Book Report: Giant Robot #46

In theory, I am tired of looking at photographs of athletic shoes. Nevertheless, when I picked up the latest issue of Giant Robot and saw the little list at the beginning in which Woody of SNKR FRKR lists the five worst sneaker disasters, I went and dug up photos of them. Mostly they interviewed him to get some perspective on Hiroshi Fujiwara, who has designed sneakers and other things.

Plus, there were plenty of articles that had nothing to do with sneakers. Thank goodness.

Speaking of shoes, apparently if you get shoes that aren't made of leather, they're called "vegetarian". There are lots of vegetarian sneakers out there, including a brand called "wombat", of all things. Who decided to call these things "vegetarian"? Vegetarianism normally means that you don't eat meat. I've read stories about becalmed sailors and trapped mountaineers eating their shoes. Since the next step of desparation generally involves cannibalism, I'd say that a "vegetarian" who refuses to eat his/her shoes because they contain animal products is probably not going to like the alternatives any better.

Oh, what, the magazine? There was an interview with a hand model. Some pretty stills from a Thai western movie. A guy named Binh Danh who develops photographs onto leaves of plants. Good stuff. Check it out.

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Book Report: Strange Itineraries

It's a book of short stories by Tim Powers. There are some good ideas in here--but then most of those good ideas got recycled in later novels. Uhm, and I think they work better in the novels. I enjoyed these short stories. If you like Tim Powers and you see this book in your local bookstore, you could pick it up and be happy. I don't know if I'd go across town to pick it up, though. I was across town when I picked this book up, but I was on another errand. But that's another story.

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Link: Game Shoe

Depending on what you've been doing lately, you might be thinking "If I never look at another photo of an athletic shoe again for the rest of my life, that's just fine with me". But you might still like this ad showing a giant shoe sculpture made from hip Japanese toys. Sort of like game fish, but different, with a taste of ugly nationalism: You can't join in, nesting Russian doll! Go back home to Siberia or wherever! Wareware nippon-toizu, with 10,000 batteries all powered as one... Uhm, I'm not sure exactly where I'm going with this. But I liked the ad.

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Link: Book Report: Prank the Monkey (pages 91, 92)

You might think yesterday's book report was obnoxious, only covering the first third of a book. If so, you'll find this even more obnoxious: a review of pages 91-92 of a book. Rob "How Much is Inside?" Cockerham organized a massively-parallel book review; I was a worker in this effort.

Warning: the above link is abstractly not safe for work, as it contains a photo of me holding up a book page which itself has a photo, a photo of a kielbasa which is a metaphor for the book author's... uhm, sausage-like appendage.

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Book Report: The Language Instinct (the first third)

I am back from Chicago. (I went to Chicago! It was fun! I got to hang out with my cousin Betsy!) I'm still catching up on mail. I'm still downloading my mail. My main computer is still on a dial-up line. I guess while I wait for that to finish, I can use this DSL-enabled laptop to post a book report about Pinker's Language Instinct, or at least on the fraction that I slogged through before I gave up.

I didn't get much out of this book. It's kinda old. Because it reports on then-ongoing research by many people, many of its ideas had percolated out into the world before it was written. For me, this book dredged up memories of AI classes back in the late 80s, quibbles over knowledge representation.

This book contains many claims. Some I agreed with, some I didn't agree with, some... I wasn't sure what I thought. Some of these claims had interesting evidence behind them, studies that observed how children pick up language. Unfortunately, these were the claims that I already agreed with. So I read about the experiments, which were interesting. Then I read about the musings inspired by those experiments, which were less interesting. And all this was in support of something that I already agreed with. But when there were claims that I disagreed with, or where I would have liked some help making up my mind--there were no studies, only musing.

Well, maybe there were more-informative studies presented later in the book. I only made it through a third before I decided I was wasting my time. Still, the book is well-written. If I was just getting started studying language or AI or cognitive science or whatever the kids are calling it these days, I would want to read this book.

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Book Report: The Winter Queen

Ah, winter. Cold, snowy, icy, windy winter. What a great time of year for sitting inside and reading. The Winter Queen doesn't really have anything to do with the season, through.

This novel is by Borkis Akunin, translated by Andrew Bromfeld. It's a rollicking adventure story in which a dashing police detective zips across Europe on the track of a vast conspiracy. Fluffy good fun. Just the sort of book to keep you occupied inside when Jack Frost prowls without.

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Book Report: Shampoo Planet

I attended this meeting via video conference. No, I was not the guy in the gorilla suit. I have never ordered a gorilla-suited singing telegram. I figured that the concept is so wonderful that the implementation could never live up to it. But I have to give props to the folks at Furrier Courier of New York City--that was pretty fun. I would say that it was as much fun as a gorilla-suited singing telegram should be, which is to say, quite a lot.

Speaking of which, Shampoo Planet is a fun novel by Douglas Coupland. There weren't any gorilla suits, but there were other things. Malls. Diners. Los Angeles. Toxic waste. Following the arc of every other Douglas Coupland novel I've ever read, young people living in the modern world realize that they must understand old-fashioned ideas like "love" and "helping each other" to get by. I could read these things like popcorn.

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