Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bibliophile: South Park and the Late Foucault

Book of Verses underneath the Bough, A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou.

...if Thou Art Bibliophile.

 1300+ items.  Let's do it to it.

 Order of things : an archaeology of the human sciences / Michel Foucault.   London ; New York : Routledge, 2002.
Classic early Foucault.  It's funny; you can usually count on a book centered around Deleuze to pop up once a week, but Foucault has become a once in a blue moon scholar, when it comes the headline act, at least.  Perhaps he's fallen out of favor somewhat? Order of things comes relatively early in his body of work, and signaled his movement from literature and health clinics to a more general focus on Western civilization and discourse.

 Hegel, Deleuze, and the critique of representation : dialectics of negation and difference / Henry Somers-Hall.   Albany : State University of New York Press, c2012.
Speak of the philosophically ubiquitous devil!   Anyway, Somers-Hall is delving into Deleuze's attacks on Hegel.  His argument is that they were both trying to address the same problem, getting past the restrictions in Kant's transcendental idealism.  And along the way, he deals with logics of Aristotle and Russel and Bergson's philosophy.  This is clearly one of those books that you shouldn't touch unless you have a very, very developed knowledge of European philosophical traditions.

Happiness of pursuit : what neuroscience can teach us about the good life / Shimon Edelman.   New York : Basic Books, c2012. 
I see what you did with that title.  The book appears to be a pop science look at cognitive science, specifically on the belief that the brain produces greater rewards for the journey rather than the destination.  The description's rather vague beyond that, frankly. I'm not a big fan of cognitive science in general--it tends to view humanity through a very narrow lenses, without acknowledging that lenses in place.  And I doubt that a pop approach would improve that very much.  Still, nice title.

Cambridge companion to performance studies / edited by Tracy C. Davis.   Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2008. 
Don't think I'm not keeping an eye on you, Cambridge.  

Local food system for Saskatoon : envisioning prosperous rural communities and food-secure cities on the Canadian Prairies / by Melodie Coneybeare. 
Wooo!  Shout-out to the Paris of the Prairies!
Young men in uncertain times / edited by Vered Amit and Noel Dyck.   New York : Berghahn Books, 2012. 
This title was just vague enough to pique my curiosity.  It's an anthology on archeological studies of young men in terms of rites of passage and so forth, on a cultural level.  Essay topics include masculine assertion in Kerala (a city in India), combat and manhood in Afghanistan, institutionalizing extended youth phases in China, Unemployment in Ethopia, nationalism in the Society Islands (French Polynesia), masculine hardening in Northern Ireland, and Working class Black and Latino Males in California cities.  It certainly lives up to the claim of being a global study.  It still seems a rather loose topic, but the individual studies are very focused, as tends to be the case in archeological studies, I think.

Braaaiiinnnsss! : from academics to zombies / [edited by] Robert Smith?   [Ottawa] : University of Ottawa Press, 2011.
Some of the luster has gone off of zombie study, but this collection shows that it's still going strong in some quarters.  I like the question mark that's in the record's title--did Robert Smith edit it?  Who knows?  It is impossible to determine.   Apparently, the question mark is actually part of Smith?'s name, which is one way of distinguishing yourself from the swathes of Smith last names, I guess.  The titles of the essays are all very tongue in cheek: "Classification and Causation of Zombification, and Guidelines for Risk Reduction Management" and "Aim for the Head."  I'll note that it's got an essay by John Seavey, whose name is familiar to me from his guest blogs at But the anthology as a whole seems a little too unfocused for my taste.

 Online gaming in context : the social and cultural significance of online games / edited by Garry Crawford, Victoria K. Gosling and Ben Light.   London ; New York : Routledge, 2011.
 Hey look!  A book on videogames!  It's also largely collected from the British branch of game studies, which I've found focuses a little more on issues of narrative and ethnographic studies. I'll note in particular an essay on online boardgames by Neil Randall, a professor I've worked with extensively.  He knows his boardgames.  Also included is an essay by prominent game scholar Frans Mayra  on contextual play in Flickr and facebookCelia Pearce and Artemesia write on fictive ethnicities and game refugees.  And in general, there are essays on player retention in World of Warcraft, Kenneth Burke and WoW, Linguistic accents in videogames, representations of race and gender in Everquest, and Second Life and social capital.  It's a fairly long paper, and probably worth a look.  So I'll make a mental note to do just that.

