I’m currently reading Mark Mazower’s book Governing the World – a history of the idea of international government – and I am struck how the history of internationalism consists of repeated examples of the structures of power being challenged by radical ideas and movements and then accommodating, appropriating, absorbing, modifying them. Finally those structures of power – states, classes, governments – then turn these ideas to their own use: furthering their interests. We see this with the ideas of nationalism, international law, international socialism, appropriated by nation states, diplomats and the Soviet Union respectively.
I am suspicious of claims that art can tell us something about the human condition. I’m suspicious because I’m not convinced that there is any such thing as the human condition. Continue reading ‘Art and the Human Condition’
I recently bought Aesop’s fables to read to my son, not knowing what a fraught decision that was. We all know some of Aesop’s fables even if we don’t realise it – many of their key lessons and phrases are embedded in our language and popular consciousness. Until I read them, I didn’t understand that this is where phrases like “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”, “don’t count your chickens”, “dog in a manger”, or “one swallow does not a summer make” came from. On reading the whole set of fables, I discovered that there were many that I didn’t like, and wouldn’t read to children. Many of the fables would now be regarded by many of us as abhorrent or out of date. We shouldn’t be surprised, however, that many are no longer relevant, instead we should be surprised that after over 2500 years some are still relevant today. I found that reading the fables was an eye-opener in terms of seeing that so many concerns (if not the lessons that we draw) have remained constant through human history. If I was really interested in the wisdom of the ancient world though, I would rather look to figures such as Plato, Aristotle and Seneca than Aesop, but four year olds might disagree.
Click here to buy Aesop’s Fables from Amazon.com
Dark Market just isn’t as good as Misha Glenny’s previous book McMafia. That was a roller coaster ride through the world of organised crime, funny and shocking. Dark Market is more of a short road trip to an unpleasant place populated by weird characters. The basic story is reasonably interesting (though hardly what I would call riveting) – the rise and fall of website that acted as a focal point for credit card hacking – and some of the characters are colourful enough in their own right. There are super hackers, cyber cops, normal cops, international crime rings and geeks aplenty. But, overall, the writing doesn’t sparkle as much as McMafia, and it just can’t hold your interest to the same level. If you enjoyed McMafia, or are interested in cybercrime this isn’t a bad read. On a side note, if you are an Information Technology professional then you may find this of more than just passing interest. I found the back story of the professionalisation of hacking to be very illuminating, even if many of the technical details were vague and poorly described. You can get DarkMarket from Amazon here.
As I have previously mentioned we recently had a holiday in Sydney where we went to Taronga Zoo. We went there because Conor really likes animals and zoos. Another thing Conor really likes is to go to the aquarium in Napier, so we just had to visit Sydney Sealife – the Aquarium in Darling Harbour. In particular Conor is really interested in sharks at the moment, and this aquarium has some really good sharks, so we set off one morning with high expectations. Continue reading ‘A Holiday in Sydney: The Sydney Aquarium’
Rome is fantastic! There is no other way to put it. Robert Hughes has written a history of Rome, with art as the central character, and the rest merely bit players. His stunning descriptions of the art and architecture transport you to Rome, and the distant times with a verve that is breathtaking. As I read this I felt as if I had to immediately take a voyage – even to revisit those sights I’ve seen before. Hughes’ writing is excellent, some of the best I’ve read in a long time. He certainly makes the painting, architecture, sculpture and ambience of Rome vividly clear to the reader. His savage wit and iconoclasm make what could be a weighty tome (given its subject matter) into a joy to read. If you like art, history, Rome or just a damn fine read then you must read this book. You can get it from Amazon here: Rome: A Cultural, Visual and Personal History.
As I mentioned, we wanted to take Conor to Taronga Zoo in our recent visit to Sydney. (Or is that, he wanted to take us to the zoo?) Conor is a big fan of zoos – we go to the Wellington one frequently – so we couldn’t miss taking a look at Taronga Zoo. It has a good reputation, being bigger with more animals and a spectacular location on the shore of Sydney Harbour, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Continue reading ‘A Holiday in Sydney: Taronga Zoo’