A Better Course

“thou hast councilled a better course than thou hast allowed”

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links for January 15th

January 15th, 2012 · No Comments

  • "We communicate with expressions and body language, with our choice of vocabulary and grammar and rhetoric, with our use of emoticons or lack of same, with variations in vocal tone, with length or shortness of paragraphs, with the kind of manners we choose to employ […] To assume that the spoken language is not only the primary language but the only one is to make a major mistake."
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links for January 13th

January 14th, 2012 · No Comments

  • "Most erotica authors stay within the genre, so Sharazade was surprised Cruz had ventured into horror. Amazon lets customers click inside a book for a sample of text and Sharazade was impressed with how literate it was. She extracted a sentence fragment, googled it, and found that Cruz had copy and pasted the text from Bram Stoker's Dracula."
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links for January 13th

January 13th, 2012 · No Comments

  • Weird and desperate behaviour from Google, found by a really excellent use of data from Mocality:

    "When we started this investigation, I thought that we’d catch a rogue call-centre employee, point out to Google that they were violating our Terms and conditions […] someone would get a slap on the wrist, and life would continue. I did not expect to find a human-powered, systematic, months-long, fraudulent [..] attempt to undermine our business, being perpetrated from call centres on 2 continents."

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Review of books 2011

January 1st, 2012 · No Comments

In January of last year, I noticed that I’d only read books by women, and decided to make a project of this for the rest of the year.

This turned out to be a good project, for two reasons – firstly, I’d never really thought about how few books by women I read (proportionally), and secondly, it meant that I read Jane Jacobs’ The Death And Life Of Great American Cities, which I had been putting off for some years.

This set the scene for this project in a satisfying way, as a lot of the non-fiction I read by women was about the division between public and private space – the legal distinctions in Anna Minton’s Ground Control, and contrast between personal invisibility and a total lack of privacy in Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel And Dimed. I recommend both of these books very highly, incidentally – the Ehrenreich in particular resonates with the current political and economic situation. By contrast Bait And Switch, her book on jobhunting in the corporate world, felt somewhat hasty and conclusionless.

The best book I read this year – Marshall Berman’s All That Is Solid Melts Into Air – is also the best book I’ve read in the last five years, easily one of my favourite books of all time. It’s a beautiful look at modernism through some specific and highly diverse lenses; it makes an abstract concept feel like personally lived history. I can’t recommend it highly enough, it’s wonderful.

On the topic of the personal and the universal, Daniel Miller’s The Comfort Of Things is also great – I know that I am late to this party, though. It’s a series of essays (not quite sure this is the word – they might be more like interviews or case studies) in which people who live on a road in South London talk about the things that they own. It’s very affecting, not least for the feeling of having been invited into these people’s lives – I feel like I would know any of their houses if I went into them.

Incidentally, I read The Comfort Of Things after Patrick Hamilton’s The Siege Of Pleasure and before Joanna Trollope’s The Best Of Friends. This was not intentional but the formal similarity of the titles together pleased me.

Last year I set myself the aim to try again with Ivy Compton-Burnett, and she is a woman, so I did that, and did not enjoy it. I read Pastors and Masters, and everyone in it is not only horrible but annoying; I just can’t get on with the way she puts words together.

Aims for next year are:

  • Join the library! This is not a direct reading aim but I read so well when I was last a member of a library
  • Read Gödel, Escher, Bach and King, Queen, Knave, the latter on Alex’s‘s recommendation. If you know of a third good book with a title taking the Noun, Other Noun, Third Noun form, that will also go on the list
  • Look Homeward, Angel – I got some Maxwell Perkins letters for Christmas, know basically nothing of Thomas Wolfe, and think I’d get more out of them if I knew more than nothing.
  • One last graph, just for comparison with previous years:

    …one more re-read than last year. All rereads other than The Sea, The Sea were F Scott Fitzgerald novels, it is Nabokov’s turn again next year.

    Previous years: 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006

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    links for December 20th

    December 20th, 2010 · No Comments

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    links for December 15th

    December 15th, 2010 · No Comments

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    links for December 13th

    December 13th, 2010 · No Comments

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    links for December 10th

    December 11th, 2010 · No Comments

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    links for December 10th

    December 10th, 2010 · No Comments

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    links for December 6th

    December 7th, 2010 · No Comments

    • These Swiss people would never have seen and did not know anything about these sets of two candidates. Subsequently they asked them “who do you think will win this election?” In 72% of the cases, having seen only the two photographs, people predicted the results of the elections correctly… That’s probably a lot better than most political analysts. Then they got a little mischievous; they gave the photographs to 681 children and told them “we are going to play boat; who do you want as captain of our ship?” In 71% of the cases, the children’s’ choice correctly predicted the winner of the local French parliamentary elections.

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