Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ex-Mormon Metallica


          I first heard Metallica back in the days when I was trying my hardest to be a good little Mormon girl. The music sounded illicit, almost forbidden, especially in an environment where all the leaders seemed pre-occupied by how sinful and worldly everything was. But still – I couldn’t quite shake off the few songs I did hear. The music was addictive and in a way that somehow felt right. 
          And then I left Mormonism and during my freshman year of college, one of my dorm-mates gave me a copy of Metallica’s S&M performance*. I was hooked. I listened to that recording on repeat. I still have that album, along with many other recordings. Over the years, I find myself returning to these albums again and again. 
      Part of me wonders why I like Metallica so much. And the closest answer I can give is this: this is a band that doesn’t give a fuck. This is a band that writes songs like “God That Failed” and “Seek and Destroy”, a band that wore the nickname Alcoholica with pride, and a band that sued their own fans, shutting down Napster in the process.  

        For a girl who grew up in an environment where I was expected to care about everything – and learned to internalize the blame – sometimes I wish that I didn’t give a fuck either. But I do – sometimes too much – and so for that, there is always Metallica.

*It's ironic that my first Metallica recording was a burned copy.  But I did end up buying a legitimate copy later.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Book Review: The Universe Within

          In his book "Your Inner Fish", paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Neil Shubin probed some of the deep connections between our bodies and the bodies of distant creatures. As one of the paleontologists that discovered the Tiktaalik, a fishlike creature that lived 375 million years ago and is considered to be at the brink of the transition from the sea to land, Shubin is in a position to offer unique insights about the shared connections found in different species.
          In his book The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People, Shubin goes one step further; he examines the world around us and asks how the events of the universe impacted the formation of our own bodies. Humans were not created in a vacuum – there were millions of different factors that lead to our existence. There was a big bang that lead to the formation of different elements that lead to the formation of different galaxies that lead to the formation of different planets that lead to formation of our own planet, which possessed the unique combination of factors able to sustain life. In this book, Shubin traces the timeline of the universe, attempting to show the common history of the events of the universe and human beings.  
          This book was, to be blunt, an ambitious under-taking. I enjoyed “Your Inner Fish” for Shubin’s ability to explain concepts in an engaging manner while also providing a glimpse into the life of a working scientist. These same strengths are also found in “The Universe Within”. However, this was a far-reaching book. I ended up reading it over a course of several weeks, individual chapter by individual chapter. I enjoyed reading the individual chapters – there was a wealth of interesting information, which Shubin explains well – but as an entire book, I felt like the scope of this book was just a little too big and the concepts just a little too distant. 

For more information about this book in the author's own words, I would recommend watching his interview on the Colbert Report