Alan Sondheim on Mon, 28 Mar 2005 04:53:17 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Books I like! Some reviews of recent readings:

Books I like! Some reviews of recent readings:

Hong, Sungoog, Wireless: from Marconi's black-box to the audion. This book
covers the very early history of radio, including topics such as 'syntony'
or tuning; as radio developed, so did the narrowing of the wave-cast. The
concepts of electromagnetic waves are fairly complex; the equipment itself
is amazingly simple.

Huberman, Bernado, The Laws of the Web: Patterns in the Ecology of Infor-
mation, MIT, 2001. A short terse and quite useful introduction to the
large-scale statistics of Net and Web traffic. I'd recommend this to those
who, like me, might not want to take the time with more detailed mathe-
matical analyses.

Roads, Curtis, Microsound, MIT 2001. The book comes with a cd. I love
both. It's easy to implement this stuff on a computer. It's fascinating.
The spatial resolutions are intense. Read the book hear the cd.

Harris, Sam, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason.
Everyone should read this. It's the clearest account of religion and
religion's inherent violence that I've seen. This is necessary reading
before we all kill ourselves. There are minor points to quibble with, but
the overall work is brilliant, intense, angry. Go out and buy this book.

Abrahams, Israel, Hebrew Ethical Wills, Volume ii, The Jewish Publication
Society of America, 1948. For the incredible poem by Moses Rimos -
the Prothanation or Kina Rabi, written in 1430, when Rimos was 24, just
before he was executed on a false charge of poisoning a gentile (he was a
doctor). The work is a death litany and is by far the most interesting
poem I've read in a long time. The Prothanation is filled with puns,
specific references to Aristotelian (book lambda for example) and medieval
philosophy (Maimonides, Averroes, etc.). Here are a few random lines. The
work is not only brilliant; it's unlike anything I've read before and that
goes a way. Here's a bit:

Moan in dire pain, O thou Written Law,
And thou Oral Law for me raise a sigh; Grammar and Masora, Rhyme and
Weepeth Ibn Ezra, lamenteth K(h)im(c)hi.
Bitterly cries the "guide of the Perplexed,"
The Secrets of Prophecy, the Homonymous Names;
The Meanings of the Laws weep over me,
The view of the Mutakallimun, the principles of the sciences.
The structure of the Chariot, the Act of the Beginning,
These lift up a lament with the Secrets of the Torah;
The theoretical Cabbala and also the practical,
Woe is the day I am slain, a mother's pangs
--Alas for Philosophy--shall come upon her;
Human inquiry shall be utterly dismayed,
(Crying) "Must I be robbed of the walker in the middle way?"

The rhyme scheme - the Hebrew configuration - is amazing; there are a
number of puns, and the vocabulary is an unknown land. If you ever have
a chance to read this, do!

Wood, J. G., Wood's Illustrated Natural History, Harper, 1881. There are a
number of editions of this early popular history. The illustrations are
wonderful, and the text reveals the ideological underpinnings of America's
attitudes to wilderness and nature in general. I find myself repeatedly
reading this.

Kim, Young-Ho, Tao-Sheng's Commentary on the Lotus Sutra, Suny Albany,
1990. Enlightenment / Taoism / Buddhist commentary that's fascinating to
read. Originally written around 430 a.c.e. "Many heretics (tirthikas) hold
the view that all the grasses and plants bear life. The demons all believe
this view. Therefore, they are afraid of committing a sin by pressing

Field Eugene, The Complete Tribune Primer, Mutual Book Company, 1901. A
seriously unknown classic. An example:


Do not take the Castor Oil. It is very Nasty and
will Make you sick. Mamma wants you to
Take it so you Will be Sick ad can't go Out and
Play with the other Boys and Girls. If Mamma
will give you a Velocipede and a Goat and a Top
and a Doll, then you may Take the Castor Oil and
it will not Hurt you.

Amato, Joe, Bookend: Anatomies of a Virtual Self, SUNY, Albany, 1997. I
find myself totally lost in this and loving it. Theory and writing veer
wildly in different and similar directions. The pages seem computerless
although the machinic's on the horizon. Hypercard images at beginning and
end but they're subsumed. Wonderful read on the inundated text. The text
of the text.

