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Ben E P

Joined 1 year, 4 months ago

Ex-poet, revolutionary communist.

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Condensed Chaos (1995, New Falcon Publications) 5 stars

Review of 'Condensed Chaos' on 'GoodReads'

4 stars

An appealingly accessible introduction to chaos magic. I began reading Liber Null first, and am very thankful that I was pointed towards this book instead. I'll be reading other volumes about magic, but this was an ideal starting point. Only a couple of "huh." moments and nothing terribly cringeworthy, despire the book being from the 90s. The "cyber-" prefix coming in here and there dates it a bit, but overall, you hardly notice that the book is over a decade old.

The other thing I like is that Hine rarely repeats himself. A lot of "intro to" texts seem to be overblown pamphlets if they're not condensed treatises. This is neither. Hine throws in enough history and theory to lay the groundwork for more instructional portions of the book, and then takes off at a comfortable job, rather than a sprint.

Tao te ching (Paperback, 2002, Watkins) 4 stars

Review of 'Tao te ching' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

I found the intro and commentary to be indispensable here. I say that not to praise either, as I think Needleman could have kept the former brief and expanded the latter, but because the text itself is incredibly obtuse. To be honest, I'm still not sure what to take away from it, apart from the concept (found in spiritual and philosophical texts of all description) that one cannot know a thing without experiencing its inverse, and that those dichotomies, while convenient for communication, are emphasized to too great a degree.

I'm glad I read this--it's a short read, and I have a better reference point for Taoism than I did before--but I doubt I'll revisit the text itself much.

This Nonviolent Stuff′ll Get You Killed (2014) 4 stars

Visiting Martin Luther King Jr. during the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, journalist William Worthy almost …

Review of "This nonviolent stuff'll get you killed" on 'GoodReads'

4 stars

The unwritten history of the fight for civil rights, which refuses to shy away from the armed defense of the nonviolent protest movement. Contains a lot of lessons for activists, and some thoroughly interesting (at times terrifying and horrible) stories of the struggle. There's some levity, too; Cobb is insistent on what he calls in the Afterword, "guerilla history" and quotes many big personalities who wouldn't normally find their way into a history of the civil rights battles prior to 1960. It's chock full of those accounts, and that makes the reading slow, here and there, but I highly recommend this book.

Mythmaking is as central to sustaining our present economy as profit-making. In the 1980s, Thatcher …

Review of 'The new prophets of capital' on 'GoodReads'

4 stars

A fast read, and pretty fascinating at times. Aschoff breaks down the personal philosophies of five celebrity capitalists (Sheryl Sandberg, John Mackey, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill & Melinda Gates), explaining why their visions or versions of feminism through corporate promotion, "green" capitalism, self-motivated individual liberation and identity politics, and market-driven conscious capitalist social change will only perpetuate inequality and injustice in the long run. She manages to do this without personally attacking her subjects or rendering them caricatures or arch-villains, and even proposes solutions and an annotated Further Reading list at the end. Well worth your time.

First as tragedy, then as farce (2009, Verso) 4 stars

"In this take-no-prisoners analysis, [the author] frames the moral failures of the modern world in …

Review of 'First as tragedy, then as farce' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

My first time reading Žižek, rather than watching him speak. Mid-way through this book, I heard about comments he had made that many found Islamophobic and others that were considered transphobic. However, even before this, I recognized that he was a controversial figure, known for incendiary and provocative remarks which he often seems to contradict shortly after they're presented in a lecture or book.

This book contains some very prescient commentary on populist right movements which, in the wake of the election of Donald Trump, caught my attention immediately. Discussions of the fetishization of the Other for purposes of establishing an ideological straw man held my attention, as did comments on the need for the Left to come together and figure out how to work toward their main values (or, at least, against the worst of the Right's encroachment on human rights) under late-stage capitalism.

But the book is wildly …

Homage to Catalonia (2015) 4 stars

[Homage to Catalonia][1] is [George Orwell][2]'s account of his experiences fighting in the 'Spanish Civil …

Review of 'Homage to Catalonia' on 'GoodReads'

4 stars

I really enjoyed reading this for several reasons. Firstly, I've read Orwell's fiction, and it's always interesting to read personal accounts of a fiction writer with whom I'm familiar (especially when they recount such a dramatic time period for the writer and the world). Secondly, I am a radical anti-authoritarian who identifies primarily as an anarcho-syndicalist. Orwell's politics are more or less in line with mine, and it was, frankly, thrilling to hear about revolutionary Spain, the abolishment of "usted" and "señor" in favor of "tú" and "comrade"/"comarada", the equalized pay of non-hierarchical anarchist militia columns, etc. It was also infuriating to read about the involvement of Soviet Russia in opportunistically establishing the International Communist Party as the primary non-fascist force which, ironically, suppressed and jailed anarchists and radical socialists after coming to power in the Republican-held strongholds. While Orwell's commentary on the impartiality of the press outside Spain (writing, …

Stalking the wild asparagus (1987, A.C. Hood, Distributed by the Countryman Press) 4 stars

Review of 'Stalking the wild asparagus' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

There are some pretty funny and touching moments in this book, but I began to skim as I got deeper. If Gibbons doesn't have a great story about the particular plant or animal he's writing about, the section will read more like a reference book.

I did learn a thing or two. For example: you can pretty much grab a fistful of any leafy green you see outside, boil it in salted water for 20 minutes, and put butter on it, and it'll be delicious. Of course, if it's a fruit or berry, you're going to want to boil it with 10 cups of sugar instead.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (2009, Little, Brown and Company) 3 stars

David Foster Wallace made an art of taking readers into places no other writer even …

Review of 'Brief Interviews with Hideous Men' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

This collection starts off fairly strong, but it was quite a slog for the last 100 pages or so. It contains some excellent shorter pieces. When left with a narrator, a few trivialities, and nothing else, however, DFW seems to delight in taking the long way home. While the ability to render a fully-formed character from a monologue is impressive, the amount of pieces here that indulge in the circuitous dialectic method DFW seems to prefer became wholly overwhelming to me. I'll give Oblivian a try, at the urging of a friend, but I have to say that I'm concerned about my capacity for engagement with DFW's short stories.