Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bibliophile: Loser Sons, Privacy, and Wet Nudes

Roses are red.  Violets are blue.  Blog posts aren't really any color, because they exist primarily in digital form.  Unless the post has a background or something.

This is Bibliophile.

Nuhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  There are 4400+ items this week, so we'll be here a while.  Let's get to it.

Heidegger change : on the fantastic in philosophy / Catherine Malabou ; translated and edited by Peter Skafish.   Albany : State University of New York Press, c2011.
I'm on a bit of a Heidegger jag (like a Kant sprint, but pointier)  and I did my MA thesis on fantasy lit, with a little bit of dabbling in the fantastic, so this book caught my eye.  Malabou argues that since the treatments of Heidegger by Levinas and Derrida, scholars have generally failed to study Heidegger in terms of the inventiveness of this thought.  She proposes to fill that gap.  The book's introduction starts a little odd--Malabou immediately declares that the transformation of thought she's talking about, the Heidegger change, exists independently from Heidegger, as it's created in part through her own reading.  Such a reading immediately kicks things off with a Barthian "Death of the Writer" kind of tone.  Very reader empowerment sort thing.  

Masscult and midcult : essays against the American grain / Dwight Macdonald ; edited by John Summers ; introduction by Louis Menand. 
This work is a collection of essays by radical (or so says his wikipedia page) thinker Dwight MacDonald.  MacDonald coined the term "midcult" as those works of American art that are said to be good for you, those that render people complacent and compliant. As such, he's got essays on James Agee, Hemmingway, and Tom Wolfe.  I like him already.  But I have to admit, a strange part of me hoped that this book would be a diatribe against American agricultural practices. 

Game start! [electronic resource] : Strumenti per comprendere i videogiochi / Francesco Alinovi.   Milan : Springer, c2011.
Finally.  It's been weeks since there's been an actual videogame studies book.  Unfortunately, as you may have gathered from the title, it's in Spanish, and thus somewhat beyond my comprehensive capabilities.  So... let's return to this one in a year or three when the translation comes out.

Through the eyes of tiger cubs : views of Asia's next generation / Mark L. Clifford, Janet Pau.   Singapore : Wiley, c2012.
Judging from the title, I was guessing an ethnography/anthropology sort of book.   And I appreciate oblique "Eye of the Tiger" references, though that may not be intended here.  The subject matter is actually about Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan, and the economic booms and challenges they face.  But it's under discussion in "a viewpoint in contrast to the usual perspectives of businesses, governments, economists, and journalist."  Instead, it's a collection of essays by young Asian students.  I guess it's an interesting point of view, but... I don't want to be ageist, but there's reason you go to economic experts for commentary on the economy.  I mean, I wasn't really interested in reading the "If I was prime minister" competition entries, and that was about my own country.  Still, a fresh perspective has its value.  Maybe it's worth a look.

H2O and the waters of forgetfulness / Ivan Illich.   London : Boyars, 1986. 

 According to the book description, the author traces how water has gone from mythical life-giving elixir to urban cleaning fluid.  It reminds me of one of the basic premises of that Heidegger book I read a while back (I almost made a full five books without mentioning Heidegger.  Yay?) : the perspective of technology creates a worldview whereby we see everything in terms of its standing reserve, in terms of the resources it can offer rather than any other view.  Illich begins with the observation that there is a long-standing historical tradition in art connecting water to the nude female body.  You don't have to look any further than the Birth of Venus for corroborating evidence.  It's only 92 pages, so at least it's a quick read.

Age of distraction : reading, writing, and politics in a high-speed networked economy / Robert Hassan.
Our first digital entry of the post, if one discounts the Spanish videogame book.  (I am assuming it's Spanish.  Could be Italian.  Or Portuguese.  I don't speak no language so good.) Anyway, the idea of the book is that our new techs create new rhythms of comprehension in terms of what we read and write.  He's got a certain point-- things like instant messaging have compressed composition and response to a message to a degree almost unheard of in history. (Unless you count passing notes in class or something.)  It's a little unclear whether he's arguing for a new approach or a retreat from digital technology, but he's definitely against the current state of affairs. 

