Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, formerly of the Grenadier Guards, and M.P. for Stafford: being Anecdotes of the Camp, the Court and the Clubs at the close of the War with France.

Goodreads Review.

Available freely online at Wikisource.

 

The title is accurate. Reading through this book gives the sense of aristocratic people standing around conversing, akin to cocktail parties. This is the strongest impression it left on me, an impression of oral story telling transcribed. Alternatively, it is a dose of the reality before the ‘meritocracy of modernity’ held social apogee, because although a bad businessman is described, it is an uncritical description. Perhaps the 1st 3rd of the book was rather good, after that it declined into small witticisms about forgotten celebrities. Some readers are surely curious about certain poets; Lord Byron, Shelley and others are discussed by their contemporary Cpt. Gronow. Old-fangled language can be collected, quidnunc has entered my own vocabulary. Brevity of chapters enhances a light reading, which is the approach I recommend.

War & Peace.

Goodreads Review.

 

If you read this great work of literature, you will learn about Mr. Napoleon. Not too much, this is a Russian book. You will be following the lives of various aristocrats and some military persons. Most of the characters were real people, so to were the events. The people who actually tend the farms (muzhik’s), are not characters so much as tiny non-essential cogs in the narrative & nation. Some landlord characters care for them, other landlords dismiss them and everybody else ignores them. Merchants are more completely ignored, as is to be expected of a feudal society.

There is no key character. Count Bezukhov is the closest, and is absent in person and in the discourse of hundreds of pages. Nor does it expound Christian theology, only a little ideological facade is proffered by Count Tolstoy. Nor does this epic tale focus on the year 1812, which was the peak aggression of the French Empire. Nor does it focus on a single conundrum. A fantasy contrast of rich & poor, which is present in a shallow form in Alladin does not fill these pages. A major exploration of the upper crust during a time of turmoil, it is an epic tale in diversity of characters and in the length of time covered from 1st page to last.

Larrikins looking for hi-jinks are better off reading Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy. For such a reader, the high point occurs in the first hundred pages or so, with the tale of the policeman & the bear. Meathead bookworms looking for violence are better off reading something by Marshall Macao. Pitched battles occur several times, not more often. Armchair philosophers (& generals) seeking a schema for regular application on the evening news will find a little. Skip to the epilogue and appendix to read Mr. Tolstoy expound on the chaos inherent to all major human organisation.

It has earnt 4 stars. Reasons are numerous. To gloat about this experience requires an aware audience. My philosophy is sharpened from having read it. I am less ignorant of the events preceding WWI & pursuant social upheavals. Madness of crowds and the cult of celebrity prior to fast communications and fast transport is a fascinating subject. Unveiling of the hidden ugliness of times past is lacking. Rag on a stick method of hygiene for example. All the varieties of clothing would be less attractive when one can & does not dress oneself and everywhere itches. War would have been less deadly with the un-rifled barrels of the time, so there would have been more safety for heroism when opposing battalions can stand in eyesight of each other, fire all day and less than a 1/4 of the soldiers are dead at the end. I digress.

If you do read this book, pay attention to the French language. The preface forewarned me as I do you now. The appendix post-warned me, in a rather oblique manner. With careful application of French, Count Tolstoy develops a theme. Whether this theme is historically realistic, which it might be from the authors extensive research, or if it is a personal whimsy, I do not know. Alternatively, I recommend reflecting on the concept of nation and of the power of a single person during the days or nights you read. Many reviews on Goodreads are pleasant, only afterwards.

I read this book. Every. Single. Page. It is a, big, big book with, small, small letters. Pleasure shall be brought to me, when guests of my house see it in an alcove, mounted on a pedestal, near to the front door. Lit from below, with candles to flicker shadows across the pages as my fingers once flitted across them. The pedestal shall stand in the nook made from the slow curl of a grand staircase. The wicks of the candles shall be made from the hair of the illiterate and the floor tiled with the bank cards of the innumerate. I digress & apologise for wasteful words.

Occult Japan.

Goodreads review.

Available here at Wikisource.

A longer read than is pleasurable. Sometimes funny, such as describing the French as monkeys with cringe-worthy sansculotte (pants-less) institutions.  Within are details of ritual possession (which the author concludes are entirely real), the childhood development of the attitude, the dominant religions & their quarrels, the powers of possession, the pilgrim troop, journey & destination, the analogue of business cards that the pilgrims distribute, and so on. There was a momentary surprise to find an author so implicitly derisive of the Japanese culture & people to be aware of the Christian tendency to baptise any tradition to strong to be dismissed or daemonised.

