Finished reading: My Inner Bimbo

Sam Keith does for, uh, bimboification comics (and selkies) what he previously did for superheroes with The Maxx.

This is a difficult (and, one can’t help but feel, not just a little bit autobiographical) read and won’t be for everyone. It deals with sex and male neurosis, particularly as the latter relates to women — the main character literally goes out to fight a Sea Monster of Female Disapproval at the climax of the story — and the characters are not particularly likable. With the, one assumes intentional, exception of The Bimbo, who’s effectively a sex fantasy and representation of the (older male) protagonist’s journey of individuation, rather than a character per se ( . . . maybe).

That being said, the characters are at least compelling trainwrecks and Keith never descends into the cynicism that would’ve made this unreadable. So . . . there’s that.

2022-05-16T07:22:32+10:0016th May, 2022|Tags: , , |

Finished reading: Make Room! Make Room!

I blame the stinking politicians and so-called public leaders who have avoided the issue and covered it up because it was controversial and what the hell, it will be years before it matters and I’m going to get mine now. So mankind gobbled in a century all the world’s resources that had taken millions of years to store up, and no one on the top gave a damn or listened to all the voices that were trying to warn them, they just let us overproduce and overconsume, until now the oil is gone, the topsoil depleted and washed away, the trees chopped down, the animals extinct, the earth poisoned, and all we have to show for it is seven billion people fighting over the scraps that are left, living a miserable existence.

Harry Harrison, Make Room! Make Room! (1966)

What a weirdly prescient, yet entirely frustrating book. Written in the 1960s and set in the Distant Future of 1999, Make Room! Make Room! is set in a squalid, over-populated New York city, and deals with everything from peak oil to climate crisis to water rationing to ACAB-style police shootings of minority groups. On the other hand, it is very very definitely written by a middle-class liberal in the style of Malthus, and is grotesquely classist, particular towards the end where Harrison starts wallbanging about birth control and, in particular, poor people “over-breeding” to get government welfare. (And noting this book pre-dates, for example, China’s infamous One Child Policy.)

And, of course, the elephant in this book’s room is capitalism which — for something about over-consumption and resource hoarding by the ultra-wealthy — somehow never warrants even the slightest whiff of a mention . . .

2022-04-13T08:48:32+10:0013th April, 2022|Tags: , , |

Finished reading: Metro 2033

This is a very dense book and not much actually happens in it, which I have to admit is both on of my least favorite styles of writing and also the one that intuitively feels the “most Russian.”

I’ve already watched an LP of the videogame so the ending was already spoiled for me, and I think I would’ve reacted much more negatively to the book if it hadn’t been. Some interesting ideas, but mostly this has reminded me I need to read Roadside Picnic . . .

2022-04-04T06:07:02+10:004th April, 2022|Tags: , , |

Finished reading: Guardian (镇魂)

Finally finished!

I devoured the first three quarters of this back when the TV show was big in the West but got “stuck” on the parts post-reveal. The book definitely makes more sense than the show, but nonetheless the show fleshes out a few character things in ways I found more engaging than the book. Neither are my fav per se but it’s Baby’s First Danmei, so will always hold a special place in my heart.

2022-04-01T06:48:24+11:001st April, 2022|Tags: , , , , |

Finished reading: Debt: The First 5,000 Years

This is a big book with a lot going on, but fundamentally it’s Graeber’s refutation of Adam Smith’s Economics 101 idea of the history of money. That is money originating as a response to simplify some kind of preexisting “wood for sheep” barter economy. Graeber, an anthropologist, points out that not only has no such society ever existed — and where equivalent economies pop up, they tend to involve people used to money but who can no longer obtain it for some reason, e.g. prison cigarette “money” — but that anthropologists have been pointing this out pretty much for as long as the myth has existed.

