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Archive for the 'Book of the Week' Category

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

Kyūzō Heads for Home

Beasts Head for Home

“The corner of an eroded sand dune could be seen where the river sharply diverged to again touch the edge of town. A few slanting Korean pine trees stood there, under which lay the unknown grave of his mother. When Kyūzō was in middle school, he had examined the sand dune’s movement as part of science class. He discovered that as the dune eroded with the annual spring floods, it moved northward by twenty or thirty centimeters. Before long it would overtake his mother’s grave, swallowing it up. After several hundred years, in the sandy plains created after the sand dune had swept through, what would someone think if they came across those crumbled, yellow bones?” — Abe Kōbō

This week, our featured book is Beasts Head for Home: A Novel, by Abe Kōbō, translated by Richard F. Calichman. In April, The Guardian featured an excerpt from the novel as part of their Translation Tuesday series. Today, we are happy to present a short piece of that excerpt. You can read the excerpt in full at The Guardian.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Beasts Head for Home!

Kyūzō Heads for Home
By Abe Kōbō. Translated by Richard Calichman

Raising his head, Kyūzō saw light dimly shining in above the door. There was a hole about the size of his thumb, and a dusty light could be seen whirling about. Peeking through the hole, he noted that the fog had nearly disappeared, and that several sheets of mist that had failed to escape hovered close to the ground, moving south. By the horizon a milky white light had begun to shine.

On his left, a large patch of fog was burning off in swirls, exposing the lowland that stretched from the northwest to the southeast. This was Xinghe. Here and there the snow had become bare, revealing a surface of ice that gleamed like new sheets of zinc. Further to the right, the town of Baharin stretched out like a stockyard of black brick.

In such light, however, it would no longer be easy to change cars. Suddenly the train emitted a burst of steam. Kyūzō stood motionless, vacillating, when again he heard the sound of approaching footsteps. They stopped directly in front of him. Someone rapped on the door with a stick and spoke in Chinese, with a provincial Shandong accent, “What happened to the cargo that was supposed to have been loaded here?” (more…)

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Introducing Beasts Head for Home

Beasts Head for Home

“By the end of the novel, Kō indeed appears to have lost all semblance of reason in his lunatic ravings, while Kyūzō, who is consistently described in bestial imagery—for example, panting like a dog, eating like a dog, potentially being killed like a dog, and so forth—seems to have surrendered all traces of humanity in being transformed into a howling, enraged beast. The pain that these two men suffer is extreme, and yet Abe steadfastly resists any notion that salvation is to be found through an ideal return to humanity.” — Richard Calichman

This week, our featured book is Beasts Head for Home: A Novel, by Abe Kōbō, translated by Richard F. Calichman. To start the week’s feature, we are happy to present Calichman’s forward to the novel.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Beasts Head for Home!

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Beasts Head for Home, by Abe Kōbō

Beasts Head for Home

“The earliest work by one of Japan’s foremost writers to appear in English, Beasts Head for Home tells the story of a young Japanese man who undertakes a harrowing journey in an attempt to reach Japan after the collapse of the Japanese Empire. The story is particularly affecting to read in this historical moment with so much forced migration all over the world. Calichman’s translation is flawless.” — J. Keith Vincent, translator of Junichiro Tanizaki’s Devils in Daylight

This week, our featured book is Beasts Head for Home: A Novel, by Abe Kōbō, translated by Richard F. Calichman. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Mark Kennedy in UND Today

Shapeholders

“Kennedy began teaching courses on business statesmanship and business success in the age of activism. He conducted a research project at the University of Pennsylvania, taught at Johns Hopkins, HEC Paris, New York University, and Notre Dame. Later, he was recruited to George Washington University, where in addition to leading a school, he taught a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on Shapeholders and led courses on public affairs around the world.” — Jan Orvik

This week, our featured book is Shapeholders: Business Success in the Age of Activism, by Mark R. Kennedy. For the final post of the week, we are happy to present an excerpt from an article by Jan Orvik that originally appeared in UND Today. You can read the article in its entirety here.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

Kennedy’s new book takes on ‘Shapeholders’
By Jan Orvik

Shareholders. Stakeholders. And shapeholders?

