I vowed not to purchase any books during 2010, and thus far it's proved to be liberating. I don't only mean this in terms of the re-discovered time freed from leisurely browsing (on- and off-line) and unspent dollars of course, but more significantly in terms of the erection of boundaries and its surprising effects. We are forced to engage with limits - of resources, of our own finitude - and embrace the truthfulness of the present and contingent; what lies before us is no longer the infinity of projected wisdom and undiscovered islands. This self-constrained working within bounds - simultaneously a departure from the imagined future - is a rejection of deferred "presents" and is a condition for sanity. The glut of publishing and the decay of reading are entwined; the former chokes and strangles the other, while diminished readers fuel infantile information.
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Public Service Announcement

Slavoj Žižek was featured on BBC Radio 3's Night Waves recently. Sadly, the programme is no longer available to listen again. However, you can still access the 13 minute interview with Rana Mitter via the Radio 3 "Arts & Ideas" podcast. Alternatively, you can download the episode directly from here. Our favourite Slovene is featured first, so you don't have to listen to the Roger Scruton portion.

By the way, and surprisingly, there's plenty of Žižek on the BBC; for instance, here he is featured on Thinking Allowed (January 2008). (note: www.itself.wordpress.com)

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Ben Kingsley on the BBC

I need your help. Ben Kingsley was interviewed on the BBC Programme HardTalk sometime during 1999. The link to the programme is here.

Kingsley recounted an episode that took place while filming (Schindler's List?) in Poland, when he and members of the film crew found themselves in a bar. While in the bar, they were subject to racist / anti-Semitic abuse. One of the party, possibly an actor, on the receiving end of this violence, broke down.

I recall that Sir Ben was pretty damming in his account of the cowardice he witnessed.

Does anyone remember the episode? Can anyone correct me in any of the details?

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This is not a joke

I'm having some trouble with my library. This country's high humidity - the diurnal range is in the high 90s (early mornings) to around 60% (late afternoons), while the mean is around is 84% practically all year round - poses a challenge in maintaining books in their desired condition. Off-the-shelf dehumidifiers don't help.

I searched Google by naively typing dusty books make me sneeze. The 12th site displayed was quite peculiar. It begins with a confession:

I actually like stories by non-fetishists better for getting off, some of the time -- and I google them out (through phrases like "she sneezed" and such) regularly. [...] I suppose it just makes me less self-conscious to read descriptions of sneezing fits from people who aren't concentrating on it. Kind of like a candid shot, you know?

And continues with this shared experience:

The last romance novel I read with really good sneezing in it [...] was Karen Anders, Almost Naked, Inc, [...] Anyway, for two pages, the hero is underneath the heroine's bed, hiding, and it's really dusty, and she tells it from his point of view. He's struggling to not sneeze, and listening to the heroine talk to her mom. Then, after the two women leave the room, he get out, shakes off the dust, and sneezes, muffling the sneeze with his shirt. It was so hot, I read it several times!

Article 1 of the Sneeze Fetish Forum Constitution addresses the site's Mission:

This website exists to provide a comprehensive, reliable, permanent and enjoyable communication resource for the online sneeze fetish community.

I kid you not. Thanks, technology!

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Stanley Cavell, David Harvey

Berkeley has a site which profiles Stanley Cavell ("A philosopher goes to the movies: conversation with Stanley Cavell", located here); it is one of the stronger parts of an uneven series entitled Conversations with History.

Stimulating, and equally engaging, is David Harvey's video lecture series Reading Marx's Capital - 13 classes / lectures, each approximating 2 hours - at www.davidharvey.org. Visit also the accompanying discussion site at www.readingcapital.org

Both are highly recommended. Thank you, technology!

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That thing’s blocking my view

[It] is going to be big, bold and beautiful. It will be big standing at a towering height of 178 metres, bold in concept, designed by renowned architect Dr Kisho Kurokawa, and a beautiful architectural piece

That's what a Very Important Man (VIM) once said. Aforementioned VIM then proceeds to draw parallels between this "beautiful architectural piece" with other structures:

While the concept of getting people to a high point is not new, visitors have always enjoyed the experience of going up to a high point to see the city and the surrounding areas. The Eiffel Tower [...] continues to attract some six million visitors annually. The London Eye [...] has quickly become the top paid-attraction in the UK [...]. Likewise, the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty continue to be major attractions.

It is disingenuous to reduce The Eiffel Tower, London Eye, Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty to a question of height. That's like saying the Pyramids, Bondi Beach and sand castles are sand-related.

I'm a simple man. This is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary entry for "ferris wheel":

Pronunciation:ˈfer-əs-, ˈfe-rəs-
Function: noun
Etymology: G. Welsh G. Ferris †1896 American engineer

... an amusement device consisting of a large upright power-driven wheel carrying seats that remain horizontal around its rim

Hang on a second. Isn't that what the Singapore Flyer basically is? A £100 million ferris wheel.

It's losing money.

And it's blocking my view.

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a day in Munich

The old adage holds that the journey home is the best - sweetest, shortest, slowest, swiftest. Tonight's journey - via München and Amsterdam - will be all that, of course. After a week away from home, the past 2 days have been different. There is a sense of heightened awareness of what is going on, within and without. That is what gives the adage a sense of truthfulness to the journey home, and so much more.

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four days in Brussels

A walk down the deserted Boulevard Adolphe Max, pass ill-fitting, now out of place hotels, leads to the local Waterstone's, populated exclusively by English-language titles but manned by multilingual staff keen to impress their knowledge upon we Sunday strays.

The entrance recalls one of the masses of  remainder-stocked, clearance stores around Tottenham Court Road, but the interior does not disappoint.The ground floor makes for an easy, that is to say, undemanding welcome with rows of recent fiction and classic literature with the itinerant running the additional the risk of being held captive by rows of stationary: diaries, notebooks, calenders, postcards and the like.

Upstairs, via an uncommon stairwell, finds the shop changing into a little bookshop, as an actor falls into character; the reader here becomes a willing hostage, wandering amidst random passages and corridors created by neatly arranged shelves, each strategically positioned in relation to another. The tightly defined subject shelves nonetheless melt one into the other, effortlessly, anonymously.

I am particularly engrossed with Sheldon Wolin's most recent work (and generally perturbed by the pricing of books in the heart of the EU). A woman waltzes by, wrapped up in warmth but still carrying the sting of cold, one that sticks to her winter clothes. It feels as if she has brought an invisible cloak of the icy outside indoors. It burns like a scent.

That's what I miss about Old Europe and its early spring chill.

Further down the road, before le Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, is another creature. Sterling Books is a friendly place - almost out of place in the dour Brussels day. Yet its charm offensive fails: the books are all too topical, the rows of shelves in an indecent straightness to one another. Worse still, even the lazy, late winter sun did enough to dispel its attempted coziness.

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The Boy in the striped pyjamas

My wife and I saw The Boy in the striped pyjamas last night.

We left in silence at the film's end. But we carried different kinds of silences. Her's was a silence waiting to be broken, once her grappling of her emotional response found its expression. Mine was a silence borne out of something else entirely. Much later, she said

I don't know why I'm so disturbed by the film. The different perspectives of people, influences, how cruel life can be. Injustice, brutality, peace

I said

That's how I feel and bring into most days


Better still, read Rochenko's short piece on Fascism & Representation over at Smokewriting.

If you're still hungry, there is also Matthew Crowder's The Holocaust and Melancholia over at Saving The World

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Tell me, how amazing is MIT's Open CourseWare initiative?

Amazing. Their Literature section is quite impressive. And these are some of the courses which include audio and / or video elements.

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