Monday, September 20, 2004

It is quite incredible how the books I have found on Africa concern revolution and the struggle for independence. A theme that I am very interested in. Yesterday in the Famine Relief bookshop in Portstewart I found a book on Rwanda and Burundi published in 1970 but it promises to be a very interesting read.
Rwanda and Burundi had both reached independence and being close together and very similar the question was - why did Rwanda see scenes of incredible violence whilst Burundi remained relatively stable. Of course, we know now that Burundi saw levels of violence similar to Rwanda after the book was published but the ideas that the author suggests are interesting.
One insight that I have gained already is that the Tutsis were the minor dominant group while the Hutus were the majority group but felt themselves to be not as superior to the Hutus. The author suggests that although not rigidly certain, tribes can be seen as similar to classes or castes. Once you see the Tutsis as the Upper class then I think the tribal system becomes understandable. I myself have difficulty with the concept of tribes, I've just never understood them before but this book helps a great deal.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Found this very curious secondhand book - In a Word by Margaret Ernst and James Thurber. Opened it up and found it was explaining the etymology of word with cartoons! How amazing, a dictionary with cartoons.Some of the cartoons have a very dry sense of humour, some are quite surreal. Candidate originated in Rome and means white robed. Apparently politicians had to dress in white togas and parade along the street and people voted for the whitest. Imagine Ian Paisley in a toga! You can see some cartoons from this book on my photo page:

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Tommy's Book Shelf is a wonderful shop! They sent me the Updike book and today I have been enjoying it. If you live anywhere near Greensburg, PA I would recommend you go there and buy lots!

Seriously I did get the opportunity to read a slightly unusual story by Updike called Believers. I thought it might be similar to Baxters novella of the same title but it is quite different. Baxter wrote a very serious story about a German couple living in America during world war II. Whilst Updike takes a more abstract swipe at the concept of belief. The story is unusual because you are never sure who is writing it, the narrator appears to be writing about himself then writing in the first person. I think it is all designed to confuse and intrigue.

I am also quite pleased when American writers feel free to talk about religion. The main character quotes St Augustine, some quite beautiful passages, slightly tongue in cheek but he seems to take the whole religion idea seriously. Whilst in the UK religion is never even taken seriously. Most people try deliberately not to mention it. The history of America is vastly different to Europe because I think the Puritans went to America with the idea of creating a spiritual paradise. In Europe we were 'happy to get rid of them'. Religion is something of importance to Hawthorne and even if he appears to dislike it, he is still dealing with it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Auster, Hawthorne, Borges all these books have this focus on the inner workings of the mind, the philosophical side of life. These authors have come to be some of my favourites over the last few years.

I read a very intriguing short story by Hawthorne yesterday about a minister who wore a veil over his face. The man becomes a brilliant pastor but is shunned in terms of intimacy and personal contact. It is quite incredible that Hawthorne was writing about this over a hundred years ago and now we have Muslim women who pledge to do exactly the same. It is quite strange in that I know what the story was about but I'm still questioning what it was actually saying. What does it mean? What is the author saying? I can't help feeling that there is something very important to learn from the story and it is a good thing because I've already read it twice I will probably read it again.

Last week I bought Bulgakovs 'The Fatal Eggs' and whilst it is maybe not the best story I have read it is fascinating in the way that he has pictured 'the scientist'. The scientist has almost become 'the innocent'. His work was taken by a technologist and awful consequences resulted. Normally in science fiction it is the mad scientist, the tortured eccentric but here we get something quite different maybe I would suggest more realistic.

This afternoon I received my copy of Updikes 'The Early Stories' and I am very proud of it. There is a saga attached to this book. I wanted it last Easter but I decided I would wait until my birthday. When my birthday arrived all the bookshops told me it was out of print. I was devastated but they told me that in September the paperback edition would be out. I waited until September and this time a certain bookshop told me the paperback edition would not be printed until next March but I could still buy the hardback. I went home and did a search on and found I could buy an American edition for $17 plus postage. About half the price of a hardback from the UK! I got it today, 2 weeks earlier than expected and American writers are always better read from American edition books.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

If you are able to listen to the BBC radio programmes via realplayer I was able to find a very interesting 'Book Club' featuring Paul Auster. In his interview Auster mentions that Nathaniel Hawthorne was the 'father' of Borges. Simply follow this link:

Apologies for the last post, it is supposed to get me listed on Yahoo but we'll see ...

