I think the only reason I had not given up eating industrial meat (e.g. pretty much all meat) is that, up until now, I had not allowed anyone to argueI think the only reason I had not given up eating industrial meat (e.g. pretty much all meat) is that, up until now, I had not allowed anyone to argue on its behalf for long enough. JSF's book is an long argument that, for me, was enough.
This book is designed to make the reader care about the issue of meat production in the US. It does this quite effectively through a combination of dispassionate fact-conveying and appeals to our morality. Its aim was not to argue in favor of vegetarianism per se, but to condemn the horrific industrialized practices of raising meat, which account for nearly all of the meat available to buy today. After this has been described in all its bloody detail, the book confronts us with the question, "And now what will you so?" and does not let us go until we are forced to answer it.
For me, and many others, the answer was clear: stop being part of that system, as much as can be helped. Stop eating so much damn meat. And when you do, make sure you buy the expensive but good stuff.
You can't read this book if you want to continue eating meat the way you did before. Then again, you can't NOT read this book if you've ever eaten a drumstick or porkchop this century. That piece of flesh is the artifact of a story with more drama and conflict than the the most gripping prime-time television series. And it's a hell of a lot more real....more
Never finished this book. Main thesis seems to be thoroughly hashed out in the first third; the rest is detailed case studies in everything from finanNever finished this book. Main thesis seems to be thoroughly hashed out in the first third; the rest is detailed case studies in everything from finance to government to health. Might pick it up again someday or use it as a reference if I never have to deal with those specific topics....more
What a great book to finish on New Year's Eve. It's been on my to-read list for years now and came highly recommended by people I respect, but I had hWhat a great book to finish on New Year's Eve. It's been on my to-read list for years now and came highly recommended by people I respect, but I had held off because I'm not a writer. Turns out, you only have to be a human being to appreciate this book.
Anne's wisdom and advice applies to anyone who has ever felt fallible, underappreciated, abused by their careers (or the entire world), and creatively or otherwise frustrated. Far from merely being a feel-good commune on the pains of work and life, Anne gives very precise, constructive tips on how to pick yourself up out of a creative rut: make shitty first drafts, look through one-inch picture frames, give yourself drill-sargeant discipline... And stop worrying about getting published.
But it is not a 10-step program to success, as she cheekily and honestly tells you about all the suffering you have signed up to endure along the way. She constantly performs sanity checks to make sure you are doing what you do for the right reasons, and is merciless when tackling every myth bedazzling a young hopeful's vision. In the end, it's not so much a self help book as a hearty chat with a gay pastor, drunk girlfriend and worried grandmother all rolled into one.
This is a book I wish I had bought in paperback so I can mark it up and pass it around to friends. I will probably do that at some point. For now I am content to have my ebook highlights, which I will probably be rereading and quoting from copiously here on out....more
This work is part personal journal, part manifesto, and part self-help book. Essentially, Gordon Bell tries to make a good case for the "inevitable reThis work is part personal journal, part manifesto, and part self-help book. Essentially, Gordon Bell tries to make a good case for the "inevitable revolution" towards "Total Recall" (caps, mind you) that will "force" us to "adapt" to it. His diction gives you a good sense of what's to come, sigh.
If you can stomach his single-mindedly evangelical agenda, you'll find that this book pursues some interesting ideas about the implications of recording as many details of one's life as possible. And not just in writing, but in photos, sound, video, drawings, scanned documents, GPS locations, chat logs, pedometer readings, etc. etc.
His primary argument is that we (as in the human race) are on an accelerating pathway towards this state of recording everything ever about our personal lives. He observes that we already have cultural/behavioral trends such as microblogging and increased "surveillance" of our offspring, and points out the sheer fact that we now have all the tools that enable logging, recording, and note-taking at our disposal.