Instead, Graeber argues money’s origins are linked more to debt and credit systems — in the “traditional” economics model coming after money on the technology tree — and he hops around the globe, both historically and temporally, to prove this. The origin of money, then, is the origin of debt; a banknote is basically an IOU from the government (given fundamental, i.e. fiat, value by the fact it can be used to pay taxes), and predated by centuries of different forms of promissory notes issued by various parties over the ages. Graeber also points out that this form of money predates what we nowadays normally think of as “pre-modern” money, i.e. coins made from precious metals. These, Graeber gives a different origin; basically, economies arising from the logistics requirements of large, and mobile, armies.

Side missions undertaken include looks at “social currencies,” i.e. currencies used not to buy goods per se but rather traded to facilitate social occasions such as weddings, the “communism of the rich,” i.e. the rich’s propensity, common throughout history, to help one another out with gifts and easy loans, and money’s influence on folk beliefs (always here for a good Nasreddin story).

Not the lightest reading in the world (for that, try Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs), but engaging and interesting all the same.

2022-03-05T06:15:54+11:005th March, 2022|Tags: , , , , , , |

Finished reading: Metamorphosis and Other Stories

The titular story made me want Gregor Samsa fix-it fic, where he like runs away with a gang of street punks and joins their heist-running polycule or whatever, which is probably not what Kafka intended as the take-home from his work.

The rest of this is basically like David Lynch in book format, set in turn-of-the-1800s-century central Europe instead of turn-of-the-1900s-century America. Also Kafka was really into the circus, apparently? Did not see that coming.

The trio of “A Hunger Artist,” “Josephine the Singer” and “A Report to an Academy” should be, like, mandatory study in high school Social Media 101 class.

2022-02-02T06:00:52+11:002nd February, 2022|Tags: , , |

Finished reading: The Shock Doctrine

Dated, but still relevant. Klein’s thesis is essentially that free-market economics — a.k.a. neoliberalism, the “Chicago School”, et al. — has spent the last fifty-odd years trying to create the prefect “blank slate” economy in which to try and “prove” its legitimacy. As such policies are universally wildly unpopular with the citizens in existing economies, free market ideologues have resorted to increasingly violent and destructive methods with which to implement their ideas, resulting in a form of disaster capitalism that has displaced virtually all other forms of capitalism worldwide. Whether disaster capitalism actually serves its theoretic purpose (i.e. proving Milton Friedman right) has become moot in the face of the fact it makes a group of extremely powerful people extremely rich. So, yolo.

The title comes into play as Klein tries to draw parallels between the economic practices of disaster capitalism with 1950s-era electroshock research that was used as the basis of modern CIA-devised torture practices as seen in, amongst (many) others, Pinochet’s Chile and Guantánamo Bay. This is probably the weakest part of the book, not because it’s not compelling — as someone whose own grandmother was electroshocked into compliance by mid-century quacks it’s a pretty tough read — or that I think the link between electroshock and torture is ahistoric (it isn’t), or that there aren’t ideological parallels to draw. But it does almost serve to soften the crimes of capitalism itself; as if disaster capitalism isn’t “bad enough” on its own terms or, worse, that it would be somehow a-okay if the link could somehow be disproven or somehow handwaved away.

Still, that’s a minor gripe in an otherwise compelling — and pretty damn damning — read.

2022-01-31T08:43:54+11:0031st January, 2022|Tags: , , , , , |

Finished reading: Masks of Nyarlathotep

I confess that, while I own a few sourcebooks, I’ve never actually played Call of Cthulhu, and read through Masks of Nyarlathotep mostly because I’d heard several places describe it as the “best tabletop RPG module ever.”

It was . . . fine, I guess? Some fun ideas but definitely dated in its horror, even in the ultra-updated, this-time-we-took-almost-all-the-racism-out-we-swear edition. It definitely is long, though, and requires a play-style I couldn’t imagine coaxing out of any of the TTRPG groups I commonly play with.

2022-01-31T06:07:52+11:0031st January, 2022|Tags: , , , |

Mt. TBR… the plugin!

Currently working on a WordPress plugin that replaces the book tracking functionality I use GoodReads for.

It currently records books, can query basic publication details, and saves status updates. At some point it will also probably have some kind of archive page, book details page, and GoodReads importer maybe.

2022-01-31T17:48:31+11:0030th January, 2022|Tags: , , |
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