That is the first line of Arcology and it's given two pages all to itself, emphasizing the difference in scale bet...more"This book is about miniaturization"
That is the first line of Arcology and it's given two pages all to itself, emphasizing the difference in scale between the large-format book and the small text.
Soleri's vision of arcology is usually relegated to the back corners of science fiction and the odd comment in newspaper reviews of architecture, usually indicating how far outside of the mainstream Soleri is considered to be. More attention is given to the culture at Arcosanti, where 20-somethings go to live, make bells, and work on his "urban laboratory."
As with most things, going back to the source reveals a different world than the third-hand repetitions found even in excellent reproductions. Reading Arcology for yourself, you find several interesting things.
First, the writing is enjoyable. Soleri makes comments about his "lazy Italian tongue" and his poor grammar, but he learned English at Taliesin West, serving tables and waiting on Frank Lloyd Wright. The people he learned the language from were some of the best--and most idiosyncratic--minds of the time. He never shies from complex sentences and making up words seems to be a hobby. If you only like the more modern style of short and declarative prose, you may find him tiresome, but if you are willing to dive into some nuanced language that focuses down to what it means, then he's a hoot to read.
Second, the book isn't at all about making big buildings or dehumanizing people. He starts with history--social, technological, and civil--and extrapolates to what he believes is an unavoidable step in human society.
The central argument is that all things evolve towards miniaturization, towards complexity, and towards increased duration, although the measurement of duration may be complicated. In general, he reduces these to increased interconnections between parts: cities from towns, computers from radios, and so forth. He considers this descriptive rather than prescriptive.
Given an assumption of this direction in growth, he asks how humans can increase interconnection between one another and with nature. To this he adds some values he would like to see evolve; these values are prescriptive: no poverty, live with access to and in harmony with nature, increased sense of community (although the perception of community size may change), separation of industry from living and socializing areas. The well-known arcologies come from this.
Throughout, the book is incredibly illustrated. The top half of most pages is given to illustrations and diagrams that relate to the text plus some full-page diagrams and pictures for complex topics. At the end of the book he presents 21 sample arcologies of varying size, each suited to one natural environment. These are concept diagrams, not blueprints, and lovely to look at. You can see how these captured the science fiction community's attention.
So if you - have any interest at all in arcologies, Soleri, architecture, urban design, big-system models of evolution, or an early view of how ecology can be integrated into life, - can enjoy reading some complex (but still somehow breezy and humorous) writing - want to look at pretty pictures and diagrams of (non-biological) evolutionary process and big buildings
then check it out. It's back in print and it's a fun read. Very quotable, too.
You may disagree with his urban design or his model of miniaturization, complexification, and duration; you may find some of his presentation very late-60s/early-70s (he's a bit woo-woo at times); and you may find he requires a few more leaps of faith than you're willing to take, but the book is interesting whether or not you agree with the conclusion.(less)
What do you say about a book like this? It's a collection of scripts from early SNL sketches, back in the days of the Not Ready For Prime Time Players...moreWhat do you say about a book like this? It's a collection of scripts from early SNL sketches, back in the days of the Not Ready For Prime Time Players.
Obviously, it is as good as you find that kind of humor. Which means, it is as good as your sense of humor. The sketches are brilliant.
It includes the text of some great, classic sketches: Idi "VD" Amin, Puppy Uppers and Doggy Downers, Killer Bees, the great "Final Voyage of the Enterprise" Star Trek parody, the Jimmy Carter Call In, the Coneheads, and various bits of Weekend Update. It also includes the Lifer Follies sketch, which changed a lot of people's perceptions about Garret Morris.
It also includes two un-aired sketches, Placenta Helper and Planet of the Enormous Hooters (starring Raquel Welch). You may be able to guess why S&P didn't let them show those.
Along the way the book includes pictures (often of the sketches included), "handwritten" notes on the sketches, and bits of production notes like prop design.(less)
Buy a good collection of Kafka's stories and put it in the bathroom.
If you've been led to believe that Kafka wrote drab stories about alienati...moreBuy a good collection of Kafka's stories and put it in the bathroom.
If you've been led to believe that Kafka wrote drab stories about alienation and angst (and that The Metamorphosis is a tradgedy), then take a magic marker, cross out the name on the spine, and pretend it's a weird book by Dave Sedaris or something. Kafka's stories are smart, often funny, quick to read, and as modern and relevant as ever.
In the bathroom you'll probably bypass the larger works (including The Metamorphosis) and discover his short-shorts. We call it "flash fiction" now: stories under a few hundred words and packing a poem-like punch into their lean frames. Kafka was a master of the form, but they are too short to use as an essay subject in high school, so too many people don't read them.
