« on: December 21, 2016, 02:51:49 pm »
So, Hardboiled Anxiety is unbearably dull (I am not a hardboiled-author-biography nerd, and I suspect the only people who would enjoy this book are the kind of folks who would write fanfiction about Hammett and Chandler running into each other in a shrink's office & discovering their forbidden love).
I switched to bolo'bolo, which is interesting but just a bit too dense: it's the first anarchist tract I've read that really manages to drive home the whole "the system is made of people" thing and put forward a clear model of how parts of the global economic/political system could be subverted long enough to provide stable alternatives. That said, the author really likes him some neologisms (along with reappropriation of existing terminology: he has some simple infographics describing political ideas, but he calls them "yantras"), and it makes the otherwise short and interesting read drag a bit: I'm about half-way through this book, even though it's less than 200 pages long, because every few sentences I have to wrack my brain trying to remember what the author means by some term.
So, as a result, I started reading Thomas Rid's Rise of the Machines, a history of concepts from cybernetics as they impact culture. I'm not very far in, but thus far it's pretty readable (compared to other books I've read on the subject, which tend to be more technical and less eclectic); I've read some excerpts from later in the book that really convinced me it would be a good read. The main thing I worry about is that it might lean too far toward a general audience, and avoid actually addressing important ideas like shannon entropy or self-organizing systems. There's also one weird glitch in the introduction, wherein the author says that he, "like other people working in cybersecurity", always assumed that the "cyber" prefix originated with Neuromancer's coinage of "cyberspace", which seems kind of absurd -- who hasn't at least heard of cybernetic feedback, even though they call it systems theory now? -- but hopefully it'll turn out to be a strange one-off problem, like Gertner calling UNIX a "programming language" in his otherwise wonderfully well-researched history of Bell Labs, The Idea Factory.
Since I last posted in this thread, I also read two Warren Ellis books: Gun Machine and NORMAL. Gun Machine borders on standard police-procedural, and is probably the most mainstream Ellis has ever been, but it retains some of his trademark oddness and occultic ideas; it would probably be more accessible to a New Yorker with an interest in NYC history, because it sort of centers around geographically- and historically-themed events around NYC (sort of like Ghostbusters 2016 sets itself up to do). NORMAL is very entertaining, but most of the ideas in it aren't super new to me, and Ellis does less than usual to make them interesting; it's also very short.
I also read John Higgs' history of the KLF, KLF: Chaos, Magic, and the Band that Burned a Million Pounds. Higgs is always entertaining, and this book makes a good pairing with Gorightly's various histories of discordianism. It's sort of a strange parallel to Cosmic Trigger, insomuch as it follows a couple of guys who embrace their very minimal exposure to discordian ideas and get sucked in: one of the KLF members read only the first book of Illuminatus! (though he briefly worked on sets for Ken Campbell's stage play), and the other hadn't read any at all; both though discordianism was something made up for Illuminatus rather than something anyone actually practiced; as a result, when they became super famous with a discordian-themed musical group, they were jaked by various parties & took the jakes seriously, leading to The White Room, among other things. When they finally burned a million pounds, they didn't realize that they were performing an act that occurs in Illuminatus, & that chaos magicians have discussed at length as a very potent ritual.