He continues by saying we ought to embrace this trend because of a host of benefits in healthcare, education, national security, work, day-to-day life, and even post mortem. There are, undeniably, benefits that you can't argue with: detailed recordings of minute-to-minute physical status for health records can be invaluable in diagnosing a disease with vague symptoms. But there are thornier ideas too. For instance, Bell totally adores the idea of a "cyber-twin" that goes on "living" and pretending to be you after you die, so your grandkids can talk to "you." This simultaneously piques my curiosity and scares me silly, but the biggest part that bugs me is that he does not go on to explore it much beyond saying "Wouldn't that be SO COOL?" Clearly this is a book about breadth, not depth, and as such, it spends more time reveling in enthusiastic speculation rather than critique and inquiry. As usual, I kind of wish there were more of the latter.
Bell ends the book by providing general instructions on how you can begin recording every detail of your own life too (this is where the self-help comes in). Here's where his argument that "Total Recall" is upon us falls apart, I think. By detailing all the technological infrastructure required and all the ways we'd have to "adapt" to using it, he only highlights how tremendous a commitment it would be to "life-log." It would pretty much have to be a person's one and only hobby. Imagine scrapbooking, but times a million. And the money, wow, you would have to have a smartphone, a GPS device, a digital camera, a scanner, a PC, an e-reader, body-monitoring devices, backup solutions x3 both on- and off-site, shelves of DVDs... Life logging is clearly not for the busy or the poor.
Of course, I buy the idea that tools will get ever-cheaper and technological paradigms will rearrange themselves beyond recognition in 10 years, but this last part of the book, his clarion call to begin lifelogging here and now, still rings utterly hollow to me because we aren't 10 years in the future yet! It is, literally, the most useless chapter, because it isn't thorough enough to be actually instructive, nor does it introduce new ideas.
By this point, he has beaten us over the head with the idea that Total Recall is coming faster and surer than the Redcoats and it will make our lives absolutely wonderous. But he has also given the reader a lot to be skeptical about. Rather than spend an extra chapter tackling the skeptics head-on, he chooses to sidestep them by saying "well, there will always be skeptics, but let's ignore them, BECAUSE THE REVOLUTION IS UPON US. LET'S DO THIS THAAAANG."
My last point is more about a technical shortcoming on the book's part: Bell doesn't distinguish clearly enough between the problems of "recording" and "recall." There's a lot of time spent on the endless possibilities of recording, and hardly any on how to organize it effectively. He does recognize the issues of data longevity, the importance of metadata and the need to unify our data, but he doesn't address nearly enough how monumental the challenge of organizing a lifetime's data is. His only answer seems to be "keep at it, just do it." I wish he'd share more of what he learned in his personal experiences.
The final verdict: I think it is worth a read, if only for the impassioned arguments that will hopefully result from some of its claims. Insofar as a book of potentially controversial predictions about the future goes, this is pretty good....more
This book was awesome. First and foremost, it is hilarious. It is the kind of hilarious that is enhanced with a pinch of abject horror, but it is notThis book was awesome. First and foremost, it is hilarious. It is the kind of hilarious that is enhanced with a pinch of abject horror, but it is not sad like the way watching The Office is sad and soul-crushing. No, there is something strangely... uplifting about Bourdains account of his drug-ridden, half-crazed, sleep-deprived, machismo-driven careen through cookdom.
I like its contrasts. Sometimes it is fast and noisy action, other times it's quiet introspection. Topics swing wildly between the gory and brutal realities of dinner rush in the kitchen, and sweetly touching descriptions of Bourdain's love for food and all those who share this love. In one chapter, Boudain will be reveling in the playful, hubristic terrors of his crazed, drug-induced reckless young life, the next, he'll be feeding himself platefuls of humble pie.
Though the writing style is extreme and pocked with exaggeration, he is great at maintaining perspective so I am content to romp along through his accounts of gasp-worthy excesses and crimes. Because I know by the end he will be able to wrap them up into some sort of personal critical response. Crazy as Bourdain's life was, he has clearly done some soul-searching and introspectating, and the results are written all over this book.
