"In his book Nationalism Reframed, the sociologist Rogers Brubaker explains how a rising generation of Serbs, entering political life in the economic twilight of the 1980s, came to develop a kind of persecution complex, envisioning Yugoslavia as a frontier of secession-prone republics where their majority was dwindling."
8/16/2020 half my body is kebab
Started reading Vodka Politics by Mark Lawrence Schrad, an eye-opening chronological overview of the enduring role alcohol plays in state control. Did you know wikipedia pages for monarchs are heavily sanitized? Did you know Peter the Great, heavily intoxicated, would execute prisoners during banquets much to the horror of foreign dignitaries? His mistress Elizaveta Vorontsova "swore like a trooper, squinted, stank and spat as she spoke." They were just like us common folk.
9/5/2020 Tried to read A History of Costume by Rachel H. Kemper, not the best book about clothing. Claims are ambiguous and uncited, there's a distinct stench of bad pop history that permeates the pages.
Eventually, the concept of fatherhood was grasped and, inspired by animistic magic, male sexual display achieved astonishing dimensions.
Not particularly convincing. It is from 1977 so the text retains the same paradox as mid-century clothing research, namely decrying colonial erasure of native clothing and calling those same people unhinged savages. The second chapter is unironically titled "Civilizing Costume"
8/24/2020 Reading Svetlana Alexievich's Zinky Boys, a collection of first-hand testimonies about the Soviet-Afghan war.
9/27/2020 Sub 25 weather, I'm into it. Reading The Great Stink of Paris once again, almost 2 years since my pathology prof recommended it to the class. Moralizing about poverty, making social issues into individual shortcomings, horse corpse management, there's plenty of modern political intersections with 19th century public health. Brits get shat on all over this book with excerpts like:
Timeless, tradition-bound, stubbornly resistant to change, Bretons stood as a race apart within France, â€œholding on with a religious respect to their institutions, their mores, their dress, and their language, as they maintain in their [physical] traits the still recognizable characteristics of the race to which their ancestors belonged. On the one hand, their attachment to an unchanging way of life preserved the Breton traditions, institutions, and love of the land; on the other hand, it also made 'the bad eternal and the better impossible.'
Resignation to this lot in life was so deeply ingrained in the Breton people that it caused the hygienists to wonder whether these peasants would even consent to trade their diet or belongings for better ones if given the choice. The Breton accepts his fate as final and absolute, observed VillermÃ© and Benoiston, quoting another contemporary observer to the fact that 'he treats his poverty like a hereditary and incurable disease.'
10/24/2020 Cooking is fun. Read lottery isekai vol8. Still fantastic. It goes quite hard on trade/industrialization, would be interesting to tackle poverty in what is essentially feudal society. Reading A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America. The author is a venture capitalist, title's a bit trashy, and I hesitate to call it "good sociology" or "good" but I don't regret reading it. I just can't shake my suspicions at some of the assertions he makes, especially without any references. He does bring some interesting insight, like how the supposedly anti-war 60's students were among the most hawkish survey respondents prior to the draft. He also asserts that while West-coast communes and collective farms have brought little institutional change post-Vietnam, right-wing libertarians on the same coin also distrustful of "the man" have found a place in the Republican party.
1/18/2021 2 rolls of Venus 400 got here, straight to the freezer. Read An Oral History of the Portuguese Colonial War a thorough ethnography of Portuguese veterans some 40 odd years after. Reminded me of post-war Japanese discourse about the perpetrator-victim binary. Fresh conscripts instantly disillusioned with empire-building after getting off their ships, conflicting feelings about enjoying and hating the war, understanding the insurgents' cause yet fighting out of neccesity. The permeating shame about being a disposable number to a dictatorship, yet not being accepted as a victim of war by their communities is a really interesting dynamic that I can't really think of any parallels to.
1/17/2021 Read Human Identification - Case Studies in Forensic Anthropology. Watching the four-part NHK documentary on Hayao Miyazaki.