When you've adjusted to Kafka as an absurdist who actually likes people, then re-read The Metamorphosis (and finish it this time--it ends on an "up" note, much to most peoples' surprise) and strike out into The Hunger Artist, The Penal Colony, and the rest.
Treat this is a collection of fun, short, absurd, witty stories and forget everything your high school english teacher told you. He or she had't actually read Kafka in decades, after all. (less)
This is a review of the Anthony Villiers trilogy, not just this volume. You can read the books in any order without losing any plot, although there ar...moreThis is a review of the Anthony Villiers trilogy, not just this volume. You can read the books in any order without losing any plot, although there are some amusing references from book to book. As the books go on the tone changes, but I'll discuss that below.
If you only read one book in the trilogy, this should be the one. It's the one I read first and it stands alone extremely well. Being the middle in the set it has the best of both ends of the tone shift that affects the run.
Samuel R Delaney intruduced book one (Star Well) begins with a note. It summed up the series nicely: [Star Well] is something I have never seen in science fiction before. It is the first in a series of novels that examines the proposition that the world is composed of small communities of mutual interest. When the pith of that statement is bared as astutely as it is in this novel, it does not matter which "small community" you belong to..."
The series follows the adventures of Anthony Villiers: "By avocation he was a traveller. By profession he was good company." He is also Viscount Charteris, although he rarely uses his title. It is a classic space opera setting: aristrocrats travel between worlds, the Emperor manages the next slow decline of humanity into decadence and apathy, and gentlemen of means play complicated games across dozens of worlds in between duels with energy pistols or old-fashioned swords. Aliens that integrate well into human society are appreciated; other aliens are Restricted.
Villiers is a gentleman in "reduced circumstances": he travels following his stipend from port to port so his father can keep him on the move. His travelling companion is Torve, a Trog. Trogs are one of those Restricted aliens. Only a handful have travel permits. Torve is not one of those handful. But Torve is an artist, and his muse requires him to travel. The confluence that results whenever bureaucrats question Torve--an always polite, six-foot tall, very literal-minded, furry frog whose philosophical system denies the concept of causality--are things of beauty.
Proceeding from book to book, we get closer and closer to Villiers' own community. The Star Well is a swashbuckling tale of space pirates, con artists, and g-men. The Thurb Revolution is slower-paced; Villiers meets up with an old friend--another aristrocrat--and decides to go camping. Of course, that camping trip leads to a two-world student rebellion, the downfall of a world-wide children's author, a meeting with God, and a change to the line of imperial succession. Masque World puts Villiers among family and imperial delegates, trying to find his elusive stipend check while the people go into hiding from a local fraternal organization's annual game of Marvels and Wonders. And Torve encounters the first bureaucrat who won't simply refuse to believe that he exists.
Oh, and through all three books he wants to know why there's an assassin after him.
These are hilarious books. The humor generally consists of the characters' ability or inability to interact with different communities/cultures (Villiers' most redeeming quality is the fluidity with which he crosses community lines--and take that as you will) or the author's wry and astute observations about the characters, their circumstances, and the reader's own expectations.
The Thurb Revolution opens with these words:
Night is irregular. What is not done in the daytime becomes possible at night: murder and sex and thought.
This book concerns a line. Our line is trying to get the attention of the dot he loves. The dot falls in love with a squiggle.
It is, in short, a classic love triangle. Ha! Get it? A triangle! I kill me!
Ahem... back to the review.
The book's point is about the line's self-concept and self-esteem. He sees the squiggle as everything he can't be (and he truly can't). By the end, he learns what he can be instead, and he gains the confidence to show the dot and the squiggle what he's made of.
It's a silly book, it's a book about love, it's a book about confidence, it's a book about math, and it's a book about being yourself.
Give it to kids and read it yourself if you're feeling down or lost. My beat-up copy has gotten me through a dark night or two. And reading it with my girlfriend always reminds us how to share ourselves with each other.(less)
It doesn't matter that the scholarship is suspect at best; Angeles Arrien's take on shamanic paths is a great filter to add to your collection. I use...moreIt doesn't matter that the scholarship is suspect at best; Angeles Arrien's take on shamanic paths is a great filter to add to your collection. I use it all the time in my work.
Arrien is best-known for her work on tarot and astrology. Her interpretations in those areas are a) always geared toward generative change rather than remediation and b) always well-structured in an overarching system. Her take on Native American shamanism is as well. Unlike her tarot system, however, her shamanic paths form a system easily and usefully applied in relationships, business, and almost any other part of life.
The book reduces shamans to four broad roles: Leader/warrior, Visionary, Healer, and Teacher. Obviously, these roles are general enough to apply cross-culturally and cross-contextually. For each role, Arrien derives a core task, core questions, and "shadow sides" that describe what happens when one role is taken to extremes.
