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Old 19th May 2018, 06:47 AM   #481
calebprime
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Originally Posted by calebprime View Post
Steven Pinker __Enlightenment NOW__


There is a great deal which is entirely reasonable in this book, so I won't do to Pinker what Pinker does to Nietzsche -- misrepresent his thrust, spirit and manner.

I value the Nietzsche who was the critic of Christianity, the speculative psychologist and the observer of artists. Also the literary stylist.

I don't value his occasional speculative metaphysical ideas -- such as eternal recurrence. I don't value (or even secretely admire) his hatred of democracy. When it came to women, he was an angry clown.

It's with some surprise that I read Pinker's condemnation of Nietzsche. My reading is like Walter Kaufmann's -- Nietzsche has much to offer, but not in the big ideas that seem to get summarized and picked up by people with no patience for Nietzsche's actual writing. The reader ought to pick and choose and ought to reject the crazy stuff.

...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Hist...phy_(Copleston)

As an affirmative example, I choose Copleston as someone who is fair-minded enough to give an adequate brief account of Nietzsche without being a specialist, a fan, or even all that sympathetic to N. (I haven't read this in a long time, so I'm relying on my increasingly faulty memory.)

It can be done, unlike Pinker's hatchet job.

All that said, Pinker and I would probably only differ by a small amount in how much Nietzschian wisdom is good for one: I'd say a little, he'd say none.

We'd agree that his "wisdom" has little or no application to public policy.
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Old 19th May 2018, 11:10 AM   #482
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Originally Posted by calebprime View Post
Steven Pinker __Enlightenment NOW__
I just finished reading this as well. Not having read Nietzsche I don't really have any comment on that aspect of the book. I generally found Pinker's arguments for optimism, for his trifecta of Rationalism, Science, Humanism as quite convincing. There were places where I felt he made his point more strongly than was justified. The way he dismisses the idea that the atom bombs led to Japan's surrender in world war 2, for instance, didn't seem well argued.

That said it's a great book that I would recommend to anyone.
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Old 31st May 2018, 01:47 AM   #483
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Originally Posted by Captain_Swoop View Post
Aaronovitch knows his London. I worked in the West End and I am familiar with all the locations he uses in and around Covent Garden in the first book. He has a fell for the 'spirit' of the place.

In the second one 'Moon Over Soho' he captures the feeling of the area perfectly.
I enjoyed the series, too. I was at a panel discussion at a Con last year talking mainly about this series and the Shadow Police series by Paul Cornell (which I haven't read yet). The panel included one person from a government department and a serving police office (dressed as a character from Judge Dredd!), and they thought both series were pretty accurate as to how the Met would have dealt with the supernatural (some of the procedures in the books may have been slightly inaccurate, but that was to be expected as they are constantly being updated).
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Old 31st May 2018, 04:12 AM   #484
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I read Max Tegmark's Life 3.0 the other day, and found it very entertaining.

I don't think I'm either as concerned or as enthusiastic about AI as he seems to be, though I think on the latter I'm close and on the former I do think he makes some valid points, though I also think there are some things he's not considering.

The books looks at the future of AI, the potential dangers it represents, and how we might go about mitigating them, but also the question of what exactly we want from AI and the future of humanity. He makes the point that we need to start thinking about what the future will be, but rather what we want it to be, and then figure out how to get there from here, rather than just blindly letting it unfold.

As I said it's an entertaining book and a good look at the subject.

I found his chapter on consciousness refreshingly clear, and he actually brought up some things that were new to me, which is refreshing for that subject.

Recommended.
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Old 31st May 2018, 08:57 AM   #485
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Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
The way he dismisses the idea that the atom bombs led to Japan's surrender in world war 2, for instance, didn't seem well argued.
It certainly helped, though in latter years I've come to find the 'futility-arguments' (of Japan having been near collapse and probable surrender even without the use of the bombs) as very convincing.
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Old 1st June 2018, 06:25 AM   #486
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a fairly obscure little handbook called _Twentieth Century Music Idioms_ -- by one G. Welton Marquis.

