Monday, May 28, 2012

Bibliophile: Jesus is Loving It, and the Not So Desperate Housewives

All I had to eat today was a slice of pizza I found in a classroom.

This is Bibliophile.
 So while, like I said before, I do have marginally more free time on my hands this week than I first thought I  did., it is still a busy time.  I'm trying to balance going to Congress, staffing a project for my supervisor, and maintaining a pathetic facade of a social life.  And then around noon today, I remember I've got that weekly super long, research-intensive post that no one reads to write.  Well, I've got twenty minutes between a check-up on the project and an ACCUTE panel on comic books, so let's start a Biblophile, shall we?  There are 1068 items this week, which is a good, healthy number.

Of men and manners : essays historical and philosophical / Anthony Quinton ; edited by Anthony Kenny.   Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2011.
I originally read this as "Of Men and Mammaries."  Apparently, my mind is in the gutter today.  The first half of the book is essays on various white European male thinkers, from Francis Bacon, to Spinoza to Coleridge to Hegel and beyond.  The second half is more subject based, with essays on the human animal, the concept of freedom, words, and a dominant focus on values.  Anthony Quinton defined philosophy as "thinking about thinking," which makes it the original meta.

Rousseau in drag : deconstructing gender / Rosanne Terese Kennedy.  1st ed.   New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
My first graduate course was on Rousseau.  He was a French philosopher originally made famous for his essay speculating of the origin of language.  And he was later famous for being a mentally deranged  and paranoid. To this day, anything that focuses on him has an automatic point in its favor.  And putting him in drag?  That's bonus points. Gender politics isn't the subject that comes  to mind when I think of Rousseau (given his relationship with his mother figure/mistress, and his prostitute/wife, not to mention the strict guidelines he gives out on what's appropriate for female education (not much.)), but Kennedy wants to start with cross-dressing phase to reconsider him as more than a misogynist.  That's true--he was also a misanthrope.  All right, jokes aside, it sounds like an interesting premise that has some legs to it.

We managed to make it two whole entries before I had to go.  Be back soon folks; I gotta see a man about a comic book.

Time and history in Deleuze and Serres / edited by Bernd Herzogenrath.   London ; New York : Continuum, c2012.
And we're back. That was the most fun I had in a conference setting since... since last week, actually. It's been a good month for conferences. The Deleuze de jour for this entry.  (I kind of like that alliterative French bastardization; that may be the regular phrasing from here on out.) It's an anthology work, specifically, one of those anthologies whose topics are pretty explicit in the title.  I can't say I'm familiar with Michel Serres: the nutshell version is a French philosopher who was interested in translation and the philosophies of science.  His bibliography section on Wikipedia runs over 8 pages long.  Topics include Michel Serres' "fold and crumpled handkerchief" description of time; Deleiueze on Bergsonian Duration, and Heredity Heresy in the Education of Henry Adams.

Jesus goes to McDonald's : theology and consumer society / Luiz Alexandre Solano Rossi ; foreword by Norman K. Gottwald.   Eugene, OR : Wipf & Stock, 2011.
That's a fun title.   Rossi is dealing with one of the ongoing issues that Christianity has grappled with, largely because of its association with Western ideologies: how do you reconcile it with capitalism?  The modern version is the Prosperity Theology, the idea that God's rewards go to the wealthy, which we've talked about before, via Mary Hinton's Commercial Church. Rossi dismisses the argument as not even remotely in tune with Biblical writings.  But at the same time, that seems to imply that theology is divorced from practical, real-life experience.  And that's the subject of the book: to discuss what theology means in terms of living in a capitalist world.  I've moved pretty far from an interest in theology in general, but as a rule of thumb, anything that's against the Prosperity Theology isn't entirely a bad thing.

How they croaked : the awful ends of the awfully famous / Georgia Bragg ; illustrated by Kevin O'Malley.  1st U.S. ed.   New York : Walker & Co., 2011.
 I hesitated on this one.  I have nothing against the genre of coffeetable books or bathroom readers, which seems to be the sort of style it's going for, but the subject matter is pretty distasteful.  This is hardly an original sentiment, but there's this weird sentiment in society that we're entitled to know and speculate on the sordid aspects of our celebrities, up to and including wishing them future harm.  Mark Zuckerberg's marriage last week, for example, was less an element of news than wild speculations of the nature of his prenuptial agreement, and asset distribution in the case of a divorce.  (Granted, most of the news stories were appearing on family and divorce law blogs, which is a societal issue of a different nature, but the Chicago  Tribune referenced it as well..) It all felt kind of cynical to be discussing the worst-case scenario when the ink was still dry on the wedding certificate.  And a book on celebrity death appears, at first glance, to have the same kind of ickyness attached. 
The book takes pretty much the only mildly tasteful approach to the subject you can, by casting it a gothic humor vein, and limiting their scope to people who died at least a half century ago or longer.  So I actually have noting to complain about here.  Still, it felt good to get that off my chest.  And the illustrations are really very nice.

