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Erik J. Larson, The Myth of Artificial Intelligence

Billed as a computer scientist, tech entrepreneur and NLP researcher, it comes as no surprise that he also has academic qualifications as a philosopher. This is a very good explanation of why AI (as the project of mimicking human reasoning, not crunching data) faces philosophical problems -- and why it's an act of faith rather than a shrewd hypothesis, that such problems will be overcome by increased computational power or larger quantities of training data.

It's not written for a philosophically trained audience, which means some rather basic points are explored at length. But overall it's very well done.


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Just finished Ask the Dust by John Fante, a slim novel which didn't live up to the extravagant praise I've heard from Bukowski fans. Henry Miller and Hubert Selby did this kind of thing much better.

I'm currently reading Middlesex, has anyone else read it? I remember it being discussed elsewhere and people were criticizing the fact that it won the pulitzer prize. Maybe not Pulitzer Prize worthy

Several of the pieces in Paris to the Moon appeared earlier as Gopnik's monthly Letters from Paris to The New Yorker. His use of adjectives to describe the weather, the neighborhood, etc impressed me

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Wilson Harris, The Guyana Quartet

Jorie Graham, Dream of the Unified Field (poems)

Will Loxley, Writing in the Dark: Bloomsbury, the Blitz and Horizon Magazine

Terrance Hayes, American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin (poems)

Rae Armantrout, Conjure (poems - really good)

Gregor von Rezzori, An Ermine of Czernopol

Hans Erich Nossack, The Impossible Proof

Of course, Andrew Friedman, Chefs and Drugs and Rock & Roll

Further comments on any of the above available on request.

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I'm very pleased with my current pile.

Jon Fosse, A New Name. The third and final volume of his breathtaking Septology series. As much a thousand page prayer as a novel. I don't know if it's on the same level as Beckett's trilogy, but that's the kind of quality we're talking about here.

Maria Stepanova, In Memory of Memory. Less a reconstruction of her family history from memories and souvenirs as a beautifully written meditation on the process and its seeming impossibility.

Lawrence Joseph,  Into It. A poetry collection that addresses 9/11 and the wars which followed, but it is poetry, not (just) political commentary or reportage.

Other recents:

Nathaniel Mackey, Atet A.D. (Fosse and Mackey have some things in common, as well as much that separates them.)

Natalia Ginzburg, The Road to the City: Two Novellas (the second, A Dry Heart must be one of the best novellas I have ever read.)

Hayashi Fumiko, Floating Clouds

Joan Mellen, The Waves at Genji's Door: Japan Through its Cinema

Lawrence Joseph, A Certain Clarity: Selected Poems

All the above strongly recommended. More details available on demand.

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Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz, The Passenger. I think this is either the first or the first full English translation. It was published in Germany in 2018.

It was written in 1938, in real time following Kristallnacht, the main character trying to escape Nazi Germany.

It moves at a fast, thrilling pace. The writing is good but not great. But the author was 23 and died four years later when his ship was torpedoed by U-boats on one of his many fugitive journeys.

I don’t know how to express this precisely, but layered on the terror are insights, irony, satire, preposterous characters. Is that permissible? I don’t know.

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Okay, here’s a fun challenge for those who consider themselves educated and well-read …

Guess the name of the book I just re-read …   or its author … 3 2 1 … wait !

First, we need some ground rules so we all play fair … you may use and peruse your personal library (flipping to the last page of each book, of course), but NO use of the internet whatsoever in any form as an aid in answering is allowed … and if you want to google the answer, fine but please stay silent and let others play properly

Okay now, here are your hints … and they’re a plenty

I just re-read this classic from the 1960s by an American author … a great, fun, thought-provoking read and even though I knew how the story ended it was still thrilling (to me) … a very personal account of a great discovery with lots of twists and turns … a human story full of ambition, with rivalries and petty politics all playing their part … and plenty of talk about pretty girls, parties and drinking … and an interesting re-read in the context of #metoo too … it was the author’s first work of this genre and quite controversial upon publication

And as your final clue, I’ll even offer up the final paragraph …


Elizabeth and I flew off the following afternoon to Paris, where Peter would join us the next day. Ten days hence she was sailing to the States on her way to Japan to marry an American she had known in college. These were to be our last days together, at least in the carefree spirit that had marked our escape from the Middle West and the American culture it was so easy to be ambivalent about. Monday morning we went over to the Faubourg St. Honoré for our last look at its elegance. There, peering in at a shop full of sleek umbrellas, I realized one should be her wedding present and we quickly had it. Afterwards she searched out a friend for tea while I walked back across the Seine to our hotel near the Palais du Luxembourg. Later that night with Peter we would celebrate my birthday. But now I was alone, looking at the longhaired girls near St. Germain des Prés and knowing they were not for me. I was twenty-five and too old to be unusual

Okay … it’s guessing time … GO !

