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Default What are you reading ?

May 28th, 2009, 09:44
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
I just got a recommendation I'm going to try out — Ken MacLeod. It seems he's the world's best Trotskyite Libertarian cyberpunk humorist science fiction author.
Loved the first quartet, less impressed by the Engines of Light trilogy though - but I'd recomend the first four to anyone who likes SF and politics.
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May 28th, 2009, 10:47
I agree that a charm of Holmes series is in its atmosphere.
Originally Posted by magerette View Post
All four of the novels are good, but I think the Hound and Sign of the Four (with the Andaman Islander) are probably my favorites. I already know all the fairly predictable(and occasionally rigged) plot points, but I just can't resist one more trip to those opium dens on the East End (or wherever they are w/apologies to our resident Brits—all I remember is they're in some foggy, drunken-sailor-ridden, seamy dockside part of London) or a glimpse of the evil snake-charming stepfather in the Speckled Band.
Personally, I like the atmosphere of the Hound. The moorland was depicted pretty gloomy, giving the feel of being trapped. The description of London seen in the works was well-done. Probably, thanks to that, London feels somehow familiar to me. Old pubs there are amazing, although I don't drink alcohol anymore.

Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
The racism in these things is so over-the-top that today it reads like parody — you know, the grotesque gigantic mulatto with the yellow face from the backwoods of San Pedro who sacrifices black goats and white cockerels between his cooking duties, and then chews the thumb off a bobby trying to arrest him. Or that midget Andaman islander with his blow-darts.
It also shows us how people perceived unknown part of the world when the world was not full of tourism advertisements. Also, I found the sexism interesting. For example, I like the episode of Irene Adler with a touch of "romanticism" by "Dr. Watson."

Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
I wish somebody would set a proper role-playing(-ish) game in that environment. Think Deus Ex with gaslight. I've played one of those Sherlock Holmes adventure games (the Cthulhu one), and it wasn't all bad — but, sadly, it failed to capture the atmosphere, even if the writing was pretty much OK. I think I'll give the Jack the Ripper one a shot too, somewhere along the line; perhaps it's better.
I'd love to see such a CRPG although, in PnP, there was a Sherlockian variant of Call of Cthulhu called Cthulhu By Gaslight.
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May 29th, 2009, 09:20
I've got that. I did a small campaign in it a long time ago. CoC is still my favorite PnP game as far as mechanics go — the only problem is that campaigns take an insane amount of planning to run convincingly, because you can't just fill in the blanks with wild flights of imagination like in space opera or fantasy. (To make it worse, one of my players was a gun nut, and would always catch me if I got, like, the length of the ammo belt of the Maxim gun wrong.)
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May 29th, 2009, 09:33
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
I've got that. I did a small campaign in it a long time ago. CoC is still my favorite PnP game as far as mechanics go — the only problem is that campaigns take an insane amount of planning to run convincingly, because you can't just fill in the blanks with wild flights of imagination like in space opera or fantasy.
I could have guessed that. You post a lot and I think your tastes are similar to mine in many cases although I don't normally read outside of game-related topics. And yes, like Rune Quest, CoC requires GMs to be familiar with the setting and to have decent story-telling skill…which are quite demanding but I guess worth the effort.

Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
(To make it worse, one of my players was a gun nut, and would always catch me if I got, like, the length of the ammo belt of the Maxim gun wrong.)
Hahaha…my sympathy for you about it. It's tough to entertain every single person but it's rewarding when successful.
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May 30th, 2009, 12:48
I'm currently reading a book anbout what my dictionary translates into the English language as "intellectual giftedness", but which has a groader scope and tone in the original German-language word: "Hochbegabung". I'll translate this roughly as "high(est) ability", whereas "ability" refers not only to the IQ of a person, but also to social ability, artistic ability, mathematics ability, musical ability and so an. It's a bit difficult to bring that into the English language for me.

The far most interesting part of that book is the new theory of the author. She (her name is Andrea Brackmann) is a psychologist, and her book/books (because there are 2 of her) are the essence of her work with, as she says, about 800 persons of this type.

Her theory is - and she is actually able to hint at books which also write this, although only as a minor occurrence, which is mostly and largely ignored, usually - that people with what my disctionary translates as "intellectual giftedness" are ALSO very much sensitive, but not necessarily vice versa.

This ties nicely into the phenomenon of "high sensitivity" as of the definition by Elaine Aron.

This means in fact that - according to her theory, ALL people with this "intellectual giftedness" are in fact HSPs, but not necessarily vice versa (strange, isn't it ?).

