Friday, October 26, 2007

Barker's Brick, Dripping Emulsion, and Why Computer Games Make You Smart

Haven't asked you for a while what you're reading, and I'd love to know!

My reading has been totally disrupted this week as the house is upside down with builders and decorators doing their thing. Mind you, a bit of colour splashed on the walls does make one extremely happy ...

Am still on Nicola Barker's Darkmans, but it's such a brick of a book that I can't carry it around in my bag and at home, can only read it at the dining table! I am very much enjoying it though and don't mind the length. I'm resigned to it taking me a while, and slipping a different book into my bag for when I go out.

I've also finally read Everything Bad is Good for You Which I found a cheap copy of, thanks to the generosity of Big Bookshop. TV programmes are getting more complex, computer games make you brighter, blogging increases your IQ. There's a lot of good news here for the geek and couch potato!

I inserted a jokey extract from the book some time back about the dangers of reading, but it turns out that Johnson is a staunch defender of the value of print books, even while he explains that in our participation of life online, we are reading perhaps more than ever before ...

I have been moving books around and decided to make a list of all the unread books I have which I really want to read. I gave up when I counted 50 titles. Really I must not buy any more. (But I have already broken that resolution several times this week ...)

So what's happening with you, reading-wise?

26 comments:

Greenbottle said...

non fiction-

1) For lust of knowing: the orientalists and their enemies

2) white gold- the extraordinary story of thomas pellow and north africa's one million european slaves

Travel

1) dark star safari -paul theroux

fiction:

Robertson davies- the cunning man

Anonymous said...

i find it amusing that you keep getting her name wrong. it's Nicola Barker. :D

hope it's not the fumes of the new paint getting to you!


Viz

thegrouch said...

1. Cesar's Way - Cesar Millan
2. Lobster Chronicles - Linda Greenlaw

jawakistani said...

Machinist's book - Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson. I'm also reading Nikita Lalwani's Gifted but I'm a bit slow on that one.

I think I have to drop by at your place after you're done with the makeover. I need to stock up for my confinement period. I'd be having postpartum depression without enough books to read.

Sharanya Manivannan said...

Finished How To Kill Your Husband by Kathy Lette, the ONLY feminist chick lit writer in the known universe, a few days ago. Am a huge fan of her books, so heartily recommend it. I think the only reason why Lette is considered a chick lit writer is because she is funny, something which all chick lit aspires to be. But I've never read a single thing of that genre that comes even close to the way she gets into the feminine psyche!

qaminante said...

Have just finished "The Elephanta Suite" by Paul Theroux and "Weight Loss" by Upamanyu Chatterjee and left India for Africa with Lisa St. Aubin de Teran ("Mozambique Mysteries").

zona marie said...

i don't usually attempt multiple books at one go... but i'm reading...
Stanley Coren's How dogs think, Zhang Su Li's A Backpack and A Bit of Luck, and Dante's Inferno

hehehe... some combination i've picked, go figure.

bibliobibuli said...

viz - i think you only notice these things 'cos you've got too much time on your hands! glad my misspellings are keeping you amused. really hope you're mending well ...

greenbottle - theroux's "dark star safari" has been on my tbr shelf for such a long time. i love therous but i feel i've overdosed.

qaminante - perhaps i will though try this theroux ... today i linked to a review of it in our local newspaper and it does sound very good

the grouch - you're into training your dog? get a cat instead. they read books on how to train us.

bibliobibuli said...

(i'm saving comments as i go 'cos i lost a long comment yesterday!!)

jawakistani - you're welcome to come and raid my shelves any time. i recently read "gifted". am so behind with reviewing things on this blog ...

sharanya - think you've just talked me into picking this author up.

zona - yes that is a fun combination

thegrouch said...

too late sharon. got two cats already :D. i need to train the dog to live harmoniously with her two big brothers!

Anonymous said...

Barker is a good name for a writer. Anyway it must be nice to be able to afford renovations.

Greenbottle said...

sharon;

you'd love dark star safari... the way theroux have a go at those bloody do gooders (all the ngos trying to 'save' africa...) . i'm only up to tanzania now but the way he had a go at the way africans are screwing up their countries makes me wonder if dr watson (dna fella) is right after all?

Anonymous said...

Well he's a Nobel Prize winner, I don't see how he could be wrong, especially when his field is genetics.

Madcap Machinist said...

Being a Nobelist doesn't have anything to do with the truth of the statement. He could be wrong when he has no scientific evidence to back his claims.

Anonymous said...

He could be, since he has a Nobel Prize in genetics, I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. If it's your everyday Tom or Joe, then I'd say say he was racist, but he's the best geneticist in the world (at least in the eyes of the Nobel committee) and he did say something about research validating his claims. I don't know if he's wrong, but his staus and qualifications definitely weigh on his side of the scale.

