The Road

So, everyone in 2007 (well, not everyone, but Oprah for sure) was going on about this book called “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy. It’s this book about this man and his son (eight years old-ish?) trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

So, I read said book (can’t remember exactly when, maybe in August?), reading in two sittings, and it still hasn’t left me. I think about this book all the time. There are things in my head now that The Road placed there, and they won’t leave me. I dream about this book all the time (such as last night, and one other night this week), and these dreams are terrible dreams. I am haunted by The Road.

I am not going to give anything else away. I didn’t know much going into this book, and I was glad that I didn’t know. There are a few sections that I had to read a dozen times just to piece together what was happening, to fill in as much of the puzzle in my head as possible. You should read The Road to see for yourself.

I am three books deep into my book a week project for 2008. Reading a book called “The World Without Us” which is about what would happen to the world if humans dissapeared. I am scheduled for my candidacy for May, so I need to start reading for that asap.

My Life in Books (2007 Edition)

I was just trying to remember every book I have read cover to cover in 2007. I figured: hey, great blog post idea! I did this last year as well.

1. Discipline and Punish – Michel Foucault

2. Pascalian Meditations – Pierre Bourdieu

3. Reassembling the Social – Bruno Latour

4. Cyberculture Theorists – David Bell

5. Linked: The New Science of Networks – Albert-Laszlo Barabasi

6. Empire and Communications – Harold Innis

7. Essential McLuhan – Marshal McLuhan

8. Propaganda – Jaques Ellul

9. Impure Science – David Epstein

10. The Body Multiple – Annemarie Mol

11. Internet Society – Maria Bakardjieva

11. The Wounded Storyteller – Arthur Frank

12. Virtual Methods – Christine Hine

13. Pierre Bourdieu – Michael Grenfell

14. Managing to Nurse – Rankin & Campbell

15. Theory, Sport and Society – Maguire & Young

16. The Pasteurization of France – Bruno Latour

17. The Road – Cormack McCarthy

18. 1984 – George Orwell

19. The Stand – Stephen King

20. The Walking Dead – Book 5

21. The Walking Dead – Book 6

22. The Zombie Survival Guide

Working on or to be finished by the end of the year:

23. Brave New World – Huxley

24. Neuromancer – William Gibson

25. Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact – Ludwik Fleck, . University of Chicago Press.

26. Science and an African Logic – Helen Verran

27. The Social Construction of What – Ian Hacking

28. The Gum Thief – Douglas Coupland

In other words, my goal to read one book a week this year was off target. By half. I read countless papers over the summer for my prospectus, so maybe that makes up for it? Or perhaps I am putting too much emphasis on the “book” in the digital age?

There is just something about reading a book from cover to cover that makes me feel well read, what ever that means. Just because I read articles all day (both related to my work and not), it still feels like these don’t add up in the same way. I can quantify my book tally; telling you how many articles I read, magazines devoured… who knows?

Does it make any difference? What keeps us measuring our time in this way? Is it an antiquated notion to associate books with literacy?

Batman by Dostoyevsky starts the second cold war.

So this blog dedicated to scanning weird comic books puts up a scan of a Batman comic as done by Dostoyevsky (linky). I found it pretty amusing; Russian commenters to the blog do not. A few highlights.

Oh Gods, yankees, what have you done with one of the best books ever?!
Burn that comics!

also:

This is “Crime and Punishment – Edition for morons”. Just a stupid, straight-as-a-stick retelling of just character’s actions. No sense, no philosophy, no beauty of the original.
PS And by the way, he was RASKOLNIKOV

and:

Pizdec… I can not say other word.

and my favourite:

you americans are so stupid. 85% of your nation are retards and that is your own statistic. you think all of you are so dump because of the major evil?
no. you are so dump because you have no culture, only comics.

who is smart in your country?
scientists, medics, lawyers – people who reads a lot of books.
and the world is controled by smart people, not people like your pres. who don’t know diference between opec and apec.

no offense.

None taken.

52 Books in 52 Weeks #1 – Michel Foucault’s Discipline & Punish

Tonight I finished my first book of 2007 – Discipline & Punish by Michel Foucault. I spent about three weeks reading it through (my third time), and as I always do with Foucault, I struggled with it.

I struggled with it, not necessarily in terms of understanding – by now, I can recite his main arguments by heart; in that regard, I failed to get anything new out of it.

What Discipline & Punish revealed to me this time around was the nuance in his argument – the manner in which the arguments are constructed, and the importance of some of the shorter narratives that seemed “tossed in” in previous readings.

Regardless of the criticisms of “sloppy scholarship” that are bandied around by the American academy (where, as I read tonight, Foucault bashing is their favourite “indoor sport”), this work is masterful. A work of art.

Where it succeeds for me, now more than ever, is the ways that I see him fitting in our current condition. I have been talking with Mark this week about this in detail, and though I will not steal his thunder for his presentation on Monday, I will say that this book says a great deal about my own life. The degree to which Foucault sees us heading in this book – towards greater surveillance, external and internal, while still present, are present in ways that he could not have even imagined when he was writing this thirty years ago.