But the best part still comes: She developes the theory that people with Autism are an even more EXTREME form of this ! Of both intellectual giftedness AND of high sensitivity !

The "locking up" of these people from the "outer world" is interpreted by her as a protection function. This is their only way to protect themselves from too much "sensorical input", as I call this. Highly sensitive people have this, but people with autism - according to her theory - even much more !
Which means that they are easily and too fast "overloaded" by their sensorical input.

The background of this theory is, that people with "intellectual giftedness" also seem to have much more "sensorical input" than normal people - and that their nerves system / nervous system ? is able to process much more things and much faster than normal people. Which enables them to reach highs in that areas of abilities I tried to describe above.

And Autists, she writes, are an even more extreme form of that.

This book is highly interesting, but in fact it is also a book about her work as a psychologist - and that means that there are people out there which have developed "distortions" and even illnesses because they couldn't cope with their "intellectual giftedness", often caused by the sheer feeling of being underchallenged. These people often develop to be "nderachievers".

The English-language Wikipedia article is a good source for this topic.

The book I'm reading isn't translated, by the way.

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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May 30th, 2009, 14:17
I read Niccoló Machiavelli's The Prince some time ago. I was somewhat surprised by what I read, as I found a stark contrast to the "common perception" of The Prince's content, and of its author. Rather than someone arguing for how a state should be ruled I thought there was a streak of resignation throughout this "autocrat handbook". Rather than someone arguing that this is how a ruler should act, it's simply how one has to act take or retain power. It's also a rather interesting look into the political world of the late/early 15th/16th centuries in Europe in general, and Italy in specific, as he uses plenty of contemporary examples, like Ferdinand of Aragon, Cesare Borgia, "the Turk" (the Ottoman Sultan) and the French kings and their wars and intrigue in northern Italy.

More recently I read his Discourses on Livy, in which he plainly argues that a Roman style republic was the greatest form of government that the world had ever seen. He identifies certain elements as being important to the longevity of any republic, such as a division of power, between an "executive" power (consuls), an assembly of the aristocrats as a legislative power (senate), and political power for the "people" (tribunes), as well as the importance of an independent judicial system. He doesn't outline them as distinctly in a general sense as later thinkers/Enlightenment philosophers (like Montesquieu I think, without having read his works), but he contrasts the Roman institutions to those of various other states, pointing out where they failed or succeeded.

He uses plenty of "historical" examples, either from Titus Livy or other works, and assumes a certain knowledge of classical antique history that may have been rather basic for a learned person at the time, but which would have left me largely in the dark were in not for the multitude of footnotes (quick access to an encyclopedia helps as well). Machiavelli was no historian though, and he uses many examples which are best described as legends to make his points.

The new (first, even) translation to Swedish of this book that I read contained both Machiavelli's work and Francesco Guicciardini's (a contemporary of M.) Comments, which were also worth the read. "Republiken : diskurser över de tio första böckerna av Titus Livius", being the title.

I also have his "On the Art of War" on my list of books to read.

Interdum feror cupidine partium magnarum Europae vincendarum
Sometimes I get this urge to conquer large parts of Europe
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May 30th, 2009, 23:38
Interestingly, if someone wants to performn the "art of war", then this person always needs someone willing to do, to perform the will of that person …

It's like personally sacrifying the own will & life for someone else …

Without that, even the most cunning general is nothing.

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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May 31st, 2009, 00:46
My new LOTR-themed books arrived and I'm starting with The Silmarillion. Pretty interesting stuff so far.

And just for bragging, here's a photo of my small collection of Tolkien books. Half of a dozen more books and it'll be complete.
They're, from left to right, The LOTR, The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, History Of Middle Earth(HOME) 10: Morgoth's Ring and HOME: 1 through 5.
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May 31st, 2009, 00:56
@Alrik: I read The Prince a few years ago, and he spends several paragraphs on loyalty, and how to gain or loose it. This includes loyalty from ministers and the military, although the book is written with the politician in mind, not the general. (An interesting and quite entertaining book, by the way, probably not what you would expect given its common perception.)

My own understanding is that each soldier has a vested interest in winning the war, or at least the individual engagement, and therefore submits to the chain of command willingly in order to avoid chaos and ineffectiveness. Flip side of the coin is that with time, this behaviour becomes second nature for many soldiers and commands are not questioned even if outrageous to an outsider. Force of habit…

Edit: for the rank and file soldier, the gun in the back is an important reason, too, obviously. Not obeying has serious consequences in the military, and to break that, a lot of people have to go against the command structure at the same time. My point is, though, that free will is not actually sacrificed willingly: most of the time, obeying is the most profitable thing to do for the soldier. Not that I particularly like this whole setup, either.
Last edited by coyote; May 31st, 2009 at 10:12.
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May 31st, 2009, 10:58
@coyote: Thanks for your thoughts. I find them interesting.