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

There are by some estimates more than a million weblogs. But most of them get no visibility in search engines. Only a few “A-List” blogs get into the top search engine results for a given topic, while the majority of blogs just don’t get noticed. The reason is that the smaller blogs don’t have enough links pointing to them. But this posting could solve that. Let’s help the smaller blogs get more visibility!

This posting is GoMeme 4.0. It is part of an experiment to see if we can create a blog posting that helps 1000’s of blogs get higher rankings in Google. So far we have tried 3 earlier variations. Our first test, GoMeme 1.0, spread to nearly 740 blogs in 2.5 days. This new version 4.0 is shorter, simpler, and fits more easily into your blog.

Why are we doing this? We want to help thousands of blogs get more visibility in Google and other search engines. How does it work? Just follow the instructions below to re-post this meme in your blog and add your URL to the end of the Path List below. As the meme spreads onwards from your blog, so will your URL. Later, when your blog is indexed by search engines, they will see the links pointing to your blog from all the downstream blogs that got this via you, which will cause them to rank your blog higher in search results. Everyone in the Path List below benefits in a similar way as this meme spreads. Try it!

Instructions: Just copy this entire post and paste it into your blog. Then add your URL to the end of the path list below, and pass it on! (Make sure you add your URLs as live links or HTML code to the Path List below.)

Path List
Minding the Planet
Luke Hutteman’s public virtual MemoryStream
Mohammad.Abdulfatah, Chronicles Of
Anand M, DotNet From India
Teucer’s Quiver
Bharath Ganesh, Making Technologies Interoperate
Richard Callaby’s Blog
Peter’s Blog
A Programmer In Training
Matt’s Googly Blog
(your URL goes here! But first, please copy this line and move it down to the next line for the next person).
Books of note Books of note

Thursday, September 02, 2004

"if you [don't] understand what I have written, read what I have not written and perhaps then you will understand. But this this only puzzled them further."

from 'City of God' by E. L. Doctorow.
Over the last few days I have been in Berlin and a little place called Prenzlau to see my brother getting married. I took a long time trying to decide which books to bring and eventually decided on ‘City of God’ by E.L. Doctorow and ‘The origin of hate and love’ by Ian D. Suttie.

City of God is a New York mystery and I thought it would be fairly trivial. I had an amazing read. City of God is based in New York but rather unusually also features the story of the holocaust. There I was in Berlin under the Brandenburg Gate reading and thinking about the story of a young Jew in a ghetto trying to survive. It was quite moving, we also went to the Berlin Wall exhibition- the so-called topography of terror. The story is about the father of one of the main characters, he was an orphan and forced to be a ‘runner’ in the ghetto. He had to send messages when the SS were coming and send information between leaders of the ghetto.

It may not be considered sensitive to be reading about the holocaust in Berlin. I hadn’t intended it! The Brandenburg gate and the gardens around ‘the angel of victory’ in Berlin are quite impressive. I found myself alone, walking slowly around Berlin, a city I didn’t know trying to think seriously about history and all the events that could have happened where I was standing. I was reading about the cruelty of the Germans towards the Jews, something that is frankly discussed in the Jewish museum and other places and for me it wasn’t offensive or insulting, I just started asking myself why, and how. When you stand under the Brandenburg Gate thinking these things it is quite powerful, one of the most interesting afternoon walks I have had in a long time.

‘The origin of hate and love’ by Ian D. Suttie was another inspired choice of reading material. Described as a critique of Freud - Suttie is trying to argue that instead of sex, it is really companionship, (not being lonely), that is the major driving force in human relations. He describes how if you think about nature, the mother is essential because without her you wouldn’t survive. It is this relationship rather than the ‘desire’ for sex that creates the desire to love or the desire to hate. In other words we will do anything to avoid being lonely. The instinct for companionship is inbuilt since the times when a cub would face certain death without the protection of the mother.