"One of the most constant

“One of the most constant characteristics of beliefs is their intolerance. The stronger the belief, the greater its intolerance. Men dominated by a certitude cannot tolerate those who do not accept it.” Gustave Le Bon – “Opinions And Beliefs”

I don’t really want to discuss Iraq…

…but it looks like Reuters are reporting what I have been wondering for a while. I think there is some sort of trick about to be used on Iraqi forces. It is possible that Turkey’s refusal to allow US troops to mass and invade from their territory is a feint. Perhaps the US Infantry and Cavalry divisions south of Baghdad are a diversion from a parachute regiment attack from the north or west?

The extraodinarily strange art of Mark Ryden… [Exhibition]

“Mark Ryden’s paintings instantly trigger a warped deja vu. His works recall a parallel universe of 1950s Golden Books and the whimsy of Lewis Carroll. His cheery bunnies, rendered in the glowing hues of children’s books, are more likely to be carving slabs of meat rather than frolicking in the forest. Ryden’s work mingles superb technique with outre images to create a world of strange and disturbing beauty. At once intriguing and unsettling, baffling and enchanting, Ryden’s works are subtle amalgams of many sources and influences as wide-ranging as Psychedelic and Vienna School artists, Neon Park and Ernst Fuchs, to classical French formalists Ingres and David.” [MORE]

Ddi you hear the one about the WASP, the kike, the wop, the paddy and the Newfoundlander?

Kenneth Minogue reviews Christie Davies’ “The Mirth of Nations” and analyses the difficult subject of ethnic jokes.

We learn from jokes, as we learn from everything, and being mocked is an important part of growing up. ìAll too often,î Davies remarks, ìhumor scholars treat jokes as if they can be reduced to clear, serious objective statements which imply single meanings, and then analyze them in a way that is ambiguous, obscure, untestable and subjectiveóin a word, a joke.î The importance of The Mirth of Nations is that it takes jokes back from the theorists and returns them to the comedians. And thatís all of us. “


Internet Book List

A book version of the Internet Movie Database:

“magine a place where every book ever written is available at the click of a button…
Envision a place where You have the power to influence which books are read by others…
Picture a place where authors and readers can communicate with each other across the world…
Visualize a place where You can always find out what to read next… “

The Karl Marx of Al Qaeda [NY Times]

“To anyone who has looked closely enough, Al Qaeda and its sister organizations plainly enjoy yet another strength, arguably the greatest strength of all, something truly imposing — though in the Western press this final strength has received very little attention. Bin Laden is a Saudi plutocrat with Yemeni ancestors, and most of the suicide warriors of Sept. 11 were likewise Saudis, and the provenance of those people has focused everyone’s attention on the Arabian peninsula. But Al Qaeda has broader roots. The organization was created in the late 1980’s by an affiliation of three armed factions — bin Laden’s circle of ”Afghan” Arabs, together with two factions from Egypt, the Islamic Group and Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the latter led by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s top theoretician. The Egyptian factions emerged from an older current, a school of thought from within Egypt’s fundamentalist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, in the 1950’s and 60’s. And at the heart of that single school of thought stood, until his execution in 1966, a philosopher named Sayyid Qutb — the intellectual hero of every one of the groups that eventually went into Al Qaeda, their Karl Marx (to put it that way), their guide.

Qutb (pronounced KUH-tahb) wrote a book called ”Milestones,” and that book was cited at his trial, which gave it immense publicity, especially after its author was hanged. ”Milestones” became a classic manifesto of the terrorist wing of Islamic fundamentalism. A number of journalists have dutifully turned the pages of ”Milestones,” trying to decipher the otherwise inscrutable terrorist point of view. ” MORE

My reading list is backing up…

…like the columns on the road to Baghdad. I have been reading Smart Mobs by Howard Rheingold extremely slowly. This is because I have been enjoying it so much. Tim Sanders, author of the brilliant “Love is the Killer App” sent me his cliff notes for the book yesterday which should turn out to be very useful when I do my own summary. Last week I purchased two books that I wrote about together this blog. I bought Mike Davis’ “Dead Cities” after hearing him speak at the Institute of Contemporary Art last Wednesday. I enjoyed the lecture, as I wrote to a friend “[Mike Davis] a world renowned urban theorist. [He] and I are at opposite ends of the political spectrum – he is a hard core Marxist leftie, I am a centre right capitalist – but I still find much of his work compelling. He writes (and talks) very well. He has fascinating insights into urban life, the history of cities and the oddities of urban lifestyles. He is also downright interesting. In Dead Cities he has essays on some genuinely extraordinary places: Replicas of Berlin built in the middle of Utah so the USAF could perfect firebombing tactics, the absurdity that is Las Vegas, the swamping of San Bernardino by yuppies from LA. It has to be read with an eye on his biases and one has to avoid being angered by oddball leftie assertions that are simply false. If those pitfalls can be avoided there is much to delight in the book.”

last Friday I was browsing ,y local bookshop at lunchtime and came across the brand new English edition of W.G. Sebald’s “A Natural History of Destruction” (coincidentally Mike Davis full title is Dead Cities: A Natural History). “A Natural History of Destruction” is an horrifying book that I have noted before. It deals with the terrors unleashed on Germany during the last few years of WW2 and the curious hole in the German memory that refuses to deal with that terror. Sebald writes beautifully and utterly convincingly about not only the awfulness of the firebombing and the suffering of the German people, but also how utterly unnecessary that slaughter was. I will post a proper review one I have read it fully.

Unable to control my impulse to acquire books, on Saturday I bought “The Shield of Achilles” by Philip Bobbitt (no, not Lorena’s husband). The book promises to be very interesting. The blurb endorsements border on the hysterical and how many books do you know that are praised by the Guardian whilst having an introduction by Sir Michael Howard?

Today I received a copy of Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks by Mark Buchanan. I am not sure if it is good or not. I got it as part of my investigation into Smart Mobs and Social Networks.