I had special reasons for wanting to read this book: last year I was taking a Strategy & Organisation course, and the course had the lovely additi...moreI had special reasons for wanting to read this book: last year I was taking a Strategy & Organisation course, and the course had the lovely addition of having well-chosen, relevant guest speakers. Kilian Wawoe was one of them, and by far the favourite of all students (for two years in a row). The guy is an energetic speaker, and knows how to address an audience. In short, his presentation was fun, and it mostly dealt with the topics discussed in this book. In all honesty, the book just went a bit deeper, but the basics I had heard from Professor Wawoe himself last year.
The book discusses the bonus-system in the banking sector, and the dangers it causes. The basic idea is this: at the beginning of the year, people high up in the company decide on targets for the next year. Employees are promised a bonus when they reach this target, regardless of how good of a worker they are, and what methods you use: all that matters is reaching this goal. If you need to sell 50 travel-insurances, selling them to people who don't travel at all is still fulfilling the target. This employee would still get the bonus, even if he doesn't help move things along for the company. Working well therefore doesn't earn you bonuses, which is, at the very least, a bit strange.
Professor Wawoe argues this system caused the crisis, as employees started taking more risks to reach their targets, claiming that "if you win, you get a bonus; if you lose, nothing happens". In case of the banking sector, it's generally the tax payer who has to pay for the mistakes made in the sector. The mistakes that have been made, and the risks that have been taken are not the fault of a single employee, but more a fault of the system, a system the banks themselves and also politicians are reluctant to change. Most of the book talks about Wawoe's research about this topic, and his frustrations on being ignored. It's a topic no one really wishes to talk about or is even interested in.
Besides this, Wawoe addresses other issues, such as Professor Schenk's theory on fusions (they're not good for a company, generally, and they're rarely successful; it's mostly a matter of prestige), but also the ego of people in high functions, and why they play such risky games.
There's a wealth of information in this book, but what bothered me personally was the writing style. It was very informal, and written in the I-perspective. Wawoe tells about the banking crisis from his perspective (+ added personal anecdotes, which in my opinion weren't always necessary), so it was understandable why he chose an I-perspective, but it just bugged me a bit. An informal style generally helps to make more people read your book, as it seems less daunting. And true, the book reads like Wawoe is telling you a story. I can just speak from experience when I say that the speech makes much much impact than the book itself does. I personally think an informal structure doesn't work as well for a non-fiction book, but for some people this might be a plus, as it helps create that personal touch.
Though I didn't care much for the poetry of the Wandering Students, this book was still an enjoyable read. John Addington Symonds is a sympathetic edi...moreThough I didn't care much for the poetry of the Wandering Students, this book was still an enjoyable read. John Addington Symonds is a sympathetic editor, and his background information, motivation for translating the poems and notes on the translations were all a joy to read. The poems themselves were.. well.. nothing too special. Some poems definitely suffered from an overkill of Roman references. The poems weren't sentimental and rarely stood out, but there were a few I really liked, amongst others a debate between water and wine, a quite humoristic display of what the Medieval thoughts were on both drinks. But, my favourite stanzas are from poem No. 26, The Wooing, where an awesome lady tells off an annoying Wandering Student:
"Why d'you coax me, suitor blind? What you seek you will not find; I'm too young for love to bind; Such vain trifles fex my mind.
"Is't your will with me to toy? I'll not mate with man or boy: Like the Phoenix, to enjoy Single life shall be my joy."
Overall a quick, nice read, provided you're interested in the Middle Ages.(less)
Short, clear introduction to the works of Dr. Freud. Anthony Storr knows a lot of the field, and while explaining Freud's works, puts his writing in p...moreShort, clear introduction to the works of Dr. Freud. Anthony Storr knows a lot of the field, and while explaining Freud's works, puts his writing in perspective with what we know now. I'm not an expert on psychoanalytics, but I found this a fascinating read. Freud truly was a genius, even if he and I don't see eye to eye very often. Still, very interesting read and I would recommend this book to everyone who wants to give Freud's theories a try.(less)
There is no doubt that this book is realistically written, and that the Medieval setting in which the story takes place is believable, and well-resear...moreThere is no doubt that this book is realistically written, and that the Medieval setting in which the story takes place is believable, and well-researched. Despite not being a Christian, I loved this about the book. After all, I am interested in the Middle Ages, so that was a big plus.
