Thoughts on: Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh

This is the story of a sociology student who gets a unique opportunity to study, hang out with, and even act as a stand in for, a gang leader. It’s a great peak into the underground economy and organization of the public housing projects in Chicagos most crime ridden districts.

πŸ“ β€œWas is possible, I wondered, to be in the projects for any length of time and remaining neutral; an outsider an objective observer?”

πŸ“ Independent prostitutes got beaten up 4 times while affiliates (w. pimps) only got beaten once per year on average.

πŸ“ Prostitute Price List:

πŸ’΅ Blowjob: 10-15$

πŸ’΅ Intercourse: 25$

πŸ’΅ Anal: 50$

😒

πŸ“ Gangs told their foot soldiers and people in the public housing who to vote for in elections.

πŸ“ The way the people hustling in the projects had to pay different people for protection (pimps, building supervisors and the gangs) reminded me of a quote from The Story of Civilization, talking about the birth of the state tax: β€œIt was better to pay bribe to one magnificent robber than to bribe them all.”

It’s a good book, but I wished for less personal drama and more scientific analysis.

⭐️ TAKEAWAY: The people of the Robert Taylor public housing projects will most likely have even fewer options to gang life in the future, as jobs for unskilled laborers is eliminated by automation and AI. My next read (Give People Money) is about Universal Basic Income which might turn out to be a key ingredient to end this type of poverty.

3/5

Photo credit: @literaryjargon

What’s your next read? πŸ€”

Find other amazing reads in my reading lists!

Quit of Persist? – Know When To Give Up on a Book.

β€œWhat else?” This is a good question to ask yourself. What else could I do right now? Am I spending my time wisely?

When you stand in line to get free popcorn, Is the popcorn really free? No, not really. You give up the opportunity to do something else with the time you spend in line. That something could be work a job, read a book or shoot heroin etc.

It’s called Opportunity Cost; The loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. And you better keep assessing the opportunity cost for your decisions.

I decided to stop reading Michel Jordan’s biography. It was not bad, it was just not for me. But for some reason I just kept going. I caught myself in my madness during conversion with my friend @simonjk.jpg ,who had also read the book and didn’t think too much about it.

It’s easy to be a completionist. It’s harder to make a proper decisions on when to persist and when to let go. Let’s do the latter.


Some books i parted with before I hit the last page:

πŸ“– Braving the Wilderness

πŸ“– Braiding Sweetgrass

πŸ“– Power vs. Force

πŸ“– A Primates Memoir


What books did you leave unfinished?

Find books that really captured my attention in my reading lists!

Mini Review – Our Oriental Heritage by Will Durant (Part 2) – The Near East

The second part of this tome (1200+ pages) is focused on the Ancient civilizations of the Near East; Egypt, Persia, Babylonia, Judea etc..

πŸ“ β€œIt is in the nature of an empire to disintegrate soon, for the energy that created it disappears from those who inherits it.”

πŸ“ Persia was founded by a stoic people, but within a century it was destroyed by people binge-drinking and eating all day; β€œspending their geniuses on sauces and deserts” 🍰. What state is our current civilization in? πŸ€”

πŸ“ Egypt: β€œMachinery was rare because muscle was cheap.”

πŸ“ The hanging gardens of Babylon was considered considered one of the Wonders of the World. Legend has it that Nebuchadnezzar II had it build for his wife who was not used to the desert and longed for her lush homeland.

πŸ“ There where thousands of Gods. With time minor deities merged and became mere aspects of major ones.

πŸ“ In Judean prophets talked about the need to be moral rebirth. Jeremaya asked for circumcision of spirit as well as the flesh in his strange phrase: β€œCircumstance yourself to the lord, take away the foreskins of your heart.” πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

⭐️ TAKEAWAY:

One theme that stood out to me is how civilizations raise from hard labour and sacrifice, just so that future generation can have it go down the toilet by forgetting these hardships and fall victim to hedonism. πŸ’© 🚽

⭐️ TAKEAWAY 2:

The accounts of the religious believes in the different civilizations fascinates me to no end. How similar their stories are to ours and how much we still can find intact or reshaped in today’s religions.