The subject of a new book by UND President Mark Kennedy, Shapeholders: Business Success in the Age of Activism, zeroes in on how political, regulatory, media and activists can shape – or shift – business practices.

The “shapeholders” term was coined by Kennedy’s son, Charles.

“The main point of the book, which was released on May 9, is that you have stakeholders, shareholders and shapeholders,” Kennedy said. “Shapeholders are different than stakeholders or shareholders. They are the politicians, media and activists who can shape a firm’s opportunities and risk, even though they have no stake in an organization’s success.”

For example, Kennedy said, employers and suppliers can push companies to change, but there are limits to how far they can go because they have a stake in the success of those organizations. Activists, who often don’t have stake in a company, can cause conflict. As Kennedy observed, “the only stake an environmental activist may want in a coal company is a stake through its corporate heart, yet that activist can still shape the opportunities and risks of a coal company.”

“Companies are often out of their element when talking to shapeholders, resulting in more conflict,” said Kennedy. His book discusses engaging shapeholders in the long term to both advance business and benefit society.

Trip around the world

The book is a result of Kennedy’s global expertise.

After he left Washington, D.C., the former Minnesota Congressman took a trip around the world. Like the protagonist in the classic adventure novel, Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, he began in London and spoke at the Reform Club, which was founded in 1836. Kennedy’s talk, “Focus to Finish First,” postulated that the world is now so global and competitive that there is no choice but to be No. 1 in what you do.

Read the rest of the article at UND Today.

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Introducing “Shapeholders”

Shapeholders

“I saw how elements of society with no stake in a company’s success can foment hysteria, turning their attention to one particular corporation, making it the personification of some hotbutton issue, and giving it little chance to alter the proclaimed judgment imposed by agitated elements of society…. I saw how the fault lay primarily with the businesses involved. These businesses would blame the reaction on politics. Yet doing so is an admission that they do not understand politics.” — Mark R. Kennedy

This week, our featured book is Shapeholders: Business Success in the Age of Activism, by Mark R. Kennedy. Today, we are happy to present Kennedy’s preface, in which he explains how he saw the need for a book that could help businesses proactively deal with social concerns.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

Mark Kennedy discusses Shapeholders

Shapeholders

“This book defines the social activists, media outlets, politicians, and regulators who have no stake in a company but a powerful ability to shape its future as shapeholders. It identifies effective strategies for engaging them.” — Mark R. Kennedy

This week, our featured book is Shapeholders: Business Success in the Age of Activism, by Mark R. Kennedy. Kennedy has recently done a couple of excellent podcast interviews, in which he delves into some of the important topics featured in his book.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

First, Kennedy was a guest on Money Life with Chuck Jaffe (download an mp3 here). In the show, Kennedy and Jaffe take a deep dive into the ways that shapeholders impact market value.

Second, Kennedy appeared on the Center for Strategic and International Studies podcast “Building the Future: Freedom, Prosperity, and Foreign Policy with Dan Runde” (you can listen below). Runde and Kennedy discuss Kennedy’s political career, international trade and protectionism, and small businesses in the United States.

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

From the Heart of a Businessman

Shapeholders

“This book defines the social activists, media outlets, politicians, and regulators who have no stake in a company but a powerful ability to shape its future as shapeholders. It identifies effective strategies for engaging them.” — Mark R. Kennedy

This week, our featured book is Shapeholders: Business Success in the Age of Activism, by Mark R. Kennedy. To start the week’s feature, we are happy to present Kennedy’s introduction, in which he explains what a “shapeholder” actually is and begins his discussion of why businesses should care what shapeholders think.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

Monday, June 19th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Shapeholders: Business Success in the Age of Activism