As a consultant, I've used this model to identify which role is most-lacking in an organization or which is strongest in a candidate. It also defines the ultimate consultant task: to be unattached to outcome, allowing the client to do what is best for them and to fail in their own way if necessary. It's made a huge impact on my work.
Other reviews have summarized the paths, but I'll do so as well. Here are the four tasks/challenges of the paths:
The Leader chooses to be present. The Visionary speaks the truth, regardless of consequences. The Healer sorts for what has value. The Teacher is unattached to outcome.
If this book can help you do those four things, read it. Ignore any woovy-grooviness you don't like (and enjoy any you do like!), don't look for any kind of scholarship, and tolerate the prescriptive symbolism and ritualism that these books seem to require. The content is there.(less)
Get this book. Go order it; this review will wait.
Now, what did you just spend money on....
Oh, either sign up for one of Charvet's classes (I haven't...moreGet this book. Go order it; this review will wait.
Now, what did you just spend money on....
Oh, either sign up for one of Charvet's classes (I haven't taken any, but I hear very good things) or get her tapes (the book is better than the tapes, but she has a very, very great voice :-)
This book is the best published material on metaprograms and it's organized around Roger Bailey's research that formed the LAB Profile. So, what are metaprograms, what is the LAB Profile, and why do you care? We finally have enough terms out there to review the book :-)
Bailey's LAB Profile (LAB = Language And Behavior) is a series of questions and observations to elicit 13 specific metaprograms from someone. These 13 are chosen to be easy to elicit conversationally (you don't need a white coat and a clipboard, you just ask natural questions) and to have useful application in the business world. By no coincidence whatsoever, they are also invaluable in personal life.
"Metaprogram" is the name NLP uses for common "filters" we all apply in everyday life. The LAB Profile looks specifically for metaprograms that indicate a person's motivation style and working style.
The LAB motivation style questions are easy to ask in an interview or in casual conversation with people and are the sorts of questions you already ask and care about; the LAB training gives you a way to understand and organize the results.
In the LAB profile, you almost always want to pay attention to the structure of their answer instead of the content.
For example, if you know a programmer finds "performance" very important in their code, the question "Why is performance important?" is entirely natural. The LAB profile gives you a way to organize their answer: are they motivating towards something ("Because that means the user can get work done faster") or away from something ("Because otherwise the system slows down and becomes unusable"). This is an example of the kind of "filter" the LAB profile elicits.
Knowing (some subset of) the 6 motivation traits for someone help you speak to them in a way that motivates them. It also lets you understand them when they talk about why they do, did, or want to do something. These are especially useful if someone motivates in a way that is very different from you.
The working traits give you an idea of how someone filters their experience while working. This can help you give someone a task that they will do well (or hire someone who will fit well with a position), it can help you instruct someone to do something in way that appeals to them, and it can help you understand the results someone gets.
An example of a working trait elicitation would be to ask both "What is a good way for you to increase your success at work?" and "What is a good way for someone else to increase their success at work?" The structure of the two answers tells you whose rules they expect someone to follow: - if they have rules for themselves and rules for other people - if they have rules for themselves but don't care about where other people get their rules - if they don't have their own rules for themselves (for example, they follow rules they got from an expert or the company) but they have rules they expect others to follow - if they have rules for themselves and expect other people to have their own rules.
Knowing this helps you understand how that person works in a team, what kind of instruction they need to receive, and what they expect from their coworkers. Knowing the rule structure of two people helps mediate between them and facilitate their working together.
Most of the traits are on a scale. You can motivate a little bit "towards" while motivating mostly "away," in fact, very few people are all the way in one direction on any trait. Also, LAB profile traits are contextual; someone may have a very different motivation style at home with their spouse and kids than they do at the office. Knowing this is especially useful when you work with a personal friend (or become friends with a coworker).
The motivation traits in the book are: - Level (how proactive or reactive they are when they motivate) - Criteria (what qualities are most important to them in the context) - Direction (towards success or away from failure) - Source (are they motivated by internal pressure or by the response they get from other people) - Reason (do they prefer to have a process to follow or do they prefer to have many choices) - Decision Factors (do they tend to see the similarities in things or the differences)
The working traits are: - Scope (do they focus on details and sequence or do they see the big picture and take things in a random order) - Attention Direction (is their attention focused on their inner experience while working or on other people) - Stress Response (when things get very bad, do they instinctively respond with feelings, with thoughts, or do they have vacillate between them) - Style (do they prefer to work alone, on a team of equals, or with others around who are either not directly involved or are under their command) - Organization (in a complex situation, do they focus on the people, the locations, the information or ideas, the activities involved, or the physical and metaphorical things) - Rule Structure (whose rules do they expect to follow and whose rules, if any, do they expect other people to follow) - Convincer (what kind of experience do they need to be convinced of something and how does that experience have to repeat or last to finally convince)
There are other items sometimes added to the LAB profile (for example, temporal traits, about how the person handles time) but the basic (and most important) 13 are covered in the book.
