Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Dark Knight Returns - Frank Miller with Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley

This is the first graphic novel to be reviewed on Flying Houses, but (pseudo-oeuvre rule.....I mean, genre rule!) I have read Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware, and Horror Hospital Unplugged by Dennis Cooper.  "Horror Hospital Unplugged" was included in short story form in the collection Wrong, and though I did not review that book, I read it shortly before this book http://flyinghouses.blogspot.com/2008/04/userlands-new-fiction-writers-from.html, which inspired me to start Flying Houses.  So, it is not unreasonable to assume that Flying Houses will start to offer more reviews of graphic novels, because wow, they can be a lot more fun than straight up fiction.

I couldn't get into Jimmy Corrigan as much as I could Horror Hospital Unplugged.  Both were depressing.  But JC was just kind of boring to me, whereas HHU contained all the insanity of Dennis Cooper's other books.  However, I recognize that JC is a work of art, and that Ware is clearly going for something different than your typical graphic novel (though I cannot really say I am an expert on the genre, by any stretch!): it's not really plot-driven, a lot of it is just extraordinarily elaborate art, content is sort of minimal though there are interesting forays into the history of Chicago--I can't really remember what it's about?  He has a sister, and their father is dying or something?  I can't remember.  Of course, I remember HHU is about a punk band with a singer who is gay and seems largely modeled off of Nirvana--or at least a parody of Nirvana-imitation-bands.

The Dark Knight Returns is my favorite of the three.  I believe I have mentioned on Flying Houses that I am planning on making a shot-by-shot remake of the original Batman, the 1989 version directed by Tim Burton, and I have been studying the film, and the special features on the DVD in order to understand how best to make a low-budget version.  The Dark Knight Returns and Killing Joke are both mentioned as major influences on the "darkness" of the film, which dissociated themselves from "Batman the Comedian," played by Adam West, but not from the original spirit of the comics created by Bob Kane.

Bob Kane said he loved these two books, and Killing Joke will be reviewed shortly (as soon as I buy it).  I devoured The Dark Knight Returns-started it on Monday and finished it on Tuesday.  It's about 200 pages long, but densely packed with action.  Maybe I didn't study the illustrations closely enough to understand what was going on towards the end, which is my chief complaint with the book.

The richness and complexity of the work, however, is what makes it classic.  It was actually assigned to me as required reading for a course I took at NYU called "Writing New York," which, obviously, studied the concept of New York as represented in literature.  And Gotham City is, basically, New York in this.  There are references to the Twin Towers of Gotham, there is a reference to Bay Ridge, and there are a few other obvious signs that Gotham City is New York City.


This book takes place in present-day Gotham City, which was 1986, and Ronald Reagan (or at least a character very similar to him) is President, and plays a somewhat prominent role in the story.  And this book is deeply political, and complex.  It's sort of funny--I asked my older brother last weekend why Superman and Batman hated each other.  He responded that Superman was a Republican and Batman was a Liberal.and a lot of this book suggests that.


I am going to avoid the temptation of spoiling the story for you, except to say that Batman is 55 years old, and 10 years retired, Commissioner Gordon is 70 years old and weeks away from retirement, Harvey Dent/Two Face is about to be released from Arkham Asylum, a gang called The Mutants have overrun Gotham City with crime, and there's a female Robin.  


I won't reveal anymore, because I had such a good time anticipating what might happen in this story.  Let me just say it is action-packed and beautifully written.  It doesn't lend itself easily to excerpting, so I will not attempt any.  Sometimes it is hilarious.  It is also pretty vulgar and gruesome.  It's definitely not for little kids.  


I love Batman more than ever and want to read all the best comics about him.  I loved it, and highly recommend it, except for those that are easily confused or don't have the patience to figure out what order to follow the panels in.  I would only say Book Four is the one that really started to lose me.  It was awesome, but I sort of had no idea what was going on.  