The languages incorporated in the book were awesome. I've studied Mittelhochdeutsch (Medieval German) and even considered Medieval Latin as a minor. If I had done that, then I'm sure this book would be slightly more readable, as all the Latin would make more sense on first read. As it is, my Latin ain't bad, and I could still make sense of the story, although I sometimes had to use the translations in the back. This was slightly bothersome, I'd have prefered footnotes. I also like the few sentences Mittelhochdeutsch that appeared. Those I could easily translate, and that made me feel awesome.
The story however... the references to Sherlock Holmes were obvious, our main detective guy comes from Baskerville, for crying out loud. But where Sherlock Holmes is quick in researching and sees through things in an interesting fashion, William was a bit slow and uninteresting. William's companion also wasn't as fun as Watson. And the mystery... well, the mystery of this book was a really poor one. I also can't say that I ever felt really invested in the story. Eco spends much more time working on the setting and discussing theology, than he spends on building up a captivating storyline.
As such, I didn't enjoy this book much as a story. The non-fiction detail was amazing, but that's really not why I'm reading a mystery novel. I can see why my linguistics and Medieval professors love this book, but purely as a story, I didn't find this too enjoyable, hence the lowish rating.(less)
For a book (or maube better said, dissertation) that claims to look at the role of women in Disney films, there's precious little analysis going on in...moreFor a book (or maube better said, dissertation) that claims to look at the role of women in Disney films, there's precious little analysis going on in the book. As much as I enjoyed reading up on the history of the Disney studio (though I was familiar with a lot of it already), that wasn't really why I picked up this book. I wanted analyses. I got tons of history, on movie perception, on animation, on the role of women in America. All interesting in their own right, some of it really relevant, but it took away the screentime from the Disney movies and that disappointed me.
The analyses themselves weren't particularly deep, either. Most of it are ideas I came up with myself over the years, the realizations about the characters in the movie really aren't particularly groundbreaking. That doesn't mean it's not nice to read about Disney characters, it always is. But the book didn't really offer me any new insights. I did appreciate that Davis talked about some of the less appreciated movies out there, in particular Melody Time and The Black Cauldron. I love Slue-Foot Sue from Melody Time, and Eilonwy (despite the failings of the Cauldron movie) is kind of a cool character in her own right. All the positiveness regarding Pocahontas and Kida also made me very happy. But, in the end, none of this told me anything new, though it is nice to see someone agrees with your thoughts about the movies.
As may have become clear, I, like Davis herself, am a bit of a Disney nut. As such there are two things that really bugged me in this dissertation:
- Maleficent. The name is spelled as Maleficent. Not Malificent, but Maleficent. It's Phoebus, not Febus. And more of these mistakes.. - Belle reads more than just her romance fairy tale books in Beauty & The Beast. Really, just check out the scene where she's reading with the Beast. Agreed, Romeo & Juliet may still be a romance (depending on your interpretation), but she's not reading just fairy tales. Most people would agree that reading Shakespeare actually confirms intelligence, so the argument that the books Belle reads dimish her intelligence kind of baffled me.
Little things, but they bugged me. But what really threw me off about this book was the conclusion. The conclusion of this dissertation all of a sudden starts to talk about topics never discussed in the chapters that came before, and as such the conclusion has to have its own conclusion. I'm sorry, that's bad planning, and not how you should write an essay. Isn't that one of the first things they teach you about essay writing? Never introduce new information in the conclusion.. but apparently she got away with it, as the dissertation is deemed good enough to be printed in book form. (Though, can I just say, this glossy paper is really annoying. The light reflects right off the pages, making it quite painful to read under electrical light..)
It wasn't a bad read, but there are some definite things I'd have liked to see done differently.(less)
This book is so incredibly interesting. I've always been interested in Germanic (or should I say Odinic?) mythology, but I had never actually read any...moreThis book is so incredibly interesting. I've always been interested in Germanic (or should I say Odinic?) mythology, but I had never actually read anything about it, until I came across this eBook on the Project Gutenberg website. It was glorious.
