Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios

2018: My Reading Year in Review



A long time ago, and as a form of self-imposed discipline, I decided to keep a list of the books I started to read, followed by a list of those I finished. We’re talking 1980 here (before there was a thing called Internet as we know it today). Unfortunately, and despite all this information, I don’t have the faintest idea how many books I read since 1980. I have notebooks, one for fiction and one for non-fiction in which I keep my lists and mark each book out of 10 - I haven’t read anywhere near the number of books I should have since we are talking many eons here, but I find it helps me remember books and spurs me to complete some I would otherwise give up on.

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Life Is but a Dream: "Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain" by António R. Damásio

Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain - Antonio R. Damasio



(Original Review, 1994-11-17)




Dave Chalmers did a great job of making consciousness popular but his own view was 400 years out of date. Descartes is the real rigorous physicist here - he was after all one of the people who devised physics. What he meant by the soul and God being 'spirit' is that they caused matter to move. Matter for Descartes was just the inert occupancy of a space (extension). So physics consisted of the interaction of spirit and matter. We now call spirit 'force' or 'energy' and Descartes was quite right because thinking is all about electromagnetic fluxes - which in themselves do not occupy space or have mass. His mistake was to think that there had to be one special spirit unit. Leibniz sorted that out in 1714.

 

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Self-Reflection: "Thumps - Reviews and Essays 2016" by MySelfie

Thumps - Reviews and Essays 2016 - Manuel Augusto Antão



NB: I’m the author of this book. And this is not a review. So don’t you start huffing and puffing about me rating it…

The silver-foil room and the 1977 aesthetic ... Things howl on the frontier, not just the wolves ... And the dustpile ... The 21st Century howls I thought ... but a Portuguese publishing marketing person? ... An EXCEL spreadsheet? ... Then I thought: Clammy handshake, unedited ... You can smarten yourself up with twenty five Euros and a visit to PRIMARK ... I don't know what I am on about either ... a desert of dung, preserving mediocrity ... This is not a quote ...

I self-publish because my writing doesn't fit a particular genre. I write across age groups and styles (i.e., I write book reviews). I don't write 'mainstream'. I am what I am and therefore I cannot box myself in for the sake of money. Thus, I write what I want, self-publish, shrug my shoulders if there are editorial errors, (it's not like I don't edit 1000 times, & all my work, even that which I've already published, is under constant revision, editing & upgrading).

 

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

"Brain Wars: The Scientific Battle Over the Existence of the Mind" by Mario Beauregard

Brain Wars: The Scientific Battle Over the Existence of the Mind and the Proof That Will Change the Way We Live Our Lives - Mario Beauregard


(Original Review, 2012-04-30)




I have recently read books by Dr. Mario Beauregard and Dr. Rupert Sheldrake and I'm inclined to believe that the answer to “The Hard Problem” is not beyond us to comprehend and it would be a shame in terms of our evolution if we were to think it so.

I believe ALL areas of science should be open and up for debate. Now, scientific materialism seems at a loss to explain irrefutable accounts of mind over matter, intuition, willpower, the "placebo effect" in medicine, of near-death experiences on the operating table, and of psychic premonitions of a loved one in crisis.

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Magic Pixies: "The Character of Consciousness" by David J. Chalmers

The Character of Consciousness - David J. Chalmers


(Original Review, 2010-10-30)




Is the assumption that brains are "just magic" - unlike kidneys or spleens or bones correct? This elevation of "consciousness" to an almost dualistic status is irritating beyond belief, and seems to stem (pardon the pun) from the fact that brains are hellishly complicated and difficult to measure (difficult, but becoming easier).

Philosophers have proven USELESS at answering questions, but particularly useFUL at asking the wrong ones. We never did get a straight answer as to how many angels could dance on the point of a needle (or head of a pin depending on your source, it matters not). If I have learnt anything from my experience as a scientist, it is that sometimes, if you ask a stupid question, you get a stupid answer, and so continuing to ask the stupid question in the hope that the answer will become sensible is actually not very bright. "What is it like to be a bat?" Hmm, not sure.
 
 
 
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.
 
