It is clear to me now what the modern European politicians are doing wrong. They are, obviously, not reading their classics.
Europe is in the midst of...moreIt is clear to me now what the modern European politicians are doing wrong. They are, obviously, not reading their classics.
Europe is in the midst of a dire financial crisis with all sorts of complicated schemes being proposed to resolve the situation. And here we have a practical and sensible solution that nobody appears to have considered, despite the fact that it has been around since 1729!
If you don't have enough money to feed your kids, EAT THEM!
What could be simpler?
Now, the author mentions that this is a solution devised specifically in the context of Ireland. And I admit that the calculations will need to be re-done to reflect the demographics and circumstances at hand. But really, there is no logical reason why this solution would not work in the context of the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis.
Somebody needs to send this to the Greeks.
Certain celebrities have already endorsed the idea:
Little Brother is a story of Marcus Yallow, aka W1n5ton, aka M1k3y, who lives in San Francisco in a not too distant future. I was going to say that Ma...moreLittle Brother is a story of Marcus Yallow, aka W1n5ton, aka M1k3y, who lives in San Francisco in a not too distant future. I was going to say that Marcus is pretty much your average 17 year old but, on further reflection, I realised I have no idea what an average 17 year old is like these days, let alone what they will be like in a decade or two. I imagine they are not too dissimilar to Marcus. They like computer games, have a bunch of mates, a bit adventurous, a bit horny, a bit rebellious, that sort of thing. But then, in some respects, Marcus did strike me as not very teenager-like at all. Reading Kerouac, his diverse food tastes (he knows all about all these great food joints and just what to order there), love of coffee and hate of Starbucks, his extensive knowledge of San Francisco's history etc. I wouldn't have been surprised if he popped down to a farmer's market at any point (and in fact I think he does mention a fruit market somewhere).
In the world of Little Brother security and surveillance have been taken to the n'th degree and pretty much your every move (both in the real world and on the internet) is recorded, monitored and inspected, so it is, perhaps, no surprise that Marcus is a bit of a hacker and clever with computers, a necessary skill if one is to skip school from time to time to go on Harajuku Fun Madness quests. It is on one of these missions that Marcus and his friends end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and are picked up and detained by Homeland Security after a terrorist attack.
Little Brother is a manifesto as much as it is a story. Now, I'm usually not much into books that beat you over the head with their message but I didn't mind so much here. Partly because I wholeheartedly agree with the author's views and partly because I believe that we are actually not very far off the world described in the book already and it is important for us as a society to consider the issues of freedom and privacy and to what extent these should be sacrificed in the name of security and how our views are affected by the climate of fear and paranoia created by the government and the media in response to terrorism. It does get a little much at times, like the tone gets a bit lecturey and do we really need the same quote from the Declaration of Independence repeated at us three times. But somehow, it didn't bother mee too much.
Welcome to the present.
I live in the UK and don't know much about what it's like in America, but here, we are already very much a surveillance society. The UK supposedly has more CCTV cameras than any other country in the world. According to Wiki, the exact number is not known but one estimate is 1.85 million, which is an average of one camera for every 32 people with an average person making about 70 appearances on CCTV cameras every day. Other estimates are higher. The justification for all these cameras, public and private, is crime prevention. But the same Wiki article states:
"There is little evidence that CCTV deters crime; in fact, there is considerable evidence that it does not. According to a Liberal Democrat analysis, in London "Police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any." A 2008 Report by UK. Police Chiefs concluded that only 3% of crimes were solved by CCTV. In London, a Metropolitan Police report showed that in 2008 only one crime was solved per 1000 cameras. There are valid reasons for including CCTV as a component of a physical security program, but deterrence is not one of them."
