The Art of Steampunk Art Donovan

This book is more of a museum catalog than an actual text. It covers the eponymous exhibit at the Oxford University Museum of the History of Science that was held October 2009-February 2010.

Calling it a catalog does do something of a disservice. There are no fewer than three introductory-type chapters that explain the phenomena and philosophy of Steampunk (in somewhat repetitive fashion, alas). After that there are individual chapters on each of the artists, along with some highlights of their work.

While a great deal of the work is standard steampunk fare of goggles and timepieces (even so, beautifully done) two artists, Kris Kuksi and Richard Nagy, stand out. Kuksi’s pieces are sculptural rather than wearable, and the level of detail is amazing, while Nagy tackles digital machines for the Victorian age. This volume is a fun addition to any enthusiast’s library.

I received a review copy from the publisher.

The Art of Steampunk

Now Available in Paperback

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He Best Come on with It

I’m not one who generally likes to pile on, but I’m beginning to get the urge. Like many who feel we got stiffed after asking for our change, I would like some accountability. One of the reasons I don’t wish to pile on is that, even though I’ve never done the job personally, I imagine it’s a lot harder to do well than it looks. And the level of intractibility that has been shown by the opposition these last two and a half years surpasses anything that any President has had to face this side of Abraham Lincoln. One should also make allowances for the situation in which the new President found himself: two wars and a global economic meltdown in full swing.

As I am not one to pile on, neither am I one to suggest that the Dems run someone else to ‘shake Obama up’. Yes, in hindsight, there are a lot of decisions that could have been made differently. However, that doesn’t mean that we throw the baby out with the bath water. All a second candidate will shake up is the Democratic Party. We’ve seen what a fractured party looks like, it’s called the GOP.

This does not mean that President Obama gets a free pass, however. He needs to get moving, and he needs to do so BEFORE the election. If he waits until his second term to enact the change he promised, that makes him no better than the people he sought to replace. That makes him just another political hack whose only goal is reelection.

Read This Before Our Next Meeting Al Pittampalli

This was a colossal waste of time. Almost as much time as a really bad meeting. Yes, we know, meetings are broken and they waste time. There is too much MBA and CYA to really achieve anything. But for 90% of the people who have to attend meetings, there is nothing of practical application in this book. While there were cute moments (i.e., meetings as “weapons of mass interruption”) there is not enough in this book to warrant anything other than a memo. Which the author is bold enough to suggest that one read. Yes, memo-reading is key.

Lost in America: A Dead-End Journey Colby Buzzell

Lost in America: A Dead-End Journey is Colby Buzzell’s response to his publisher’s pitch to update an American classic. Instructed to “retrace Kerouac’s footsteps and paint a contemporary portrait of America” and to write “a love letter to Kerouac”, Buzzell wholeheartedly agrees and immediately cashes the advance check. And also immediately lets the reader know “Like hell I am.” This is no homage to Kerouac or classic American literature.

The book opens with a quote from Kurt Cobain and each succeeding chapter opens with yet another in the same nihilistic vein. Very little of the book has to do with the trip Buzzell took across the country. It is more of a travel guide on his road to some semblance of grown-up life as well as a meditation on family. Twin earthquakes struck in quick succession: his mother’s death and his son’s birth. He chose to delay the trip for the first, but not the second. Buzzell remarked on several occasions that he needed to find the plot. Where would the book go? What was the hook? It is easy to see and surmise that this applied to his life as well as to the writing assignment.

For all intents and purposes, the six-month trip ended in Detroit. For Buzzell, this city is Ground Zero for the disaffected and disowned. Suicide is mentioned more than once, and one could argue that his actions in Detroit were a form of passively attempting such. He also used the city to draw a parallel between Kerouac’s Beat Generation and today’s beat down generation. He repeatedly referred to the city, the buildings and occupants as looking as though they had recently suffered a scud missile attack.

Ostensibly travelling across the country looking for and working odd jobs, Buzzell spent a great deal of the book drinking, drunk or hung over. It is hard to imagine that this is the approach someone would take if they were actually trying to pay the rent. In some ways, he’s a very unlikable character. It’s not just the alcohol; this world does that to people. It’s not that he ran from his responsibilities; many have run far further from far less. Perhaps it’s his constant over-justification. A common theme throughout the book is his lack of self-confidence, yet he seems absolutely confident, righteous even, in justifying his actions. None of this makes Lost in America a bad book. After all, America loves her villains almost as much as she loves her heroes.

I received a review copy from the publisher.

Available 23 August 2011