Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bibliophile: Thor to Sexbots

Long-time bibliophile readers know the drill: I look over the list of new books at my local university library, and comment briefly on what's new and hip in the literature world. (Hint: what's new and hip is generally not in the literary world at all.) And long-time readers also know that for the last few weeks, it's been a long haul, with the new items ranging from 7000 to 18000 items. This week, we have almost a normal amount, at an almost manageable 2651. Let's begin.

Debates in the digital humanities / Matthew K. Gold, editor. Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, c2012.
The digital stuff is starting early this time around. The book starts with an essay by Matthew Kirschenbaum, entitled "What is Digital Humanities, and What's It Doing in English Departments?", which would be a question that I personally wouldn't mind an answer to, so I can tell it to those smug literature grad students the next time we have a English Grad Student Brag-Off. (We do those. It's pretty awesome, but we're exclusive, so someone like you probably hasn't heard of it.) There's also a chapter by Johanna Drucker, "Humanistic Theory and Digital Scholarship." I know Drucker from the work she's done on historical typography. That doesn't seem relevant here, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. There's also a chapter on Trending by Lev Manovich, and a blogpost by Ian Bogost (The Turtlenecked Hairshirt--you can find it here if you want it without the whole "paper" thing.). It actually seems like a book worth knowing about if you're in the discipline. You know, like me. Hmmm. But there's already one request on it, and I don't like poaching people's books unless it's really necessary. So we'll make a mental note, and wait a few weeks.

House and psychology : humanity is overrated / edited by Ted Cascio and Leonard L. Martin. Hoboken, N.J. : Wiley, c2011.
I'm looking at this one purely for the subtitle. I imagine future books in the series will follow this pattern: "You're Not So Great." "People are Jerks." "We're Not Fond About Dogs, Either." Now, from the title, you may have assumed it's a book about grandiose mansions, but no, it's actually an anthology of psychology scholars who like the TV show House. ...Yeah.

Thor : myth to Marvel / Martin Arnold. London ; New York : Continuum, 2011.
This a historical examination of applications of the Thor myth, from his Norse origins to
Linkmodern interpretations in Germany, Denmark, and the United States. (Marvel, geddit? geddit?)

High road : a novel / Terry Fallis. Toronto : Emblem, c2010.
Here's the sequel to that Terry Fallis book I didn't very much care for at all.

Breasts [videorecording] : a documentary / a documentary by Meema Spadola ; director, Meema Spadola, c1996.
There are a couple of things I'm interested in seeing in this documentary. In fact, I'd have to be an udder tit not to take a bit of a nip its way. Ah, wordplay. Honestly, I could never take this out. I wouldn't be able to stand the cool gaze of the librarians as they handed it over to me. Given the list of books I typically put on hold, they already have enough fodder against me.

Wired to care : how companies prosper when they create widespread empathy / Dev Patnaik ; with Peter Mortensen. Upper Saddle River, N.J. : FT Press, c2009.
On the one hand, arguing pragmatic reasons for companies to act morally appropriate seems to be from the same school of thought as paying children to behave rather than instilling any sort of decency, but on the other hand... well, anything that works, I guess.

Free ride : how digital parasites are destroying the culture business, and how the culture business can fight back / Robert Levine. 1st ed. New York : Doubleday, c2011.
A cursory glance of the book's info blurb suggests that it's about digital piracy, Napster, Google's digitization push, and YouTube, and how the traditional media forms should act to get some ground back. So, under that basis, it's not really geared to get much support from people under 30 or so. But from some book reviews, it's a thoughtful book that refuses to treat the industries as villains, and offers some interesting alternative business models. Still not something I'm particularly interested in, but if that's you're thing...

I'll have what she's having : mapping social behavior / Alex Bentley, Mark Earls, and Michael J. O'Brien ; foreword by John Maeda. Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, c2011.
I like the title. This may surprise, but I'm a big fan of When Harry Met Sally.

Cutting edges : contemporary collage / [edited by Robert Klanten, Hendrik Hellige, James Gallagher ; preface by James Gallagher]. Berlin : Gestalten, c2011.
Another clever title. I know I'm doing a lot of "quick glances" this time round, but... well, there's nothing that's really catching my eye.

