Posts tagged "books":

21 Sep 2022

The Ministry for the Future

Enjoying this book by Kim Stanley Robinson. It's less a novel than New York 2140, or Aurora, the only other books of his that I've read.


A science fiction novel rooted in non-fiction

More like an amalgam of random various texts - some scientific, some philosophical, some journalistic, some anecdotal - with a bit of a storyline and a few characters to hold it together. But, in so far as presenting a possible future history of climate change, and climate action, in the mid-21st century, the formula works. And, more importantly, it fulfills the promise of serious speculative science fiction, of getting us to think about the future that we are making for ourselves, right now.

I thought about that today, when spending the afternoon with my grandchildren. I considered their own hopes and dreams, and how some of these might be stymied by the increasing devastation of the planet.

I just came back from flights overseas - flights that took me to Portugal via Belgium: looking at that absurd right-angle on the map makes me feel ridiculous. Like the times I reached Delhi via Moscow. I think in future, if I fly to Europe it will be to the city nearest to my intended destination - then overland, somehow. But, when I check the possibilities, the costs of such travel far exceeds that of plane tickets, unfortunately. In a better world, governments would be doing more to reduce the costs of overland public transport. There's still no real way to get from Israel to Europe or the rest of Asia other than by flying. The ferries of yesteryear, that plied the routes between Palestine, Greece and Italy, are no more, and the uncertainties of travel in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan prevents passage through those countries to further east. The world is less open today, and travel is more dependent upon airplanes, than when I was young.

Links: Food

Gates-Funded 'Green Revolution' in Africa Has Failed, Critics Say

Critics say the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, founded in 2006 with money from the Gates and Rockefeller foundations, has promoted an industrial model of agriculture that poisons soils with chemicals and encourages farmers to go into debt by buying expensive seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. As a result of that debt, some farmers have had to sell their land or household goods like stoves and TVs, said Celestine Otieno and Anne Maina, both active with organizations in Kenya advocating for ecologically friendly practices. "I think it's the second phase of colonization," Otieno said.

EU wastes 153m tonnes of food a year – much more than it imports, says report | Food waste | The Guardian

Tags: books
24 May 2022


Blog backlog up to date

I have successfully passed all of the home-spun html entries from recent months into org-static-blog, meaning that I now have a continuous archive for the last three years. The ones from before that time can be found on WordPress. I don't plan to move more of them.

A website should be more that a blog, however - I would like to add new features as time goes by. My biggest dilemma is whether to bother with adding some sort of fediverse or social networking to the site; it's somewhat of a distraction, and it isn't really possible to do it in basic html like the rest of the site. The simplest format is Bob Mottram's Epicyon, if I want to get that working. But it looks like it would be necessary to add NGINX to the server. That's possible too, it seems: one can have more than a single web servre protocol running on a server.

A Life Full of Holes, by Paul Bowles

I finished that today. It isn't really clear to me whether he wrote the book under a fictional pseudonym, or whether the Magrebi storyteller was for real. Anyway, it's a great book, written in a very original style. I could easily imagine a Bedouin shepherd relating the story. It's poignant and creates great sympathy for the narrator. Usually a book like this, written by a western writer would be suspect of disguised racism, condescension or orientalism, but it's not what I feel here. He doesn't paint a pretty picture of the westerners, "the Nazarenes", who appear in the book, and doesn't romanticize the locals - mainly you think that he's telling it like it is. I think it most reminded me of a Nectar in a Sieve, a book by the Indian writer Kamala Markandaya that I read years ago, though A Life Full of Holes is less tragic.

Bad News

The Guardian brings today terrible stories of Ukraine, of Uyghurs, of Sudan, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. The world is full of sorrow. So let's party?

That wouldn't be for me to say, since troubles are more likely to make me turn inward. But either way, this is not the "Let's fix things" mentality that we probably need.

