Quarterly review: FY15Q2

Each quarter I do a quick roundup of the book and film reviews that I do on Goodreads and Letterboxd. These reviews are too short and too off-the-cuff to be included with the more in depth reviews I do on this site. Below are the highlights of the quarter.

Books

I am still a couple of books ahead of my 2015 Goodreads challenge, for which I am grateful since I recently started reading Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln and Infinite Jest, both which are over a thousand pages. Yes, finally I am doing an Infinite Summer, which is a sort of summer reading/support group to get through this challenging but worthy novel. I am already way behind, but the book is amazing so far.

Other than Tehanu (★★★★☆) I did not write any short reviews this quarter.

It was a strange month, with some strange books, including Iterating Grace — a short, fun read with an interesting mystery behind it.

Recently I have been doing some research on the plight of Canadians of Japanese heritage during WWII. Reading Obasan (★★★★★) I was exposed to a beautiful, sorrowful account of that dark stain on Canadian history. Typically assigned reading in high school, I somehow missed this book. Now, I recommend it to anyone who wants to know what it is like to be treated as an “other”, even when you are in your own country. I will certainly encourage my kids (who are half-Japanese) to read it when they get older. Whether they realize it or not, it is part of their heritage.

Looking back on my reading this quarter I have learned is that I should be more diligent in writing little reviews. It helps me remember the book better, and justify the ratings I award them.

Film

My family has been away for the past 6 weeks, which means that the number of children’s movies I saw has dropped precipitously, which is unsurprising. More surprising, however, is how much my film viewing overall has dropped. Despite all my new-found spare time, I have only watched 5 films since my temporary bachelorhood, and written only three micro-reviews for the entire quarter:

★★★★☆ Avengers: Age of Ultron

★★★★☆ Mad Max: Fury Road

★☆☆☆☆ 47 Ronin

Most of my screentime went to catching up on TV shows: I finished off Agents of SHIELD, Arrow and enjoyed The Flash; Daredevil was fun and I even liked Agent Carter; lastly I started watching Vikings and am halfway through the second season.

I still need to get caught up on Game of Thrones. I still haven’t even seen Season 3 yet.

Putting humanity back into startups

Startup culture is pretty absurd. You can seriously criticize its neoliberal, technocratic ideological underpinnings, or you can satire it with shows like Silicon Valley. Hackathons are ripe for criticism too, but there is a place for laughs. Listen to this great Radio Berkman ep about “Comedy Hack Day,” where they embrace the absurdity of the “app-happy Cloud of anesthetized convenience”:

This reminds me of another Hackathon I heard about from last month:the Stupid Shit No One Needs & Terrible Ideas Hackathon where an amazing CLI for Tinder was released, among other stupid and funny inventions. At last year’s local Startup Weekend Okanagan the winning team used humour to get an edge, building an app that routes your txts through a friend for approval before sending — for those times when one is inebriated and should not be sending ill-advised, late night missives to former lovers.

Baratunde Thurston (of The Onion fame) ends the Berkman podcast (at about 10:20) with a comment worth highlighting:

Technologists, I think, its very important as architects of our future… that there’s a dosage of humanity in that. And there’s not much more human than humor.

These examples aren’t specifically political or social critiques about technology per se, but the potential is there. I like to read (and sometimes write) high-minded, literary critiques of this business that I am in. That is certainly valuable, and works. But humour is another way to make people aware of the absurdities of this business, and is an enjoyable and artful way to valuable tech criticism.