The author appears sincere in investigating the psyche of the Japanese nation. Indeed he believes himself to have determined the origin of the possession ritual, as well as locating prehistoric religion / attitudes passed down through generations and lost to the confusion between Shintō, Buddhism and Ryobū. A confusion locals could only overcome by leaning on the author’s own strong, Western personality, to make explicit a certain ugliness of this book.

At times it reads as a tourist travel guide, it begins with the author climbing the Ontaké mountain peak, witnessing  a three-wheeling possession of monks. It discusses various attractions, with a tilt towards those favoured by locals instead of those most accessible by foreigners. & of course it mentions the cherry blossoms.

The last 100 pages or so are not worth the paper. I’d rather wipe with them to be honest. If you are interested in reading my words about his words about someone else discussing the mental processes behind difficulty in getting out of bed, you are a strange breed of ape. It is in these later pages where the authors racial pride really shows itself. I feel it has degraded my soul to read so many pages denigrating the Japanese. [To be clear, I believe there are inherited traits and do not favour a total Blank-Slate theory of human nature. A complex interplay of nature and nurture exists, of which this Mr. Lowell is occasionally aware.]

In the Penal Colony.

Goodreads Review.

 

Short enough to quickly read on the train, the narrative flows linearly. A simple twist at the end, one I failed to anticipate, despite ruminating on it during the train change. Mr. Kafka anticipates & predates the Saw film franchise, the Hostel film franchise.

The author, & this work particularly, seem to have acquired some respect, although precisely how this impression came to me, I do not know. However others attach metaphors, whatever it demonstrates about absolute commitment to justice, it is torture porn in literature format.

A Call For Violence, or, Mercy Killing.

A Call For Violence, or, Mercy Killing.
True justice being an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, cruelty is more and mercy is less.

Mr. Sepp Blatter accepted a bribe, and because of that choice between yes / no, people (Bangladeshis & Pakistanis) have died. His own death, being singular, would be merciful.

His wealth, and the bribes more specifically, should be distributed between the wage-slaves he created. Without his ‘yes’, they wouldn’t be building the FIFA stadium in Qatar. Don’t get me started on the Qataris who funded the offer or corrupt officials who enabled the crooked process.

Slavery is an apt description, the Pakistani & Bangladeshi labourers do not have freedom of movement, some are beaten, some are killed. The wage they are paid is reduced by their overseers, without freedom of movement they must buy food at inflated costs, like how the Tuckshop used to be in Scottish Highlands.

If Mr. Blatter had said, ‘no’, they total suffering in Qatar would be lesser. His single death would be merciful, because his ‘yes’ lead to much more than one death.

All this leads should lead the Pakistani’s and Bangladeshi’s quite reasonable to resentment or hatred for ‘The West’.

Do you consent or dissent to this call?

P.S. Yes I do realise this is some years late.

2312

Goodreads review.

A grand space opera. The author writes for us, the readers, flights of emotion inspired directly from music, waxes lyrical about space, sex, death. AI ‘personhood’ is briefly skirted, a shadow looms large upon interplanetary civilisation. As for consistency with science, this work of fiction holds up alright, as much as I’m any judge. Full of ‘high culture’ this book is most rewarding to anyone peculiar enough to have memorised planetary geography or the relevant famous figures. Prepare for ‘SJW’ agitation!

How to build an asteroid habitat, called a terrarium here, is detailed. This eases the reader towards the sweet, fantastic indulgence of interplanetary travel. Pitfalls are avoided, to my frustration, the experience of gravity closest to the sunline is not written. Terraforming technologies are strung together in the brief chapters which jerk away from linear narrative. In regards to terrarium, this pre-emptively constructs the next destination and a frequent travel method. Terraform technology is advanced and had to be so because humans buggered up the climate in “The Dithering”. A critique of modern times. Regrettably the author does not use this opportunity to highlight the unique benefits of a benevolent dictator [climate is a global system, a singular executive is my preferred option for action], which offers clear benefits in 2312 due to additional supports absent to any contemporary wannabe.

Social affairs were hit-&-miss to the sweet spot. Economics are discussed in broad strokes. Observations of the narrative try to find a balance between modern criticisms and absent fantasy. There is a lack of personal devotion to a particular economic system, a ‘future-Objectivism’ would fit snugly into place. Race, is not a sticking point for any of the characters, such sticklers are probably unlikely to go on an adventure. However, there were frustrations. Surely an Indian citizen of earth; from an impoverished, violent, rapey, xenophobic community, would feel some degree of culture-shock on being transplanted, almost overnight without any anticipation whatsoever, to Chinese Venus? Not really no, not in 2312!
Describing a minor character as of indeterminate race from the view of a major character, is inconsistent to the fantasy. Either the main character cares about race, or does not. If the latter, and not a single main character has the slightest bias in this regard, then why would it be remarked upon in their inner dialogue? If it did matter, the main characters have discreet access to AI-assisted, Future Internet. Further, if it was instead a flight of fancy, a challenge to the personal, unassisted mind, than dark skin winnows a few of the potential races (i.e. Korean, Gaelic) from the pools of possibility.

