TODO: ++ In Generation X, Douglas Coupland dissects a new generation of young adults, which turns out to be a generation filled with lots of disdain, mTODO: ++ In Generation X, Douglas Coupland dissects a new generation of young adults, which turns out to be a generation filled with lots of disdain, minimal intention to join the previous generation's world, and overall a supreme je m'en fous told through uppity tonsils. +++ Simply great: The book practically invents a vocabulary for the new generation. From
anti-sabbatical - a job taken with the sole intention of staying only for a limited period of time (often one year). The intention is usually to raise enough funds to partake in another, more personally meaningful activity such as watercolor sketching in Crete or designing computer knit sweaters in Hong Kong. Employers are rarely informed of intentions.
consensus terrorism - the process that decides in-office attitudes and behavior , from
McJob - a low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low-benefit, no-future job in the service sector. Frequently considered a satisfying career choice by people who have never held one.
power mist - the tendency of hierarchies in office environments to be diffuse and preclude crisp articulation
-- The format is Douglas Coupland-ish, that is, unusual. There is some story, mixed with lists, mixed with independent mini-stories, sprinkled with definitions of keywords for Generation X (the actual info the book is about), glued with nonsense chatter. I guess post-modernism is an appropriate label. -- Did I mention story?! There is no story. --- I could not relate to the characters, at all....more
TODO: ! mature reading, scenes of explicit sexual exploration ++ story of coming-of-age, including sexually +/-- much Japanese cliche in how to approachTODO: ! mature reading, scenes of explicit sexual exploration ++ story of coming-of-age, including sexually +/-- much Japanese cliche in how to approach life. Otaku, moe, high school first love, all seem treated as in a theatrical representation of modern Japanese life. - The characters are not interesting or endearing for the Western sensibilities - they seem corrupt, vain, lost. +++ Inio Asano's graphics are again excellent.
Katherine Losse's The Boy Kings claims to be a memoir written by former Facebook employee #51. Graduated from top-level liberal arts colleges with a PKatherine Losse's The Boy Kings claims to be a memoir written by former Facebook employee #51. Graduated from top-level liberal arts colleges with a Ph.D. in English literature, Kate navigates jobs until reaching Facebook. Initially attracted by a customer service job, she finds herself trapped in a world of tecchies and dreams of 'world domination (her words), which conflicts strongly with her liberal arts education and personal prejudice. Unable to cope, she descends into a miserable state, until progressive promotions and eventually financial independence liberate her. She stops working for Facebook and writes this book. Voila!
(I got to read The Boy Kings through a chain of recommendations: I was reading Laszlo Bock's Work Rules!, which mentioned Dave Egger's The Circle; because I have read before books that in my view Eggers plagiarized, I decided to check if others did not believe this was the case also for The Circle; this is how I reached The Boy Kings.)
Overall, a horrible read. There is little fact in this book, and lots of tormented soul. Even the title is misleading, because there seems to be little heart in the money-grabbing employee who quits as soon as the shares vest and then writes a revenge book. Very bad book, if only I could have avoided reading this!
1. Some of the critique of the tech geek seems reasonable: the early decision of how life will work, the quest for structure and algorithm, the belief in tech as the ultimate defense of reason, etc. (Negative here: the author calls this critique analysis, but it is always negative and devoid of constructive advice).
2. "The only thing more powerful than celebrity is to own the tool that makes it" (Loc. 1399).
3. Surprisingly reasonable insight into her own state of mind appears from place to place, such as "I hate Judge-book, I hate rankings, I hate algorithms, I thought, in a moment of total rage at everything—the company, these boys—that was near, but also far beyond my control." followed by "I just wanted to be happy and loved for who I was" (Loc. 1870); and "As much as I had once made fun of the Facebook boys for staring at their phones more often than they looked up, I had become one of them." (Loc. 2122). Because it contrasts so much with the (willing?) hypocrisy, it makes the latter so much more difficult to palate.
