It may seem at first like a cheap literary trick, but reading IM transcripts in a book resonated deeply with the way I ex...more1. it is short 2. "flat style"
It may seem at first like a cheap literary trick, but reading IM transcripts in a book resonated deeply with the way I experience some relationships. Conversations always carry multiple simultaneous threads. There is subtle context switching in human interaction (whether verbalized or textual); the linear mode of reading words one line at a time, left to right, on a screen highlights the disjointed nature of conversation and the ever-present role of the context switch.
The flatness is refreshing. It's like reading a Becket novel except that things feel "contemporary" and the prose is "readable." Events large and small pass by and are given the same weight. I think of a recording of John Cage reading some I Ching derived mesostics where one of the interleaved phrases is "equally loud, and in the same tempo."
There is a detached perspective akin to mindfulness meditation and/or the numbness of clinical depression. There is no emotional direction given to the reader—no attempt to pull a heartstring one way or the other. There is a casual but acute awareness, and awareness is a hallmark of the post-information age.(less)
This is kind of a satire/critique/pre-Idiocracy story made very lively by aspects of "fiction science" that apply to the parall...moreRace! Corruption! Rape!
This is kind of a satire/critique/pre-Idiocracy story made very lively by aspects of "fiction science" that apply to the parallel worlds where Vidal's characters reside. There's Duluth, the Minnesota city that happens to border Mexico and is home to many illegal aliens as well as society's elite; and there's "Duluth," the TV show.
Important to note is Vidal's Rosemary Klein Kantor character who is a popular novelist who uses not only the recently deceased from Duluth as stand-ins for her characters in various historical romance novels and the like, but also composes stories by "hunt and peck" using her word processor. Hunting and pecking isn't for letters on the keyboard, but for snippets and pieces of the history of world literature. The word processor has a memory bank containing all the beauty and all the tripe of every fiction written, and composing to her is more like compositing tropes from here, narratives from there, and characters from everywhere else. Recall Vidal published this work in 1983, well before the web, but well past Marshall McLuhan's ignition of media theory and futurist notions of such connected/collected information.
There is pandemonium. There is also some applause.
My favorite aspect of the writing was a deadpan tone throughout. It helps set the timbre of the story keeping it in the realm of quote-unquote-serious-literature. To give an example without giving anything of the story away, more than a full paragraph describes the following: Duluth's mayor's first name is actually Mayor, but it is a secret or rude to address him by his first name; instead, people address him by his title, which is, of course, Mayor.
Honestly, I'm a little too thick (or a little too removed from the social-political-economic feel of the early 1980's in America) to have "gotten" the specifics of whatever it is he's satirizing. Through the first half of the book, I tried to widen my view to pick up on any extended metaphors I was missing; by the second half I was content to be in the story itself.(less)
After hearing Coupland talk about McLuhan on TTBOOK I wanted to read this right away. I also understood a lot more about Player One, his latest novel....moreAfter hearing Coupland talk about McLuhan on TTBOOK I wanted to read this right away. I also understood a lot more about Player One, his latest novel.
This work is fun and frames biographer as a kind of "determinism detective"—finding all the what-ifs and just-rights that made McLuhan into McLuhan. Growing up on the Canadian prairies, the over-ripe fruition of an ad-centric North America during his early professional career, Marshall's place on what we would now call the autism spectrum, and his anomalous brain-feeding arteries. Coupland keeps coming back to the stars-aligned confluence of events and circumstances and pathology that turned McLuhan into the weird, controversial figure he was: a stodgy old Canadian who hated new forms of electronic media yet was the first to actually study and theorize about them in a serious way.
It speaks of destiny, but in a clinical, data-heavy way. I'm not sure what I think of it yet, but undoubtedly this is (once again, Mr. Coupland, thanks) where we are headed in the way we think about the influencers of the recent past.
This was a good place to start when prepping for a recent technical interview. I definitely felt more prepared after having browsed through the types...moreThis was a good place to start when prepping for a recent technical interview. I definitely felt more prepared after having browsed through the types of questions here. There isn't sufficient 'review' material for the major topics in the book itself, but that stuff is relatively simple to find. If it has been a while since you've really dug into data structure and algorithm topics, I'd skim the sample questions here, then do some deep review elsewhere before coming back to approach the book again. For example, I had a good experience with the linked list and BST pages from the Stanford CS Ed Library.
