Friday, September 30, 2005

Paper Machine
Another recently published book worth mentioning is Jacques Derrida's Paper Machine.
In an interview originally published in Le Monde but no longer available online Derrida wrote:
"Each time, no matter how faithful one tries to be, one betrays the uniqueness of the person one addresses. Even more so when one writes books for a large general audience: one doesn't know to whom one speaks, one invents and creates outlines, but they fundamentally no longer belong to us. Spoken or written, all these gestures leave us: they start to act independently of us, like machines, or at best, like puppets. I explain it all better in Paper Machine. At the moment I allow "my" book to be published (no one makes me do it), I begin to appear-and-disappear, like some unteachable ghost who never earned how to live." The whole of this interview originally translated in Truthout, is still online on this weblog:

According to the Stanford University Press catalogue, the Paper Machine is described as questioning "the book itself, archivization, machines for writing, and the mechanicity inherent in language, the media, and intellectuals. Derrida questions what takes place between the paper and the machine inscribing it. He examines what becomes of the archive when the world of paper is subsumed in new machines for virtualization, and whether there can be a virtual event or a virtual archive."

A Little History of the World
When he was 26 the future art historian E H Gombrich was asked to write a short history of the world for children. Banned by the Nazis, it has not been translated into English until now, but it has just been published by Yale University Press, with illustrations by Clifford Harper, whose work frequently appears in the Guardian.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Wikipedia is a great concept as it builds on the natural way in which knowledge is developed within society. The success of the original idea has resulted in several specialist sites using the same principles. Joseph M Reagle Jr has written an interesting study outlining the coperative elements of Wikipedia - its a little heavy going in places, but don't be put of by that as it is illuminating. Thanks to the excellent Wikibilio for the reference.
Meanwhile the Q & A website features a lengthy interview with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales


Reagle: A Case of Mutual Aid: Wikipedia, Politeness, and Perspective Taking

Jimmy Wales interview (Q & A):

Wikimedia Foundation:


Saturday, September 24, 2005

Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky
If you saw the recent BBC adaptation of Patrick Hamilton's trilogy Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky you might be interested in reading this balanced biographical profile from the Literary Encyclopedia, written by John Mepham.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Giancarlo de Carlo
The idea that architects and urban planners should learn from the real everyday needs and activities of ordinary people isn't new, but was pioneered for several decades by the Italian architect Giancarlo de Carlo. De Carlo, a member of the anti-fascist resistance in Italy was a member of Team X and the editor of the seminal architectural journal Space and Society. He died in June this year, a few months after the publication of John McKean's detailed book about his work: Layered Places.
You can read an interview with Giancarlo on the Archis website:
There is a short review of Layered Places in the Architectural Review:

People Make Places: Growing the Public Life of the Cities
A new report from Demos provides some surprises as car boot sales, allotments and supermarket cafes are some of the most-loved public spaces in Britain - the report funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation argues that urban planners should learn from the perspective of the people who actually use the public spaces: "Architects and planners need to start with people; they must understand public space from the perspective of those who live and work in towns and cities.”
Read a summary of the report here:
or download a free copy of the full report from Demos (requires pdf reader) here:

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Redefining the Library: The British Library's strategy 2005 - 2008
The British Library has just placed its development strategy for the next three years online.
This plan incorporates a number of innovations in the way the British Library works including:

• Launch of the portal, British Library Direct, to enable free searching and credit card ordering from the Library’s top 20,000 research journals.

• Completing the first phase of the National Digital Library, and begin ingest of around 200 e-journal titles to the legal deposit pilot system.

• Digitising 1,200,000 pages of 19th century British newspapers and over 3,000 hours of archival sound recordings.

• Launch of a web archiving service for public use. this involves continuing to identify and collect significant numbers of UK sites in line with the published collection development policy.

Thanks to Peter Scott's Library blog for drawing this report to my attention.

Read the full British Library Strategy Report on the B L website:

BRITISH LIBRARY - Theft of 400-year-old maps
Three antiquarian maps were stolen recently from the British Library. They include a woodblock printed world map from George Best’s A True Discourse of the Late Voyages of Martin Frobisher (1578), a map of New England and the Canadian Maritimes cut from Sir William Alexander’s An Encouragement to Colonies (1624), and a world map by Peter Apian from Ioannis Camertis Minoritani by Solinus, printed in Venice in 1520. The British Library now has a list of nearly 7,000 books and other publications that have disappeared since they moved into the new building in 1998. Among the missing items is the 1951 issue of the Beano to contain first cartoon of Dennis the Menace and rare copies of the Dandy and Eagle.
The full story is in The Times.,,2-1777918,00.html

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Myers Literary Guide to North-East England
Alan Myers has produced a simple no-frills guide to writers connected to the North-East of England. The author profiles vary in length but include a surprisingly wide range of subjects from Eca de Queiros to Nancy Spain.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Reading Red Shelley
At last! - I found a copy of Paul Foot's Red Shelley in the local Oxfam bookshop last week, and won't have to rely on someone else returning the increasingly well-thumbed copy to the local library. Reading it yet again in the early hours of this morning I was impressed by the following lines that Shelley wrote in "A Tale of Society it is", a story of a lonely and impoverished old woman whose son was press-ganged into the army:
But, when the tyrant’s bloodhounds forced the child
For his cursed power unhallowed arms to wield—
Bend to another’s will— become a thing
More senseless than the sword of battlefield—
Then did she feel keen sorrow’s keenest sting.....

