maandag 16 februari 2009
Ruud Vermeer's Aleister Crowley chronicles the life of one of the more influential occult writers. Crowley is best known for his work on the Thelema religion and the controversies surrounding his way of life.
I first come into contact with his work on holiday. Someone I met on the road introduced me to his book on yoga and meditation. I only read the first 50 pages or so, but I was impressed by the clarity of his writing. Up until I didn't have the time to go deeper into his ideas. Since, he wrote quite a lot, it's good to know beforehand what is essential and what isn't. So when I saw this biography in a second-hand bookshop for a reasonable price I bought it immediately.
Unfortunately, the contents of this bio are a bit weak. Although all the aspects of his thinking and his life are there, the writing is not very captivating. Events just happen one after another and that's about it. Even when an attempt is made to explain some events or background to his ideas, it only scratches the surface. The book is good to give you a quick overview of Crowley's life and works, but nothing more than that. The author is clearly a fan of Crowley, nevertheless his description is not very flattering. After reading this book, Crowley strikes me as a narcissistic fils-à-papa, with a penchant for the occult and pompous poetry, who apparently had a certain amount of charisma.
zaterdag 14 februari 2009
My mom wanted to see the exposition Körperwelten (Body Worlds in English). At first I wasn't especially thrilled to go. I thought it was another artsy fartsy exhibit with dead people's bodies. But, since I did like the idea of doing something with my mom, off we went. In retrospect I'm actually glad she proposed it. The exhibit was surprisingly tasteful and expertly done. In reality it's not an art venue, but rather an educational exposition. The object is more about giving a lesson in anatomy 101. You start with a bare skeleton, and gradually the bodies get more fleshed out, as the next part is being explained. A visit should be made compulsory for med students, but also for high school pupils. The whole is very scientific, yet respectful. And I must admit I got schooled today in a pleasant manner.
vrijdag 13 februari 2009
A hat full of sky is the second Discworld novel in the Nac Mac Feegle series. It tells the story of Tiffany Aching, the new witch of The Chalk. At age 9 she got her calling, when the evil Queen of the Fairies kidnapped her little brother (see The Wee Free Men). Together with the clan of the Nac Mac Feegle she embarked on a rescue mission. The Feegle are little blue Scottish fairies, or Pictsies. The curse, fight, drink and steal, but they have great respect for the new 'hag' Tiffany. In this follow-up story Tiffany has become 11. She leaves her home to be an apprentice of witchcraft. She goes to work with Miss Level up in the Ramtop mountains. Although she is quite young, she's already full of power. This attracts a bodyless creature called a Hiver, who takes over her mind. With the help of the Wee Free Men and Granny Weatherwax she's able to overcome the entity.
The story is a natural follow-up in the coming-of-age story of a young witch. Although the story itself is not the most complicated or ornate one Pratchett has already written, it is perfect bedtime literature. Tiffany is a very likeable character because of her stubborness, and who wouldn't be charmed by a bunch of Feegles falling over each other trying to help her out? On the other hand, I do think more can be done with these characters than has been done to date.
vrijdag 6 februari 2009
Everybody is saying nowadays how great the new US president, Barack Obama, is. So, I know that this post seems a bit "jump on the bandwagon", but still you gotta hand it to him. After 8 years of hearing that monkey mangling the English language on the news, it's refreshing to see someone who's got a clue as to what is going on in the world and is tech-savvy.
Obama has made a stance on how the US will evolve again to a more open and transparent form of government after the extreme secrecy of the previous administration. And at first sight he seems to mean it. Since his inauguration he has made some interesting changes that don't make it to the big media. On of his more important decisions was to revoke Bush EO 13233. The National Coalition for History noted that "The President today signed two Executive Orders and three Presidential Memoranda. These five documents represent a bold first step to fulfill his campaign promises to make government more responsible and accountable, to launch sweeping ethics reform, and to begin a new era of transparent and open government. . . . Finally, the Executive Order on Presidential Records brings those principles to presidential records by giving the American people greater access to these historic documents. This order ends the practice of having others besides the President assert executive privilege for records after an administration ends. Now, only the President will have that power, limiting its potential for abuse. And the order also requires the Attorney General and the White House Counsel to review claims of executive privilege about covered records to make sure those claims are fully warranted by the Constitution." Archives Next notes that he also signed the Presidential Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government and the Presidential Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act, in which he "instructs all members of his administration to operate under principles of openness, transparency and of engaging citizens with their government. To implement these principles and make them concrete, the Memorandum on Transparency instructs three senior officials to produce an Open Government Directive within 120 days directing specific actions to implement the principles in the Memorandum. And the Memorandum on FOIA instructs the Attorney General to in that same time period issue new guidelines to the government implementing those same principles of openness and transparency in the FOIA context."
Another small change to note, that is indicative of the new mentality, was blogged about by Jason Kottke. He noticed that the robots.txt file on the whitehouse.gov sit has been changed. This file tells search engine crawlers which content is OK to index, and is therefore searchable. The old text file contained almost 2400 lines. This is the new one: "User-agent: *Disallow: /includes/". Or put differently, everything we put online is free for all to see (including the Presidential blog!).
Enough Obama loving for now. Let's just hope he keeps his other promises as well.
I was really forward to last saturday. The plan was wake up round 'bout noon, eat something, pick up my man Reck to buy some records in Antwerp, go to the VK to see Capone-n-Noreaga. Instead I woke up with a killer migraine. Not the kind of pain that makes you wanna throw up, or lets you feel the contours of the inside of your skill, but more a persistent nagging ache in the frontal lobes that just won't go away. It finally did the next day, but it took 4 Dafalgan Codeines and 2 Immitrexes together with a lot of sleep. The good (?) news though was that apparently CNN was crap. The rhymes are still tight, but the beats suck (new school jiggy shit). So, at least I didn't lose €20. That's gotta count for something, right?