As I have said on this blog in the past, I have a fairly bleak outlook on the culture I exist in. I think that, for a wide variety of reasons, that we are in trouble. The whole reason I am doing Sociology, as idealistic as it seems, is to try and ease this trouble. What a book like this does, more than anything else, is helps me to identify the trouble spots. As I learned in my very first Sociology course, sociology helps us to see what is otherwise invisible to us, or at the very least obscured.

The very nature of the “carceral city” and the panopticon are that they work in ways which are unknown to us. We sense them being there sometimes, but we can’t quite “get our hands on them.” Though I often have difficulty getting my hands on Foucault, I had him in my arms long enough for it to rub off on me (though, I have to say, these pants are totally ruined now…)

On a lighter note: a music video by one of my all time favourite Canadian bands The Weakerthans called “Our Retired Explorer (Dines With Michel Foucault).”

Just one more drink and then I should be on my way home
I’m not enterely sure what your talking about


I’ve had a really nice time but my dogs need to be fed
I must say that in the right light you look like Shackleton


Comment allez-vous ce soir? Je suis comme ci comme ça
Yes, a penguin taught me French back in Antarctica


Oh, I could show you the way shadows colonize snow
Ice breaking up on the bay off the Lassiter coast


Light failing over the pole as every longitude leads
up to your frost bitten feet oh, you’re very sweet


thank you for the flowers and the book by Derrida
But I must be getting back to dear Antarctica


Say, do you have a ship and a dozen able men
That maybe you could lend me?
Oh Antarctica

We need to broaden our repertoire… of insults

“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.”
Oscar Wilde

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.”
Oscar Wilde

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.”
John Bright

“He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others.”
Samuel Johnson

“He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.”
Billy Wilder

Now get, ye’ cretins.

My Life in Books (2006 Edition)

The books I read in 2006 (in chronological order, no less)

Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk – all I will say about this is that Palhniuk is a sick fucker, and that this book is awesome.

Fights of Our Lives: Elections, Leadership, and the Making of Canada by John Duffy – I was reading this during my tenure with the NDP in the Federal Election in January. I love reading about the “behind-the-scenes” happenings at political conventions, and this was no exception… highly recommended.

Speaking Out: Ideas That Work for Canadians by Jack Layton – Don’t get me wrong, Layton is a brilliant man, and this book was preaching to the choir… however, I am dissapointed at how this brilliance is carried out in his “public persona.”

The Life and Political Times of Tommy Douglas by Walter Stewart – This is now one of my favourite books, Stewart does a bang up job in dissecting Douglas’s political career, and the role he played in Canadian history.

Paris 1919 by Margaret Macmillan – I read this in the span of one weekend… an excellent accounting of the peace treaty that was signed after WWI.

Foucault by J.G. Merquior – in which Foucault gets ripped to shreds… I didn’t like this book at all, but could not put it down.

The Hermeneutics of The Subject By Michel Foucault – The third book in Foucault’s lecture series that Palgrave is putting out (I’ve been collecting them as they come out). Of all the lecture series, this one is my favourite as it details the proto-thought that went into History of Sexuality and Discipline and Punish. I lost the original dust jacket though, and now I have to find another copy with one…

The Rebel Sell: Why The Culture Can’t Be Jammed by Andrew Potter and Joseph Heath – This was my second reading of this book, and I have gone on and on about it enough; thus all I will say is that through this book, I am starting to see ways in which us lefties can stop chasing our tails and wasting our time. Highly Recommended

King Dork by Frank Portman – I think this book has been lent to everyone in my social circle, because it is just that good. This is teen-lit at its finest, the story of this kid who wants nothing than to rock and roll, and does this by inventing fake band names and albums (personal favourite fake-album title: “Margaret? It’s Me God. Shut Up.”), while at the same time awkwardly making out with random girls and uncovering the “mystery” of his father’s death… aside from the dad part, this book is essentially about my life as a teenager.

Generation X / MicroSerfs / Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland – And so begins my tenure as a guy who talks to rich old white Americans all day, everyday, about their money and how I, personally, am responsible for losing all of it. To pass the time on breaks, I read three Coupland Books, all of which I loved (though I have to say that I loved Girlfriend the most).

At this point, I was starting to gear up for school, so I re-read Foucault’s Madness and Civilization and History of Sexuality. I also read most of Max Weber’s The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism for some unknown reason.

Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman – I love this book a lot – a cultural history of heavy metal, as told by a banger. Very entertaining

Appetite for Destruction: The Days of Guns and Roses by Danny Sugerman – This book was terrible.

Then school hits, and I think I have detailed the books I read already: Reintegrative Shaming by John Braithewaite, The Outsiders by Howard Becker, Delinquency and Drift by Matza, Seductions of Crime by Jack Katz, and a chunk of Fixing Broken Windows… and also Institutional Ethnography by Dorothy Smith and Institutional Ethnography as Practice.

Then there was After Method by John Law… I am reading this again, and plan to read Complexities right after… For me, After Method is by far my favourite book..

I suppose that I didn’t do so badly this year after all. An average of a book every two weeks or so? My goal for 2007 is to double this.