Shapeholders

Shapeholders offers personal, practical, and thoughtful counsel for businesspeople of today—and definitely of tomorrow. Kennedy wants business leaders to appreciate the larger societal, political, and regulatory context that may determine the success or failure of their businesses—and then he offers seven steps to guide the development and execution of a “profit-plus” strategy. The book is rare in combining an easy-to-read style, useful takeaways, and wise insights about business in America. Shapeholders is a great read for business students, executives and boards, people interested in business and policy, and the many people who wish to influence businesses. This short book packs in a lot of experience, judgment, and direct advice.” — Robert B. Zoellick, former president, the World Bank

This week, our featured book is Shapeholders: Business Success in the Age of Activism, by Mark R. Kennedy. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Friday, June 16th, 2017

The Nation Calls

The Untold Journey

“Diana listened to her husband’s end of the conversation from the entrance to the kitchen, where she was standing. She understood at once that he was talking to Margaret Marshall, the literary editor of The Nation. She quickly surmised that Marshall was asking her husband if he had any candidates who might be interested in writing unsigned reviews of novels for the magazine. As soon as Lionel hung up the receiver, she walked over to him, smiled, and surprised herself by asking if she would be a suitable candidate. She wanted to be in the running.” — Natalie Robins

This week, our featured book is The Untold Journey: The Life of Diana Trilling, by Natalie Robins. Today, for the final post of the feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from The Untold Journey in which Robins talks about the Trillings’ Partisan Review parties (featuring Mary McCarthy, Hannah Arendt, Elizabeth Hardwick, Meyer Schapiro, Alfred Kazin, and others) and about how Diana started reviewing books for The Nation.

The Nation Calls
By Natalie Robins

In 1937, two years before his book on Arnold was published, Lionel began writing for the new, Communist-free Partisan Review, a magazine whose strong intellectual and cultural influence would last for decades. It was edited by William Phillips and Philip Rahv, two men who had first met at meetings of the John Reed Club. Both men, and their wives, would become close friends of the Trillings.

Diana, gratified by her husband’s accomplishments, nonetheless began to feel very uncomfortable at the Partisan Review parties they attended. Her views were overlooked in discussions by and large because she was not a writer, at least not a published one. “If you went in as a wife, which I did in the early years of my married life, they [the parties] were hell,” she later told the writer Patricia Bosworth. Mary McCarthy, who was listed on the masthead of the first issue of Partisan Review, wrote an occasional theater column for it, and at the time was living with Rahv, especially snubbed Diana. McCarthy focused all her attention on Lionel. But Lionel did not enjoy being in her spotlight. “What makes an intelligent woman suppose that the way to attract a man is to be rude to his wife?” Lionel asked Diana, as she reported in The Beginning of the Journey. She later made clear that despite everything, “Lionel never got upset about anything that happened to himself the way he got upset if something went wrong for me, and I felt that way about him.” This was because of “their extraordinary mutuality,” and “extraordinary alikeness.” They had fierce and spirited minds and a powerful sense of loyalty that transcended their acute emotional difficulties.

Mary McCarthy, along with the political theorist (as she liked to be known) Hannah Arendt, and later on, the critic and novelist Elizabeth Hardwick, and the historian Bea Kristol, writing under her birth name Gertrude Himmelfarb, all had “honorary membership” in Partisan Review, Diana told Bosworth. And “they all weren’t friendly at all,” even though Himmelfarb and Diana would, for a long while, become pretty good pals. But in general, in the late 1930s, and for several decades after, there was no sisterhood. As for Arendt, Diana said that she “never said hello to me in her whole life. I guess she wanted to go to bed with Lionel. That was usually the reason when women weren’t pleasant to me.” (more…)

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

On Mrs. Harris: The Death of the Scarsdale Diet Doctor

The Untold Journey

“Diana had found a story—a story that stirred her: Jean Harris, a proper headmistress of a fancy southern private school, discovers that Herman Tarnower, her longtime famous doctor lover, author of the bestseller The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet, has a new and much younger love. Harris confronts him about it on the evening of March 10, 1980, and ends up killing him with a .32 caliber revolver she said she meant to use on herself; only the gun went off accidentally as her lover grabbed for it.” — Natalie Robins

This week, our featured book is The Untold Journey: The Life of Diana Trilling, by Natalie Robins. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from Robins’ discussion of Diana Trilling’s bestselling account of the trial of Jean Harris, accused of the murder of her longtime lover, Herman Tarnower: Mrs. Harris: The Death of the Scarsdale Diet Doctor.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Untold Journey!