1/19/2021 Read Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town. As a proper ethnography it's a mindfuck of a read. Pharma companies dragging their hands over DEA proposals combatting illicit drug labs, ununionized meat workers doing meth to cover extra shifts after their pay was slashed by 60%, the author makes a very good case that its rise dovetails into and is an indicator of rural decay. But the writer isn't a sociologist, he's a writer. As an Iowan his illustrations of the rural landscape, the miasma that occupy the towns, the anxiety that fills their residents, all of it is beautifully laid out as written by an insider.
1/22/2021 I love showering but I hate to process leading up to it, the resignation of getting wet and cold afterwards. If humans didn't have any biological needs I'd spend all my time in the showers, my pruned flesh eventully withering away into nothing. You'd think we were derived from volcanic deep-sea lichen by how much we enjoy a slow bath, stewing in our own broth.
Read Working Stiff by Judy Melinek, a foresic pathologist's account of working at a New York coroner's office. Now this isn't a textbook like the last 2 about forensic anthroplogy I read, dry and distant in tone. Some non-academic books with rubbernecking titles really don't approach the subject matter with grace: many authors have intentions beyond Mary Roach's respectful curiosity. Thankfully Melinek's book straddles that line well. People are the fundamental focus and the author's charisma really seeps through the pages. From dealings with other pathologists to investigators and the families of the bereaved, she presents a sincere look into the human elements of her job. Despite the meat and potatoes being quite grim it doesn't feel like a heavy read.
1/23/2021 Finally reading American Psycho, everyone is endearingly repulsive. The conversations are so cryptic and heavy with pretext they might as well be sign language drawn on the pages. Also reading Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace.
2/11/2021 Finished One Soldier's War. Predictably a punishing read from the hazing to the shooty tooty and all that. The first half is like a full-length novel about Harry Potter's downtrodden life prior to discovering his inherited royal blood and latent Übermensch talent. The book is remarkably well-written, the translation even getting terminology correct like taxiing aircraft or backblast. The physical descriptions about terror or anticipation reminded me a bit of old english literature where people would break into a fever from shock alone. The disparity in value systems between war and normal life is again present, the shopping cart scene in The Hurt Locker.
2/14/2021 Read Daily Life in the Middle Ages by Paul B. Newman. As an /r/askhistorians regular it's right up my alley, although rather generalist due to the broad topic. It offers a few typifing examples but more would've been nice. It does its best to dispell the grotty backwards image the post-roman empire period has carried with it. Most surprising was the use of grass carpets as even most castles had earth floors, as well as table manners/suggestions that were quite sensible.
2/15/2021 Reading Soviet Baby Boomers: An Oral History of Russia by Donald Raleigh.
2/22/2021 Read one of the worst articles in recent memory, a confessional about shopping addiction by Buzz Bissinger. Brilliantly written, it has a multi-dimensional unpleasantness about it that you can't quite distill in one word. Trawling through LACMA's online costume and textiles section.
2/26/2021 Finished Both Flesh and Not. I feel like I should stray away from such neurotic essays about essaying. The moment you bring any self-awareness in the act of smashing words together you start to hesitate. Am I elaborating my point well, is my tone too pretentious, am I coming across as too judgemental. I think it's also the reason why I've largely avoided fiction as well, you can't help but compare and weave doubts in your otherwise carefree creations.
3/18/2021 Reading Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery by British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh, the same author of Do no Harm. While illuminating, his first book struck me as fairly conventional. He outlines his passion for hoovering up brain tumors and the relationship he has with his patients and colleagues, pulling no punches in portraying himself as a member of the grumpy old guard. In contrast this second book is adorned with waves of insecurity and anxiety that is quite rare for a memoir. It seems like Marsh shed his inhibitions after the reception of the first book, getting even more intimate in his writing.
3/22/2021 Finished Admissions. Wow. It's almost uncomfortably intimate, dodging any sort of camp by the writing being paced exceptionally well. Marsh deals with the filial reverence for his father, the guilt of making mistakes during surgery, his conclusions on dying with dignity, the book is a stream of consciousness from a man who has had lots of time to reflect. And there's constant reminders that the narrator is as falliable and vulnerable as the patients he treats. Trivia about later life outcomes adorns anecdotes about his own maladaptive habits and work-related anxieties. The adversity of poverty during his trips to Nepal and Ukraine training native surgeons is contrasted with the frank humanity of his patients. Marsh listens to people, he can see beyond the revolving door of a patient-doctor relationship.