And CCTV is by far not the only means for Big (or Little) Brother to keep tabs on you. Registration plate recognition cameras, mobile phones, travel cards, credit cards, loyalty cards, medical records, interenet use (social networking sites anyone?), DNA databases… these are all things that can be used to determine what you have been up to at any particular point in time. And it is astounding how many of us are completely oblivious or indifferent to the staggering amount of private information about them that is available to state authorities and, all too often, anyone else who cares to look. Your average Joe Bloggs attitude is still very much "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" and "If it prevents criminal behaviour or improves its detection, I am all for it." (actual quote from a BBC article). Well, the problem is, as mentioned, there is tonnes of evidence that it doesn't and there is lots to fear because, it seems, the government is unable to keep our private info safe (see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7449927... and this article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7690005...).
Anti-terrorism legislation in the UK, pushed through parliament in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks and the London bombings in July 2005, allows the police in certain circumstances to stop and search you without any grounds and to detain you for up to 14 days without charge (that period was 28 days until recently) and gives the police and other state authorities very wide powers of surveillance. Not worried because you are not a terrorist? Think again. Instead of using the anti-terrorism powers for, well, dealing with terrorism, there is much evidence to suggest that police use them simply as "an additional tool in their day-to-day policing kit" to stop and search people without reasonable grounds for believing they have done anything wrong, to detain lawful protesters and in other instances that have nothing to do with terrorism (such as walking on a cycle path http://news.sky.com/home/article/1345...). Local councils in the UK are using anti-terrorism legislation to spy on people in connection with horrific offences such littering, putting rubbish in the wrong bins, dog fouling and breaches of school admission regulations.
Online activism is also very much a reality these days. Think operation "Avenge Assage" by Anonymous in support of Wikileaks.
But I am getting carried away here. Back to the book. I loved the questions that it raises and Doctorow's obvious enthusiasm for the subject which pours off every page and is very infectious and I even loved the techie stuff, though I struggled to understand some of it. It is a great social commentary book, bang up to date, on point and relevant, but not without its problems as a work of literature, I think. I had a few issues: the sex stuff really made me cringe, some of the characters weren't very well developed, I struggled with the plot sometimes as it was a bit too convenient (if the Xbox universal was so great and already had all that free stuff and anti-detection software available for it, why wasn't everyone using it already; mum and dad just happen to be great friends with a major investigative journalist; why would an investigative journalist be put in charge of liberating a secret federal security prison, that sort of thing), Marcus was very much a stand in for the author (which is why he didn't really sound like a teenager most of the time, I think) and the whole "don't trust anyone over 25" thing was a bit silly and peed me off, though very teenager-like, I suppose. Overall, however, I enjoyed the book hugely and would highly recommend it to adults and teens alike. (less)
I must have read this for school as a kid. I have definitely read it a very long time ago and I can't imagine I would have done so off my own back.
An...moreI must have read this for school as a kid. I have definitely read it a very long time ago and I can't imagine I would have done so off my own back.
Anyway. It is a fantastic piece of work, widely acknowledged to be one of the best Russian short stories ever written, if not The Best. I would highly recommend it whether you are already a lover of Russian literature or are just starting to explore it. The idea is simple enough, that every person, no matter how unattractive and inconsequential, deserves some compassion and understanding. Yet there is so much in the measly 50 odd pages of this story. Comedy, tragedy, social satire and even a ghost story. It is one of the very very few books which has managed to make me laugh and cry. The influence that it had on later writers such as Dostoyevsky (who famously stated that "We all come out of Gogol's Overcoat"), Turgenev, Tolstoy, Kafka and many others is undeniable.
It is a story about a "small person", a poor civil cervant who does not have any outstanding abilities, is not clever or ambitious, who is made fun of by his co-workers, but who is, essentially, harmless and who enjoys his mindless repetitive work. And it is a story about the stark impersonal casual cruelty with which the world treats such a person, about "...how much inhumanity there is in man, how much savage coarseness is concealed beneath refined, cultured, worldly civility...".
