Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bibliophile: Roger Rabbit and the Dr. Mintkern

I'm not bad. I just blog that way.

This is Bibliophile.

In the interest of full disclosure, I just finished watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and, in the process, drank about six shots.  It's one of those films that hold up surprisingly well, IMHO, but, 24 years later, it still has a sense of "how the hell did this get made?".  Who was the one that said, well, we've got a script that combines live action and animation, why don't we mix cartoons with film noir?  The mysteries of life.

At any rate, let's talk about books.  This time round, there's 900+, which may well be our smallest batch ever.  Sad, when university budgets decline. 

Remembering your (im)moral past : narrative construction and the moral self / by Maureen Mosleh.
The list usually starts with a few dissertations and theses are in the database, but aren't part of the Congress official call numbers.  Usually, I just skip over them, because they are boring, but this one sounds interesting.  Sadly, it's part of the neighboring university's collection, and I can't access it.  And it apparently only exists on microfiche.  Thus, I can only make broad, pointless assumptions on what it's about, so I'll assume it's a tell-all book by Ms. Mosleh about her days as a Las Vegas line dancer.  This speculation may or may not constitute libel.  Stay tuned to find out!
...The shots were clearly a good idea.  Let's continue.

Badiou's Deleuze / Jon Roffe.   Montreal : McGill-Queen's University Press, 2012.  
Our seventy-second item is the Deleuze entry for the week.   An search engine inquiry demonstrates that Roffe is a regular translator of Badiou on a few different essays, including ones on Deleuze, so at least we know he did his research for this book.  Badiou outlined his own feelings on Deleuze in his previous book, Deleuze: The Clamor of Being, in which he thoroughly rejected a number of key Deleuzian concepts.  Roffe's book performs a close reading of this and other papers, and thoroughly articulates what the difference between the two philsophers was, and what it means to modern concepts of both.  I think I don't know have enough background in either figure to get a lot out of this book, but I respect Joffe's clear expertise on its subject matter.  If you know your French theorists well, this may be a good one to look into.

I believe it's time for a new drink.  This evening, I'm drinking a mixed beverage, composed of a shot of mint schnapps, a shot of applekern, an apple-flavored liquor, and Diet Dr. Pepper.  I call it Dr. Mintkern.
I am not a creative man.

Japan's last bid for victory : the invasion of India, 1944 / Robert Lyman.   Barnsley : Praetorian Press/Pen & Sword, 2011.
My knowledge of global history is terrible.  I'm not entirely sure why.  I could blame my high school history teacher, the history curriculum of Saskatchewan circa the 90s, or (gasp!) myself, but the result is the same: my knowledge of historic events is largely what I've pieced together from various fiction series, most notably, George MacDonald Frazier's Flashman books.  This is all a roundabout way of saying that I had no idea that Japan ever invaded India, especially not in the final days of WWII. Judging from the promotions, Lyman's book isn't a particularly scholarly approach to the subject, but it is steeped in accounts and documents from both sides, which offers a fairly balanced perspective on this particular branch of the war.  It covers how the British adapted guerrilla jungle tactics, and deployed irregular units including the local Naga tribesman, and the role the Japanese command structure played in the war's outcome, at least in the micro-level.  Global history has always been a subject I tell myself I'll get to eventually; perhaps this book would be a good start.

Portraits of Winnipeg : the River City in pen and ink / Robert J. Sweeney.   Winnipeg : Turnstone Press, c2011.   
I am from Saskatchewan.  From our prairie fields, Manitoba is the province we point to say, "See?  We may be boring, at least we're not Winnipeg."  This is, of course, a horribly prejudiced view of a vibrant, thriving metropolis... no, no, I can't say it.  I must stay true to my home.  Winnipeg is horrible.  But Sweeney doesn't think so.  Artist and architect, his book is collection of sketches he has compiled of various places and buildings in the city.  It sound like--and I say this without meaning any disrespect--it would be a really excellent coffee-table book, as well as a book for Manitobans interested in architecture or art in general.  I feel I should note that it's under $20 on Amazon, simply because it's rare for a book ordered by a university library to be actually affordable.

Tourism and animal ethics / David A. Fennell.   London ; New York : Routledge, 2012.
Here's one for the animal studies folks.  And the tourism folks as well, I suppose.  The obvious connection between animals and tourism is the subject of zoos.  I have to say, I have mixed feelings on zoos.  The negative side is the obvious--they are there to exploit the animals, and any zoo, no matter how well intentioned, is pulling an animal into an artificial, confusing environment for what amounts to human whim.  On the other hand, well, they are well-intentioned.  I know a few people who have worked or worked in zoos, and they are some of the most compassionate, well-meaning people I know.  It's a complex issue, and Fennell deals with harder yet; the book starts with the 2010 Winter Olympics, and the sled dog culling that made the news at the time, after a large number were murdered following the decline in sled dog tourism after the Winter Games crowd left.  It's a very harsh statement to begin a book on, but probably indicative of Fennell's general point--that tourism in particular has a lot to answer for in terms of animal ethics.  

Gameplay mode : war, simulation, and technoculture / Patrick Crogan.   Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, c2011.
Let's move to a more cheery subject, such as how videogames are complicit in the perpetuation of the American war machine.  Patrick Crogan argues that modern videogame studies has to be more aware of games' connection to war, simulation, and technoculture in general.  Topics of discussion include games and the first person shooter, flight simulator games, special effects in war movies such as Pearl Harbor, Online Games, and Spore.  I'm actually in the process of reading this book right now; I don't want to get too far into here, as I'll probably be doing a more extended discussion later.  Suffice to say for now, while it's a little less focused on actual games than I like, and the rhetoric isn't quite to my taste, I can honestly say that it's the best investigation of war and videogames that I've read, and I've read quite a few at this point.

