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Tag Archives: philosophy

The Lunar Men – Jenny Uglow

Led by the larger-than-life Erasmus Darwin, the Lunar Society of Birmingham were a group of eighteenth-century amateur experimenters who met monthly on the Monday night nearest to the full moon.  Echoing to the thud of pistons and the wheeze of snorting engines,Jenny Uglow’s vivid and swarming group portrait brings to life the inventors, artisans and tycoons who shaped and fired the modern world.

If ever there was a book to celebrate the exhilaration of investigation, that infectious enthusiasm for knowledge, then this is surely a strong contender. In an age where amateurs could be at the forefront of breakthroughs in the sciences, the Lunar Society were keen to share knowledge which brought on new trains of thought and enquiry, as they dared to dream the fantastical.

These pioneers were to explore many different facets of our world;  through botany, geology, physics, medicine, art, literature and so on, as well as profit (for themselves and country), politics, and market forces.  The group also felt the full force of the beginnings of the burgeoning, awkward relationship between science and religion.

The scope of the book is impressive, each of these men could have had a book devoted to themselves so combining them into one overlapping narrative is a monumental feat.  To keep things fresh, we move between the main players frequently, it helps with both pace and the narrative structure, and allows the huge amount of innovations to be explored in their (more or less) chronological order.

It feels genuinely exciting to follow these lives and the societal changes that stem from their drive.  The book doesn’t just focus on the professional but humanises them with plenty of details about their personal lives, which are as eccentric as their work lives.  It reveals heart and a resonance that is lacking in some other – drier – books on this era. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on 19/07/2018 in History, Science

 

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Thought and Sport

Recently I have been making an attempt to widen my reading even more and so want to get back into reading Philosophy again.  In my researching for things to make this post interesting, it quickly and unsurprisingly descended into just watching Monty Python videos.  And from that, this post now exists…or does it, really?

Philosophy is something that could drive a person to the drink but thankfully the lighter side distracted me before the decision to finally plump for Soren Kierkegaard and John Stuart Mill to join the reading pile.  All I need now is the right sort of drinking frame of mind to really get the most out of them.

 
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Posted by on 29/05/2018 in Humour, Philosophy

 

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Frankenstein in Baghdad – Ahmed Saadawi

From the rubble-strewn streets of US-occupied Baghdad, the scavenger Hadi collects human body parts and stitches them together to create a corpse. His goal, he claims, is for the government to recognize the parts as people and give them a proper burial. But when the corpse goes missing, a wave of eerie murders sweeps the city, and reports stream in of a horrendous-looking criminal who, though shot, cannot be killed. Hadi soon realises he has created a monster, one that needs human flesh to survive – first from the guilty, and then from anyone who crosses its path.

To the backdrop of post Iraq war Baghdad, with all its daily acts of terrorism and political sects vying for power; life goes on as usual for the inhabitants. To this perilous way of life, is added a modern take on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

With a strong start I was looking forward to following the lives of the various inhabitants of Baghdad.  Sadly, after the initial forty or so pages, the story soon started to wane and, although it kept me entertained – especially with the role superstition plays in people’s lives – it never really hit the heights which the early pages promised.

On a basic level it’s an easy read but below the surface – should you wish to delve into it – there is the strong sense of chaos of infrastructure and the political (and by extent religious) failures (and upheavels) both inept and corrupt which show through. The tone of the book is one of a sense of needing to believe things will get better without much evidence to support it happening anytime soon.

There is a diverse range of characters from all walks of life, a good mix of likeable and odious but all are well written with a decent amount of depth for such a big cast, in relation to the size of the book. The structure of the story overlaps events, keeping the story compact and allowing the reader to see a range of reactions to the same circumstances.  Although this firmly sets characters and details into the mind, the overall time frame of the book is harder to pin down and makes the story feel a bit nebulous as the relation of events to each other wasn’t too clearly defined. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 22/05/2018 in Fiction

 

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Basic Ideas For Living

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It needs to be reiterated everyday.  Always listen to all sides of an argument, base your opinions on the facts, not the hearsay and seek out what may be being censored (for those who censor are surely losing the argument).  Never react to the headline, always call out those that base their politics on them, and constantly question what you think you know.

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Intraterrestrial – Nicholas Conley

Adam Helios is a bully magnet without many friends. When he starts hearing a voice that claims to come from the stars, he fears he’s losing his mind, so he withdraws even further. On the way home from a meeting at the school, he and his parents are involved in a horrible car crash. With his skull cracked open, Adam’s consciousness is abducted by the alien who has been speaking to him for months.