βš–οΈ VERDICT:

Now we get into the meat of the book and it has taken on another rhythm. I have mixed feelings about this second part of book. It’s is still brilliant but it’s getting hard to retain the information. The problem might lie in the way the book is structured, using the same template to describe each civilization, one after the other, making it overwhelming.

Check out Part 1 for more in this review series.

What are you reading these days? πŸ€”

Instagram Photo credit: @cinefile_25 , @eruchdah

Find other amazing reads in my reading lists!

Thoughts on: Behave by Robert Sapolsky

What is long and hard, and filled with baboon references? Robert Sapolskys book Behave.


πŸ“ β€œThe frontal cortex makes you do the harder thing, when it’s the right thing to do.” The frontal cortex consumes a lot of energy which makes your willpower limited. Have you noticed how quick you are to judge and how hard it is to be a good person you are when depleted after a hard day at work?

πŸ“ Initially demanding frontal tasks, like controlling your bladder as a child, becomes easier with time. Understand: repeated good behaviors and they will become automatic!

πŸ“ We Habituate..

Understand: Artificial pleasures (designer food, drugs, VR porn etc..) throws our systems of the scale making us unable to appreciate the natural.

πŸ“ Humans delays gratification for an extremely long time. No other animal restricts calories now to look good on the beach next year! πŸ˜†

πŸ“ β€œThe opposite of love is not hate, its indifference”

πŸ“ Win-Win solutions rewards more dopamine than Win – Lose ones. πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»

πŸ“ Alcohol = more aggressive behavior? No, alcoholic only evokes aggression in people prone to aggression AND people that BELIEVE that alcohol makes you more aggressive. Like testosterone only increase aggression in people prone to it in the first place. Testosterone will enhance any behavior that helps us maintain status.

⭐️ TAKEAWAY: I was applying for days off at work. I was going to ask right before lunch, but caught myself and did it the proper way instead; Judges famously give harsher judgments when they are hungry. I upped my chances of getting an approved application quickly by waiting until after lunch.

This was not a matter of life or death situation, like the case with some trials, but I think this story points towards something worth thinking about.

What is the result of a lifetime of strategic moves based on the quirks of biology and human nature works compared to a life ignorant of these hidden influences?

βš–οΈ VERDICT: A detailed and nuanced summary of where we are at with the study of human behavior! 😍

β€”β€”

4/5

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Photo credit: @chriserzfeld

Get the book right here or find other amazing reads in my reading lists!

Thoughts on: Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola EstΓ©s

Women Who Run With The Wolves explores folk tales and myths through a jungian lens with the intent to help women reconnect to the instinctual self, the Wild Woman archetype.


πŸ“ Classic tale beginning:

β€œβ€œOnce there was, and ones there was not…” This paradoxical phrase is meant to alert the soul of the listener that this story takes place in the world between worlds where nothing is as it first seems.”

πŸ“ The animus can pollute your flow of creativity with self doubt. One with a polluted river will not be able to take compliments; β€œBeautiful? This old thing? Well, it nothing really, look at all the mistakes I made”.

A well-developed animus has excellent borders. An artist that puts up a sign outside her house: β€œI am working today and am not receiving visitors. I know you think this doesn’t mean you because you are my banker, agent, or best friend. But it does.” πŸ’ͺ🏻

πŸ“ Original stories where often morphed to fit religious beliefs. Pagan symbols became Christian symbols. Sexual parts where removed and animals became demons. 🦁 β€”> πŸ‘Ή

πŸ“ There is no more reliable sign that a person has spent time with Ugly Duckling status at some point or all her life than her inability to digest a sincere compliment. We have all know people like this… πŸ¦† 🦒

πŸ“β€œSometime educated guesses can be made about the wounds of childhood by closely inspecting what matters adults irrationally lose their tempers over”.