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

The Other Night at Columbia: A Report from the Academy

The Untold Journey

“‘The last time I was in this theater,’ Dupee began quietly, ‘it was also to hear a poet read his works. That was T. S. Eliot.’ A slight alteration of inflection, from iron to mockery, from condescension to contempt, and it might well have been a signal for a near-riot, boos and catcalls and whistlings; the evening would have been lost to the ‘beats,’ Dupree and Columbia would have been defeated. Dupee transformed a circus into a classroom…. One could feel nothing but pity for Ginsberg and his friends that their front of disreputableness and rebellion should be this transparent, this vulnerable to the seductions of a clever host. With Dupee’s introduction, the whole of their defense had been penetrated at the very outset.” — Diana Trilling

This week, our featured book is The Untold Journey: The Life of Diana Trilling, by Natalie Robins. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from an article by Diana Trilling, originally published in the Partisan Review. You can read the article in full at the website of Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, in the Partisan Review, Vol. 26, No. 2, page 214. In “The Other Night at Columbia: A Report from the Academy,” Trilling describes her experience attending a poetry reading by Allen Ginsberg, Peter Olovsky, and Gregory Corso at Columbia University. For additional context, we have also excerpted a description from The Untold Journey of the way that “all hell broke loose” upon the publication of this article.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Untold Journey!

The Other Night at Columbia: A Report from the Academy
By Diana Trilling

The “beats” were to read their poetry at Columbia on Thursday evening and on the spur of the moment three wives from the English department had decided to go to hear them. But for me, one of the three, the spur of the moment was not where the story had begun. It had begun much farther back, some twelve or fourteen years ago, when Allen Ginsberg had been a student at Columbia and I had heard about him much more than I usually hear of students for the simple reason that he got into a great deal of trouble which involved his instructors, and had to be rescued and revived and restored; eventually he had even to be kept out of jail. Of course there was always the question, should this young man be rescued, should he be restored? There was even the question, shouldn’t he go to jail? We argued about it some at home but the discussion, I’m afraid, was academic, despite my old resistance to the idea that people like Ginsberg had the right to ask and receive preferential treatment just because they read Rimbaud and Gide and undertook to put words on paper themselves. Nor was my principle (if one may call it that) of equal responsibility for poets and shoe clerks so firm that I didn’t need to protect it by refusing to confront Ginsberg as an individual or potential acquaintance. IO don’t mean that I was aware, at the time, of this motive for disappearing on the two or three occasions when he came to the house to deliver a new batch of poems and report on his latest adventures in sensation-seeking. If I’d been asked to explain, then, my wish not to meet and talk with this troublesome young man who had managed to break through the barrier of student anonymity, I suppose I’d have rested with the proposition that I don’t like mess, and I’d have been ready to defend myself against the charge, made in the name of art, of a strictness of judgment which was intolerant of this much deviation from respectable standards of behavior. Ten, twelve, fourteen years ago, there was still something of a challenge in the “conventional” position; I still enjoyed defending the properties and proprieties of the middle class against friends who persisted in scorning them. Of course, once upon a time — but that was in the ’30′s — one had had to defend even having a comfortable chair to sit in, or a rug on the floor. But by the ’40′s things had changed; one’s most intransigent literary friends had capitulated by then, everybody had a well-upholstered sofa and I was reduced to such marginal causes as the Metropolitan Museum, after-dinner coffee cups, and the expectation that visitors would go home by 2 A.M. and put their ashes in the ashtrays. Then why should I not also defend the expectation that a student at Columbia, even a poet, would do his work, submit it to his teachers through the normal channels of classroom communication, stay out of jail, and then, if things went right, graduate, start publishing, be reviewed, and see what developed, whether he was a success or failure?

