Saturday, January 29, 2005

According to my book on guerilla warfare the British forces in India were referred to as 'Ferenghi'. I'm no Star Trek freak but I know all about the Ferenghi and you start to realise the subtle insults that are going out on what is a relatively good and clever science fiction series.

Apart from that I don't have a great deal to report. I did find a great link:

Saturday, January 22, 2005

"Yesterday at the Methodist Ladies College opponents of private schools disguised themselves as parents – dark suits for the men, well-cut, modest dresses for women and just walked in … present were about 1000 parents and the camouflaged guerrillas from the Defence of Government Schools organisation … In the middle of the assembly a DOGS lady with a banner stood and was immediately assailed by a dignified woman in bright pink. After a brief feminine struggle they were separated by a teacher … Parents had a second cup of tea. The DOGS people dispersed." from Sunday Australian 30 April 1972
Yesterday I was unable to resist two new books- 'Revolutionary Guerilla Warfare' by Geoffrey Fairburn and 'The Gobi Desert' by Mildred Cable and Francesca French (travel book from 1940s). The above quote comes from the introduction to the guerilla book. I found it reasonably amusing.
Fairburn goes on to describe the growth of terrorism and to write about it. I found another quote particularly interesting. It is from Clausewitz, his description of the strengths of guerilla movement it is:
"an idea, a thing invulnerable, intangible, without front or back, drifting about like gas."
This is the thing Colin Powell and George Bush have not understood. How can you wage war against a gas? You can't. You have to become more cunning. You have to prevent it happening and before you start you have to fully understand what it is.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Hi Rod,

I’m still mulling over your last post on Luke.

So, for the moment, I’d better send you this excerpt I’ve found from Michel Foucalt’s “The Archaeology of Knowledge” –on an e-book on Semiotics I’m currently reading- which refers to the concept of intertextuality.

The frontiers of a book are never clear-cut: beyond the title, the first lines and the last full stop, beyond its internal configuration and its autonomous form, it is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences; it is a node within a network. The book is not simply the object that one holds in one’s hands.


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Gospel of Luke

I have just finished a very interesting essay on Luke by Annie Dillard. The thing about the Bible she says is that the people who hold it up as the most respectable book possible clearly haven’t read it!

This is the Gospel where Jesus says: ‘Take no thought for your life … Sell all that you have and give it to the poor … Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

She then goes on to explain how in Luke we have a radical mysterious and amazing Jesus. Think of the number of times in Luke when Jesus told the disciples things and they didn’t understand them, emphasising the fact that because the disciples were human they didn’t understand – much like us today. Jesus was always telling his disciples off, telling them not to hurry or to ‘trouble him’. Such as when he healed the woman who touched his cloak on the way to Jairus’ daughter. She goes on to say that ‘what a pity that so hard on the heels of Christ come the Christians.’ The rush around, being smug and busy full of flaws and here we have the results all around us today.

But, and there is always a but perhaps this is where we find that Luke has his unique slant on the Gospel:

“Unless of course –
Unless Christ’s washing the disciples’ feet their dirty toes, means what it could, possibly mean: that it is all right to be human, and full of evil, all of us, and we are his people anyway, and the sheep of his pasture.”

The message of Luke is that we find salvation by following Jesus, the person he was and the things that he did. It is not all about his death, it is more that we should follow the way he lived – a life of prayer, repentance and mercy. This is perhaps one the reasons that I think ‘Passion of the Christ” failed to impress me. This is the man who said ‘For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’ – tell that to Mel Gibson

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Sunday evening chilldown reading

I finished reading ‘Packed dirt, churchgoing, a dying cat and a traded car’ by John Updike, one of his Olinger stories. It is a wonderful story that does exactly what it says in the title and amazing transfers over all the above subjects, travels to England and Pennsylvania, witnesses the birth of his first child and the death of his father. It was a very good story for a lazy relaxing Sunday evening.

I managed to finish ‘Alberto Angelo’ by B. S. Johnson this week. He has a rather brilliant unusual penultimate chapter called ‘Disintegration’. This rather funnily explains how the entire novel is roughly made up on events on his life and how he ‘lied’ by changing people’s names and some places. It is includes one of the most amazing jokes I have ever read. It is a joke that you have to read, weirdly it doesn’t work if it is read out. I have scanned it and you can find it as a pdf file at the following location. (229 kb) Please read it!

