Submission, Michel Houellebecq, 2015

At the end of the day, isn’t there something ridiculous about some puny create, living on an anonymous planet, in a remote spur of an ordinary galaxy, standing up on his hind legs and announcing, ‘God does not exist’?       206


Amazon Link

Houellebecq imagines France turning away from secular humanism and embracing a moderate form of political Islam in the early 2020s.  The story is narrated by a French professor of literature, whose own life reflects the broader culture’s struggle to find meaning without submission to faith.

The book is engaging and suspenseful; it creates a sense of excitement and unease that real political instability might.  The final third of the story doesn’t maintain or resolve the momentum and intrigue, but I feel this way about most fiction.

The story is witty, clever, humorous, politically incorrect, and deliberately provocative.  There are some beautiful passages, which I’ve quoted below.

I don’t know much about France, but the story contains a seeming caricature of the existentialist French academic:  excessive drinking, excessive thinking, smoking, womanizing, nihilism, suicidal ideation.  This seems to be the right character to tell this story, and was definitely an interesting and captivating guide to the story.

Related Books: ? Maybe The Fall by Albert Camus

Recommend to Others: if you are interested in global culture war and/or nice writing

Reread Personally:   No


Only literature can grant you access to a spirit from beyond the grave – a more direct, more complete, deeper access than you’d have in conversation with a friend. Even in our deepest, most lasting friendships, we never speak so openly as when we face a blank page and address an unknown reader.  The beauty of an author’s style, the music of his sentences, have their importance in literature, of course; the depth of an author’s reflections, the originality of his thought, certainly can’t be overlooked; but an author is above all a human being, present in his books, and whether he writes very well or very badly hardly matters – as long as he gets the books written and is, indeed, present in them.     5

What little private tutoring I’d done, to raise my standard of living, soon convinced me that the transmission of knowledge was generally impossible, the variance of intelligence extreme, and that nothing could undo or even mitigate this basic inequality.   9

A center-left candidate would be elected, serve either one or two terms, depending on how charismatic he was, then for obscure reasons he would fail to complete a third. When people got tired of that candidate, and the center-left in general, we’d witness the phenomenon of democratic change, and the voters would install a candidate of the center-right, also for one or two terms, depending on his personal appeal. Western nations took a strange pride in the system though it amounted to little more than a power-two rival gangs, and they would even go to war to impose it on nations that failed to share their enthusiasm.   38




Antifragile by Nassim Taleb, 2012

…exposure is more important than knowledge…

Amazon Link

Taleb notes that some creatures and systems benefit from variation/stress.  For example, when humans stress their muscles, they become stronger.  After every commercial airline accident, there is a thorough investigation and changes made industry-wide.  As a result, the system as a whole becomes safer.

Fragile items or systems are only weakened by stress and variation.    Because they gain from harm/stress (the muscles become stronger, commercial flights are ever safer), they are anti-fragile.

Prediction is difficult, especially for rare events (those in the tail of a probability distribution).  Instead of trying to predict what will happen, it’s more useful for us to think about whether an item or system is fragile or antifragile.

If a company/system is fragile, we can recognize the danger it poses without the need to accurately forecast the particular event that will cause us to be harmed.

If an organization/system/item is antifragile, we can recognize the potential for big growth following an extreme event without having to predict the particular event that will cause us to benefit.

There is also an ethical component to the discussion; some organizations/groups knowingly put themselves into antifragile positions at the expense of others.

I first read Antifragile in 2013 and was inspired to reread it due to the release of Taleb’s new book Skin in the Game (which I haven’t read).  It was worthwhile to revisit.  The core concept of thinking about best and worst outcomes, instead of about the probability of certain harmful or beneficial events is interesting, as are his discussions of the manifestations and implications of the concept.

Many concepts from history/philosophy/business and daily life are woven into the narrative, so it remains interesting.

Ideas per Page:1 There’s really just one idea, but it’s manifestations and implications are quite far reaching, so there is new thought provoked frequently.  Maybe 7/10 (higher)

Related Books: I feel like The Clock of the Long Now is somehow related, but I can’t say why.  The other Taleb books of course.