4. The author does have a few humble moments, such as "His friend wanted to come to Coachella but couldn’t afford it, and I was reminded how lucky I was that Dustin gave me his ticket." (Loc. 1622) Better than nothing, but so very rare.
5. She identifies the true issues early Facebook employees had, relative to top talent brought in later: "Chamath was young, brash, and masculine in style but, unlike most Facebook engineers, he had experience managing a company." (Loc. 1965). Unfortunately, this happens two-thirds into the book. Another, about how Facebook had "compartmentalized just like in the American institutions we had wanted to leave behind.", appears three-quarters into the book.
6. Some pieces of very good text, such as "Sometimes, that year, I got a sick feeling in my stomach that I didn’t want this world in which we are all ranked virtually, by virtual strangers, on the basis of popularity and appearance. Even worse, I felt like I might not have a choice in the matter." (Loc. 1779) or, simply, "It was the Normandy of technology wars" (Loc. 2150).
7. In the end, she understands her role at this company: "Lol, I thought. That was a good description of my entire job. I was only important because he [n.b. Mark Zuckerberg] is." (Loc. 2869)
Unfortunately, the ugly things are overwhelming:
1. The first quarter of the book reads like an ugly attack of a desperate person on a former lover. Very, very poor manners, style, and credibility. She hates her perspectives in life. She hates Baltimore. She hates all men using AOL, whom she believes are all out to seduce and abandon her. She hates Johns Hopkins. She hates her first job. She hates male employees at Facebook, whom she decides are immature (she uses "juvenile") and entitled (wannabe kings). etc. Some of these aspects reappear througout the book, as if sprinkled by a careful copy-editor.
2. There is little in the aspects criticized in this book that is specific to Silicon Valley. The critique that Silicon Valley tries to present itself as different from the rest of the dog-eat-dog US economy is valid. In contrast, intense competition, unequal pay for unequal value created for the company, courting of superstars, much more relaxed workplaces, increased technology solutionism (for a much better account, read To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism), etc., are all general mores of the modern economy. We can criticize them, but not ascribe them exclusively to the Silicon Valley.
3. The feminism is here taken to levels where it acts as clear sexism. The negative traits are masculine. The negative examples involve exclusively men. Generalizations from single examples abound. As a minority student and then employee often at the receiving end of generalizations, I cringe at this approach.
4. There is much that points out that the author is often driven by self-interest, rather than concern for other women. Her condescending remarks towards the other customer support personnel of identical gender. Sheryl Sandberg and the author's neutral reaction to her, even when the conditions for women improve markedly at Facebook as a result of Sheryl's work. Also, after so much blaming towards the others (in particular of of being "boy kings"), she gets "a heady feeling" and talks about being "queen of the world", simply because she was able to claim the email address Kate@facebook.com. She is particularly happy that no other Kate will match her singularity, "like a new country in which I was the only Kate there, queen of a world in which every other Kate would be derived from my archetype". What a self-aggrandizing person!
5. The writing abounds in rhetorical tricks. For example, early on, she describes the five high-visibility hires from the Seattle areas as the "gang of five", then goes on to say that they looked like a fraternity, only to then go to great lengths to describe how malign fraternities are in general. This collocation leads the reader to associate the negative aspects to the five hires. Convicting by association and without proof is what we call bigotry. (Also, sororities are excluded from the conversation.) As a second example, she discusses how the engineers were sexual predators, then gives a personal example involving a guy from sales. Sexual harassment is very serious, but so are vile words that ruin collective reputations.
6. That the author hates tech is thinly veiled, but only stated clearly at the end. She also despises engineers, which is perhaps worse, and collides with her so much touted humanity. "I didn’t want to live in a world where I appeared only for a bunch of engineers to judge me and shoo me away." (Loc. 1859) is but one example.