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress: On the Cusp


NIED #13: On the Cusp (The Last Year of the 40%/50%/65% Scholarship Cut-Offs)

                I found out on Friday (June 8) that my class rank was 239/475.  This puts me in the top 50.3% of the class. 
                A person that I do not know but hope to contact is ranked 238/475—and they are in the top 50.1%.
                Person #237/475 is ranked in the top 49.9% of the class, and is in the clear.
                #238 and myself are not the only ones in the class of 2013 that may have a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress—but the other 473 don’t write a weekly column on it.  So allow me to stand on my soapbox for an issue affecting a small number of students that underscores another reason why law school can make you want to kill yourself.
                It is perhaps worth noting that I drafted column #13 as a response to my grade in Corporations, which I felt was an unfair course, and requires a more significant time commitment than other 4 credit classes.  This is not to say I think it should be a 5 credit course, for then I would not be in this frustrating (yet oddly serendipitous) position.  I contend that I deserved a B+ in that course but this is a personal thing to take up with my professor, and I do not think the authority exists to change grades, particularly after the class ranks have been announced.  Chalk up my negligence to the fact that I’m in Chicago and can’t review my exam in person.  Oh well.
                On BLS Connect, it reads: “While we feel that these minimum academic rank requirements are generous, they nevertheless are exact.  Rounding a rank that is different in any amount from the required renewal rank cut-offs is not permissible for scholarship renewal.” See Merit Scholarship Renewal Upper Class Students, available at https://blsconnect.brooklaw.edu/finances/Pages/Scholarships-Grants.aspx (last visited 6/10/12).
                Maybe it is just me, but I feel that all of the little descriptions on BLS Connect need to be revised extensively.  There is also this confusing chart:
                Total Merit Scholars Enrolled at the end of Spring Semester 2011: 358
Portion of Scholarship Renewed: 100%
  • Class Rank Required: Upper 40%
  • Approximate GPA Cut-Off: 3.355
  • Number of Scholars Renewed: 162
  • Percentage of First-Year Scholars: 45.3%
Portion of Scholarship Renewed: 80%
  • Class Rank Required: Upper 50%
  • Approximate GPA Cut-Off: 3.244
  • Number of Scholars Renewed: 39
  • Percentage of First-Year Scholars: 10.9%
Portion of Scholarship Renewed: 55%
  • Class Rank Required: Upper 65%
  • Approximate GPA Cut-Off: 3.099
  • Number of Scholars Renewed: 60
  • Percentage of First-Year Scholars: 16.8%
Portion of Scholarship Renewed: 0%
  • Class Rank: Below 65%
  • Approximate GPA Cut-Off: Below 3.099
  • Number of Scholars Not Renewed: 97
  • Percentage of First-Year Scholars Not Renewed: 27.0%
Fall 2011 Cumulative Renewal Rate: 72.9%

                Some of us may vaguely remember the school’s announcement in December 2010 that it would “boost” our GPAs in a similar way that Loyola Law School (our unofficial “sister school” on the opposite coast) did several months earlier.  Perhaps it’s interesting to look at this chart I found.  Note that it was published in March of 2008, and updated in July of 2010—so it is unclear which years this chart represents: See Brooklyn Law School, available at http://www.top-law-schools.com/brooklyn-law-school.html (last visited 6/10/12)
                Maybe the school thinks we should feel lucky that we weren’t graduating in 2009, 2010, or 2011….At the time this chart was published, this website noted that full-time tuition was $43,990.
                I am sure this (Chart #1) will be updated come Fall 2012, but from what I recall, these numbers (approximate GPA cut-offs) did not change from last year.  After Fall 2011, my GPA had risen from 3.14 to 3.26.  So I thought, okay, I’m in the clear, I just need to do as well as I did this Fall.  And this was not an easy task, for I did no worse than a B+.  My GPA for the Fall was a 3.5.
                I checked Spring 2012 grades with baited breath, and when I saw that B in Corporations, I asked my parents if I could borrow their keys, took the car to the local Dominick’s, and bought 12 cans of bud light, came home, and drank.  My parents were having a moving sale and I sat outside and drank like Will Ferrell in Everything Must Go.  Then, my last grade came in the next day—an A in a 3 credit course.  I screamed, “YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  My GPA went up to a 3.31.  I sighed in relief.  Clearly, I would hit the top 50%--and while it was highly doubtful I’d hit the top 40, it might even be possible. 
                My first year, I had a merit scholarship in the amount of $24,300.
                My second year, this total dropped to $13,365.
                My third year, this total will either be: (1) $13,365; or (2) $19,440.  This is a difference of $6,075. 
(Full Disclosure: My need-based grants have risen from $4,200 my first year, to $8,400 my second year, to an astounding $9,200 for my third year—while these are pleasant surprises, and I could potentially receive up to $28,640—or $240 more total dollars in funding than I had my first year—tuition hikes have made such a windfall relatively moot.)
Then I get the Class Ranking on Friday, and several arguments come to mind as to why I should be entitled to coverage in the top 50%:
(1)    Only a few students can ask for similar relief (and it is questionable what the change in #238’s scholarship amount reflects, if any, but for me, it is a matter of some $6,000.) 
(2)    The new policy for incoming 1Ls (only must be in top 80% to recover 100% of scholarship).
(3)    Tuition Hikes: the Class of 2013 has seen its tuition rise from $46,300 (approximately) to $48,090 to $49,486 for our last year.  (I am not going to get into the living expenses that the school calculates at $5,880—but please sign up for MEP in the Fall if you want to investigate this issue more closely.)  So the total cost is an additional $3,186, or about the cost of a Bar Review Course.
(4)    2L Transfers: Their first year grades are eliminated for purposes of calculating their class rank.  If you treat me like a second year transfer, my GPA is 3.5005, and I’m in the top 40%.  Oh.
(5)    NYU gives students grades, but does not rank them, and does not set a cut off for OCI.  I know BLS is not NYU but I do believe the students here are generally of as high a quality as there, and we should do away with rankings and just set these scholarships according to GPA. 
(6)    I took a Health Law Practicum internship where I got a “HP” and would have gotten an A had the clinic been entitled to “grade credit.”  Kids that get high grades (and big credit numbers) for clinics stand on unequal ground. 
(7)    To me this was the final straw, the last time the school could screw us, and it’s trying to take advantage of the opportunity.  Please join me in this fight for economic justice. 

