Friday, May 18, 2007

books.

and hey! ive been reading a lot so its time for smashkans book review... (i realized after writing the book stuff that i started rambling and typed way too much. ah well...)

player piano is ok... its pretty obviously vonneguts first novel because i can tell he probably sort of got lost in parts along the way, but its still pretty good. i didnt find myself laughing too often and people said i would... whatever. i did have a general smirk through some parts. the idea is what happens if humans actually have automated sustainment... like machines take care of everything. this book paints a yucky super stratified class structure where the elites are anyone who still has a job taking care of the machines, and everyone else is basically in the army. im not sure i agree that thats what automated sustainment would look like (like i dont see how having everything basically provided for free would lead to everyone joining the army...), but whatever. the book has a definite luddite feel to it... and if you know how i feel about luddites, then youll know why i dont like that... but it was still entertaining.

on the road is possibly one of the worst books ive ever read. it just talks in pain staking detail about the completely mundane travels of a bunch of worthless humans that drift around living so close to the edge that they cant help but view/use everyone around them as means to their ends. one part in the book comes to mind... he goes into painstaking detail about all his friends and theres this one part in the book where he gives like one small paragraph like "i ran out of everything again so i found a rich girl i knew and then (blahblah another stupid journey)". there are countless characters like these that kerouac devotes like one line too. like a guy who lets them wash dishes for dinner and that "rich girl". they glorify eachother and their friendship while shamelessly ignoring or underappreciating the people that benevolently decide to extend their worthless lifespans so they can take another pointless journey or trip where the conclusion of repetetive soul searching is to drift until desperation at which point they find one more person to use as a crutch (either through the persons benevolence or through outright theft) for yet another pointless journey... and repeat. had i met these kids, i wouldve probably punched them... then again they probably wouldve punched me first and stolen my money. (and then given me a single line in their stupid novel.)

nickel and dimed was surprisingly good... i expected ehrenreich to be yet another retard who thinks poverty can somehow be solved by wearing pins and calling corporations evil and chanting for unsustainable wage hikes. not so! ehrenreich has three phases of going different places and trying to make ends meet with a low wage job. you could get almost everything out of this first 3 quarters of the book by reading just one of these. the last quarter of the book though is the real good stuff... its a surprisingly rational discussion on the economics of low wage workers and why economic models fail when there is a shortage of these workers and their wages do not rise. i actually feel like i learned something from this... she talks about how sometimes the working poor are not the homoeconomicus (economic man) models are based on. they make irrational decsisions (and she admits making some too) like taking lower paying jobs out of strange oedipal complexes (like a maid company of all women and a strict male manager) or fear of losing and need for a community (as was the case with the cackling old wives that worked at walmart). also she goes into a discussion of asymmetric information about wages and how workers simply dont know that their coworkers are making more or the gas station across the street is paying more, because managers make purposeful effort at keeping this information theirs alone. blahblahblah. anyway... if all this bored you, this should help... down with capitalism! walmart is evil! what do we want? higher wages! when do we want them?! now!... feel better? good. go buy some pins, asshole.

freakonomics was pretty tight, but nothing mindblowing. its actually not much economics at all so much as a book that repetetively challenges people to "think like an economist" and look at causal relationships objectively... i think most economists are pretty familiar with how much irrationality goes into peoples beliefs/decisions, and how frequently people conflate causal linkages... like there is an example of how statistically letting your kid go to a house with a pool is much more dangerous than a house with a gun, but most parents emotional responses and such would have them send their kids to the house with a pool before the house with a gun. there is a nutty discussion of legalized abortions positive correlation with reduced crime... its much stronger statistically than any of the other stuff like police methods and politics and stuff... its another example of how people want to believe things and mix up emotions and thus miss the true causal variables completely. my experience with trying to reason with people about this "economic/unemotional/rational thinking" is that they completely agree with the statistics and models at the time, but the next descision they make is like the conversation or whatever never happened. so im not sure if peoples response to this book would be any different. good luck levitt, i think i know how you feel.

the god delusion (special thanks to aussie guerilla fighters) was good, but i already agreed with everything in there, so it got a little boring sometimes... i was just reading my own opinions kind of... i suppose that can help me in formulating them for communication later... some select parts were much better than others, mainly the philosophical arguments for and against and the psychological explanations of why people insist on personifying/deifying everything. the enumeration of just how much suffering and stupidity religion has caused was kind of depressing and thus got boring and i would usually skim past it... but yeh... atheists, read it for intellectual masturbation, nonatheists, read it because youre stupid.

right now im reading liberation biology, which is awesome. the book has two things going on, one is explaining all the crazy ass shit possible with biotech and getting into a shitload of detail on the biology that makes it possible. (i definetly am reading this book slower because this information is dense as shit) but like freakonomics and the god delusion, the more normative/opinion parts, like the invisible hand effects of natural selection and evolution, might get boring since i already agree. i suppose im just sharpening my blade. which can be nice.

did you notice i started almost all of those reviews off with "it was good." or "it was bad." fifth grader style... damn im awesome.

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