bimo: (Fivey_bookish)
I'm currently reading a quite worthwhile book about the popular culture and Zeitgeist of the interwar years in Europe and the US. Philipp Blom, Die zerissenen Jahre: 1918-1938, which, of course, can offer little more than just a general overview, but as such is engaging and rather well-researched.

The chapter dealing with Fritz Lang's Metropolis, among other artistic visions of a future society, also mentions Czech writer Karel Capek and his 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots). Capek's play not only for the very first time introduces the term "robot" to describe high-functioning fictional automata. (According to Capek the word was created by his brother Josef from the Czech "robota", meaning servitude. I knew this little tidbit beforehand).

But even more fascinating, R.U.R. turns out to employ many of the concepts which decades later would find their way into both the old and the re-imagined version of Battlestar Galactica.  To quote from the Wiki entry on R.U.R. :

"The play begins in a factory that makes artificial people, called roboti (robots), out of synthetic organic matter. They are not exactly robots by the current definition of the term; these creatures are closer to the modern idea of cyborgs, androids or even clones, as they may be mistaken for humans and can think for themselves. They seem happy to work for humans at first, but that changes, and a hostile robot rebellion leads to the extinction of the human race."

[...]

Years have passed and all humans had been killed by the robot revolution except for Alquist.[...] Robots Primus and Helena develop human feelings and fall in love. Playing a hunch, Alquist threatens to dissect Primus and then Helena; each begs him to take him- or herself and spare the other. Alquist realizes that they are the new Adam and Eve, and gives charge of the world to them."


What else to say than "All of this has happened before and it will happen again." ;-)

bimo: (Albert_irrelevant)
Leith Passmore, Ulrike Meinhof and the Red Army Faction: Performing Terrorism, Palgrave MacMillan, New York 2011.

Pretty fascinating and at times downright chilling analysis of Ulrike Meinhof's writings, retracing her transition from left-wing journalist into one of Germany's most high-profile terrorists of the early 1970s. As the Amazon.com book description puts it: "Leith Passmore traces Meinhof's struggle to communicate [...]. He examines for the first time the performativity of terrorist acts of language, imagery, and physical violence to reveal how Meinhof made and re-made RAF terrorism."

What seems especially noteworthy besides the highlighting of certain key aspects and tendencies in Meinhof's work, is how Passmore also provides a rather clear account of society's ongoing inability to deal with a biography like Meinhof's and its readiness to write off terrorist acts as individual cases of mental defunction. Just to give you an example from the book's introduction:

As early as 1970, Meinhof's then estranged husband Klaus Rainer Röhl publicly linked the [brain] operation with her slide into terrorism. [In the early 1960s Meinhof had undergone brain surgery, during which a widened blood vessel was treated with a silver clasp]... [Röhl] cited a severe change of personality - a sudden callousness and sexual distance - resulting from the surgery and, potentially causing Meinhof to enter the underground. Shortly after she entered prison, judge Knoblich ordered an examination of her brain based on the possibility that her illness was a contributing factor to her behaviour of the early 1970s. Debate ignited in 2002 when, decades after it had been removed from Meinhof's body and disappeared, her brain was rediscovered and examined for a second time. Both the 1997 and the 2002 examinations were undertaken to find a cause for Meinhof's terrorism in a brain defect.




bimo: (Default)
Reposting an entry by [personal profile] eponymous_rose



On this day in 1989, a man named Marc Lépine walked into a mechanical engineering classroom at the École Polytechnique in Montreal with a legally obtained rifle and told all the men to leave the room. He claimed he was fighting feminism: "You're women, you're going to be engineers. You're all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists." He then shot all nine women in the room, killing six of them, then moved through the hallways and killed another eight women. Fourteen women killed, ten women injured, and four men injured.

This is not an event that's well-known outside of Canada - I was still a baby when it happened, but as a woman studying science in Montreal, this is a tragedy that looms large. I'm sure there are going to be a lot of articles today pointing out the dangerous idiocy of the Conservatives tearing down the very same gun-control laws that emerged as a response to this massacre, and while it's important to keep in mind the political consequences of this tragedy and the political motivators behind it, that's not what any of this is really about. This is about the fourteen women who were killed for the crime of studying engineering while female.