Very different in style from both Driftless and Rock Island Line. This was Rhodes' first published novel, and I think it helps me to think of this as...moreVery different in style from both Driftless and Rock Island Line. This was Rhodes' first published novel, and I think it helps me to think of this as the writing of a young man, fresh from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Rhodes is very in control of his language and some later sections of the book are disorienting, difficult, but worth the effort. The novel is the story of a family, but it is also a way of explaining a worldview, a theory.
"The City" here--is it the dark side of any agrarian society? Is it the things that happen when few individuals are concerned with the mechanics of food production?
The multi-generational demise of the Sledge family is terrible. Unspeakable things happen to this family. Are those trials simply placeholders for the evils of The City? The fact that an ancestor's wife wouldn't step inside a cabin? The son who tried to burn down the mill and was locked up until he agreed to leave Wisconsin? Is the Sledge family a symbol of resistance against the inequity and greed that are necessary, inevitable parts of a modern society? --the current Sledge crop bearing punishment for that resistance? I'd like to read this again in the future to see what I come up with.(less)
This book is about America and the things that influenced it in the years around the turn of the 20th century.
The influence of the press over public o...moreThis book is about America and the things that influenced it in the years around the turn of the 20th century.
The influence of the press over public opinion. The advent of moving pictures. The swirling mess of New York City, and hard resistance to change in the south (in particular, the Wilmington massacre in 1898 in North Carolina where white supremacists organized and carried out a coup d'etat of local government, mounting a Gatling gun to a wagon, murdering black citizens, and driving many away from their homes permanently).
The book follows characters through the Spanish-American War (both in Cuba and The Philippines) and the taste of opportunistic imperialism that followed; McKinley's assassination, the Yukon gold rush, and hard life working for mine bosses in the west.
Perspective shifts globally section-by-section throughout the book. An educated Philippine freedom-fighter, first helping to plot the overthrow of the Spanish, then later struggling for sovereignty against the American occupiers. Black enlisted men (professional soldiers), proving themselves as worthy defenders of the flag, and the more rag-tag white volunteer army companies--young men riled-up to join by newspaper accounts of the sinking of the USS Maine in Cuba. A sick boy selling newspapers in New York City, the family of a black doctor exiled from Wilmington struggling to stay afloat in the North--his refined daughter reduced to scrubbing floors when she can find the work.
Everywhere around the world, there are Chinese people willing to do the hardest work for the least pay.
The stories of the characters are moving. War is ugly, love is beautiful but sometimes tragic, and family is complicated. The book is long and I really enjoyed reading it.(less)
I decided to re-read this for the first time since junior high. I remembered absolutely nothing about it, but thought I owed it to myself since the ne...moreI decided to re-read this for the first time since junior high. I remembered absolutely nothing about it, but thought I owed it to myself since the nerdiverse still has a lot of reverence for Douglas Adams, and I'm embarking on a nerdy new career path. It was fun to get that Infocom feeling from the way some things were described, but I think this can stay safely on the junior high shelf.(less)
There's a lot I didn't know about Columbine. The media frenzy initially painted the killers as loners with no friends who had been bullied by jocks.
It...moreThere's a lot I didn't know about Columbine. The media frenzy initially painted the killers as loners with no friends who had been bullied by jocks.
It turns out that's just not true. Dylan even went to prom in a rented limo with a dozen people the weekend before the killing spree. Cullen paints a picture of two very different boys: Eric, a highly intelligent manipulator who dreamed about the end of the human race; and Dylan, a depressed kid who eventually used Eric's grand plan of blowing up the school and shooting those who fled as a way of committing suicide.
Eric planned the events for a solid year. There were so many missed opportunities to prevent the tragic end. Experts seem to agree that Eric was a psychopath (in the technical sense - wikipedia link). Part of the problem with this personality type is that they're charismatic, they lie pathologically, and they're really good at hiding the truth.
The book was worth reading, but I'd read it when you know you can finish it within a week or so. Using it as my a-few-pages-a-night-before-sleep book made my thoughts a little morbid for the month it took me to get through it. Now I'm reading something fun that's a lot lighter (Ready Player One by Ernest Cline) and my morning conversations are much more pleasant.(less)
Very enjoyable read. The shifting perspective from chapter to chapter held my interest. I was wary that the PowerPoint chapter would be too much of a...moreVery enjoyable read. The shifting perspective from chapter to chapter held my interest. I was wary that the PowerPoint chapter would be too much of a gimmick, but it was believable and worked well as a way for a child's narrative to come through.(less)
He thought of how these red and orange winking lights brought him such comfort and were such a jolly expression of good will, yet how awesome and terrible were the gigantic trucks themselves, and he was filled momentarily with warmth for the American people.