Greenbottle said...

madcap machinist...

dr watson is far too brilliant to say something without some form of scientific evidence/ facts...

i'm no racist and most probably watson fella would lump me in the same bucket with the blacks, but still...from what little i learned about population genetics eons ago, there are ample evidence to show that different sets of populations (of any biological living things) can evolve into different genetic pools and it stands to reason that this will affect everything including intelligence...

and having said that, although i believe there may be some measurable(?) difference in intelligence among various races, this difference seems to be so insignificant that in real life all human beings are basically within the same 'bucket' with respect to intelligence.

so the old codger is right and also wrong...

s.nizam said...

From Wikipedia:

"To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologize unreservedly. That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief"
-James D. Watson

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_D._Watson#Controversies

Greenbottle said...

perhaps he just meant BLACK africa eh??

Madcap Machinist said...

I was merely pointing out that a Nobelist spouting rubbish still makes him a rubbish-spout.

Dr. Watson was awarded the Nobel in 1962; 45 years is plenty of time for senility to set in, even for a first-class mind. In fact in apologising for his statement, Watson said, "I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said." Could there have been a mental lapse there? :-)

In the best light, and I'm being charitable, one can say that Dr. Watson's statement is a learned opinion, but there lies the rub: laypeople will attribute whatever Dr. Watson says as science due to his prominence, when it's actually not, at least not supported by experimental data, which science requires. Anon.'s comments above proves this tendency.

Dr. Watson has also said on other occasions: thin people are unhappy, therefore more ambitious; fat people have a higher sex drive; people in northern climes drink more alcohol because they are unhappy due to sun-deprivation; Muslim women (i.e. ones wearing hijab) are less exposed to the sun, therefore have lower sex drives. All were conjectures and unsubstantiated, and this was 7 years ago.


On this occasion, we can ask, what studies have proven that Africans are less intelligent. There has been many studies that have measured IQ among ethnic groups, but socioeconomic factors have been shown to be stronger influences. Watson's second statement: "anyone who has dealt with a black employee would know otherwise" is just plain racist, and strictly speaking, anecdotal.

How about other Nobelists who have had to stick their feet into their mouths? William Shockley, inventor of the transistor, also said that some races are genetically inferior than others, and urged people with IQ lower than 100 to sterilize themselves. Kary Mullis, another geneticist, Nobelist for pioneering the PCR technique, was both a HIV and global warming denialist. Both ended up being having their ideas discredited, despite being Nobelists.

Brilliant people are just as likely as anyone else to make brilliant gaffes. Not-so-brilliant people like us will have to learn to not to make the common mistake of being blind to theirs.

But, ignoring the politics, should we take what Dr. Watson said seriously? Would it be possible to come up with a useful definition of race, then of intelligence in order to test such a hypothesis? I think, given what Greenbottle said above, what he said was perfectly reasonable: "There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically." Is there reason to assume otherwise? What must be remembered is that skin colour does not reflect the brain.

I do wonder what Stephen Jay Gould would have said about all this...

bibliobibuli said...

this whole topic goes round and round ... the nazi's were into skull measuring too to prove the inferiority of non-aryan races.

machinist - you might also like to read "the race gallery" by marek kohnx

can lend you! (oh btw can you pass me back my oulipo book??????)

Madcap Machinist said...

pretty nifty, this new blogger comment notification box.

>>"the nazi's were into skull measuring too to prove the inferiority of non-aryan races."

The irony is that the Nazis were inspired by eugenics movement in the US, of which the Cold Spring Harbor Lab, Watson's employer until this issue, once played a part.

In fact Kohn's latest book, A Reason For Everything is on my TBR list. Marek Kohn: "The Race Gallery is based on the premise that not only can you be against racism and for free expression, but that the best way to counter scientific and related forms of racism is through the free expression of ideas." Sounds like a sensible outlook, I'll look it up, or will take you up on your offer to lend the book. Thanks!

>>oh btw can you pass me back my oulipo book??????)

ouch, I take from the multi-Qs the late returns department is getting impatient :-) So sorry, but I did bring the Motte book with me to take to the last reading, except that I didn't manage to actually make it there.

I haven't finished the compendium... but I think I'll get a copy of that for myself later. Great reference!

bibliobibuli said...

marek was a friend way back. when i was with rock star boyfriend he used to come round to have supper and interview him for one of the music papers. i met him again years later at a conference on romany issues at greenwich university ... should drop him a "do you remember me" email!

bibliobibuli said...

you can keep the oulipo book longer to finish it ... but not for ever and ever lah!

Madcap Machinist said...

I want a copy! I've been putting little flags on the interesting parts on the Compendium as you asked, but wish I can keep it forever...

I'm only as tardy as the next person it seems... I see Bibi's *finally* getting around to read my Written on the Body. It's been more than a year! :-D

Anonymous said...

"socioeconomic factors have been shown to be stronger influences"

Does that mean poor people are less intelligent ? now there's another interesting can of worms :)

Madcap Machinist said...

Anon,

No, being poor does not mean one is less intelligent, it means that limited access to education as a result of poverty makes one likely to score lower in tests designed to indirectly measure intelligence.

Other factors include diet, environment (e.g. air/water quality), home environment, etc.

I am not sure if genetic data has been collected for these tests. Probably not.

Read more here: Brief on Intelligence and Genetic Determinism, Council of Responsible Genetics.