Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bibliophile: Urine, Twitter Baiting, and Racial Insensitivity

Like reading, but sexier. It's time for another edition of Bibliophile. A mere 1300 books this time round, so we'll all be home in time for dinner.

Power of life : Agamben and the coming politics (To imagine a form of life, II) / David Kishik. Stanford, California : Stanford University Press, 2012.
I just finished Agamben's The Open: Man and Animal, so this title jumped out at me. What I liked about the Open (besides its length, at a beautiful 92 pages) was the way it built up slowly. Agamben started with a few seemingly disparate threads that coalesced into an argument about not just Heidegger's stance on human consciousness, but the relation between animal and man. So yeah, he's good people, theory writer-wise. One of my complaints about the book, though, is that it was a little abstract. There were moments where it touched on the implications of his stance, but generally, Agamben seemed to take it for granted that the reader could work this out for themselves. Well, he completely overestimated me, and I'm glad there's books like Kishik's out there to bridge that gap.

Sharks of British Columbia. Ottawa : Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, c2011.
Wait, there are sharks in British Columbia? Have I mentioned how glad I am to have grown up in a completely land-locked province? The Saskatchewan shark population is generally pretty low.

If Rome hadn't fallen : what might have happened if the Western Empire had survived / Timothy Venning. Barnsley, South Yorkshire : Pen & Sword Military, 2011.
The line between legitimate history scholarship and alternate history science fiction erodes a little further. Now, I'd like to see a scholar tackle Harry Turtledove's series, and investigate the biopolitics of what would have happened if the Earth underwent a major alien invasion during World War II.

We've also got an influx of b. p. nichols books. If I knew anything about Canadian poetry, I'd be really excited.

Car guys vs. bean counters : the battle for the soul of American business / Bob Lutz. New York : Portfolio/Penguin, 2011.
Bob Lutz is a senior business leader in the auto industry. Here, he gives his insider perspective on how it failed poorly because it was put in the hands of bean counters rather than "car guys." Quote: "passion and drive for excellence will win over... analysis-driven philosophy every time." It sounds like a gross, even dangerous, oversimplification, but I'll acknowledge that, at the very least, people want to *believe* that passion and drive for excellence trumps statistics.

Why don't American cities burn? / Michael B. Katz. Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, c2012.
Have you tried using more gasoline? Bad joke, but we need some sort of humor, because Katz' book is actually extremely serious. Its instigation is the 2005 murder of Robert Monroe in North Philadelphia by Herbert Manes, over the sum of 5 dollars, the trial of which Katz served on the jury. His question is why, if social conditions have failed to improve, we don't see the race riots or other forms of organized violence escalating. The answer is also disturbing, as he investigates the ways he sees the rage going on each other, rather than on the larger culture and political forces. He concludes with a discussion on how we could fix the problem, in a "politics of modest hope." It's a significant, ongoing social problem, so I'll try to avoid ending on an Obama joke re: modest hope. Oops.

Politics and the Twitter revolution : how tweets influence the relationship between political leaders and the public / John H. Parmelee, Shannon L. Bichard. Lanham, Md. : Lexington Books, c2012.
Man, I hate Twitter. It's everything I hate about soundbites, but extended to the nth degree. Do I need to say anything else about the book? Oh, all right. The book takes a social sciences approach, interviewing political Twitter users and checking how they interpret the tweets of political leaders. And they apply various theoretical theoretical frames, such as selective exposure, uses and gratifications, word-of-mouth communication. They also caution that Twitter contributes to political polarization. What, you can't deliver a complete, well-argued, even-handed political evaluation in 140 characters or less? Maybe you should use a shorter hashtag.

Media accountability : who will watch the watchdog in the Twitter age? / edited by William A. Babcock. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon ; New York : Routledge, 2012.
Continuing the Twitter focus for some reason, we have an anthology of media accountability in an age where virtually anything can be communicated instantly, and disappear into a void of "he said/she said" almost as quickly. Topics include essays on how the Daily Show holds traditional broadcast news responsible (okay, you're moving in the right direction to win me over) and the ethical implications of anonymous posters. According to the description, the book was originally published as a special issue of the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, so you can either subcribe to that, or buy a copy of the book for $125. I'm glad our library made the right choice there.

These posts seem to get more acerbic when I write them after midnight. Also when they involve Twitter. Hey, do you follow my feed? Just look up PersonofCon, our PoC.

America according to Colbert : satire as public pedagogy / Sophia A. McClennen. 1st ed. New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
And continuing on the subject of satirical interpretations of the news, we have this number. I myself have used Colbert in pedagogical ways; his "lunchables" edition of the Word and his "Meta-Free-For-All" both came in handy in my class on analyzing metaphorical rhetoric. McClennan argues that the show combines entertainment with a call for active citizenship, and... well, yes, I agree, but I hope it goes a bit further than that. Judging from the index, we've got bits on Baudrillard and Habermas gets name checked, so at least there's a bit of theoretical depth.

Zendegi / Greg Egan.
This week's random fiction work is a sci-fi book, happening in Iran circa 2027. It imagines a much more liberalized Iran, and the human connectome project, a project to completely map out the neuron-connectivity of the human brain. An Iranian MMO uses the results, crossing the boundary between human and machine. it's got some good reviews. And it's a nice example of fiction speaking to digital media. Hmm. All right, my arm's been twisted. Mental note made, hold placed. ...I place a lot of holds.

Tough guys don't dance / Norman Mailer. 1st Ballantine Books ed. New York : Ballantine, 1985, c1984.
I didn't know Mailer did fiction. The book's a murder mystery, wherein a writer must clear his name, after he wakes up from a black out with a woman's severed head in his marijuana stash. I hate when that happens. It was made into a film directed by Norman Mailer. It had a budget of $5 million, and made $858 250 in the box office. That sounds about right.

Hmm. Done with literature, and there's 800 books left. That's not an encouraging sign.

Gröbner bases, coding, and cryptography / Massimiliano Sala ... [et al.], editors. Berlin : Springer ; [Linz, Austria] : RISC, c2009.
Wait, I know this one! I did a four month long research project on Grobner bases, in the undergraduate summer of 2005. Can't remember a damn thing about them now, but... uh... I remember the name! That's something, right? And I've still got all the notes somewhere, so if I ever wanted to open it back up, the option's there.

Life of pee : the story of how urine got everywhere / Sally Magnusson. London : Aurum, 2010.
This sounds like a book by the author of "Everybody Poops." But of course, that's Taro Gomi, so this can't be that. It's definitely very far on the pop side of the scholarly spectrum, as the book's essentially an alphabetical compendium of interesting facts and anecdotes about the golden fluid. I kind of want a copy for my bathroom, but I guess that's a little on the nose.

Forensic nursing / Kelly Pyrek. Boca Raton : Taylor & Francis, 2006.
I know absolutely nothing about this book or this field, but I'm already envisioning a CSI spin-off. Seriously, you could do a show that combines Grey's Anatomy with CSI. Think about that. Think about how the world just exploded.

And on that note of bold and innovative television, we bring an end to another edition of Bibliophile.

Later Days.

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