this is my first genuine encounter with Latin American literature and it's been a gratifying one. Isabelle Allende, a self-proclaimed feminist before...morethis is my first genuine encounter with Latin American literature and it's been a gratifying one. Isabelle Allende, a self-proclaimed feminist before (Chilean?) feminism was born takes us on a journey of an orphan with a special talent in story telling. she was lucky enough to be born in Latin America in an era when a woman had a vast number of career choices to be successful: housemaid, scrubwoman, prostitute, or even better, a homosexual, to be tortured, persecuted and raped. there are many female characters in the story with one thing in common: impecunious, degraded and forgotten stranded on the fringe of society. They led different lives, some subservient and resigned to fate, but thankfully, the majority, including our protagonist, is one of incredible perseverance and passion. she survived an arduous childhood serving many houses, consoling herself with her imagination and her mother's spirit and sometimes, real friends. Eva fell in love with her girlhood hero, an insolent, audacious urchin, Huberto Naranjo, who later turned into a jungle guerrilla that sought to overthrow the government. But despite her life-long passion for him, she had little sympathy with his cause and his possessiveness and they kissed goodbye as friends when he went on to rescue his comrades from a political prison. Amazingly and completely against my wish, she finally fell in love with a bold, impassioned, intelligent cameraman (too perfect a character to be liked by me) and salved him from his haunting memories in occupied Austria. The plot is very dense and concise, every single page is interesting and charming, every character takes a life of their own, weaving into the fabric of a society full of contradictions: lavishness of the rich and destitution of the poor, the generosity of nature and the cruelty of man, amicable blending of cultures yet underlying racial prejudice, serene country side untouched by the urban strife. the tone transitions effortlessly from dark humour, piercing contempt and scornful mockery to a more melancholy shade. The narrative runs through the political turmoil of Latin America in the mid twentieth century, those years of repression, violence, corruption and secrecy (this country was endowed with too many dictators, I don't know which one is MrPineapple backed by the Coup Instigation Agency). And of course, rebellion, turbulence and sparks of hope in justice and freedom. Eva's journey is a struggle against poverty and subordination in a patriarchal society, which ended up in a bitter struggle with the man she loved the most. Interestingly Isabel Allende mentioned that no women were involved in the guerrilla revolution in Latin America but it was not necessarily a bad thing. In the end, women were heavily involved in the revolutions in Vietnam or China, which nevertheless did not facilitate the improvement in the status of woman by any means. I think there are many heroines with incredible courage in this story: an Eva Luna that dumped a pot of feces on her master, a Melosi that went against all odds to become a woman and certainly many other unsung heroes who rose above the political establishment and social prejudice to preserve their integrity and kindness. The only weakness of the novel is in the ending, it didn't seem very convincing to me that after her two great loves, Eva fell in love with this journalist, who she had only met twice. Their interaction did not indicate affection and the ending seems strained as if Allende just gave up. but overall, it was a delightful and fascinating read, for feminists and non-feminists alike. (less)
Oh I'm so annoyed by Lederman that I must trash this book before letting it quietly sneak in my book shelf. Ok, so firstly, I was deceived by the pret...moreOh I'm so annoyed by Lederman that I must trash this book before letting it quietly sneak in my book shelf. Ok, so firstly, I was deceived by the pretty cover (ok, I do judge books by their covers) and secondly, Amazon says Lederman's "the most engaging physicist since the much-missed Feynman." Comparing Lederman with Feynman in terms of wit and idiosyncrasy? Rubbish. Lederman wrote this book as if he really didn't care about what he was writing (sort of like the person writing this review). My expectation value of the quality of the book fluctuated in the first 100 pages, then exponentially decayed in the next 100, and where are we? ,Is light a particle or a wave? (ugh), then it dropped down to negative infinity. he jumps from one topic to the next, struggling to find (and often comes up with stupid) analogies for simple principles like conservation of momentum, energy. And then chucks in random stories about some scientific giants who have little to do with the story flow. The entropy of the book follows closely with the second law of thermodynamics: only goes up. or maybe Lederman wants to use the incomprehensible structure of the book to demonstrate the state of nuclear physics before Gell-Mann: messy, random, and basically no one knows what the heck is going on. and i bet he must crack his brain too hard to be funny. But hah, he manages to make me laugh once when he talks about the husband-wife paradox, when the wife comes back on a spaceship: "when they meet upon her return, indeed he has aged 20 years, and she two weeks. Like wine, however, this did not dampen the enthusiasm, even though it slightly diminished the performance". But that's not very physicsy is it? honestly, i felt like i wasted time reading the first 200 pages without really learning anything new, and bam when it hits the mostprofound concept of the book, gauge symmetry and SUSY, Lederman seems to just drop dead, jumbling words in a few pages and moved on to a new (but boring) topic. this book stands as empirical evidence that great scientists can write absolutely whacky books.(less)
If anyone has any doubt that Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank is anything short of colonialism, they should read this book. Amira Hass wri...moreIf anyone has any doubt that Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank is anything short of colonialism, they should read this book. Amira Hass writes a scathing critique of Israel’s domination and cruel treatment of Palestinians in Gaza after the Oslo Accords and convincingly explains why they would never bring peace this way. Surely, Amira Hass would be very lovingly called by the Western press as an enemy of peace, but they need to know this story to understand that any peace negotiations dominated by Israel like the Oslo Accords are doomed to fail. Although the book was written in 1996, it still has a lot of relevance to today.
