Thursday, July 31, 2003

“For a totalitarian regime,” wrote Arendt, the ideal citizen isn’t a chest-thumping Nazi, but rather the man for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (meaning the reality of the experience) and the distinction between true and false (meaning the standard way of thinking) doesn’t exist any more.”

Read this in Autodafe, which sounds like a very worthwhile online magazine.

(btw the new blogger edit screen is very cool)

Monday, July 28, 2003

I finally managed to get a copy of the book I ordered for my birthday - Alexander the Great's art of strategy. At first I thought it was a bit too small but it is making a fascinating read. Unfortunately it is not purely a biography of Alexander but also a business manual. Partha Bose works for a large international law firm and he is always talking about business. I just finished a chapter on the battle of Chaeronea. It was a fascinating battle, Alexander and Phillip defeated an enemy that had a superior force and a superior position by a little bit of clever thinking and manoeuvering.

Makes me want to be an international lawyer.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Over the past few days I have been reading from The Oxford Book of Essays. The essays are arranged in chronological order so I read them alphabetically. It was an eclectic mix - Churchill, Baldwin, TS Eliot, Churchill's was one of the best where he describes meeting his dad in a dream and telling him all the things that had happened over the last 50 years. At the very end his dad says 'and what were you doing over this time with wars and tragedies for civilization?' then he wakes up.

A host of different quotes and interesting articles.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

When I was a fighter pilot for the FBI, I discovered God as a hard boiled egg in my lunchbox. I ate him.

Among the graffiti in the men's lavatory of a beer-garden in Austin, Texas.

Just found this in another book I found in my old house - America's receding future by Ronald Segal.

Friday, July 18, 2003

When you read this quote from 'The Organization man' it makes business life seem interesting, it might even be from a spy film, or maybe even 'the matrix'!

"The real conflict, I am going to argue in these chapters, is the
conflict within work. Of all the organization men the true execu-
tive is the one who remains most suspicious of The Organization.
If there is one thing that characterizes him, it is a fierce desire to
control his own destiny and, deep down, he resents yielding that
control to The Organization, no matter how velvety its grip. He
does not want to be done right by; he wants to dominate, not be
But he can't act that way. He must not only accept control, he
must accept it as if he liked it. He must smile when he is trans-
ferred to a place or a job that isn't the job or place he happens to
want. He must appear to enjoy listening sympathetically to points
of view not his own. He must be less 'goal-centred', more 'em-
ployee-centred'. It is not enough now that he work hard; he must
be a damn good fellow to boot.
And that is the rub. Executives have always had to play a role,
but the difference between role and reality is becoming increasingly
difficult to resolve. Even executives who would hate to be ac-
cused of philosophical thought sense that they are poised midway
in a rather perplexing shift of values. They applaud better human
relations, permissive management, and the like, yet for them per-
sonally these same advances ask them to act out something of a
denial of the kind of people they really are. The organization
ideology can help people endure the pressures, and the mere
playing of the role of the well-adjusted team player can help
quiet the inner worries. As Pascal pointed out, if one acts long
enough as if one believes, the grace of faith will eventually be

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Here is a quote from 'The Harrad Experiment' that I was thinking about today. (They are talking about love):

"Everyone has it, Sam." Asoka said. "The trouble is, most of us don't ever learn to give it. We think if we give love and don't get it in return somehow or other our supply dwindles."

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

I haven't really had much of a chance to read the last few days. Last week I read a fascinating article in Vanity Fair about the New York Times escapades and I registered for the electronic edition. It is a very interesting newspaper. Even just the book reviews are quite good. I would recommend registering and looking at it every so often.

I have just heard that Bill Keller has been appointed to be be Raines replacement. I don't think this is good news for the paper. Raines was an editorial writer too. They have an office 7 floors above the news room and I think this gives a rosey view of journalism that is shattered when they start leading the newsroom. I suspect he is not 'pragmatic' enough to become someone who is better than Lelyveld.

See this news story

Sunday, July 13, 2003

I am getting slightly 'irritated' with Blogger. This google thing is not good and things are getting worse.
"One applicant not accepted was Crazy Paul, a spaced-out young man who had visions and who eventually found his way to New Buffalo. His membership, he was told, would be contingent on his taking a bath - something that evidently conflicted with Paul's principles. One member recalled that 'he stood there looking up at the shower head for hours.' Then, without turning it on, he left the community."

This is a quote from 'Getting back together' by Robert Hourier. One of my favourite books about the sixties.

Link to use this link to see the book details on and if you are brave you can order a secondhand copy from the USA. (not usually a problem though)
I finally finished 'The Harrad Experiment'. It got interesting in the end because it became another utopia book. The group fantasise about creating a new society in America based on their principles. These principles included everyone being allowed to live with their partner for as long as they like before deciding to get married and that if they have children - they have to get married. Also once they are married divorce is incredibly difficult because once they divorce the children are adopted and the biological parents never get to see their children again. Very interesting but not very practical

I didn't like their idea of a group marriage where you sleep with a different person depending on what night of the week it was. That doesn't seem that pleasant and I know from books like 'Getting back together'by Robert Hourier that it is a nightmare.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

My brother Jonny wearing night vision goggles! I got my brother night vision goggles for his birthday so he could show off to his techie mates. He seems to be enjoying them, very smart! He lives in Munich and works with computers.

Anja in night vision goggles! This must be an all time classic photo of my brother's girlfriend Anja.