Well, for Ginsberg, things didn’t go right for quite a while. The time came when he was graduated from Columbia and published his poems, but first he got into considerable difficulty, beginning with his suspension from college and the requirement that he submit to psychiatric treatment, and terminating — but this was quite a few years later — in an encounter with the police from which he was extricated by some of his old teachers who thought he needed a hospital more than a prison. The suspension had been for a year, when Ginsberg had been a Senior; the situation was not without its grim humor. It seems that Ginsberg had traced an obscenity in the dusty windows of Hartley Hall; the words were too shocking for the Dean of Students to speak, he had written them on a piece of paper which he pushed across the desk: “F— the Jews.” Even the part of Lionel that wanted to laugh couldn’t, it was too hard for the Dean to have to transmit this message to a Jewish professor — this was still in the ’40′s when being a Jew in the university was not yet what it is today. “But he’s a Jew himself,” said the Dean. “Can you understand his writing a thing like that?” Yes, Lionel could understand; but he couldn’t explain it to the Dean. And anyway, he knew that the legend in the dust of Hartley Hall required more than an understanding of Jewish self-hatred and also that it was not the sole cause for administrative uneasiness about Ginsberg and his cronies. It was ordinary good sense for the college to take therapeutic measures with Ginsberg.

For me, it was of some note that the auditorium smelled fresh. The place was already full when we arrived; I took one look at the crowd and was certain that it would smell bad. But I was mistaken. These people may think they’re dirty inside and dress up to it. Nevertheless, they smell all right. The audience was clean and Ginsberg was clean and Corso was clean and Orlovsky was clean. Maybe Ginsberg says he doesn’t bathe or shave; Corso, I know, declares that he has never combed his hair; Orlovsky has a line in one of the two poems he read — he’s not yet written his third, the chairman explained — “If I should shave, I know the bugs would go away.” But for this occasion, at any rate, Ginsberg, Corso and Orlovsky were all clean and shaven; Kerouac, in crisis, didn’t appear, but if he had come he would have been clean and shaven too — he was at Hunter, I’ve inquired about that. And anyway, there’s nothing dirty about a checked shirt or a lumberjacket and blue jeans, they’re standard uniform in the best nursery schools. Ginsberg has his pride, as do his friends.

And how do I look to the “beats,” I ask myself after that experience with the seats, and not only I but the other wives I was with. We had pulled aside the tattered old velvet rope which marked off the section held for faculty, actually it was trailing on the floor, and moved into the seats Dupee’s wife Andy had saved for us by strewing coats on them; there was a big grey overcoat she couldn’t identify: she stood holding it up in the air murmuring wistfully, “Whose is this?” — until the young people in the row in back of us took account of us and answered sternly, “Those seats are reserved for faculty.” If I have trouble unraveling undergraduates from “beats,” neither do the wives of the Columbia English department wear their distinction with any certainty.

But Dupee’s distinction, that’s something else again: what could I have been worrying about, when had Dupee ever failed to meet the occasion, or missed a right style? I don’t suppose one could witness a better performance than his on Thursday evening; its rightness was apparent the moment he walked onto the stage, his troupe in tow and himself just close enough and just enough removed to indicate the balance in which he held the situation. Had there been a hint of betrayal in his deportment, of either himself or his guests — naturally, he had made them his guests — the whole evening might have been different: for instance, a few minutes later when the overflow attendance outside the door began to bang and shout for admission, might not the audience have caught the contagion and become unruly too? Or would Ginsberg have stayed with his picture of himself as poet serious and triumphant instead of succumbing to what must have been the greatest temptation to spoil his opportunity? “The last time I was in this theater,” Dupee began quietly, “it was also to hear a poet read his works. That was T. S. Eliot.” A slight alteration of inflection, from iron to mockery, from condescension to contempt, and it might well have been a signal for a near-riot, boos and catcalls and whistlings; the evening would have been lost to the “beats,” Dupree and Columbia would have been defeated. Dupee transformed a circus into a classroom…. One could feel nothing but pity for Ginsberg and his friends that their front of disreputableness and rebellion should be this transparent, this vulnerable to the seductions of a clever host. With Dupee’s introduction, the whole of their defense had been penetrated at the very outset.