For those who don’t know, Amira Hass is the only Israeli journalist in Gaza writing for the liberal newspaper Haraetz. In Israel, it is illegal for journalist to go in occupied territories and most people probably don’t even bother. An atheist and daughter of Holocaust survivors, her desire to live in Gaza “stemmed neither from adventurism nor from insanity, but from that dread of being a bystander, from my need to understand, down to the last detail, a world that is, to the best of my political and historical comprehension, a profoundly Israeli creation. To me, Gaza embodies the entire saga of the Israeli Palestinian conflict, it represents the central contradiction of the State of Israel-democracy for some, dispassion for others; it is our exposed nerve.”
A bit of history background: From 1993 to 1995, a series of agreements were signed between the PLO and the Israeli government, initiating Palestinian self-rule and establishing terms for the Israeli military redeployment in Gaza and Jericho. The West Bank was divided into three zones: zone A came under direct Palestinian governance, zone B under Israeli military occupation in participation with the Palestinian Authority, and Zone C under total Israeli occupation (60%). Zone A accounted for only 1% of the land and Gaza came under Arafat’s rule.
According to Amira Hass, even after the Oslo accords were signed, the number of Jewish settlements continued to rise unabated and in fact, more aggressively. Israel still had ultimate control over the freedom of movement of Palestinians by putting up countless checkpoints and roadblocks. Arab villages were fragmented by new illegal exclusive Jewish settlements and the connection between the West Bank and Gaza was totally cut off. Jerusalem was closed to Palestinians and policy of closure had devastating impacts on the economy in Gaza.
For many Palestinians, the Oslo Accords represented an appalling betrayal by Arafat. There was no mention of an independent state, access to Jerusalem, end to illegal settlements and the right of return for millions of displaced refugees. After the Oslo accords, Palestinians holding illegal weapons would be disarmed, but thousands of Jewish colonists would not, and they would always enjoy the protection by myriad military officers and patrols. Palestinians perceived Arafat as Israel’s man, given a tiny piece of land to “control” and succumbed to Israel’s “security demands”. Contrary to the widespread hope of the international community, as this book clearly shows, the Oslo Accords did not bring peace but only more tragedy, control and despair to the Palestinian people.
Before the Oslo agreements, Israeli soldiers could raid into houses and destroy properties, confiscate vans and taxis without any excuse. But the problem is much widespread than that: “In gaza’s soldiers’ vandalism was only one aspect of Israel’s disregard for Palestinian welfare, systematic abuse of property and resources began with the soldier on patrol but was practiced in one form or another by officials from the civil administration, the customs collector and tax man, all the way up to the Israeli finance and defense ministers.”
Israel’s rule over Gaza is a reminiscent of the old colonial system in Asia and Africa, most notably in the taxation system. Palestinians paid more tax than Jews, and sometimes their tax accumulated even if they didn’t have any job. The duties paid on most imported products purchased in the territories were not transferred to serve the Palestinians but remained in the treasury in Israel. The source of cheap Arab labour was one of the drivers for the economic boom in Israel in the 1970s/80s. In return, Israel invested nearly nothing back to develop the infrastructure, education system, water supply, telephone and electricity systems for Palestinians. Gazans benefited little from such economic growth, they continued to live in slums, refugee camps and depended on work permits. In order to register for government housing, they had to pay a fine and relinquished their refugee status, thereby giving up any hope of going back to their village.
