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<nettime> Books I like and reasons to read them
Alan Sondheim on Wed, 10 Nov 2004 09:03:44 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> Books I like and reasons to read them


Books I like and reasons to read them


- This is one of my columns reviewing recent purchases, trades, arrivals,
found books, bound and unbound books. While I'm writing it, I'm listening
to 'embedded' reporters make their ugly one-sided reports from the troops
in Fallujah. I broke down earlier. Our news is managed like never before,
and for all the talking we do about it here in this space, it continues.
We may be so useless in the world, which is beyond anything but the most
brutal seizures of power, the most brutal tortures and slaughter.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, translated and edited by Garmonsway. This is
the standard old Everyman's Library edition. The Chronicle - like the
Russian Primary Chronicle - should be read widely. It's part and parcel of
anglo-European root. The chronicle is actually a group of chronicles which
go through the Norman Conquest. Required reading for a lot of us.

Spy Planes and Electronic Warfare Aircraft, Bill Gunston, Arco 1883. I
found this recently and love it. It's about seeing instead of killing,
although sight itself is a grasp/rapture/raptor. Although outdated, it has
the Lockheed SR-71 in it, a work of art which I saw in real life in Omaha.
I like to think of these planes monitoring forest fires, clear-cutting,
and other environmental travesties, instead of fast-forward monitoring of
'insurgents.' Almost none of them have weaponry. I dream of the whole
tribe of them watching each other soundlessly in the skies, leaving the
rest of us alone.

PDF Hacks, 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools, Sid Steward, O'Reilly.
Personally I am irritated by PDF, finding it clunky, almost useless within
browsers, long-loading, difficult to manipulate and at times even to
download. This book does tell you how to work it more flexibly, from both
creator and consumer viewpoints. I highly recommend this to academics and
anyone (myself included) who has to work with the format.

Operation 'Phantom Fury' continues unabated on the television. 'Coalition
forces are now moving' into Fallujah against those 'who want to stop
democracy.' An obscenity.

The book includes sections on speeding up Acrobat's startup, copying data
from PDF pages, managing a group of PDFs, authoring and self-publishing
PDFs, and, among other things, "dynamic PDF" which is fairly interesting.

For myself, I'd like to see a spy-plane Acrobat that opens instantly, a
browser in which files melt and can be infinitely molded, almost html...

Fundamentalism, The Search for Meaning, Malise Ruthven, Oxford, 2004. This
is an excellent introduction - it's only 200-plus pages - to the issue,
which needs to be examined in great detail. I'm going to order other
works, mainly from the Fundamentalism Project - I'd also like to know more
about the neurophysiological issues involved - Alport's The Nature of
Prejudice years ago mentioned some studies. In any case, this book is
excellent, focusing mainly on Christian, Jewish, and Islamic movements,
discussing their relation to the book and the book's 'inerrancy.' Do check
it out.

A Guide to Nature in Winter, Donald Stokes, Little, Brown, 1976. This is
wonderful and useful for those of us who play amateur mycologist or
ornithologist in the dead of winter, which isn't really dead of course,
just quiet. This is an easy read for the United States; I assume there are
similar guides for Europe and Canada.

All the used books by the way should be on www.abe.com at the least.

The Sexual Life of Catherine M., Catherine Millet, has just appeared in
paperback here, with a 'new afterword.' She edits Art Press, one of the
best art journals in the world (or at least was when I was reading it).
The book has been written about extensively; I'm surprised I've seen so
little reference to it on the lists I'm on. But it's brilliant, intense,
physical/theoretical, producing a new form of writing and liberation that
is more necessary than ever today.

The news is off, so there, Fallujah again buried, I'll change the channel.
I'm trying to work safely but in the midst of slaughter that can't harm
me, it can only exist as if otherwise, but not.

The Culture of Civil War in Kyoto, Mary Elizabeth Berry, California, 1994.
This book was mentioned first by Philip Agre; it's an account of culture,
not just of war, but of ludic tea ceremonies, dances, during the 15th and
16th century 'Era of Warring States' in Kyoto. What fascinates me is the
resonance between civility, civilian unrest, dance-form, control and
release - all those Bataillian qualities (or Foofwa d'Imobilite for
example) played out centuries ago. This work is useful for me in my own
aesthetic founderings; I highly recommend it, even for those not
particularly interested in Japanese history.

Building the Perfect PC, Robert Bruce and Barbara Fritchman Thompson,
O'Reilly, 2004. I've seen a number of books on the subject - this one is
going to be used, this summer - I want to construct a portable PC for
performance, experimentation, and digital microscopy. I think this will be
the most useful book I've seen (certainly the most useful of the O'Reilly
volumes on the subject); the illustrations are in color, incredibly clear,
and the book covers a number of PCs from the ground up. (I'll probably go
for a LAN party PC which can be connected to a laptop, with enough
performance for video projection of several screens at once.)

This surplus technology - for me it's all surplus at this point - is
played out against an ad for a 'chimney sweeping log' that projects
against accidental fireplace fires. They could spread through the house.
They could be the result of a bomb; if we bomb areas that might be booby-
trapped, we've made them safe for our American boys and girls. So few
casualties! Back to the news.