There was a meeting going on at home of the pleasant professional sort which, like the comfortable living-room in which it usually takes place, at a certain point in a successful modern literary career confirms the writer in a sense of disciplined achievement and well-earned reward. I had found myself hurrying as if I were needed, but there was really no reason for my haste; my entrance was an interruption, even a disturbance of the attractive scene. Auden, alone of the eight men in the room not dressed in a proper suit but wearing his battered old brown leather jacket, was first to inquire about my experience. I told him I had been moved; he answered that he was ashamed of me. I said, “It’s different when it’s a sociological phenomenon and when it’s human beings,” and he of course knew and accepted what I said. Yet as I prepared to get out of the room so that the men could sit down again with their drinks, I felt there was something more I had to add — it was not enough to leave the “beats” only as human beings — and so I said, “Allen Ginsberg read a love-poem to you, Lionel. I liked it very much.” It was a strange thing to say in the circumstances, perhaps even a little foolish. But I’m sure that Ginsberg’s old teacher knew what I was saying, and why I was impelled to say it.

Read the article in full at the website of Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, in the Partisan Review, Vol. 26, No. 2, page 214.

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

Introducing The Untold Journey

The Untold Journey

“Diana Trilling’s life—one full of secrets, contradictions, and betrayals—chronicles social, political, sexual, and literary changes over the decades of the twentieth century, enormous changes she lived through and was in almost constant conflict over.” — Natalie Robins

This week, our featured book is The Untold Journey: The Life of Diana Trilling, by Natalie Robins. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from Robins’ preface.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Untold Journey!

Monday, June 12th, 2017

Book Giveaway! The Untold Journey: The Life of Diana Trilling

The Untold Journey

“Robins’ absorbing life-study of Diana Trilling is rich in surprises. The book is a fine-grained portrait of the celebrated Trilling marriage, of Lionel’s private weaknesses, and of his carefully concealed dependence on Diana’s engagement in the making of his books. The story told includes Diana Trilling’s campaign for her own place in the world of letters and deftly characterizes the political landscape of their time. The finished portrait is shocking but humane, and is drawn with wit and art.” — Norman Rush

This week, our featured book is The Untold Journey: The Life of Diana Trilling, by Natalie Robins. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

How Quarks Turned into Cultures

Quarks to Culture

“What were the innovations that developed along the forward path in time that went from quarks to culture to form a sequence of transitions to new fundamental levels? To help focus, I coined the term ‘combogenesis.’ Combogenesis is the genesis of new types of things and relations by combination and integration of previously existing things.” — Tyler Volk

This week, our featured book is Quarks to Culture: How We Came to Be, by Tyler Volk. Today, we are happy to present a short excerpt from an interview that with John Horgan at Scientific American‘s Cross-Check blog. You can read the interview in full at the Cross-Check website.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

How Quarks Turned into Cultures: Big-picture biologist Tyler Volk talks about his book on “How We Came to Be”
By John Horgan

What is combogenesis?

In answering the question about a count I was led onward to a next one: What were the innovations that developed along the forward path in time that went from quarks to culture to form a sequence of transitions to new fundamental levels? To help focus, I coined the term “combogenesis.” Combogenesis is the genesis of new types of things and relations by combination and integration of previously existing things. For those into “emergence” theory, I would say that combogenesis is a special subset of emergence. But combogenesis is more precisely defined and leads to a logical way to distinguish levels and then ask questions about contrast and comparison across levels. Its use is restricted in this book to the levels that built-up a “grand sequence,” from the fundamental particles of physics through biology and to geopolitical states….