- being very literal in an attempt to understand the world/the self - something is gained, but a lot is lost - bringing a childish un...moreSomething about…
- being very literal in an attempt to understand the world/the self - something is gained, but a lot is lost - bringing a childish understanding of "good"/self/others to sexual or romantic relationships - the crushing boredom of co-dependency - inescapable personal patterns/faults - amateur therapy is about dominating the person you are "helping" - constant feedback leads to dissonance in insecure (or all?) relationships
After 50 pages he had me drawn into his style. Even though the characters were doomed in a very boring way from the beginning I wanted to know how they would get there.(less)
Re-reading this years later was worthwhile for me after having worked for a giant cult-of-personality-driven tech company and lived in Silicon Valley....moreRe-reading this years later was worthwhile for me after having worked for a giant cult-of-personality-driven tech company and lived in Silicon Valley. As with most of the Coupland books I've read:
...it really seemed like one of those foreign movies that you rent and return half-wound because they're too contrived to be believed, and then real life happens, and you wonder if the Europeans understood everything all along.
Another note: is "fishwich" a Canadianism? Coupland (as always) is dead-on about culture. He explores and reveals a lot about what language and technology say about culture (or the progression of the species, as some characters from this book might put it). But there are always these details that are most-decidedly "off." Like referring to the Silicon Valley arterial road El Camino Real as "Camino Real" instead of "El Camino." …or putting a definite article in front of highway numbers that aren't "101" (nobody says "the 280" that I've ever heard). I'm not trying to nit-pick. There's something about these off details that lends credibility to Coupland's critique. The old you-can't-really-understand-something-you're-only-been-a-part-of idea. It makes him seem like more of a visiting anthropologist who has extracted the essence of the people under study while flubbing some inconsequential details because of illegible field-notes.
Loved the book. Glad I read it again. I'd recommend this to anybody who has worked in technology, or wants to understand more about how the tech industry has developed culturally, or wants to be reminded of the 1990s.(less)
Despite the nauseatingly gimmicky subtitle, I gave this book a chance because of how many rave reviews and references I've seen. There were a lot of t...moreDespite the nauseatingly gimmicky subtitle, I gave this book a chance because of how many rave reviews and references I've seen. There were a lot of tips, tricks, perspectives, anecdotes, metaphors, etc., about thinking and learning that were worth being exposed to. Certainly some I'd seen before, but a lot of new ones, too. The chapter on the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition (a sequence of five discrete levels beginning with Novice and ending with Expert that can be applied to someone's "expertise" an area) was really illuminating. That chapter gave me a lot of clarity about jobs I've had in the past, how group dynamics worked (and how they probably could have worked better given a framework like this to think through at the time).
A quick, worthwhile read. It's a given that thinking and learning are what you have to do all the time to keep up in a technology-fueled field, but they are also things everyone should probably make a conscious effort to think about every so often. This book was a nice vacation for me to think about how I learn, how I could learn, how I solve problems, etc. There are definitely some concrete things from the book I've put into practice already that are paying off.(less)
I read this in Puerto Rico on a vacation. While hiking in some thick jungle of El Yunque National Forest, I saw a gecko lizard on a tree branch and im...moreI read this in Puerto Rico on a vacation. While hiking in some thick jungle of El Yunque National Forest, I saw a gecko lizard on a tree branch and immediately thought "car insurance." Then I thought, man, Coupland is dead-on again. This book struck a good balance of near-future dystopia (which stays very believable without hints of science fiction), storytelling, and silliness. The pace of the story worked well, too--this has the same hyper-realism of All Families Are Psychotic, but with a less frantic pace. Best Coupland book in years.(less)
A story about a man who will always be a boy while trying to reconnect with his estranged father. The book-length conceit is pleasant: science fiction...moreA story about a man who will always be a boy while trying to reconnect with his estranged father. The book-length conceit is pleasant: science fiction as a real scientific discipline concerned with things like narrative and memory, which is intertwined with the vehicle of the novel, time travel. There are a lot of math jokes, which I appreciated (especially the one about proving something science fictional using only ZF + CH, and the epsilon-delta talk at the end).(less)