This has been an incredibly hectic week. I heard about Joe Gordon a bookseller from Waterstones in Edinburgh who got fired for calling his boss ‘the evil one’ and making some other comments that he no doubt thought were funny and unimportant comments in his unimportant blog. Then they call him in and fire him! I mean, everyone occasionally makes jokes about the people they work with. He made the mistake of writing it on the Internet. I think it just goes to prove that we should all avoid Waterstones as much as possible. I must admit I haven’t avoided it very well this year. As Joe pointed out Waterstones make a great deal of being the thinker’s bookshop and pride the power of freedom of speech. This event just goes to prove that the real Waterstones is simply a large book supermarket which abuses its staff just as much or maybe even more than most supermarkets. You can visit Joe's blog below:

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

I've been thinking about the gneiss dilemma. Perhaps it was only a misunderstanding - an example of how science can be so easily misunderstood. Yes gneiss is made from igneous rocks - granite normally. However fundamental to understanding rocks is the way it was formed. All igneous rocks are solidified directly our of molten rock. When granite is subjected to heat and pressure it produces gneiss.

Forgot to tell you that I collect those free postcards you get and use them as bookmarks. Got this prize in Germany - who says the Germans have no fun?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

English literature and geology do mix!

Here is a concrete example of why all English literature students should study geology! In the first B.S. Johnson story the main character is a teacher doing a lesson on geology - 'Albert Angelo'. Central to the story is this piece of gneiss – a metamorphic rock. The character is describing this small piece of gneiss to the class whilst at the same time he is remembering the holiday with his girlfriend in Ireland where he took the gneiss sample (the rock gets stolen by one of the kids). He goes on to describe gneiss as an igneous rock. This really shocked me because there is no way that gneiss could be considered an igneous rock. It is strongly layered, igneous rocks are hardly ever layered. I started to think how he could have made such a mistake. Perhaps he is doing it deliberately so that the character may have an argument with a geologist later on … unlikely, perhaps he really doesn’t know that gneiss is a metamorphic rock. Where would he have read this? As far as I know gneiss has always been considered metamorphic. The best explanation I can come up with is that he read this information in an architecture manual. One where the author got his information wrong and one that the author never managed to check up.

The question is, would anybody else realise this? I doubt if any English literature student would realise this unless perhaps they had just been watching Alan Titchmarsh’s guide to geology on TV. That perhaps is quite unlikely too! I still haven’t finished the story as yet, I will maybe find out . It would be quite amazing to be able to find an architecture manual where gneiss is identified as an igneous rock, one reason why cheaters never win, they repeat their mistakes!

Monday, January 03, 2005

Kavanagh and the county poet

I should have said that the biography is "Patrick Kavanagh: a biography" by Antionette Quinn. She has also kust published "The Complete poetry of Patrick Kavanagh". Instead of all that waffle in my last entry about naivety and nature poets I should have just quoted this from page 45:
"The image of the country poet as a simple singer piping down
the valleys wild, is he pointed out, an absurd sentimentalisation. On the
contrary, 'simplicity is the ultimate in poetic sophistication' and
derivativeness is 'the common failing of self-taught poets': "when a country
body begins to progress into print he does not write out of his rural innocence
- he writes out of Palgrave's Golden Treasury.""
I'm beginning to regret the number of large words in that quote, derivativeness simply means lack of originality.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year 2005!

For Christmas I received a very nice book token and I was in spending it on 27th. There are a great number of very decent books at the moment. Perhaps this is merely due to the fact that I normally avoid Waterstone’s but actually there are some very tempting new novels. I managed to get the B.S. Johnson Omnibus edition with 3 of his novels that have just been re-issued. Johnson is a real blast to read. He can be funny, crude and beautiful all at the same time. He loved to experiment with weird settings of the print. I am currently reading ‘Albert Angelo’ about a young architect struggling to get his work commissioned whilst working as a supply teacher in 1960s London. The story jumps around and does all sorts of strange things but I must admit – it is brilliant. I even managed to find a book on French architecture so that I could read up. The character reminds me of George Orwell, when he wrote about people who felt compelled to do certain jobs to live the live they wanted such as ‘Clergyman’s daughter’ or ‘Keep the aspidistra flying’.
He also manages to fill the story up with details of all the different bus line numbers, the types of cafe and buildings in London at that time, as if you were living there. There is a very good line at the start of the story when he explains that he lost his last girlfriend because she fell in love with a cripple. When his mum heard that she told him ’perhaps when the cripple dies you’ll get her back’.
The other book that I am enjoying is the biography of Patrick Kavanagh. Part of the reason for this is that my Grandad was born in Monaghan at around the same time as Kavanagh was born, part of the reason is that I really enjoy his poetry. Whilst my Grandad moved to the city to learn his trade as a tailor, Kavanagh moved to Dublin to become a poet. I can’t help feeling that they both had the same love of the countryside. On the first day of school Patrick Kavanagh was sent home to pick up something and never returned all day. He was eventually found lying down under a railway bridge. He just didn’t feel ‘inclined’ to return to school on a nice day. A lot of people would criticize nature poetry for being naïve, I would refuse to believe that anything about country people is naïve. The only people who are naïve are town people who don’t want to think about the countryside.