Beats me why I'm happily reading this genre of Elite-American-College-Process all of a sudden, except some kind of train wreck fascination. Yes, I'm iBeats me why I'm happily reading this genre of Elite-American-College-Process all of a sudden, except some kind of train wreck fascination. Yes, I'm in the midst of applying for PhDs, which is what led me here, but as I understand it, (I hope) that has little in common with the nonsensical rigamarole of grades, scores, activities, essays, affirmative action, secret handshakes and random idiosyncracy described as undergraduate addmissions. Steinberg does his damn best to paint very sympathetic portrait of the process, and it just kind of about works, which in a way made it all the more unappealing as everyone involved trundles through with high-minded, systemic self conviction and seemingly no capacity for any criticism of the system. I was left mostly going 'ugh'.
The naked, slavering enthusiasm over an unusual racial background in a kid first, seemingly with passing relief that good grades and 'leadership' (what's that?) accompany it. The tediousness of the whole thing. The stifling vision of diversity on offer and the obvious failure to back it up - with money, first and foremost - once admission are done and coveted rankings gained. The enforced cynicism of fourteen year olds having to spend years of their lives figuring out what possibly makes them special in very narrow ways, how to package it, and finally how to conform to it.
It brought out all my latent pedagogical-ideological background, (probably because I couldn't help think of myself at 17-18, also, which is when I learned this stuff,) straight back to Paulo Freire and Martin Buber, with a level of irritation I'm actually a little surprised by. Makes me oddly grateful for my dodgy education of Marxist debate circles at that age instead of college. We were all fiercely wanted there, entirely regardless of 'what we could add.' ...more
Interesting, but I felt ended a little weakly, at the chapters on China and the USA, where tourism-to and tourism-from were mixed together haphazardlyInteresting, but I felt ended a little weakly, at the chapters on China and the USA, where tourism-to and tourism-from were mixed together haphazardly. Becker seems to have arrived at a conclusion about the list of pros and cons of global travel by then and everything was just being balanced against that list. Particularly there, it felt far too journalistic, boiling down to a few interviews, sometimes a little too fawning, with a few boutique hotel owners and tour guides and missing the questions and nuances of the way 1 billion border crossings per year are shaping the world, that the book seemed initially to set out to answer.
Then, choosing to have the side of the tourist, so to speak, represented almost entirely by her own (and her husband's) experiences also made it feel a bit underbaked. There's a lot more to be said about the motivations, experiences and types of travel from the side of the traveller. Her slightly cliched, captivated travel writing counters oddly with the somewhat more hard-headed, critical assessment of the impacts of tourism from the side of the destination and leave the whole thing awkward. As always - less descriptions of elephants, please. More economics. ...more
This is The Remains of the Day meets the Big Bang Theory, and ends up less than the sum, being considerably less subtle, complex or critical than eithThis is The Remains of the Day meets the Big Bang Theory, and ends up less than the sum, being considerably less subtle, complex or critical than either. That said, it isn't exactly bad, and it seems aware of the one thing I find crucial to any piece of art dealing with Aspergers or social dysfunction in general - acute discomfort - but doesn't really follow it through. Also, it was nauseatingly obvious from page one that this thing was going to have a happy ending and I might just not be ok with those right now.
This starts out as history but it quickly just turns into pointification. There's a lot less actual knowledge about how people lived and thought and fThis starts out as history but it quickly just turns into pointification. There's a lot less actual knowledge about how people lived and thought and felt, and more just a historiographical argument. Whatever. This isn't new information, it's just a narrative....more
Perhaps because I'm pretty much the choir here, there's nothing terribly interesting in explaining that neolToo much economics, not enough geography.
Perhaps because I'm pretty much the choir here, there's nothing terribly interesting in explaining that neoliberalism is a thing which is and which is not nice. This we know. I was hoping for more of an exploration of the actual spaces created, not just the fact of their existence and the ideology behind it. How do these places function? What tools, designs, aesthetics do they use to maintain themselves, and why? What story are they telling the people inside them? The people outside them? What can they tell us about the logic and worldviews of the people who created them? Why are they so often so fucking ugly?
Some of the articles touch on this, but often quickly dodge away again. The best, in this sense, is probably the article on Managua, which discussed the exclusionary functions of that cities new roads. Most of the rest were largely descriptive, showing how capitalism created this or that gated community and what's wrong with it, but not really saying much beyond. The essays were often fun reading (and short,) since describing someone else's appalling taste with one's best acidic quips is a happy sort of thing to do, but still left me wanting a deeper, perhaps bolder, investigation of this issue, that would pay more attention to culture, aesthetics and space itself, and less to the predictable effects of IMF policy. ...more
This is not a terribly interesting book about what appears, actually, to have been not a terribly interesting event.
Bly and Bisland raced around theThis is not a terribly interesting book about what appears, actually, to have been not a terribly interesting event.
Bly and Bisland raced around the world in 1889 essentially as publicity stunts for rival newspapers. They were effective publicity stunts. People in 1889 thought it was totally cool. That's about it. Both trips appear to have been almost completely uneventful, cushioned by money and someone else doing a lot of the logistics.
Maybe the interesting take-away is that it was possible, even in 1889, to go around the globe as westerner with only the most cursory and touristic contact with anyone except other white people, mostly by hopscotching with ships from one colonial British enclave to another.