This is really a pocket composition course, very dated now, with a great deal assumed. For that reason I find it fascinating. I've collected every possible book about how to compose and related subjects that I could get my hands on over the years.

There was an old-fashioned, perhaps white-european-american-male point of view which included a willingness to give opinions and reasons for rules in a way that was at least partly subjective, in a lot of these older texts. That subjective (and often wrong) quality dropped out of the more mathematical writing of the serial theorists and composers that came later, in the writings of Perle, Babbitt, Wuorinen, Robert Morris. In the earlier school, you'd have Persichetti's opinion about the relative "resonance" of polychords, even if it really was just an organized way of showing how he, Persichetti -- and few others -- heard them. Not quite right, not entirely wrong.

This seems to drop out of books written past maybe the 80's, not sure.

Oddly enough, I find these subjective-but-wrong old-school writings valuable because they show the thought process and the necessary subjective element.

More important, when I read the Marquis book, I marvel at a bygone world that supports his now-dated text. He could assume everyone was composing by hand on paper for real acoustic instruments, with no more than 12 tones, and standard rhythms. No computers, and Hindemith is the cutting edge. A simpler time.

Without that background world in place, his text is astounding for what it assumes but doesn't discuss or even seem to understand. It's crisply insular and donnish.

And yet, it's engaging and readable, unlike the later theorists.
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Old 2nd June 2018, 05:00 AM   #487
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This book is somewhat remarkable to me because it has an unusually blithe attitude with simplifications occurring for at least three reasons. It's this triple degree of simplification that must create the interest for me.

1) simplification for students
2) simplification compared to the present day
3) simplification by personal mental preference -- this seems to be the way the author thinks: he is a self-avowed contrapuntalist


The result is that you get the impression that there's no problem just getting started writing a few vaguely 20th-century tunes on paper with a few guidelines. If there is any "background" or systematic or implicit rules for generating the meat, they are consigned to acoustics and philosophy. Somehow you don't need 'em. Somehow, without deep or even medium-level generating principles, the piece of music emerges by accretion, by counterpoint or by adding one thing to another.

It's not that there are no tables or lists, it's just that the gap here between doing something and understanding what you're doing is particularly great, especially given that Marquis doesn't get into atonal "set theory", or acoustics, or psychology, or modal theory, or something like Schenkerian deep structure -- a wider scope of explanation, and an attempt to explain with more depth.

The composers who he suggests imitating were fiercely interested in these systems of generation, this wider scope. They weren't just adding one thing to another.

As lies-to-students go, this is quite a good little book, and interesting for what it feels secure in avoiding, or what he thinks it's unnecessary to discuss.

Last edited by calebprime; 2nd June 2018 at 05:02 AM.
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Old 3rd June 2018, 04:55 AM   #488
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In continuation of a project of finally actually reading my music theory library, I'm starting with books on Form.

I've neglected these, because when I was a student composer, books on traditional form seemed to have almost no relevance to what I was trying to write.

"Rounded Binary"? "Incipient Ternary"?

It feels at first as if you wanted to understand something about the history of transportation and you were treated to long chapters on buckles, baskets, and straps.

The live issue is whether my relative indifference to the traditional analysis of forms is a sign of real ignorance and weakness, or whether it's actually smart: I wasn't being a dull fussy monk about stuff that no longer had much meaning.

In the good classes I had looking at Beethoven string quartets, I never felt that categorizing something as a sonata rondo helped me appreciate what I did or didn't like about it, and I've frankly never liked the literal repetition in sonata form. The essence of sonata seemed to be about developing a group of contrasting themes, and none of the particulars that informed the (archaic-seeming) vocabulary of analysis seemed very interesting.

So now I consider if I've missed anything interesting, or whether it was all too obvious, and still is.