Geneviève Bergeron, 21, civil engineering
Nathalie Croteau, 23, mechanical engineering
Anne-Marie Edward, 21, chemical engineering
Maryse Laganière, 25, budget clerk in school's finance dept
Anne-Marie Lemay, 22, mechanical engineering
Michèle Richard, 21, materials engineering
Annie Turcotte, 21, materials engineering
Hélène Colgan, 23, mechanical engineering
Barbara Daigneault, 22, mechanical engineering
Maud Haviernick, 29, materials engineering
Maryse Leclair, 23, materials engineering
Sonia Pelletier, 28, mechanical engineering
Annie St-Arneault, 23, mechanical engineering
Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz, 31, nursing

If this isn't something you'd heard of, please consider reposting on your own journal. These women - and the circumstances of their deaths - deserve to be remembered. In Canada, today is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. You can read more here.
bimo: (Terra_incognita)
If the city of London were an artwork, I bet it would be a true Jackson Pollock. A huge, breathtaking canvass, filling space, filling time. Bustling with the energy captured, of one million paint sprays. Throwing the full force of motion, of colour, right into your face.

Orientation only comes from looking at traces and layers and axes. Find your fixed points yourself, navigate, rotate along your interests and passion. Regardless whatever excites you, tickles your brain or simply amuses, just follow along and enjoy, because on each street corner there’s plenty.

To pay full respect to all the places we went to, or to cover at least half of the amazing things we have seen, would take me hours.

So just this:

Weather was fine (mostly), and we walked quite a lot. There’s a nice little company offering guided tours. Themed walks, walks through various parts of the city. Altogether highly recommendable.

Yay for compulsive collectors, because they are the source of amazing museums!

Meeting with [livejournal.com profile] kathyh at Sir John Soane's was priceless, and so was chatting with [livejournal.com profile] vastan at Piccadilly Circus, out in the rain.

A much too short visit to the Tate Modern. The entrance hall completely blows me each time I’m there.

I had the most wonderful time, tracing the 18th century. Paintings, houses and street fronts. A harpsichord in action. Historically correct naval uniforms and port wine. The sunny meadows of Greenwich.


Movies and Theatre:

I’m Not There (Bob Dylan biopic, as fascinating as it is flawed)

Glengarry Glenn Ross (Which had mostly raised my curiosity, because I had seen the movie version of it some years ago. Also, the additional benefits of very fine actors live on stage, including Papa Swann as Shelley Levene. [livejournal.com profile] cavendish, though, didn't nearly enjoy Mamet's play as much as I did)
bimo: (Default)
This will only be of interest if you are able to understand German, but nevertheless I thought I should share it.

Over at the web pages of radio station WDR5, there is an extensive and perfectly downloadable interview with International Court of Justice member and human rights expert Thomas Buergenthal.

Already the basics of this man's biography are truly outstanding. Being of Jewish descent and born in 1934, Buergenthal spent his early childhood in the Ghetto of Kielce, and later survived both Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen. In 1951 he emigrated to the US, where he obtained several increasingly renowned legal degrees and specialized on international and human rights law. Up to now, he  has worked for the UN, taught at several universities and functioned as judge and advocate of human rights all around the globe. His passion for the cause lets him state that he has no plans to retire any time soon.

Listening to this guy is a pleasure because of all the joy, intelligence, kindness and strength contained in his words.
bimo: (Default)

Currently reading History and the Media, a compilation of essays dealing with the rendering of historical subjects for both TV and silver screen. Editor David Cannadine picked some illustrious contributors I must say, as the table of contents looks quite a bit like the 'Who is Who' of BBC historians, telly-friendly academics and history-friendly producers.

