Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, June 2012
Attention conservation notice: I have no taste.
- Warren Fahy, Fragment
- Mind candy. Predator porn (to
Ehreneich's phrase), plus biologists making enthusiastic as-you-know-Bob
speeches about invasive species and the Cambrian explosion. (As they do.) The
ecology makes no sense.
- Ralf Dahrendorf, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: In a Letter Intended to Have Been Sent to a Gentleman in Warsaw
- Mostly interesting, at this remove (it's from 1990), in seeing the former
director of the LSE slag Hayek in favor of listening to Popper.
- Many things have not developed as Dahrendorf anticipated:
Deng Xiaoping may have hoped that he could stimulate economic activity at the
local level and beyond without awakening the goddess of democracy. The
students of Tiananmen Square gave him the answer, and his counterblast
destroyed economic initiative along with demands for political
participation. [pp. 82--83]
To be fair, the context of this passage is R.D. writing about how hard it is to
understand all the linkages between politics and the economy...
- Isaac Asimov, The Foundation Trilogy
- A very well-done audio adaptation from the BBC. These books are a personal
favorite — they were some of the first grown-up books I ever read, and I
do not admit the existence of either sequels or prequels — and I am
pleased to discover that the only avatar of
the Suck Fairy
which has visited them is the Patriarchy Goes Without Saying Forever Fairy.
Though the whole
plot-point makes much less sense post-Wikipedia... (Retcon: The Galactic Empire
Does Not Approve of social media?)
- The audio adaptation is quite faithful to the over-all plot and themes, and
nicely acted. The actors all deploy their best formal BBC accents, which to my
American ears works nicely with Asimov's text, and even (though I realize this
is irrational) with the classical, fall-of-Rome inspiration. The electronic
noises (sound effects? sound track?) must've sounded very much more futuristic
in 1973 than they do now.
- Thanks to Nick Watkins for telling me about this, and sharing his
- Yes, it's as well-written as everyone says. I have no idea how true it is
to life (or legend) in the former Yugoslavia, but it's beautiful and moving,
and I want to re-read it already to see how she did that.
- Gillian Flynn, Sharp Objects
- Mind candy: dark, dark, sour (not bitter) mind candy. An impressively
messed-up Intrepid Girl Reporter returns to her impressively messed-up home
town to engage in some impressively ill-advised behavior, with the excuse and
side-effect of solving some murders. For me it had that "this is going to be
awful, but I can't stop it" feeling of some nightmares, and I read it in one
- I suspect it qualifies as Southern Gothic, but if so it is a
of the Dead Mule.
- Robert E. Schapire
Freund, Boosting: Foundations and Algorithms
- Review: Weak Learners of the World, Unite!
- Charles Stross, Iron Sunrise
- Mind candy. Space opera, sequel to Singularity Sky (which I
read eight years ago). Like its predecessor, gripping once you swallow the
slightly daft universe. (Which nonetheless is more scientifically plausible
than such classics of "hard SF" as Larry Niven's Known Space.)
- Warning: Multiple scenes of ugly sexualized aggression; not, I
think, prurient, but perhaps triggery.
Scalzi, Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas
and Fuzzy Nation
- Mind candy. Redshirts is fun at the immediate level of
affectionate parody, and there are moving passages in the codas. Fuzzy
Nation is played straight, which is not to say that there isn't some
amusement in watching the protagonist — who is, simply, a manipulative
asshole — maneuver around other characters who are even worse. But there
is something sad about the fact that Scalzi, who is a good writer and one of
the more popular currently-active American SF writers, is spending so much of
his time on books which are so merely reactive to previous SF.
- (Scalzi's The God Engines was in
contrast disappointing: an unremittingly bleak hybrid of space opera and
fantasy which didn't really come together as either for me, and where the
ending was deeply unsatisfying, not so much because it was so very grim as
because it was ill-constructed
and forced. Naturally,
The God Engines was nominated for both a Hugo and a Nebula.)
Nebenzahl, Mapping the Silk Road and Beyond: 2,000 Years of Exploring the
- Pretty maps from Europe in the medieval and early modern period; almost
nothing about the Silk Road, despite the title. I found the visuals more
interesting than the explanatory text.
- Dani Rodrik, The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy
- Rodrik presenting his ideas on global political economy to a popular
audience. Basically, he argues, there is a trilemma, where we have to
drop at least one of "deep" globalization, democracy, and national
sovereignty. This is convincing; and he is further persuasive that the
obstacles to serious global governance, let alone democratic global
governance, are still too big to overcome. This leaves trying to tame
globalization, and keep it "superficial" enough to let different countries
preserve their own policies and institutional arrangements.
- It's not a book for the ages, but it is briskly-written and intellectually
honest popular social science, which is refreshingly up front about the
ultimately political nature of this sort of economic issue.
Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur;
Scientifiction and Fantastica;
Enigmas of Chance;
The Dismal Science;
The Progressive Forces;
Pleasures of Detection, Portraits of Crime;
The Commonwealth of Letters;
Writing for Antiquity
Posted at June 30, 2012 23:59 | permanent link