Christopher J. Knorps is a 3L at Brooklyn Law School.  He serves on the Career Services Committee as an Upper Class Delegate of the Student Bar Association, is the Founder and President of Monthly Expense Project, a subsidiary of the Thrift Club, and is Managing Editor of the BLS Advocate.  He seeks Person #238 from the Class of 2013 in particular, and any other students “on the cusp” to form a group to collectively bargain with the school in regards to this issue.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Triple Homicide - Charles J. Hynes

Triple Homicide is Charles Hynes' first novel and has received scant attention (but see New York Times Review,  available at http://www.triplehomicidebycharlesjhynes.com/reviews/brooklyn_murders.htm) since it was published in 2007.  Those that have written about the novel usually end up writing about Hynes himself, and his "day job."  It states in his author profile that Hynes' has been the District Attorney of Brooklyn for 17 years, so he was elected in 1990.  He still is the D.A. twenty-two years later.

There are six reviews on Amazon, which are, as usual, of varying degrees of intelligence.  However, most of the reviews do mention that the book gives an "insider's look" at the NYPD from 1970 - 1990, and in this respect it is faultless.  Clearly, this is a story that needs to be told, as all of the police departments in major American cities undoubtedly have a fascinating history.  However, it would not be fascinating if they were all just great cops, and it is in the details of the despicable "cyclical" corruption and the "Blue Wall" of silence that protects cops from discovery that makes Triple Homicide an essential read for anyone that (1) wants to be a cop, (2) is already a cop, (3) wants to work for Corporation Counsel and must defend police officers in lawsuits brought against them, (4) wants to be a prosecutor (particularly an ADA in Kings County), (5) wants to be a criminal defense attorney, (6) enjoys reading about "true crime."

However, this is not the type of book that Flying Houses usually reviews (but see TRAIL OF THE DEAD. JON EVANS, available at http://flyinghouses.blogspot.com/2009/03/trail-of-dead-jon-evf booans.html).  It is a "pulp" mass-market paperback "page-turner."  But while that may be a bad thing, as I would consider the majority of books in that genre a waste of my time, it is not always a bad thing.  There are high-quality mass-market paperbacks out there, and this is one of them.

While it is somewhat difficult to describe the plot without spoiling anything, certain events and characters may be mentioned.  This is principally the story of 2 cops in the NYPD: Robert Mulvey and Steven Holt.  Robert Mulvey is Steven Holt's uncle, and a role model.  Both of these cops become entrenched in a system of corruption, and though they try to be good cops, they are forced to make certain compromises.  Mulvey works in the late 1960s and has his own controversy which is never spelled out until the end of the novel, which is the right decision.  Holt works in the late 1980s and early 1990s until he is indicted for the murder of three individuals in 1992.

My single greatest complaint about this novel is that it can be extremely confusing.  There are a number of characters that fly in and out of the picture: Captain Nevins, Connolly, Kenny Rattigan (the Queens D.A.), Larry Green, Buddy Cooper (the Brooklyn D.A.), Brendan Moore, Wallace Goss, Scott Ruben, Gabe Perone, Kurland, Pressler, and Meyer Hartwell.

