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Chokepoint Capitalism (2022) 4 stars

A call to action for the creative class and labor movement to rally against the …

Naming the problem

No rating

Plenty of good anecdotes on the way companies use their position as dominent buyers or sellers to manipulate markets, pocket unfair shares of wealth, and generally make life worse for everyone who isn't their execs and shareholders. The collective solutions proposed all seem like reasonable starting points, too—but while I agree with their point that systemic problems require systemic solutions, I don't feel like I left the book with a starting point of how to work towards that change.

Maybe just naming the problem and talking about it is a sound enough starting point. Chokepoint Capitalism is a useful term, evocative and intuitive to understand, but also expansive enough to capture a whole world of corporate corruption. If it bleeds its way into more general discourse, that can only be a good thing.

What we see when we read (2014) No rating

"A gorgeously unique, fully illustrated exploration into the phenomenology of reading--how we visualize images from …

Intriguing visual essay on phenomenology of reading

No rating

This visual essay is based on a premise that doesn't really hold true for me, in that I have never really felt that I "see" when I read. So when Mendelsund tries to convince me that "seeing" is a false impression that's disconnected from the actual experience, I'm already there. If there's a revelation to be had from that, it's just that I thought other people with a stronger visual sense would have a different experience. Maybe not.

Outside of that, I definitely enjoyed Mendelsund's flair for visual metaphor, and the book's questioning of the experience of reading. It's kind of amazing how much The Master and HIs Emissary is impacting everything else I read that comments on perception and phenomenology and philosophy of mind. Here, Mendelsund describes what we "see" of the characters and settings we read about as fragmented, detailed in parts but not additive—more details don't create …

The Fisherman (2016, Word Horde) No rating

Loss, loneliness and dark magic

No rating

I'm not sure whether it's a story with a long digression in the middle, or a story with a long framing device bookending it, but either way an odd construction—a tale split in the middle by another story as long as the rest combined. That middle story is the more vivid one to me, the characters more fleshed out, the setting more vivid, and that sort of works given that the middle story is meant to be almost an infection, capable of carrying additional details even if they aren't told.

The outer story drapes itself in the weight of loss, and I don't know that it quite carries it. Those human elements aren't what has stuck with me, at least. Not in the same way as the more fairy tale-like middle story, which spans generations and continents. That one is a story of duelling dark magicians, more compelling but I …

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (EBook, 2021, Tom Doherty Associates) 4 stars

It’s been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; …

Gentle, thoughtful, optimistic sci-fi

No rating

If I were able to write fiction, I think this is the kind of fiction I’d like to write. The first book in the Monk & Robot series is gentle and thoughtful, but manages to pick at some anxieties I’ve been having for a long time, about purpose and direction and satisfaction. There’s not much in the way of conflict, but plenty in the way of insight, and it’s short enough that I basically inhaled it.

Even more than the characters, I want to spend more time with the book’s religious system, which is revealed in small details but still largely mysterious by the end of the book. The best fictional religions have a way of concisely showing what’s important in a given world—which I guess real religions do, too, but those are so much more multilayered and convoluted from centuries of revision and interpretation that it takes real scholarship …

GOD COUNTRY (2017, Image Comics) No rating

SOUTHERN BASTARDS meets American Gods in a high-stakes fantasy series that masterfully blends high-octane action …

Family drama + Kirby Crackle

No rating

A neat pairing of Kirby-style cosmic gods and rural family drama—about memory and loss and death and chopping up space-demons with a sentient 12-foot sword. It's pulp, but well-done pulp, with enough world-building to feel fleshed out but not so much that it's bogged down in its own mythology.

Journey of the Mind (2022, Norton & Company Limited, W. W.) No rating

No grand epiphany, but plenty to chew on

No rating

An interesting book that doesn't quite achieve what it promises (the humble task of resolving the age-old question of what consciousnes is and how it emerges from unconscious matter). The authors seem convinced that it does, and maybe something is lost in the translation from math-heavy research papers to accessible prose, but I don't think I'm any closer to grasping it.

The key chapter on self makes a distinction between consciousness and self-awareness that I'm having a particularly hard time with, essentially saying that many creatures have qualia experiences of the world, but only humans are aware of themselves having them (unless they're actively engaged in something like the mirror test, at which point a self-aware self emerges only to disappear once the mirror is removed). And I just can't grok the concept of consciousness without awareness.

The idea of consciousness as a process, like a basketball game or hurricane, …

This collection of provocations from the think tank Cybersalon brings together a blend of near-future …

Interesting bite-sized futures

No rating

The ideas are more interesting than the prose, but then these are meant to be bite-sized provocations more than complete stories, so it's hard to complain on that front. Glad to see a mix of hopeful and dystopian futures, along with some that are a mix of both. Tech is rarely just one or the other, and these brief glimpses into possible futures are a great way of illustrating that mixed potential.

If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal (Hardcover, 2022, Little, Brown and Company) No rating

An evaluation of human intelligence’s relation to the larger scheme of things, with an emphasis …

Didn't finish

No rating

Didn't make it through the first chapter. Hard to trust a book on intelligence that opens with "there is no doubt that Nietzsche's psychiatric problems were compounded by his intellectual genius" as if that's an uncontroversial statement that isn't cast into doubt by all of the brilliant philosophers who don't end up institutionalized. If you're willing to cherry-pick that much in your opening statements, why should I trust your other arguments about a topic as nuanced as intelligence?