The Silence of Animals

by John Gray

Via Dangerous Minds: "For the so-called New Atheists, on the other hands, nothing exists you can’t just slap a word on, so their disbelief is a matter of having the word God, but not having an entity to affix it to (they’ve looked everywhere). Gray suggests an altogether more elevated position: 'Atheism does not mean rejecting belief in God. It means giving up belief in language as anything other than a practical convenience. The world is not a creation of language, but something that – like the God of the negative theologians – escapes language. Atheism is only a stage on the way to a more far-reaching scepticism.' (...)

John Gray: 'I do think of The Silence of Animals as a successor to Straw Dogs, though that only became clear to me as I wrote the book. I began it as an exploration of secular myth, especially the variety in which meaning is embodied in cumulative advance in time, but it soon became an attempt to dig deeper into the themes of the earlier book—in particular the idea of contemplation. The chief difference between the two books, from my point of view, is that by presenting contemplation as correlative to a life of action. The Silence of Animals is more positive in tone.' "

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by Hugh Raffles

Via Insectopedia: "A stunningly original exploration of the ties that bind us to the beautiful, ancient, astoundingly accomplished, largely unknown, and unfathomably different species with whom we share the world.

Organized alphabetically with one entry for each letter, weaving together brief vignettes, meditations, and extended essays, Insectopedia travels through history and science, anthropology and travel, economics, philosophy, and popular culture to show how insects have triggered our obsessions, stirred our passions, and beguiled our imaginations."

Via The New York Times: "Insects are all around us. They are the most numerous animals on earth, yet we pay them scant attention. Few of us attend to their innate beauty. More often than not, they are seen as pests sent to plague us (with the notable exception of the now threatened honey bee). 'We simply cannot find ourselves in these creatures,' Raffles writes. 'The more we look, the less we know. They are not like us. They do not respond to acts of love or mercy or remorse. It is worse than indifference. It is a deep, dead space without reciprocity, recognition or redemption.' [...]

Raffles’s approach is almost perversely eclectic. His alphabetical entries range in subject matter from the personal disgust he feels when he discovers a cockroach sharing the shower in his Manhattan apartment to epic journeys into Asia and Africa and observing cricket-betting in Shanghai and locust-eating in Niger. His essays may take up 20 pages or a mere two paragraphs. But the most satisfying ones illuminate his subject via potted biographies of men and women who are passionate about insects.

In 'Chernobyl,' for instance, Raffles offers a cameo of Cornelia Hesse-­Honegger, a contemporary artist dedicated to creating near-perfect watercolors of insects deformed by nuclear fallout. This is sci-fi stuff: flies with legs growing out of their eyes, the kind of mutations that in any other animal would elicit our horrified response, yet which, because they occur in such small creatures, seem almost excusable because almost invisible. In the act of depicting them so exactingly, Hesse-Honegger, whose own child, we are told in an upsetting aside, was born with a club foot, 'discovers that the insect is deformed in ways she hadn’t noticed before.' Her aesthetic is that of concrete art, isolated images placed in a grid; her intent is a silent rebuke, a solemn challenge to a world that, even now, is turning again to nuclear power to solve its problems. [...]

Impossible to categorize, wildly allusive and always stimulating, “Insectopedia” suggests an Enlightenment amateur wandering around the world stocking his cabinet of curiosities, unrestricted by notions of disciplines or specializations. Its author is at one moment a scientist in the field, the next an art critic, then an acute historian. His is a disconcerting, fantastical, (multi-)eye-opening journey into another existence, and one thing is for sure: You will never look at a cockroach the same way again, even if it is sharing your morning shower."

Thanks to Nicolas Langlitz!

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A Brief History of Everything

by Ken Wilber

Via Shambhala Publications: "In a breathtaking trip from the Big Bang to the Postmodern world we inhabit, Ken Wilber examines the universe and our place in it—and comes up with an accessible and entertaining account of how it all fits together. Along the way he sheds light not only on the great cosmic questions but on various contentious issues of our day, such as environmental ethics, gender relations, multiculturalism, and even the meaning of the Internet. A Brief History of Everything is the perfect introduction to the great Integral thinker at his wise and witty best."

Thanks to Ralf Neubauer!

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Codex Seraphinianus

by Luigi Serafini

Via Wikipedia: "Codex Seraphinianus, originally published in 1981, is an illustrated encyclopedia of an imaginary world, created by the Italian artist, architect and industrial designer Luigi Serafini during thirty months, from 1976 to 1978. The book is approximately 360 pages long (depending on edition), and written in a strange, generally unintelligible alphabet.

Originally published in Italy, the book has since been released in a number of different countries.