 

 

Universal Machine: "The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness" by António R. Damásio

The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness - Antonio R. Damasio


(Original Review, 2000-10-15)


I don't agree that it is as big mystery as pointed out elsewhere in another review I’ve read...I think we do know a great deal about consciousness. The problem lays also in our willingness to explore altered states of consciousness. This must be included in any theory...Some examples of books dedicated to this subject of consciousness. I have been reading lately: “Complete works of Freud and Carl Jung”, “The Tibet Book Of The Dead”, “Tao Te Ching”, R. D. Laing’s “The Politics Of experience (Birds Of Paradise)”, “The Tao Of Physics” by Fritjof Capra, Works Of Richard Feynman, Works of Spinoza, “Altered States Of Consciousness” by Charles T. Tart, “The Conscious Mind” by David J. Chalmers, and Anthropological Studies on Shamanism and so on, indicate that the human animal has not progressed much physiologically over the past two or three thousand years. However we have progressed massively technologically...Plenty of food for thought in this area.

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

SallyAnne Test: "Self Comes to Mind - Constructing the Conscious Brain" by António R. Damásio

Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain - Antonio R. Damasio


(Original Review, 2010-11-15)



I think that if you look at the internet and the World Wide Web it gives some insight on what Damásio’s book is all about. On the one hand you have the network of servers and cabling and input and output devices and on the other you have the network of websites. We know that the latter sits on the former but you can tell very little about one network from the other. When you look at this webpage, for example, it looks like a single, though quite complex, entity but the annoying advert down the right hand side, for example, may sit on a server on a different continent from the text that you are reading and the photograph on yet another.
 
 
 
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.
 
 

 

Icing on the Cake: "Consciousness Explained" by Daniel C. Dennett

Consciousness Explained - Daniel C. Dennett



(Original Review, 1992-10-25)


I feel uncoupled.

Who knows for certain: their inner experience of sights, smells, emotions, and the rest?

And this is why I often find the discussion frustrating; from my reading of his work, Dennett has never denied the experience of being conscious. What he is saying is that if you create a zombie doppelganger that resembles you in every way then the "zombie" will by necessity be of such complexity that it gives rise to consciousness. And it will do so from normal, physics-obeying, materialistic processes. It is in this way that we are all the zombies of the thought experiment - not that we are all empty machines that experience nothing.

 

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

European Union: "Artificial Inteligence" by Noah Berlastsky

Artificial Inteligence - Noah Berlastsky, Noah Berlastsky


(Original Review, 2014-10-31)




Dear Barroso, Dear Malstrom and other commissioners,

If you want to achieve economic growth in Europe, you should stop bribing politicians as the Governments of Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Czech, Hungary ...and the Central Bankers. We all know you thought-control them on the nets of Telecom Austria, Telenor ... with implants ...to quote European Parliament "converging technologies, shaping the future of european societies" - "there will be politicians with implants and control in this manner". We all know Commissioners, ECB, EC, EBRD employees have such implants and act together. We know you offer a "better life" to the CEE servants if the betray their countries, a little bit. We all know how you manipulate Ukraine and media.

 

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

AI Self-Awareness: "Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World" by Christopher Steiner

Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World - Christopher Steiner



(Original Review, 2012-08-04)





There has been a long tradition of defining intelligence to be whatever machines can't do at the time. The recent book "Automate This: How Algorithms came to rule our world" by Christopher Steiner gives a good overview of many of the fields in which computers have achieved or surpassed human performance, whether in game play [2018 EDIT: (Chess (Deep Blue), Jeopardy (Watson))], medical prescriptions (diagnosis and fulfillment) or even music (judging potential, composing).

 

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Nietzsche’s Metaphor: "The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes--and Its Implications" by David Deutsch

The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes--and Its Implications - David Deutsch


(Original Review, 1988-05-30)



Perhaps it is worthwhile clearing up a few fundamentals here. Specifically, the concept of something complicated being created as opposed to evolved. Of course, consciousness has evolved and is a characteristic of the complex arrangement of entities whose properties are understood by physics. But, going from the basic laws governing the building blocks to the complex is currently way beyond anything dreamt of in systems theory, where biological simulation is hovering around the simple swim patterns of single celled flagellum bacteria. Before attempting to build something we try and understand it. That is, what aspects of the thing to focus on. What are the essentials?
 