Economics of beer / edited by Johan F.M. Swinnen.   Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2011.
I  can't track down a list of essays for this one, but the reviews are mostly positive.  So if you have to choose just one book on the economics of beer, this would be a good choice.   I guess.  Mostly, I want to support this franchise until the inevitable sequel, economics of liquor. 

Winter gold : the report on the economic sustainability and development of snowmobiling in Ontario / prepared for the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs ; prepared by Ecologistic Limited.   Barrie, Ont. : Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs ; Waterloo, Ont. : Ecologistics Ltd., 1998.
This essay would be another one that I'm glad exists, even if I have no interest in it.  

Cinderella ate my daughter : dispatches from the front lines of the new girlie-girl culture / Peggy Orenstein.  1st ed.   New York : HarperCollins, c2011.
I'd comment that pointlessly confrontational titles are not the way to do scholarly discourse, but it got my attention, didn't it?   Anyway, in my never-ending chronicling of pop scholar works, we've got one for pop feminism.  Orenstein's looking at girl power, "pretty and pink" type marketing for young girls, and questioning if "today's little princesses become tomorrow's sexting teen?  ...Would that make her in charge of their sexuality--or an unwitting captive to it?".  On the one hand, Orenstein's rhetoric is working against her--she sounds alarmist, even if she does have a point.  On the other hand, I think she might have a point, that the consumerist bent of the princess push has an incredibly negative effect on the children of today, and studying things like "American Girl Place" is how we get to the bottom of what's going on.

 Marshall McLuhan's mosaic : probing the literary origins of media studies / Elena Lamberti.   Toronto ; Buffalo [N.Y.] : University of Toronto Press, c2012.
Lamberti studies McLuhan's humanistic roots, particularly in regards to his connection to Modernist thinkers.  Hmmm.   It's a novel approach--McLuhan's emphasis on media and technology usually means he's claimed by the media studies crowd rather than the humanities group.  In particular, she's drawing out McLuhan's transition from literary studies to media studies.  To quote her: "It is time for us, scholars and students in the humanities, to reclaim Marshall McLuhan and learn from him.  He never approached literature as a subject; he literally applied literature to the observation of his actuality.Thinking of literature as a function is a good way to shake off some of the cobwebs, but it strikes me as an approach that could reduce literature to its use-value.  But she's also using the reverse approach--looking at McLuhan helps us see literature differently, but looking at literature also helps us see McLuhan differently, a task she sees as necessary to pull him out of the aphoristic use that many consign him to today.  Well, that's true enough.  Maybe it's worth reading?

 Mathematics in popular culture : essays on appearances in film, fiction, games, television and other media / edited by Jessica K. Sklar and Elizabeth S. Sklar ; foreword by Keith Devlin.   Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland, c2012.
As a former math geek and current pop culture scholar, I appreciate this approach. Topics include math fanaticism and Lost (4-8-15-16-23-42!), Fair and Unfair Division in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, Mathematics and Role-Playing Games, and Math and Baseball in Moneyball, and web networks in the comic strip xkcd, among others.  It's a good set of artifacts.  Math's use in fiction is interesting--it doesn't have the direct application of the technosciences, but it does have an almost mythical aura.  It serves as a sort of emblem for Western culture and advancement (even though math as we know it today exists because of the preservation and efforts of a lot of Middle Eastern folk).  As TV shows like Big Bang Theory and Stargate Atlantis tell us, having any sort of enthusiasm for numbers means you're ridiculously uncool and lame, but there still persists this notion that mathematics is the route to intelligence.  Plus, you've got to love a book that juxtaposes an essay about thinking outside the box in the movie Cube with math as metaphor in Tolstoy's War and Peace.  (Actually, I remember the war = calculus metaphor from War and Peace.  Good times.)

