Central Snark


Stoopid “R” Us by Snuppy
Friday, 14 September 2007, 8:45am
Filed under: funny...

pouty bitchWE had a most excellent and/or enticing post planned for today’s Sex, Ed? offering, but then a little something caught our eye. Something, we confess, that put us completely out of the “mood” to do anything but sit in a puddle of our own drool, whilst drubbing our lips with our middle finger. And eating buttloads of ice cream, because, um, that’s what we do when we’re not in the “mood” for anything even remotely related to sex. And that’s the trooth.

NOT that we’re terribly upset, we hasten to add, but remind us to never, ever recommend a good “book” to someone who’s already trying to pass himself off as a “writer“. Unless we have our hearts set on feeling so stupid we have to spell it “stoopid”, that is. Because, trust us, that’s exactly how we feel after discovering what our so-called “friend” (and Co-Administrator/used-to-be-frequent contributor of the Snark) had to say about a perfectly good piece of fiction we recommended a few weeks ago. That’s right, we suggested a modest SciFi novel we dared to think DIESEL might find read-worthy, then stood by and watched in horror as he shredded it into nano-particles. Yowie, we knew we had low standards, but even we were shocked by what bad taste we had in literature. Witness the “review” our “friend” wrote for his so-called “Looky At The Booky” blog, after reading a humble missive some of us happened to enjoy quite a little bit, back when it first came out, in 1995:

The Truth Machine*

Rarely when reading a book do I have the urge to hurl the book against a wall. I resisted that urge countless times with The Truth Machine, giving in only when I had finally finished reading it. And man, did it feel good.

Written in 1995 by James Halperin, The Truth Machine starts off in the early 1990s and climaxes in the middle of the 21st century. Its underlying plot is a fairly conventional one; the book is mainly an exercise in near future prognostication. I’m used to reading sci-fi books that make outlandish and inaccurate predictions about the future, but I think The Truth Machine takes the cake. Supposedly the author interviewed a lot of really smart people about what was going to happen in the coming decades, which just goes to show how much smart people know.

His predictions veer wildly off track almost immediately, to the point of being humorously absurd. To give you an idea: In 2003 Al Gore is President, most people drive electric cars, oil is selling for $4 a barrel, the war in Bosnia is still going on, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are not. Things get more and more absurd as the years go by.

The central idea of the book is the construction of a glorified lie detector, the “truth machine.” The truth machine comes into being through a series of contrivances reminiscent of the founding of Apple Computers, the creation of the Human Genome Project and the establishment of the X-Prize. Never in human history has any project been undertaken in this way, because none of it makes any freaking sense. It makes no sense that the guy spearheading the project is a computer programmer, and it makes no sense that a company that has been given funding to pursue one very specific goal (building the truth machine) would first spend several years doing stuff that is completely unrelated to that goal in order to raise more money. The author manages to communicate his ignorance of corporate finance, computer programming, scientific research, and pretty much every other field he touches on.

He doesn’t deal in any significant way with the resistance that would face the introduction of a perfect lie detector into all areas of society, nor with the negative psychological or sociological consequences that it would cause. At one point a character mentions that maybe people have become overly dependent on the truth machine, and that perhaps the part of the human brain that deals with uncertainty has atrophied as a result. Eureka! I thought. An actual interesting idea, 300 something pages into the book. Unfortunately the author goes nowhere with the idea. This book is the worst kind of escapist utopian fiction: It doesn’t challenge us to think about the consequences of technological advances; all it shows us are the endless benefits of scientific progress.

Oh sure, there’s the moral conflict involving the main character, but that’s just the barest of excuses for a lot of gushing about world government and gyrocopters. And even that plot has a saccharine happy ending.

One of the cover blurbs compares this book to Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, and I can only assume that the author deliberately modeled the saga of Pete Armstrong on the tale of Howard Roarke. Unfortunately where Ayn Rand subtly and mercilessly drove her characters to heroic and yet tragic consequences, Halperin’s characters just slog along through one trivial difficulty after another until the whole thing mercilessly and anticlimactically ends.