After a while, Salima, with my help, worked out that we were looking at a huge brain tumour – technically a petroclival meningioma. I had once had a similar case in London who also had the very rare symptom of uncontrollable, pathological laughter. I had operated, and had left her in a persistent vegetative state. It was one of the larger headstones in my inner cemetery.
3/13/2021 Reading The Hell of it All with the same wide-mouthed contemplation that accompanies an impossibly complex instructional video. Learning how other people structure their writing is fun but frustrating, it's always been a source of self-conscious vanity for me. The sensation relies on some inherent self-criticism much like hearing your voice for the first time, viewing other people's work is equal parts awe and AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
3/27/2021 Been reading We Few, a memoir by MACV-SOG veteran Nick Brokhausen. Vietnam is fascinating because of the war's intimacy. The dense jungles put close-range fire superiority into practice with new small arms and man-portable area affect weapons, a far cry from the Korean war. Engagements in the book are often measured in inches. Brokhausen talks about sawn-off RPD's and sawn-off M79's and a multitude of other recon-specific gelded creations. The point man, or soldier at the very front of a patrol would dress like the NVA to give them a split-second advantage when coming into contact.
The book pounds out a beat of events and acronyms, never extrapolating beyond literal observations. The language of war, the language of logistics and rank and geography dot the pages, the book is a stream of consciousness that never diverts off his cone of attention. In contrast to Marsh it's a bit naive. It illustrates an insular collection of men who have volunteered to fill an unimaginable role. It's an accurate interpretation through the harrowing missions the teams are subjected to, but they strip off the benignity of war. Google MACV-SOG and you'll get pictures of gyozas and uncles clad in tigerstripe and black fatigues. Team members are distilled down to codenames and eccentrities, almost rendered anonymous. Moments of possible introspection like the brothers he kills at close-range or recovered NVA pictures of family is swatted off with jokes. His animosity of MP's and site commanders and ARVN and Red Cross personnel (estrogen kitties/libido twins as he calls them) instead takes precedence, details that fall on deaf ears not really concerned with small-scale politics from a conflict 50 years ago. Where the book really shines is the moments of surreal humor.
The smell of a C-130 burning aviation fuel is distinct from a Huey. Each has its own set of memories and triggers. A C-130 means traveling with no one shooting at you, a Huey’s smell will give you an anus tightening for the rest of your life.
3/31/2021 Finished We Few
4/14/2021 Reading At the Stranger's Gate by Adam Gopnik. I went from his The Moth talk to his novels about winter or knees or whatever. Not a tangent I'm used to. Gopnik's soppy description of his wife really resonated with me, and why I enjoy things.
She loved “beautiful things” of all kinds. Okay. But what was astonishing to my teenage mind was that each beautiful thing was for her nestled in a kind of web of invisible wires, each tugging on scenes from old musicals and chapters from old books, from Mary Poppins to novels by Virginia Woolf, so that a Wedgwood plate or a tartan robe pulled with it, toward it, entire worlds of feeling that she longed for.For her, it was by being not strange and not new that things earned their beauty. They were familiar, but familiar not from a middle-class life in Canada; rather, from an imaginary life glimpsed in books and movie theaters, which she was determined to get to. Ever since she was small, she had been following the invisible wires that tugged on things from their point of origin, the places she longed for. The things also longed for their original homes, and if one simply followed them religiously enough, one might get there, too. The invisible wires all led away from Montreal, sweet though it was, away from family, loving though they might be, away from home. The invisible wires all led elsewhere.
5/10/2021I spent 4 hours on wikipedia last night after coming home. It went from British confections to food scandals to Whaling to Superfund sites to Chinese mining disasters. Finished at the stranger's gate. Read The devil’s defender: my odyssey through American criminal justice. Started The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat And Other Clinical Tales.
6/9/2021 reading Soviet Communal Living - An Oral History. The stories are staggering, it carries this brutish unrefinement that conjours up images of pimpled chimneysweeps and untreated chlamydia. The diversity of the people in thse recollections are fascinating as well, there's transient faces from all over the Baltics dropped into these cramped communal apartments.
