Sampling Media, ed. David Laderman & Laurel Westrup: Collection of essays on different types of sampling in different periods/nations, including the present. A few that stood out for me: Richard L. Edwards writes about remixing with rules and the role of constraint in the choice of sources as potentially enhancing creativity, just as choosing to use the sestina can be a spur to creativity. This is why I’ve never thought that the idea that constraint enhances creativity is a reason to expand copyright—the constraints should be relevant to the goal; writing in the voice of an existing character is also a constraint. Brian Hu’s piece on the use of intradiegetic karaoke scenes to discuss different types of realism in Chinese and Hong Kong cinema was also very interesting. Jonathan Cohn writes about a professional editing group’s mash-up contest and how professional and amateur and ‘working for the man for free’ interact in neoliberal culture. Samantha Close discusses different approaches to vidding and source among AMV editors and fan vidders. Corella Di Fede uses Antoine Dodson and the “Bed Intruder” song to explore how race and class play out in a world of theoretically more equalized access to the tools of expression for anyone with a phone.

Leo Rosenberger, Condo-Mania: An Entertaining Guide for Condo Owners, Board Members, and Homeowners Association Managers: Free early reviewer book. I got this for the property law connection; I could have used even more war stories/horror stories in terms of bad behavior, though the story about the whole lemon that somehow ended up clogging sewer pipes wasn’t bad. I liked “there’s no ‘I’ in team, but there are two ‘I’s in condominium,” making the point that condo living requires getting along with others. There’s a lot of practical advice/lists of things to consider that would probably be useful to a new board member. Rosenberger doesn’t like lawyers or going to court; his basic message is that judges aren’t likely to know condo law, and will be most interested in whether the management abided by its governing documents and state law, and whether the association applied its rules and regulations in a fair, nondiscriminatory manner. Rosenberger also emphasizes what he sees as the desirability of homogeneity—mostly in age, though general cultural factors also play in (very carefully avoiding any discussion of protected categories)—because governance works better with fewer disagreements about what the good life is. Though humans being what we are, people find things to disagree about anyway! This desire for homogeneity is part of his distaste for renters, who he thinks bring down condo values. He wants owners “who can afford the lifestyle and are proud of their community,” not “a bunch of landlords with tenants who just get by.” Also, tenants are less controllable by the condo association, which has to go through the landlord-owner to reach their behavior.

Michael Weiss & Hassan Hassan, ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror: Radicals who fought under other names have reconstituted as ISIS, according to this book, which tracks a welter of confusing political alliances of convenience and otherwise. It’s cleverly bribed important people and provided safety – for some, anyway—and taken advantage of other rivalries to make itself look like the best of the lot. The sex slaves and people whose hands are chopped off for violating fundamentalist Islamist rules are likely to have a different viewpoint, though the authors don’t talk to them. ISIS seemed better to many people tired of constant conflict in Syria and Iraq, and many locals supported only the “good” parts of ISIS and not the vicious beheadings. But, as we know, you can’t shake hands with the devil and say you’re only kidding.

 Cary Elwes, As You Wish: Adorable stories from the making of The Princess Bride. Fun for fans.

American Guy: Masculinity in American Law and Literature: Collection of essays roughly—very roughly—on this theme. (When you ask federal judges to write for you, you take what you get.) Robin West’s piece on Gatsby and the failures of tort law at the time Fitzgerald wrote is good—the connection to masculinity is her analysis of ethics of wrong/fault v. ethics of taking care of victims without punishing wrongdoers. Martha Nussbaum on Roth’s “Eli, the Fanatic” has neat things to say about Jewish masculinity, and Richard McAdams discusses empathy as feminine characteristic and as legal tool in To Kill a Mockingbird. Two more general pieces also caught my eye. Michael Warner’s “Manning Up” summarizes debates on the fragility of masculinity—manhood is always under threat and needing to be reasserted. David Halperin’s “What Is Gay Male Femininity?” is very hard to summarize, but fascinated me with its discussion of how the not-masculine in gay men gets coded as feminine, even if cis heterosexual women aren’t primarily associated with whatever the characteristic/fandom is (e.g., opera, Judy Garland).

Antony Beevor, The Second World War: Huge history of the war in Asia and Europe. Doesn’t skimp on brutality—cannibalism shows up in multiple areas, though only as a deliberate military tactic on the part of the Japanese. Military miscalculation happens on both sides, but, as someone said, the Americans don’t solve problems, they overwhelm them.

