References, or lack thereof

18 11 2009

I intend on giving my fist impressions of books and final reviews, rather than giving a step by step break down. Makes more sense to me.

Crimson Book of Pirates
Last night I started the Crimson Book of Pirates by Peter Newark. So far, it’s been quite entertaining. Starting off with a general run down of pirate history. He makes some interesting points which he obviously swoops over as they have no major relevance to the topic he is discussing, such as the benefits to Western architecture and culture as influenced by the East during the crusades, but it did make me more aware of the fact that he references no secondary material whatsoever. I greatly dislike reading history books which don’t give proof/reference for the points they are making. I find them more difficult to take seriously. Anyone who has read Noam Chomsky’s work will know that he uses a mass of precise and full references, but every so often he skips a reference and I have always found that irritating (along with his occasionally overly dramatic language, which I feel has no place in “objective” political and historical writing). So much so that I eventually stopped reading his work. Crimson Book of Pirates, as a result, despite its references to rampant pirate homosexuality during long sea voyages, reads more like a child’s book on “Pirateology”, but has so far been an enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to getting into the individual pirate biographies. My short time studying journalism and history has given me ideas about myself and I shouldn’t really allow those aspirations to come between myself and a good book. Mind you the fact that I found it impossible to find any images of the cover of the book anywhere on the Internet may attest to how it could be ignored.

Mind you it isn’t all about history, the Somali coast, a couple taken from their yacht last week and now this: Piracy off the Seychelles

If you’d like to see how common modern-day piracy is have a look at this: Map of Piracy

I Served the King of England

I also began reading I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal, after receiving it as part of a nifty little book swap with a friend. I didn’t get a chance to get into it properly as I had begun falling asleep, but love the lack of paragraph breaks and dialogue punctuation which allows the reader to flow more easily through the book and reads more like stream of conciousness than anything I have read before, including Kerouac. More importantly Hrabal is able to communicate dialogue without its punctuation a lot more clearly than Cormac McCarthy, whose writing I find unnecessarily difficult to follow at times.

Hrabal, a Czech writer, brings me to the celebration of the Velvet Revolution which was also in the news today Celebrating Revolution with Roots in Rumour

Classical Liberalism vs. Anarcho-Capitalism

Nick P. over at Black Sun Gazette has written a very interesting critique Jesus Huerta de Soto’s Classical Liberalism vs. Anarcho-Capitalism. His blog usually makes for interesting reading, as many of his beliefs would reflect my own. I don’t want to group either party’s political leanings, but quite a bit left should suffice. Nick’s article makes good reading as in discussing De Soto’s points he also allows for a criticism of anarcho-capitalism and the many failings of its political theories. However, I personally wouldn’t agree with all of Nick’s points, bearing in mind that my ramblings are not as coherent or well thought throw as his. Though both Nick and De Soto agree in that an end to the nation-state is required, De Soto obviously believing it necessary to allow freer capitalism (mentioning more road tolls as a “good” example of what this would allow), their reasoning for this is obviously very different. De Soto argues that government “infantilizes” population so as to allow them to be ruled over more easily, which may have an element of truth in it. He believes people are too quick to idolise government, but is way off in stating that it is the “most serious and dangerous social disease” affecting the modern world. But if you read Nick’s article you’ll find a better run down of all his points that I could currently give.

My issue with both pieces is that they tend to, like Marxism and most political theory, patronise those which they write about and for whom they believe they are seeking a better word, usually written by a relatively wealthy intellectual who seems somewhat removed from the situation about which they discuss. On top of that over 160 years after The Communist Manifesto was written those class boundaries which Marx talked about are not as clear as before. Capitalism has allowed for a blurring of distinction between the “boss” and “the worker”, but those who support its original tenets can easily fall back on the usual “capitalist” and “worker” labels when it suits them. Nick P. falls into the trap of referring to McDonald’s workers, which has really become a cliché at this point. What is working class anymore? Who is bourgeois? What defines these labels, pay, location, education? Again, political theory falls short of taking human nature into consideration and in attempting to create equality does more to divide. In saying all that De Soto does seem more out of touch with the real world than most commentators I have come across.

Sometimes I wonder if the more basic ideas, based almost purely on positive human nature are the more worthwhile, like this video from NURU International (Vimeo, so can’t embed): Jake’s Story

Mere ramblings on my part again, but for a greater insight have a look at Black Sun Gazette.

How to Use a Multimeter

On a more practical level, having just managed to get one of my bangers through their road worthiness test, I have yet to fix/destroy my other. Lack of money has meant attempting to take this on myself, which doesn’t sound too bad, but after plenty of scraped knuckles and rants verging on tears I realised and accepted that I need to read a bit more before continuing, so yesterday i read up on how to use a multimeter, after a couple of difficult to follow sites, I found this nice and handy PDF which is quite basic, but definitely easier to follow: MULTIMETER GUIDE

Typography, again

Those of you who read yesterday’s Mistakes in Typography Grate the Purists may be interested in the response on Bookninja: On typographic fetishism as mental illness

John Murray, Publishing House: The History

A friend recently mentioned John Murray to me and I confess I had never paid much attention to them, but after looking through their back catalogue found that they have definitely been a strong contender in the field and I fell I really should have given them a little more credit. Interesting article at The Fiction Desk discusses the role of the bookseller publisher after the publication of the house’s history earlier in the year, The Seven Lives of John Murray.