Recommend to Others: yes, but maybe some people would just find it a chore to read

Reread Personally: maybe read Skin in the Game first


Note: the kindle did not provide page numbers for these quotes

the odds of rare events are simply not computable. We know a lot less about hundred-year floods than five-year floods—model error swells when it comes to small probabilities.

Instead of a discussion of risk (which is both predictive and sissy) I advocate the notion of fragility, which is not predictive—and,

If the subject is not interesting enough for me to look it up independently, for my own curiosity or purposes, and I have not done so before, then I should not be writing about it at all, period.

the potent notion of the apophatic (what cannot be explicitly said, or directly described, in our current vocabulary);

Most humans manage to squander their free time, as free time makes them dysfunctional, lazy, and unmotivated—the busier they get, the more active they are at other tasks.

They take the worst historical recession, the worst war, the worst historical move in interest rates, or the worst point in unemployment as an exact estimate for the worst future outcome. But they never notice the following inconsistency: this so-called worst-case event, when it happened, exceeded the worst case at the time.

He was into the “maximum lifts” type of training and swore by it, as he found it the most effective and least time-consuming. This method consisted of short episodes in the gym in which one focused solely on improving one’s past maximum in a single lift, the heaviest weight one could haul, sort of the high-water mark.

In the complex world, the notion of “cause” itself is suspect; it is either nearly impossible to detect or not really defined—another

The fragility of every startup is necessary for the economy to be antifragile,

So, in a way, while hormesis corresponds to situations by which the individual organism benefits from direct harm to itself, evolution occurs when harm makes the individual organism perish and the benefits are transferred to others, the surviving ones, and future generations.

People have difficulty realizing that the solution is building a system in which nobody’s fall can drag others down—for continuous failures work to preserve the system. Paradoxically, many government interventions and social policies end up hurting the weak and consolidating the established.

—I detest the ruthlessness of selection, the inexorable disloyalty of Mother Nature. I detest the notion of improvement thanks to harm to others. As a humanist, I stand against the antifragility of systems at the expense of individuals, for if you follow the reasoning, this makes us humans individually irrelevant.

Thanks to variability, these artisanal careers harbor a bit of antifragility: small variations make them adapt and change continuously by learning from the environment and being, sort of, continuously under pressure to be fit.

We can also see from the turkey story the mother of all harmful mistakes: mistaking absence of evidence (of harm) for evidence of absence,

We seek vaccination at every new school year (injecting ourselves with a bit of harm to build immunity) but fail to transfer the mechanism to political and economic domains.

(half noise, half signal)—this means that about half the changes are real improvements or degradations, the other half come from randomness. This ratio is what you get from yearly observations. But if you look at the very same data on a daily basis, the composition would change to 95 percent noise, 5 percent signal. And if you observe data on an hourly basis, as people immersed in the news and market price variations do, the split becomes 99.5 percent noise to 0.5 percent signal.

Not seeing a tsunami or an economic event coming is excusable; building something fragile to them is not.

Curiosity is antifragile, like an addiction, and is magnified by attempts to satisfy it—books have a secret mission and ability to multiply, as everyone who has wall-to-wall bookshelves knows well.

for eight years, been self-employed. But, before that, for my last job, I wrote my resignation letter before starting the new position, locked it up in a drawer, and felt free while I was there.

If you put 90 percent of your funds in boring cash (assuming you are protected from inflation) or something called a “numeraire repository of value,” and 10 percent in very risky, maximally risky, securities, you cannot possibly lose more than 10 percent, while you are exposed to massive upside.

The error of thinking you know exactly where you are going and assuming that you know today what your preferences will be tomorrow has an associated one. It is the illusion of thinking that others, too, know where they are going, and that they would tell you what they want if you just asked them.

By definition luck cannot be exploited;

Clearly, we never think that it is thanks to ornithologists that birds learn to fly—and if some people do hold such a belief, it would be hard for them to convince the birds.

Further, Alison Wolf debunks the flaw in logic in going from the point that it is hard to imagine Microsoft or British Aerospace without advanced knowledge to the idea that more education means more wealth.