Goodman makes some effort to sketch in historical background on things like the newspaper industry, the role of women in it, fairly extensive biographies of both women and any number of other people, and a little about the history of the ships and trains and things, but it doesn't add that much to the book. He also writes the actual race in a very novelistic style, which is not terribly good either, rife with cliched landscape descriptions and "she must have..." and "surely". The afterword claims all feelings, reflections, internal monologues and what-not are taken from sources, but those are never mentioned in the text itself, so it's a bit of a mystery what belongs to which imagination.
Not particularly recommended unless you have a real burning passion for late 19th c. woman reporters.
Happily prurient. So it's not the most rigorous historical account, but is a seemingly very effective and extremely entertaining portrait of that momeHappily prurient. So it's not the most rigorous historical account, but is a seemingly very effective and extremely entertaining portrait of that moment nevertheless. Also, man, I know *nothing* about baseball. That's who Babe Ruth was. huh. ...more
I was surprised by how sophisticated this was, in some ways. It feels much later than 1962. The way Dick constructs the different characters inner narI was surprised by how sophisticated this was, in some ways. It feels much later than 1962. The way Dick constructs the different characters inner narratives, as products of their history and society, is the best bit. The struggles of culture, identity and self-esteem read as perfectly contemporary - or maybe our politics just haven't moved as much from 1962, actually. ...more
This reminded me a great deal of JK Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy," being a portrait of a small town doing wrong by inhabitants. It is big, mad, rilinThis reminded me a great deal of JK Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy," being a portrait of a small town doing wrong by inhabitants. It is big, mad, riling, entirely political, unapologetically mean but with a wide maudlin streak (here, mostly in the form of dogs.) I don't know what it says that the most prominent English-language authors of the age feel a need to write these novels, but here they are....more
I liked the atmosphere and the writing, the kind of clarity that they both have. The emotional lives and tragedies of the old couple are beautifully -I liked the atmosphere and the writing, the kind of clarity that they both have. The emotional lives and tragedies of the old couple are beautifully - and occassionaly devastatingly - drawn. At the same time, the story felt a little insubstantial and petered out. The most interesting current, for me, was the question of the end. It's a fairy tale. You know how it ends, how it must end, (I grew up with Snegurochka, which I had forgotten, so the story settled into a worn groove,) and yet found myself questioning that anyway. Could the story change direction? Why not? Could the characters do that? Can the author do that? Can a reader accept that? ...more
Not nearly weird enough. Jennings talks to various map enthusiasts, from geocachers to Geography Bee contestants to antique map collectors, and they aNot nearly weird enough. Jennings talks to various map enthusiasts, from geocachers to Geography Bee contestants to antique map collectors, and they all turn out to be pretty normal people who like maps a lot. Ok. There are some interesting tidbits of map and geography trivia scattered around, but most of it is fairly, er, trivial. Not the good kind of trivia. The part about maps in fantasy (thanks to Jenning's college roomate, Brandon Sanderson,) was particularly weak and pedestrian, and probably Everything That Is Wrong With Fantasy today. Also, get off my lawn.
The most intriguing current in the book, however, was drawing attention to a curious everpresent tension in geography, or possibly just in geography-nerds. There's a bi-polar quality to the interest: on the one hand, geography is vastly holistic, trying to put together layers and layers of different information to aspire to intricately complex wholes. On the other hand, there's also a certain preoccupation with the incredibly minute and finicky - lists of countries, cities, rivers. Jennings' nerds' map-love often manifests as a variety of obsessive lists of spots to visit, facts to know, things to rank and other generally, er, spectrumy behaviours. All countries. All McDonalds. All meridian intersections.
Travel and exploration are - supposedly - about unpredictable adventure and discovery, but the book stresses that odd feeling of standing at 3 or 4-way border or at the smallest roundabout or any meaningless but utterly pleasing location like that. Is that contradictory, or do those two facets compliment one another? It is all about having some control of the landscape, if only in your own head? A sense of having ferreted out its secrets? It it about connection to what's around you in the face of social isolation? I don't know, but I know I've had the conversation Jenning's recounts as a typical geography student anecdote.
"Geography? So, like, you can name every capital city?" Someone asks me. "Don't be absurd, that's not it." "So what do you study?" Sheepish silence. "Er, everything," I am forced to eventually admit. "And the way it fits together. Um, spatially." But I usually don't admit that I can totally name a lot of capital cities, and that is makes me really happy .
So these were like the Olympics, but even bigger, (several early Olympics were actually sideshows in World Fairs. So was the Second Internationale, atSo these were like the Olympics, but even bigger, (several early Olympics were actually sideshows in World Fairs. So was the Second Internationale, at one point.) But instead of showing off just their athletes, countries would come on down and show ALL OF THEIR STUFF. ALL of it. Cheese, chairs, art, technology, 'whistles made out of pig's tails', New Zealand, New Zealanders...whatever. To me is sounds like a completely mad pileup of random stuff, like the garage sale of the universe, but evidently it kind of made sense to them? Not just made sense, but was a concerted effort to shape the image of the world (in their own imperialist image, naturally.) The most interesting bits are the way this image would get subverted, the street finding it's own uses for, er, streets - like the "Cairo Souk" bit, which should have been a model staffed by obesquieous natives, but took on an actual seedy, commercial life of it's own. ...more