reading second half of 2014

Reading slowed dramatically in the second half of last year, or at least my enthusiasm for blogging about it did.

Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm – Stephen Harrod Buhner

Took over a month on this. Easily one of the most extraordinary books I have ever read. Top ten recommendation, all time. Was published in 2014. Buy it now. Will attempt a proper review soon.

Batman: Odyssey – Neal Adams

If you are a comics person, go find this and read it right now. Don’t find anything out about it. Just trust that it is the most bugfuck and deranged piece of Batman ever. There are no words. Astounding. (If you aren’t a comics person, read Sandman or Watchmen or something instead, and become a comics person.)

If you know you won’t read this, read this extremely entertaining summary of the first few issues here.

…here is the best quote from a Neal Adams interview about Odyssey:

Q: Can you give us an overview of the plot?
Adams: I cannot give you an overview of the plot.

The Arabian Nightmare – Robert Irwin

Pretty unclassifiable novel by a historian of Arabian storytelling modes, and obviously influenced by them. Dreamlike and bizarre, labyrinthine and dusky, deeply deeply weird. Fun but eventually perhaps does not combine its wonderful parts into something more.

Fasting – Stephen Harrod Buhner

Book about the physical, psychological and spiritual components and effects of fasting for longer durations. Lucid and concise.

Supergods – Grant Morrison (skim)

Skimmed this. Interestingish history and philosophy of modern era comics, but not what I was looking for.

Jesus’ Son – Denis Johnson

Really good, deceptively simple book of short stories, mostly dealing with down and outs and addicts of various stripes. Would definitely re read. There is something going on here.

The Search for a Moral Compass РKenan Malik  (skim)

Quite an epic undertaking, attempting to look at more or less the development of moral attitudes of the whole world over time. Inevitably does some disservice to particular viewpoints, as no one can have a good enough grip on all of them to comment authoritatively. Still would be worth returning to.

Reality is Broken – Jane McGonigal (skim)

Interesting enough musing on the relation between games and reality.

Zero to One – Peter Thiel

Billionaire founder of Paypal and Palantine, friends with many other billionaire tech founders, gives his take on how to found a successful tech company. Vital reading if that is your interest. Pretty fascinating for its iconoclastic take on capitalism in general, if you are an economics minded person.

Behold the Man – Michael Moorcock

Messed up dude with a bit of a Christ complex gets in a time machine and goes back to the time of Christ and kind of ends up becoming Christ except worse.

Life’s Missing Instruction Manual – Joe Vitale (skim)

Compendium of insights gathered across an interesting guy’s life. Actually seemed pretty decent.

Money: Master The Game – Tony Robbins

Possibly completely essentially; Robbins first book in 20 years. Robbins has amazing access to many of the most successful investors in history, and models their methods and teaches them to you. Incredible resource. Need to get back to it and finish it.

The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes

Won the Booker Prize a few years ago. Really well done short novel mostly about ageing and how our perspective and memory changes.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things – Patrick Rothfuss

Novella. Peculiar, light, and ethereal, much like its only character. Rothfuss explores the reality of a minor but fascinating character from his epic novel series, and comes up with this totally weird, autistic yet hauntingly close to how we all work, thing. Not quite sure what anyone unfamiliar with the series would make of it, but would be very curious to find out. I think it is interesting enough to stand on its own.

Edge of Dark Water – Joe R Lansdale

Sort of like a dark nightmare Huckleberry Finn. After the death of a friend, dustbowl-era american south kids in the wops make a break for their future down the river, pursued by hideous family, corruption and evil. A great voice and realisation of character and setting. Occasionally nasty but never unbearably so.

 

internet restriction protocol (or Filters: Part Three)

 

Time and attention are two of the most precious resources we have, and the always on internet is one of the worst things for draining and disrupting those resources. (This is something I have been thinking about for a few years now.)  Most of the great thinkers, innovators and so on of the past had one thing in common Рtheir ability to focus on what they were doing for hours at a time. This type of thinking is crucial to certain types of breakthrough and productive work. (I have a faint terror that the current generation will never even develop this capacity for extended focus.)

So I am embarking upon an internet restriction protocol. This is based on the observations I made a few years ago when I went and lived at the beach without internet, television or phone, and came to town only once a week at which point I checked email etc, and my dissatisfaction with my current experience of online mediated reality.

The protocol is essentially this: I am going to stop checking my email and social media accounts except for one day a week – Fridays. (I will likely check my business email address more regularly.) Within the protocol I am allowed to use the internet consciously, as a tool, in recognition of how embedded it is in life. (eg) internet banking, buying stuff, research, Skypeing. But then get offline once I am done using it as a tool.

The key is to avoid general browsing and mindless clicking on things that leads to more clicking. I like the idea of checking my /mutants list on Twitter once a week for an hour as my information gathering phase.

The goal is to be offline as much as possible; to shift that fundamental practice, to realign my sense ratios, and re-engage more consciously with the world. After spending a week lying under trees at Kiwiburn, I realised again that I don’t miss most of the online world. I acknowledge it is somehow important, but hypothesise that this importance can be successfully and accurately valued within the confines of one day a week.

I suspect that one day a week is enough to stay informed/connected in terms of email and social media. If anything really important happens I assume someone will call or txt.

I do plan to spend some of the time freed up hanging out with people in meatspace, pursuing a better quality of connection.

I anticipate getting more done in general, writing more in particular, and being happier overall.

I may blog from time to time about the results of this experiment in attention and filtering. I invite anyone else who feels inclined to join in the experiment.