Category Archives: books

Reflection: How to Do Things With Videogames

My latest reading: How to Do Things With Videogames by Ian Bogost. I found the book a little disturbing, and estimate that about half my colleagues would be more disturbed than I was. Here’s what I think about it. Continue reading

Reflection: The Spark

Part of the suggested reading prior to my first semester at ETC is a book called The Spark: Igniting the Creative Fire That Lives Within Us All, by John U. Bacon. It was a quick read.

The book presents a behind-the-scenes look at Cirque Du Soleil, and the culture they cultivate. It’s presented via the fictional story of a sports agent who takes a sabbatical with Cirque. Mild spoilers ahead (though it’s not a very spoilable book). Continue reading

Reflection: Crawford’s Art of Computer Game Design

I’ve just finished The Art of Computer Game Design by Chris Crawford (1984) – the Kindle edition with chapter endnotes added this year. This was a pleasantly focused little book. Continue reading

Consumption Record

brioche mini-burgers

I’ve finished lots of experiences since I last posted about one, and haven’t had a chance to reflect. Here’s a quick blurb on some favorites. Continue reading

Reflection: Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

I just finished reading Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman (2003). The book is billed as “a low culture manifesto,” and is a jumbled mess of humor, pop analysis and lowbrow philosophy. I didn’t like it. I’ll try to talk about parts I did like below. Continue reading

Reflection: Son of a Witch

After far too long, I’ve dredged my way through Son of a Witch, the sequel to Gregory Maguire’s popular Wicked. Apologies to Mr. Maguire, but reading this was a waste of my time. Major spoliers follow. Continue reading

Dune (1984)

I’m watching the David Lynch version of Dune for the first time. It’s a painful experience; I’m a big fan of Frank Herbert’s Dune Chronicles, and this film does not nearly depict the universe I imagine. The movie doesn’t have nearly the subtlety that the book does, but that’s not really possible so we’ll ignore that point for now. What bothers me most is that the characters are all wrong: Casting, acting, costuming and makeup, the works.

If you don’t want to hear me complain, stop now. Continue reading

Reflection: The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (1910) was an interesting experience. Having seen Weber’s show on Broadway and the 2004 film I had a loose idea of what I was getting into, but my wife warned me that the book would be very different. It was an interesting read, even if it hasn’t become one of my favorite books. I found the characterizations and some of Leroux’s storytelling techniques interesting.

Spoilers ahead… Continue reading

Reflection: Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About

I just finished reading Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About by Don Knuth. For those of you not in the know, Donald Knuth is a legend among computer scientists and professors of such. His magnum opus, The Art of Computer Programming, is incomplete, but it’s already revolutionized the industry and the first three volumes are going for about $160 on Amazon as of this writing. Sadly, I have yet to read one of Don’s computer science books (I know, I know…) but this one was a gift so I figured I’d jump in.

The book is essentially a transcription of a set of lectures Knuth gave at MIT in 1999. The topic is computer science and religion, and while I found the ideas interesting, nothing struck me as particularly profound or devotional-worthy. Indeed, this is not what Knuth set out to do; most of the lectures are spent describing some of his own spiritual experiences and ways to apply mathematical techniques to a spiritual study. Knuth does not attempt to generalize his own experience to our own – he is simply sharing what he has experienced, but it is his journey, not ours. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, only that one shouldn’t pick up this book and expect it to read akin to the devotional masters.

The most interesting part of the book for me is where Knuth describes the background and process of his 3:16 project, in which he studied chapter 3 verse 16 of each book of the Bible (with some necessary exceptions), and collaborated with calligraphers all over the world to include an artistic interpretation of each in the book. In this, I was primarily encouraged to go out and buy that book, because I was absolutely captivated by the calligraphy itself… Knuth’s comments on the book were like reading the annotations before the original story.

I was surprised that more wasn’t brought up about what computer science can teach us about the nature of God… perhaps, more than any other field, we craft schemes and build worlds out of pure airy thoughtstuff, and we have the ability to stand back and watch those worlds grow and change in surprising and wonderful ways. A panel discussion included as a sort of bonus at the end of the book touches on this with regard to AI, but doesn’t go too deep. I guess I’ll have to write the book about that. Things a Computer Scientist Ought to Think About. We’ll see.

Orwell’s Fairy-Story

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I just read Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945). Little did I know, he subtitled his book “A Fairy Story,” which was a curious coincidence after reading The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

I decided that yes, this is a fariy-story, if a rather complicated and nearly outdated one.

Possible spoilers after the break… Continue reading