 

History Doesn’t Always Forget

New York Time’s article about recent prosecutions of Nazi war criminals in Germany

Rwandan Hutu Rebels arrested in Germany

Final Flourish

Takashi Furuya Illustrations

Image taken from the brilliant Retro To Go

Brainpickings have a nice piece on the book which chronicles Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon, which he obviously never made, mostly due to finances, it’s clear from the book why: Kubrick”s Napoleon, The Greatest Film Never Made

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4 responses

18 11 2009
Nick P

Thank you for your kind words, and for linking to an article I am very proud of. Now for a brief response.

“My issue with both pieces is that they tend to, like Marxism and most political theory, patronise those which they write about and for whom they believe they are seeking a better word, usually written by a relatively wealthy intellectual who seems somewhat removed from the situation about which they discuss.

I dunno about “patronizing.” But anarcho-capitalism does seem like a philosophy for billionaires or people who think they soon will be. For my own part, I’ve never taken home more than a cool $20K a year.

On top of that over 160 years after The Communist Manifesto was written those class boundaries which Marx talked about are not as clear as before. Capitalism has allowed for a blurring of distinction between the “boss” and “the worker”,

Only because capitalist propaganda obfuscates them.

Nick P. falls into the trap of referring to McDonald’s workers, which has really become a cliché at this point.

I also mention miners, though perhaps oil workers would be more current. In place of McDonalds workers would you prefer janitors? The point is that there are many jobs so unpleasant no one would do them under any form of capitalism. They are either totally mind-numbing and disgusting (McDonalds / janitorial work) or dangerous and difficult (coal mining / oil rig work). The idea that people “choose” to do these jobs under capitalism is, in a word, mildly insane.

What is working class anymore?

Those who have nothing but their labor power to sell on the open market, i.e. the vast majority of people living in the developed industrial countries and a goodly chunk of those not. Small farmers, small businessmen, and independent contractors may feel the squeeze, but working class they ain’t.

Who is bourgeois?

Those who own the means of production and make their living off of surplus value, i.e. the narrow, highly privileged layer of the world economy who make billions off of stock market crashes and wars.

What defines these labels, pay, location, education?

Relationship to the means of production.

Again, political theory falls short of taking human nature into consideration and in attempting to create equality does more to divide.

Human nature is constantly in flux. There is a good case to be made for people being at their best when they were cooperative. You’ll notice I haven’t once mentioned sacrifice or altruism.

In saying all that De Soto does seem more out of touch with the real world than most commentators I have come across.”

At least we can agree on that. Thanks for the kind words and the promotion. Both are much appreciated.

18 11 2009
miofar

Thanks for commenting Nick, appreciate the feedback. You’re replies to my comments clearly show a greater understanding of the concepts and I admit to not remembering the “Manifesto” as well as I should, but perhaps partially because I rejected it too soon.

My issue with referring to fast food workers or those regarded as being on the lower rung of the capitalist ladder is that it tends to act as a basic value for many people, as if working in McD’s makes you “more” working class than others. Is a graphic designer who earns more than twice the average industrial wage in his country, isn’t unionised, isn’t paid for overtime etc any more or less working class than a janitor or a carpentar who as you’ve said “have nothing but their labor power to sell on an open market”? To many evidence of material gain, a new car, a “good” house etc pushes you out of working to middle class, here in Ireland at least. I don’t mean to labour the point, but what I’m getting at is even though I agree with the definitions you give (and which I really should have stated myself before making my argument) I feel that in the real world, where use of categories seems so essential for people to observe their place in society these concepts of working class and bourgeois are deliberately, or otherwise, abused.

I have great hope for people’s abilities to work in a cooperative system, but very often feel that is more of a naive hope. I had intended on giving a nod to an element of sacrifice involved in getting to that point in my piece. I had intended on mentioning Slavoj Zizek again who I believe made the case when speaking about Robespierre and the Great Terror in France that one of the problems with great ideologies is that people want the end result without making the sacrifice, having their cake and eating it. Obviously Marx’s concept of Communism as a transition between a capitalist society and a socialist society falls directly into that description.

Again thanks for the comment, am really glad you took your time to write it. Without kissing too much ass, I enjoy your site and continue to read the archives and may be posting more links from here, if that’s cool.

22 11 2009
Nick P

My issue with referring to fast food workers or those regarded as being on the lower rung of the capitalist ladder is that it tends to act as a basic value for many people, as if working in McD’s makes you “more” working class than others. Is a graphic designer who earns more than twice the average industrial wage in his country, isn’t unionised, isn’t paid for overtime etc any more or less working class than a janitor or a carpentar who as you’ve said “have nothing but their labor power to sell on an open market”? To many evidence of material gain, a new car, a “good” house etc pushes you out of working to middle class, here in Ireland at least. I don’t mean to labour the point, but what I’m getting at is even though I agree with the definitions you give (and which I really should have stated myself before making my argument) I feel that in the real world, where use of categories seems so essential for people to observe their place in society these concepts of working class and bourgeois are deliberately, or otherwise, abused.

I completely agree with everything you say here. The only relevant point is that in a society where no one had to work to eat, tons of people would still be graphic designers. No one would likely want to reheat Grade Z beef patties. But your main point is absolutely correct, and one that I frequently make against people who say “there is no working class in America.”

I enjoy your site and continue to read the archives and may be posting more links from here, if that’s cool.

Again, thanks for the kind words. I always love pingbacks, but I love intelligent feedback even more. Please continue linking to me as interest allows. Also, not sure if you’re local, but I’m going to be sponsoring a meetup in mid-December.

24 11 2009
miofar

Guess we’re pretty much in agreement. I live in Ireland, so wouldn’t be able to attend, though it’d probably make for some interesting comparisons.

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