Malleus Maleficarum

4 07 2010

One of those interesting books I’ve always been interested in, along with the Book of Solomon. Now you can get it on-line here.

“The Malleus Maleficarum (Latin for “The Hammer of Witches”, or “Hexenhammer” in German) is one of the most famous medieval treatises on witches. It was written in 1486 by Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, and was first published in Germany in 1487. Its main purpose was to challenge all arguments against the existence of witchcraft and to instruct magistrates on how to identify, interrogate and convict witches.”

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The World of the Futre/Space Exploration

2 07 2010

My 6 year-old son came home after a visiting a book swap yesterday with an early 90s book on space exploration. I haven’t been able to find an image of it, but it was filled from top to bottom with illustration and the paper had that strong card like texture and smell that reminded of all the similar books I craved as a child. Needless to say he loves the book already, despite how dated it may seem. So of course I went looking for similar books this morning and was reminded of this:

which I came across at the Paleo-Future Blog which has a huge amount of interesting resources about perceptions of the future in the past.





Chaostage

30 04 2010

Back when I had much more politically motivated aspirations I wanted to get involved in the Chaostage in Hanover, they’d been around in the eighties and came made a revival around the time I was in college. I have always found it interesting how Germany’s external image as an enlightened state so contradicts its internal image, all the way back to the origins of the maoist RAF at the welcoming of the Shah of Iran and the murder of a student at a demonstration against him (their appearance is more complicated than that, but it was a catalyst). So here’s some Chaos Day footage from back in the day, I keep wondering if we’ll see this type and level of protest rise again, it’s pretty hardcore. Again both movements had a lot to do with opposing the Nazi presence in government or society.





Paul Schaefer

24 04 2010

I see Paul Schaefer has died (Irish Times). One of the many Nazis who hid away in South America since the Second World War (list from Wikipedia), though Schaefer had some other crimes to add to the usual list. Connected to/Leader of Villa Baviera, which author Peter Levenda mentions in Unholy Alliance and his experience with them, a further history of what exactly happened behind the cult/colony walls would be interesting.

Levenda’s book and its discussion of the nazi obssession with the occult is fascinating if only because it makes the worlds of Indiana Jones and Hellboy seem more real.





A mix of articles

9 02 2010

Economist
Economist

The Economist lead article for Jan 7th issue has an interesting insight into the current situation in the worldwide markets. Far from making any calls on stability or possible growth, it echoes comments made by many of those opposing various government attempts to create more less volatile more secure markets and leaves one with a sense of real foreboding about whether there really is a light at the end of the tunnel, or if its just another tunnel.

Rivers of Babylon, By Peter Pist’anek, trans. Peter Petro

Have just recently finished this, it really is a great book, but I’ll allow this review from The Independent introduce you to it.

Other literary links

Joanna Smith Rakoff on her adventures answering JD Salingers post.

F Scott Fitzgerald reads Shakespeare.





A bit of a late return

27 01 2010

I’ve already fallen behind in my attempts to keep this blog chronologically consistent, but I’ll try and make up for it today.

Ethiopian Land Grab

The Guardian reports on Ethiopa’s selling off of huge tracts of unused land to foreign and local companies who will use it to grow various crops and flowers. Time will tell if this will become a system that allows  a foreign body to exploit a locality and then export the goods produced leaving the indigenous population in the same poverty or worse, a la the Irish famine. First indications seem quite good with higher pay for workers and a promise to sell produce locally, which is more an economic decision made on the basis that transport costs in Africa are too high, but time will tell. Article here

I Served the King of England

I finally finished I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal having received it as part of a swap. It really is a very enjoyable book. The narration takes a folklorish style and the narrator himself has the right mix of roguish and insightful qualities to keep your interest and prick your mind with childlike questions about what we expect from life. The timeline brings us through times of wealth and stability to those of poverty and oppression during WWII, followed by the era of Communism in Czechoslovakia. Though these times make for an interesting backdrop, it is the narrator’s own experiences and what he learns from them that make for the most intriguing element of the book. In some ways he personifies capitalism and its trials over the last century ending until finally realising the system, and all the alternatives, has failed and what matters most is how people interact with each other.

“Cuteness” as a Social Disease

Vanity Fair (December 2009) had an intersting insight into the rise of “cuteness” in modern culture, more so the last few yearas. Obviously written from an American perspective it makes some observations regarding the growth of cute in the US after Obama took the reigns. The article sees it as an attempt to discard the harder, almost less human, image of America ciculated during the Bush era. It’s worth a quick read anyway, though I would like to point out that he makes a fleeting reference to the influences of Studio Ghibli on Pixar, which he can’t expand on so doesn’t and completely misses the point of Astro Boy. His understnading of animated film is clearly limited as this quote shows:

There has also been a sharp rise in cute movies. For the past decade, the annual list of the 50 highest-grossing films has included between 7 and 13 productions with adorable cartoon heroes (among them Up, Wall-E, Kung Fu Panda, Ratatouille) or lovable animals (Marley & Me, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Hotel for Dogs). There have always been movies for kids, but in the 1990s, by contrast, there were four or five cute movies per year among those cracking the top 50. And when critics review films like Up or Wall-E, their tone suggests they’re dealing with something like The Seventh Seal rather than movies designed to exploit our caretaking instinct.