Including Wallace Berry's books on form and structural functions in music, as well as a handful of others. Anything interesting there?
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Old 3rd June 2018, 05:21 AM   #489
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Originally Posted by calebprime View Post
Including Wallace Berry's books on form and structural functions in music, as well as a handful of others. Anything interesting there?
I am, as it happens, wholly unfamiliar with this form of literature. I do love music and its history, like few, however.
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Old 5th June 2018, 04:54 AM   #490
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Originally Posted by calebprime View Post
In continuation of a project of finally actually reading my music theory library, I'm starting with books on Form.

I've neglected these, because when I was a student composer, books on traditional form seemed to have almost no relevance to what I was trying to write.

"Rounded Binary"? "Incipient Ternary"?

It feels at first as if you wanted to understand something about the history of transportation and you were treated to long chapters on buckles, baskets, and straps.

...

Including Wallace Berry's books on form and structural functions in music, as well as a handful of others. Anything interesting there?

This is more than a strained attempt at a clever analogy.

In standard curriculums, classes on musical form are part of the enterprise of Music Analysis. That is, they are part of music-lit appreciation. There were no classes in Form for composers, who would have different interests and needs.

Because the emphasis is on appreciation of the literature, there's relatively little effort to discuss first or "deep" principles.

At first I might think that a class on form should be something like the overhead pictorial view -- a version of musical architecture. The Big Picture. In fact, this was more or less Robert Cogan's approach to form, and it was considered novel at the time.

Instead Form is usually taught by defining small conventional units and elements -- motives, phrases, and cadences. These are built up into larger units.

All five of the books in my collection take more or less the same approach, though Wallace Berry is wordier and perhaps more erudite. (I find him more fussy than insightful, but his books are better than competent.)

Last edited by calebprime; 5th June 2018 at 04:56 AM.
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Old 5th June 2018, 05:43 AM   #491
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Old 5th June 2018, 09:33 AM   #492
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A Field Guide to American Houses, by Virginia Savage McAlester. Physical, hardback. This is a comprehensive textbook of American architectural design. It includes a wealth of photos and illustrations, and is designed to enable various approaches to the material. It can be read as a narrative history, or taken as a reference work. This is the book I read at home.

Fool Moon, by Jim Butcher. Digital. E-book. The second installment in what has turned out to be a really solid urban fantasy series. My second read-through. Highly recommended to anyone who likes the genre and is looking for something better than Anita Blake. Fun fact: Butcher started the series as a gesture of petty revenge against his creative writing teacher, who recommended he try his hand at a formulaic novel. He set out to write the most hackneyed, formulaic novel he could think of. Luckily for him and us, he couldn't stop himself from writing a good hackneyed formulaic novel. And once he got started, he just kept going. This is the book I read on my phone whenever I'm idle outside the home - at meals, on the train, in line at the DMV, etc.

Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling, by Amy Chozick. Digital. Audiobook. Read by the author, which is a hit-or-miss proposition, with audiobooks. An inexperienced or unprofessional reader can detract from the text. On the other hand, the text's author usually has a good understanding of what they're trying to say and how to say it. In this case, it works. Chozick's thoughts are well-organized, and her experiences on the Hillary campaign are fascinating. Her narrative "cheats" a bit, in the sense that while it's all firmly grounded in fact, she's writing in hindsight, and so can indulge in foreshadowing, sarcasm, and other after-the-fact interpretations of the events as they happened. I'm very interested in accounts from people who are (or were) sympathetic towards Hillary, but not accounts that are simply fawning hagiographies or PR spin. So far, this book is delivering that quite nicely. This is the book I listen to ("read") when I'm on the walking part of my daily commute, taking some exercise, or otherwise occupying my body and in need of something to occupy my mind.
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Old 17th March 2020, 03:53 PM   #493
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What book am I reading?

I guess Iím reading this new novel, Coronavirus. I canít seem to put it down.
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Old 18th March 2020, 05:48 AM   #494
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Avram Davidson’s delightful “Adventures in Unhistory”.