Hartwell only appears in a scene or two, but Hynes' description of him is worth quoting in full, because it is one of the few times that I couldn't help myself from laughing out loud:

"Meyer Hartwell was as unlikely looking a cop as you could imagine.  Short, overweight, and mostly bald, Meyer had grown his black hair as long as he could from the left side of his head and then folded it over to cover the rest of his bald pate.  The effect was an unintended burlesque look.  Meyer had a perpetual crown of perspiration hanging on his forehead.  His distinctive and in certainly no way attractive face brought attention to itself with a large, bushy black mustache flecked with gray and some strange-looking pieces of debris that remained from a recent meal.  His tiny dark and deep-set eyes were obscured by a long, thin nose discolored by popping blue and red veins.  Protruding aimlessly from his nostrils were several strands of nose hair.  Police Officer Hartwell appeared to have selected his uniform each day from the bottom of his closet.  Frayed and always wrinkled, his uniform shirt with the lower two buttons missing hung over a belt forced out by his bulging stomach.  His black shoes were almost gray with scuff marks.  None of this mattered, though, because he had graduated third in his class from the Police Academy, and because of his grades his first commanding officer at a police precinct in the Bronx tapped him to be the 124 man."  (59)

I won't explain what the 124 man does--I'll let you find out if you choose to read this novel, which I would recommend despite the great quantity of characters and the difficulty of keeping everybody's name straight.  That said, there are many characters that are memorable--usually the bad guys.  But the two principal characters won't be confused, and they're the heart of the story.  The "sub-plot" is the internal structure of New York City crime-fighting, and attempts to end police corruption, and this is very interesting stuff, but this is where the names get confusing, and it's tough to tell exactly who is opposing whom unless you go back and verify what each characters does.

So, if I had to review it on Amazon I would give it 4 out of 5 stars because of this issue.  Otherwise, this is a real "page-turner" that just gets better as it goes along.  The last 100 pages flew by for me.

It is perhaps worth noting that I would not have read this book if Charles Hynes had not been my professor for Trial Advocacy.  I like to say that this style as a professor is "Taylorist," that is, he teaches Trial Advocacy as if there is "one best way" to carry out a given task--in this case, 4 tasks: opening statements, direct examination of a witness, cross-examination of a witness, and summations.  In this sense, it is worthwhile to read this book if you are taking this course as well, because the trial scenes are probably the highlights of this book.  Hynes also offers an interesting roadmap for a career for those interested in being a judge, and coming from a person like him, one is bound to respect it as authoritative:

"Kerner was just warming up.  "Then there's the ADAs.  Used to be that a guy would get out of law school, join a political club, usually the Democrats, get a job as an assistant district attorney, and have a law practice on the side.  He'd hustle to make a buck, didn't get nothin' without workin' for it.  The guy knew how much the public wanted law and order, so he'd never break our balls.  He never questioned a cop.  He didn't care that we'd fuck around a little bit--nothin' serious, just enough to get the bad guys off the street.  Then after a few years the ADA would graduate to a job as a judge's law secretary, sort of half an ass-kisser and half a gofer.  And finally, after a while, with a few bucks placed here and there, you know..."
Holt didn't know, but he pretended he did.
"He'd become a judge, and that concluded a fine career.  I used to think that one of my jobs in life was helpin' a young ADA become a judge."  (213-214)

The chapter from which this passage is excerpted is titled "33, East New York, Brooklyn, the 75th Precinct, June 1985," and is the "first lesson" that Steven Holt gets as a new officer straight from the police academy.  This is one of the best chapters in the novel, as Hynes goes on to explore a few interesting cases through the voice of Kerner.  It is an interesting way to look at the law--to have a character that has obvious biases, who seems to be fairly intelligent, and who interprets judicial decisions through their own lens--and I have not seen it done before, so in this respect it opens up a lot of possibilities for writers that have a good knowledge of the law, and can mange to make it fairly interesting for the lay reader.

Hynes does this well, and as I said, my chief criticism of the book is its bevy of characters with indistinguishable features.  It's possible Hynes had written a much longer book that more fully developed the characters and was forced to edit it down, but perhaps I am being picky.  After all, I read this book at intermittent moments from February 2012 - June 2012, and if read in the course of say, one week, which I think is par for the course for a 288-page novel, then the reader is less likely to forget who was who, and generally read the book much more smoothly.  However, I do not think I am the only that would make this complaint about the book, but to a certain degree, this effect is impossible to avoid in a story with so many players.