If you do anything with people--lead a team, interview, have a family, or even just walk out your door now and then--this is a good, readable book that you'll get something out of. You don't need to master the whole profile for it to be useful. Just one concept that interests you can make a huge difference in your effectiveness and quality of life.(less)
I went through an extended period in my life where I re-read this book every year(1). It's a very fun read.
You can read it as a character study, watch...moreI went through an extended period in my life where I re-read this book every year(1). It's a very fun read.
You can read it as a character study, watching how Garp changes as he ages and his responsibilities mature. You can read it as an analysis of the writer's experience (the bits about Garp's writing--and especially the chapter of Garps' book The World According to Benzenhurt--are excellent). You can read it as being about his relationships, primarily with women (his mother, his wife Helen, his transgendered friend Roberta, and his many indiscretions along the way).
I first read it as a book about feminism, with my mother asking "Is it a pro-feminist or anti-feminist book?" Well, it was the early 80s.
That isn't the best way to read Garp (and it has some nasty presuppositions, including that the book must be one of those two), but I decided it was pro-feminist. Not everyone agrees. At its heart, though, it's mostly anti-extremes. Garp spends his life trying tearing away from extremism: his mother embraces it as a way to define herself and he fears his own sexual and artistic urges can overwhelm everything else in his life.
It isn't a heady book, though, and it certainly isn't intellectual (in the sense that "intellectual" means "inaccessable").
From a writing standpoint, Garp does some interesting and risky things. It tells a person's story from conception to death, as opposed to skipping to "the good parts."(2) It switches focus from Garp's mother to Garp himself, leaving a protagonist dangling (and it's so well done that we barely notice). And 2/3 of the way through he take an extended break to read an engrossing chapter from one of Garp's books, making the entirety of Garp's life a frame story for that chapter (and in some sense for his writing).
So take that last part. Garp is a frame around his writing, and that writing culminates with that chapter, condensing his whole understanding of his life into that. So what is that chapter? We could argue about that longer than we would about Garp's meaning as a whole. And Garp lets us ask ourselves the question: can one writer's life be summed-up in his writing, or does that miss something important.
When you get to the last line, pay attention. If you find it sad, remember that he was a father and a writer and he connected (in both pleasant and unpleasant ways) with many people. Then re-read the line again.
It bears re-reading.
1) I also re-read Little Women annually, usually right before or after Garp. I don't know what the connection between the two is.
2) Irving likes this technique. When it's handled well, it's extremely effective. If you like it, check out The Ass Saw the Angel by [Nick Cave](less)
I gave this book 5 stars. - As science fiction it would get 2 - As philosophy it would get 1 (the world-view it argues for is much better discussed in...moreI gave this book 5 stars. - As science fiction it would get 2 - As philosophy it would get 1 (the world-view it argues for is much better discussed in other books--some of them even by RAW) - As humor it would get 3. Maybe 4 on a good day - As conspiracy theory it would get 4 - As research it doesn't even rate 1 - As a good guide to things to research for yourself, it's a solid 4 (great game: open to a random page and pick 5 things to look up in a library)
But it crosses the line on two things: * Cultural references that make points and explain things in the SF/geek/outcase/introvert subcultures. The Roberts nailed the experience of believing you're different and believing that what you want or experience is different and wanting to share it with the world. The terms and phrases that come out of this (fnord, illuminati, AUM, "You'll like it inside the apple," All Hail Discordia, Law of Fives, Aneristic Illusion, Paratheoanametamystichood, etc.) may not all be original, but they have built a part of a culture. Much like it's worth seeing Monty Python even if you don't "get" the humor to understand the "code."
It inspired two (excellent) card games and a wide variety of "bits" of other games, books, comics, and so forth.
* This book is one of the best tools for an adolescent or young adult (not YA--young adult) colonostickectomy. A young person hiding their creativity and trying to be "serious" so they can make it through life will get a huge amount of value from this book. You have to forgive them for believing the viewpoint for a few years and then you have to forgive them for rejecting it for a few. In the end, they'll probably come to a happy medium, but they'll always be gratefull for getting that damned uncomfortable thing out of their butt.
Oh yeah... the first 100 pages suck. Really. They're bad. But they're never referenced again (well, until the last 100 pages, which you really just skim looking for jokes), so skim them or skip them. You really don't need to start reading until the words "Egyptian Mouth-Breeder" appear on the page.
Actually, that might be the simplest and best review of all: You really don't need to start reading until the words "Egyptian Mouth-Breeder" appear on the page. (less)