The Publishers Weekly blurb on Amazon reads in part:

His prose is at best workmanlike, and his plotting and character development tend toward the simplistic. Nearly all of his major characters, from millionaire-genius protagonist Pete Armstrong on down, seem to be either the smartest, the richest, the most respected or the most influential people in the world. The traditional qualities of fiction are apparently of only secondary interest to the author, however. As a futurist, Halperin seems primarily concerned with suggesting innovations and then working out their implications over half a century.

And as I’ve noted, even as a futurist Halperin is laughably inadequate.

The Truth Machine is a mildly interesting murder mystery drowning in giant sickening globs of technology porn.

Sorry Snuppy, I didn’t care for it.

*****                     *****                     *****                     *****

WELL excu-u-u-u-u-use us for recommending a silly book that we once found moderately entertaining. And who are we to argue with your assessment that none of this shit stuff can ever happen, despite the stoopid articles we’ve read over the past couple of years that seem to support what this guy has “imagined” for the future? Clearly we know nothing, NOTHING, about decent Science Fiction. Even tho’ we not only grew up on Ray Bradbury and George Orwell, but used to spend copious amount of time enthralled with Lost In Space, Star Trek AND The Twilight Zone, when you, young man, were less than a gleam in your father’s eye. Sorry we told you to read a dumb book. Sorry we were too stoopid to realize how much it sucked. Sorry you hate us and/or our lousy taste in literature.

OH, and we guess that means you won’t be picking up the other crappy SciFi “material” we suggested anytime soon, eh Mr. Picky “Sorry Snuppy I Didn’t Care For Your Stoopid Book” Guy?

~Crazy Stoopid Aunt Bea

See Dick. See Jane. See Dick offer to show Jane dirty pictures on Humor-blogs.com. See Jane laugh and say “There are no dirty pictures on Humor-blogs.com, Dick. What are you, stupid?” See Dick cry like a whiny little girl. The End.

*FYI: we didn’t ask Mr. Picky “Sorry Snuppy blah blah blah” Guy if we could reprint his “review”, but if he knows what’s good for him, he won’t complain. Not if he expects us to keep promoting his stupid book and/or t-shirts, that is. By the way, we are SO not pissed off by what we just elected to cut and paste up there — in all honestly, we thought that review was, and we quote (ourselves): “clever and/or hilarious“, which is how we generally describe everything and/or anything Diesel chooses to write.

Just so we’re clear.

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37 Comments so far
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ya know, someone i used to think had a passing intelligence, once recommended THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, and i had the exact same reaction young Diesel did to the book i told him to read (tho’ i said it was “mindless”, bub, remember that??). seriously, it (Day After Tomorrow) was the WORST book, ever (the movie by the same name — while terrible — was NOTHING like the so-called “novel”).

you guys should really check out Diesel’s other reviews, they’re every bit as entertaining as this one was. apparently he doesn’t appreciate MUCH in the way of “literature”.

kidding, Diesel, i kid. (and NOW you’re back on my “good” side) 😉

Comment by snuppy

I’m not here. You didn’t see me here. *tiptoeing out*

While I wasn’t here, I admired the pouting pix you posted up top. Not that you’re pouting or nothin’.

Comment by TLP

TLP: i’ll give you 5 gold stars and 2 — count ’em TWO — thumbs up if you can tell me who that is! 🙂

Comment by snuppy

CAGE MATCH! CAGE MATCH! CAGE MATCH!

I have a webcam you can borrow to show it live.

Comment by the frogster

Ok, now the gloves are off. Here are some of the predictions in this book, which was written in 1995.