The book consists of 2 different sources, the Elder Eddas by Saemund Sigfusson and the Younger Eddas by Snorri Sturluson. The Elder Eddas was, in my version, much more translated as verse. It was interesting, I especially liked the earlier songs about Odin (who is one fascinating deity, you must admit) and that one song about Thor and Loki having to cross-dress so Thor could get his hammer Miollnir back. The visuals were quite hilarious. The man who translated the Elder Eddas, Benjamin Thorpe, also showed a real sense of humour which thoroughly amused me. His notes were insightful and relevant (I especially liked the story about the reindeer being introduced to Iceland). His way of translating also appealed to me, especially how he dealt with the rhetorics of repetition: he started using "etc." a lot and it just really amused me. You can quite clearly see how the ways of telling a story have changed over the years.
Only half of the Elder Eddas was really about the Odinic Mythology however, the other half was a version of the Nibelungenlied. It however does not really resemble the version that is famous in Germany now: it shows Brynhild and Sigurd (Brünnhild and Sigfried) as lovers and therefore gives a completely different reasoning for the 'tragedy' (I'm loathe to call the story a tragedy, since it wsa not a term they knew in those days and therefore not one they would have used) that occurs. It was mightily interesting and now I finally, finally know where the theory of Brünnhild being a valkyrie comes from!
The Younger Eddas by Snorri Sturluson may be a more interesting read for modern readers, however. In this translation, by I. A. Blackwell, it was translated as prose which was a bit easier to get through. It just focuses on the Gods, and you read the more famous stories and you get to meet all of the Gods. You learn how the world began and how the world shall end, you read about the nine realms and you read about Thor and Loki and Odin. Personally, I loved it.
There are various little things that are cleared up after having read this book, for me. One of them has to do with the Nibelungenlied I mentioned before, but also for one of the more beloved writers of the last century, reading the Odinic Mythology is not a bad idea. Who am I talking about? Why, Tolkien of course! Did you think he came up with the names of the dwarves in The Hobbit himself? Why, he did not! These are the names of the dwarves in the Hobbit: Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin, Thorin Oakenshield, Dwalin, Balin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Dori, Nori & Ori. Now, have fun comparing:
10. Then was Môtsognir created greatest of all the dwarfs, and Durin second; there in man's likeness they created many dwarfs from earth, as Durin said. 11. Nýi and Nidi, Nordri and Sudri, Austri and Vestri, Althiôf, Dvalin Nâr and Nâin, Niping, Dain, Bivör, Bavör, Bömbur, Nori, An and Anar, Ai, Miodvitnir, 12. Veig and Gandâlf, Vindâlf, Thrain, Thekk and Thorin, Thrôr, Vitr, and Litr, Nûr and Nýrâd, Regin and Râdsvid. Now of the dwarfs I have rightly told. 13. Fili, Kili, Fundin, Nali, Hepti, Vili, Hanar, Svior, Billing, Bruni, Bild, Bûri, Frâr, Hornbori, Fræg and Lôni, Aurvang, Iari, Eikinskialdi (...)
And one of the first Dwarves was called Durin, which probably inspired the name Thorin.
Also the name Gimli, the dwarf from Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings, comes from Odinic Mythology. It is a heaven of sorts, where elves live.. suddenly it doesn't seem that surprising anymore, that Gimli gets to go to the Elves in the appendices of The Return Of The King, or is it?
And of course, what is also mighty interesting, is comparing the original myths to what Marvel fashioned out of it. With the slight difference in Thor's appearance (who was apparently ginger, not blonde as in the Marvel universe) it actually sticks surprisingly close to the source material.