In which John Hodgman reads 700 Hobo Names

I love this: 700 Hobo Names (be sure to check out the illustrations while you’re at it!)

On my travels between Calgary and Deathbridge, I have been listening to an audio copy of John Hodgman’s The Areas of My Expertise. When I am done with it, you can borrow it if you like!

The full title of this book is:

An Almanac of Complete World Knowledge Compiled with Instructive Annotation and Arranged in Useful Order by Me, John Hodgman, a Professional Writer, in the Areas of My Expertise, which Include: Matters Historical; Matters Literary; Matters Cryptozoological; Hobo Matters; Food, Drink, & Cheese (a Kind of Food); Squirrels & Lobsters & Eels; Haircuts; Utopia; What Will Happen in the Future; and Most Other Subjects; Illustrated with a Reasonable Number of Tables and Figures, and Featuring the Best of “Were You Aware of It?”, John Hodgman’s Long-Running Newspaper Novelty Column of Strange Facts and Oddities of the Bizarre

I find myself chuckling a lot, and does a good job at passing the time quickly on these long, tedious drives (for example, in reference to only having two references to sports, Hogman deadpans “for more information on sports, turn everywhere else in our society”).

I am out the door, and I am going to try not to crash my car that I just spent $2246.91 on. Or maybe I will, because I just spent $2246.91 to fix my car.

Tell us old lies again / when it comes we never have a chance

So I spend my entire morning in stats class, right? Uv course, those who know me know how much I detest this stuff. I am always understanding it… barely. I think I would be fine if I would be able to concentrate long enough on what Dr. Wanner (a dyed in the wool stats guy) is so exuberantly teaching. It isn’t for the lack of his trying, I am just morally opposed to reducing society to numbers, and thus I am not invested in what is going on. Oh, and wireless Internet doesn’t help matters.

So, I am in stats today, and I got an email with my cell bill, which managed somehow to end up at about $500. For real. Apparently, when people call me from out of town while I am in Calgary, it costs me long distance. God damnit anyways,

So, uv course I leave stats this morning, and I am just sick and fucking tired of the shit , so I decide to fuck off and go see a matinee of Martin Scorsese’s new film The Departed. Damn fine acting in this film – especially Matt Damon, who is amazing in his role as the detective that had been groomed by the mob since he was a wee lad. Not my favourite Scorsese film, but a lot better than The Gangs of New York or The Aviator.

After, I stumbled upon a used book store, and found myself a copy of Mcsweeney’s Quarterly Concern Issue #16.

Issue 16 presents new stories from McSweeney’s regulars like Roddy Doyle and Denis Johnson, and exploits a never-before-seen tripartite format to bring you a hilarious Ann Beattie novella and a special deck-of-cards story from Robert Coover, one of the great masters of American experimental fiction. This issue uses more cloth than any issue to date. Also, it comes with a comb.

Yes, you read that correctly. It comes with a comb.

___________________________________________________________________

I know this should go without saying from me, but the new Robert Pollard album Normal Happiness is amazing. I liked his last album From a Compound Eye quite a bit as well (released last April, though I had a copy since summer of 2005, so I consider it a 2005 release).

From my listening pattern, I think that I like Normal Happiness a little better as an album, though nothing compares to the song Gold from FACE.

Fetishing Commodities – McSweeney’s stuff

Today I went to the Kensington district (a part of Calgary that I usually stay away from). I don’t have a specific reason for this, per say, I just find it too manufactured for my tastes (yes, I realize that this is a weak criticism, but I am reacting to the area more on a gut level, and “over manufactured” is simply the first thing that comes to mind).

The reason for this foray into yuppytown was very specific – I found out through the McSweeney’s website that there is actually a place in Calgary – Pages on Kensington – that carries McSweeney’s products (as well as a lot of awesome, literary geek stuff as well, like the Moleskine notebooks I use).

Needless to post, I was in heaven, and wanted to buy everything they had. I have read Believer magazine and McSweeneys Quarterly concern before (my friend Jess used to get them!), but this is the first time I have seen it at a physical store. Here is what I purchased:

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern #20

Every fourth page is a full-color figurative painting, each one by an excellent artist. The other three pages have fiction on them, with only one color but lots of words, including punched, pants, and Puerto—that’s actually just the first page. After that, there are stories exploring animal-plant romances, psycho librarians, and passive-aggressive ventriloquism. No fewer than two dictators appear as protagonists. And after all that, loosely glued to the inside back cover, there’s a fifty-page booklet containing a harrowing excerpt from Chris Adrian’s The Children’s Hospital, which will be out from McSweeney’s Books in October. A handsome, handsome issue, brimming with fulfilling things.

Believer – October issue

and I also got the DVD magazine – Wolphin #2

Wholphin no. 2 features a brand-new film from Steven Soderbergh, the Japanese Bewitched rescripted by writers of The Daily Show, two Oscar-nominated animated shorts, and special appearances by Andy Richter, Donald Trump, and a monkey-faced eel. Issue no. 2 also includes a special bonus disc containing a controversial political documentary, one that the UK Guardian accurately called “The film U.S. TV Networks dare not show.”