Gender, is a similar kettle of fish. Personally, the writing was at times repulsive. There is an attempt to show repulsion of others sexuality as a human attribute (hermaphrodites / androgynous circle orgies are not repulsive, but some small people having sex with one big person is). The particulars are brief and bad. However, sex doesn’t strangle the space fantasy, nor is it a distracting spectacle to alleviate narrative inadequacies. The fit jarred me. The temporary failure of internal logic is powerfully frustrating to me. Again if physical gender is remarkable, and if someone is definitely not-male and not-female, it is not indeterminate gender, particularly not if the observer gave a damn to remark upon it. It indicates two genders as definitely absent.
A bit of the internal backstory though, does clear it up slightly. We, the reader, are exposed to a historical summation of longevity. In the same way that powerful social taboos about conception technology were overcome, i.e. abortion, devout Abrahammic religions & the general populace deviating from those moral codes, so to is our contemporary gender template overwhelmed by the what is offered by embracing, by act of intentional & specific creation, both crotches…

Finally, the AI. This is written with a sprinkling of quantum terminology; coupling, decoherence, potential states and more. Qube AI is not explicitly interrogated, implicit interrogation takes place, about the character of Jean Genette. I, for one, would truly like to read the future version of the Turing Test. It is a shame it was not explicit, perhaps it cannot be done adequately. At times Qubes are narrative tools used as literal Deus Ex Machina, the difficulty of imagining a story involving powerful AI without resolving the tension in a few verbal queries & commands must be recognised

Soft Colonialism & Chinatown.

Let me thrash out a certain perspective. Chinatown is a global phenomenon, ubiquitous to major cities & towns. Although to me they contrast most strongly when set against a non-Asiatic culture, that is a personal ignorance. To bind together all these disparate locations, expatriate culture has lead to the construction of similar architecture, food, language and semi-segregation. These are small, semi-independent colonies and are scattered across the world.

At times Chinese migration was directed by a foreign gold rush. Many Chinatown’s were founded by greed, similar to a lot of European colonisation (& Russian, & African, & Australian-Aborigine, and so on & so forth). Some Chinatown’s were created due to fallout from significant, contemporary events, which is seen after W.T.C. attacks in the U.S.A. caused a domestic migration from New York City to Montville, Connecticut. Nevertheless, greed via business seems to be a significant factor in all Chinatown’s and this is a concept with a lot of reach. Not only does greed motivate the founders of the colony ‘to boldly go where no Chinese has gone before!’, it is directly relevant to instances of negative action; legal targeting, insidious rumours, coolie-slavery, etcetera.

Discourse on colonialism is dominated by the European forms. These forms are distinct from a soft colonialism. They are characterised by much larger movements of people, greater technological inconsistency between the colonisers & colonised, seizure of power across a larger geographic area, seizure of power in deeper social values, a central authority responsible for the colony before its founding, and much more violence. These traits belong to a ‘harder’ colonialism. Frequently a colony will send some type of remittance to the homeland and resources are diverted from the local populace. These two traits are common to both ‘hard’ & ‘soft’ colonialism, although in the latter it is lesser.

Hopefully consideration of Chinatown’s as a soft colonialism will reform perceptions of colonialism into a broader category, enable realistic criticisms of certain modern nations and feed curiosity.

Celebrity, Ideal Self & Posterity.

It is a curious phenomenon, the Cult of Celebrity. Many varieties abound such as Elvis Lives!, ET news, to the followers of Bahá’u’lláh, the pattern is a part of the human condition. Here I record my current conception of the Cult of Celebrity, and by all means seek or create alternative explanation and comment them. I offer these 3 reasons as central to the dynamics, individual & communal, of celebrity:
– the Ideal Self,
– 300 year legacy / Posterity,
– the Talking Point.

The latter is most obvious in this little blog essay, so please allow me to be brief. Celebrity’s are gossip grist and are accessible to to the greatest number of value systems. Devout Jews can bemoan the deteriorating moral fibre of modernity via Justin Bieber, the man-slut can express the wonder of sexuality via Brangelina or an arrogant intellectual can act vicariously vain via admiration of Sheldon Cooper. The Cult of Celebrity is more truly the loyal fanatics, however the complaining conversations based about celebrity are a negative facet of the Cult of Celebrity. Simply put, the Talking Point is the measure of how much discussion a celebrity creates, any type of discussion whatsoever.

