Category Archives: Books/literature

Links o' the day

The next Microsoft. Robert Cringely looks at “where Google is screwing up, why, and what they should do about it”.

‘Cool City’ to save 60% of its energy. A Japanese team wants to build an environmentally sound city in the UAE.

VerseDay: The macabre and fantastic in verse. I’ve never linked to poetry before, so get it while it’s going.

How to argue productively. It’s possible, apparently.

Make your own lifesize Jabba the Hutt. Oh come on, who hasn’t wanted this?

And the Super Mario theme, remixed for your hardcore pleasure:


Links of the day

Seven tips for resolving conflicts quickly and peacefully. We all go up against at least one nutjob in our lives, here’s a remarkably common sense guide to dealing with them. (Pick The Brain)

US regrets if women and children killed in Baghdad raid. But they were going after some fellas using a mortar so it’s all right. Collateral damage and all that. (AFP)

Clever uses for dental floss: beyond teeth. I love finding new uses for ordinary things. (Gadling)

Backpacker turns Burma activist via Facebook. I’m a member of his group, to which people are flocking. (Reuters)

Yet more on CNN, Burma and Myanmar. The name you use reflects the stance you’re taking. (James Fallows)

Renovating the biblical psalms. They’re beautiful poems as well as having religious significance. (Slate)

Man, 24, weds 82-year-old bride. “I’ve always like mature ladies.” (BBC)

Rubbish wrapped up as academia

Some Shakespearean actors have formed a group calling for new research into just who wrote the man’s plays.

The belief is that a man from Stratford could not have written in such detail about history and foreign lands. Leading this coalition are actor Derek Jacobi and former Globe Theatre artistic director Mark Rylance, although the likes of Orson Welles and Mark Twain along with some academics have also doubted the plays’ authorship.

The “real” author has been identified by various writers in the past as Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon, or the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere.

“I subscribe to the group theory. I don’t think anybody could do it on their own,” Jacobi said. “I think the leading light was probably de Vere, as I agree that an author writes about his own experiences, his own life and personalities.”

The last quote is rubbish. Of course people can produce this kind of material on their own (I think by “group theory” he means several people wrote using the Shakespeare byline). One can always extrapolate from one’s experiences without actually writing about them.

While the maxim is always ‘write what you know’ this does not preclude knowing through reading or imagination. A strict reading of Jacobi’s rationale would imply Stephen King is on intimate terms with demonic clowns (IT) or vampires (Salems Lot). Bram Stoker wrote Dracula after exhaustive research — let’s be honest, it’s not as if he knew Vlad the Impaler — and if one was to stick to one’s experiences science fiction wouldn’t exist.

Shakespeare was also the target of some ire and praise by contemporaries; read something by Stephen Greenblatt if you don’t believe me.

The group has produced a document which

argues there are few connections between Shakespeare’s life and his alleged works, but they do show a strong familiarity with the lives of the upper classes and a confident grasp of obscure details from places like Italy.

This coalition overlooks that research points to Shakespeare having been educated in a school that provided lessons in Latin and classical literature. Many of the Shakespearean plays are retellings of stories from Ovid or contemporary books on English history.

From an Observer article on the coalition:

There are questions too about his failure to mention Stratford or anything relating to his own life, including the death of his 11-year-old son, Hamnet. (Although there is no explanation why he might have given his only son a name so close to that of the playwright’s most famous protagonist).

I don’t even like Shakespeare. What annoys me is pseudo-academia, of which this is a fine example.

I have no problem accepting that he may not have written some of his plays but to say he wrote none of them flies in the face of the evidence. So what if he didn’t mention his plays and poems in his will? And why would it have had to include “a Shakespearean turn of phrase”? Although his plays are filled with innuendo and sexual crudities so perhaps that’s a good thing…

The bookworm speaks

I found this on Errant Thoughts (via, and while I’m not a book blogger I do love a good read.

What are you reading right now? I finished Jem by Frederik Pohl the other night and really enjoyed it (by now you’ve no doubt guessed, and as those who’ve seen my Facebook profile know, I love science fiction). I’m also part way through Starmaker by Olaf Stapledon and have been dipping into The Norse Myths as retold by Kevin Crossley-Holland.

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that? I began Understanding Early Civilizations by Bruce Trigger a while back so I’ll keep tapping away at that.

What magazines do you have in your bathroom right now? Not one. I don’t read many except the likes of Newsweek and Archaeology.

What’s the worst thing you were ever forced to read? Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre as part of a school course, and I probably would have appreciated Moby Dick more had I not had to study it in college. They’re not the worst books I’ve read though.

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone? The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Admit it, the librarians at your library know you on a first name basis, don’t they? Nope, never been to my local library.

Is there a book you absolutely love, but for some reason, people never think it sounds interesting, or maybe they read it and don’t like it at all? I don’t think so. Stephen King novels don’t appeal to everybody though but I haven’t recommended any of my favourites to anyone.

Do you read books while you eat? While you bathe? While you watch movies or TV? While you listen to music? While you’re on the computer? While you’re having sex? While you’re driving? Sometimes while I eat, never while I bathe, rarely while watching movies or TV or using the computer, and frequently while listening to music. As for sex and driving, well books are no substitute for the former and would be a very silly thing to read while doing the latter.

When you were little, did other children tease you about your reading habits? Yes. Now I read other people’s work for a living.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down? The Alchemist during a recent re-read. Other than that it’s been a while… maybe American Gods by Neil Gaiman or one of Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series which I’m hopelessly addicted to despite the increasing political preaching.

Now it’s your turn!