A related concept is offered in the book’s Part 3: combogenic convergence. Once one has in hand the levels of combogenesis as a set of similar “things,” one can ask about themes or parallels within that set. Examples include parallels in the levels that originated biological and cultural evolution (respectively, prokaryotic cells and human tribal metagroups), and in the levels that followed those “evolutionary base levels” (respectively, eukaryotic cells and agrovillages).

Could the next great transformation spawned by combogenesis be what some call the Singularity?

The final level I cover is the geopolitical state. It originated thousands of years ago at different sites around the world at different times. The obvious question is, what happens next? The logic of combinogenesis would indicate a merger of nations. I see nations as cultural evolutionary descendants of the ancient states, all on the same level of the geopolitical state, similar to the way that ancient simplest animals and modern large mammals are on the same level of multicellularity.

Now the logic of combogenesis would indicate that for a planetary scale to develop as a truly new level in the grand sequence, that scale will not take place from the domination by any current government or government system. Were that to become the case, it would not be a substantial innovation but simply an increase in size of a current pattern. Thus the logic leads us to think more radically about the structures that might result in a coming planetary stage.
Now, those into the Singularity—where cheap machines match and then surpass human general intelligence—can spin scenarios of utopias or dystopias. I agree with Nick Bostrom, we need to be thinking about the matter of AI a lot more. The internet-AI is participating in the coming planetary scale. In fact, we all need to be thinking and talking about and debating the human future a lot more, rather than simply letting it happen or letting certain powerful individuals in government, tech, or finance determine it (a complex topic, because voters and consumers weigh in). I tend to think about new international “organs” of the planetary scale. Please, no Borg-like future. I personally lean toward a desirably complex world but one more decentralized across multiple modalities compared to today.

Personal, cognitive evolutionary dynamics (one’s internal decision-making, with its evolutionary “recipe” of processes of propagation, variation, and selection) need to be part of this evolution toward planetization. After all, important structures of cultural evolution are linked to patterns laid down in earlier levels of the grand sequence. Specifically, the animal body (level 8) participates in the next level of the animal social group (level 9), with the animals themselves remaining the main unit of evolutionary adaptation, because the animal body had and has a life cycle that involves death and therefore was subject to intense selection. In our genus Homo ancestry, this led to increased brain size and new cognitive capabilities. Despite our current lives in multiply nested social systems, we have inherited this intense degree of individuality from several levels down. Let us keep that, even if a planetary scale is coming into being.

We need more imagination about all this. David Grinspoon, for example, in his book Earth in Human Hands, is wonderfully on the case here, proposing a “Sapiezoic aeon” to come (if we are successful). My hope is that pattern-thinking-tools developed from the grand sequence and prior transitions of combogenesis can help contribute to such new imaginings of our future.

Read the article in full at Scientific American’s Cross-Check blog.

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

How We Came in Be, In Twelve Images

Quarks to Culture

Quarks to Culture is a must-read. It weaves the myriad patterns of universe, life, and consciousness into a wonderful new tapestry. Volk combines scientific rigor and love for the humanities into a gentle, no-nonsense, full-of-facts, passionately well-written, fundamental new guide to help us better see ourselves in this ever-changing world.” — Francesco Tubiello, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization

This week, our featured book is Quarks to Culture: How We Came to Be, by Tyler Volk. Today, we have a selection of images from the book that depict the twelve major transitions that Volk identifies as making up the Grand Sequence — the progression from simple systems to complex ones — that led to us.

Beginning with fundamental quanta and moving up through atoms, molecules, cells, animals, animal groups, and agrovillages (to name a few), Volk identifies the key mechanism behind each transition: the combination of simple elements into qualitatively new systems with new relations.

Click on the first image below to begin your tour through the fundamental levels of physical, biological, and cultural evolution that Tyler Volk explores in Quarks to Culture!