Information highways and byways : from the telegraph to the 21st century / Irwin Lebow. New York : IEEE Press, c1995.
I'm sure I've commented on this before, but there's a tendency in new media studies to treat everything we do as, well, "new." As in, everything that occurs in a digital context has started with the 90s popularization of the Internet. Thus, any work that moves towards what's often called "media archaeology," the history and physical development of media, is responding to a prevalent, rather naive, trend. The downside to this version is that, being published in 1995, Lebow's book is almost an artifact of media archaeology itself.

Television and new media : must-click tv / Jennifer Gillan. New York : Routledge, 2011.
This book is about how television has transformed as a result of digital media innovations, in terms of things such as changes to programming, and turning TV shows into transmedia franchises. It would probably make a nice companion to Sheila Murphy's How Television Invented New Media, a book about how digital media has transformed as a result of television. (The media archaeology subject is still in my mind; hence the reference to a digital media history book, even if it's a recent, based in the 80s, sort of history.)

Cult telefantasy series : a critical analysis of The prisoner, Twin peaks, The X-files, Buffy the vampire slayer, Lost, Heroes, Doctor Who and Star Trek / Sue Short.
I do believe that's TV Geek Bingo. Or maybe Yahtzee. The book appears to be divided so that each chapter focuses on a different franchise, except for the last, which is on both the Doctor Who and Star Trek reboots. What draws it together is the concept that each tried, and some failed, to inspire an ongoing fandom based on its approach to fantasy, with The Prisoner starting the pattern. It's a rather pop book, but that's hardly a failing, given the pop focus.

Italo Calvino's architecture of lightness : the utopian imagination in an age of urban crisis / Letizia Modena. New York : Routledge, 2011.
Italo Calvino's one of my favorite writers. I'm glad to see people are still working with him.

Heinlein's juvenile novels : a cultural dictionary / C.W. Sullivan, III. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., c2011.
This caught my eye because I've written, very briefly, about Heinlein's juvenile books in other posts. Well, it's been a lot of time since the 1950s, so a book that explains and elaborates some of the cultural references may be warranted. The info I've gleaned on the book seems to suggest that it's emphasizing the connection between the space colonization stories and the settlement of North America, which really can't be overstated in terms of these stories' sources.

Seven cities of gold / David Moles. 1st ed. Hornsea, England : PS Pub. Ltd., 2010.
This week's random fiction choice. It's an alternate history sci-fi novella, where the big idea is that Christianity was nearly wiped out by Muslim invasion in the 8th century, and exists now as a sort of backwater, fringe group. It's 66 pages and something of a collector's item (as I'm guessing from its $50 price tag), so getting it from a library would probably be your best bet to get your hands on it.

Oh... we're done the Humanities stuff, and there are still another 1000 entries. Oh dear.

Better than human : the promise and perils of enhancing ourselves / Allen Buchanan. New York : Oxford University Press, c2011
Buchanan makes the case that we should be looking for ways to enhance people, biologically. ...Here's a book begging for a humanities/posthumanist reading.

Fat China : how expanding waistlines are changing a nation / Paul French and Matthew Crabbe. London ; New York : Anthem Press, 2010.
American obesity goes global. Or so I assume without doing any sort of research.

Leonardo to the Internet : technology & culture from the Renaissance to the present / Thomas J. Misa. 2nd ed. Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011.
And speaking of media archaeology... Well, that's certainly taking the long view. I suppose the next step is "Archimedes to Apps" or, even further back, "Cavemen to C++." Topics include technology via ruling families, rising industry, and expanding imperialism. And the 2nd edition update is a discussion on how unsustainable global expansion is contributing to general geopolitical instability. Ending on a positive note, then.

Robot ethics : the ethical and social implications of robotics / edited by Patrick Lin, Keith Abney, and George A. Bekey. Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, 2012.
The very, very last entry on this week's list. I bet there's a million Asimov references in this. Topics include the morality of allowing or creating robots to serve in military, sexual, caregiving, and serving capacities, as well as whether robots could be considered moral beings themselves. I just keep thinking of the Futurama short where a documentary argues that widespread sexbots leads directly to the extinction of the human race. "Gosh, Mandy, across the street is a long way to go to make out. I think I'll just stay here and make out with my Marilyn Monroebot."

And on that lofty note of mechanical love-making, I draw another edition of biblophile to its end.

Later Days.

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