Ives, Kathy, Home Networking Annoyances: How to Fix the Most Annoying
Things About Your home Network, O'Reilly, 2005. This book is quite useful
vis-a-vis networking, both wireless and wired. For example - how to print
from the XP terminal window. (Yes, I should have known this.) With all of
these more popular texts, do check the contents online before investing.

Waldrip-Fruin and Harrigan, Pat, First Person: New Media as Story, Perfor-
mance, and Game, MIT, 2004. This is an absolutely fantastic anthology,
with sections on Cyberdrama, Ludology, Critical Simulation, etc. Texts are
paralleling, interacting. I do find some of the choices problematic, and
find a few omissions, but the work is exciting and a great reference.
Since I'm moving 'into' both game-play and very low frequency radio (where
the whole earth performs), this book has been valuable.

Montfort, Nick, Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive
Fiction, MIT, 2003, has been one of the best reads of the past few weeks.
The book covers Adventure, Zork, and other text-based 'games' and
fictions, and the descriptions are wonderful. It's quite clearly written,
and if a new media cultural theory book could be a page-turner, this is
it. It's quite helpful for anyone working with narratological issues
online (or off) as well.

Make: Technology on Your Time, is a new magazine from O'Reilly (2005).
It's quite expensive - $35 for four issues (yes, I paid for it), but the
DIY material in it is great, ranging from "How to Make a Magnetic Stripe
Card Reader" through concepts such as the open-source car. I've been
reading and rereading the issue, and this summer hope to make a few of the
things within; that alone is worth the price.

Beerbohm, Max, The Works of Max Beerbohm, with a Bibliography by John
Lane, John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1921. If you haven't read Beerbohm, and
you have a chance, please do. The first essay on Dandies and Dandies is
quite excellent; the rest do follow suit. He's a brilliant fin-de-siecle
writer; I've read a fair amount of his work and recommend the illustra-
tions as well (not in this edition).

Ezekiel, Haggai, Malachi, etc. How violent can you get? (See Sam Harris
above.) These books from the Masoretic Text (Jewish Publication Society of
America) read as primitive, hysteric, almost like the Assyrian standard
inscriptions. It's worthwhile to read the Prophets, which seem to be the
favorites of fundamentalism: you can see why. There is terror throughout.
I was most fascinated by the close relationship between these texts and,
say, Babylonian or Sumerian literatures. They speak more to that period
than to anything thereafter; it's a wonder they survived, and frightening
that they're still taken as the 'word of God' in some quarters. God should
have known better.

Harris, Craig, editor, Art and Innovation: The Xerox Parc Artist-in-Resi-
dence Program, MIT, 1999. Judy Malloy among others is here. I assume you
already know of this book, which documents an extremely innovate corpor-
ate program. This is older work, still very relevant, just as Cyberspace:
First Steps (Michael Benedikt, millennia ago) is still relevant.

Karp, David, O'Reilly, Tim, and Mott, Troy, Windows XP in a Nutshell, 2nd
edition, O'Reilly, 2005. This is of course the best and most fundamental
handbook. It contains a complete survey of command-line prompts, programs,
executables, complete information on configuration, advice on Iexpress,
the management console, etc. Essential, period. Oddly enough, given the
cost of computer books today, the $30 is a real bargain.

Alexievich, Svetlana, Voices from Chernobyl, Dalkey, 2005, forthcoming.
This book is both harrowing and a descent into a real-world Ballard novel;
it can only serve as a warning of our common future... (translation Keith
Gessen). The texts are unlike anything I've read before, partly the result
of the journalistic/documentary style. Amazing and dark.

Nugent, TH, Nouveau Dictionnaire de Poche, Francaise-Anglaise, Anglaise-
Francaise, Baudry, 1848, 38th ed. I've quoted from this work before. Read-
ing any mid-nineteenth-century dictionary (or earlier) opens up an every-
day world of labor, craft, artifice, costume, etc., that we have lost
entirely. I've read and reread this work as well, still unknowing pier-
glass and serpigo.

Rodriguez, Reina Maria, Violet Island and Other Poems, Green Integer 119,
2004, translated w/ afterword Kristen Dykstra. An incredible and strange
grouping of interiorities that I began reading as I withdrew from Elfriede
Jelinek's utterly harrowing texts. The depth of this work by a contempor-
ary Cuban Poet. I must also comment on Green Integer in general: I've
never seen an uninteresting volume! - and they're beautifully printed, just
the size to take with you.

That's it, no frills with these books, too many of 'em, and wanted to
bring them to your attention.


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