Consider the role of heuristic (rule-of-thumb) knowledge embedded in traditions. Simply, just as evolution operates on individuals, so does it act on these tacit, unexplainable rules of thumb transmitted through generations—what Karl Popper has called evolutionary epistemology.

Terence Kealey’s debunking of the so-called linear model and that he was a practicing scientist.

An extraordinary proportion of work came out of the rector, the English parish priest with no worries, erudition, a large or at least comfortable house, domestic help, a reliable supply of tea and scones with clotted cream, and an abundance of free time. And, of course, optionality. The enlightened amateur, that is. The Reverends Thomas Bayes (as in Bayesian probability) and Thomas Malthus (Malthusian overpopulation)

So I went to the bookstore and ordered (there was no Web at the time) almost every book with “probability” or “stochastic” in its title. I read nothing else for a couple of years, no course material, no newspaper, no literature, nothing. I read them in bed, jumping from one book to the next when stuck with something I did not get immediately or felt ever so slightly bored. And I kept ordering those books. I was hungry to go deeper into the problem of small probabilities. It was effortless. That was my best investment—risk turned out to be the topic I know the best. Five years later I was set for life and now I am making a research career out of various aspects of small probability events. Had I studied the subject by prepackaged means, I would be now brainwashed into thinking that uncertainty was something to be found in a casino, that kind of thing.

Friedrich Hayek would be in that antifragile, antirationalist category. He is the twentieth-century philosopher and economist who opposed social planning on the grounds that the pricing system reveals through transactions the knowledge embedded in society, knowledge not accessible to a social planner.

There are many things without words, matters that we know and can act on but cannot describe directly, cannot capture in human language or within the narrow human concepts that are available to us. Almost anything around us of significance is hard to grasp linguistically—and in fact the more powerful, the more incomplete our linguistic grasp.

since one small observation can disprove a statement, while millions can hardly confirm it, disconfirmation is more rigorous than confirmation.

Jon Elster goes further; he recently wrote a book with the telling title Preventing Mischief

if you have more than one reason to do something (choose a doctor or veterinarian, hire a gardener or an employee, marry a person, go on a trip), just don’t do it. It does not mean that one reason is better than two, just that by invoking more than one reason you are trying to convince yourself to do something.

Franco-Russian poetess Elsa Triolet (“time burns but leaves no ashes”).

How Buildings Learn, Stewart Brand

Now we can see the pattern: iatrogenics, being a cost-benefit situation, usually results from the treacherous condition in which the benefits are small, and visible—and the costs very large, delayed, and hidden. And of course, the potential costs are much worse than the cumulative gains.

Take for instance the following statement, entirely evidence-based: if you build muscle, you can eat more without getting more fat deposits in your belly and can gorge on lamb chops without having to buy a new belt. Now in the past the theory to rationalize it was “Your metabolism is higher because muscles burn calories.” Currently I tend to hear “You become more insulin-sensitive and store less fat.” Insulin, shminsulin; metabolism, shmetabolism: another theory will emerge in the future and some other substance will come about, but the exact same effect will continue to prevail.

So it is a serious error to infer that if we live longer because of medicine, that all medical treatments make us live longer.

in a large set of circumstances (marginal disease), anything that takes you away from the doctor and allows you to do nothing (hence gives nature a chance to do its work) will be beneficial. So going to church (or the temple of Apollo) for mild cases—say, those devoid of trauma, like a mild discomfort, not injuries from a car accident, those situations in which the risk of iatrogenics exceeds the benefit of cure, to repeat it again, the cases with negative convexity—will certainly help.

For heroism is the exact inverse of the agency problem: someone elects to bear the disadvantage (risks his own life, or harm to himself, or, in milder forms, accepts to deprive himself of some benefits) for the sake of others.

postdictors, who explain things after the fact—because they are in the business of talking—always look smarter than predictors.

In sum, corporations are so fragile, long-term, that they eventually collapse under the weight of the agency problem, while managers milk them for bonuses and ditch the bones to taxpayers. They would collapse sooner if not for the lobby machines: they start hijacking the state to help them inject sugary drinks into your esophagus.