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Introducing Quarks to Culture

Quarks to Culture

“Can one start at the simplest things of physics and ratchet along a course in time that simultaneously progresses outward in scale? And perhaps during this tally, let’s not halt at our bodies as a terminal level but continue the logic on up to larger patterns that we as bodies and minds participate in, such as the social systems of complex culture.” — Tyler Volk

This week, our featured book is Quarks to Culture: How We Came to Be, by Tyler Volk. To start the feature, we are happy to present Volk’s Preface to Quarks to Culture.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Quarks to Culture, by Tyler Volk

Quarks to Culture

“It’s hard to convey the excitement of what Tyler Volk has achieved in Quarks to Culture. Here we have well-chosen words, in crystal-clear paragraphs, combining to form compelling chapters, all of which add up to a convincing account of where we humans fit in the grand scheme of things. Volk is, in short, a systems thinker. Few writers could have written such a book as this.” –Liam Heneghan, DePaul University

This week, our featured book is Quarks to Culture: How We Came to Be, by Tyler Volk. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

74th Street/Roosevelt Avenue: Queens Masala

International Express: New Yorkers on the 7 Train

“Far from becoming intimidated by the attention she attracts when she is on the subway in her burka, Aisha says that her mother enjoys riding on the subway. The stares they receive sometimes make them feel more foreign and different, but they still are proud to be in public in the city wearing clothing appropriate to their religious beliefs.” — Stéphane Tonnelat and William Kornblum

This week, our featured book is International Express: New Yorkers on the 7 Train, by Stéphane Tonnelat and William Kornblum. For the week’s final post, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s second chapter, “Coping with Diversity Aboard the ‘International Express.’”

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of the book!

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

Asserting Their Rights to Be Different, New York Style

International Express: New Yorkers on the 7 Train

“Notably, civil inattention is a skill consisting of giving accounts of one’s presence and intentions that these young riders must learn to assess and utilize. Riding in a group or alone helps them realize that they do not have to give up their identity in order to disappear into the crowd of riders. They can be New Yorkers and Muslim, New Yorkers and Hispanic, and so on as long as they are competent at riding the trains.” — Stéphane Tonnelat and William Kornblum

This week, our featured book is International Express: New Yorkers on the 7 Train, by Stéphane Tonnelat and William Kornblum. For today’s post, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s seventh chapter, “Teenagers on the 7 Train.”

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of the book!

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

A Media Roundup for International Express: New Yorkers on the 7 Train

International Express: New Yorkers on the 7 Train

“You’ll meet people all over the world who will say, “Oh yeah, I used to live in New York. I used to ride the 7 train or 6 train. I used to get off [at] this station”—and they’ll tell you the station. They may have never succeeded in becoming Americans, or never wanted to, but they became New Yorkers, to the extent that they could use the transit system to get around.” — William Kornblum

This week, our featured book is International Express: New Yorkers on the 7 Train, by Stéphane Tonnelat and William Kornblum. Today, we are pleased to present excerpts from some of the great press attention that the book has received

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of International Express!

First, in The Atlantic‘s CityLab blog, Tanvi Misra interviews Tonnelat and Kornblum about what their ethnographic research on the 7 train has taught them about the subway line, New York, and the immigrant experience:

One of the young people cited in the book noted something very interesting: How a person swipes the Metrocard can divulge whether or not they live in the city. That anecdote highlights one of the main arguments you’re making in the book, that taking the subway helps newcomers assimilate and develop a common identity, not just as riders of a particular train line, but as New Yorkers. Could you talk about that?

Tonnelat: The competencies that people learn on the train are, in fact, urban competencies. They can be applied anywhere. That way, the subway opens up the city materially, through [access to different places around the city], but also socially.

Kornblum: You’ll meet people all over the world who will say, “Oh yeah, I used to live in New York. I used to ride the 7 train or 6 train. I used to get off [at] this station”—and they’ll tell you the station. They may have never succeeded in becoming Americans, or never wanted to, but they became New Yorkers, to the extent that they could use the transit system to get around.

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