This book was a motherfucker. I really enjoyed reading about Miles Davis' life and career. He was a great musician and always changing. He wasn't theThis book was a motherfucker. I really enjoyed reading about Miles Davis' life and career. He was a great musician and always changing. He wasn't the most likable person, judging from his autobiography, and he lived a life of excess and selfishness. But his mind and creativity were awe-inspiring; and his music will always be alive....more
This biography of one of poetry's modern masters, Charles Baudelaire, was an interesting read for me because I didn't know much about his background.This biography of one of poetry's modern masters, Charles Baudelaire, was an interesting read for me because I didn't know much about his background. Like any other english lit major, I'd read some of his poetry (Les Fleurs du mal being his most famous) and heard stories about his eccentricities.
This book dispels a few myths and spells out that Baudelaire led rather a miserable life - he was largely unappreciated for his extraordinary poetry in his time, was perpetually broke, had physical ailments, and had a full-on Oedipus Complex.
The book probably spends too much time quoting Baudelaire's incessant begging for money in his letters to his mother and others. After a while that level of detail was draining. But it also helped to show how much of his time he spent just trying to live his life above the breadline.
Baudelaire's character wasn't flatteringly drawn in the book, although it was obvious that the author was very sympathetic to him - not just due to his poetic gifts, but for how he was treated as a child by his mother and step-father.
As for Baudelaire's poetry, it really is sublime. As the book notes a number of times, the exquisite nature of his poetic mind was a stark contrast to the miserable and cynical way he lived. The subject matter of most of his poetry is troubling and sometimes grotesque, but his imagery is brilliant and highly evocative.
I've been reading his poems at the same time, and I've been blown away by the richness of the images and language. As the book notes, Baudelaire saw the world as a dictionary full of symbols.
Baudelaire also believed in "correspondences" between the arts (literature, music, painting, etc), and between the senses. I'm very much a believer of that too. So far I've followed literature and music most closely. I do need to improve my knowledge of art, but that's on my agenda too!
Finally, the book also stated that Baudelaire was "a classic in his technique and a romantic in his inspiration."
I'll be continuing to devour Baudelaire's poetry. His words are an inspiration, even if how he lived his life is not....more
Very good history and overview of MySpace. Particularly strong on the pre-history, when the MySpace founders were busy scrapping a living from email aVery good history and overview of MySpace. Particularly strong on the pre-history, when the MySpace founders were busy scrapping a living from email and pop-up spam and porn. The founders almost accidentally stumbled on a winner with social networking, which was eventually acquired by News Corp. The book fell away a bit near the end, where I was counting pages till the finish. But definitely worth reading if you're interested in Internet culture....more
JG Ballard is one of my favorite fiction writers. I read Crash and several of his other highly imaginative works when I was younger. Crash is my favorJG Ballard is one of my favorite fiction writers. I read Crash and several of his other highly imaginative works when I was younger. Crash is my favorite, a controversial concept novel about sexual fantasies mixed with car crashes. Ballard explains the genesis of that book in one brief chapter. But the bulk of Miracles of Life is his description of growing up in Shanghai, including 2.5 years in an internment camp with other British expatriates in the early 1940s, when Japan had invaded China. He also describes how he went from studying medicine to becoming a writer, and his family life.
Overall the book has some lovely reminiscences by Ballard and we find out why he came to write highly original and intense novels in the 60s and 70s. He described his approach as being science fiction, but focusing on "inner space" - he wrote that "I would interiorise science fiction, looking for the pathology that underlay the consumer society, the TV landscape and the nuclear arms race, a vast untouched continent of fictional possibility".
As I said, one of my fave fiction writers. Recommend this book for fans....more
I enjoyed this book and it was certainly the best bio I've read of Rupert Murdoch (there aren't too many of them and the last one I tried was a hatcheI enjoyed this book and it was certainly the best bio I've read of Rupert Murdoch (there aren't too many of them and the last one I tried was a hatchet job based around some weird political conspiracy theory, which I abandoned less than halfway through). So comparatively speaking, this bio was well researched and relatively objective.
The author, Michael Wolff, nevertheless couldn't help inserting any number of his own literary theories and spins on Murdoch's story - which were in some places cutting analysis, other places seemed like guesswork, and still other places were literary pretension. However, there were enough interesting facts and analysis overall to make it on the whole a valid approach.
