the most epic struggle and the most heart-wrenching story of the MCU?

Piotrek: It… well, it is, for me. Not the best MCU movie, but definitely the proper culmination (or at least the first part of…) of all the interweaving storylines. The scale is bigger than anything that happened before, and a chaotic disaster on the DC scale was a real risk – but it works! It works, because we had a decade to prepare and now it just click together nicely.

Ola: I’m not sure if this indeed is a culmination – or, to be more precise, a final one. The superheroes surely deal with the biggest and baddest foe to date, and it is the most epic struggle of the MCU as we know it. However, the heart-wrenching part is a definite exaggeration on your part, Piotrek ;). It’s a wonderfully made, cleverly written, visually arresting, truly funny and sometimes even quite emotionally gripping – money grab 🙂

Piotrek: Isn’t everything. But it’s quite a good one, as blockbusters go. And it’s more than just a sequence of fights and quips.

Rodzyn: It’s hard not to admire the weavers behind MCU mentioned by Piotrek . After all those years we get to the skilfully crafted final stage, one that avid viewer can enjoy immensely. But neither the decor of epic battlefields nor the sheer number of assembled heroes gave me the most joy. In my eyes the best part of MCU are the relations and dynamics between our protagonists, ‘family drama’ feel of supernatural gathering.

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Book piles and reading habits

Piotrek: Inspired by a recent post by an author capable of following over a dozen books at once, I reflected on my own reading habits. It was illuminating, as I realised they’ve changed quite a bit over the years. I’d certainly have trouble simultaneously reading fifteen books 😉 In fact, I used to be a strict serial monogamist in my reading, but I relaxed that rule a bit. First, I’ve added audiobooks – I usually read one dead-tree book and listen to something else (not at once 😉 ). I’ve reached “Guards! Guard!” in my Pratchett audio-re-read that way 🙂
My Pratchet set

Side note – I enjoy early Discworld novels even more than I did reading them for the first time, twenty years ago. Some are better than others, but there are no weak links so far and I find myself raising the ratings for most (excluding ones that already had top marks, like Equal Rites).

Ola: I’m rather flexible in the aspect of number of books I read in any given time. Sometimes it’s only one book – but that happens on the rare occasions I devour a book in one-two sittings. Sometimes it’s three to four novels, on different mediums: one or two in paper (one in paperback, the other one in hardcover which is too heavy and cumbersome to be toted around in a bag or backpack ;)), one on Kindle, another one in audiobook, and of course there is always a handful of non-fiction books I’m reading simultaneously. Right now it’s Luttwak’s “Strategy”, Girard’s “Violence and the Sacred”, Polish version of Campbell’s “A Hero with a Thousand Faces” and a book about secret life of mushrooms by Hofrichter… Not to mention comic books 😉

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Piotrek: There are, of course, some almost-books I’ve got started. Serial fiction, like fanfics, various essays etc… The swallow up my reading time and I’ve restricted amount I read in order to process more books. There are quarterlies I still subscribe to, but haven’t read in some time…

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Still worse than comics… Jessica Jones, Season Two

Piotrek: It’s been a month since Jessica Jones’ Second Season’s premiere and finally we sit down to cast our judgement 😉 I must admit the show did not induce particularly strong feelings in me this time, contrary to the first encounter. Not disappointment, but also not enthusiasm. After an awful Iron Fist and mediocre – at best – Defenders, we got thirteen watchable, but largely forgettable, episodes of superhero TV. As a new industry standard, it’s cool, but in comparison to, say, Marvel’s The Punisher, to stay within Netflix/Marvel universe, nothing special.
My main problem with Season One was that it did not show us Jessica doing the actual detective work, that the Killgrave was defeated largely by his fascination with our heroine, not her skills and efforts, and that the show was not as connected with other Netflix Marvels as it should have been, given its source material. No Murdock, Patsy as a poor substitute for Jessica’s true best friend – Carol Danvers AKA Captain Marvel… it was not bad TV, but not a great adaptation of one of the most interesting comics I’ve ever read.
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Ola: I’ve forced myself to watch the second season of Jessica Jones only for the purpose of this review :P. I actually think I preferred the first season, despite its vivid and undeniable inferiority to the comic books. The second season suffers from a bad case of an ideological bout of righteousness. Don’t get me wrong – I supported “#Me too” action, because I thought it was an unfortunately necessary, if overly heated and not always fair, debate. But hitching the JJ2 wagon to “#Me too” action seems, firstly, unnecessary, and secondly, in bad taste. The storylines of Alias, i.e. Jessica Jones comic books, can easily defend themselves. They don’t need additional repetitions or variations of the themes already covered, abundantly, I might add, in season one.