Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bibliophile: Of Magical Monks and Sex-Crazed Bugs

Look! In the sky! It's an indices! No, it's a compendium! No, it's... Bibliophile!

Equine massage : a practical guide / Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt.
How to keep the charley horses away from your horse named Charley.

Deleuze and ethics / edited by Nathan Jun and Daniel W. Smith. Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press, c2011.
Ah, the weekly Deleuze spot. This one investigates how Deleuze looks at values, normativity, and, surprise, surprise, ethics.

How to think about weird things : critical thinking for a new age / Theodore Schick, Jr., Lewis Vaughn ; foreword by Martin Gardner.
Eye-catching title. The idea is that the authors apply typical philosophical notions of evaluation to "weird" phenomena, including ESP, UFO sightings, miracle cures, and human combustion. It has a bit of an "undergrad" feel to it, though I realize that saying so reflects more on my intellectual snobbery than on the book. And considering that my own area is video game studies, I probably don't have a leg to stand on here.

Faith and money : how religion contributes to wealth and poverty / Lisa A. Keister. New York : Cambridge University Press, 2011.
The idea behind this book is to look into how, in the US, a person's religious beliefs impacts their networth and savings. It's an empirical-based study, so it's less about offering potential explanations for the results and more of establishing how the results were gathered in the first place. It's a pretty thorny issue; does a particular denomination encourage or discourage economic growth? How much does money buy happiness?

Lovelorn ghost and the magical monk : practicing Buddhism in modern Thailand / Justin Thomas McDaniel.
The first half sounds like a good title for a manga series. What the book is actually about is tracing the evolution of these two figures throughout Buddhist culture. I suppose a Christian equivalent would be mapping Messiah figures or the Wandering Jew.

History of the world in 100 objects / Neil MacGregor.
I mention this one because a friend of mine listens to the British podcast of the same name. (Incidentally, he recommends the cast over the book, as the voice and tone of the figures interviewed make a significant contribution to the proceedings.) The idea is that each object (found in the British museum) is used to justify a brief exploration into the history it represents. It's a potentially productive idea.

Players unleashed! : modding the Sims and the culture of gaming / Tanja Sihvonen. Amsterdam : Amsterdam University Press c2011.
I'm contractually obligated to draw attention to any book touching on video games. It's a must-read for anyone interested in the Sims, and pretty significant for those interested in participatory game mod culture in general.

Mediated boyhoods : boys, teens, and young men in popular media and culture / edited by Annette Wannamaker. New York : Peter Lang, c2011.
While the table of contents don't mention very many specific works (excepting an essay on the Spy Kids franchise), it does cover videos, documentary films, pop music, and hip hop, and both homosocial and homosexual relations between young males. There's nothing that jumped out as a must-read essay, but if the subject interests anyone, it might be worth a look.

New media and technology : youth as content creators / Marina Umaschi Bers, issue editor. San Francisco, Calif. : Jossey-Bass/Wiley, c2011.
Here's a similar youth-oriented focus, but closer to my personal subject area. It's an anthology with essays on youth use of Facebook apps, ARGs, Youtube videos, and mobile phones. Again, there's no essays that particularly jump out at me, but it'd be a good resource for those more interested in the subject.

Nudge, nudge, think, think : experimenting with ways to change civic behaviour.
John, Peter, 1960-.
Major points for the title. Sadly, it's not about the intellectual lives of John Cleese and Eric Idle, but a method of social action. John argues, in a position against his last book, that it's not enough to "nudge" people into social change--they must enter into new patterns of thinking as well.

In the peanut gallery with Mystery Science Theater 3000 : essays on film, fandom, technology, and the culture of riffing / edited by Robert G. Weiner and Shelley E. Barba ; forewords by Kevin Murphy and Robert Moses Peaslee ; afterword by Mary Jo Pehl. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland, c2011.
This would probably be a pretty fun read. And it might inspire me to actually watch one of the Mystery Science episodes.

War, politics and superheroes : ethics and propaganda in comics and film / Marc DiPaolo.
I don't know anything about this, except that it has chapters on the Punisher, Captain America, Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, the X-Men, and a final chapter on President Obama and zombies. Really, that's all anyone needs to know.

Newslore : contemporary folklore on the Internet / Russell Frank.
Frank looks at how rumors and stories pass through the Internet, and what they say about public responses. Honestly, it's an issue that may be too big for analysis; there's message forums, motivational memes, email forwarding, videos, images, podcasts, blogs, twitter feeds... I suppose the big issue is how Frank defines newslore in comparison to folklore. To me, folklore is first and foremost information that's passed down, usually in a generational context. But internet memes and so forth aren't passed down--if anything, they're generally incomprehensible a few years down the line. So it's not passed down, but passed around; it's news, in the sense that as soon as it stops being news, it might as well cease to exist.

Sex on six legs : lessons on life, love, and language from the insect world / Marlene Zuk.
I presume that the lessons don't involve post-coitally ripping your mate in half and devouring him in order to feed the brood. But don't tell me; I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise.

Cyber junkie : escape the gaming and Internet trap / Kevin Roberts.
Sigh. Roberts discusses how people obsessed with games show classic signs of addiction and offers a sixteen step process for recovering addicts. I'm of two minds of this sort of book--on the one hand, I don't want to accuse the people who lose jobs and friends and family to video game time of being weak people. Everyone has their own demons, everyone is fighting a great battle. At the same time, I would like to point out that just as not everyone who plays a first person shooter goes on to become dangerously violent, not everyone who plays a video game is dangerously addicted. There are hundreds of mitigating factors involved. I think it's important that we engage in the debate of what makes a game addictive, and how we deal with that potential. What I'm afraid of is that a book like this operates from basic assumptions about the nature of compulsion, and treats those assumptions like facts. And as soon as you've created a general method, you're doing some level of abstraction and assumption. And when a book on game addiction is classified between a book on autism and another on down's syndrome, you're perpetuating another level of assumptions. (And yes, I realize the irony on pontificating like this when I haven't read the book myself.)

And on that proselytizing note, I'll draw this session to an end. Till the next read.

Later Days.

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