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August Kleinzahler, Red Sauce, Whisky, Snow and  (poems)

Audre Lorde, Chosen Poems, Old and New

Dorthe Nors, Mirror, Shoulder, Signal

Interesting one: Nors' only novel (she has primarily published short stories). At first, it's a rather good comedy about taking driving lessons, but slowly the loneliness and fragility of the main character take over. Danish.


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Lynn Emanuel, The Nerve of It: Poems New and Selected

Bill Berkson, Since When (memoir)

Natalia Ginzburg, All Our Yesterdays

Antonio Tabucchi,  Pereira Declares

Karin Roffman, The Songs we Know Best: John Ashbery's Early Life

Strong recommendation for the Tabucchi: a short novel set in Lisbon during the time of the Spanish Civil War. Dark comedy with a lot of eating.

The Ashbery bio has been on my list for a long time. Very thorough and detailed.


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On 12/30/2021 at 4:40 AM, small h said:

You can't tell me to not use the internet and then expect me to not use the internet. That's just silly.

I did NOT expect you to NOT use the internet !

In fact, I said it was fine to do so !

Please re-read my words, my dear …

On 12/29/2021 at 9:32 PM, Chambolle said:

First, we need some ground rules so we all play fair … you may use and peruse your personal library (flipping to the last page of each book, of course), but NO use of the internet whatsoever in any form as an aid in answering is allowed … and if you want to google the answer, fine but please stay silent and let others play properly

So saying stuff like Chambo’s silly is a serious and slanderous accusation that’s totally unsupported by the facts and NOT at all fair especially since I was only trying to be fair if you dare to read my words reasonably

Merde, mon coeur, this makes me so mad 😡 that it brings out The Animals in me !

Girl, you're just complaining and criticizing without reason … please don’t bring me down … I’m begging you, darling ! Geesh …


And there’s one more thing that I’d like to say 😃 … so girl, “It’s my …”



(and FYI you’re not the fly, obviously)

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5 hours ago, Chambolle said:

I did NOT expect you to NOT use the internet !

In fact, I said it was fine to do so !


On 12/29/2021 at 3:32 PM, Chambolle said:

NO use of the internet whatsoever in any form as an aid in answering is allowed


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Yo Steve, as per our previous pow-wow, in your professional opinion as a clinical expert, are we beyond “borderline” based upon the above ? ⬆️ The evidence sure seems to be escalating because we obviously aren’t dealing with a reasonable reader, are we ?

And Steve, I know that we would both agree that when a borderline person is so desperately shouting out for help even while clinging to private half-truths (that are NOT even true), cognitively failing on comprehending kindergarten concepts and demonstrating delusions of being right when obviously wrong then the right thing for good-intentioned souls like us to do is to make one last attempt to bring light and understanding to their world

I'll note with empathy that I fully understand that the English language is a tough nut to crack … especially when it’s not one’s first language as I have to presume is the case here

Let’s proceed …

Since this is the Reading thread it seems reasonable to remind us of these relevant remarks on written language …

ONE - In order to understand what is written in the English language, one must be capable of digesting the ENTIRE sentence. HALF the sentence will NOT do … only a part of the sentence suffers the same

It’s always best to demonstrate complicated concepts, like the above one, by simplifying them and stripping them down to their bare minimum so that your interlocutor can understand

Towards that end, Chambo will provide a simplified example … with cake … and baking … involved

If you were to ask Chambo if Chambo is hungry and Chambo replies ...