I finally discovered an easy way of posting photos to the web. If you go into my Photo Album in Yahoo you might also find some interesting lighthouse and maybe a few other pics.
Isabel is reading a book that I found for her in the Linenhall Library. 'A very Peruvian Practice' by John Lane is about a British aid worker who goes to help a private maternity hospital in Lima. She chuckles and giggles the whole way through it. She has only read a few chapters but she loves it.
I think I finally have the organization man figured out. White is concerned with anti-intellectualism. If the future business leaders take business degrees and ignore the traditional academic subjects, then the world will become dull and bland and business will lose the flair that real intelligence and creativity brings to work.

In a way this has already happened. I think I understand what the book is about now and I appreciate it but there is always something about people who claim to be intellectuals that I don't like. I would prefer it if he stod up for real leadership, not just bean counting. Personally I think the subject of leadership and character building is more important for today.

This means I can put the book into its context. It is good because I was struggling with the idea of what he was really trying to say. I like it, even if he might just be another snobby journalist who likes to use big words.

Friday, July 11, 2003

This is my web page please be patient while I edit it and get it into shape.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Over the past few days I have gone back to reading 'The Organization Man' by William H. Whyte. It has some fascinating insights into business life in America in the 1950s. He describes how he joined an executive training scheme after leaving university and ended up driving around eastern Kentucky trying to sell Vicks vaporub to sour general store owners and pharmacists. How when he left university he had about 8 offers of a job and he was able to quiz each employer to see who would give him the best deal. What a difference to graduates today! Also he describes the career adviser as as a 'sales man' for big business whilst nowadays the career adviser is more of a trauma counsellor / self help coach.

Also he did something very interesting. He sent a letter to 150 human resource departments and the same letter to 150 chief executives. He gave them two choices of a potential candidate - 1. the administrator, skilled in 'people skills' or 2. the pioneer ready to meet the challenges and expand the company, ready to make tough decisions and make unorthodox choices. Curiously 50% of the human resources leaders favoured type 1 whilst only 30% of chief executives favoured type 1.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Read another Borges story today 'The Lottery in Babylon' definitely feel that the more I read the more I can grasp what he is trying to do. It seems to be more of a meditation on a certain topic than the tradition idea of a story - such as a young couple adopting a stray puppy. It's getting better.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Reading Borges today, I'm only getting a fleeting glimpse at a possible genius because it is so intense. I think it might take a while to get to grips with it. I keep thinking I will understand it some day but then I think maybe its not meant to be understood. He always writes from the first person and he makes you think that maybe the narrator is tricking you. For example this neat little part from the introduction of 'The Lottery in Babylon':

Look: through the rip in my cape you can see a vermillion tattoo on my stomach. It is the second symbol, Beth. This letter on nights when the moon is full, gives me power over men whose mark is Gimmel, but it subordinates me to the men of Aleph, who on moonless nights owe obedience to those marked with Gimmel.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Yesterday my Mum went to Malawi to visit my sister for the summer. My wife comes from Peru in South America so at times I get what I call a certain 'unease' at the problems with this world. Yesterday I was reading an article in an old copy of the New Yorker about the situation in Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone was placed under the supervision of a UN beaurocrat and one of his first broadcasts contained the words 'your future is in your hands'. From that point on the rebels started to abduct civilians including women and children and chop off their arms or their hands. The article was the story of a guy in New York who tried to help by providing prosthetic limbs but he got caught up in the enormity of the situation and he failed because he was working as an independent.

It brought home the fact that in certain parts of this world things are getting worse. Young children are being abducted, brutalised and then becoming rebels. This circle goes on and on when the economic situation is bleak. It happens everywhere, I saw an article on the news about similar events in Uganda. I also heard of Al Quaeda suspects being arrested in Malawi. The New Yorker article was trying to say it is hopeless, the guy shouldn't have tried anything. I don't know if that is the case. People are individuals and they all want the same thing - something better.

One of the things I think should happen is that their vision should be lifted, they need something to aim at. I have a theory of what I call 'Lowest Common Denominator Syndrome' or LCD. Sooner or later people realise they live in the gutter and that is all they want but their aspiration can be lifted and it is up to us to try to do that. At the end of the day the only way things can get better is if we get rid of the LCD mind set and try to get people to raise their hopes.

Maybe you think I am geting too sentimental but I don't apologise for that. Art can get rid of LCD and that should be what art or literature is for.

Friday, July 04, 2003

I have just received an email from Laura Hird. She has asked me to include a link to her web site and I have done that. Her last book 'Born free' is a classic and I loved it.
It was my birthday yesterday -

Happy Birthday to me!

Jose bought me a wonderful book 'Labyrinths' by Jorge Luis Borges. I'm still reading the preface and it describes his stories as metaphysical. I have only read 'The Aleph' and that makes more sense. He said 'why write novels, if, you can put what you want to say in a short story'. I like that, it makes sense. I am very excited at the prospect of reading this.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Picked up a book by Kaunda in the library today in their sale. Kaunda was the President of Zambia during the war in Rhodesia. Just one glance at the back cover amazed me because it is incredibly relevent. He says 'we all love to be pacifist but not weak and as soon as somebody taunts us then we have to take action.

He also says 'sometimes bayonets are preferable to chains'. I think this is very pragmatic and in general I have found African people like to be straight and not waffle. Therefore his 'meditations' om violence should prove interesting. He also warns to be wary of people who say 'let history be the judge' because those people do not care what a history book says about them. It reminds me of something else I was reading where they said Hitler and Saddam also made the same excuse.