He's a great writer and has a surprisingly handy and beautiful way with words. It borders on the poetry of the insane. Because his background is what he says it is, I am never sure if the occasional gem of a turn-of-phrase is the effect of some lingering crack in his bloodstream or if he really is just that smart of a writer. Actually that is dumb; of course he is very smart. It comes through in the way he refers to important historical events like they were everyday household concepts. I kept having to look stuff up on Wikipedia, and not just the French words. And there's also that endearing self-deprecation he constantly foists upon himself. Nothing says "smart guy" like someone who knows the limit of their smartness.
Finally, he's made me want to learn French cooking. He's turned me off of silly platings with squeezie bottles and towering stacks of scallops for a bit, but I do want to know how to make a good demi-glace, ever so much. Now where can I get me some veal bones in the US?...more
More of a reference than an actual book with a beginning, middle, and end, . However this is how I read it, and now I have a pretty good sense of theMore of a reference than an actual book with a beginning, middle, and end, . However this is how I read it, and now I have a pretty good sense of the sheer variety of so-called styles that the world has known at one time or another. I did feel like Steven Heller was making things up half the time, but that's okay because it was entertaining. Basically, if design were to perform in a variety show, this would be it. Also, great for fishing for ideas....more
This was a completely worthwhile read. I was able to get through it really quickly by only briefly glancing at the many graphics. This either means IThis was a completely worthwhile read. I was able to get through it really quickly by only briefly glancing at the many graphics. This either means I somehow didn't notice Tufte's resounding plea to appreciate graphics, or that it is a testament to the lucidity and elegance of many of the graphics in this book. Hopefully, the latter. =)
Edward Tufte is a huge data dork and has evidently studied the topic of data graphics deeply. The book is chock full of visual examples from diverse sources—news publications, historical treatises, scientific journals, etc. Not all are excellent; many are superlatively bad, such as the full-page chart that only manages to convey four data points. However, all charts used are well-chosen to illustrate each of his points.
He is also very opinionated and doesn't hesitate to adopt an authoritative tone in sharing his Commandments of Good Data Graphics. Like a wise teacher however, he gives license on the last page to intelligently disobey (keyword "intelligently") any of them. He also sounds like a 19th-century scholar—there is something irrepressibly didactic in the prose—but a fabulously dorky sense of humor makes occasional cameos, which keeps this work from being dry.
As a designer, the most striking aspect of this book was the extreme utilitarianism of Tufte's attitude towards graphics. Tufte's principle of maximizing data-ink and minimizing non-data-ink, for example, essentially states that ink should not be used at all if it is not conveying data in some meaningful way. He hates, above all else, "chartjunk," a phrase he uses to refer to superficial decorative elements that do nothing to express the data. To some extent, chartjunk also includes "helper marks" like grid lines, rule lines, tick marks, etc. He also detests graphics that lie by exaggerating or framing data subjectively. He has even come up with a few empirical measures for the truthfulness and meaningfulness of info graphics, such as the Lie Factor and the Data Density of a graphic.
His super-utilitarian attitude is reminiscent somewhat of classic Swiss design, which seeks to distill things down to their minimal essentials in the name of clarity and directness (how well this actually works is up for the revisionists to debate). It also evokes that cliché of mid-century Modernism—"form follows function." In these latter 2 cases, interestingly, the focus on function eventually gave rise to "styles." In contrast, Tufte's many examples of effective information graphics range across many different styles and seem, if this is possible, style agnostic. In this way, Tufte's charts can be seen as going much closer to the ideal of pure function that the Modernists tried to achieve.
As a graphic designer, there is a lot to be learned from Tufte's almost obsessive focus on maximizing data-ink. Even if you don't find yourself making charts and diagrams all that often, it serves as a reminder that marks made on a surface should serve foremost to convey information: the more layers of information, the better. Whether they be data numbers or lines used to formally divide up a page layout, they must all serve a meaningful purpose. It's easy in the age of vast Internet stock art sites to get carried away with putting tons of stuff onto a page and not really thinking about what it is doing there. But Tufte's insistence on the abolishment of chartjunk reminds us that, instead of just serving decorative or vaguely evocative purposes, graphical elements used in all types of design can and should be given a solidity of purpose and richness of meaning, such as that of a well-placed single dot that expresses several numbers all at once.