J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: Memoir of a man who went from Appalachian poverty and insecurity—his mother lived with a new man every few months, it seemed, and he didn’t spend a year in the same place until he moved in with his grandmother for his sophomore year in high school—to the Marines and then college and Yale Law, where he faced fellow students who had never known anyone who’d lived in poverty. It’s a compelling story; Vance is a conservative who argues that well-meaning and even well-functioning schools can’t help families unless those families themselves value stability and hard work. Vance offers a striking example of a young man he worked with one summer who took repeated half-hour “bathroom breaks” every day; he doesn’t have a job now and complains about how that’s the fault of the “Obama economy.” Vance doesn’t have detailed solutions, though—this is really a memoir of growing up and getting out, but remaining close with those left behind.

Volker Ullrich, Hitler: Read this because of Michiko Kakutani’s amazing anti-Trump review. What does become clear is that Hitler was written off many times, but kept trying to get power; because he did so, he was prepared when, through the mistakes of others, the opportunity emerged. Unlike Trump, however, Hitler’s country background and probable illegitimacy left him insecure about his own intellect and determined to educate himself, though he only read things he’d agree with. Hitler combined amazing laziness with real charisma, something Ullrich argues is less apparent to us not just because we know how the story ends but because he became more of a caricature of himself the longer he was in power, and so his compelling personal presence is harder for us to understand.

J.R. McNeill, The Great Acceleration: Compilation of evidence about the anthropocene—how humans have changed the planet in terms of energy consumption, population growth, species extinction and displacement, urbanization, air quality/water quality/warming, etc. We’ve made a big bet that we can change all this and survive; our grandchildren may discover how that pays off.

Ted Koppel, Lights Out: Free early reviewer book. Short and terrifying; Koppel investigates America’s vulnerability to attack on our electric power infrastructure. It’s huuuuuge. Lots of people would die, even though there are various preppers out there—and Mormons, who have a well-organized plan for disaster. I didn’t know that in 2013 there was what appeared to be a really well-planned, successful attack by SEAL-type forces on a power station in California, which might have been a practice run for a larger operation. Koppel also points to the Sony hack and the Stuxnet virus to show how easy it would be for well-resourced hackers to disrupt our systems in ways that couldn’t be detected until too late, which in this election season makes me freaked out about voting even more than power. His proposed solutions involve more preparation, which seems sensible, and also more power to the government to invade our privacy in order to find potential threats, which seems less so—Koppel seems to believe that we won’t adequately prepare unless we are so scared that we also give up our privacy, but I don’t think that those two are so necessarily connected. Also, take note, writers: this book and its cited sources would be good background reading for your postapocalyptic scenarios.

Elaine Khosrova, Butter: A Rich History: Free early reviewer book. I was hoping this would be a cute little one-item history of the world, but it’s really just about how butter was and is made, with a few jaunts to other countries to see how goat, yak, etc. butter is and was made, along with a defense of fat (v. carbs) and lot of recipes at the end. If you want some butter-heavy recipes, including most of the key French sauces, then go for it.

Melissa Harris-Perry, Sister Citizen: Harris-Perry focuses on the lived experiences of African-American women, including discrimination, stereotyping (both negative and “positive” with the strong black woman trope), and religion. She argues that the “strong black woman” idea, while it does provide women with a source of self-worth, also makes it more difficult for African-American women to seek help from the community and the polity. Understanding the complex circumstances in which African-American women negotiate their existences, their relationship to African-American men, and their political/religious commitments, she argues, is key to understanding American life.

Jonathan Tepperman, The Fix: How Nations Survive and Thrive in a World in Decline: Different solutions to difficult problems from around the world—if you want some cautious optimism, this might be a source, though whether these are all triumphs or replicable remains up for debate. Policies: Anti-poverty cash programs in Brazil; Canada’s immigration policy encouraging multiculturalism; Indonesia’s anti-terrorist program; Rwanda’s reconciliation after civil war; Singapore’s anti-corruption policies; Botswana’s democracy in the face of its resource curse; the revolution in shale gas technology in the US; South Korea’s pro-growth policies; Mexico’s multipartisan problem-solving; and New York City’s post 9/11 programs to defend the city against terrorism, climate change, and economic insecurity even without much help from the state or the federal government.


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