Category Archives: Words

The Reading of Books #3

It’s been holiday times, so I had time to read some more than normally. I always love to see the pile I’ve gotten through afterwards. Currently enough other things to read and listen fill my shelves, so time to get on it.

Charlotte Brönte – The Professor

source: amazon

There is something specifically cozy about reading books by the likes of Charlotte Brönte. It feels like this book requires you to have a cup of tea or coffee with it and really get cozy with a blanket and some nice singer-songwriter (preferably British) playing on the radio. The story is the inner thoughts and experiences of a man, devout of real heritage, who flaunts his unwanted families offers to make his own fortune in the world. It’s a story that takes us from the grimy industrial towns of 18th century Britain to the warm city of Brussels where he finds occupation as a teacher.

It is a story of character building and growth, of love and loneliness and in the end of  a righteous set of affairs happening. While I wouldn’t recommend this as a very complex work that completely blows you away, it is nice to just feel cozy and homely once in a while.

Ryszard Kapuscinski – The emperor 

Source: Rastafari.homepage.eu

Many people might know Haile Selassie as a figure that is much revered in reggae music by the rastafarians. He was also the last emperor of a 1000 year dynasty in Ethiopia. A reformer and totalitarian in one, the man could not read or write, but ran a country as effective as possible in the limited time that was given to him as a ruler.

I bought this book in Poland, due to it having  a Polish author and also a topic of interest to me. It gathers up stories of the courtiers from Haile Selassie after the revolution. It was quite a dangerous undertaking to gather these stories in a country ravaged by internal strife, corruption and crime. Still it paints a clear image of an impossible empire that lasted much longer than it would have, it not for the smart rule of an emperor who wanted to bring together tradition and progress in an impossible marriage.

We speak of a man who dreamed of a united Africa, while maintaining an underfed population and an ever expanding nobility. A man who built palaces in the desert, while drinking water was not obtainable. He built highways and universities, but ruled without pen and paper. An amazing journey to the past.

Hannah Arendt – Eichmann and the Holocaust: It was sheer thoughtlessness that predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of the period.

It is hard to say something about this book. Let’s start by saying I purchased it at the Jewish History Museum in Warsaw. Tight security and still not fully open for the public, it is a book about the aftermath, about Eichmann who was considered responsible for what we now know as the Holocaust. Arendt describes a man who is a true bureaucrat, a man who loves procedures and papers and has little to no actual intellect to guide him. Stuttering and muttering his way through life, only being understandable when uttering movie one-liners, all the way to the gallows in Jerusalem.

Arendt analyses the stupid and sometimes unconscious and silly kind of evil, committed by people who just don’t think. She also discusses if it was right what happened to Eichmann. Did Israel have the right to just execute the man on their own ground? No, they did not and they knew it. If he should be executed in the end? Maybe he was the neck that had to carry the weight for all those thousands of bureaucrats who ‘just did their job’. I find it hard to judge, but so does Arendt, who leaves the reader to form an own verdict. Was this right? Was Eichmann guilty or was he just a victim of the zeitgeist? Did he ever fully understand why he was walking to the gallows? We can ask ourselves this and maybe become slightly better people ourselves in the process.

Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities

source: Ecenglish.com

I guess this might be the most important work of Dickens apart from the fairy tales. Maybe it is not, I found that it was very poignant. Dickens shows the other side of the Revolution in France as an event that created an upheaval in society even though it might have rational and righteous causes. Dickens makes the common people picturesque and the nobility sensitive and full of class, but also gives a distinct charm to both. He doesn’t judge I feel, in his book, about the situations in France and England and whatever he may think of it.

The tale of Two cities juxtaposes the city of Paris and London with one another to the effect of showing the differences and also the effect. In truth, the English royalty reformed and reshaped with the social changes. France missed the ball on that and got itself into a nasty revolution that ended it’s royal family. Not that much changed. After the terror new tyrants arose and spend fortunes on war.

Still, the book deals with the small people. It has the romance and sacrifice of the times, but also stupidity, rigid rebellion and vengeance. Everything is in there, except lazers. I think this is a book that everyone should read and try to learn something about opposing views. Mostly that making enemies only brings grief.