The word Codex in the title means book (from Latin caudex), and Seraphinianus is derived from the author's last name, Serafini. (In Italian, serafini refers to the seraphs.)"

Via John Coulthart: "As Hofstadter says, the mind is indeed staggered when considering the labour that went into the creation of this work, particularly for something that, in its willful hermeticism, subscribes to the Brian Eno recipe for originality: Do something that’s so time-consuming or difficult that no one else would ever bother. If this makes it sound like a slightly more involved equivalent of those Guinness Record-competing constructions made of toothpicks, then the comparison is unfair. The Taj Mahal in matchsticks operates on something like the chimps-with-typewriters principle: any number of people, given enough time, application and boxes of Swan Vesta could do as much. The Codex Seraphinianus is rather more special than that. It may be a folly but, like all the best follies, it achieves its own aesthetic apotheosis through accumulation of detail, sheer inventiveness and the ultimate conviction of its own worth; like all the best follies it is also unique. It might even be argued that the Codex Seraphinianus is one of the purest works of fantasy, one that affects no compromise with supporting narrative or histrionic drama but aims straight for the gold."

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Out of Our Heads – Why You Are Not Your Brain

by Alva Noë

Via Hill and Wang: "Our culture is obsessed with the brain—how it perceives; how it remembers; how it determines our intelligence, our morality, our likes and our dislikes. It’s widely believed that consciousness itself, that Holy Grail of science and philosophy, will soon be given a neural explanation. And yet, after decades of research, only one proposition about how the brain makes us conscious—how it gives rise to sensation, feeling, and subjectivity—has emerged unchallenged: we don’t have a clue.

In this inventive work, Noë suggests that rather than being something that happens inside us, consciousness is something we do. Debunking an outmoded philosophy that holds the scientific study of consciousness captive, Out of Our Heads is a fresh attempt at understanding our minds and how we interact with the world around us."

"As a neurologist, confronted every day by questions of mind, self, consciousness, and their basis, I find Alva Noë’s concepts—that consciousness is an organismic and not just a cerebral quality, that it is embodied in actions and not just isolated bits of brain—both astounding and convincing. Out of Our Heads is a book that should be read by everyone who thinks about thinking." —Oliver Sacks, Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center

Thanks to Constantin Rothkopf!

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Stanley Kubrick – Das Schweigen der Bilder [The Silence Of The Images]

by Kay Kirchmann


Although out of print and therefore pretty expensive I highly recommend this book if you are interested in Stanley Kubrick's work. Couldn't stop reading until the last page. Excellent.

Only available in German.


Via Schnitt: "Kirchmann untersucht das Œuvre des Regisseurs vornehmlich anhand der Bedeutung von innerer Geschlossenheit der einzelnen Filme auf der einen Seite und ihrer gleichzeitigen Einbettung in einen weltanschaulichen Gesamtkontext auf der anderen. Gerade das Motiv des Sehens wird in Das Schweigen der Bilder zum Leitfaden, der sich durch das filmische Schaffen Kubricks spannt. Der Kanon der weiteren Motive, die Kirchmann in Kubricks Werk herausgreift, reicht von der Bedeutung der Symmetrie in Kubricks Bildsprache bis hin zu seiner Vorliebe für die Adaption literarischer Vorlagen. Hierbei gelingt es dem Autor aufzuzeigen, wie Kubrick sich literarische Texte zu eigen macht und sie zum elementaren Bestandteil jener zyklischen Struktur werden läßt, die das Gesamtwerk des Regisseurs letztendlich ausmacht."


Thanks to Phillip Schulze!

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Do You See What I See?

Two books on the science of color perception

Via brain pickings: "From the fine folks behind BBC’s excellent Horizon series — who have also pondered the nature of reality, the age-old tension between science and religion, how music works, what time is, and how money came to dominate the world — comes Do You See What I See, a fascinating look at the subjectivity and divergence of how we each see the world and the surprising power colors can have on our mood, cognition, emotion, and entire lives.

For more on the science of color perception, you won’t go wrong with Mark Changizi’s fantastic The Vision Revolution: How the Latest Research Overturns Everything We Thought We Knew about Human Vision and the out-of-print but excellent Color Perception: Philosophical, Psychological, Artistic, and Computational Perspectives from Oxford University Press."

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How to Have a Number One the Easy Way

The Manual by The KLF

Via Wikipedia: "The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way) is a 1988 book by "The Timelords" (Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty), better known as The KLF. It is a step by step guide to achieving a No.1 single with no money or musical skills, and a case study of the duo's UK novelty pop No. 1 "Doctorin' the Tardis". [...]

