Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Ted Chiang on the Unchecked Capitalism of Silicon Valley

"There’s a saying, popularized by Fredric Jameson, that it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. It’s no surprise that Silicon Valley capitalists don’t want to think about capitalism ending. What’s unexpected is that the way they envision the world ending is through a form of unchecked capitalism, disguised as a superintelligent AI. They have unconsciously created a devil in their own image, a boogeyman whose excesses are precisely their own."

Read the whole article here.  

Monday, August 28, 2017

Old Books and Old Libraries

By Stuart Kells:

I recently had the privilege of circling the world to write a book about libraries. My timing was excellent: after a short-lived e-books scare, physical books are back in fashion, and libraries are the place to be.

Read the full article, "Blood, bookworms, bosoms and bottoms: the secret life of libraries" at The Guardian. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

"Writers thrive on privacy, not on Twitter"

A very interesting article by Andrew O'Hagan at The Guardian"Will social media kill the novel?"

The title of the article misrepresents its scope, and all throughout it there are some real interesting observations.  Here are a few: 

"One of the great fights of the 21st century will be the fight for privacy and self-ownership, which is also, to my mind, the struggle for literature as distinct from the dark babble of social media. Writers thrive on privacy, not on Twitter, and so do readers when the lights are low. Giving your sentences thoughtlessly away, and for nothing, seems a small death to contemplation, and does harm to the profession of writing, where you’re paid because you’re good at it."

"We were addicted to the ailments of the web long before we understood how the technology would change our lives. In a sense, it gave the tools of fiction-making to everybody equally, so long as they had access to a computer and a willingness to swim into the internet’s deep well of otherness. JG Ballard predicted that the writer would no longer have a role in society. “Given that external reality is a fiction, he does not need to invent the fiction because it is already there,” he wrote. Every day on the web you see his point being made; it is a marketplace of selfhood."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Thoreau in his Bicentenniel

Somehow, I was never forced to read Walden for any class, in high school or college.  And I never saw that fact fact as a good thing.  Now comes a fine article by William Howarth with a lifetime of wisdom gleaned from teaching Walden, along with some sad comments on the contemporary scene. I've dug out my copy of Walden and am fixing this deficiency. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Islandia, a Forgotten Novel?

I was recently pointed to an interesting article (ignore the silly mistakes) by Charles Finch in the online version of The New Yorker.  Full title and link here:

"The Forgotten Novel that Inspired Homesickness for an Imaginary World" 

Despite some factual errors, it's mostly on target and it's good to see Islandia get some coverage, even if it is hardly a forgotten novel.

The Islandian map (which appears in the article) by Canadian geographer Ted Relph inspired me to look for more about Relph and Islandia, which led to Relph's own website and his essay (with an additional map) "Islandia and Love of Place" 

Both articles are recommended.