7. The inconsistency in her positions begs questions of ethical writing. She may think of herself as an ethical person, but cheats on her first job and thinks it's ok because they don't pay her much; she first sells her shares and then discusses the issue with Facebook, because "she worked for it". The author first complains engineers spend too little time with her (because they love tech and the virtual, see?), then expresses her happiness to be alone. The author first complains about how she does not care about being pretty, then remarks "What would happen to me? I wondered. Was I pretty enough to make it past the bouncers?" (Loc. 1856). etc.
8. Her confused relationship with Thrax deserves special mention. He is introduced as a ghostly white hero, and then plays a sometimes on sometimes off role throughout the book. He acts conveniently for her and very out of character for the hero he is in the rest of the book "we stopped short of a kiss. “I can’t have a relationship story show up in News Feed,” he explained". When they finally have sexual contact (that does not seem like making love), it is because she has agreed to temporarily submit. The story goes on and on, tormented.
9. The author indicates to have never understood her role at Facebook, which was low in value relative to tech and top management positions. All the complaints derived from it sound hypocritical, because in the end she enjoys her relative privilege and position. For a lightweight example, she wants to change the world, but does not complain when she gets a position in which she can afford skipping days of work or doing much at all ("These were recent roles that Mark had invented, jobs that were not so much about doing things as being something" (Loc. 2595)). Hypocrisy (or just flip-flopping) also appears related to her desire to be valued for herself, when her actions were to shut down personal communication... unless it suited her better. "I liked my autonomy, my privacy, the fact that I was different from everyone else—a unique individual." (Loc. 2685) contradicts with "I was only important because he [n.b. Mark Zuckerberg] is." (Loc. 2869)
10. The authors has never understood how her complaints about money seem to anyone who is not a rich person. She mentions early "my hack: to live as richly as possible with next to nothing" (Loc. 841), when she was paid over 20$/hour at Facebook; at the same time, people in the same region could not get a decent minimal wage, and others were getting by or nearly starving in San Fran; not to mention an entire world of hunger, outside the US. She stops mentioning the salary once it has become sufficiently high.
etc. etc. etc.
In the end, I was left wondering if the author has ever considered that:
1. If she would have been good enough to stay in the academia, the engineers in the building would have been the marginalized and little appreciated employees.
2. If she was better at her skills, say in the excellent class, she would have been recruited for a better, more visible position. See Sheryl Sandberg.
3. The balanced payment approach proposed by her is already used in many places in the US academia, and in many places in the world, both industry and academia. Many countries in Europe make payment balanced through pressure from a trade union. Maybe she would have been happier in those places. In contrast, fast-growing startups, banks, and many other competitive industries pay in the US using a very imbalanced pay structure, see for example Work Rules! for imbalances in payment at Google (and the reasoning behind it). ...more
Dave Eggers' The Circle is a book about the world's first absolute public monopoly on information, who turns tyrannical. In plain English, The CircleDave Eggers' The Circle is a book about the world's first absolute public monopoly on information, who turns tyrannical. In plain English, The Circle is about a company who controls all our information, who turns rogue on us. Modeled likely after Google, but with traces of Facebook, the story follows the growth of an utopian, smart, kind, young group of tech wizards into a society that oppresses everyone who does not do "the right thing", where the right thing is voted and censored by the others. Overall, the book is reasonable, but the dystopian content is not particularly new and the lead figure is not inspiring.
(I got to read The Circle following the recommendation (or, should I say, mere mention), from Laszlo Bock's Work Rules!---mostly a non-fiction account of how human operations are managed at Google. Because I have read before books that in my view Eggers plagiarized heavily the plot and the details from other recent books available in his local (US) market, I decided to check if others did not believe this was the case also for The Circle; I reached this way The Boy Kings, whom Katherine Losseclaims inspired Dave Egger's book, and dave denies. After having read both books, I have to side with Dave Eggers this time. Any resemblance seems coincidental and minimal, and not essential to the core of either book. The Boy Kings is about giving women equal chance and support in the world of tech companies. The Circle is about the giant company creating a totalitarian monopoly on information.)