As an update to the book I described a few posts above, the athor lands a second milestone in Psychology: She not only has a brand new theory for explaining Autism, but also for the "Borderline syndiome" ! She just asks the right questions, and reveals, for example, that the custom NOT to test people with the borderline syndrome about their IQ has arisen just out of pure prejudice !
This is unbelievable ! A WHOLE treatment - or at least one not unimportant aspect of that - of a psychological disorder has been fuelled by PREJUDICE ! I just can't believe it, but in fact she brings quite a lot of hints and even direct quotation from a professor and boss of an hospital itself that proves this approach !

In my opinion, that book is ground-breaking and just fantastic ! If someone is interested in that, though …

I only fear that the male-dominated scientific research probably might find reasons to neglect or/and even downgrade her works …

That's my purely subjective point of view on that.

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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June 2nd, 2009, 10:48
Nowdays i read s.t.a.l.k.e.r дом на болоте (it is are russian book)
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June 2nd, 2009, 10:58
Tristram Shandy. It is not an easy read due to the frequent pursuit of obscure tangents and the 18th century English, but still fairly entertaining. The book will keep me occupied for some time…
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June 2nd, 2009, 11:46
Whoo, that's l337. Claim to actually *like* it, and you're officially a pretentious intellectual.
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June 2nd, 2009, 12:52
I'm very liberal with my literary "likes" If a book this hard to read doesnt pass that fairly low bar I'll simply stop reading the thing…

The title caught my interest as I rented an English comedy about a supposed shooting of a Tristram Shandy movie a few years ago. I found the movie was genuinely unfunny except for the Tristram Shandy scenes, and I didnt finish it…

EDIT: Intellectual or no I hold the artsy-fartsy crowd in contempt most of the time
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June 2nd, 2009, 18:42
I'm reading "Elminster in Hell". It's pretty horrible, actually. What a crappy fragmented collection of little vignettes, separated by gore fests.

Next up is "Axis"by Robert Charles Wilson. It is the sequel to his book "Spin", which was an absolutely amazing psychological somewhat hard science fiction masterpiece!
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June 3rd, 2009, 14:38
Recently read Marguerite Duras's The Lover and Anaïs Nin's Little Birds. I blushed a little reading Nin but it was good. Also read Witkiewicz's play The Madman and the Nun which was hilarious. I have to say that I've never really pursued reading playwright's that much but I'll probably slowly start branching out from here.
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June 3rd, 2009, 15:42
Okay, my Ken McLeod books arrived. I've started into The Star Fraction.

It seems promising enough. So far, we've got Moh Kohn, the mercenary who likes to talk to his (incredibly sophisticated, self-built, AI-equipped) gun, who's working for the Felix Dzerzhinsky Workers' Defense Collective, which is taking commissions from shadowy corporations. We have an angry teenager from the Biblical Literalist commune of Beulah City. And we have a young scientist who gives psychotropics to mice. And there's apparently an AI called The Watchmaker who's emerging from the Net and manifesting to Moh Kohn as Lev Trotsky.

It's all very confusing, sort of like a drugged-out anarcho-Trotskyist blend of Neuromancer and The Use Of Weapons. William Gibson meets Iain M. Banks by way of Philip K. Dick and The Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution.
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June 3rd, 2009, 16:32
Talk about genre-mixing…sounds like he's taken a blender to the process. Could be entertaining, though *imagines tripped-out mice making rodent mandalas out of grains of wheat*
There's actually quite the cowboy precedent for naming your gun and/or investing it with a persona;

from The Ballad of Dobie Bill:
"Well I've rid from San Antony/through the mesquite and the sand
I'm a rarin' flarin' bucko/not afraid to make my stand
I am a rootin' shootin demon, and I have my little fun
On my pinto named Apache/and Adolphus…..
That's my gun…"

I'm sure this character is a bit more complex, though.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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June 3rd, 2009, 16:36
I'm reading V for Vendetta. Hopefully I'll get further than 20 pages this time around (I started it about a month ago, got 15 pages and then never read it again. Restarted two days ago).

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June 3rd, 2009, 17:54
I am re-reading the more than thousand science fiction books, which I bought in the seventies and eighties (a few of them also in later years).

Since I read them on the tram to work, I read about two a week.

So it will take me about 10 years…
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