Friday, June 29, 2018

Three Book Reviews: Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor, The Cyberiad by Stanisław Lem, and Among Others by Jo Walton

Sometimes I can go on for awhile (see: the past three and a half years of this blog!).  But sometimes I get more to the point, as in the following three relatively short book reviews.  I really enjoyed all of these books, so the shortness of my reviews should not be taken to reflect my estimation of their quality.  So, in the spirit of getting to the point, here are my reviews of Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor, The Cyberiad by Stanisław Lem, and Among Others by Jo Walton!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Mysterious Clones: Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty is a well-constructed mystery narrative set aboard a spaceship with clones, mind mapping, and heavy doses of personal identity thought experiments.  It's not perfect, but I really enjoyed it.

Lafferty's biggest accomplishment is a carefully and intricately constructed plot.  The basic idea: several clones awaken with their previous clones having been murdered and nobody (not even the ship's AI) remembers what happened.  We learn enough to keep the mystery going exactly when we need to learn it.  People who are more fans of traditional mystery novels rather than science fiction might even appreciate this book for its structure alone.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Auschwitz, Immigration, and the Currents of Cruelty

The infamous "Arbeit macht frei" gate at Auschwitz (June 2018)

Last week I visited Auschwitz.  I was in Kraków, Poland for a conference (details here).  Visiting the site of a former Nazi death camp is not exactly a fun vacation activity, but I thought visiting would be well, what, exactly?  Meaningful? Worthwhile? Important?

It was all of that and more: deeply moving, educational, horrifying, profoundly unsettling…

Thursday, June 21, 2018

My Book is Coming Soon! -- Three Pillars of Skepticism in Classical India: Nāgārjuna, Jayarāśi, and Śrī Harṣa

This week I'm reading the proofs and preparing the index for my forthcoming book, Three Pillars of Skepticism in Classical India: Nāgārjuna, Jayarāśi, and Śrī Harṣa, which will be available in September.  It's nice to see something I've been working on for years finally come together.  And preparing the index is weirdly kind of fun as part of that process, although it is a bit time-consuming.

Check out the publisher's website here for more information.  The book is also mentioned on the Indian Philosophy Blog and it's already listed on Goodreads, which as a frequent Goodreads user I find really cool.  Also, I'm now officially a Goodreads author!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Travels to Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary 2018

A selfie in front of St. Mary's Church in Kraków, advertising my department via t-shirt

Academic conferences are a great way to meet colleagues and present your research.  They also give academics a good excuse to travel!  I didn't have a lot of travel opportunities growing up, so as an adult I really appreciate the opportunities my academic career has given me to see new parts of the world.

I recently returned from a trip to Europe: Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary (with a stop at the Amsterdam airport for some Dutch cheese).  The primary purpose of the trip was to attend the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy Conference in Kraków, Poland, which took place June 8-11, 2018 (you can find out more about the conference in a previous post, which includes the abstract for the talk I gave).

Kraków is a beautiful city.  I recommend visiting if you can!  I think a lot of Americans overlook Poland when they visit Europe, but it has a lot going for it: great food (pierogies!), interesting history, beautiful scenery, not to mention being a bit cheaper than western Europe.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Saturday, June 2, 2018

A Marvelous World?: Toward an Understanding of our Superhero Age

I meant to write a review round up of three recent Marvel movies: Black PantherAvengers: Infinity War, and Deadpool 2.  I’ll have a bit to say about them in this post (with spoiler alerts as necessary), but they got me thinking of a deeper question – a meta-question if you will: why have superhero movies taken over genre films in the last decade or so?  What does this say about us as a culture?  (I'm speaking as an American here and mostly about movies, but I'd love to hear from people in other countries as well).

I set out to form a hypothesis to explain why superheroes have taken over science fiction and fantasy films in recent years.  I came up with at least four hypotheses.  If there's one thing philosophy has taught me, it's that everything is more complicated than you think it is.  So I think it's likely that the ascension of superheroes to total nerd domination is explained by more than one of these hypotheses, and just as likely, other hypotheses that didn't occur to me.  Maybe you can help.  Maybe we need an X-Men like force of cultural hypothesizers!  Anyway, here are my hypotheses for why we love superhero movies so much in this cultural moment.