Date Archives November 2008

Interesting thought

The human being may be no more real than is a cinematograph film. When the projected light is switched off all that remains is a blank screen. That which has been projected by light was a series of ‘stills’. Such also is what is being projected by ‘life’. The more you consider the analogy the more perfect it seems to be: it could help us to understand. – Wei Wu Wei

Hakamada Iwao

In Japan, a prisoner on death row wakes up every morning not knowing if he will be executed that day. The prisoner doesn’t know his execution date until the morning it is to be carried out. His family only finds out after the execution has already taken place. Hakamada Iwao has been on death row for 40 years. 28 of those years have been spent in solitary confinement. He now suffers from mental illness. The basis for his conviction in 1968 was a confession extracted after 20 days of intensive… Read More

Franco Moretti on the Novel

Read a very interesting piece by Franco Moretti in New Left Review, July/August 2008. It seems like a synopsis of a much longer, multi-volume work on the theory of the novel, which I plan to read when I have time. Moretti talks about the theory of the novel by asking three surprising questions: Why are novels in prose? Why are they so often stories of adventures? Why was there a European, but not a Chinese, rise of the novel in the course of the 18th century? His point about prose… Read More

“Parecon: life after capitalism” by Michael Albert

This is not the most interesting book I have read lately, but it is one of the most important. It deals with the topics so often left vague in left-wing literature: the nitty-gritty of how a non-capitalist economy would actually allocate goods and services, balance supply and demand, avoid gluts or shortages, invest in infrastructure, reward work, manage workplaces, etc. Essentially trying to create a non-capitalist economic theory. I have to admit that it was a struggle to keep reading sometimes. The talk of iterative planning, facilitation boards, nested councils,… Read More

Racial identification

Read a fascinating article in the Fall 2007 edition of the Du Bois Review. In an article “The New Latin Nation”, Alejandro Portes made the very interesing, and ironic, point that whereas in the past, much Mexican immigration to the US was cyclical, in the last few decades the tighter border controls have made it permanent. The controls are failing to stop people from coming in, but are making them less likely to go back. So they settle permanently, have families, move to different parts of the country. The article… Read More

Great speech

Worth staying up for. He used the example of a 106-year-old voter to go through a century of US history, touching on key moments like women getting the vote, then world war two, civil rights, Martin Luther King, etc., putting everything in context. Hope his presidency lives up to it. This is not the best bit, but is all I could find right now. I’m going to bed – it’s 6am. Embedded video from <a href=”http://www.cnn.com/video” mce_href=”http://www.cnn.com/video”>CNN Video</a>

Excited

I am staying up to watch the US election results. It probably won’t be decided until 4 or 5am UK time, but I wouldn’t miss it. The early results are good. I’m not optimistic that Obama will bring great changes – even if he really wanted to, the system would make it very difficult. I doubt he will seriously address the basic problem of growing economic inequality. But still, it’s important to me to see Americans voting for something good for a change. After 9/11, when I lived there, fear… Read More

David Foster Wallace

I really need to read more. Apparently David Foster Wallace, who committed suicide last month after years battling depression, was the “most brilliant American writer of his generation.” I have not read any of his books – in fact, I hadn’t even heard of him until I saw the mention on the Guardian site and a reprint of a speech he gave recently. I can certainly relate to a lot of his frustrations with daily life and his struggles to remember the bigger picture. I also liked his comments about… Read More