While Jewish homes enjoyed the bountiful supply of clean water and swimming pools, Gazans had to make do with limited stinky and unsanitary water. Telephones didn’t work, power outages were frequent, hospitals didn’t have enough facilities or technicians to maintain. Interestingly, from the 1970s, Israel allowed religious institutions to receive contributions from abroad unhindered, while other nationalist (often secular) organizations could only receive funds from the PLO. Hamas-affiliated Islamic institution flourished, filling in the gap to provide a welfare system and employment that the state could not afford to offer.
Since the Gulf war, Israel implemented its closure policy to close off the borders any time it felt like. Because of the economic stagnation in Gaza, most people had to commute to work in Israel, mostly in low pay menial jobs. But the closure policy took away their livelihood by confiscating many permits to enter Israel and even if some could, they had to come back Gaza on the same day. It also stymied the flow of goods and products into and out of Gaza, making it extremely difficult to develop industry or business.
The closure of borders also stopped a lot of students from going to university, family relatives visiting each other, patients reaching hospitals, politicians attending meetings. It stifled and suffocated the lives of more than a million people, subjecting them to constant intimidation, suspicion and abuse. “Every Gaza, regardless of religion, sex or age, became suspect, a person capable of committing an act of terror.”
The closure policy brought the entire economy to a halt and drastically restricted the number of people who could leave the strip. Rightly, “Palestinians suspect that the real purpose behind the closures, the bypass roads, and the separation of the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem is to carve up the occupied territories permanently, keep them under different political systems, and complete the destruction of the Palestinian social structure that began in 1948.”
People’s frustration with the new Palestinian Authority grew because their lifeline was threatened by closed borders and living standard continued to fall. Anxious to stay in power, the Authority began to become more and more authoritarian to control its critics and suppress uprisings. The vicious cycle of Israel’s assassination of Islamic leaders, revenge by a Muslim cell and the Palestinian Authority’s harsher measures to punish the population brought more bloodshed to Gaza with no end in sight. And Arafat’s actions would be hailed by America and Israel as decisive steps “in the fight against terror.” In its endless concessions to Israel, the PLO turned “with growing fervour to repression and intimidation.”
Not only critical of Israel, Amira Hass is unequivocal in her critique of the oppression and exploitation of women in Gazan society, and the blatant corruption of the Palestinian Authority. Gaza became more and more like a police state with countless summary trials, tortures and harassments.
No wonder why they voted for Hamas, damn those pesky people! Why didn’t they just vote for “our” men? The West responded by kindly imposing sanctions on the entire population for voting for the wrong guy, for misusing democracy that was bestowed upon them. Fast forward to 2005, although the Israeli government withdrew from Gaza, it intensified settlement construction in the West Bank. And although Hamas vowed “death to Israel”, the majority of Palestinians had come to realize that defeating Israel is impossible, most of them want a two state solution on the 1967 borders. Hamas offered Israel a long ceasefire and acceptance of two states if only Israel would return to its legal borders and release Palestinian prisoners. Israel retaliated by punishing the whole population, closing off all borders and let in a tiny amount of food and aid, pushing more people into abject poverty and destitution. The bomb finally detonated in January 2009.
Reading about Israel often makes me angry and despondent. If there is one thing about Israel, then it seems that it never learns. It uses its formidable military power to dispossess people of their land, destroy their homes and farms, abuse them with rifles and arrest, and sometimes with absolute superior air power and bombs. And how lovely Western media lead us to believe Israel is simply defending itself against terrorism or Islamic fundamentalism. Terrorist attacks by Palestinians are the most desperate and basic method of resistance in the face of overwhelming power and eradication. The Palestinians do not attack Israeli civilians with the illusion that it can destroy Israel. When faced with a superior power that can strip them of their land, their identity and their humanity, the victims will resort to whatever methods of resistance they can muster. But Israelis continue to have this illusion that by dropping more bombs, erecting more walls, buying more tanks, it can be safer. Delusions of the colonizer never seem to change.
