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Graham Greene. Wikimedia Commons.

Film footage exists of Graham Greene when he visited what was then known as The Belgian Congo. He sits on a cheap deck chair, legs crossed, the lower ankle bent so the side of his foot rests on the ground. He reads. Greene visited in 1959, arriving at what is now Kinshasa, and heading to Iyonda, spending in total about three months in the country. This accounts for the exquisite details that Greene adds to A Burnt-Out Case (ABC). Iyonda, for the record was nearest to Bolenge, on the Congo River just south of Mbandaka. In the film, Greene waltzes with Rik Vanderslaghmolen and he enjoys the company of the Lechat family as they eat lunch before Greene leaves. …


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Wikimedia commons.

I was interested in the media frenzy about this document (I’m loathe to call it a dissertation) and so I looked it up. There are two litmuses that I use when first considering a thesis, exegesis, or dissertation: I look for a clear research question and I check methodology. …


I’ve obtained a copy of a strange book independently published by John Ebert, Brian Culkin (and with a preface by Michael Kamins) that stylistically aligns with many books I’ve run across lately, in that I find them more confusing and exasperating than edifying.

I suspect these projects are written by smart people who want to get through all of their information and to simultaneously allow into their discussion all of their associations, which are numerous. However, as a result they topic jump. Soon after the start of a coherent argument they ramble onto associations and new topics, and they often lose the through-line coherence in the process. Let’s call this tendency the Žižek-factor. The difference though is that Žižek positions his asides within a strong framework and these other attempts end up as random, willy-nilly divergences. I suspect too that authors who normally write blogs in which the dropping of an aphoristic line works just fine often have trouble organizing their quips into a sustained and focused argument required for a book. …


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Fair use for review.

The all powerful AI conceptualized for a transhuman future in book one that I reviewed here now promotes posthuman desires in book two, The Fall of Colossus, and we wonder about the shift since Colossus offers neither human emotions nor altruism. Why we ask does Colossus even retain an Earth full of useless eaters, Landian time wasters, since so much of of its computing energy and time is spent acting as a regulatory and punishment mechanism because humans misuse their AI-given freedom just as St. Augustine said humans misused their God-given freedom. One answer is that Colossus’ apparently wants to further its knowledge about that elusive object called emotion. But, Colossus neither desires to become “human” nor has it suggested it intends to clone humans. Jones pins a lot on the distinction of sentience but he follows no real thread. Given that Colossus recognizes Forbin’s eventual expiration, I am surprised that Jones didn’t imagine an AI desire to clone Forbin’s brain into someone else or at least to train a successor. …


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Fair use for review.

Will the future be utopian or dystopian? In D.F. Jones’ book Colossus (1966) evidence is found. (Dennis Feltham Jones died in 1981). Utopian: Canned music in public spaces is gone. Unclear: Canada is now part of the Federation or USNA. Dystopian: Shirts and skirts and sheets are throwaways. Then we have Colossus, a big brained bot that Dr. Charles Forbin has toiled over for more than a decade. The overarching idea is that if a super-Cpu is bulked up with all relevant information, more incoming daily, it will be infallible in protecting the Federation. Bloated military budgets can be redistributed and there won’t be any oopsie-daisy human error like we find in Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). This theme of love and dystopia is important — like ebony and ivory. “What of sabotage?” Pipes up little Suzie from the back row. Indeed. Colossus is buried deep within a three-foot concrete shell deep within a mountain. There is only one entrance tunnel guarded by a crop of gun toters. Anyone who gets past them and into the tunnel will die instantly of radiation unless they have about 4.5 feet of lead padding around them, however the entrance is only three feet wide so they won’t fit anyhow. Just accept that Colossus is inaccessible. Colossus is activated and hums to life. I use the verb metaphorically only. It runs diagnostics and things look good. So its mental capacity is paraded before the press by asking Colossus to explain love. …


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Michel Houellebecq, Creative Commons

This weekend only, appearing at the Comedy Cellar, NYC, Michel Houellebecq opens for headliner Thomas Hobbes. Buckle up for a night of saturnine hilarity!

I’m with the group who considers Houellebecq a comic writer. I like the manner in which he positions his soulless, opinionated protagonists in absurd and meaningless situations. I appreciate his rarified humor. I find the rants that tumble from character’s minds irreverently parodic. To illustrate, one of the main characters, Rudi, says, “I believe Belgium is a country which never should have existed. I remember seeing a poster in a centre for alternative culture with the simple slogan: ‘Bomb Belgium’; I couldn’t have agreed more. When I married a Moroccan, it was to escape the Belgians.” You’ve got to admit that this is black comedy. It’s funny and surrealish in the way that the Danish movie Festen by Thomas Vinterberg is funny and surrealish, meaning if you don’t hoot over sick family dynamics and brutal verbal arguments you won’t have a very good time. …


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Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) is a national media watch group “offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship.” I’d once looked at their site on a regular basis but it somehow had slipped off my radar. I recalled the site today and went in to see what was new. I read one article, “Democracy Dies in Obfuscation (9/4/202).” Gee, was I disappointed.

Dorothee Benz has critiqued a WaPo article titled “US Political Divide Becomes Increasingly Violent, Rattling Activists and Police” (8/27/20). …


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Americans, when they look at themselves in the mirror are enthralled by their reflection. But what exactly is that reflection?

For the past four years, people in America, mainly supported or egged on by the mainstream media, have been ranting up one side of the wall and down the other side about one subject: President Trump. Now due to circumstances, they once in a while discuss Covid, although mainly to frame it into another rant about President Trump.

Meanwhile, the problems of people who are the worst off around the world have been exponentially exacerbated by the Covid virus and responses. …


If you crave a book in which people spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need that other people don’t care about, then this is your fix.

Edith Wharton must join your to-read list. Now, not later. It’s not that Wharton says anything important about our contemporary world — she reflects more than she comments; it’s not that she has an amazing plot — it’s thin and more latent than realized; nor is it that she presents roller-coaster events — instead she focuses upon psychological realism. No, you must read Wharton to read a very fine writer who can show a generation of writers what it means to actually write. In some ways Wharton outshines Jane Austen in the psychological novel, at least Jane Austen as the author of Emma. If you want social satire and irony you’ll find Wharton’s version much more refined. …


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Fair Use.

I’m a fiction writer. If I told you that I was writing a novel of a society where:

  • People wanted to elect a candidate that basically remained hidden, without public appearances or debates,
  • Its government forced people to wear specific items,
  • Its government allowed or worked with corporations to censor and ban all non-dominant narrative speech,
  • Its government encouraged people to report their neighbors for not wearing specific items,
  • Its government wanted to track its citizens,
  • Its government spoke about delaying elections,
  • Its government forced people to stay at home,
  • People were not allowed to congregate unless it was state…

About

Christopher Willard

Novelist, poet, a post-studio visual artist, and the founder of The Invisible Art Collective International. Recent novels include “Sundre” and “Garbage Head.”

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