7/6/2021 Reading My Dark Places by James Ellroy, another true crime book that's really about freudian obsession. It's quite lurid in a way a car crash scene is. Found out about in on a Beer and Board Games episode.
7/25/2021 also reading Caveat Emptor, a memoir/confession by American art forger Ken Perenyi. Roy Cohn makes a surpise appearance, Andy Warhol is a described as a sort of strange surveillance device. I had the same sense of jealosy as when I was reading Gopnik's memoirs of gallivanting through New York City casually namedropping people like Richard Avedon.
9/3/2021 Finished Five days at Memorial to commemorate Hurricane Ida plowing through the East coast.
9/15/2021 Got my second shot.
Thinking back The Sorrows of Young Werther was probably the worst book i've read. Smoke gets in your Eyes & other Lessons from the Crematory was a decent book, even with the first few chapters. The lengthy plots of self-referencial adolescent retrospection seemed a tad heavy-handed. More lessons on natural burials and water cremation would've been good but I assume that's in the realm of her later books. Forgetting what the other mortician book I read was. Started reading How to do Nothing. Crash by Ballard is up next.
9/29/2021 Read Imperial Nostalgia by Peter Mitchell. I've seen some embarrassing statistics on how the English view their imperial history so this should fill some holes. Interesting to see how looking to an idealized past actively informed the start of colonialism. of A similar book called Post-colonial Melancholia is also on my list, one of the chapters is titled "The Negative Dialectics of Conviviaity" which sounds as entertaining as Hegels explaining how roofing tiles are made.
10/6/2021 Crash is a good novel. There's a certain masochistic thrill grimacing through the pages, like staring at black and white pictures of minamata victims. Sexuality should be a rather universal shared human experience but it's grotesquely distorted into something simultaneously unrecognizable and familiar. The Freudian post-traumatic sexual awakening is like the latent cosmic war analogies of an extremist ideology finally making sense. The emotions assigned to the events in the novel seem to exist in two contradictory states, libido and mechanicality, vulgarity and factuality, reality and unreality.
10/15/2021 lebanese civil war 2.0 soon? Started but didn't finish On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes. Not a great one. books on gommies came. The cover art for the right book is fantastic. Japanese is sort of stiff so it's never been terribly exciting to read through. Hopefully I can change that.
10/29/2021 Finished How to do Nothing on the train ride back, masses of hair gliding along the floor of the subway as always. While it is a generalist book on the author's very personal circumstances, neither fully scholarly or blog-like, her writing tied off plenty of loose ends on the ambiguous unanswered collections of life experiences that build up like the plaque in your veins. Issues about attention, bioregionalism, productivity,
12/12/2021 Seeing a ton of small families wandering about on the weekends. My neighborhood lacks 20-somethings and 80-somethings. Reading America and The Spirit of Terrorism Baudrillard is hilarious, something you would never expect to say. His unwavering hatred for joggers(lit. reads like a Screenwipe episode.
12/20/2021 bought the $10 4kg box of tangerines. Read The Nation-State Fantasy. Research papers aren't that fun to read. Started reading Postcolonial melancholia. Apparently coral are starting to develop in Tokyo Bay, we are so fucked.
1/6/2022 Reading And the Band Played On, the famous 1987 book about the AIDS epidemic. For a large child like me a pre-AIDS world is perfectly unimaginable, CDC investigators drawing blood without gloves or unscreened blood transfusions actually happened in a more complacent time. Like mouth pipetting it all sounds like a pathologist's distant nightmare. The arguments levelled toward public health measures is resoundingly familiar today. Retrospectively sexual liberation and the bathhouse proponents sound quite out there, I didn't expect just how radical their positions had been. You also get a taste of gay sectarianism when places like the Castro district were at its peak alongside the workplace politics between the CDC and CDI that inhibited joint HIV/AIDS research.
Still haven't finished The Aesthetics of Degredation, Dilemma in Japan, or Post-colonial Melancholia.
1/16/2022 Finished Wages of Guilt by Ian Buruma, lessons on the post-war reformations of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Post-war memories are a funny thing isn't it. I wrote a reading project review on the Portuguese colonial war last year and the conclusions are completely different from this book. Whoops nazi administrators didn't get weeded out by the West Germans and whoops American occupation preserved the Japanese elite that led to the war. Shatters any comforting fictions that the Germans had adequately confronted their past and the Japanese are actively avoiding it. Very striking interviews from former 1968 student radicals to Japanese veteran confessionals, anti-Vietnam war activists to East German schoolteachers.
