Monday, September 28, 2009

Groundswell ... for our XX anniversary

I just finished listening to Forrester's "Groundswell" the book that analyses the importance of Web 2.0 for business. Actually, they try to coin the new name - The Groundswell - as the single name that describes blogs, social networks, forums and other Web 2.0 inventions.
As "Cluetrain Manifesto" formed the philosophical background for Web business revolution ten years ago, it seems that "Groundswell" is walking the same path now...

And I'm pleased to read it while preparing for our XX anniversary conference: "Web has a meaning" tonight. If you are around - please come :-).

I will post the keynote speeches here - I promise.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Time is a river, and books are boats

A little quiz for my readers: What book's review am I going to entitle by this citation?

"Time is a river, and books are boats"

Monday, September 21, 2009

... their steps lost forever in the shadow of the wind ...

This was my second reading of Carlos Ruiz Zafon "The Shadow of the Wind". The first time I read it more than a year ago and it was in fact in audio.

I guess I returned to the novel for two reasons. The first was the craving for regular paper & black letters experience with this very book. The second was to understand better the link between two last Zafon's novels, this one and "The Angel's Game".

And I must confess - "The Shadow of the Wind" literally overshadows "The Angels Game". It is more epic if I could say so; it is magical, yet realistic, it tells us about the power of love, but does not succumb to supernatural climax. It does not leave you with a feeling of incompleteness...

I must also confess, that there is some greater value in reading the book with your eyes rather than with your ears. Beyond the narration and the words - there IS something magical in physicality of the book. For many books it is good to start with audio, but when you arrive to the traditional form, you suddenly understand the magic of impatient page turning ...

To those who could take this short review as a discouragement for "The Angels Game". It is not my intention and it is not like it sounds. Both books are just great, the fantastic narration and incredible story telling is the virtue in both of them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Finally - it is here ...

After so long waiting, after a change to its title, from "The Solomon Key" to "The Lost Symbol" it has finally arrived. Just two days ago, and has already become the bestseller with one million copies sold on the first day of sales. I must admit - I'm one of those early adopters of the book, with its audio rendition acquired the day after premiere...

Many say, its naive writing and focused only on shocking the audience with conspiracy theories and unfounded pseudo-historical accounts. Quite possible. However, Dan Brown is such fantastic story teller that for this very virtue of the author - it's worth to read "The Lost Symbol". I'm past 50 or so pages of it - fantastic and captivating narration....

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mother Night

The short novel "Mother Night" by Kurt Vonnegut is absolutely incredible piece of Vonnegut's writing.

It is a story of an American who went to Germany before WWII and became Nazi propagandist before and during the War. His radio addresses broadcasted by Nazis in English were meant to promote Nazi view for English speaking audience. He was also approached by US military espionage and became silent spy for US - however - almost useless and disheartened to the cause. He married German girl and was in true deep love with her.
The story begins when, after 15 years he is in Jerusalem's jail, awaiting his trial for war crimes and writes the story of his life. I will not reveal the other plot's details - trust me - they are incredible and startling....

However, the fantastic story of the novel is not its only virtue. It is also a deep reflection on, and in some sense, an exposition of Vonnegut's views on the reasons of war time atrocities.
See this:

"I have never seen a more sublime demonstration of the totalitarian mind, a mind which might be likened unto a system of gears where teeth have been filed off at random. Such a snaggle toothed thought machine, driven by a standard, or even substandard libido, whirls with the jerky, noisy, gaudy pointlessness of a cuckoo clock in hell.

The boss g-man concluded wrongly that there were no teeth on the gears in the mind of Jones. "You're completely crazy." He said. Jones wasn't completely crazy. The dismaying thing about the classic totalitarian mind is that any given gear, though mutilated, will have at it's circumference unbroken sequences of teeth that are immaculately maintained, that are exquisitely machined.

The missing teeth, of course, are simple obvious truths, truths available and comprehensible even to ten year olds, in most cases.

