Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari - "The book delivers on its madly ambitious subtitle by in fact managing to cover key moments in the developmental history of humankind from the emergence of Homo Sapiens to today's developments in genetic engineering." Also btw, check out Harari on the myths we need to survive, re: fact/value distinctions and their interrelationships.
A profile on Michel Houellebecq. [The Guardian] [Books]
“It’s not my role to be responsible. I don’t feel responsible,” he says. “The role of a novel is to entertain readers, and fear is one of the most entertaining things there is.” To him, the fear in Submission comes in the dark violence at the novel’s start, before the moderate Islamist party comes to power. Was he deliberately playing on a mood of fear in France? “Yes, I plead guilty,” he says. For Houellebecq, the job of a novelist is foremost to hold a mirror up to contemporary society.[more inside]
Childhood - a hand-bound book of Japanese styled illustrations paying homage to nostalgic activities and toys. From artist Chet Phillips.
Charles Murray, author of the controversial 1994 work The Bell Curve, has a new book coming out, entitled Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010. He's included a twenty-five question, weighted quiz to get a feel for how in touch you are with mainstream, blue-collar American culture. It's not automated, so you'll need pen and paper. [more inside]
Larry Gonick is a veteran American cartoonist best known for his delightful comic-book guides to science and history, many of which have previews online. Chief among them is his long-running Cartoon History of the Universe (later The Cartoon History of the Modern World), a sprawling multi-volume opus documenting everything from the Big Bang to the Bush administration. Published over the course of three decades, it takes a truly global view -- its time-traveling Professor thoroughly explores not only familiar topics like Rome and World War II but the oft-neglected stories of Asia and Africa, blending caricature and myth with careful scholarship (cited by fun illustrated bibliographies) and tackling even the most obscure events with intelligence and wit. This savvy satire carried over to Gonick's Zinn-by-way-of-Pogo chronicle The Cartoon History of the United States, along with a bevy of Cartoon Guides to other topics, including Genetics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, Statistics, The Environment, and (yes!) Sex. Gonick has also maintained a few sideprojects, such as a webcomic look at Chinese invention, assorted math comics (previously), the Muse magazine mainstay Kokopelli & Co. (featuring the shenanigans of his "New Muses"), and more. See also these lengthy interview snippets, linked previously. Want more? Amazon links to the complete oeuvre inside! [more inside]
The overall effect is like listening to an erudite gentleman employing $20 words while he screams at a bunch of punk kids to get off his front lawn. A review of Mark Helprin's Digital Barbarism : A Writer's Manifesto. [more inside]
"My humble efforts to assist in the elucidation of the social condition of a distant and comparatively unknown race."
Killing the Buddha: a heretic's bible is on a "Tent Revival" book tour and I suspect it would be worth checking out. Did anyone catch the readings in Austin or Phoenix USA?
Culture as Culprit. Myron Magnet is the author of The Dream and the Nightmare, which George W. Bush has called the most influential book -- aside from the Bible -- that he's ever read. Is poverty in American less an economic matter than a cultural one?
Snap to Grid: A User's Guide to Digital Arts, Media, and Cultures is one of the best readings on the interactions between artists, technology, and culture I've found so far. I found a quote here by Sir Isaiah Berlin which is very appropriate to my experience and perhaps those who search for sites like Metafilter:
Loneliness is not just the absence of others but far more living among people who do not understand what you are saying.