Tags: blogging books
13 Apr 2022

2022-04-13 Ibn Arabi

Reflections after reading a paragraph of Ismail Hakki Bursevi's translation and commentary upon Ibn Arabi's "Kernel of the Kernel"

" That is to say, if he has not… drunk the glass of love, and has not found annihilation in the ipseity of God, when he says "He", he will be speaking according to his own conjecture, imagination, understanding and relativity. He brings the Being of God into imagination, and gives it a form. Because he has not divested himself of being and reached Absoluteness. Consequently, he puts God under a condition, according to his conjecture and imagination and draws around him a limit; thereby he will have immanenced Him and invented Him. And thereby he has worshipped a creator which he himself has originated."

This is a perfectly vedantic commmentary, relating to the dangers of false understanding and imagination of the Absolute, and the need for complete self-annihilation (nirvana) before approaching or presuming to be absorbed in the divine essence.

Yesterday I watched the documentary, "The Pirate Bay - Away from Keyboard". The latter phrase is the way, according to Peter Sunde, of saying "in real life", because for those who spend their lives on the internet, the internet is real life. Well, of course it is. But is playing a game real life? Being immersed in a novel, or in TV, like the character in "Being There", or in a hallucinatory drugged state? Or in a psychosis?

It is, actually, just in the same way as what we call reality is engineered by our imagination. Reality is there, but it is warped into something different. For example, we could say that, from a position of higher understanding, the universe is all in sync; in harmony; in a state of cooperation. Whereas, in the consciousness of an ordinary, conditioned individual, there is instead, competition and rivalry. The big fish eat the little fish; entailing the necessity for constant defence against adversity. This is not just a matter of seeing the world a little differently. It is a fundamental difference; a night-and-day difference. So yes, by the measure of reality, it is likely that we are in a state of psychosis. And a person who sees the world according to a different paradigm from our mundane perception of it would be labeled psychotic. And who can say who is right? We only know that owing to the strict behavioural rules of society and of the human-created world, it is difficult for a person who perceives and understands in a completely different way to function.

In such a world, where one has little chance of ever seeing the real outside of our human-created mould, we might just as well live in a fantasy that is provided by television, by the internet, by the game-makers, or psycho-active drugs; so long as is does not interfere too much with our ability to function, for part of the day, in the "away from keyboard" world constructed by human society for the purpose of eking out a livelihood, consuming, procreating, etc.

There is, however, the unfortunate fact that our human activities are destroying the biosphere. Here again, we find that humans have found a way of incorporating concern for the biosphere into their carefully constructed world of illusion. They believe that if they live according to certain constraints, they will minimize the damage. Thus the founders of the Pirate Bay, despite their disregard for other human conventions, incorporated vegetarianism into their lifestyle. It is fairly easy to integrate "environmental awareness" and other values into our carefully constructed fantasy world.

Whatever the outcome of the environmental crisis we are facing, it is likely that the omnipotent and omniscient pan-consciousness behind the world of appearances has long ago taken human activity into account, and that all of our actions take place against the background of this consciousness.

The real question for us, for human beings, is whether we must reconcile ourselves to living always and forever in illusion, or whether we can follow Ibn Arabi in seeking a reality that is not conditioned by imagination?

Tags: spirituality books
23 Nov 2021


What I’m reading

"Son Visage et le Tien", a long essay by Jenni Alexis. Interesting, so far. The English Wikipedia article about him references an article in the Atlantic, “When does a writer become a writer“[1]. Alexis, like T.S. Eliot, Franz Kafka, John Steinbeck, Margaret Duras and so many others that the article doesn’t mention, has a daytime job. Winning the Goncourt prize came as a big surprise for him. It’s the kind of attainment that so many aspiring writers dream about.



Despite all the predictions that the Pegasus affair would be all forgotten after a few weeks, no, the company’s woes seem only to be accumulating. Blacklisted by the US gov’t, half a billion dollars in debt, and now being sued by Apple.

NSO was about to sell hacking tools to France. Now the Israeli spyware company is in crisis. | MIT Technology Review

Apple Sues NSO Group For Hacking Its Users

"For the experts and activists who have been accusing NSO Group of enabling authoritarian abuse for years, it’s a victory that is long overdue."