The willful filing off of gear teeth, the willful doing without certain obvious pieces of information. That was how (...) Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz, could alternate over the loudspeakers of Auschwitz great music and calls for corpse carriers-that was how Nazi Germany could sense no important differences between civilization and hydrophobia-that is the closest I can come to explaining the legions, the nations of lunatics I've seen in my time."

There is also an incredible, non naive love story and a great account of human courage to keep integrity - sometimes at the highest price - the price of life itself....

Finally - I could not stop contemplating on my, very personal, connection of the subject of my previous post to the theme of "Mother Night". That happened by chance ... well there are no more events happening just by chance...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Spiegel: Laughing at Auschwitz

I must say: I have never seen more horrifying pictures related to Holocaust.

Can we really grasp that "normality" we see in these pictures?
Can we really atone for what we've done in XX century ?
We - humanity...

I stumbled upon this site by chance.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Steven Pinker's "The Stuff of Thought"

Steven's Pinker work "The Stuff of Thought" is about language. That's one side of the coin. The other is that it is not just about the language. It's a deep philosophical tractate about the very nature of mind, its interaction with the world, and the world itself...

"Language is a window into human nature, exposing deep and universal features of our thoughts and feelings. The thoughts and feelings cannot be equated with the words themselves"

The central theme of the book is an attempt to uncover the abstract layer, "the stuff" that our mind uses to think, to perceive, to be conscious. Going from the concepts of innate words and ideas, through polysemy, metaphors, names, dirty words, double speech, framing of expressions and language games we play - Steven slowly uncovers and makes evident the existence of deeper, more abstract, but also more precise layer of the human mind. There are numerous examples that illustrate the specific reflection of this abstract "stuff" in our language (my favorite was the analysis of various popular metaphors). Equally amazing is to find reflections of concepts of space, time and causality in the forms of our language.

When we read toward the end of the book, the other mysterious features of the language are revealed:

"Language is not just a window into human nature, but a fistula, an open wound through which our inerts are exposed to an infectious world"

I'm glad to notice that Pinker goes far beyond the biological interpretation of our mind. When you read "The stuff of thought" you have the impression that this author finally writes about the software our brain runs. To me - this software is the "stuff", although Pinker does not formulate such thesis. Here is a small weakness of the book though - while Pinker convinces the reader to his main argument - and the reader expects to learn more about "the stuff of thought" - he suddenly comes short on this subject. The book ends with fantastic chapter "Escaping the Cave" where the cave is Platon's metaphorical cave. The language is our cave, but it also can help us to escape this cave. Here lies its strength, beauty and power...

"Though language exposes the walls of our cave, it also shows us how we venture out of it, at least part way"

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Dave Eggers in Paris

This post is not yet about any book - though I will certainly read one of his books.
"He" is Dave Eggers, American writer, publisher and activist.
I met him in Paris, on September 4th, 2009 in Shakespeare & Co. bookstore - my favorite place in all the Europe...
Dave is the author of several fiction and nonfiction novels, including such titles as "Zeitoun" and "The Wild Things". I recorded a short movie during his public appearance in the bookstore:

He is just incredible story teller, and I was amazed by this rare opportunity to meet face to face with genius writer.

Dave can also be seen in fantastic interview made 9 years ago by Charlie Rose.
He has also fantastic speach at TED where he talks about his "826 Valencia tutoring center".

Not far from now I will read his Zeitoun - it is already on my "next reading" list...

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The harbinger of new review....

After reading "The Brain" I switched to less popular "The Stuff of Thought" by Steven Pinker. For me it is revolutionary book. I must admit - I never had appreciation to linguistic approach to philosophical problems. However, this book slowly changes my prejudice into admiration.
Too soon for the full review, but I already can say that it shows how important and fundamental and not-just-formal are linguistic studies. As one of the reviewers wrote: "Pikner probes the mystery of human nature by examining how we use words"....

More to come, I will continue reading (listening to) while travelling across Paris & London ...

Macrospherology of humans. Globes - volume two of Peter Sloterdijk's Spheres

I have been reading the second volume of Sloterdijk's magnum opus for a couple of months now. I still haven't found the time for a f...