Codename revolution : the Nintendo Wii platform / Steven E. Jones and George K. Thiruvathukal.   Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, c2012.
I'd make a mental note, but I've had this book out for three weeks already.  Steven E. Jones has appeared here recently.  I'm not familiar with Thiruvathukal, but an examination of his online CV suggests that he suppliedthe  the technical expertise side of the discussion, given his background in computer science.  The platform series, with its previous books on the Amiga and the Atari 2600, have been landmarks in discussing in general game studies how the technology side of things is important, and doing so without losing the audience in the minutae of programming.  I haven't had a chance to get very far in the Wii book, but I imagine it will do the same, especially given Jones'  mantra in The Meaning of Videogames that the technology of games needs to be understood in its cultural context.  And the cultural context is important for the Wii in particular, because Nintendo basically sold the machine by branding it as a social gaming platform.  The only system I can think of that went the same "cultural relevance" route was the Sega Genesis as the machine of "cool," and that was a much more focused, and lesser, scale. 

Long history of new media : technology, historiography, and contextualizing newness / edited by David W. Park, Nicholas W. Jankowski, Steve Jones.   New York : Peter Lang, c2011.
Look, it's a new media anthology! And look at the end of that list of editors--it`s Steve Jones again!  Not the same as the one above, as far as I can tell, which explains why the former chooses to go by his middle initial.  But it`s an approach on the subject I believe Steve E. Jones would approve of, as it considers new media in terms of a history(histories) and culture(s) that predates its current form.  Topics include New Music and the Idea of Attention, the history of the mobile television, the Internet and the dominance of English as the form of communication, Marshall McLuhan and cognitive neuroscience, 19th century interface history, and audience labor in the digital.  

Ard Stark's Parker : a graphic novel / by Darwyn Cooke ; edited by Scott Dunbier. San Diego : IDW Publishing, 2010-  
We've discussed the sequel work previously, but everything I said about that goes for this: best thriller adaptation you can read. Extremely enjoyable. Takes full advantage of its visual medium. Must read.

 Harp and the shadow : a novel / Alejo Carpentier ; translated by Thomas Christensen and Carol Christensen. 
A magic realism approach that doubles as a character study of Christopher Columbus.  There's generally two approaches to Columbus: the European hero, and the foreign pillager.  This takes a a more middle approach, not flinching from the realities of his exploitation, but still humanizing him.  

Queer Blake / edited by Helen P. Bruder and Tristanne J. Connolly.   Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
Tristanne J. Connolly on Blake... hmmm.... this seems .... familiar.   And, I'm pretty sure, also excellent. Best essay title goes to "Anal Blake: Bringing up the Rear in Blakean Criticism," by Elizabeth C. Effinger. There's a proud one to put on the cv.

There's a babirusa in my bathtub! : fact and fancy about curious creatures / by Maxine Rose Schur ; illustrated by Michael S. Maydak.  1st ed.   Nevada City, CA : Dawn Publications, c2009.
Okay, this is one of those books whose title screams "pop science," or even "science for kids." And this is most definitely the latter. But darned if I'm not hooked by the promise of bizarre animals. A babirusa, incidentally, looks like this:

Like a pig, but with just a smidgen of anteater thrown in.

Desperate housewives, neuroses and the domestic environment, 1945-1970 / by Ali Haggett.   London ; Brookfield, Vt. : Pickering & Chatto, 2012.
Not a Mad Men / Desperate Housewives match-up (I'd watch that), but a close examination of the American housewife during the same period.  Haggett wants to investigate that the claim that this period gave rise to the stereotypical, highly neurotic housewife.  Essentially, she argues that the forces going on where much more nuanced than a Freudian blanket diagnosis would suggest.  Contemporary theoretical feminism is a notoriously thorny issue; as a layman who has little to no understanding of the fine details, it seems that the struggle is connecting the individual's experience to the group at large, and vice versa.  The housewife in Minnesota isn't going through the same struggles as an innercity single mother, for example.  ...You know what?  I'm just going to stop here before I really put my foot in my mouth. 

Omnipotent magician : Lancelot 'capability' Brown, 1716-1783 / Jane Brown.   London : Pimlico, 2012, c2011.
That is a terrible nickname for someone whose first name is Lancelot.  Brown apparently created the English landscape garden, which is actually a very interesting topic, given the rhetoric of land design.

And that's it for this week.  Later, 'gators.

Later Days.

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