This is collection of Davidson’s essays, many of which were printed in Asimov’s back in the 80s. Speculations on Sindbad (where did he sail, anyway?), Silk, Hyperborea, Werewolves, Vampires, and Dragons... All told in Davidson’s quirky and inimitable style.

Also, the first of the Witcher books, quite a different take on “heroic” fantasy.
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Old 18th March 2020, 10:46 AM   #495
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Heartstone by C.J.Sansom. Crime novel set in the time of Henry VIII. The fifth in the series, which I've been reading, set at the time of the sinking of the Mary Rose which I just happened to visit last week for my birthday.
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Old 18th March 2020, 10:46 AM   #496
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
Avram Davidsonís delightful ďAdventures in UnhistoryĒ.

This is collection of Davidsonís essays, many of which were printed in Asimovís back in the 80s. Speculations on Sindbad (where did he sail, anyway?), Silk, Hyperborea, Werewolves, Vampires, and Dragons... All told in Davidsonís quirky and inimitable style.
I read this a few years ago; fascinating book.
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Old 18th March 2020, 11:31 AM   #497
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
Avram Davidsonís delightful ďAdventures in UnhistoryĒ.

This is collection of Davidsonís essays, many of which were printed in Asimovís back in the 80s. Speculations on Sindbad (where did he sail, anyway?), Silk, Hyperborea, Werewolves, Vampires, and Dragons... All told in Davidsonís quirky and inimitable style.

Also, the first of the Witcher books, quite a different take on ďheroicĒ fantasy.
Oh that looks good.

Just bought it on my Kindle - also means delivery options won't be affected
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Old 19th March 2020, 08:32 AM   #498
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Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
Heartstone by C.J.Sansom. Crime novel set in the time of Henry VIII. The fifth in the series, which I've been reading, set at the time of the sinking of the Mary Rose which I just happened to visit last week for my birthday.
I delight in this series by this guy (he's now clocked up seven of them -- No.7 taking place after the death of the largely unlamented HVIII: thus in the reign of his son Edward VI.) I gather that all being well, Sansom is looking at writing a fair number more in the series. Interesting and believable characters; the villains are not demonized -- one sees their human side too; which I greatly like.

Sansom has written a couple more novels too: set in the World War II era, but in all other ways very different from each other. Everything I've read to date by this author, I've found un-put-downable.
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Old 20th March 2020, 04:15 AM   #499
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Top of the current pile are the thematically similar

The Case that Foiled Fabian: Murder and Witchcraft in Rural England by Simon Read

and

The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective: Secrets and Lies in the Golden Age of Crime by Susannah Stapleton
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Old 21st March 2020, 05:49 PM   #500
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"Why We Sleep" which I'm absolutely loving.
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Old 21st March 2020, 06:12 PM   #501
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Working my way through the chronicles of Brother Cadfael. On Kindle for my phone, even though I not only have the paperbacks, but know exactly where they are.
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Old 22nd March 2020, 01:20 PM   #502
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
Working my way through the chronicles of Brother Cadfael. On Kindle for my phone, even though I not only have the paperbacks, but know exactly where they are.
I really enjoyed those, although even on first reading you know exactly who's the murderer, whether the novice is actually the real true love or the missing girl etc. What they lack in unpredictability they make up for in charm.
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Old 22nd March 2020, 01:27 PM   #503
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I've been rereading PTerry's books as they come up on offer on Kindle, I'm currently reading "Dark Side of the Sun" for the first time in about thirty years....

I'm not going to say it's great, but it is interesting seeing the things that later came out in his other work. Hogswatch, Klatch, Small Gods, Datum Earth.

I just finished his Long Earth books with Stephen Baxter, a very engaging read, did anyone else think that the long Earth is Library Space? Complete with it's own hairy librarian!
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Old 22nd March 2020, 02:05 PM   #504
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Originally Posted by P.J. Denyer View Post
I really enjoyed those, although even on first reading you know exactly who's the murderer, whether the novice is actually the real true love or the missing girl etc. What they lack in unpredictability they make up for in charm.
I wouldn't say you know who's the murderer, but you certainly know who's not!
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Old 23rd March 2020, 12:42 PM   #505
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Kind of morbid given the current situation but I've been listening to the audiobook version of Lewis Dartnell's "The Knowledge" a piece of speculative non-fiction about what information mankind would need after a global catastrophe knocked us down a few runs on the tech-tree ladder.