The quality that this novel brings is "realism."  Once a reader has finished, they will have effectively taken a crash course in the history of the NYPD, and the way it functions in conjunction with other city agencies and city government in general.  Along the way there are a dozen or so intriguing scenes of "true crime," and as mentioned earlier, the trial litigation scenes.  The "lawyering" that is done in this book may not be universally endorsed by Hynes, but you can usually tell from the voice of the narrator when he approves or disapproves of the tactics used in the decisive trial.

Several reviewers on Amazon express their hope that Hynes will offer up a sequel, and he was, at least 6 years ago, working on one.  There is an interesting interview that took place at a Barnes & Noble on Staten Island in June of 2006, and is worth watching for anyone that thinks they might be interested in reading it.  Among the highlights are Hynes' disdain for literary agents, which I could certainly identify with, and his mention of real-life inspirations for the book.  A link to that interview can be be found here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC8BB94E32F8F108E

In short, I agree with those several reviewers, and would certainly read a follow-up to Triple Homicide, not because this is the usual genre of literature that I enjoy (more likely because I was lucky enough to take a class with Hynes), but because it would undoubtedly be a fascinating read from which many lessons can be learned when it comes to operating city government.

Also, Hynes gave me a B+, so I would give this book a B+.


P.S. - Flying Houses will now start annotating everything Blue Book style to show how ridiculous it is.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Discourse on Method - Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes (1596-1650) is inarguably one of the greatest philosophers of all time.  His short book "Discourse on Method" explains how he derived most of his philosophy out of his own experience, and he would later go on to develop his theories in longer works.  He is also one of the most important mathematicians of all time.  Who knows if the computer would even exist if Descartes had not combined the methods of algebra and geometry in the new field called analytic geometry?

"The importance of this achievement is difficult to overestimate, for it not only served as an example of the possibilities of the new scientific method and as a spur to men's enthusiasm, but also laid the foundation for the growth of mathematics in modern times.  From analytic geometry came the simultaneous discovery of the calculus by Leibniz and Newton, and on the calculus is based the whole superstructure of modern developments in mathematics and of its application to the understanding of nature."  (ix)

Descartes believed in God and the Church, but the author of this above quote, Laurence J. LaFleur, thinks he may have been being a little sarcastic about it.  Nevertheless, it does not particularly stand out--the devotion to the Church anyways.  His belief in God is, I think, quite justified by his reasoning.

What I love about Descartes (though this is the only book of his I've read) is how deep he can go.  He goes into my very soul, literally.  He hits at the deepest feelings you can: why where you born?  Why are we here?  How can you tell that you exist?

His writing style is quite humorous.  I have underlined almost the entire book because I feel as if almost every sentence is essential.  Each naturally builds upon the other, and in so slim a volume by such a master, you can expect to find pearls of brilliance in every word.

The first thing I love about it is his first sentence: "If this discourse seems too long to be read in one sitting, it may be divided into six parts."  He's already looking out for you!  And it's just like a law review article!
Except--no footnotes.  And the entire opening paragraph from the first part, "Some Thoughts on the Sciences" is worth quoting in full, as it is a good representation of the work as a whole:

"Good sense is mankind's most equitably divided endowment, for everyone thinks he is so abundantly provided with it that even those most difficult to please in other ways do not usually want more than they have of this.  As it is not likely that everyone is mistaken, this evidence shows that the ability to judge correctly, and to distinguish the true from the false--which is really meant by good sense or reason--is the same by nature in all men; and that differences of opinion are not due to differences in intelligence, but merely to the fact that we use different approaches and consider different things.  For it is not enough to have a good mind: one must use it well.  The greatest souls are capable of the greatest vices as well as the greatest virtues; and those who walk slowly can, if they follow the right path, go much farther than those who run rapidly in the wrong direction." (1-2)
I wrote "Great Summation Intro" in the margin for that.

