[I've been
« March, 2002 »
Hacker Ethic

This book made me happy. It describes the differing work ethic of the hacker set [emphasis on project over working hours, cooperative not competitive, not hung up on money etc] as opposed to the old and tired Protestant work ethic. It put into words what I had been feeling about myself for a long time -- that I didn’t work badly, merely differently, and perhaps awkwardly in the current economy. As someone who grew up with Atari video games, I have always viewed computers as a source of entertainment. Working and messing about with them is fun. Spendinhg as long as i need to hash out a computer project is likewise fun. Trying to fit my idea of fun into a plausible job description is more difficult. This book delves somewhat into the history of the Protestant work ethic and a lot of our current cultural values in the US with regards to work, carrer and avocation. While the ending chapter -- which describes Genesis as if it were writen by a hacker -- is a bit much, this books was an eye-opening exploration of an alternative view of the concept of work and the concept of jobs.

The Assertive Librarian

Assertiveness training for librarians is a really good idea. Teaching asshole patrons how to behave properly. Learning how to properly advocate for getting more funding for your libraries instead of just sucking it up and saying “Well it’s true, we don’t have a revenue stream...” It’s all a great idea. And this book was written in 1974 so I shouldn’t be too harsh. And I did read it cover to cover. My problem is exactly the opposite; having been raised to be assertive, I’ve gone too far over the edge into being [sometimes] aggressive. This book carefully delineates the differences between assertive and aggressive and helps you to moderate your behavior. The downside to this book is that it seems like it’s basically written for anyone in the service industry, or really anyone with a job. I didn’t see enough situations that pertained to librarianship specifically to make me think it was warranted to have a whole fresh assertiveness book for this profession. And did I mention it was written in 1974?

The Girlfrenzy Millenial

Girlfrenzy is a zine out of the UK. This is a compilation of things that have appeared in the zine. The tagline is The Really Big Girl’s Annual and when I read that and saw the cover, it was a fat acceptance zine. It’s not. It’s basically a girly type zine for more adult women. It’s fun to read and to look at and will definitely give you a sense of female empowerment. Some of the interviews drag on a bit long, or maybe are not as relevant to women outside the UK but the format is refreshing -- a book based on a zine that actually can maintain the appealing graphical style of a zine while having much more content.

Virtual Light

At some point, I realized that all the Gibson books I had been reading recently were all centered around a set of characters and set in a time and place in such a way that they must be sequential. Problem was, I was reading them out of order. This book was the best of the series considering that I was trying to figure out which things that were happening linked to other episodes and places in the other books. It seems to be the place where we are introduced to many of the characters and get a lot of the backstory on how an anarchic community sprung into being on what was left of the Bay Bridge after the earthquake. Gibson does an admirable job of describing this community as functional and quirky without resorting to tired political rants either pro- or versus- any particular anarchist philosophy. The story itself is a fast-paced futuristic tale of the “why are these people chasing me and how do I get back at them?” variety with much more to it than just the discussion of their bridge-dwelling community. Interesting, not super-deep, a good read.

A Good Old-Fashioned Future

I met Bruce Sterling a few years back in Austin Texas. He opens his house to the SXSW Interactive folks so they can chill out somewhere and not have to wear their dorky badges. He has tons and tons of books and a nice house. I didn’t get to talk to him because everyone else was busy chatting up the poor guy and besides, I’d hardly read a thing he’d written. I took a few of his books on a trip with me and this was one of them. I have been reading a lot of William Gibson lately and was looking for more smart-person futuristic computer-y sci fi. Some of this was good, some of it seemed like it was spawned from a buncha guys sitting around getting stoned and saying “Howabout jellyfish the size of houses that you could ride on...?” "Aw yea, man!" Basically some of the stories were fleshed out and some seemed like one-offs, one good idea surrounded by filler plot. Not as good as the other Sterling book of stories I read, by a longshot.

Everything that Rises Must Converge

I have a weird problem. I confuse Flannery O' Connor with Carson McCullers. Then sometimes I mix them both up with Shirley Jackson. I wish I knew why I did this. I picked it up thinking it was a book of McCullers short stories. It wasn’t, but it was similar in some ways. Stories of quiet and not-so-quiet desperation. People being truly horrible to each other for reasons even they don’t sometimes understand. Sometimes, if you hang on long enough in these American Gothic bleak tales of forgotten people, sometimes you see the bad folks get what’s coming to them. But not enough, not nearly enough.

Dangerous Drawings

This book is a ReSearch style compilation of interviews with artists -- mostly comic illustrators -- who do work that is somewhat on the fringe. The intervieweees range from well-know underground artists such as Dan Clowes and Art Spiegelman to G.B. Jones and Emiko “Carol” Shimoda. The artists talk a lot about why they do what they do and try to explain what drives them to illustrate the topics they primarily cover. There are a lot of stories about bad parenting and nerdy upbringing. The interviewer seems to ask some of the same questions -- such as “is your art cathartic to you?” which no one seems to know what to do with, most say “no” -- but overall the artists are allowed to express themselves and ofen reveal themselves to be much more thoughtful and well-rounded than you might expect a serious comic writer/fan to be. The book is heavily and well illustrated but, again, for a book about graphic artists the actual book layout leaves a lot to be desired.

The Book of Fred

Random book from the shelf under the loose title of bildungsroman. This one tells the story of a girl who was removed from her cultish parents while they go to trial for child abuse and goes to live with a normal or “lacker” family for an indeterminate amount of time. The book itself is split up into several sub-books where each set of chapters is told by one of the main characters. Since the stories overlap somewhat in time but not completely, the story progresses and is fleshed out using this narrative device. The end of the story where the girl is reunited with her mother, raises a lot of interesting questions about the rights of children and the nature vs. nurture argument in general.