A simple solution, but quite drastic: anyone who goes into public service should not be allowed to subsequently earn more from any commercial activity than the income of the highest paid civil servant. It is like a voluntary cap (it would prevent people from using public office as a credential-building temporary accommodation, then going to Wall Street to earn several million dollars). This would get priestly people into office.

First, the more complicated the regulation, the more prone to arbitrages by insiders.

Let me first define a fraudulent opinion. It is simply one with vested interests generalized to the public good—in which, say a hairdresser recommends haircuts “for the health of people,” or a gun lobbyist claims gun ownership is “good for America,” simply making statements that benefit him personally, while the statements are dressed up to look as if they were made for the benefit of the collective.

Everything in religious law comes down to the refinements, applications, and interpretations of the Golden Rule, “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want them to do to you.” This we saw was the logic behind Hammurabi’s rule. And the Golden Rule was a true distillation, not a Procrustean bed. A central argument is never a summary—it is more like a generator.

Rational flâneur (or just flâneur): Someone who, unlike a tourist, makes a decision opportunistically at every step to revise his schedule (or his destination) so he can imbibe things based on new information obtained. In research and entrepreneurship, being a flâneur is called “looking for optionality.” A non-narrative approach to life.

Thalesian versus Aristotelian: The Thalesian focuses on exposure, payoff from decision; the Aristotelian focuses on logic, the True-False distinction. For Fat Tony, the problem is all about sucker-nonsucker, or risks and rewards.

Subtractive Knowledge: You know what is wrong with more certainty than you know anything else. An application of via negativa.

Orlov: Orlov (2011). Naive interventionism in development: Easterly (2006) reports a green lumber problem: “The fallacy is to assume that because I have studied and lived in a society that somehow wound up with prosperity and peace, I know enough to plan for other societies to have prosperity and peace. As my friend April once said, this is like thinking the racehorses can be put in charge of building the racetracks.”     Also luck in development, Easterly et al. (1993), Easterly and Levine (2003), Easterly (2001).

An excellent understanding of probability linked to skepticism: Franklin (2001). Few other philosophers go back to the real problem of probability.

1 A measure of the number of new or distinct ideas introduced per page. 10/10 would be conceptually dense, like a textbook. 1/10 would be almost completely fluff.




Straw Dogs by John Gray, 2002 (Third Review)

There is progress in knowledge, but not in ethics. This is the verdict both of science and history, and the view of every one of the world’s religions.

Amazon Link

Gray argues that we should not mistake scientific and technological progress for ethical or political progress.  Human technology has changed, but human nature hasn’t.  The desirable traits we can find in modern society can easily disappear, as countless atrocities across time attest.  The gains from technology are balanced by the dangers they pose.

I’m a big fan of this book.  This is the third or fourth time I’ve read it.  I’ve also listened to numerous interviews and lectures with Gray on this and other related works.  As he’s described, this book is meant for people who’ve grown up with the background assumption that ethical and political progress are inevitable and teleological; it wouldn’t make sense to write this book for other people in other times.  And, at least for me, this books has made me question some of my own ill-informed and naïve beliefs I may have absorbed without noticing it.

The book also touches on other themes; the illusion of the self, the illusion of free will,  ethical striving, the burden of consciousness, the place of humans among all other species.

I last read the book 15 months ago, and I’m shocked and disturbed by how much I’d forgotten.  I recognized the ideas presented quickly and feel that I had a better understanding than on the previous reading, but I would not have been able to remember the secondary arguments in the book without looking at notes/quotes.

Ideas per Page:1 6/10 (medium)

Related Books: Other books by John Gray; Waking Up by Sam Harris; Incognito by David Eagleman

Recommend to Others: Yes, widely recommend

Reread Personally: Yes, maybe next year or two years from now


Note: the kindle did not provide page numbers for these quotes

‘Humanity’ does not exist. There are only humans, driven by conflicting needs and illusions, and subject to every kind of infirmity of will and judgement.

Cities are no more artificial than the hives of bees. The Internet is as natural as a spider’s web.

If we are replaced by machines, it will be in an evolutionary shift no different from that when bacteria combined to create our earliest ancestors.

