The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

June 17, 2004

Reviews of books I like and more -

Paul Graham, Hackers & Painters, Big Ideas from the Computer Age,
O'Reilly, 2004

This is a rather frustrating book, because there is a great deal of
information buried in a fairly flat landscape. I'm not sure why it wasn't
edited down to a more concise format. The author talks a great deal about
programming, languages, and sites such as Orbitz which is written in lisp.
The chapters that fascinated me most are near the end: Programming
Languages Explained, The Hundred-Year Language, Revenge of the Nerds, and
The Dream Language. The author extols hackers and user-friendly
languages, and has made me want to learn lisp; he writes extensively on
its advantages. I like lines like "There are worse things than having
people misunderstand your work. A worse danger is that you will yourself
misunderstand your work." On the other hand, there are far too few
examples - parts of the book might be already too simple for programmers,
but parts are also too simple for humanities-based theory. I'd recommend
this book to anyone interested in thinking about the issues raised, but
not expecting too many answers.

The Works of Mencius, translated etc. James Legge, Dover edition.

I'm on a slow-reading email list for Mencius - the book is terrific, even
after millennia have passed. I had expected a much drier text - it's not
at all. A tremendous guide to early Chinese culture as well.

Georges Ifrah, The Universal History of Numbers, Harvill, three volumes

If you read anything in the philosophy of mathematics - or philosophy for
that matter - or the history/phenomenology of symbols - or the
historiography (not to mention history) - of computers, you should run out
the door and buy these. They're critical. First volume, early history;
second volume, modern number-system, third volume, computer and the
information revolution. On top of everything else, they're exciting to

George Dunnington, History and Progress of the County of Marion, West
Virginia, 1992 reprint of 1880.

I've become fascinated by the history of West Virginia - ranging from
Native Americans through the mines and mine war. Fairmont in Marion was
the home of Israel Forman, who made the cabinet cards I have in my current
exhibition here (around 1889). Now it turns out that a fire which
destroyed the downtown in 1876, just around the time of the Centennial,
was discovered "burning up the stairs leading to Foreman's (sic)
photograph gallery" and that it was most likely deliberately set. The plot
thickens but nothing remains, not even of Main Street, which seems to have
disappeared altogether from the town, probably through renaming.

Stefan George, Der Teppich des Lebens und die Lieder von Traum und Tod mit
einem Vorspiel, Georg Bondi, Berlin, 1915 - probably first published 1904.

I just purchased this for $8 at a used bookstore - what fascinates me is
the early sans serif type - the outside is typical art nouveau, as is the
title page - but the poems themselves are set in another style altogether.
Anyone know the history of sans serif?

Robert Karl Reischauer, Early Japanese History, 1969 reprint from 1937,
only Part A,

and no, this isn't _the_ Reischauer, but a brilliant book documenting the
subject year by year, as in chronicle form (gathered from a great number
of sources), as well as an outline, diagrams, and tables - if you're
interested in this subject, I think this work would be indispensible - you
can get both volumes on abe for as little as $40. Even if you're not
interested in the subject, these are amazing reading.

Volney's Ruins, or Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires, translated
under the immediate inspection of the author from the sixth Paris edition,
to which is added, The Law of Nature, and A Short Biographical Notice, by
Count Daru: also, The Controversy between Dr. Priestly and Volney, Boston,

Has anyone read all of Volney? I'm fascinated by this work, which I'm
dipping into - I'm sure it's been republished - it's available all over
the Net - influenced the Shelleys - he knew Washington - hysteric
romanticisms, orientalisms, fantastic accounts, dialogs, everything -

Alan Sondheim, recent work,

has involved motion capture bvh files created for Poser; background is
supplied by images from Cooper's Rock and Gentile Glass company. The
result is the dismembered high-speed post-modern body as the contacts are
remapped onto bodies plural, as well as floor-heaps and straight-forward
topological splits/joins, etc. The background of the recent pieces
attempts to impose a narratology, if not a narrative, upon the results.
Other work has involved the creation of a filtering program for ascii
texts (with the aid of two c++ programmers) which will use mathematical
functions as its basis.


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