Making the Alphabet Dance, Recreational Wordplay, Ross Eckler, St.
Martin's, 1996. I hadn't seen this child of Oulipo and Scrabble-buzz
before but its lists of words and linguistic processes seems unique to me
- it ranges far afield, and includes mathematical analyses of spanning
trees of letter transformations. The work is simultaneously rooted in the
heuristics of English and the desire for platonic form; in fact, mappings
onto the Platonic solids are explored. There are also examples from other
languages, but the emphasis is on English. I've been reading this with
intense joy - watching the bending of language to fit the form, just as
I might use 'aas' as a word in cheating-Scrabble. Or is it?

Writings on Psychoanalysis, Freud and Lacan, by Althusser, Columbia, 1996.
What can I say? I hadn't seen this work before, I'm fascinated by it, more
on a biographical level, or a level dealing with the discursivity of power
and the power of discursivity, rather than the theoretical 'meat' within
it. I can hear the wheels working. Lacan: 'Our relations are old,
Althusser.' And so they are. Read on about the Law of Order, the Law of
Culture, etc. This is a wonderful book and leads to a book I'm hardly
qualified to review,

Synthetic Philosophy, First Principles, Herbert Spencer, my edition from
Appleton, 1892, although the work is decades earlier. Well, he is
associated with social darwinism, 'survival of the fittest,' and so forth.
This work, which is the first in the series of Synthetic Philosophy, has
been a surprise, since it seems above all to predate chaos and nonequil-
ibrium thermodynamics theories in a fascinating way which also reads like
phenomenology. The titles of some of the chapters will give you the idea -
'The Persistence of Relations Among Forces,' 'The Instability of the
Homogeneous,' 'The Multiplication of Effects,' 'Segregation,'
'Equilibration,' 'Dissolution' - you get the idea. I'm currently working
my way through sections of this.

Steal This File Sharing Book, What They Won't Tell You About File Sharing,
Wallace Wang, No Starch, 2004. I just received this review copy, and hope
to give an analysis later, but just want to say that it is amazing; this
is a subject I know something about from the old IRC days, but not much
more. The book gives reviews of just about everything from cracking
e-books to 'stealing' files, pornography, etc. I think works like this
will become more and more necessary in this country - where I now use an
'rmm' command to wipe my panix.com account clean of suspect files after
the fact. Ah well..

The Daily Show is coming on with Jon Stewart. I will hear more about
Fallujah, I'm sure, with humor. We've got to mute everything, serve it up
clean, bury the rage. It's not NYC that's burning tonight.

I'm reading Stoker's Dracula which is brilliant and an odd Kittler-like
demo of technology inserted into neural discourse networks; at one point
early on, someone snaps a Kodak of what will later be a house of horror.
As with Frankenstein, the novel is far better than what's made out of it;
it reads as texts within texts, ideologies within ideologies. I haven't
got to the Christian part of it yet, which I gather is a disappointment.

Southern California, Moon Handbooks, this one by Kim Weir, 2001. I don't
review travel-books in general, but we're going to Santa Ana - I have a
residency this summer. Even though I've lived in L.A. and Irvine, this
book is somewhat of a wonder. The author's an environmentalist, and it
shows; I'm learning of needed resources.

Has anyone read Plenitude 2.0, Grant McCracken? Periph.: Fluide, 1998.
I'd love to discuss it; it's obscure, odd, wonderful, maverick, reminds me
of The Accursed Share, but far more fun, and please read it and write
about it.

Then there's Brian Wilson's Smile which blew me away, and was nothing like
the reviews or documentary described - if anything they all did a
disservice. This is somewhere between Satie and post-industrial, indie and
Webern but really makes a Gershwin case for an Amerikan music yet unheard
but unlike Gershwin it's original as all getout and does stuff with time
and expectation that turns it brilliant. The docu just got it into trouble
as far as I'm concerned.

More Fallujah, bombings, fire, fury, on the tube.

To recommend: Anything by Gillian Welch, I'm obsessed, it speaks to me in
these dark times. I came late to it, am riding out the wave. A Human Being
Called David Daniels is a simply amazing cdrom, director of art Regina
Celia Pinto, http://arteonline.arq.br, which I've been looking and
re-looking at. Julian Samuel, whose work I value greatly, sent me a cdrom,
Save and Burn, on libraries and politics and phenomenology and... I will
review this as well. You might write him at jjsamuel {AT} vif.com .

'adopting very classic guerilla tactics' - 'you don't stand around and
take it from them' - 'you live to fight another day' - 'not people who
wear uniforms' - 'very very easy for them to go back to their homes, back
to their tribal compounds' - the _phone voice_ speaks, out of nowhere,
image-over, as if we're _there_ and _now_ and it's slaughter all over
again - again? - it hasn't stopped, won't - U.S. dogs - bow-wow-wow

I mentioned ESP-Disk is back in business - go for the Ayler - it's all
brilliant.

another video of a US bombing spree - as usual black-and-white, from a
distance - little white square outline surrounding a 'target' - the other
week saw a whole family in the center of one of these -

Sabotaging Files with Cuckoo Eggs - Killing a Computer - more from Steal
This File Sharing Book -

Far too long, the war's on, trembling, all this discourse seems both
central and out of place. New Directions in the Philosophy of Mathematics,
Thomas Tymoczko, from 1986, Birkhauser, wonderful collection, articles on
the ideal mathematician, time-dependence of mathematical truth, where's my
old Brillouin book -

Alan, hoping I haven't let you down. Too many people hear talking suicide.


_


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