We cannot believe as we please; our beliefs are traces left by our unchosen lives. A view of the world is not something that can be conjured up as and when we please. Once gone, traditional ways of life cannot be retrieved.

Science gives us a sense of progress that ethical and political life cannot.

Darwin’s theory shows the truth of naturalism: we are animals like any other; our fate and that of the rest of life on Earth are the same. Yet, in an irony all the more exquisite because no one has noticed it, Darwinism is now the central prop of the humanist faith that we can transcend our animal natures and rule the Earth.

In ancient Chinese rituals, straw dogs were used as offerings to the gods. During the ritual they were treated with the utmost reverence. When it was over and they were no longer needed they were trampled on and tossed aside: ‘Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs.’ If humans disturb the balance of the Earth they will be trampled on and tossed aside. Critics of Gaia theory say they reject it because it is unscientific. The truth is that they fear and hate it because it means that humans can never be other than straw dogs.

As commonly practiced, philosophy is the attempt to find good reasons for conventional beliefs.

Sex, as Schopenhauer wrote in one of the many inimitably vivid passages that enliven his works, ‘is the ultimate goal of nearly all human effort.… It knows how to slip its love notes and ringlets into ministerial portfolios and philosophical manuscripts’.

Our intellects are not impartial observers of the world but active participants in it. They shape a view of it that helps us in our struggles.

Neither in the ancient pagan world nor in any other culture has human history ever been thought to have an overarching significance. In Greece and Rome, it was a series of natural cycles of growth and decline. In India, it was a collective dream, endlessly repeated. The idea that history must make sense is just a Christian prejudice.

Postmodernists parade their relativism as a superior kind of humility – the modest acceptance that we cannot claim to have the truth. In fact, the postmodern denial of truth is the worst kind of arrogance. In denying that the natural world exists independently of our beliefs about it, postmodernists are implicitly rejecting any limit on human ambitions. By making human beliefs the final arbiter of reality, they are effectively claiming that nothing exists unless it appears in human consciousness.

Self-awareness is as much a disability as a power.

Our perceptions are fragments, picked out from an unfathomable richness – but there is no one doing the selecting.

Seeing that the self we take ourselves to be is illusory does not mean seeing through it to something else. It is more like surrendering to a dream. To see our selves as figments is to awake, not to reality, but to a lucid dream, a false awakening that has no end.

When the last indigenous Tasmanian male, William Lanner, died in 1869, his grave was opened by a member of the Royal Society of Tasmania, Dr George Stokell, who made a tobacco pouch from his skin.

Since 1950 there have been nearly twenty genocides; at least three of them had over a million victims (in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Rwanda).

Hegel wrote that tragedy is the collision of right with right.

the delicate sensibilities of liberal societies are fruits of war and empire.

Nearly everything that is most important in our lives is unchosen. The time and place we are born, our parents, the first language we speak – these are chance, not choice. It is the casual drift of things that shapes our most fateful relationships. The life of each of us is a chapter of accidents.

The common man cannot see things objectively, because his mind is clouded by anxiety about achieving his goals. Seeing clearly means not projecting our goals into the world; acting spontaneously means acting according to the needs of the situation.

For people in thrall to ‘morality’, the good life means perpetual striving. For Taoists it means living effortlessly, according to our natures. The freest human being is not one who acts on reasons he has chosen for himself, but one who never has to choose. Rather than agonising over alternatives, he responds effortlessly to situations as they arise. He lives not as he chooses but as he must. Such a human being has the perfect freedom of a wild animal – or a machine.

If the world had remained polytheist, it could not have produced communism or ‘global democratic capitalism’.

Drug use is a tacit admission of a forbidden truth. For most people happiness is beyond reach. Fulfilment is found not in daily life but in escaping from it. Since happiness is unavailable, the mass of mankind seeks pleasure.

Our essence lies in what is most accidental about us – the time and place of our birth, our habits of speech and movement, the flaws and quirks of our bodies.

Fernando Pessoa writes:

Only if you don’t know what flowers, stones, and rivers are

Can you talk about their feelings.

To talk about the soul of flowers, stones, and rivers,

Is to talk about yourself, about your delusions.

Thank God stones are just stones,

And rivers just rivers,

And flowers just flowers.


