Ty Johnston: life on the written page

Home to fantasy, horror and literary fiction author Ty Johnston

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

At Nerdarchy.com: Atari video game system


For me, Christmas brings up memories of the Atari 2600 home video game system, so that's what I talk about this week in my Nerdarchy column.

Books read in 2016: No. 61 -- How We Got the Bible

by Neil R. Lightfoot

Started: Dec. 2
Finished: Dec. 6

Notes: My guess is I'll be familiar with at least the basics of this information, and I'm skeptical of many Christian non-fiction books as they too often (for my taste) focus on evangelism instead of history, but one can always hope.

Mini review: I was pleasantly surprised with this one. I expected it to be more about the politics and groups that went into defining what we know today as the Holy Bible, such as the Council of Trent, etc., but all of that was only mentioned in passing. No, most of this was about archaeology and historical record, taking several looks at various manuscripts that have come down to us over the ages, the Dead Sea Scrolls being one of the most recent discoveries. Of course there was a Christian slant here, but I felt the author did a pretty good job at remaining objective when discussing the relative historical and religious worths of the different manuscripts. Also, the author did a good job at keeping the writing interesting without writing down to the audience but also without becoming too over-the-top intellectual, taking a nice middle approach.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Books read in 2016: No. 60 -- The Sayings of Confucius

by Confucius

translated by Leonard A. Lyall

Started: Nov. 29
Finished: Dec. 2

Notes: Still in a philosophical state of mind, I now turn to Eastern thought, a rarity for me. This 1909 book isn't a complete listing of absolutely everything Confucius was thought to have said, but it should be enough for me to get a gist of the man and his philosophy. These writings were apparently originally compiled by students of Confucius a number of years after his death.

Mini review: This is mostly common sense, being nice to people, working diligently, etc., though some of it concerns historical context not familiar to me, nor probably to most Western readers; and the footnotes are so bare as to be mostly useless. In fairness, this book is more than a century old, so a modern translation might have served me better.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

At Nerdarchy.com: We need more Unearthed Arcana

Traditionally, Unearthed Arcana books offer new and extra rules for D&D games, yet we don't have one for Fifth Edition, though there are some online options. In my Nerdarchy article this week, I say it's time for a UA book.

Books read in 2016: No. 59 -- Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

by David Hume

Started: Nov. 25
Finished: Nov. 29

Notes: I'm in a philosophical mood, so I turn to Hume. It's been a long while since I've dipped into any serious philosophy, though I've never been a big fan of the Empiricists as writers, though I don't have any hangups concerning their actual ideas. It's not impossible I read this 1757 piece in college lo those many decades ago, but I don't recall having done so.

Mini review: The writing style here was interesting in that it was a fallback to the pattern of ancient philosophers who often used fictional conversations to get their point(s) across. Still, like with most philosophers during Hume's time, I have to find fault when far too often fifty words are used instead of one and when, in an attempt at being precise, a sometimes confusing language is used instead of a more simple one. This particular book lands upon several related topics, but the gist of it concerns whether or not man can find evidence of the existence of God. Basically, this is an argument about the notion of divine design, though it scoffs at outright atheism. The side in this argument favoring design appears to be the winner here, though Hume himself was not known to favor it. Besides my own philosophical interests here, there is some historical interest, as Hume's arguments against intelligent design are often considered the strongest ever produced with the exception of Darwin's works. As for my own personal thoughts on the matter, though I consider myself a Christian, I do not believe there is any objective evidence for the existence of God. Subjective, yes, but not objective.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Books read in 2016: No. 58 -- Armed and Dangerous: A Writer's Guide to Weapons

by Michael Newton

Started: Nov. 20
Finished: Nov. 25

Notes: I've read this one a couple of times over the decades since its original release in 1990, but back then it was a Writer's Digest book and now apparently the rights have reverted to the author and he has published it on his own. I don't know if he has updated or changed it in any way, but regardless, I've always enjoyed this book and feel it wouldn't hurt for a refresher.

Mini review: The information here is pretty basic, and unfortunately has not been updated. If you're writing a police procedural or mystery novel prior to the early 1990s, this book can still be helpful, but it is nearly 30 years out of date, so I can't recommend it for authors writing in a modern context. Historical writers might find some use here, especially as the Old West and the World Wars are covered fairly well.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016