It's a fascinating look at technological advancements and poises questions of what information we would need first in the immediate aftermath for basic survival of the species, and what would allow us to get back to "normal" the quickest.

Fascinating work, although a bit overly speculative.
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Old 23rd March 2020, 01:07 PM   #506
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I'm rereading The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch. A truly amazing popular science book. It sort of reminds me of GEB in its interdisciplinary nature. If you're interesting the subject matter and have only seen his TED talk and heard his Sam Harris podcast appearances I'd highly recommend the book as it is much better than both. Of course, watching and listening to those may be a good way to tell if you're interested the subject matter.
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Old 23rd March 2020, 01:09 PM   #507
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
A Field Guide to American Houses, by Virginia Savage McAlester. Physical, hardback. This is a comprehensive textbook of American architectural design. It includes a wealth of photos and illustrations, and is designed to enable various approaches to the material. It can be read as a narrative history, or taken as a reference work. This is the book I read at home.
This is a topic I am interested in but know very little about. Would you recommend this title?
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Old 23rd March 2020, 01:19 PM   #508
sir drinks-a-lot
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double post
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Old 24th March 2020, 03:31 AM   #509
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A little light topical reading:
Ryan A. Davis The Spanish Flu: Narrative and Cultural Identity in Spain, 1918

Laura Spinney Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World

Paul Kupperberg Great Historic Disasters - The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919

John M. Barry The Great Influenza: The story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History1

Niall Johnson Britain and the 1918-19 Influenza Pandemic: A Dark Epilogue

Alfred W. Crosby America's Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918

Nancy Bristow American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic

Gina Kolata Flu: The Story Of The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It


1. Not actually true.
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As human right is always something given, it always in reality reduces to the right which men give, "concede," to each other. If the right to existence is conceded to new-born children, then they have the right; if it is not conceded to them, as was the case among the Spartans and ancient Romans, then they do not have it. For only society can give or concede it to them; they themselves cannot take it, or give it to themselves.
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Old 24th March 2020, 03:37 AM   #510
Roboramma
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Kind of morbid given the current situation but I've been listening to the audiobook version of Lewis Dartnell's "The Knowledge" a piece of speculative non-fiction about what information mankind would need after a global catastrophe knocked us down a few runs on the tech-tree ladder.

It's a fascinating look at technological advancements and poises questions of what information we would need first in the immediate aftermath for basic survival of the species, and what would allow us to get back to "normal" the quickest.

Fascinating work, although a bit overly speculative.
I have that book. I like that he doesn't try to give all the details of things but instead enough that you could figure it out from there. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Oddly I accidentally ordered two copies from amazon. Last month I gave my spare copy to a friend, it seemed like a fitting time.
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Old 24th March 2020, 03:41 AM   #511
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I've been reading Bertrand Russell's The Problem with China, written in 1922. He gives a little summation of the history of China up to that point as well as his view of its situation, domestically and with respect to the rest of the world, and its future prospects. I find it interesting to see things from the perspective of him at that point in time.

I'm only part way through, just starting the part about Japan now.
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"... when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together."
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Old 24th March 2020, 03:42 AM   #512
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Originally Posted by sir drinks-a-lot View Post
This is a topic I am interested in but know very little about. Would you recommend this title?
Yes, very much so. It's a detailed introduction and survey of the field. Highly recommended.
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Old 24th March 2020, 10:07 AM   #513
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Kind of morbid given the current situation but I've been listening to the audiobook version of Lewis Dartnell's "The Knowledge" a piece of speculative non-fiction about what information mankind would need after a global catastrophe knocked us down a few runs on the tech-tree ladder.