Among the featured texts is one I'd very much like to quote from, partly for personal reference, partly in vague hope that it might perhaps capture somebody else's interest as much as it captured mine:



Yes, I know, this excerpt is about as culturally conservative as it is leftist, but still... )





100% Optional Feedback Poll. To be taken about as seriously as the depiction of British Colonialism throughout all three of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean movies ;-)

[Poll #1008653]

bimo: (Terra_incognita)
I originally discovered these articles in a strictly academic context, but figured there could be at least three or four people on my f-list who perhaps might enjoy them for a somewhat more personal reason ;-)

European Discovery and the Colonisation of Australia
Convicts and the British Colonies in Australia
Convict Women in Port Jackson

All taken from the Australian Government's Culture and Recreation Portal. Each article contains lots of historical images, sub-links and outgoing links to other pages providing additional infos. Over all well worth the read.
bimo: (Coop)
This recommendation is basically intended for [livejournal.com profile] cavendish , but  could also be of use for anyone harbouring an interest in American social history and cultural studies.

When I was channel-hopping last night, my attention was caught be a short Arte report about 90-year old author and journalist Studs Terkel, who has been interviewing hundreds of people across the US for his books and radio programms on topics such as the Great Depression, World War II , racial conflicts and 20th century urban life.

Turned out, the guy has the most fascinating website, featuring audio clips of his conversations from several decades:

Studs Terkel: Conversations with America
bimo: (DRD_beware)
During the last couple of weeks I found myself either drowning in the works of James Joyce or making long excursions into the history of London sewers. (The godfather of interior monologue being the most natural choice for my impending English literature exam , I have been a major Joyce fan even years before I saw him in his his Ewan McGregor incarnation *g*. My sudden interest in sewers, cesspits and the achievements of Victorian engineer Joseph Balzagette mostly derives from the need for yet another history term paper; however it's a quite fascinating subject. For anyone curious about the sanitory problems of a true metropolis, a good online summary can be found here.)

The increased academic activity seems to have had a rather peculiar effect on my brain. On the one hand it left me with a strangely insatiable hunger for words. Apart from study related books, I re-read one of my favourite historical novels ([livejournal.com profile] selenak will know which one *g*), Stephen King's Bag of Bones, which instantly made it into the Top Five of my favourite King books (yeah, call me heretical, but a) I love King and b)always find myself able to enjoy his newer works as much as the old) and am currently on page 57 of Iain Pears' An Instance of the Fingerpost. All these books have well over 700 pages.

On the downside of all this reading I have neglected online correspondence and LJ to a point which makes me feel like fandom's most uncommunicative, unfaithful daughter.

Will the prodigal be able to redeem herself? Well, I hope so.


Browsing my friendslist, I could not fail to notice [livejournal.com profile] enednoviel 's amazing portrait of a slightly older Harry Potter, [livejournal.com profile] kathyh's musings about the importance of opening paragraphs and [livejournal.com profile] selenak 's entry concerning the different interpretations of well-loved characters.

Also, there is this wonderful little poem [livejournal.com profile] cavendish had written for me shortly after Selena had kindly outed me as secret lover of the Wizarding World's most hated bureaucrat in her comment on my previous entry *g*


Lament for Lost Lovers

When 20 (roughly speaking)
you loved the
athletic type -
swimmer
black
boxer sorts
dark voice,
big sword, immortal
but young
in appearance. you loved
his smile

Somewhat older, came
into your vision: a man
his face was hidden, more
the spiritual type, a sword
of light, and not of steel.
His chastity, his sad looks:
were they to be admired
or to be broken?
In fiction only.

And now, with almost thirty, a
bureaucrat it is, grey hair, great power,
wealth and: a dark secret:
Will the lonely man on his deserted planet
grieve? Will the age old Horseman (?)
come storming to your rescue? Would you
desire him to come?

Or can you love
the three of them
together, as observer or
creator? Imagine:
what the story would be like.
What time? And how would
it take place?

And if it came to contest, who would
- strictly fictionally spoken -
win? Sword or Money?
Mind or voice? Spiritual or
worldly greed? An alliance, maybe,
formed by two that would
remain, with you, and one
your sacrifice?
Will an apologize be made by those
survived?

At least ‘tis I who must
apologize for letting my
imagination go astray: in fiction that in
reality should stay. And stay there only.



The observations made in this poem are about as witty as they are true, I guess. [livejournal.com profile] cavendish has witnessed and endured my fannish passions since the mid nineties ;-)

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