The cause of his inspiration is quite provocative:

"I was then in Germany...There was no conversation to occupy me, and being untroubled by any cares or passions, I remained all day alone in a warm room.  There I had plenty of leisure to examine my ideas.  One of the first that occurred to me was that frequently there is less perfection in a work produced by several hands than in one produced by a single hand.  Thus we notice that buildings conceived and completed by a single architect are usually more beautiful and better planned than those remodeled by several persons using ancient walls that had originally been built for other purposes.  Similarly, those ancient towns which were originally nothing but hamlets, and in the course of time have become great cities, are ordinarily very badly arranged compared to one symmetrical metropolitan districts which a city planner has laid out on an open plain according to his own designs."  (7-8)

He describes his four step process as follows: (1) Only accept things as true that you are absolutely certain are true (i.e. that you are alive); (2) For everything that you cannot accept as true, in order to get closest to the truth, break it down into as many different parts you can think of; (3) Then, think about each of the different parts, starting with the easiest one to understand, and going onto the most difficult by the end; (4) Make enumerations so complete as to omit nothing.

Descartes talks about how he was 23 when he decided to form his philosophy, but he did not feel he had experienced enough of life to fully form it, so he devised certain rules to live by: (1) Obey laws and religion and follow more moderate and least excessive opinions of those in the community; (2) Be firm and resolute in one's decisions--and here he draws a nice metaphor--"I patterned my behavior on that of travelers, who, finding themselves lost in a forest, must not wander about, now turning this way, now that, and still less should remain in one place, but should go as straight as they can in the direction they first select and not change the direction except for the strongest of reasons.  By this method, even if the direction was chosen at random, they will presumably arrive at some destination, not perhaps where they would like to be, but at least where they will be better off than in the middle of the forest." (16)--(3) Conquer one's self rather than fortune, change one's desires rather than the established order and believe that nothing but one's thought are under one's control; (4) Make a review of the occupations in life and choose the best one--and here Descartes writes beautifully:

"Without intending to disparage other occupations, I thought I could do no better than to continue in the one I was engaged in, employing my life in improving my mind and increasing as far as I could my knowledge of the truth by by following the method I had outlined for myself.  I had experienced such periods of happiness after I had begun to use this method, that I could hope for no greater or more innocent joys in this life." (17)

About nine years later, he was ready.  And he says he wasn't ready until, quite funnily, that he would not have dared to write it down so soon, until "I had learned of a rumor that I had already completed my philosophy." (19)

He then goes on to discuss God and the Soul.

"I then examined closely what I was, and saw that I could imagine that I had no body and that there was no world nor any place that I occupied, but that I could not imagine for a moment that I did not exist." (21)

From this he derives that the body and soul are distinct.  He goes onto talk about things like how we may all be made of stars, but that the stars had to have been made by something even more perfect--which is God.  He sees that doubt, inconstancy, and sorrow--imperfect qualities--could not be part of God's nature.

He goes on to talk about the laws of nature, and comically says that what he was originally going to write was much more ambitious--putting everything into the discourse that he thought he knew--but decided that it was dangerous, so he decided to limit himself:

"Therefore, fearing that I would not be able to put into any discourse all that I intended, I undertook solely to describe at length what I thought on the subject of light, and took that occasion to add something concerning the sun and the fixed stars, since they are almost the only sources of light; of the sky, since it transmits it; of the planets, the comets, and the earth, since they reflect it; and in particular of all the objects on earth, since they are either colored or transparent or luminous; and finally of man, since he is the observer of it." (27)
I wrote "Not ambitious at all!" in the margin.

This is in Part Five, which is about Physics.  But it also goes into anatomy, and Descartes' description of the heart freaked me out while I was reading it, thinking about how of all of the processes he was describing were going on that very moment.  He sees man as a machine created by God, and therefore decides that no machine created by man can be as perfect as man.

He makes the rather incredible statement (which might be offensive to animal lovers) that a "monkey or a parrot which was one of the best of its species should not be equal in this matter of one of the most stupid children, or at least of a child of infirm find, if their soul were not of a wholly different nature than ours." (37)

But then he states that he knows the Soul is immortal--which is also somewhat incredible.

In Part Six he talks about how he doesn't want any of his writings published during his lifetime because he fears ridicule.  Comically, "for fear that the opposition and controversy which they might arouse, and the reputation which they might possibly bring me, would cause me to waste time which I plan to use in research." (42)

Then he says if his writings can be of any use to people that's great--but he knows they can't be as useful to anyone else but himself, for it is his mind alone that he can perfect.  He ends the discourse by stating that he has no interest in worldly advantages because "I shall always consider myself more obligated to those by whose favor I shall enjoy uninterrupted leisure than I would be to those who offered me the most honorable office on earth."  (50)

It is hard to review a book of philosophy, but this is a short one, and worth reading. It is very funny at times, and it is amazing to read intoxicated.