Grey Days

My eyes seek reality
My fingers feel for faith
Touch clean with a dirty hand
I touched the clean to the waste

– Metallica, ‘Low Mans Lyric’

Depression can be crippling sometimes. It makes me end up staring at walls, not even screaming at them, just staring at them. I’ve started reading a lot lately, currently enjoying the great book ‘The Happiness of Pursuit’, by Chris Guillebeau, which has given me a lot of good thoughts. The book deals with finding goals, finding things that really matter to you and then pursuing them. I like that idea a lot, it sounds so powerfull, so invigorating.

Source: Wazafied.blogspot.nl

In the meantime I’m stuck where I’m at and not seeing where to go. I’ve received the results of my personality test and they were not too pretty either. I pretty much am stuck between ‘oppositional’ and ‘avoiding’. Probably I’ve changed bits of that, but I’m not sure where the whole change is going if I don’t find a purpose that I want to follow. I have the accepted research proposal for Helvete magazine (scientific mag about metal), which I should embrace. It’s only a little thing, but it would be a great step for me as a person and affirm my capacities. I don’t seem to be the fast thinger, so I’m also reading a book on that.

I noticed that I’ve been getting reclusive, to the point of me almost hiding from colleagues and friends. I’m even hiding at home from my cat and my girlfriend. When I’m asked what’s wrong, I have to answer truthfully: “I honestly wish I knew…” That’s the worst about it, there’s no puzzle to fix or quest to complete to get through this. I hope the Incubate weekend will bring me a bit more energy and happiness. I’ve started feeling sick today, also not good. Let’s hope it passes soon. It’s hard to describe the feeling of that depression. It’s like a clowd is at the edges of my vision, also pressing down on my brow, making me frown deeply. There’s a general unwill to speak, I’d rather whisper or not talk at all actually. Everything looks black, there’s a powerless feeling in my body and mind. It’s truly grey days I experience. Anyone recognizes that?

I have the desire to do something with my life and on the other hand I want security. I want to make sure I can pay the bills and I can take care of my little family here. I also want to do stuff, go beyond what I’ve done this far. I feel powerless when it comes to that. What can I do? What is it that I really enjoy? I love working with people, it is my only true source of energy. Perhpaps there is my hook, so to say, to find something. I also love writing. I enjoy penning down stupid crap for hypothetical readers on my blog.

Today I got a call from a TV show about my tattoo piece on  The Post Online. I have to say, I didn’t read any comments, because they can really unnerve me. Same goes for facebook discussions, I avoid them. No reason to get angry all the time. It was a good chat on the phone, I had answers to the questions and I think I was interesting. We’ll see, it could really help my carreer. I also was turned down for a copy writer job and as the writer for Roadburn today and for some reason that weighs  a hundred times more on my conscience.

Glimmers of hope, they’re totally there. A good weekend of music and then again to gym and such, it’ll do me good. This book too, it’s really great. Maybe I’m just overly tired. I’ll just get a good nights rest. Thanks for sticking with me.

The Reading of Books #2

So it is time to update my book reading thingy. I’ve been reading a few, so time for a little update.

James Joyce – The Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man 

Though I’ve got most of them on my bookshelves, have visited the house and all, I’ve not read all the works of Mr. Joyce. In fact I only read ‘Dubliners’, so the stream of conciousness was a new thing for me. I’ve read some of the modernist writers, but Joyce stands apart acording to most. It is true that when we follow the adventures of Stephen Daedalus, we are forced to either like or dislike the character, which in my opinion has a huge impact on the enjoyment one might take from this work.

There’s the typical disdain of Joyce for Irish society woven into the story. Anyone who doesn’t pick that up, while reading  Joyce, is clearly missing the plot. The style is quite dense at times, comples and hard to grasp. One has to quite get into the book to enjoy it. I’ll be taking some time before I set my teeth into ‘Finnegan’s Wake’.

Noam Chomsky – Class War: The Attack On Working People

I’ve always had an appreciation for Chomsky but never actually got around to reading, in this case hearing his words. I was not disappointed by this recording of his speech, which takes the working people as the core topic of a century old class war. Now, don’t start with saying Chomsky is a communist (which he may be in some ways, it’s not the point of his speech, in which he’s trying to show the wrongs of a capitalist institution in the USA. He’s not offerin a bright sided commie alternative, he’s plainly saying what is wrong wish sharp and pointy remarks about this system. I would recommend this to anyone who can appreciate good speeches and has a bone to pick with capitalism without morals (is the opposite even possible? I don’t know…).

