September 16, 2006

simply one of the best books I've read

Title:
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

This really is an outstanding book. The basic plot Swede Levov, high school sports star and inheritor of glove manufacturing empire, lives the American dream but then it all falls apart when his daughter decides to join the anti-Vietnam protests in the most dramatic way.

But really this doesn’t capture it Roth covers the full sweep of the post-war American landscape here in the most extraordinarily powerful way.

Can’t really do it justice here well worth the Pulitzer though!


August 22, 2006

Wormy

Title:
Rating:
3 out of 5 stars

The worms can carry me to heaven - Alan Warner

Although I really did enjoy this book it really does have some pretty major flaws. A number of the propositions just seem quite preposterous, the narrator is generally pretty unpleasant and the writing is a bit sloppy in places (although excellent in others).

Essentially a successful but very middle aged bloke/lothario discovers he is HIV+ and decides therefore to tell the story of his life to a homeless refugee whom he invites to stay in his home (as partial compensation for having to listen).

The tales are interesting but uneven and the whole thing builds to a really quite bizarre conclusion. Still, really rather enjoyable. I found the Spanish setting pretty convincing (but then I only have limited knowledge of the area) and the narrative does trip along nicely.

A bit of a departure for Warner – not set in NW Scotland or Edinburgh but no worse for this. Would say that doesn't quite match the achievements of Morvern Callar or The Sopranos (both of which are highly recommended) but still worth a punt.


August 19, 2006

Home Helps: approximation of a playlist §23

Home helps

George Formby
Nanny – Louden Wainwright
The dry cleaner from Des Moines – Joni Mitchell
Eric the Gardener – The Divine Comedy
What the Butler Saw – Squeeze
Mr Wu's a window cleaner now – George Formby
Domestic Departure – Au Pairs [two for the price of one there!]
Into the Valet – Skids
Char (lotte) Sometimes – The Cure


August 17, 2006

By the way, this is not me

Writing about web page http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/tg/cm/member-glance/-/A39S2YORNNRHN4/702-2681567-6487251#A39S2YORNNRHN4

Lest there be any doubt, this person who does reviews on Amazon, ain't me.

Just thought I would clarify that – I don't read that kind of book as a rule (as I'm sure previous reviews would indicate).


August 15, 2006

River Deep: approximation of a playlist §22

Rivers in song

Orinoco flow – Enya
Severn Seconds – Youssou N'Dour/Neneh Cherry
Stone Thames – Big Audio Dynamite
Fog on the Tyne – LindisfarneThames
Ferry Cross the Mersey – Gerry and the Pacemakers
The Nile Song– Pink Floyd
Mississippi – Pussycat
Ying–Ton–Iddle–I–Po – Goons
The River Rhine – The Yardbirds
Aladdin Seine – David Bowie
Zambesi – Piranhas
Yellow River – Christie
Rivers of Bablyon – Boney M


August 13, 2006

45,000 'ghost workers' – a tremendous achievement

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4785721.stm

This really is staggering:

The authorities in Cameroon have discovered that they are paying civil service salaries to 45,000 employees who do not actually exist. Finance Minister Polycarpe Abah Abah said the fake employees were costing nearly $10m (£5m) a month.

It is just the sheer scale of it which defies belief. This must represent a pretty large proportion of the Cameroon civil service and it therefore seems extraordinary that no–one noticed!


August 12, 2006

Wrong about fees

Writing about web page http://education.guardian.co.uk/students/tuitionfees/story/0,,1840824,00.html

Neal Lawson has it wrong in quite a few ways here.

There remains a massive job to do to tackle the social inequitities Lawson describes but the new fees regime – provided this kind of misinformation can be challenged – with its requirements for generous bursary packages, actually offers the best prospect for changing this.

Several specific points:

  • variable fee repayment arrangements are effectively a graduate tax – but they are a capped graduate tax – you don't keep paying after you have repaid all that you owe.
  • the 20k debt is not a credit card style debt
  • Without the deal on fees many universities would be heading towards insolvency – a graduate tax would not deliver the money desperately needed now in HE.

Most of the rest of this is just pure speculation and really just a bit previous, eg:

Variable fees haven't yet worked as well as the government hoped.

The government has put a financial support package together – but it's clearly not working.

It's August. Fees start this September. Let's look at it in a year, three years or five years and then decide if it's working.


August 10, 2006

THES catches up

Follow-up to Nanny state? from Prole Art Threat

Not often I can be said to be ahead of the news but pleased to note that THES has caught up with previous post:

Uni-Nanny is watching

Phil Baty
Published: 04 August 2006

Students are being "electronically tagged" so that their attendance at lectures and tutorials can be closely monitored as part of moves to reduce drop–out rates. An electronic monitoring system called Uni–Nanny, under which students identify themselves at every "learning event" with individual computer chips in their key rings, is already in use at Glamorgan University, which developed the technology. The product has just been bought by Napier University, and deals are set to be signed with two other institutions. Technological solutions, including fingerprint scanners, have also been mooted.
Critics say that the phenomenon represents an alarming trend towards "Big Brother" surveillance and the nannying of students who should be self–motivated. But enthusiasts argue that efficient attendance monitoring is proven to reduce drop–out rates by quickly identifying students who are failing to engage with their courses.

Oh what fun


Periodicity: approximation of a playlist §21

Songs referring to periodicals and magazines:

She – Charles Aznavour
Time – David Bowie
Native New Yorker – Odyssey
Vogue – Madonna
All Along The Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix
Ms Jackson – Outkast
Jackie Wilson – Dexys
Look in – John Martyn
OK – Talvin SinghJackie 1
Hello – Lionel Ritchie
She Blinded me with Science – Thomas Dolby
Strength of your Nature – The Style Council
Chat in Amsterdam – Arab Strap
Country Life – Cosmic Rough Riders
Loaded – Deacon Blue
E Eleventh Nuts – Scritti Politti
Wallpaper for the soul –Tahiti 80
Woman – John Lennon
Heat Wave – Martha and the Vandellas
Susie Q – Rolling Stones (or someone else?)
Tobermory Zoo – Mull Historical Society


August 05, 2006

Eternal joy

Title:
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

The possibility of an island - Michel Houellebecq

I think this is possibly Houellebecq's best to date – pretty bleak in places and future dystopian vision is rather grim. Ditto the customary quasi–porn. But actually it all works rather well. Our hero, a successful but dissatisfied comedian (not terribly funny, it has to be said), ends up contributing to a new global apocalyptic religion and becoming the genetic prototype for future clones.

So, odd, challenging and a bit icky in parts but really rather compelling.


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