2001
– North Koreans invade South Korea
– Al Gore inaugurated as President
– An AIDS vaccine is discovered

2001
– Bosnian terrorists detonate a nuclear weapon in Belgrade
– The life expectancy in the U.S. is now 80 years, the highest of any nation in the world

2003
– Iraq (still run by Saddam Hussein) announces its decision to ratify the Arab-Israeli Free-Trade Pact
– Gas-powered automobiles average 96 MPG
– Philip Morris, America’s last surviving tobacco company, goes bankrupt
– Students in the U.S. and Great Britain score highest of all nations on standardized tests due to implementation of “School Choice” programs

2004
– Electric cars have 11% of the market
– Violent crime is the #1 political issue
– AT&T goes bankrupt

2006
– Fidel Castro dies
– United Airlines initiates supersonic passenger service between L.A. and New York
– A cure for AIDS is found
– Technology for predicting earthquakes is invented
– The U.S. Postal Service discontinues operation
– China’s economy is the largest in the world
– Sarajevo and Baghdad are both nuked
– Scientists revive a cryonically suspended mouse

2008
– Congress declares Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s birthday a national holiday (!!!)

2010
– Oil prices are predicted to fall to $2.50 a barrel because electric automobiles will have 96% of the market

I mean, could he have been any more wrong? Our society resembles 1984 or Brave New World more than it does anything in The Truth Machine, and those books were written OVER HALF A CENTURY AGO. On top of that, the plot isn’t particularly original or interesting, and the prose is about at the level of a bright high school student.

Honestly, the book really wasn’t that bad. But if I were a publisher reading this as a manuscript, I would think, “Man, this is so sad. This guy obviously worked really hard on this, but it just isn’t quite good enough to publish.” Shows what I know, I guess.

Anyway, it still beats Eragon or that ass Bill Maher’s book.

Comment by Diesel

BTW, I thought the movie The Day After Tomorrow was hilarious. Everybody run! The Creeping Cold is coming!

Comment by Diesel

Under the heading standup and be counted…I too enjoyed The Truth Machine and will even admit that I contacted James Halperin and encouraged to write a third book (his second was The First Immortal, which I also enjoyed.) He politely explained that he didn’t have time to write a third (Diesel applauds)…apparently he runs a very successful rare coin biz in Texas.

Comment by BoBo

Frogster: ‘fraid it would be pretty boring. Diesel’d crack one joke, i’d wind up on the floor, and BAM! end of conflict. thanks for the offer, tho’, i’ll keep it in mind should anything like this pop up in the future! 😉

Diesel: blah blah blah — wah wah wah — yeah yeah yeah. sue me. 🙄

Diesel: Day After Tomorrow was, in fact, completely hilarious. the book was beyond terrible — which is why i continue to marvel at the “reviews” on Amazon (much as you were surprised by the good reviews Halperin recieved for this book) 🙂

BoBo: well, it just goes to show, what the hell do we know about “good” literature? actually, such things DID seem more credible and/or likely back in ’95. ah… those were the “good” ole days, after all, weren’t they? 😉

Comment by snuppy

George Orwell was so good at predicting the future because he was writing about the present. 1984 was based the 1950’s British media and he knew it wouldn’t take long for that to spread to all facets of entertainment.

Even then he got it wrong. He thought it would be the government controlling the message not private companies just looking for ratings and profits not news.

It is funny about those predictions above, almost all of them are not based on anything you would think would actually trend out. They got the life expectancy rate one though. Just announced the other day that Americans are up to 78!

Here is a few predictions that I think will happen. I bet I will be more right then the writers of that book.

In the future TV’s will be sold as a box to receive the information, and a group of screens that you place around the house. You touch the screen or use a remote to change the channel etc.

The computer will no longer be a big tower, but a small unit. All information will be online in databases instead of stored on a hard drive, creating a new level of social intra-net networks, ones that are more closed to outsiders though. A lot like a gated community in real life.

Comment by Chris C

Re your challenge to TLP about who is in that picture at the top… duh – you put her name right in the picture itself.

That, of course, is pouty-bitch.

I’ll take my stars and thumbs now thank you.

Comment by Jeff

Ok, why the hell won’t this thing let me post a comment? Am I really being that insufferable?

Comment by Diesel

Ok, that worked. Let’s try this again.