πŸ“ β€œIf you don’t go out in the woods, nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin” 🌲


It’s beautifully written, very mystical in its tone, and I can sense the impact this book must have had on women throughout the years. As a male reader I can’t fully relate to all aspects of it – and it’s ok, it’s not written for me -but there is a lot of value in this book nevertheless.

For me the biggest takeaways are the stories themselves and their interpretation. I also found the chapter of creativity truly profound.

β€”

3/5


Get the book right here or find other amazing reads in my reading lists!

Threats to our Creativity and Women Who Run with the Wolves

One of my favorite parts of this book revolve around the topic of self-sabotaging our own creativity:

β€”β€”

πŸ“ β€œSome of the malevolent complexes’ favorite thieveries and punishments of women’s creativity revolve around promising the soul-self β€œtime to create” somewhere of in the foggy future. Or promising that when one has several days in a row free, then the rumpus will begin at last. It’s hogwash.”

β€”β€”

This is just a way to suffocate the creative impulse further.

β€”β€”

Another great way of suffocating creativity is Only-iffing; Only if I had a such and such degree then my work would be decent. Only if I receive such and such thing…

β€”β€”-

Many put their talents in the back burner:

β€”β€”-

πŸ“ β€œI’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write…. and you know it’s a funny thing about house cleaning… it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman.” 🧹

β€”β€”β€”

How do you nourish and protect your creative life? And if you don’t; How do you procrastinate? πŸ€”

β€”β€”β€”

(And yes! A Review of Women Who Runs With The Wolves is coming soon!) 🐺

The Laws of Human Nature: Discover Your Dark Side

Recall Britney’s 2008 breakdown, Clinton’s sex affair and the behavior Nixon’s behavior in the White House before his resignation?

β€œWhen we experience those moments when people reveal their dark side, we see something come over their face; their voice and body language of alteredβ€” almost as if another person is confronting us, the features of the upset child suddenly becoming visible” – Robert Greene

Carl Jung called it The Shadow.

The Shadow consists of all the qualities we try to deny about ourselves and repress. You can try really hard to cover up these aspects but they will pop back up sooner of later. You can see glimpses of it showing from people in moments of stress.

β€œYou can throw out Nature with a pitchfork, but she’ll always come back.”

Hiding The Shadow side of yourself takes energy. You must be adept to see when The Shadow is appearing in yourself and others.

The Shadow also tends to show more with age. β€œLater in life we tire of the masks we have been wearing, and the leakage is greater.”

I’ve started to study Jung but I haven’t read up on the concept of The Shadow yet. What I’ve got from The Laws of Human Nature is an introduction that left me wanting to know more – What reading do you recommend on the Shadow and Shadow work? Let’s confront our dark sides! πŸ€”

Mini Review – Our Oriental Heritage by Will Durant (Part 1)

Photo credit: @eruchdah

Why should you know history? It tells you how we got where we are today. Why we believe what we believe, why we do what we do. By learning about the past you can also avoid repeating it’s mistakes β€”- and it’s f***ing fascinating!

This book is ambitious in scope, the series (11 volumes) even more so; trying to summarize the history of civilization itself. This first book alone is 1184 pages. One of many reason to make break this book down to several micro reviews!

My focus for this year will be Ancient Greece, but first I want to read up on the history leading up to it.

The first part of the book talks about the economical, political, mental and moral elements needed for the establishment of civilization.


πŸ“ β€œI do not have to think. I have plenty of meat”. Not planning for more than today in primitive life had its advantages. When planning for the future you pave the way for property and greed.

πŸ“ Communism appears most commonly in the beginning of civilization. In times of dearth. Fear of starvation fuses the individual into the group. The dream Communism lurks in every modern society as a memory of a simpler and more equal life. β€œWe remember its equality but forget the poverty!”