The reason why these lines held a particular resonance was that I have just been reading about the case of Mehmet Tarhan - who has been sentenced to 4 years in jail for refusing to co-operate with the Turkish state's attempts to conscript him into the army.

You can read the complete text of Shelley's poem on the excellent literaturemania website:
and you can read all about Mehmet Tarhan on the War Resisters International website:
and here:

Media Alert
"Media Lens is a UK-based media-watch project, which offers authoritative criticism of mainstream media bias and censorship, as well as providing in-depth analysis, quotes, media contact details and other resources." In doing so it provides an incisive and useful insight into the way "news" is constructed, through a series of "Media Alerts", that you can sign-up to receive by e-mail. The latest Alert is BURYING THE LANCET which examines the press reaction to a study that appeared in the Lancet in November 2004, estimating the number of civilian deaths in Iraq at nearly 100,000.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Pick Up A Penguin
Allen Lane changed the nature of publishing in Britain when he started Penguin books and challenged the cultural elitism of British society by making a rich legacy of ideas accessible to ordinary people.
This week's Times Literary Supplement reviews Penguin Special: the Life and Times of Allen Lane by Jeremy Lewis and Penguin By Design: A Cover Story, 1935-2005 by Phil Baines which looks at the design of Penguin covers. The full text of the review is available online - but read it quickly the TLS only make selected articles free online for one week.

Banned Books Week 2005
The American Library Association has posted information about Banned Books Week to be held in the US between September 24–October 1.
One surprise to me is that Maurice Sendak's In the Night Kitchen is so frequently challenged, another is that the powerful Go Ask Alice has dropped out of the Top 10 - it is an unsettling book with an important (if not wholly accurate) message about drugs and drug users and I can see why it can upset people - but that is one reason why it should be read and not challenged or banned. Thanks to for the reminder.

Here's what has to say about Go Ask Alice

Friday, September 02, 2005

Rebranding Libraries
A new government report calling for the "rebranding" of public libraries was published yesterday by the Museums Libraries and Archives Council. The 39 page report argues that people's perceptions of public libraries are a major barrier to their use, and that Libraries must counter these misconception. The report also identifies the major role that Libraries could play in tackling the basic literacy problems experienced by over 7 million people in the UK. "Libraries, with their wide, local-based network and highly committed staff, are well placed to re-engage people into learning," says the report, "becoming a more inclusive service at the heart of the community."

Interestingly the report focuses on the high level of commitment among library workers as a key asset in the fight for literacy - but it never asks the question: "Why has the educational system failed 7 million people?" and while it addresses the need for Libraries to be better resourced it fails to suggest the need for better pay in Libraries. Library staff are expected to do the same job for a lot less money than teachers. Little wonder that another report published last week identified a looming staffing crisis in Libraries across the country. Another key point picked up by the report was the lack of faith that Library workers have in policy makers. Although the report does not say so, lack of investment in buildings, and continuing service restructuring are probably more damaging to the public perception of Libraries than anything else.

Indeed Libraries can and should be an important means for promoting literacy within the community, but the current thrust of government policy is to use libraries as a resource to tackle social issues that it has failed to resolve through the established Institutions. Libraries are being bounced into a new role at the expense of their equally important traditional role.
The report is available as a pdf download from the MLA website.

Pamuk Faces Charges for Speaking Out on Genocide
One of Turkey's best known writers, Orhan Pamuk, faces prosecution for "denigrating Turkish identity". The charge, which carries a three-year prison sentence relates to comments he made in an interview with a Swiss newspaper three years ago, condemning the massacre of Kurds and Armenians in the aftermath of World War I. Some 30,000 Kurds and one million Armenians are believed to have been killed in the massacres which Turkey has always officially denied. Pamuk is the author of several works translated into English, including Red, Snow, and the widely acclaimed Istanbul. In July he was one of several writers who campaigned for the release of Yektan Turkyilmaz who had been placed on trial for "smuggling" antiquarian Armenian books from Armenia into Turkey.

Neither Victims Nor Executioners
The horrific descent into Civil War in Iraq and the spin-off in terms of terrorism has resulted in increasing moral pressure on the anti-war movement to take sides, either by supporting the Occupation of Iraq by Britain and the U.S. or by supporting the "insurgents". The insurgents have even been equated with the anti-nazi resistance in wartime Europe by some sections of the left. There are occasions when it is right to take sides, and there are times when taking sides means supporting the unacceptable. Taking sides in this conflict is presents us with the same false choice that Albert Camus discussed in Neither Victims Nor Executioners when it was first published in 1946 after the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So it is good to see that a new edition of Camus's essay has just been published by Ourside (see the review by the Stet Press).
By refusing to support those who use terror on an idustrial scale to enforce the occupation, and by refusing to support those who use mass murder and individual acts of terror in an attempt to re-establish a tyrannical regime, we refuse to legitimise violence. By refusing to accept false choices and by increasing our opposition to the war and occupation we take sides with the ordinary people of Iraq.

If you want to read the text online it is available on the Peace Pledge Union website. Although time occasionally makes the language seem slightly dated, the relevance of the argument remains as strong and compelling as ever.