Murdoch's bio wasn't told chronologically, and we kept being returned to the book's central plotline - Murdoch's ultimately successful bid to buy Wall St Journal from the Bancroft family. While that plotline was undoubtedly fascinating and central to figuring out Murdoch - basically he's an old school but morally ambivalent journalist who wanted to buy WSJ precisely because the journalistic ivy league (represented by WSJ and NYT) hates him - in the end the story became tiresome and mired in the kind of back and forth minutiae that the Bancrofts themselves probably engaged in when deciding whether to sell to Murdoch. It was a real struggle for me to finish the book, because frankly I found myself not particularly caring about the inside deal-making details relating to WSJ.
Overall, Murdoch is indeed a fascinating character, and as the book concluded it is very rare to find such a large company so dominated by the will and obsessions of one person. I've always seen Murdoch as a journalist at heart, because he knows a good story and knows what it takes to get it. He's a dangerous businessman too of course, and tabloid journalism has often been the way his companies operate. I'm not suggesting it's necessarily good journalism, but it's certainly been effective for him and the way he operates has influenced the media landscape a lot. I don't fashion myself after Murdoch much, but I do admire his single-minded determination and willingness to do things the establishment won't....more
Duran Duran was my favorite band in my boyhood. They got famous around 1981-82, when I was about 10 years old. At that time in my school there were 3Duran Duran was my favorite band in my boyhood. They got famous around 1981-82, when I was about 10 years old. At that time in my school there were 3 pop bands you could choose from, and you generally chose just one of them: Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Culture Club. I always thought Spandau were naff, to use a good british term. Culture Club were naff with some catchy tunes. But Duran Duran were awesome, to my 10-11 year old mind. They kind of rocked - in a pop way - and they were a bit arty. They dressed cool, they looked cool, and heck they sounded cool to my young ears. Their videos were of course fantastic and the album cover for Rio is one of the best ever, by any band. They had brilliant tunes: Rio, Girls on Film, The Reflex, Blue Moon on Monday, View to a kill, etc. I used to make top 10 lists for music back then, not to dissimilar I guess to the top 10s I write for ReadWriteWeb nowadays! Anyway Duran Duran were always sitting at number 1 or nearby on my music charts, I think they even got number 1 for the entire year once or twice.
I do recall when I was about 11 having some friendly rivalry with Spandau fans, who hated DD. I had the approval though of a U2 fan, who didn't really like any of the 3 pop bands mentioned above - but he thought DD were the least lame, compared to U2 (remembering that this was U2's serious political preening period, with Boy and War albums).
So Andy Taylor's book. It was a great read, very interesting for me considering I was such a big fan back in my teenybopper days. I was quite surprised to learn that the band was pretty much dysfunctional after about 1983-4, when Andy fell out with Nick and Simon, John Taylor had his troubles with drugs and too many girlfriends(!!), Roger Taylor quit, then Andy quit. The band got back together in the 00's and had a couple of periods of successful touring - made a load of money etc. But they released a couple of bad albums too.
Duran Duran will always be the quintessential early 80s pop band for me, and I was never really interested in them after about 1985 - when a) I'd grown up and moved onto INXS etc and later Guns n'Rose; and b) Duran Duran had imploded.
Fascinating book, changed the way I think about success. The central thesis is that success isn't something that happens to an individual in a vacuum.Fascinating book, changed the way I think about success. The central thesis is that success isn't something that happens to an individual in a vacuum. Success comes from a mix of opportunity, cultural background, hard work, luck, and the traditional things like intelligence. The Bill Gates example is good: yes Gates is highly intelligent, but Gladwell simply and clearly proves that a huge part of Gate's success came from the fortune of being born at a certain time, having had 10000 hours of computing work under his belt before most other people and at a young age, being lucky to have access to computing facilities when it was rare, etc.
The most memorable part of the book for me was when Gladwell explained why Korean Air had a worse air crash record than any other airline, which Gladwell explained at length was due to cultural factors - not technical ability, bad luck, etc. When the airline recognized and worked to correct the cultural issue, their record vastly improved.