πŸ“ About taxes: β€œIt was better to pay bribe to one magnificent robber than to bribe them all.”

πŸ“ Women not bearing children are shamed by men in societies that rely on high birth rates to compensate for high death rates.

πŸ“ In primitive society delay between desire and fulfillment is not very long and therefore there is not need to idealize passion.

πŸ“ β€œWhere food is dear, life is cheap.”

πŸ“ In simple days, men married for cheap labour and regular meals.

πŸ“ Is it good to be a virgin or not upon marriage? What is shameful is totally dictated by culture.

πŸ“ β€œCivilization is not imperishable. It must be required anew by each generation.”

πŸ“ β€œMagic becomes science.” Magicians needed to give the supernatural a push by using natural means. Stuff that works for real.. πŸ‘©β€πŸ”¬

Photo credit: @cinefile_25


I’m excited to be a student of history again. The world I see everyday makes more and more sense after each chapter I read. πŸ‘¨β€πŸŽ“

5/5

Thoughts on: β€œTen Arguments for Deleting Your Social Accounts Right Now” by Jaron Lanier

Social media companies needs us to keep returning to them and to make this happen they collect data about us. That data is used to give us more of what engages us the most and in that way creating wealth for the platforms.

The problem is that what engages us most are content that evokes fear, anxiety and outrage. And that’s what we get!


πŸ“ BUMMER Platforms: Service like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are β€œdriven by a business model in which the incentive is to find customers ready to pay to modify someone else’s behavior.”.

πŸ“ A key point to remind yourself about: For services like a Facebook, we are the product, not the customer.

πŸ“ We talk to our BUMMER connected products like they where humans, but it works even better if we do it in a way that makes you behave more like machines. (I.e. me interacting with my Google Assistant πŸ˜‚)

πŸ“ Podcasts are still not BUMMER. They are made by real people that are known to the listener. They are build on a sense of personality and context. It’s also harder for the listener to jump from one audio snippet to the next.


βš–οΈ VERDICT:

This short book only scratched the surfaces of the problematical issues social media brings to the table but does so in a good way!


If you want to get more depth with social media, clickbaiting and algorithms then read these books:

πŸ“– Trust me I’m lying – Ryan Holiday.

Media manipulation and Fake news.

πŸ“– 21 Lessons for the 21st century- Y. Harari

How to live in a society of algorithms.

πŸ“– The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains – Nicholas Carr

How the internet is changing the way our brains works.

πŸ“– So you’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson

Social media and the renaissance of public shaming.


What book would you add to the list above? πŸ€”


3/5


Get the book right here or find other amazing reads in my reading lists!

Thoughts on: β€œTo Kill a Mocking Bird” by Harper Lee

I knew nothing about this book going in, except that it is a classic and probably written by an American.

I could have read up on why it is considered a classic and why it has stood the test of time before I started to read it and write about it here. But I didn’t. I enjoy to be thrown into an experience not knowing what to expect – to approach books with a Beginners Mind, so to speak. After posting this I will read up on the history of the book, it’s impact and it’s cult status.


πŸ“ β€œWhen I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I was not supposed to do anything that requires me to wear pants.” said Jean-Louise. Girls where expected play with tea sets and be a sunshine to others.

πŸ“ The chapter about when the kids where tasked to read for the malignant dying morphine addict, Mrs. Dubose, really struck a cord with me.

πŸ“ To kill a mocking bird is to destroy innocence.

My guess is that what makes this book special is the way it challenges gender stereotypes and how it shines a light on prejudices regarding race and class. But maybe even more striking is the beautiful way in which it is written and how it takes you to another time and place.

It’s a great book, but I wouldn’t consider it mandatory reading for my purposes, which is to get a deep understanding of the human condition and what constitutes reality.

3/5

Have you read it? What classics are you intending to read this year? πŸ€”


Get the book right here or find other amazing reads in my reading lists!