Stewart/Colbert effect: essays on the real impacts of fake news / edited by Amarnath Amarasingam ; foreword by Robert W. McChesney.   Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2011. 
This entry isn 't the first time that Stewart and Colbert have graced the Bibliophile pages; I guess that means that academia has finally caught up to the rest of the world.  The major topics include how the American public is losing faith in traditional media outlets (I'm going to put a lot of that at Fox's feet--between coining the phrase 'liberal media' and their own less than 'fair and balanced' approach, they have not had a positive effect---not that the other major forces have been going out of their way to challenge it), and the shows' effects on popular opinion.  Specific essays include the shows as sources of public attention to science and environment, viewing comedy news and the political engagement of young adults, ego and the persona of Stephen Colbert, and real ethical concerns of fake news.  (It's always interesting to see how Stewart in particular struggles with the notion that his show is a major news source.)

Deconstructing South Park : critical examinations of animated transgression / edited by Brian Cogan.  
 And on a similar topic, here's a book of essays on South Park.  I went through an extended period where I refused to watch an episode of South Park.  I thought it was crude, disgusting, and just not worth my time.  Then I watched an episode, and, shortly after, every episode.  And it was crude and disgusting.  But also worth my time.  I don't agree with the South Park stance on a lot of issues (alcoholism being the immediate difference) and I think they're way too cynical on a lot of issues, and that cynicism often overlaps with their other major fault, which is to do gross-out stuff for the sake of being gross--for example, if there is a single essay in this book with the word "Christmas Poo" in the title, I'm going to stop reading right there.  On the other hand, they're willing to take a stance, and actually discuss issues in a way no other show of its kind will.  Sure, the Simpsons will weigh in on an issue--usually years after its heyday--and Family Guy will chime in with "controversial" issues.  But in both cases, there's always a sense that they're holding back because they don't want to offend demographics.  The South Park guys are willing to put it on the line a lot more (to a certain limit--I certainly understood their decision to NOT show Mohammed in that two parter a few years back, and that was Comedy Central's call, not theirs.)  Oh, I guess I should talk about the actual book.    Topics include Timmy, Jimmy and Disability Parody; South Park and Celebrity use, religious parody and Satan, and South Park and Authority.  Nothing that jumps out as particularly interesting, but nothing particularly egregious either.

 Transmetropolitan / Warren Ellis, writer ; Darick Robertson, penciller ; Keith Aiken ... [et al.], inkers ; Nathan Eyring, color and separators ; Clem Robins, letterer ; original covers by Geof Darrow.   New York : DC Comics, c1998-c2004.
As a public service, I want everyone to note that our library has a shiny new collection of Transmetropolitan, AKA that series Warren Ellis wrote about angry people in the future. I added the "in the future" part so you could tell it apart from the other Ellis books.

Normally, I'd do a fiction book or two at this point, but I couldn't find any that caught my eye this time round.  Come on, fiction writers!  Get it together!  

Virtual reality : concepts and technologies / editors, Philippe Fuchs, Guillaume Moreau, Pascal Guitton.   Boca Raton, FL : CRC Press, c2011.
A lot of anthologies today, yes?  Well, here's another.   It's firmly placed in the design and execution side of things rather than the theory, which is different.  From the table of contents, it'll be talking about location sensors, motor interface, tactile feedback, immersion and presence.  Since going through book after book of various authors arguing over what virtual reality may or may not mean, and what it may or may not end up being, it's nice to see a more practical approach.  The downside is that practical approaches often mean abandoning the theoretical concerns entirely.  I hope this book is a little more well-rounded.

Birth of the clinic / Michel Foucault.   London : Routledge, 2003. 
I'm starting to feel stupid for declaring Foucault research to be in decline.

Madness : the invention of an idea / Michel Foucault ; translated by Alan Sheridan.  1st Harper Perennial Modern Thought ed.   New York : Harper Perennial, 2011. 

Reeaaaaaally stupid.

And on that note of failure, let's call an end to this session of Biblophile.  See y'all next week.

Later Days.








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