Ideal Self & Posterity are somewhat inter-connected. Each of us has some favoured traits, things we like about ourselves and also things we would like to become. Many of us would like to be remembered and perhaps some have felt the fear of being forgotten, when considering this desire. Who do you remember &/ discuss from 300 years ago? Or only 3 family generations ago? If you, like me, are one of the tired, poor, huddled masses, then maybe you would prefer a legacy of a certain folk hero. A personal preference determines if you prefer Slim Dusty over Che Guevara.

This is in part a negative consequence of the critical tradition upon the other traditions, which in turn encouraged individual rights over community rights (by the way, things have never been better). The Scientific Method, an essential core of modern life, explicitly embraces criticism. In part it enabled a massive metropole in which anonymity reigns, as it does in other megalopolis’. Trains, buses, highways are full of strangers. There is no reason to believe they also want Slim Dusty to be commemorated. Indeed they may nominate Sepultura, or the latest Euro-Vision entrant. Although only Martin Luther may remain a somewhat known name, surely a great many of his followers would accept his legacy as both representative & iconic. A modern city is home to multiple cultures & sub-cultures, which in turn may undermine a collective will to build some great & lasting monument to stand the test of time (like, say, the pyramids of Sudan).

In supplement to that though, memorising the family tree (a tradition in small, illiterate societies) such as the genealogy given for Jesus (of which there are 2 contradictory accounts). This would have been a Talking Point, as well as recognition of an Ideal Self (and a unique, personal connection to them) and functioning as a marker of posterity (how long and to how many people has that ancestor mattered?). More recently then such oral traditions, there were of course those of aristocracy. Imagine a Borgia walking down a hallway, beneath the gaze of portraits, perhaps giving house-guests a tour. The Borgia would have met the three criteria of Talking Point, Ideal Self & Posterity, although the Ideal Self may only be recognised negatively, through criticism of those portrayed.

Both the oral tradition and the aristocratic tradition represent, to the relevant times & places, an immediate form of celebrity, which exists in a mutated form in modern life. Familial schooling in fame could perhaps be decreasing due to the increasing fraction of the population which never kept such records, then or now. Perhaps the mass schooling of hundreds & thousands every year coupled with the consistency of the Scientific Method across platforms (everything should be open to criticism, measurement, etc.) has set the critical tradition to dominate the schoolyard instead of an aura of veneration about some saint, instead of a Cult of Celebrity.

Nevertheless such antiquated ‘celebrity’ as found in oral or aristocratic traditions does supply data to inform opinions about legacy. A bad joke doesn’t live on as long as a good deed (probably). Although the great-great-great grandparent may not be as worthy of respect as some contemporary, an attentive audience would still develop realistic attitudes about what gets remembered & what gets repeated.

So celebrity’s represent how we might like to be right here, right now. They represent a common aggregate of the above concepts. When considered from a 3 century perspective, it suggests who we would like to be remembered as, by those lucky bastard born in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Objective Beauty.

Art is a game where forms & functions, trends & travesties are methods of competition. Perhaps an aspiring artist will implicitly pay obeisance to fractal patterns in their work, or could instead choose to incorporate some Islamic feature and by so doing stir the coals of a fiery debate. The contemporary state of the art of the art game is in flux, although constants, such as fine motor skill, emerge if one pursues one’s own investigation. Historically certain artistic objectives have been favoured, such as expression of religious sentiment, but in modern times the glut of ‘art’ has saturated the domain in question. New art tends to take two forms, refining of tradition or rejection of established traditions. The latter, although nominally seeking the objective parameters of art & beauty,  has reached it’s penultimate conclusion in various modern art, which is vulgar expressionism without an inherent message.

As for the possibility of objective art, of a beauty beyond personal tastes, it should be found in threads common between artworks. However the validation that such ‘threads’ are indeed objective, could only be found by a broad survey, which is beyond the scope of this blog post. Nevertheless I believe children hold the key to identifying objective aspects of art. This is because value can be instilled by speech, and so what is valued prior to any speech is closer to an inherent trait of the object. If one accepts a certain art aficionado as an authority on art & beauty, one will heed the words and embrace an old urinal as art. Now a youth, without prior exposure to such an aficionado, will be judge the value of the art object more clearly than one who has criteria. An objective beauty is beautiful independent of personality or agenda, the latter of which the aficionado supplies.

If you read this far, please tell me of the most universal beauty you have experienced, I would really like to know.