The Diary of a Madman is a short story about a man's descent into madness. The hero, Poprishchin, is a middle aged minor civil servant obsessed with S...moreThe Diary of a Madman is a short story about a man's descent into madness. The hero, Poprishchin, is a middle aged minor civil servant obsessed with Sophie, the young and beautiful daughter of his boss, a senior official who stands on a much higher rank of the social ladder. As he begins to slide into insanity, the hero believes that he can hear a conversation between Madgie, Sophie's dog, and another dog and later steals letters written by Madgie to the other dog. The extracts from these letters and the hero's reaction to them were particularly hilarious.
Realising that the object of his affection is in love with a handsomer, younger and richer man and having learned that a donna is about to accede to the Spanish throne as there is no male heir, the hero suddenly realises that he is, in fact, the lost heir and, unsurprisingly, ends up in an insane asylum.
Poprishchin as drawn by Ilya Repin:
Gogol manages to be absurd and hilarious, while at the same time making a point about the self-delusional vain ideas we have about ourselves, which is still very much relevant today, and drawing a clever satire of the deep social divisions and beurocracy in 19th century Russia. And all in less than 30 pages. (less)
What a ride. I have read the entire series in just under three days and probably need a few days to absorb the whole thing properly. Just wanted to jo...moreWhat a ride. I have read the entire series in just under three days and probably need a few days to absorb the whole thing properly. Just wanted to jot a few preliminary thoughts down.
The series as a whole was magnificent. Emotional, entertaining, challenging, provoking, gripping. An absolute joy to read. Why have I not come across this one sooner? I'm not really the target YA audience but this is easily on a par with Harry Potter and a million times better than Twilight and I heard of both of those.
I thought the first book had the best structure and pacing and was undoubtedly the best in the series. I raced to the end at breakneck speed and wanted to re-read it pretty much as soon as I was done. The world building was incredible - vivid, realistic and terrifying, it had interesting, likable and engaging characters, non-stop rollercoaster of a plot and the enchanting promise of more great things to come.
In the second book, I was expecting that we would learn more about the different districts and thet Capitol and the history of Panem. In fact one of the gripes I have for the series as a whole is that the political system is not really described in any of the books in any detail. We have President Snow and we have the Peacekeepers and that seems to be the extent of the political system. President Snow is the ultimate baddie here, the Hitler/Stalin of Panem and the peacekeepers are the brute force but he cannot be running the whole country single-handedly. A dictatorship requires a huge political machine to support and enforce it but, other than a single reference at the end of Mockinjay to some people being executed for their crimes in addition to President Snow, we see no description or mention of this. The second book with Katniss and Peeta doing a tour of the districts would have been the perfect opportunity to provide these sorts of details of the world that was so magnificently introduced in the first book and we did get some glimpses but I'm not sure I was entirely satisfied with a re-run of the Hunger Games instead. It felt a bit repetitive.
In the third book, Katniss and a lot of the other major characters spend most of their time in a state of complete shell-shock, unconscious and/or recovering from injuries. A lot of the story happens in a daze and I felt not a little dazed and shell-shocked myself by the end of the book. It was still a great book but, for me, not completely satisfying. I had a real problem with the attitude that Katniss had to Peeta's condition and the resolution of their relationship was a complete flop. I wanted to see Katniss realise that she loves Peeta just as deeply as he loves her. I wanted a real punchline to their story with some underlining and exclamation marks. Instead, all I got was Peeta's feelings being wiped away, a couple of sentences where the both "grow back together" and their kids playing together in the meadow. That was a real let down. I was disappointed that Mrs Everdeen and Gale would just fade out of Katniss' life. I can understand the latter but her mum dumping her to go back to 12 alone was just weak. There was no resolution for Haymitch. He simply goes back to drinking and herding geese. Perhaps this is realistic. That some things people never fully recover from. But it irked me nonetheless. What happens to some of the other characters we never even find out. Effie, Johanna, Enobaria? We learn that Annie has a son but nothing else. Also, I am glad that there was no rosy utopia at the end but it would have been nice to see a bit more of the brave new world that Katniss had helped to usher in.(less)