 
 
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.
 
 

 

Ancient Greek Cynicism: "The Father of Lies" by K. J. Parker

The Father of Lies - K.J. Parker

“’I’ve done a lot of bad things.’
‘Define bad.’
He looked at me, then nodded. ‘A lot of illegal things,’ he amended. ‘I’ve told a lot of lies, defrauded a lot of people out of money, cheated, stolen. Never killed anyone—’ I cleared my throat. ‘Deliberately,’ he amended, ‘except in self-defense.’
‘That’s a broad term,’ I said.
‘No it’s not. I got them before they got me.’


In "The Father of Lies" by K. J. Parker



Cynics, Confucius, Buddha and Lao-Tzu (Taoism founder) all lived at about 500 BC, and were all of a view that we should dispassionately view the world as it really is, and act upon it in a helpful way, whilst living a simple life. They said that the dissatisfied human state is the result of our actions which are often self-centre, to become satisfied you have to become other-centred. Very hard to do/be. A modern cynic thinks that other people act cynically, which is fine, the problem arises when they get righteously indignant about it, making themselves out to be saint like which it is unlikely they are. So they're end up endlessly winding themselves up. The optimist can't be bothered thinking that everyone is up to no good because they might not be. The only solution is for the modern cynic to become as disciplined as those dudes from 500 BC. But then that is very hard to do/be. In fact the reason for the definition of the word changing is that people tried to be just that and failed or others just pretended to be that so they could get an advantage.
 
 
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.
 
 

 

Unhappy Philosopher: "The Street of Crocodiles" by Bruno Schulz

The Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories - Bruno Schulz, Celina Wieniewska, Jerzy Ficowski, Jonathan Safran Foer



(Original Review, 1981-05-30)




Why do I read? To learn, to experience worlds, emotions, interactions that I don't experience in my reality, to think, to be, to become.

If not for Huxley - recommended by an English teacher at school - I'd have remained a working class racist, sexist homophobe, would never have smoked haxixe, gone on to study philosophy, met my children's mother, have had wonderful kids or stepped out of a culture of impoverished imagination.
I might have been 'a happy pig' rather than an "unhappy philosopher," (to paraphrase Plato) it's true, but it's been a richer life for it.

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

The Granular Success Egg: " The Death of the Author" by Roland Barthes

The Death of the Author - Roland Barthes


Another piece of advice you of want to succeed in writing a novel:

1) Be youngish and photogenic;
2) Lure an agent with your headshot - or be well-known already;
3) Get a PR who is at least as good as your agent;
4) Include some mildly kinky sex scenes in your book and market it as being aimed at middle-aged women;
5) Live on Facebook with a thousand-selfie-a-day habit;
6) Praise god for your God-given talent then adopt atheism;
7) Tell everyone to get fucked.

To quote Somerset Maugham: "There are only three ways to write a novel ....unfortunately, no one knows what they are .... "

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Mach und Dach: "Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting" by Robert McKee

Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting - Robert McKee



(Original review, 1997-11-30)




Aristotle's observations of drama, is very far from the early dramaturgy as 18th century Lessing for instance. In the twenties when dramaturgy started to become a subject on its own in Central Europe (where it started) there was already in the beginning two different approaches, the Pièce bien fait approach (which mostly is today's melodrama) and an agnostic approach basically used by Brecht (not in the sense of V-effect, but his approach to story - like in "Kleines Organon für das Theater") and many others where the approach follows the what he called "Mach und Dach" - first you do something - then you analyze what you have done and then build from that.

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Iberian Peninsula: "Land Without Evil" by Richard Gott

Land Without Evil: Utopian Journeys Across the South American Watershed - Richard Gott


(Original Review, 1993-05-31)


It gives me a lot of pleasure to mention Richard Gott's work "Land Without Evil - Utopian Journey Across the South American Watershed."

Whilst I did not intend to get mixed up with the Watershed on account of its complexity, his endeavor to go up the Amazon all the way to (probably) the Pacific, in the 1970s, was almost as much of an adventure then as it was for the 16th C Conquistadores.

 

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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