The advice dispensed by The Manual includes: 'Firstly, you must be skint and on the dole. Anybody with a proper job or tied up with full time education will not have the time to devote to see it through... Being on the dole gives you a clearer perspective on how much of society is run... having no money sharpens the wits. Forces you never to make the wrong decision. There is no safety net to catch you when you fall.' and 'If you are already a musician stop playing your instrument. Even better, sell the junk.' The book also foretells its own imminent irrelevance, The Timelords admitting that they are writing 'a book that will be completely redundant within twelve months. An obsolete artefact. Its only use being a bit of a social history that records the aspirations of a certain strata [sic] in British society in the late eighties...'

The book is prophetic when it comes to recording technology: "It's obvious that in a very short space of time the Japanese will have delivered the technology and then brought the price of it down so that you can do the whole thing at home. Then you will be able to sod off all that crap about going into studios.'

Bill Drummond explained his motivations in an interview: 'It was an excuse to say a lot of things I wanted to say about how the industry worked. It was an excuse to go out and say to people all they can say to themselves: If you want to do something, go and do it! Don't wait to be asked, don't wait for a record company to come and want to sign you or a management company. Just go and do it. Also, it was saying: If you wanna have number can have it. It won't make you rich, it won't make you happy, but you can have it.' "


Thanks to Marcus Schmickler!

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Essential reading for designer

The New Typography and Pioneers of Modern Typography

Via Wikipedia: "Peter Saville designed many record sleeves for Factory Records artists, most notably for Joy Division and New Order.

Influenced by fellow student Malcolm Garrett, who had begun designing for the Manchester punk group, Buzzcocks and by Herbert Spencer's Pioneers of Modern Typography, Saville was inspired by Jan Tschichold, chief propagandist for the New Typography. According to Saville: 'Malcolm had a copy of Herbert Spencer's Pioneers of Modern Typography. The one chapter that he hadn't reinterpreted in his own work was the cool, disciplined New Typography of Tschichold and its subtlety appealed to me. I found a parallel in it for the New Wave that was evolving out of Punk.' "

Via University of California Press: "Since its initial publication in Berlin in 1928, Jan Tschichold's The New Typography has been recognized as the definitive treatise on book and graphic design in the machine age. [...]
'Probably the most important work on typography and graphic design in the twentieth century.'—Carl Zahn, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston"

Via Lund Humphries: "Modern typography does not have its origins in the conventional printing industry. Its roots are entwined with those of twentieth-century painting, poetry and architecture, and it flowered quite suddenly and dramatically in the twenty years following the publication of Marinetti's Futurist manifesto in 1909.
Since its first publication in 1969, and subsequent reissue in a completely revised edition, Pioneers of Modern Typography has remained the standard guide to the impact of twentieth-century avant-garde movements on graphic design and typography. [...]
Herbert Spencer's text examines what led up to the new concepts in graphic design and carefully disentangles the respective influences of Futurism, Dadaism, de Stijl, Suprematism, Constructivism and the Bauhaus. His text is profusely illustrated with examples of crucial contributions to the new typography - from Apollinaire to Zwart - and the book's documentation includes biographical notes on the key figures."

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Vampyroteuthis infernalis

by Louis Bec (*1936) and Vilém Flusser (1920-1991)

Via Amazon: "'Science is interesting precisely because it relates to me. It is a human function just as much as breathing is: it is an existential interest. And an entirely objective science would be uninteresting, inhuman. The search for scientific objectivity is revealing itself in its continual advancement not as a search for purity, but as pernicious madness. The present essay demands that we give up the ideal of objectivity in favour of other intersubjective scientific methods.'

'De te fabula narratur'. Thus starts this paranaturalist treatise by Vilém Flusser. (...) Flusser introduces us here to an infernal creature from the oceanic abysses, our long lost relative, who slowly emerges, not from the oceans, but from our own depths to gaze spitefully into our eyes and reflect back at us our own existence.

Originally published only in German in 1987, this version has been edited and translated by Rodrigo Maltez Novaes, Ph.D. candidate at the European Graduate School, Saas-Fee, under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Siegfried Zielinski, from the original, unpublished and extended Brazilian-Portuguese version of the manuscript recently found at the Vilém Flusser Archive at the Universität der Kunst, Berlin."

Via MediaArtNet: "For several decades, Bec’s artistic work has revolved around the interlocking of art and science. He became known through his efforts related to extending biological evolution and simulating new life forms, emphasizing in particular how these could bring forth evolution. His search for new zoomorphic types and forms of communication between artificial and natural species led to his founding a fictitious institute named Scientifique de Recherche Paranaturaliste, with Louis Bec as its presiding director. Bec was first introduced to artistic research on artificial life through his collaborating with the philosopher Vilém Flusser, who wrote about Bec’s Vampyroteuthis infernalis in his book of the same name."

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