Any society that systematically uses science and technology to achieve its goals is modern.

Action preserves a sense of self-identity that reflection dispels. When we are at work in the world we have a seeming solidity. Action gives us consolation for our inexistence. It is not the idle dreamer who escapes from reality. It is practical men and women, who turn to a life of action as a refuge from insignificance.

Goronwy Rees, A Bundle of Sensations: Sketches in Autobiography, London, Chatto and Windus, 1960. For a later account of his life, see Goronwy Rees, A Chapter of Accidents, London, Chatto and Windus, 1972.

An Experiment in Mindfulness, New York, Samuel Weiser, 1972.

1 A measure of the number of new or distinct ideas introduced per page. 10/10 would be conceptually dense, like a textbook. 1/10 would be almost completely fluff.


The Return by Hisham Matar, 2016


Amazon Link

Matar, a novelist, writes about his experience, and the experience of his family members, after the imprisonment and disappearance of his father by the Libyan government under Muammar Gaddafi.

Matar’s father was a successful businessman and a prominent critic of the Gaddafi government. As a result of this opposition, the family moved to Egypt.  Eventually, the Egyptian government turned Matar’s father, as well as other family members, over to the Libyans.

The book documents the hope and hopeless surrounding the situation, Matar’s efforts to locate and free his father, as well as some of the historical context for his father’s imprisonment.

The book isn’t particularly pleasant, as it recounts a horrible example of the seemingly countless abuses of the Libyans by their dictator.  It’s compelling, but felt somewhat voyeuristic (this is not a critique of the author’s style or purpose in writing the work).  It goes to how oppressive certain places are in the modern day, and how efforts to solve these types of problems through political pressure and activism can do little.

I didn’t know anything about Libya before reading this book, so it was also useful for that reason.  I learned that the Italians occupied Libya during the second world war.  I’d never known that Italy actively conquered territory.

Related Books: ??

Recommend to Others: Only if you have an interest in the area or in political disappearances

Reread Personally:    No

My re-write of The Last Jedi




I was so disappointed with The Last Jedi, and so disappointed with flaws in the script (review here) that I decided to rewrite the movie myself (in broad strokes, not an actual script).

I don’t believe my version is particularly compelling or innovative.  However, I’m confident that it avoids the disastrous pitfalls of The Last Jedi script; most literate Star Wars fans could improve upon the existing script in thirty minutes.

Part One – Luke Meets Rey

Rey hands Luke the lightsaber. He grins and says “An elegant weapon… for a more civilized age.”  He removes the Kyber crystal from the saber (the power source), and gives it to her.  “You’ll need this to make your own”.

Rey and Luke tour the island’s monuments and libraries.  They stay in beyond-ancient Jedi lodgings.  Luke explains that he started to question his own understanding of the force, as his brief and shallow training with Obi-Wan and Yoda had only scratched the surface of the tradition.  He wanted to deepen his knowledge of the Jedi and the force, and share it with a new generation.  To this end, he started a school of researchers/practitioners, including his nephew Kylo.

Part Two – Luke Fails to Train Kylo

As in all political or religious movements, different interpretations and factions developed quickly within Luke’s school.  Though he is not involved with the school, Snoke tries to lure away students to his vision of the future and the force’s place within it.  Snoke points out the weaknesses of the Jedi Council’s pacifist approach, how they failed to defend themselves or the galaxy against Anakin Skywalker, who was clearly more capable and powerful.

Eventually Kylo decides to join Snoke’s group, the Knights of Ren, and takes his identity as Kylo.  Kylo feels torn about this decision, as does Luke.  Snoke destroys Luke’s Jedi temple, but he tricks Luke into thinking Kylo did it.

Part Three – Luke Trains Rey

A native islander (not a frog-nun) can read/translate the Jedi documents.  He is not a Jedi, but he helps instruct Rey.  The native and Luke describes early depictions of the force, its powers, and a few major philosophical developments (no midichlorians).  Luke provides training on flying, lightsaber construction and use, blasters, jedi mind tricks, jedi-to-jedi thought communication, survival.  Rey tends a garden on the island, and even becomes able to speed the growth and production of plants with force powers.  This montage of various lifeforms and death/birth from the original film is included here.