A nice combination of cultural snobbery (mentioning The Seventh Seal as a reference to high art is always suspiciously pretencious) and basic ignorance of the animated media/genre (since when is a fucking rat cute?. Walt Disney probably originally had the idea for Randolph Rat). The rest of the article is interesting, but I’m really not aware of cuteness being as major an issue as the author suggests.

Shorts

Interesting LA Times article on the later years of Philip K Dick and his life in Orange County here.

Garry Kasparov on intelligence in the New York Review of Books here.

Just so I don’t forget to show something mechanical, here’s a video of the 1929 Fordson Snow Machine Concept:





The danger of creating idols

19 11 2009

Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky is probably one of the people whose opinions on the Internet and knowledge sharing I take more seriously. I’m interested in the emphasis he puts on those elements of modern media and communication which are more beneficial to society as a whole, than the more myopic “Make your fortune from the Internet and only work for 4 hours a week” commentators. His piece I read today takes on the concept of smaller local bookshops, who are more and more threatened by massive online sellers. Though he doesn’t agree with some organisations seeking governmental intervention on the issue, nor their arguments for seeking this intervention, his final comments are crucial for many commercial enterprises. In criticising the comments of the American Booksellers Association, he also criticises many of the reasons put forward over the last, maybe, 15 years of the development of the Internet. However, at this stage any references the ABA make to themselves as some kind of guardians of culture, ring hollow to anyone who can see through them to the obvious commercial elements of their arguments. His article can be found here: Local Bookstores, Social Hubs and Mutulization

I don’t really take issue with anything he says, but I find his comments on social hubs etc very interesting. The idea of bartering, co-operatives, social hubs etc as part of cities’ social systems needs to be investigated more by individuals, the concepts themselves exclude any government or state involvement, which may be why I find them so attractive. In my experience such concepts exist quite freely in rural areas or put in place by NGOs and community groups in working class areas and have worked successfully in many cases. They are concepts which really should spread to all parts of society in all areas. The argument that these movements allow for too much localisation, doesn’t allow for the development of an interlinking system of local organisations.

One of the best articles I read is an interview in the Columbia Journalism Review and was a better insight into the changes the Internet has made and a perfect counter to those who argue that modern society cannot cope with the level of distraction and knowledge created this new flood of information. His points about information filtration are particularly apt

Obama, just another politician?

I have been cynical form the very beginning about how much hope and “a new beginning” would have to do with Barack Obama’s reign. Of course, I was remorsefully whipped by his enthusiastic followers anywhere I ever mentioned it. They obviously never read Noel Ignatiev’s How the Irish Became White, an interesting argument for abolishing the “white race”, what it stands for, not the people. There was plenty of horror here in Ireland when it was mentioned that more and more Irish-Americans were voting Republican, conservatism follows wealth.

So far my cynicism re-Obama still stands, bearing in my mind I am an outsider and judge him more on his foreign policies than his domestic ones. I have yet to see a substantial change in attitude from the last 15 years. A change yes, but not enough to convince me he’s not another patsy to corporate lobbying.

Aside from my own misgivings, I still find disparity in reporting on his speeches, talks etc fascinating. Two pieces from 18 November, writing on the same visit to China. One from the New York Times: During Visit, Obama Skirts Chinese Political Sensitivities where the only mention of Tibet is Bill Clinton’s speaking to President Jiang Zemin in 1998. The article is simply a list of failings in Obama’s approach to Eastern Asia. However, The Irish Times runs an article Obama’s remarks on Tibet tempered by praise for China commenting on how Obama made the US’s position on human rights and equality clear to President Hu. Yes there’s a level of hypocrisy in his comments, but why did the NY Times omit referring to them altogether? What gives?

Hitler’s hidden bunkers and Mao’s massive one

Anyone wondering about life in China and how it manages to compete so strongly against the US, almost on salary alone should read through Viceland’s feature on the “hidden city” built by Mao under Beijing. It’s a pretty alternative and specific view of the city, but there are some insights into the poverty and squalor that exist in the country as more and more people are pushed towards the cities: Chairman Mao’s Underground City

Of course Mao wasn’t the only dictator who like his tunnels. This video posted on Disinfo.com is pretty interesting, plus it features Anthony Beevor whose book Stalingrad is a great read, my fondness for references aside.

Megacity One Children

Funnily enough I cam across this article in New Scientist which put forward some evidence that children who show less fear are more prone to taking a criminal path later in life. Fortunately, the article recognises that the evidence is relatively weak, but believes the conclusions warrant further investigation. Every time I read anything proposing the possible early detection of traits in humans images of Judge Dredd flash through my mind. However, again, the same article does mention that such results can really never be properly followed through on because a child’s environment can still draw them away from criminality and vice versa.

Lego

This piece in Gizmodo was just a nice nostalgia trip for me, hope it’s the same for you!