Thursday, 2017-08-31

Saturday, 2017-08-26

The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism by David Golumbia

A good overview of some of the weirder ideological views behind Bitcoin, and internet libertarianism in general.

While I’m sure there’s a lot of background to get if you follow the sources, the book itself makes a lot of assumptions about the reader’s own political stances, which are assumed to be more or less the same as the author’s.

Friday, 2017-08-25

Two books on the Korean War

This Kind of War by T.R. Fehrenbach

The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War by David Halberstam

These books are good read together. Fehrenbach’s, written in the 1960s, is better at describing the actual course of the war , while Halberstam excels in the top-level politicking between Truman and MacArthur.

Thursday, 2017-08-17

Fotografiska, August 2017

Irving Penn — Resonance

A greatest hits collection. I like Penn better than a lot of other fashion photographers in that he has a bit more range.

Berning & Di Battista — Confluence

A pretty vapid collection of huge prints of scratched images of stereotypical blonde models. Forgettable.

Like a Horse

The sleeper hit of this visit. Great collection of works centered around horses and the people who ride and care for them. Horse culture is coded feminine here in Sweden and it was great to see that side shown in the work from Swedish artists.

Thursday, 2017-08-03

The Liberation Trilogy by Rick Atkinson

Comprising of the books An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa 1942-1943 · The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 · The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe 1944-1945.

An excellent history of the US involvement in the Western theatre of the Second World War.

Atkinson is deft at moving between the highest and lowest levels of combat, leading to a very readable account of the main points of the entire series of campaigns. He almost always points out the number of casualties and deaths after each action, which through constant repetition brings the entire awful conflict into perspective.

His narrative is marred by frequent set phrases (“sheets” of artillery fire, units “sidle” into position) that over the course of three fat books become a bit jarring.

Monday, 2017-07-31

July

Dollargrin / Chevrolet

Soft peony

Rose planet in bokeh space

Lowrider

Jul 2016 | Jul 2015 | Jul 2014 | Jul 2013 | Jul 2012 | Jul 2011 | Jul 2010 | Jul 2009

Tuesday, 2017-07-25

Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain: Bitcoin, Blockchain, Ethereum & Smart Contracts by David Gerard

An engaging and funny overview of the current state of cryptocurrencies.

The meat of the book is in the discussion of whether “blockchain tech” can be used in the music industry - spoiler: probably not - but there’s plenty of funny anecdotes about whacky Bitcoin hijinks.

This is probably the history the Bitcoin community deserves.

Saturday, 2017-07-15

Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip by Peter Hessler

A very enjoyable collection of “longreads” as the kids call it these days, obviously cobbled together from New Yorker pieces. Hessler makes a long road trip to Inner Mongolia, rents a house in a village outside Beijing, and visits a new factory town in southern China. A great portrait of modern China, likely to be outdated now only 10 years after the events portrayed. Recommended.

Friday, 2017-06-30

June

A tale of two cities.

Strandvägen

Trosa hamnplan

Jun 2016 | Jun 2015 | Jun 2014 | Jun 2013 | Jun 2012 | Jun 2011 | Jun 2010 | Jun 2009

Monday, 2017-06-12

The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

Comprising of the novels (or parts): The Shadow of the Torturer · The Claw of the Conciliator · The Sword of the Lictor · The Citadel of the Autarch

I’m re-reading these for the first time since my teens - I believe I read them through a couple of times then. Since then I’ve followed Wolfe’s career and read The Wizard King, and I still harbor fond memories of the New Sun series. It made a big impression on me.

Re-reading them now, I’m struck at their relative short length. At the time I read them, the fad for multi-volume fat fantasy series was still in the future. It could be that the many digressions, philosophical asides, and stories-within-the-story felt much longer when I was younger, and I just wanted to get to the action. Now however I find them much more engaging.

This action is pretty straight-forward. It’s essentially a picaresque, with our hero (despite his profession, he’s clearly a hero and not an anti-hero) moving through different settings, meeting, separating and re-uniting with different people, and basically sleeping with every woman he meets, which is frankly rather weird and somehow in variance with the character as presented.

Where the work excels is in the use of language. Wolfe famously used obscure and archaic terms for all sorts of items (and in the first book’s afterword it’s coyly suggested this is because he’s trying to “translate” a future language) and this lends a real charm to what’s essentially far-future SF.

The following long passage from the start of Shadow illustrates this well. Severian is talking about one of the two masters of his guild.

[Master] Gurloes was one of the most complex men I have known, because he was a complex man trying to be simple. Not a simple, but a complex man’s idea of simplicity.

Just as a courtier forms himself into something brilliant and involved, midway between a dancing master and a diplomacist, with a touch of assassin if needed, so Master Gurloes had shaped himself to be the dull creature a pursuivant or bailiff expected to see when he summoned the head of our guild, and that is the only thing a real torturer cannot be. The strain showed; though every part of Gurloes was as it should have been, none of the parts fit. […] Sometimes he went to the top of our tower, above the guns, and waited there talking to himself, peering through glass said to be harder than flint for the first beams [of the rising Sun]. He was the only one in our guild—Master Palaemon not excepted—who was unafraid of the energies there and the unseen mouths that spoke sometimes to human beings and sometimes to other mouths in other towers and keeps. […] His eyes were refulgent, brighter than any woman’s. He mispronounced quite common words: urticate, salpinx, bordereau. I cannot well tell you how bad he looked when I returned to the Citadel recently, how bad he looks now.

The Urth of the New Sun

This sequel is a mess. Wolfe fell into the trap of trying to “explain” all the fascinating background stuff in the first novels, and the result is a sprawling, time-jumping jumble that introduces extraneous concepts for no very good reason. For superfans only.