Tags: books surveillance
22 Nov 2021


Organizing some news feeds under Vivaldi

I put some of my RSS Newsfeeds in order in Vivaldi. My idea is to use it for blogs, rather than busy news sources. For that reason I first added RMS’s political notes, and then removed it. Because if I want to use it as what Dave Winer calls “a river of news”, RMS dominates too much. But the links are good. It would be better if Vivaldi made it possible to use sub-folders for different areas (and hence sub-rivers – by being able to click on the top folder that includes each set of feeds).

It’s a little disappointing to see many of the bloggers whom I bookmarked falling silent for months on end. Many people invest a lot of time in producing a nice looking blog, and then forget to use it.

Paywalled systems

I had a look at Glenn Greenwald’s website ( It’s an outdated mess, with stuff requiring Flash player. His website doesn’t mention that he is now on Substack, ( of which I was already aware. I can’t afford to subscribe to him on Substack, any more than I can afford to pay for other news sources. For now, I support the Guardian with a monthly donation, but can’t afford to do that for every web journal I visit. Steve Winer, who is wealthier than I am, has written about this problem. If enough websites gang up on me and offer a subscription model that works more like the music streaming services, offering a monthly subscription that allows me to read, say, 50 or 100 articles a month, across different journals, maybe I would pay for it. I think that the only real solution to paywalls is a model similar to the music streaming services, with a flat monthly subscription similar to that of Medium. But Medium reminds me a little of the gig economy; there are a few top earners, but even they are not getting paid so much. For bloggers and independent writers, what would work best would be to get together and create a “writers guild” or cooperative, working as a non-profit, so that the writers themselves don’t get cheated.

I don’t mind the presence of ads, only the nasty ones and trackers.

Open Library

I was delighted, then disappointed, to find, where one can “borrow” books for a limited time. The problem is that the presentation makes them not very readable. Might be okay for students, but not really for readers. Someone put in a considerable amount of work in making the books available, but didn’t go the full route. At minimum there should be a phone application enabling comfortable reading of the books. The project belongs to, the internet archive, and uses the same login for both.


India hovers over the Pause button for Big Tech’s march onto one hundred million farms • The Register

Tags: software books links
11 Feb 2020

The Sheltering Sky

Reading The Sheltering Sky of Paul Bowles. It’s interesting and well-written. The characters are racist and sexist, of course; I haven’t a clue whether that reflects the views of the author, because we aren’t intended to admire them.

Tags: books
29 Aug 2019

Gene Wolfe on literature's mainstream

“Incidentally, I’d argue that SF represents literature’s real mainstream. What we now normally consider the mainstream—so called realistic fiction—is a small literary genre, fairly recent in origin, which is likely to be relatively short lived. When I look back at the foundations of literature, I see literary figures who, if they were alive today, would probably be members of the Science Fiction Writers of America. Homer? He would certain belong to the SFWA. So would Dante, Milton, and Shakespeare. That tradition is literature’s mainstream, and it has been what has grown out of that tradition which has been labeled SF or whatever label you want to use.”

Larry McCaffery interview with writer Gene Wolfe.

Tags: books
07 Jul 2019

Gun Island

The novel is true to Ghosh’s more recent swashbuckling style, as well as to his concerns, while at the same time preserving his scholarly core. He has found a way to offer serious ideas in a popular style, and he has always been a magician at storytelling. The product probably wouldn’t work if he took himself too seriously.

Tags: books
02 Jul 2019

Sebald's "The Emigrants"

Sebald’s The Emigrants is the only book, fiction or nonfiction, that I’ve managed to read from beginning to end in recent months. His books always grip me like thrillers, though ostensibly they meander in the most leisurely way, and it’s hard to classify them as either fiction or nonfiction. I suppose they are a kind of artful rendering of the real world.. i know nothing of literary genres, but surely his style is unique.

Sebald's early death was such a cruel tragedy, but somehow reminds me of the stories and anecdotes he writes about:

“Sebald [aged 57] died while driving near Norwich in December 2001. The coroner’s report, released some six months later, stated that Sebald had suffered an aneurysm and had died of this condition before his car swerved across the road and collided with an oncoming lorry.” (Wikipedia)

Tags: books
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