Am I hungry ? I am not !


then one would be off-base and making a mistake by baking him a cake. One would have misunderstood Chambo’s alimentary state that he stated so succinctly. And then when Chambo naturally doesn’t take any cake and someone complains by saying “You can't tell me that you’re hungry and then expect me to not bake a cake. That's just silly” and Chambo responds incredulously by saying that he didn't tell you that he was hungry because in fact he told you that he was NOT hungry, then you would be adding unnecessary fuel to the fire and compounding your mistakes by chopping up what Chambo actually said with the express intent to deceive (because you didn't want to be wrong in public ?) and responding by falsely saying that Chambo said the following ...


Am I hungry ? I am


A reasonable reader is NOT going deceive and cut Chambo off at am and is instead going to include not ! 

I can’t state it any more clearly than that

A reasonable reader does NOT respond that way ... because it's actually okay to be wrong and admit it ... it's healthy too !

A reasonable reader reads the whole sentence … that’s why all those words were written

On 12/29/2021 at 9:32 PM, Chambolle said:

Guess the name of the book I just re-read …   or its author … 3 2 1 … wait !

First, we need some ground rules so we all play fair … you may use and peruse your personal library (flipping to the last page of each book, of course), but NO use of the internet whatsoever in any form as an aid in answering is allowed … and if you want to google the answer, fine but please stay silent and let others play properly

A reasonable reader, upon digesting the whole sentence and reflecting, would simply swallow hard and graciously respond “Oops, I misunderstood. My bad” and that’s that


TWO Kindergarten concepts. Language is full of concepts and concepts are tricky and yet every kid in kindergarten comprehends the verb google in infinitive form. They know that using google is using the internet. Unfortunately, it seems that some among us don’t grok that yet. Nevertheless, when Chambo said “… if you want to google the answer, fine …” every kid in kindergarten knew that Chambo said “… if you want use the internet, fine …” This isn’t rocket science but it is indeed how the English language works. Chambo made it crystal clear that you can use the internet if you want


THREE - Just for fun and fair play, let’s play along with small’s small attempt to use Chambo’s words against him and see how she does. You guys, game ? Ok, cool, let’s proceed … small starts by cheating and cherrypicking most of the low-hanging bold fruit in Chambo’s full sentence of instructions for our guessing game and thinks she has a winner … but she doesn’t … because, in fact, any reasonably astute reader sees that she has another cognitive fail on her hands

On 12/29/2021 at 9:32 PM, Chambolle said:

NO use of the internet whatsoever in any form AS AN AID IN ANSWERING is allowed

because even this fragment of the instructions are actually A-OK with her searching the internet for The Double Helix or with her DuckDuckGo-ing and quietly coming to the conclusion that it’s “Elementary ! It’s my dear Dr. Watson !” These were instructions for our guessing game and you were only restricted in ANSWERING if you opted to use the internet as an aid … but you could use the internet, no worries ! And if there was even the slightest doubt whatsoever about this point, well, go re-read number ONE and number TWO above

And the funny yet tragic thing is that small seems to have followed the instructions to a T ! She presumably googled and secured the secret of life (that Watson didn't steal in any way shape or form). She was a very good girl and didn't answer with the answer, as requested, because she did use the internet .. but then she fatally decides to go to war with Chambo for absolutely no reason whatsoever ... and that's always a mistake of the highest order

Make Love not War ... and Don't Make Shit Up ... and we'll get along fine

These are the Adventures of the Starship Chambo


Chambo, over and out, I gotta fly … heading to dinner in deep space, way past the asteroid belt* … the chef is supposedly out of this world or so I hear … and tomorrow, Tuesday, it’s to infinity and beyond, assuming all goes well … I’m serious, Steve … I’ll show you the flight plan some day

* We actually had lunch in the asteroid belt earlier today so we opted to change geos for tonight



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On 3/25/2016 at 12:49 PM, Wilfrid said:

I am currently reading Les Hommes de Bonnes Volontes by Jules Romains, about which I could say much--but I doubt if anybody is interested. If anyone has heard of it, it's probably because it runs to 27 volumes. But it is a cracking read, and if you wish to spend days embedded in Third Republic France while surrounded by people arguing about capitalism, socialism, freemasonry, the church, modern literature and symbolist poetry, while eating long meals, this is the place for you. There's also a Dostoevskyan murder thread, a backstreet abortion thread, amazing amounts of masturbation (published 1932-1946) and the traditionally irrevocable trudge towards the trenches.

I can’t re-read this at the drop of a hat but I am fiercely reminded of how nations stumbled haplessly into a massive war. And then another one.

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