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Showing posts from October, 2019

Review: The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness

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The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness by Todd Rose
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rose undermines a deep assumption of the modern world; the primacy of average. He illustrates that throughout society, we use the average as a litmus test for judging all things, even though no singular person ever meets all the criteria of the average. After unpacking where the concept of the average came from and how it came to dominate our society, he then questions the usefulness of it in a variety of situations. He flips the idea of trying to get everyone to adhere to the average and asks what happens when we make thinks flexible to the individual. His iconic example is fighter pilot cockpits and how until they were made to be adjustable to the individual, rather than the "average" body, they inevitably failed in making humans more effective flyers and fighters. Anchoring this as his most visceral point, he then moves into looking at how different aspects of society (he…

Review: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

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12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Peterson's book has much to say but I'm not sure it has much to offer. In many ways, it reminds of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. On one level, both serve as guides for how individuals can build themselves up and strive in a modern, complex society. On the other hand, the ideological tenants that drive the authors and infuse the texts are detrimental in the social sense. For Rand, it creates sociopathic selfish individuals when enacted as a social practice, but for Peterson, he woefully mixes shoddy-history and pseudo-scientific views with a hodge-podge of theological and literary interpretations to create a tapestry that swings back and forth between our Darwinian and biblical origin, making it fit nicely by disregarding all the many things that don't fit neatly into how he is ordering the book. Layered upon this is a gendered vision (man is order, woman is chaos) that renders what he writ…

Review: American Amnesia

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American Amnesia: American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper by Jacob S. Hacker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hacker and Pierson present a striking, convincing, and important argument for the American electorate: government has and continues to be an important facet of growth, success, and improvements for individuals, businesses, and society as a whole, but a sustained and broad-sweeping effort by conservatives over the last 80 years has left many Americans blind to this. They structure their argument first by delving into history to show the ways in which a prominent government that played an active role in a mixed-market (as opposed to free market) was the foundation of the United States and the ways in which it has done so through from the 1800s and the expansion of the railroads to providing increasing balance and protection for citizens against the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age and then, of course, in the Post-WOrld War II boom in which they…

Review: Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

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Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Forman takes a delicate position in the discourse on racism within the criminal justice system. He easily articulates the points that many others have offered up to illustrate that since the end of slavery, the criminal justice system within the United States has been used to disproportionately disrupt and disenfranchise the lives of people of color. He never waivers from that but offers an insightful and critical consideration of the role that the African American community has played in the mass incarceration of other African Americans. In this way, his work fits in nicely with From #BlackLivesMatter To Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi. Forman is not trying to undermine ceaseless battles that people have had to fight but rather draw out the nuance of how those battles have le…

Review: Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made

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Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made by Jason Schreier
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Schreier provides a bird's eye view of the development process of some of the most established games of the late 2000s and 2010s. Through some 100 interviews, he explores a mixture of indie games to mega-production games and how they came into being (including one that did not). Each chapter delves into a different game and Schreier creates a narrative structural arc of how the game concept came into being to how it was released, including appropriate quotes and context as needed, often ending the story just after launch (sometimes with a follow up of 1-2 years after). In general, the chapters provide great contrasts such as when he explores the development off indie games like Stardew Valley (an ode to Harvest Moon) or Shovel Knight (a 2-D side-scroller in the tradition of Mega-Man) compared to Uncharted 4, Halo Wars, and The Witcher 3. These explora…