After surviving the wreck with only minor scratches, Camille Helios must deal with her guilt over the accident that left her husband badly injured and her son in a coma. When the doctor suggests letting Adam go, Camille refuses to stop fighting for her son’s life.

Lost among galaxies, Adam must use his imagination to forge a path home before his body dies on the operating table. But even if he does return to Earth, he may end up locked inside a damaged brain forever.

Inveterate coffee drinking author and fellow blogger Nicholas Conley is back again with another fine offering which treads the fine line between what is real and what may not be.  He also comes up with such prose as this, which makes me happy:

The coffee was too hot and too grainy.  The fiery grounds jabbed at Camille’s tongue like a tattoo gun.

Conley’s fourth novel is yet again a very good piece of writing and just like his other novel Pale Highway, draws on his experiences working in the understaffed healthcare system to reinforce the plight of Adam and family with solidly realistic emotional reactions.  The strong start brings in the challenging themes straight from the off:  Bullying, being orphaned, belonging, puberty, guilt, and family problems, all before the main story of a terrible and all too easy to imagine car accident really kicks off.

I’m glad that the decision to focus on both Adam and his parents separately was chosen, this help balance out the physical and psychological effects of the real world whilst making room for the retention of the feeling of tangible and unfettered imagination in Adam’s story.  Both parts work well together, allowing the realistic edge of the hospital to give way to the extravagance of imagination, ensuring for an easier but no less challenging read. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 23/02/2018 in Fiction, Sci-Fi

 

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Inside the Pintô Art Museum

First of all, apologies for my poor photograph taking, hopefully some will do justice to the pieces and also  for not being able to tell you what artist did what. Due to the short nature of battery life over here, it’s take as many photos as you can and hope you get everything you want.  With that out of the way, welcome to eclectic creations of Filipino artists.

After yesterday’s post about exterior shots, it was time to enter the building.  Pintô means door in Tagalog, which is a fitting name for this place. As everything is subjective to the viewer’s perspective, it could mean a whole host of things both in the philosophical and artistic sense.

There are six spacious galleries – and assorted outside art pieces which are dedicated to showing off the talents and direction of Philippine art and it is a fascinating study.  It was well worth the hours we spent there, especially seeing the enthusiasm of our fellow explorers. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 22/02/2018 in Art, Photography, The Philippines, Travel

 

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Next Year in Jerusalem – John Kolchak

A brutal re-imagining of the Gospel story, Next Year in Jerusalem follows the footsteps of Yeshua Bar-Yosif–an illiterate, epileptic, bastard son of a Roman soldier on his ill-fated life journey through a land racked by terror.

As first century Judea bleeds from the oppression of Roman rule and the violent uprisings against it, Yeshua, tormented by familial guilt for abandoning his mother, eventually forms his own family of travelers who preach for peace and compassion in the face of internecine savagery. Their wanderings lead to encounters with false prophets, assassins, and a rapidly growing movement of extremist rebels whose leader Bar-Abbas’ mission is to expel the Romans and establish an ethnocentric theocracy. Chance sends both Yeshua and Bar-Abbas to the court of Pontius Pilate–the dipsomaniac Governor obsessed with leaving a name for himself in the scrolls of history–and the outcome of that meeting seals the fate of the world for the next two millennia.

With urgent parallels to contemporary issues of religious war, this book is both a lament and a warning. It is also a story about the passage of time, the nature of memory, and of mankind’s inherent yearning for life everlasting.

When a HBO researcher gets in touch and asks if you want to review his book, it’s a no brainer so this week I have been spending my time back in Biblical days, enjoying an interesting alternative and to some controversial version of the Gospels which has plenty of interesting theories about those accounts and will certainly inspire plenty of debate.

There is much to intrigue the reader about this book, including plenty of subversion to the original biblical stories as well as a solid depiction of the brutal world of the time, a land torn with rival beliefs which will resonate with readers today as we still see the effects of those ripples all around us.

The main characters of Yeshua and Pilate get plenty of backstory, their memories, philosophies and motivations are established quickly and explored in-depth.  Yeshua is seen as vulnerable, conflicted and frequently unsure of himself and his beliefs, whilst Pilate – the more intriguing of the two character for me – is lost,all alone in his own existential nightmare. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 07/04/2017 in Fiction, Philosophy

 

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