I know who you are and I saw what you did : social networks and the death of privacy / by Lori Andrews.
More digital!  More anti-digital!  Ahem.   Andrews argues that while the enabling potential of social networks are there, what's also there, and much more widespread is the violations to our personal privacy.  In particular, everything we do online is subject to datamining by companies and corporations that do not have our best interests at heart.  Andrews, then, isn't arguing so much that the digital networks are bad, as that they're unregulated.  Honestly, in the current political atmosphere, I don't see her endorsement getting much traction; American and Canadian governments seem to be following the web businesses' lead in ignoring basic privacy issues.  If nothing else, it demonstrates once again how slow our laws are at keeping up with new technological applications.  (Although frankly, I really wouldn't rather see a set of proactive Internet laws either.)

Metal rules the globe : heavy metal music around the world / Jeremy Wallach, Harris M. Berger, and Paul D. Greene, editors.   Durham [N.C.] : Duke University Press, 2011. 
I tried to recommend this book to a student doing a paper on "Aerial" by System of a Down.  Sadly, it was at a neighboring library our library has a sharing arrangement with, which means it would take a few days to get here--days you don't have when it's the Friday before a Monday paper is due.  Such is the price one pays for last-minute research.  Although, admittedly, the odds of there being anything relevant to a System of a Down paper in a global examination of heavy metal music isn't great. 

 Language of crime and deviance : an introduction to critical linguistic analysis in media and popular culture / Andrea Mayr and David Machin.   London ; New York : Continuum, c2012.
Here's an interesting combination of disciplines.  Mayr and Machin take the traditional criminology approach and add a linguistics analysis.  "Offender," "delinquent," "deviant" vs. "youth," "misdemeanor," "infraction"--how we refer to crimes and criminals affects how we interpret them.  I'm not normally interested in linguistics.  I tend to think of it as a little too abstract.  But this book seems to have a pretty clear application in mind, and the cultural context to back it up.

Loser sons : politics and authority / Avital Ronell.   Urbana : University of Illinois Press, c2012.
Ronnell uses contemporary historical examples to investigate sons who seem to struggle with living up to the reputation of very public, very authoritative fathers.  Her argument is that the desire to meet and exceed the parental expectations leads to other sorts of excesses.  As you may guess, we're going to be getting Freudian here.  But Freud isn't the only theorist under discussion: Franz Kafka, Goethe's Faust, Benjamin Franklin, Jean-François Lyotard, Hannah Arendt, Alexandre Kojève, and Immanuel Kant all make an appearance.  I've always been somewhat distrustful of psychoanalysis applied on mass scale; it's just too sweeping to paint figures as diverse as George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, and Mohammed Atta (some of the "Loser sons") with the same diagnostic brush.  But Ronell's mitigating some of the problems of that approach, simply by the sheer variety of other approaches she's employing.  The authoritarian, disciplinarian father is certainly a dominant figure, especially in the Judeo-Christian tradition, so the argument does have legs.

Children's picturebooks : the art of visual storytelling / Martin Salisbury with Morag Styles.   London : Laurence King Pub., 2012. 
I'm starting to hit a wall here, but I will say that I think that this subject deserves more exposure.  My videogame manual research has taught me to have a lot of respect for effective image-text layouts, and the children's picturebook genre is vastly underappreciated for the influence it wields.  

Ready player one / Ernest Cline.  1st ed.   New York : Crown Publishers, c2011. 
Mentioned mainly for self-serving purposes: I'd like to remind everyone that I reviewed this book, back way back.  Short version: 80s nostalgia + sci-fi = vaguely depressing.

 Art of fielding : a novel / Chad Harbach.
Author uses baseball as the set-up for delving into the lives of five characters.  And of course, all of their hopes, dreams, anxieties, etcetera come together during the final big game.  I have to admit, I've never understood the American nostalgia for baseball.  Hell, I don't even understand the Canadian nostalgia for hockey.  If I can't comprehend my own nation's sport obsessions, I probably am not well-equipped to deal with those of other countries.  But I do respect a good variation on a genre form, and this strikes me as a literally novel way of approaching the sports movie.  The critical reviews are rather glowing; the reader reviews are not (not on Amazon, at least.)

