Perry R. Cook, Recent Reading

Recent Reading

The last few books I've read, most recent first.
Also some magazines I've been following.

Reviews are my own opinions, but they're right. Remember, as with music I listen to, sometimes I use reading to take my mind off of other things (like very long airline flights). So often I tend towards slightly trashy sci-fi or somesuch during the summers when I'm traveling a lot.


The Dark Side of Christian History, by Helen Ellerbe
This book does a really good job of summing up early history, from the first Christians, through the Nicene convention (although she doesn't get deeply enough into all of the politics of this very important event), the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, the Inquisition, and the Crusades. REALLY MAKES ME MAD that she totally drops the ball on relatively modern times. Mentions how Christian notions were used in older times to keep classes and races in their place, but later in the book it doesn't talk about this in modern times (Apartheid etc.). Makes NO mention of radical right, survivalists, racists groups, and their use of corrupted Christian rhetoric to justify and motivate their actions. Instead she spends lots of time talking about how the modern scientific method is really basically re-packaged Christian pre-destination, and how GAIA and other "valid" hypotheses have been supressed by this modern incarnation of the dark side of Christianity. Good job of hiding what appears to be a pretty strong New Age agenda until near of the end of the book. GRRRRRR!

Out of Their Minds: The Lives and Discoveries of 15 Great Computer Scientists, by Dennis Shasha and Cathy Lazere
Really nice book. Great easy bios and interviews of Backus, McCarthy, Kay, Dijkstra, Rabin, Knuth, Tarjan, Lamport, Cook (no), Levin, Brooks, Smith, Hillis, Feigenbaum, and Lenat. Nice sidebars cover aspects of algorithms and architecture. I'd recommend it as a nice first intro to CS, and some of the people who helped to found it.

CYBERIA: Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace, by Douglas Rushkoff
Interesting book linking hacking, virtual reality, hallucinogenic drugs, the rave club scene, and modern mathematics. Hard to buy all of what he says at times, and the dauntless nature of how he links all of these disparate areas makes it seem as if he's saying that everything we experience today in these areas is due primarily to these links. Probably not.

Armed and Dangerous: The Rise of the Survivalist Right, by James Coates
Good book originally written right after Alan Berg was gunned down in Denver in the 80s. New edition adds some stuff, but came out before Oklahoma City bombing. Good background on the motivations, publications, and rhetoric of various groups and individuals. Most interesting was the certain code phrases which I realize I have heard used by TV preachers and others, but didn't know what a red flag these could be to certain people (Federal Reserve, United Nations, etc. mean very specific, very negative things to some people). For a good related book, see "Casting the First Stone," by R.A. Gilbert.

Silicon Snake Oil, by Clifford Stoll
Within each few pages I found one thing with which I agree, and at least one thing with which I strongly disagree. Cliff may have trapped a hacker, and he's a cute enough guy, which is why he got so popular as a lecture-circuit carnival attraction. But much of the logic in this book isn't very complete, and I think many of the things he says are wrong.

Other Recent Non-Fiction Reads, No Reviews:

The History of the Devil and the Idea of Evil, ??AUTHOR??
The History of God, Karen Armstrong
The History of Hell, A.K. Turner.

(a theme here?)


City Come A-Walkin' (novel), and The Exploded Heart (short stories) by John Shirley
When I saw William Gibson do a reading of "The Difference Engine" in Palo Alto a few years ago, he couldn't say enough good about John Shirley. Gibson writes the forward to this book, and he can't say enough good about John Shirley. I have yet to fully make up my mind about John Shirley, but he does write frightening future-tech/shaman/metaphysical stuff about frightening people, and the reading is undeniably fun (for me). It might not be fun for you, so please don't read John Shirley on my account, then come back to me because it made you crazy and you took a moto-tool and carved your initials in your forehead.

Living Real, by James C. Bassett
Cyber-trifle about a virtual reality entertainment producer who accidentally discovers how to make virtuality seem absolutely real. The "Fourier Coil" which taps directly into the brain, combined with the new form of the Web, which has lots of neural-like circuits in it, allows the producer to put subliminal suggestions into the experience. The ramifications of this are profound, but this book isn't.

Heavy Weather, by Bruce Sterling
After seeing the movie "Twister," and seeing an artsier movie on the Sundance Channel about two guys hauling around in a truck chasing tornados, I still didn't really get why people chase tornados. This book did nothing to help me out, but it holds that people will still chase tornados in the future, and the tornados will be of monster size (because of what we've done to the ecology of course). It's O.K., but seems to drag along until suddenly it ends.

RIM, by Alexander Besher
Wierd cyber-mystic stuff set in Tokyo after the biggest earthquake ever to occur. VR companies fight for domination of the virtual worlds of the Web, blah, blah, blah.


I bought it on a whim, because it was slick, black, square, and covers future topics. It also had John Shirley on the cover (see City under Fiction above). Like Wired, but less adds and tech-hype, more social and cultural spin. I might even subscribe, nearly certainly dooming the magazine to go out of publication (just like when the Computer Music community embraces and endorses a computer).

Hot Wired Like the magazine, this online version is hard to read, but pretty.

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