The opinions of reactionaries yearing for a past that never existed are always predictably paper-thin but the majority of the book isn't about ogling the ghouls. Instead it's the stories and conclusions of middling political pragmatism. Prime ministers formerly on the Class-A war criminals designation, bureacrats wishing not to the rock the boat, figures in power wholly uninterested in the theatre of justice and accountability. Bouncing from academic and political discourse to public consensus Buruma manages to worm his way through amorphous anxieties and rationalizations without latching onto classic essentialist cultural explanations of genocide and war crimes.
just saw some snufkin BL
2/14/2022 Read In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi, a story about reconnecting with her estranged father who came out as trans at the age of 76. You sort of expect familial narratives like this to be embarrassing to read, specially on subject matter this provocative. The usually bay area or Massachusetts upper-class non-practicing jewish author shares a bit too much, self-deprecates their liberal naievety a bit too much, exhausted platitudes about life wrap up chapters a bit too conveniently. Adam Gopnik comes to mind, unironically scaralizing the tenents of milquetoast American liberalism in a 2019 book as an argument directed towards his unconvinced daughter. Or Joyce Maynard's cripplingly exhibitionistic memoirs of her affair with J.D. Salinger, chapters dripping with self-absorption adorned with too many confessions. Faludi reflects on the divorce culminating in a stabbing and restraining order, her father's identity living through the war and nodding along to Serbian-style invented nationalist traditions. Recollections of her father traces a mutualistic respect and disdain. In renouncing the present "I" from her writing Faludi is able to convincingly look at her father's previously undescipherable rationalizations of estrangement.
Faludi's family is of Jewish Hungarian background. What do I know about Hungary? Nothing. I've never even met a Hungarian. Imagine all the redditors out there that can tell you more about Mordor than Budapest. She explores what it means to be trans (Blanchard passingly mentioned like some sort of academic voldemort), what it means to be jewish in Hungary (not good), and what it means to exist in a post-USSR Hungary.
3/1/2022 Read An Inventory of Losses, a book close to A Compendium of Obselete Objects in spirit. Translated from its original German, Schalansky's prose kicks along rhythmically. Covering subjects from extinct wildlife and Sappho's lost poetry, I expected the sentimental tone of a distant witness, someone observing inevitable destruction. Instead she sets the stage with hypothetical could-have's presented in a straight-faced chronological narrative. She speculates about what the Mangaia natives must have felt during their contact with James Cook. The second chapter narrates the internal monologue of two captured caspian tigers during the Roman empire in a segment of conjecture that makes my romatic daydreams seem unembarrassing.
I don't think this is an inherited tone borne from translation and the author's excellent prose is unwavering throughout, but I feel as if those ultimately subtract from An Inventory of Losses. To me the stories of neglect, appropriation, erasure, and destruction should not need ornamentation to be vivid. Bad history is always born not through malice but congenital falsehoods or narratively convenient half-truths, and this book sits on the murky demarcation between fiction and non-fiction, objective fact and aspirational fantasy.
5/20/2022 Finished 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep, Post-Colonial Melancholia, Strangers in Their Own Land, Tunnels of Củ Chi, Across The Fence: The Secret War In Vietnam.
6/1/2022 Been reading A savage War of Peace, the classic on the Algerian War. There's an onslaught of French phrases thrown in and left untranslated, perhaps out of snooty frenchness or profound understanding of the type of deviant who reads books like these. There's a fascinating bit where Raymond Aron outlines the importance of the Algerian war in a comparative sense with the army's ongoing humiliation from Dien Bien Phu to now Algeria. He warns of a fate in France that has already befallen Spain and Portugal (unsaid that both are not only colonial empires but explicitly fascist)
6/11/2022 Finished Newjack by Ted Conover, the same man I realized I saw in a The Moth video about three-thirds into the book.
7/9/2022 Finished My Dark Places by James Ellroy, Dispatches by Michael Herr.
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