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Partisan Song

22/06/2011
As befitting my name. Gotta love that Red Army Choir, one may not know what they are saying, but everything they say sounds epic!
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Place Hacking

07/06/2011

Just a quick shout out for this class blog Place Hacking. It’s about urban exploration, something I enjoy very much, and has some amazing photos. Enjoy!

Booklicious

07/06/2011

A nice site I stumbled upon. I particularly like the quote from Isaac Asimov in this post about why a library matters. He sent it to some children in Troy, New York to congratulate them on their new library

16 March 1971

Dear Boys and Girls,

Congratulations on the new library, because it isn’t just a library. It is a space ship that will take you to the farthest reaches of the Universe, a time machine that will take you to the far past and the far future, a teacher that knows more than any human being, a friend that will amuse you and console you—and most of all, a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life.

(Signed, ‘Isaac Asimov’)

That definitely would have appealed to me when I was a child!

This is but one of many interesting posts, check it out here

Also another site here for those literary minded

Murphy’s disappearing acts

09/03/2011

 

A hefty new title appeared on the shelves during the Christmas period, The Year of Disappearances: Political Killings in Cork 1921-1922, by Gerard Murphy.  I initially thought, hmmm, this looks interesting, I may consider investing in this. However, as with all history books, it is worthwhile investigating whether the author knows what they are talking about before one parts with one’s cash. In this case, he didn’t, and therefore I didn’t. I refer you to some interesting reviews below. It is unfortuanate that so much of the book is based on unsubstantiated conjecture as any nugget of truth that it contains will be lost in a pile of footnotes but, c’est la vie.  Novelists should not try to play as historians unless they know to leave the day job at home!

Spinwatch – monitoring PR and Spin

The Irish Times

The Irish Story – this one is particularly good on examining the evidence and the author’s investigations even  prompted a reply by Murphy here

John Borgonovo also did a review of it in the Jan issue of History Ireland, unfortunately not yet available online.

On Pamuk and Pretension

09/03/2011

 

Finally, someone who agrees with me that Orhan Pamuk is not all he is made out to be!

I have been going on about him for a while now, though in fairness, my rants against him have slipped of late. I have never read his breakthrough novel My Name is Red, but have read his exploration of his home city of Istanbul and his novel Snow.

I rather enjoyed Istanbul: Memories of a City, and found it a challenging book, one that transported me away from the dark wintertime Cashel to Cork bus a few years ago. I had hoped his novels would also live up to the hype, and so I turned to Snow, ironically reading most of it in the desert. Below is an old review of it I wrote in 2008.

When I read the first chapter of this book I thought it sounded good, nice descriptions told in such a way that you feel like you are there. The idea of the novel which I got from the first chapter was also good, intriguing, the idea of a man, a poet and a secularist who exiled himself from Turkey returns after all these years to a town on the edge of his country where politics and religion become much more serious, entwined and focused. He comes to investigate a series of suicides of young women and I found myself, like him, asking why they had occured. It made me want to read on. The idea that he would find himself trapped in this place due to the snow storm certainly added to my interest so read on expecting to read an interesting novel. After a while however, my perception of the novel changed. I did enjoy quite a lot the way political Islam was explained through the use of the characters which I thought quite skillful and well developed. I enjoyed that plot, the tension between east and west and how Pamuk showed in reality that the conflict is far too oversimplified in the minds of its protaganists. The complex relations between religion, state, history and politics in Turkey was well portrayed. These were the novel’s strengths.

Where it got lost and bogged down however was in what I will call the other plot (even though it is related to the main theme), that of the relationship between Ka and Ipek. There was far too much repetition of Ka’s emotional and physical longing for Ipek. His running around time and again, his longing to be with here, his daydreams of what their life together could be like. This part of the novel would have been welcome in my opinion but for the fact of its irrelevant excess. I understood the first and definitely the second time how he felt for her and how she felt for him. Their relationship was central to the plot and the theme of the novel and the conflict was played out quite well between them. They both embodied the complexity of the conflict between east and west, religion and secularism, perception and reality, and were a fine juxtaposition to some of the characters in the novel who viewed the conflict through a manichean lens. However it was spolied through too much emphasis on the emotional feelings of Ka. Overall a potentially good if not great book, but in my opinion spoiled.

I don’t mean to single out Pamuk in particular – his other works could genuinely be decent. What I am railing against is the dumbing down of literature and the pretension that goes along with the cosy club of book awards. In my opinion, most of the Nobel Prizes for literature seem well deserved, but this one, for a writer whose portrayal of love appears to have been written by an angst-ridden teenager, is not one. All those glowing reviews of Snow by expert opinions which it seemed only existed to justify the granting of the award are part and parcel of the current consumerist Tesco and Richard and Judy-esque book culture that is a particularly plague worthy manifestation of neo-liberal capitalism in the 21st century. We must raise the banner for a literature that engages critically with the world, that challenges assumptions and prejudices and raises the intellectual standards of common discourse. Enough of mediocrity. There is a wealth of experience out there and a wealth of talented people living it. The experts who pander to mediocrity in the name of consumerism only serve to push down and discourage those who have something genuinely interesting and eye-opening to say.

Brian Hanley on the rise and fall of Fianna Fáil

06/03/2011

Over on The Irish Story is an informative two-part interview with Brian Hanley about the rise and demise of Fianna Fáil

http://www.theirishstory.com/2011/03/06/brian-hanley-on-fianna-fail/

The IMF – a lesson from the recent past

04/03/2011

Interesting documentary about what can happen when the IMF roll into town. I remember reading all about this in 2001 and early 2002, the devastating consequences of full on privatization and deregularisation, and the excitement for me at witnessing ‘regime change’ from below. Ten years later, are we about to face into a similar scenario?