All in all, I would definitely recommend anyone with an interest in mythology, the Middle Ages, Tolkien or Marvel's Thor to check this out. It's definitely not for everyone, but if it's for you, you're gonna love it. Take it from someone who knows.(less)
I wanted to read this book because of a story told at uni. My teacher said that a Dutch correspondent or ambassador (I can't quite remember), was conv...moreI wanted to read this book because of a story told at uni. My teacher said that a Dutch correspondent or ambassador (I can't quite remember), was convinced the Netherlands had to read this fantastic book as well. So, one night, he got himself some alcohol and started translating the book. I think he got about 100 pages done before he sent it in, and this seriously lacking translation was published. I don't even know if this anecdote is true. I just know it sounded interesting, and made me want to read the book. I still think this is the most interesting thing about this book.. the book just didn't fully work for me.
It's a story full of unlikeable characters, cruel characters, basically a story of some of the bad things in the world. At the same time, it's also full of Berlin trivia. It's kind of paradoxical how I remember the Weimarer Republik as a good period from my classes at uni, full of creativity and the rise of human and women's rights, but that at the same time there was so much poverty, and so much hardship in the world. I think the book definitely manages to incorporate the hardships of the city into the story.
The storytelling was a bit odd, sometimes just focusing on Franz, at other times talking of Berlin. It didn't fully come together for me, personally. So I think I should reread this at some point, but I don't know if I really want to. The story itself didn't capture me, a crime story, with, like mentioned, unlikeable characters. I also didn't really like the Berlin dialect, to me it looks strange in print. I couldn't get used to it. There just weren't many redeemable points for me.
The one thing that will really stay with me, is the diary descriptions of a random girl, irrelevant to the main story, that Döblin describes on pages 330-331 (in my edition):
10. Juli. "Seit gestern nachmittag geht es mir wieder besser; aber der guten Tage sind jetzt immer so wenige. Ich kann mich zu keinem aussprechen, wie ich möchte. Darum habe ich mich nun entschlossen, alles aufzuschreiben. Wenn meine Zustände auftreten, dann bin ich zu nichts fähig, die geringsten Kleinigkeiten bereiten mir große Schwierigkeiten. Alles, was ich dann sehe, ruft immer neue Gedanken in mir hervor, und ich komme von diesen nicht los, bin dann auch sehr aufgeregt und kann mich nur schwer zwingen, irgend etwas zu tun. Eine große innere Unruhe treibt mich hin und her, und doch bringe ich nichts fertig. Zum Beispiel: frühmorgens, wenn ich erwache, dann möchte ich gar nicht aufstehen; aber ich zwinge mich doch dazu und spreche mir selbst Mut zu. Aber schon das Anziehen macht mir dann Mühe und dauert sehr lange, weil mir dabei schon wieder so viele Vorstellungen im Kopf rumgehen. Ich werde immer von dem Gedanken geplagt, irgend etwas verkehrt zu tun und dadurch Schade zu verursachen. (...) Und so geht es dann den ganzen Tag; alles, was ich tun muß, erscheint mir sehr schwer, und wenn ich mich dann doch dazu zwinge, es zu tun, so dauert es trotz der Mühe, die ich mir gebe, es schnell zu tun, sehr lange. So geht dann der Tag herum, und geschafft habe ich nichts, weil ich bei jeder Hantierung in Gedanken so lange verweilen muß. Wenn ich dann trotz aller Anstrengung doch nicht zurechtkomme im Leben, dann werde ich verzweifelt und weine dann sehr. (...) 14. August. Seit einer Woche geht es mir wieder sehr schlecht. Ich weiß nicht, was aus mir werden soll, wenn das so bleibt. Ich glaube, daß ich, wenn ich niemanden auf der Welt hätte, mir unbedenklich den Gashahn aufdrehen würde, aber so kann ich das meiner Mutter nicht antun. Aber ich wünsche mir wirklich sehr, daß ich eine schwere Krankheit bekommen möchte, an der ich dann sterben würde. Ich habe alles so niedergeschrieben, wie es wirklich in mir aussieht."
But sadly that's the only passage that really spoke to me. It's not a bad book at all, it definitely is quite interesting in points, but overall, I'm not overly impressed.(less)
Powerful short story about the influence of the press and the vague lines between freedom of speech and the protection of someone's privacy. Very thou...morePowerful short story about the influence of the press and the vague lines between freedom of speech and the protection of someone's privacy. Very thought provoking, very intense.(less)