Francis Fukuyama – The Origins of Political Order

I know Fukuyama from his ‘End of History’ work, which left a big enough impression on some people that made my secondary school books to be mentioned in there. The philosophical connotations of his words immediately hit me there and then, simply because they were so strong and correct. In this book, Fukuyama takes on history and politcical orders and he does it with that same charm and flair I think. The man goes from the Chinese state to the early Mamluks, India, France, England, Denmark and Russia.

The book is full of sharp analyses, but also witty and shocking anecdotes about emperors, kings and other nitwits that made their states collapse by being stupid and making silly exceptions. Fukuyama manages to bring a very complex and deep analyses back to words that anyone can understand. These are the kind of books people should read before they start having opinons on whatever stuff. Really impressive and well worth a read if you can actually handle it. It is a lot…

Not that much this time. Still reading some stuff though:

Charlotte Bronte – The Professor
Daniel Kahneman – Thinking Fast and Slow
Haruki Murakami – 1q84
Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities

 

Tattoos #1

This ones for the mighty sea
Mischief, gold and piracy
This ones for the man that raised me
Taught me sacrifice and bravery
This ones for our favorite game
Black and gold, we wave the flag
This ones for my family name
With pride I wear it to the grave

– Dropkick Murphy’s ‘Rose Tattoo’

I like tattoos. I think I always have, from tribals when they became popular to extravagant Japanese stuff, videogame tats or oldschool ink. I like all of it. Ok, that’s not entirely true, but the point is that I like tattoos. It took me forever to get one, I didn’t get a sleeve when I was 18 or something. I got the first one when I was 26, so I took my sweet time to get to it. In this post (maybe I’ll split it up into two) I would like to tell you about the tattoo’s I got and what made me decide to get them. Not because I believe I know best, but because some of you might be thinking about getting some.

Perhaps my story might help you, or simply entertain you. Either is fine by me. I’m not a specialist, I don’t know everything about tattoos. Well, maybe just a little bit, so please don’t take me for one.  I’m just sharing my stories.

One

The first one I got, you can see on the picture here. Yes, it’s a symbol from Doctor Who, my beloved scifi series. I wanted to get one for a few years but then you have to decide. I came up with tons of ideas before coming to this one. When I did, I was sure instantly about the design. So why this one?

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I was always fascinated by time. It mattered to me a lot. My grandpa was a clockmaker and after he passed away we were left with a room full of clocks. My dad took those tools and fidgeted with it for a bit too I think. The concept of time was the first thing I ever wrote a poem about. Yes, I’ve written some poetry in my day. Doctor Who tapped into those memories and passions and this symbol united various ancient ones in one. I didn’t want anything from an established religion so that was also covered.

I took my nervous body, that was going to be submitted to these needly cruelties of tattoo artists, to Dragon Tattoo in Eindhoven. The renowned shop was for me the only entrance point of a shop that delivered quality. I guess I was prepaired to pay the full price for whatever I would get. I made an appointment and went back on this particular date. I remember it pretty well, because I also had an intake for Air Traffic conductor in Amsterdam that morning. I didn’t become an Air Traffic conductor, as most people probably know. I was too creative? I still  have the ink though.

One hour it took and very little pain and there I was, I got my first tattoo. I could still walk, my skin wasn’t coming of or anything. The artist doing the work was Jimmy Orie, who is very experienced with tribal shapes, which I guess this fits in with. Though Dragon Tattoo is a very busy place, he managed to make it feel calm and nice. I didn’t feel rushed or crowded in any way. There was plenty of explanation to make me feel at ease with it. I’m happy with the choice for this shop, specially considering it was the first.

Two

Many people get one tattoo, they’re content with that and they are not too keen on more suffering. They simply don’t consider it worth it. I felt slightly different, I wanted more immediately. It took me a year though, in which I went back to school, met a girl and so on and on.  It was time for ink. I chose a quote from Immanuel Kant that had always haunted me before and found a specific typing that I liked. It was as if a broken typewriter was it’s source.548708_4165702354542_18990776_n

To me the text mattered most, because it represents fundamental ideas I hold dear concerning ones own moral grounds. “The starry heaven above me and the moral law within me.”  The awe and wonder they fill us with, they are something we must preserve. Our moral grounds and our amazement at the world, filling us with the need to explore and discover.