Rey begins force conversations with Kylo, similar to those in the original film.

Part Four – Leia Dies

In an effort to draw Luke and Rey out, Snoke commands General Hux to put all First Order resources toward killing Leia.   Luke senses a threat to his sister, and contacts here via the force for the first time since Kylo joined Snoke.  He apologizes, they mourn Han, they discuss the future.

The slaughter of his mother turns Kylo against Snoke, and brings Luke and Rey to fight.

Part Five – The Throne Room

This is essentially the same masterful throne room scene from the original (in many respects the best battle in any Star Wars movie).  Snoke, Kylo, and the Red Guards are set to fight Luke and Rey, but, to Snoke’s surprise, Kylo changes sides.

Part Six – The Truth about Rey’s Parents

After Snoke is killed, General Hux makes a power grab.  Members of the First Order are unsure about who will take command, loyalty and fear of retribution if they back the wrong leader weigh heavily.  Kylo isn’t particularly concerned with the First Order, following the death of his mother, his sense of betrayal by Luke and Snoke, and his attraction to Rey.

Kylo leverages his influence among First Order members to help Rey find out about her family’s fate.  They scan the massive archives of the First Order across the galaxy and eventually find records.  There’s definitive proof were just drunks/addicts who sold her into slavery and were later imprisoned or died.

After the discovery, Rey feels totally abandoned, and betrayed by Luke, who had encouraged her that she would find her family (“from a certain point of view”, like Obi-Wan).  Kylo comforts her, they sleep together.

Part Seven – Finn and Rey Reunion

The rebels get back together.  The rebels have taken huge damages and lost their leadership, but feel hope due to the possibility of a civil war among First Order factions.  Luke hopes to replace his sister as a leader.

Rey is totally conflicted, but returns to the rebel site to see Finn, who was been in a bacta tank for the whole movie recovering from his Force Awakens injuries.  Rey and Finn kiss.


Heating and Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly (2017)

Amazon Link

“Micro-memoirs” that put you into the poet/writer/professor’s daily life, family life, and professional life.

Each vignette is rich and evocative.  Most are humorous, some sad, others hard to read; the author has had a number of unfortunate episodes in her life.  There are unflinching (and unflattering) glimpses into personalities and personal relationships.  It’s a poet’s take on mini-memoir.

It’s hard to imagine someone not being entertained by a few of the stories contained.  There seems to be something for everyone.  The book is so short that it could be read in a day, but it’s also worth revisiting.

Recommend to Others: yes

Reread Personally:   maybe, it would be nice to have around and glance into periodically

Devil’s Bargain by Joshua Green, 2017

Amazon Link

Summary: An extended profile of Steve Bannon, his emergence as a political dealer, and his role in the 2016 election of Donald Trump.

A quick and interesting read. Bannon is a very colorful character, and does lead an interesting life.  He’s served in the armed forces, worked for Goldman Sachs, produced films, and lead an outsider candidate to the presidency. Perhaps his most hilarious project was hiring Chinese gamers to mine gold in Minecraft and sell it for real currency over the Internet.

This book doesn’t really act as a manifesto for Bannon; I don’t understand exactly what his core beliefs are after reading the book. He’s concerned about immigration, he’s concerned about Western/Christian values declining, and is concerned that the Republican establishment is rather inept and don’t actually hold many beliefs.

Tactically, Bannon uses what others would consider straight trolling to organize and message.  Of course it’s extremely difficult to determine what swung an election, but Bannon’s approach gets a lot of credit in this book, all the while portraying him as rather zany.

Maybe the most interesting aspect is how Bannon leverage the Internet during the campaign. Obama was ready did to have used Internet driven analytics to drive his campaign; Bannon seems to have gone directly at voters through the web, especially those who visit sites populated by rather small, but agitated groups.

Ideas per Page:2/10 low

Related Books: ?

Recommend to Others:  if you like or hate the guy, yes

Reread Personally:   no

1 A measure of the number of new or distinct ideas introduced per page. 10/10 would be conceptually dense, like a textbook. 1/10 would be almost completely fluff.