Antagonist / Lynn Coady.
At least, that's what it's listed at in the catalog, though a cursory google search tells me that "The Antagonist" is the proper title.  I think I liked the other one better, to be honest.  The plot is that the giant Gordon Rankin is treated as a goon for his size during his teenage years, but when 'tragedy strikes,' he goes too far, and flees, setting a new life for himself.  Thing is, the one friend he told the truth to later publishes a book mirroring his life.  So he deals with that.   ....Antagonist would make a good name for a comic book arc. 

 Proof is in the pudding : the changing nature of mathematical proof / Steven G. Krantz.   New York ; London : Springer, c2011.
 Good title.  If I had the time, I'd like to read books such as this.  If nothing else, it would make me feel as if my math degree serves some purpose yet.  Also: We're already in the sciences section, and still not even half way through this week's listings.  That means we've got a lot of science stuff ahead.  And since I rarely post most of that, by "we" I mean "not you."  Lucky bastard.

Interactive storytelling [electronic resource] : fourth International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling, ICIDS 2011, Vancouver, Canada, November 28-1 December, 2011, proceedings / Mei Si...[et al.] (eds.).   Berlin ; New York : Springer, c2011.
You know, we haven't actually done an anthology yet this week.  A conference proceeding is thhe next best thing, I guess.  It's in the QAs, so the focus is on design rather than game theory, and on the programming side of design at that. Looking at the list of contributors, there is a grand total of one name I recognize: Janet Murray and her essay "Why Paris Needs Hector and Lancelot Needs Mordred: Using Traditional Narrative Roles and Functions for Dramatic Compression in Interactive Narrative."  (Although Chris Crawford is also present as a keynote speaker; you may remember him from that book thing he wrote.)  Murray's paper is on how traditional story patterns (such as woman with two potential romantic partners--I do hope hope this talk digressed into a compare and contrast of Twilight and Hunger Games)can be used to compress digital experiences.  It seems like the same basic approach she's been arguing for since Hamlet on the Holodeck.  This whole thing reminds me, though, that I really need to read her new book, Inventing the Medium.  ...We're really digressing from the main topic here.  And I've used digressed three times in one paragraph.  I'm getting distracted.  And sleepy.  Let's move on.

Judging purely by the number of electronic titles in the next few batches, I'm assuming the large volume of items this week is caused by the addition of a new science-oriented database to the already vast databases our library has access to.  That addition grants us such fascinating titles as:
  Symplectic invariants and Hamiltonian dynamics
 Numerical methods for two-phase incompressible flows
 Singularities of integrals [electronic resource] : homology, hyperfunctions and microlocal analysis
 Many-body Schrödinger dynamics of Bose-Einstein condensates 
Amorphous chalcogenide semiconductors and related materials

I'm sure these subjects are very useful to someone.  And I am very, very sure that someone is not  me.

Know-how of face transplantation / Maria Z. Siemionow (Editor).
If you'll excuse me, I have a movie to re-enact.  First step: Find an FBI agent willing to go under cover...

I am suddenly struck by how funny it is that the pharmaceutical-related items have call numbers starting with "RX."  God, I must be tired. 

Architecting the internet of things  / Dieter Uckelmann, Mark Harrison, Florian Michahelles, editors ; with a foreword by Bernd Scholz-Reiter.
"Architecting is not a word.  Can we agree on that, please?  But to take the book seriously for a moment, "internet of things" most commonly refers to electronic means of identifying unique objects so that they have a virtual equivalent attached to them that is impossible to mistake with any other virtual object.  That probably has a lot of implications that would be very interesting to someone who isn't rapidly approaching the wrong end of 4 am.  (Incidentally, in case you were wondering, there is no right side of 4 am.)

I'm a registered nurse not a whore : stories / by Anne Perdue.
Are.... are these professions that commonly get confused?   Anyway, that's the last one.  Good night, good luck, and thanks for all the phish.

Later Days.



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