Saturday, 18 July 2009

Links 18 July 09 - 02 Aug 09

The funny stuff:

The best Whose Line Is It Anyway clip I have ever seen.

Are you bored with the internet?

How to piss off the aeroplane passenger next to you: take a deep breath, open your laptop, and pull up this URL - annoying and funny, but great (Egyptian) pop song makes it all fine in the end.

Serious stuff:

Equal rights for men please, says woman.

Collins' scientific narrative on God. Scientists doing God can sound weird.

I don't know what the USA's effect is on BBC correspondents, but one after the other, it takes their breath away. From Alistair Cooke (of "Letter from America"), who adored his adopted new home and sent a broadcast letter once a week for about fifty years, to Stephen Sackur, whose eight-year stint included covering Clinton's infamous "I did not have sex with that woman" line, and now Justin Webb, they all turn wistful and loving.

Read the now-traditional "This-America-is-so-full-of-faults-n-paradoxes-but-darn-don't-I-just-love-its-almighty-awesomeness-and-ain't-I-sad-that-I's-goin-backs-to-that-overcast-knife-crime-ridden-place-called-Britain-again." Justin's reports from the US over the past eight years have generally painted sympathetic pictures. And now it's time for his farewell.

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interesting links this week

The funnies

- Parody of New Scientist magazine. Great!

- Is she coming back you think?

- He caught his wife cheating.

- new meaning of "retired"

- Ridiculous T-shirts.

Describe your philosophy about life in one sentence: discussion fires up good quotes and links. Examples: Some days you're the pigeon; some days you're the statue. 'Be kind to everyone along the way for we all fight a hard battle' - Plato. And this thought-provoking Alan Watt vid .

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Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The Bonfire of the Vanities - coming to this blog

Tom Wolfe likes to introduce his novels with a sort of "making of" Introduction. I noticed he did so with "I am Charlotte Simmons"; and now I discover that, about twenty years before, he did the same with "The Bonfire of the Vanities."

The Introduction to "The Bonfire of the Vanities" is a lovely literary essay, the sort of thing that arouses serious writers (whom Tom Wolfe defines as those who aim for literary prestige). It is rich with historical context from the world of fiction, from as far back the nineteenth century to the 1980s. It is also an argument for something.

Wolfe argues that novel writing must rely on reporting skills. A serious writer must be able to document - carefully - the world he wishes his work to inhabit. He has to interview, live in, make friends with, that world. Wolfe compares realism to electricity; you can't go back on it, you can't do without it. Realism is essential for fiction, he argues.

His point seems true; part of The Wire's immense TV success is that its creator immersed himself in the inner-workings of Baltimore, Maryland. Indeed, David Simon was a reporter for a local Baltimore paper for many years.

Some nuggets:

  • In 1969, Tom Wolfe sought to write a novel about New York - that irresistible destination of all those who insist on being where things are happening. He thought it the most obvious idea an American writer could have.

  • 1960s America was a time of immense change. He kept waiting for novels about those changes. Nothing.

  • By the time 1979 swung around, and still no grand novel on New York had come out, Wolfe began to prepare for writing that book himself.

  • The reason why no novels where forthcoming was complicated. Most writers were experimenting with different forms of fiction. The realism school was deemed to have been 'over'.

  • Extraordinary and abundant news coverage challenged fiction writers. There was no way they could replicate that realism. The news was full of detail, full of things even a fictional novelist would be at loss to match for symbolism and surprise.

  • Reporting is the most vaulable and least understood resource available to any writer with exalted ambitions, whether the medium is print, film, tape, or the stage.

  • Wolfe sought to document the influence of society on even the most personal aspects of the life of an individual. It strikes me as folly to believe that you can portray the individual in the city today without also portraying the city itself.

  • I doubt that there is a writer over forty who does not realise in his heart of hearts that literary genius, in prose, consists of proportions more on the the order of 65 percent material and 35 percent the talent in his brain.

  • Between 1981-1985, Tom Wolfe gathered material by visiting neighborhoods and making friends with people he would never have encountered. The novel was published in 1987 to widespread acclaim; it was often described as 'prophetic'.

Hola: While in London, my friend avantcaire set up this book-reading-circle of sorts; to my lot fell the honour of "The Bonfire of the Vanities" - all 740 pages of it. My task is to read it, and send it on to the next person in the ring. Wish me luck!

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Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The hijab martyr: Marwa el Sherbini

I am astounded this story did not receive the coverage it deserves. This is a horrible racist crime, and the fact that the German media has not given the story the coverage it deserves tells me all I need to know about German attitudes.

An interesting low-budget video featuring a discussion between a woman and herself on hijab.

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Thursday, 2 July 2009

Rickroll question

Was rickrolling a piss-take of the vid, the song, and of Rick Astley? Or was it a genuine attempt to draw attention to the song, by tricking people to watch it?

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