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!

It’s Out of Control! What The Laws of Human Nature will do to your To-Read-List

Is your To-Read-List (TRL) growing faster the more effort you put into working your way through it? I know the feeling – and I feel it might be especially true for non-fiction readers.

Every good book opens up your eyes for new topics and bombards you with new exciting ideas of what to read up on next (as illustrated above πŸ€ͺ), filling your TBR to the brink.

Today I’m presenting some new additions to my TRL, courtisey of the book The Laws Of Human Nature by Robert Greene.

πŸ“– The Tigress of Forli by E. Lev πŸ“–

Caterina Sforza, she seems to be such a bad ass warrior countess! Greene uses her as an example of how masculine/feminine aspects of one’s personality, when well integrated, leads to more authenticity. β€œIn the theater of life, expand the roles you play.”

πŸ“– Born Red by Gao Yuan πŸ“–

Gao’s account of the Cultural revolution in China and how he and his fellow students β€œmade revolution”. Greene uses this story as an example of how our personalities changes in a group context.

πŸ“– Chekhov by Henri Troyat πŸ“–

Chekhov, Russian play-write, is brought up by Greene as an example of how you can change your circumstances by changing you attitude. β€œHe made a vow to himself: No more bowing and apologizing to people; no more complaining and blaming; no more disorderly living and wasted time.” Now I just want to know more about this exciting fellow!

What are you reading and what additions is that book adding to your To-Read-Lists? πŸ€”

Green Beards, Altruism and Kinship – Halfway through Behave by Robert Sapolsky

Kin selection is the theory that we behave more altruistic towards people who share our genesβ€”-given we believe in the darwinian paradigm that the overarching aim for an organism is to further its genes, of course.

Or as John Haldane humorously concluded while working on the mathematics of kin selection:

β€œI would lay down my life for two brothers or eight cousins.”

The idea being that brothers and sisters share genes by 50% and cousins 12,5%. The math being something like this:

1 person = 8 cousins (12.5×8=100)

1 person = 4 nephews (4×25=100)

1 person = 2 siblings (2×50=100)

The Green Beard Effect started as a thought experiment that would explain why we exhibit altruistic behaviors towards people who share a genetic trait with us, i.e a green bearded person favors another green bearded person over someone else. It’s is a poor mans version of kin selection.

The behavior has been confirmed studies on fire ants in 1998.

… and a Review of Behave by Robert Sapolsky is coming soon!


Sources:
http://www.eoht.info/m/page/John+Haldane
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green-beard_effect

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€œMutants” by Armand Marie Leroi

Spontaneous sex change, cyclops and mermaid syndrome and conjoined twins. The tall and the very short. Albinism and rapid aging. No stone is left unturned when Armand Marie Leroi’s takes us on a journey though the biology of the bizarre – and beautiful.

This book β€œ..is not only about the human body as we might wish it to be, but as it is – replete with variety and error”.


πŸ“ Mutation arise from errors made by the machinery that copies or repair DNA.

πŸ“ β€œWe are all mutants, but some of us are more mutant than others.”

πŸ“ Clitoris = Penis

πŸ“: β€˜I do not want to be embarrassed by your black body at Daddy’s grave’ said her mother. Rita Hoefling was a white girl in the apartheid society of South Africa who suddenly turning black. At first she got subtle racist remarks and by the end of her transformation she was denied attending her own fathers funeral.. racism is dumb.

πŸ“ Preformationists= They believed the egg contained the entire embryo (complete with limbs) and that embryo had itself it owns sperm or egg which in turn contained embryos ad infinitum.

πŸ“ In conjoined twins the skew toward femininity is overwhelming: about 77 percent are girls. No one know why this is.

πŸ“ Boys who are castrated before puberty grow up to be unusually tall.

πŸ“ β€œWomen of all cultures seem to prefer men who are on average five centimeters (about two inches) taller than themselves.”


The human body is amazing. This book feels like it celebration of the most haunting, weird and wonderful shapes the human body can take. It leaves me in awe.

4/5

What are you reading these days? πŸ€”πŸ“š

Check out more great books in the Reading Lists!

Thoughts on: β€œLife of Pythagoras” by Iamblichus

This is a new sub-genre for me; β€˜Biographies about ancient dudes written by other ancient dudes’. Iamblichus wrote this book about Pythagoras life and teachings around 300 AD.

The book is fascinating, often boring and sometimes complicated.

πŸ“ He traveled everywhere he thought he could find wisdom. β€œHe thus passed 22 year in the sanctuary of temples, studying astronomy and geometry and being initiates in no casual or superficial manner to in the mysteries of the gods”. On top of that he studied 12 years of the sciences.

πŸ“ He was regraded as a divinity and was a cult leader.

πŸ“ People looking for apprenticeship with Pythagoras were studied and observed for a long before getting the thumbs up. If they passed these initial tests they had to spend 5 years in silence to learn to control their speech before they could see Pythagoras face to face.

πŸ“ According to this book, Pythagoras l could tame animals by talking to them, be in several places at the same time and speak to rivers. (This book reminds me of Life of a Yogi in many ways..)


⭐️ TAKEAWAY 2:

Pythagoras studied diligently under the best mentors in the world for +33 years. Then he started his career as a teacher. In modern society we expect things to go fast. For me this is was a great reminder of the value of playing long game and be patient. πŸ•°

⭐️ TAKEAWAY 2:

Now I have this weird urge to join a sect for some reason. πŸ˜†


I’m happy I read it but I don’t think this is for everyone.

Who’s your favorite Hellenistic philosopher? πŸ€”

Photo credit: @maankawas

2/5

Check out my reading lists for more great books!