This book makes me want to work harder to give my own child the opportunities she needs to be a success in life. It also makes me curious about looking at what has made me a relatively successful blogger. I've always claimed it was a mix of hard work, intelligence, writing ability, being in the right place at the right time, etc. If I mapped it out like Gladwell did in this book, no doubt I'd find that my family history, cultural legacy of being a kiwi, and much more, has a lot more to do with where I am today than even I realize....more
I first learned about Murakami, a contemporary Japanese author, from an Alex Iskold post on ReadWriteWeb. While I found the first Murakami book I readI first learned about Murakami, a contemporary Japanese author, from an Alex Iskold post on ReadWriteWeb. While I found the first Murakami book I read, The Wind up Bird, to be too much of a weighty meal to devour - this relatively slim volume of writings about Murakami's running hobby was more easily consumed. I enjoyed Murakami's philosophic musings on why he ran and how he went about it. I found myself identifying with him when he wrote about not being a particularly sociable person, who found more satisfaction setting and achieving his own individualistic goals. While I am no runner (I attend the gym 3 days a week, sporadically ), I have always set my own goals, even when I was playing team sports. For example I remember keeping a chart of tries scored, when I was an 11-year old rugby player, which I diligently updated after every game. I was a left winger and scoring tries was what I did best, back then. I ended up being Player of the Year. Anyway, I enjoyed this book, although I still won't be going running....more
I enjoyed reading this book from Kleiner Perkins co-founder Tom Perkins. It is a varied book, going from his love of yachting, the love of his life GeI enjoyed reading this book from Kleiner Perkins co-founder Tom Perkins. It is a varied book, going from his love of yachting, the love of his life Gerd (his first wife), his marriage to romance novelist Danielle Steele, and some fascinating looks into his business life - e.g. he was an early employee at HP. Some quirky stories too, like the guy who invented a revolutionary chip that held megabytes of data, but who died the day after Perkins closed an investment deal and his 'secret sauce' was never discovered!
Perkins is evidently a bit of a character, as his descriptions of writing his novel ('Sex and the single zillionaire') and attending a romance novelists convention attest to.
To be honest I skipped most of the last chapter about yachting (too much inside baseball for me, and I'm a kiwi!). But enjoyable book overall....more
Guns n' Roses was one of the seminal bands of my era. They were most popular in the final years of high school for me, when Appetite for Destruction hGuns n' Roses was one of the seminal bands of my era. They were most popular in the final years of high school for me, when Appetite for Destruction had exploded onto the mid-to-late 80's scene in a flash of realism and rock n' roll attitude. W Axl Rose was a great rock showman, with a killer voice and enigmatic personality. Lead guitarist Slash was a cartoon figure in his leather pants, hair over his eyes, cigarette and bourben bottle permanantly attached to his person, and top hat. But he was an incredible guitarist. Izzy Stradlin was a relatively quiet bu eminently cool rhythm guitarist (and apparently wrote many of the songs, which I didn't fully realize until I read this book). Duff McKagon was a permanantly drunk bass player whose pancreas finally split open in the mid-90's (whereupon apparently he went to business school and majored in finance). And Steven Adler was the dumb but pretty drummer who got wrecked on drugs and was the first to get kicked out of the band. The story is ultimately sad, because Axl Rose basically went crazy and became a dictator of the band, until first Izzy, then Slash and Duff were forced from the band into many imitation bands. As for GnR, which Axl owns the brand of, they have been attempting to release a mythical album called 'Chinese Democracy' since the mid 90's. To this day it hasn't been released, although - as usual - it is due to be released in a couple of months. Yeah right.
I loved this book, because Guns n' Roses were probably the defining rock n roll band of the 80's - much more primal and real than the likes of U2 and... er, whatever other mainstream rock bands existed in the 80's. Deff Leapord? You see what I mean. I like U2 and all, but GnR is what rock n' roll is all about. Punk mixed with realism mixed with attitude mixed with artistry. That Axl tried to mix in too much artistry by the time of Use Your Illusion in 91, and then gradually even that faded away, is a tragedy of rock.
The book mentions a famous incident when Kurt Cobain publicaly dissed Axl Rose backstage at an MTV event. Cobain always thought GnR were lame, sexist and just plain dumb. As much as I love my Nirvana, and what they represented in the 90's and still today for me, I respectfully disagree with Sir Kurt on this. In their prime, which was basically before the 90's started, Guns n' Roses were the most energizing rock force around and their music kicked A. They were two different eras really, and yes the GnR scene was blatently sexist and druggy and immoral (Nirvana kept the druggy bit going, but eschewed the other parts), but GnR absolutely rocked in the 80's.
The book is a compelling yarn, well told. I was half hoping for more detail about Duff's burst pancreas (apparently he was thankful they didn't take it out so he didn't turn into a diabetic!), but the book spent far more time on the early years. And rightly so....more