It's a fascinating look at technological advancements and poises questions of what information we would need first in the immediate aftermath for basic survival of the species, and what would allow us to get back to "normal" the quickest.

Fascinating work, although a bit overly speculative.
I've been re-watching the thematically similar Connections series again. Still one of the best bits of television ever.
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As human right is always something given, it always in reality reduces to the right which men give, "concede," to each other. If the right to existence is conceded to new-born children, then they have the right; if it is not conceded to them, as was the case among the Spartans and ancient Romans, then they do not have it. For only society can give or concede it to them; they themselves cannot take it, or give it to themselves.
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Old 24th March 2020, 12:12 PM   #514
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Originally Posted by catsmate View Post
I've been re-watching the thematically similar Connections series again. Still one of the best bits of television ever.
[url="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Day_the_Universe_Changed"] is another good one by the same presenter.

As for what I am reading right now, I'm reading a RIFTs tie-in novel.
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Old 24th March 2020, 02:30 PM   #515
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Books.

Erik Larson's new "The Splendid and the Vile" which is excellent, as are his other books.

Also Amanda Quick's "The Girl Who Knew Too Much" which is an interesting mystery set in 1930s Hollywood. Light reading but fun.

Next up: Max Hastings's "Operation Chastise" about the dam busters. I've always found Hastings's books scholarly, accurate and excellent reads.
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Old 26th March 2020, 12:01 AM   #516
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Originally Posted by catsmate View Post
I've been re-watching the thematically similar Connections series again. Still one of the best bits of television ever.
Yeah, that's a great pick.
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Old 26th March 2020, 01:56 AM   #517
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Just finished The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. Contemporary fantasy/horror or something. It's bizarre. It's weird. It's strange. It's great.

MUCH better than I expected. Enjoyed it immensely. Would love to know what others think.
Recommended!


12 young children were kidnapped by Father and raised in His library, as librarians. Each with their own area of expertise. Father's lessons were often cruel and violent. Carolyn, the main character, has mastered languages. All of them. They all believe Father to be God.
Then Father goes missing.
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Old 27th March 2020, 06:53 PM   #518
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I had not watched the film Starship Troopers until last week - and now I wish I hadn't. I was aware that Robert Heinlein wrote the novel and, as I've read some of his short stories and his Strangers in a Strange Land, I intended to buy the novel behind the film.

However, Google and Wikipedia led me astray and I ended up buying Joe Haldeman's omnibus edition of The Forever War (finished it), Forever Free (finished it) and Forever Peace (halfway through).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Forever_War

I'm not really a massive sci-fi buff but I have enjoyed / am enjoying Haldeman's novels.

Unlike with online food shopping, Amazon's delivery is currently ridiculously fast. Ordered early Friday morning, delivered noon Saturday.
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Old 30th March 2020, 01:14 AM   #519
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Originally Posted by sir drinks-a-lot View Post
This is a topic I am interested in but know very little about. Would you recommend this title?
Hi Sir drinks-a-lot, I hope theprestige wouldn't mind me jumping in and answering this question as well.

I have this title - I purchased it especially for the purpose of learning more about houses after lusting after it for at least two visits to Barnes and Noble. It was worth every penny! Absolutely the definitive guide to houses and their styles, with beautiful line drawings. It's beautiful, and a pleasure to open up and thumb through, stopping along any page, or at whatever catches your eye.

I love walking around neighborhoods here in southern California, and am fond of older houses. I've seen so many torn down over the years here, and it has made my love for single family homes grow stronger than ever. I take great pleasure in seeing a darling old home and having some idea about what kind of house it is, or when it was built.

The book is a fantastic guide for learning more about homes. I highly recommend it!
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Old 30th March 2020, 01:19 AM   #520
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P.S. Re: above book. The title isn't being cute; just as there's Field Guides for birds, this book is like that, just the ultimate Field Guide for houses. If you're interested in the subject matter, and know little about it, as you said, you will love this book.
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