On the positive side, the growth of a public company into a cross-borders totalitarian regime supported by unassuming mobs is a story that should be told. The few references to Google and Facebook in this book make for an uncomfortable reading experience---we live in days that could anticipate such a monstrous public company.
One good paragraph:
“No. No. I was trying to make the web more civil. I was trying to make it more elegant. I got rid of anonymity. I combined a thousand disparate elements into one unified system. But I didn’t picture a world where Circle membership was mandatory,
(Eggers, Dave (2013-10-08). The Circle (p. 485). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)
On the negative side, the dystopian future of a society where information is controlled by the state, and where the best way is determined for individuals outside their control, has been explored for decades in dystopian literature; We is likely the first, 1984 likely the best known. The twist here is crowdsourcing, having the group decide by vote for everyone else, albeit the group sessions of Big Brother in 1984 already come close. The effects of this kind of situation, which remain unexplored in this book, are best understood through non-fiction accounts of former-Communist countries, such as Ryszard Kapuściński's Imeprium and Anna Funder's Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall.
Outside the dystopian parts, the book could have explored more. The disruption of traditional services by the IT industry is well documented in non-fiction work, but could have been driven home in more than just the sentence "in Friday’s mail (the only day the post office still operated), was a letter." The Circle (p. 434).
The lead figure is a major negative. A customer experience employee who rises meteorically in the organization, to become the public voice of the company (perhaps the only close relatioship between The Circle and The Boy Kings), she is too spineless to make for a reasonable hero. The lead figure, Mae Holland, has a fitting education for her job at the Circle, but not for her claimed past jobs. Unable to decide anything, she is at the whims of whoever happens to pass by, and later also at the collective observations made by the crowd she at the same time entertains and monitors. She could have been easily replaced with a computer algorithm, for the same effect. etc. At some point, even the author gets annoyed with her:
Francis sat up. “So why don’t you check?” “Check what?” “Who frowned at you. Where do you think you are? The eighteenth century? This is the Circle. You can find out who frowned at you.” “It’s transparent?” Instantly Mae felt silly even asking.
(Eggers, Dave (2013-10-08). The Circle (p. 418). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)
The other characters are nonsense. There is simply not enough argumentation as to why the lead characters do what they do. Ty/Kalden seems an idiot savant. Francis Garaventa has an unlikely name, unlikely past, and very unlikely behavior. Annie, who seems to play a Marissa Meyer role, ends through a scene that does not make much sense; surely, her distress could have been alleviated by showing that more people do more of the same.
The story is not well developed, asymmetric across its three-part split, and rather cliche. Parallels with the movies The Firm (1993) and with The Stepford Wives sprung to my mind; for the latter, one of my Goodreads friends suggested it first. There is also the issue of the ending, which, to avoid spoilers, I will just say that I find anti-climactic. There is no follow-through of the main story, there is no discussion of the after-effects, there is no analysis of what could be.
TL;DR: too little novelty, too little entertainment, I hope there's no sequel.
Kingdom of the Wicked is the story of a man losing his dark past. Good premise, but shadowy, short, and shallow. Too much shtick, in other words.
TheKingdom of the Wicked is the story of a man losing his dark past. Good premise, but shadowy, short, and shallow. Too much shtick, in other words.
The graphics are ok, at times quite nice, but rather dark. The use of browns and shadows is excessive, lacking in my view finesse. The characters' eyes are quite distinctive, with an interesting starting technique.
The story is too simplistic, and the confrontation good-evil is textbook Hollywood, so boring. There is little suspense in the story of a creative caught up in his own daemons. Perhaps, with more pages, there could have been some substance.
The characters are all sticks, from the main character (self-confessed weakling), to the charicature wife (the "yes, dear" kind) and even the antagonist (who just wanted a life, leaving it unclear why he's become so evil)....more