The book is clearly a tour-de-force of uncompromising ideals and high standards of excellence. By the end of Chapter 1, "Graphical Excellence," I felt like I'd just read a rousing call to arms. However, in light of reality, I can't help but think that you have to take Tufte's idealism with a grain of salt. In a perfect world, everybody would recognize their capacity for understanding efficient, elegant graphics and naturally gravitate towards work of Tufte's ilk, but no—we in fact love ourselves some colorful displays that dress up our data like a duck-shaped building.
Although he argues all of his points with verve and I'm sure he has the magnificent data sets to prove all of them, he just makes it sound way too easy, even trivial, to defeat old-fashioned art director thinking with pure reason. In my limited experience, this is very, very hard. I wonder what Tufte's early experiences convincing higher-up doubters were. Now that he is wildly famous, the former doubters actually come to him for advice, but for the rest of us, it's much tougher to enact your ideals when you're just wee younglings in the big design industry.
But don't get me wrong, I think he is right on many counts. So I can only hope for the courage to stick to my ideals as well as he's sticking to his.
Anyway, it was a very informative resource, and even a bit of an inspiring read. Tufte can make data displays inspiring; that's how good he is. I'd gladly continue onwards to read the other 3 books of his that we have at the office. =)...more
The central premise of Cradle to Cradle is we need to rethink and retool how we design and manufacture physical products. The authors argue that we cuThe central premise of Cradle to Cradle is we need to rethink and retool how we design and manufacture physical products. The authors argue that we currently follow a "cradle-to-grave" model, which results in the loss of valuable materials to landfill (which further poisons the land with chemicals off-gassing and leeching). Alternatively, they propose thinking of all physical resources as nutrients, which, like molecules in nature, can be cycled infinitely without loss of integrity and depletion. This would pave the way to a new "cradle-to-cradle" approach, in which. This main argument is set in the context of a greater, eco-centric philosophical mindset, in which all of our actions have ecological consequences and therefore we should seek to assimilate nature's rules and existing energy and material flows. Finally, the authors are vocally against being "less bad." Instead, they advocate breaking out of the current trend of focusing on "efficiency" – continuing to pollute and deplete resources, but more slowly - and focus instead of "effectiveness" - eradicating the dangers of pollution and finite resources entirely.
This was extremely uplifting to read and I wholehearted embrace their entire argument. The book is also positively overflowing with optimism and faith in humanity, and it's infectious. Remarkably, they manage to remain positive even while being sternly critical of mainstream worldviews and practices.
In the first half of the book, the spend a lot of time waxing ecstatic about the joys of nature and asking us to "imagine if..." If you a bit of a cynic (and I think the right amount of cynicism in any situation is healthy), these can get old rather fast. On the other hand, if you lean towards the idealistic side, these can be positively galvanizing. However, I wonder if the efflusive idealism can be a turn-off for more skeptical readers.
This relates to my main problem with this book, which is that studied, concrete examples based in hard science and technology feel too few and far between, particularly in the first half of the book. The latter half begins to get down-and-dirty with case studies and specifics, thus showcasing the authors' expertise in the field, but it might come too late for the aforementioned skeptics. At that point, I can imagine that some might get sick of all the philosophizing early on and ditch the rest of the book.
Overall, despite having a last chapter of instructive steps for taking action, this feels more like a manifesto than a guide to taking action.
Critique aside, I love that every time I read a few pages of this book, I can't help but feel buoyed with a sense of great excitement... If you are an idealistic person, then you should allow yourself to be convinced by the glowing vision that this book sketches out. Because it is a wonderful feeling to be charged with hope and determination. After reading this book, really just want to dedicate my life to fighting the good fight for our only Earth. (If only I didn't already purportedly dedicate my life to 10 other things. =D)...more