Race after the Internet / edited by Lisa Nakamura and Peter A. Chow-White.   Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon ; New York : Routledge, 2012.
While certain roommates of mine remain thoroughly unimpressed by Nakamura's more specious bouts of logic, she's still considered one of the leading authorities on race issues and digital studies, which makes an anthology edited by her worth looking at.  (And Peter A. Chow-White is no slouch in that regard either.)  Essays include a piece on Unix by Tara McPherson, Does the Whatever Speak by Alexander Galloway (a big name in videogame studies since his book Essays on Algorithmic Culture), danah boyd on teenage identity and MySpace (which seems a little late, but I really shouldn`t be speaking against digital history assessments, given my own preoccupations), and Rayvon Fouche (the e should have an accent on that, but I`m not sure how to do that on Blogger) on the One Child One Laptop policy.

 Man in the music : the creative life and work of Michael Jackson / Joseph Vogel ; foreword by Anthony DeCurtis.   New York : Sterling, c2011.
It`s rare that I include an entry from the music portion of the listings, but... well, it's the Prince of Pop.  Exceptions must be made.  From the description, this is a very biography-based reading of Jackson's body of work.  The biographical reading has never really interested me; there's too much room for assuming authorial intention where none exists.  For me, cultural context is a much more interesting issue.   ...I don't really have any more to say here.  Like I implied, music isn't really my thing.  Musicals, on the other hand...

Girls! girls! girls! in contemporary art / edited by Catherine Grant and Lori Waxman.   Bristol, UK ; Chicago : Intellect, 2011. 
You had me at the second girls!.  Not the third one, though; that seemed desperate.  Art is even less my thing  than music, but given the subject matter... I can't think of a way to end this sentence without sounding sleazy.  Oh, I've got one.  Given the subject matter, I am an admirer of fine art.  Nope, still sounded sleazy.   Anyway, the contributors to the anthology are all addressing the way female artists depict the female form.  Essays include Baby Butches and Reluctant Lolitas: Collier Schorr and Hellen van Meene by Catherine Grant; Oh Mother Where Art Thou? Sue de Beer's Hysterical Orphan Girls by  Kate Random Love (I like to imagine that there's a story behind that name); and Dial 'P' for Panties: Narrative Photography in the 1990s (with a New Afterword by the Author) by Lucy Soutter, which I can only hope is a spin-off of the Dial 'H' For Hero DC franchise.  (This is a joke that requires knowledge of indie art and comic books lore, so I assume it's an overlap of about three people.)

Vampire film : from Nosferatu to True Blood / Alain Silver and James Ursini.  4th ed., updated and expanded.   Milwaukee : Limelight Editions, 2011.  
Honestly, all you have to do is place vampire in the title, and I'm salivating like Pavlov's dog.  As you might surmise from the title, the book is a fairly thorough discussion of vampires on the silver screen and the tiny screen, from, well, from what the title says, with a stop at Blade, Buffy, and the Vampire Diaries along the way.  At just under 500 pages, I think we can agree that this will be a fairly comprehensive book.  I find myself of surprisingly mixed feelings at its scope though; last term, I had a student submit a paper under the thesis that vampire-related cinema underwent a shift around the Buffy-era, focusing on relationships and romance to a degree that surpassed previous versions, making the blood-suckers more sympathetic.  And while I know that any genre origin attempts always run afoul of that one exception (or one hundred exceptions), I kind of agreed with her.  Still, it can't be denied that there do seem to be some consistent vampire themes, particularly in the terms of connecting death and sexuality.  The perfect read for True Blood's new season, starting next month.

Planetary / Warren Ellis, writer ; John Cassaday, artist ... [et al.]   La Jolla, Calif. : WildStorm/DC Comics, c2000- 
Between this and the Transmetropolitan entry a few weeks ago, it seems like someone in the acquisitions department is on an Ellis kick.  Like Transmetropolitan, Planetary is frequently swarmed with high concept sci-fi ideas.  But where Transmetropolitan was headlined by a futuristic Hunter S. Thompson, Planetary is an investigation of the superhero genre.  It's a lot less "in your face" confrontational about the subject than his later work, No Hero, and is drawn by John Cassady, who is an amazing artist, so it's worth your time.

The literary contingent this time round has a heavy Canadian author presence, which is nice.  It is also a rather boring set of books, however, with not a single sci-fi or fantasy setting in the bunch.  C'mon Canadians--would it kill you to toss in an alien invasion, or an errant Arctic vampire?  At least meet me halfway with a Wendigo or two.  

Sublime dreams of living machines : the automaton in the European imagination / Minsoo Kang.   Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2011. 
Oh, that sounds like fun, doesn't it?  Real (well, historically based, anyway) accounts of steam punk, before it was cool.  Kang traces the notion of the automaton in Western history from ancient myth to the Industrial Revolution.  Well, actually, up to 1935, according to the Table of Contents, which is well past the Industrial Revolution, but work with me here.  Off hand, I can't personally think of a lot of accounts of automatons previous to the age of science-fiction.  The only one that comes to mind is Talos, the man of bronze who guarded the isle of Cretes, and was somewhat associated with the Argos myth.  And the bevy of mechanical women that assisted Hephaestus.  In Greek mythology, even the crippled gods had bevies.  

And that's it for this week.  My drink, and the list, is done.  Let's never do this sober again.

Later Days.

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