Ok, Bobo and Snuppy, if it’s so great, tell me what you liked about it: The social prognostication he got wrong, the cardboard characters, the uninspired plot, or the predictable ending? I’m dying to know. 😉

You know what I think really bugs me about this book? When I was 21, I started writing a novel about the near future that I entitled The Sisyphus Solution (nice alliteration, huh?). The theme was the idea that as society gets more complex, things tend to break more easily. That is, as society advances it ironically also tends to become more fragile. So the question was whether society would reach a point where things would get so complex that breakdowns would prevent further complexity, thereby halting any net technological progress. This point was the “Sisyphus Point”, named after the guy in Greek mythology who could never quite get the boulder to the top of the mountain.

I never got more than 30 pages written because I knew on some level that I didn’t have enough knowledge to write the book I wanted to write. Not to mention that my characters were stereotypes and the plot was really just an excuse for a lot of philosophizing and prognostication. So I eventually gave up on it.

And now I find that I could have had a bestseller on my hands.

Comment by Diesel

Chris: a “box” to receive information you say? wow. can’t wait to see how that prediction turns out. 😉

Jeff: a “pouty-bitch” with a name. here’s a hint: “No wire hangers!!!” (she “changed” a bit over the years, don’t ya think?) still, your answer deserves something, how’s this? \,,/ rock on, bro’! 😎

Diesel: (not sure why your other two comments wound up in the spamcatcher — i went ahead and deleted ’em for ya, just so YOU won’t look… stoopid. 😉

as for your question?? hmmmm. ya know, truth (heh) be told, i read that book 12 years ago, so i honestly don’t remember. at the time i think the concept of “nano-technology” caught my fancy — i had never heard of the term before reading it in this book. i guess i was in the mood for a little “mindless” entertainment back then. and i found the concept of a society where NO one could tell a lie rather thought-provoking. too bad you didn’t write that book of yours, my wordsmith friend — based on what we ALL know, it most definitely would have qualified as a best-seller. any chance you’ve got the notes sittin’ around that estate of yours??? although, now that i think about it, do you really want to write about some guy with a sissy face?? 🙄

Comment by snuppy

PS Diesel: you do know i merely wrote this whiny post in order to mock you and/or bring a little well-deserved attention to your “Booky Looky” blog (as well as your Booky booky), don’t you? :mrgreen:

Comment by snuppy

I’d fight Diesel in a cage match.

Comment by Bill Maher

Snuppy – I figured you just didn’t feel like doing a post today. 🙂

Either way, it’s fine with me. I probably wouldn’t have torn the book apart so severely if I thought anybody was going to actually read the review though. 🙂

I’m glad I never wrote that novel. It was kind of a mess, because at the time I had “literary ambitions.” I’m much happier with the novel that I’m writing now, because I have much lower aspirations. Basically, my rule of thumb now is to end every chapter with an explosion.

Comment by Diesel

Joan Crawford of course! I’m old. Remember?

Comment by TLP

“Bill”: good luck with that, bub. Diesel’ll kick YOUR ass in a Ripon minute. 😉

Diesel: well sure, there was that, too. 😉

as for your writing aspirations? far as i’m concerned, anything you come up with is bound to be brillaint. remember, i’m not just your oldest fan, i’m also your craziest fake aunt. oh, and i also admire your ability to string a bunch of worms together in a fashion that is both coherent AND entertaining, but that goes without saying… at least i hope so. 🙄

TLP: old? OLD???? hah! i don’t think so, girlfriend. i mean, you and i aren’t really “old” so much as… experienced (“well seasoned”?) 🙂

Comment by snuppy

Cool – Bill Maher wants to fight Diesel in a cage match! This book sounds kind of like an 80’s song – who sang it I can’t remember now, but the lyrics went something like:

You’re gonna take a walk in the rain and you’re gonna get wet – I predict. Was it Depressed Mode? I think so.

Diesel, how is that 52 books in a year going? I got yours so I can add that to my pile! Exciting!

Comment by Lampsha

Diesel, you’re a dick. You’re also probably one of those guys who makes fun of other dudes for wearing pink, aren’t you?!?