For this one I drove to Schijndel, twice since the first time they had a holiday, to the Old Sailor Tattoo shop. The friendly owner put this on me in less than an hour. Though I heard this is a painful spot, it wasn’t as hefty to me. It varies per person obviously. It felt safe and alright in their quiet shop, so I did make a second appointment. I’ll save that for a next time.

The thought behind this tattoo was again quite personal, though I believe the words speak to everyone. The idea for me is to stand behind what I believe is right and what I should do in my life. Also to look at the world as an amazing place, wether that is dark or light, it’s full of beauty and adventure.  Do you need such thoughts before you get something tattoo’d? I don’t think so. It’s good to think things through obviously. You don’t want to be a guy ending up dating girls with the same name all the time because you were stupid once.  Tattoo removal does exist, but is an expensive and time consuming thing. Make sure you feel right about getting it and where you are getting it. There’s always another shop.

The reading of books. Part I

“He wanted to cry quietly but not for himself: for the words, so beautiful and sad, like music.”
― James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

I love reading and I love books. I don’t seem to find enough time to read though, so often these days I listen to books. That might sound weird, but it really isn’t . In this ‘section’ I hope to say something about what I read, because  pretty much always a book has values, lessons and thoughts to convey that you carry with you. Many great people say that you have to write, but more so they say that you should read. I try to read the books, but there’s nothing wrong with an audiobook. I will probably say more about that in another blogpost sometime later.

Wil Wheaton – ‘Just A Geek’
Wil Wheaton – ‘Dancing Barefoot’

So I listened to both these audiobooks. Why audiobooks? Well, in this particular case because the writer is also the narrator that does the audiobooks. How about some word from the horse’s mouth. Will tells the stories of his post-Star Trek carreer in ‘Just A Geek’. It’s not the tale of succes, but the story of self acceptance, finding your passions and loving your family. Chosing what comes first. It’s a great story based on his blog, which I think inspired me to start this particular blog.  I put up this little thing here so you can listen to it. Wil is a talented writer, with plenty of humor and self deflating honesty. I won’t say too much about ‘Dancing Barefoot’, because its a bit more of the same, just less coherent. It’s more upbeat, highlighting episodes of his life. I really recommend these to every geek, learn about life, and what the idea behind Wheatons Law really is. I think it’s at the heart of who Wil Wheaton is.

Gaius Suetonius – ‘The Twelve Ceasars’

source: Wikipedia (english)

I’ve always had a keen interest for ancient history. Though in the past I used to skip over books that dealt with the Romans, this time I figured to give it a go. Suetonius wrote his works on the emperors a long time ago. He clearly didn’t like the first few much. We already know Caligula and Nero as monstors and madmen, but I never knew that Tiberius (my favorite emperor for the simple reason that he was in Age of Empires I), was such a depraved man. Unfortunately, it’s fair to doubt a lot of the information Suetonius gives us, since he is basically using a lot of gossip and word of mouth in his writing. Still the portraits he draws are of high value for our understanding of these times and put a lot of perspective on Roman History. On the later emperors he’s a bit more sparing with his information, which might have more to do with the time he was living in (70 AD – 140 AD).  A great work for those interest in a genuine feel of the times.

Source: Wikipedia

Nicolai Gogol – ‘Dead Souls’

I don’t think of literature as something that is per se elitist. I do think you need to know what you get yourself into, when you start reading the Russian literature. People tend to think of it as heavy and dense, which is absolutely true. The Russian cultural history, of which many writers like Dostojevsky, Turgenev and others write, is full of protocol and ancien regime behaviour. Characters are dramatic and full of emotions, landscapes are dreary and forlorn. Though Gogol’s twisted romanticism with hints of early surrealism may seem a bit more modern, the general style is exactly what you expect. Sometimes going on for pages, it’s hard to keep track of the story at all. Still there is much amusement in this work, wit and drama. I do believe this book depends strongly on its time period and temporary culture. To get a feeling of that, this is also a worthy read.

I’m currently checking out some other stuff:

James Joyce – The Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man
Noam Chomsky – Class War: The Attack On Working People
Cicero – Selected Writings
Francis Fukuyama – The Origins of Political Order

More on that later.