I would love to give this book 5 stars. It really opened my eyes to see a lot of things about Israel we would never see in mainstream media. But I didn’t like the writing style much, perhaps Amira Hass’s coherence and eloquence are lost in translation. The narrative fails to flow, and because of her calm tone throughout the book, it conveys little compassion or indignation. I’d recommend reading this book and Susan Nathan’s The Other Side of Israel if you want a clearer view of this troubling state.
i can't express how much i loved this book, I mean it’s hard not to have your pulse racing, this guy knows what he’s talking about and is excited abou...morei can't express how much i loved this book, I mean it’s hard not to have your pulse racing, this guy knows what he’s talking about and is excited about it. Don Lincoln covers a wide range of topics, all the fascinating things from neutrino oscillation, CPT violation, Higgs mechanism to all the little things associated with each discovery and scientist. Although not entirely convincing to me, his justification for investment in nuclear physics is interesting: we do this because we are human beings, curious to unlock the most perplexing mysteries of the universe and pursue the greatest eternal truth. but there's much more to the whole story, advancement in elementary particles physics has always produced marvelous spin-offs: laser, tv, internet, computers, MRI that have revolutionized every aspect of our life. Often when I read this book, Lincoln made me think to myself: if only more people were interested in science and applied the principles of science to our society, we'd get rid of all the dogma, irrationality, superstition and have a more tolerant society based on truth, openness, exchange of ideas, competition and collaboration, and genuine equality (everyone has to play by the rule of experimentation). I do hope that will become the basis of our society some day, when everyone, like Lincoln puts it, "finds science a passion, indulge it, always study, always learn, always question. To do otherwise is to die a little inside". While the LHC is dying a little inside, we'll wait for the scientists to hit and hope for the best. May God help us find the invisible dinosaur in the zoo... (less)
so I've finally found something in physics that I absolutely abhor: solid state. The course I'm doing at uni has been very, well, solid, at this state...moreso I've finally found something in physics that I absolutely abhor: solid state. The course I'm doing at uni has been very, well, solid, at this state. don't know why they try to stuff everything from classical to semi classical to quantum theories of SS then zillions of different types of semiconductors devices in 5 weeks. my brain, unfortunately, is not a superconductor, even though it has lots of 'holes' in it, but simply can't conduct, especially without any excitation, like now. This book clarifies some points, i didn't quite read through the whole thing ("just" skimmed the first four chapters, i.e 400 pages!) because it's fairly advanced for an insulator like me and the number of different notations is insane (like a 5-page long list!), but it helps a bit, i guess. (less)
not spectacular but as usual, very well-written. but i really can't bring myself to sympathize with the protagonist, initially a dreamy naive girl and...morenot spectacular but as usual, very well-written. but i really can't bring myself to sympathize with the protagonist, initially a dreamy naive girl and then a submissive, dull, desperate wife and finally, a smothering, possessive and jealous mother. one star for the character. (less)
so here you go: China at its most peculiar and perplexing in a turbulent and precarious time. Imperial Woman is story of the life of Tsu Hsi Empress o...moreso here you go: China at its most peculiar and perplexing in a turbulent and precarious time. Imperial Woman is story of the life of Tsu Hsi Empress of the early twentieth century, one of the most formidable and powerful women in China's history. She's up there with Wu Zetian and Jiang Qing as the most ruthless, shrewd and manipulative figures in politics. Coming from a modest background, she exploited her charm to seduce the Emperor, took power when he died, poisoned her own son, allied with a corrupt and cunning eunuch to seize control of the Qin dynasty, assassinated her opponents and signed a notorious treaty with the western imperialists, forever leaving a humiliating mark on china's history. Pearl Buck added a very personal touch to this intriguing drama with her first hand account and observation. I read the book quite a few years back, but still have a lingering impression of the complexity of life in the Forbidden City and the continual ferocious struggle of a new and an old china, all entwined in this curious woman's life. (less)
a typical badly-written science book that falls short of its potential. lots of ideas in the book sound very fascinating like evolutionary aspects of...morea typical badly-written science book that falls short of its potential. lots of ideas in the book sound very fascinating like evolutionary aspects of our decision making process or the role of dopamine in reward evaluation. but the author's writing is pathetic, repetitive and blunt. reading about 40 pages about dopamine didn't make me any less ignorant of it. the rest of the book is also a mess, with all sorts of random ideas jumbled together. This is the same book as "Why choose this book?", well now I know the answer: my dopamine was on holiday. (less)