Comment by James Halperin

Lampsha: the best part of having Diesel’s book on the nightstand is seeing the lovely pictures just before falling asleep. it’s like taking the blog to bed. wait… that didn’t come out right. uh, what i meant to say was that Diesel’s book is… funny. hahahaha? (clearly it’s now WAY past my own bedtime, and silliness has completely taken over. oy. thank G*D tomorrow YOU’LL be doing a “spin”, my dearest NBFF, and i can give my fragile, plagerizing(ish) little brain a well-deserved rest!) 🙂

Mr. Lousy SciFi Writer: like us, Diesel “mocks” because he loves. except, that is, in the case of (what i now realize is) your crappy book, which, and i quote(ish): sucks more than a 2-bit whore on a 4-bit date.

as for that guy in the pink shirt? did you NOT see that long earring he had on? i mean, come on — he was asking for it. 😉

Comment by snuppy

I don’t know the book, but that sounds like a good and I’m sorry to say, accurate, review. . . .

Comment by weirsdo

Weirsdo: not just “accurate”, but accurate in a way that’s also completely hilarious. trust me, you should read some of Diesel’s other book reviews — they’re equally funny, and highly entertaining. 🙂

Comment by snuppy

There’s a paradox here. Diesel has conclusively shown that Snup’s book recommendations are not worth the electrons they’re transmitted with… But Snuppy keeps recommending we read Diesel’s book. How to choose, how to choose?

Ah, I’ll just keep reading Harry for now.

Comment by IDiveAtNight

IDAN: ouch. let’s just call this one book a minor “bloop” on the bookish radar screen, and assume everything i recommend from here on out will be stellar. truth be told, i have a talent for finding Pulitzer Prize winning novels before the, um, Pulitzer Prize panel does. so, you know, most of the crap stuff i read is veryVERY good! 😉

Comment by snuppy

well, yous aved me form throwing teh book to the wall myself. Youc an pull a muscle thatway 🙂

Diesel, sure is opinionated, isn’t he. You think its all that country oxygen he’s breathing???

Comment by Penguin

Note to self: Never recommend a book to Diesel.

Comment by Theresa

“a “box” to receive information you say? wow. can’t wait to see how that prediction turns out.”

Yes the box will be a vagina on your dvd shelf, your choice of hairstyle. I’m liking the landing strip.

People will come by and say ‘wow that computer sure is tight!’ and I will say ‘no it’s not, it is like throwing a pencil down a hallway. I actually use it to store my collection of 500 dvds and the riding lawnmower’.

Comment by Chris C

[…] thing yourself. 6. While I normally don’t read book reviews, Aunt Bea at Central Snark offers one worth the time. Apparently a grave mistake was made, and the terrible and all powerful Diesel was asked for his […]

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Penguin: heh heh — we are nothing, if not a full-service blog. guess i won’t be lending YOU our dumb book, anytime soon! 😉

Theresa: awwww — i think everyone should recommend books to Diesel. if only to inspire more great reviews! 🙂

Chris: you weren’t happy about the fact i didn’t do a Sex, Ed? post today, were you, snarky boy? chin up and all that, i promise we’ll do something more, um, titillating, if YOU promise to stop referring to a “vagina” as a “box”. 🙄

Comment by snuppy

You did first 🙂

Comment by Chris C

Chris: details… details. 😉

Comment by snuppy

hey btw, any of the 12 people that write for CS going to volunteer to be interviewed by me? I left a note in the general comments section but I guess you didn’t see it.

I’m looking to do a weekly or bi-weekly feature of interviews of humor-blog bloggers. There’s a post about it on my blog with all the details. 🙂

Comment by Chris C

Chris: d’oh! sooooo sorry i didn’t see this sooner. that said, i’m sure we can get someone for you to interview — i mean, i’d be happy to, but i’m thinking you might prefer someone younger/prettier/more engaging, like, say, Miz B, Lampsha, the Little Blue Pill, teh Penguin and/or Diesel. let’s see what we can do! 🙂

Comment by snuppy

Diesel’s already on the hook. 🙂

Whichever of your alter-egos wants to do it is fine. hehe 🙂

Comment by Chris C

[…] thing yourself. 6. While I normally don’t read book reviews, Aunt Bea at Central Snark offers one worth the time. Apparently a grave mistake was made, and the terrible and all powerful Diesel was asked for his […]

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