Monday, November 24, 2008

A Lifetime of Control

The precise impact of ID cards is still only just being made clear. Not just the sheer amount of personal data that will be collected, but the massive fines (£1,000) and extensive jail sentences (up to two years) for failing to complete application forms properly or within certain time limits, failure to turn up for questioning at a designated "interrogation" centre of the government's choosing (my three nearest centres are 30, 40 and 60 miles away - all involving a minimum of 2 hours of travel in each direction).

The No2ID website now provides a link to the government's consultation document on the secondary legislation required to make the whole scheme "work":

...meanwhile answers to recent Parliamentary questions have revealed that there are now more than a million children on the UK DNA database, including more than 100,000 aged between 10 and 12. Under 18s now comprise more than 25% of all records on the database.

full report on

Free Digital Resources has put together a page of 100 University Libraries from around the world, that provide extensive digital collections "that anyone can access".

Libraries listed include Michigan State University Libraries, with digital collections on radicalism (American Indian Movement, Black Panthers, I W W, Wounded Knee, and the Sacco & Vanzetti case); Comic Art, Cookbooks, Orchids, etc.; Syracuse University Library where the digitised collections include their extensive holdings of Medieval Manuscripts; Cambridge University Library, which has digitised two of the Conrad Martens Sketchbooks (Martens accompanied Darwin on the voyage of the Beagle) and an anglo-saxon "verse life" Edward the Confessor from an early 13th century manuscript.

View the complete list of 100 Libraries:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Notes from Walnut Tree Farm

I wish I had met Roger Deakin before he died. His powers of observation and his humane sensibility continue to impress themselves on my mind more than two years after his death. So I was pleased to read in The Times that his random observations and research notes, compiled over a period of six years, have been edited and shaped into a new book by Alison Hastie and Terence Blacker. They have taken occasional sentences, "paragraphs and sometimes mini-essays" and presented them in journal format.

In his review Alexander Cockburn describes Deakin's "vigorous" natural descriptions, and the way in which he "communes - in the richest sense of the word - with the creatures of his old hedgerows, the living slime on the bit of Elizabethan moat in which he swam, his coppice wood, his unpoisoned pastures, the hornets in the attic, the badgers in their sett, the young hedgehog warmed back to health...."

New British nature writing at its very best.

Read Alexander Cockburn's review in full at Times Online.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Kindest Cut - War Surgery

A recently published book - almost banned before publication - is making news in the US.
War surgery in Afghanistan and Iraq 2003-2007 intended as a guidebook to new surgical techniques provides harrowing documentary evidence - if any is still needed - about what war does to people. Sarah Jackson Han provides an articulate review for Healthcare Today:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hope in Common

A new essay from David Graeber on InterActivist Info Exchange:

"Those wishing to subvert the system have learned by now, from bitter experience, that we cannot place our faith in states. The last decade has instead seen the development of thousands of forms of mutual aid association, most of which have not even made it onto the radar of the global media. They range from tiny cooperatives and associations to vast anti-capitalist experiments, archipelagos of occupied factories in Paraguay or Argentina or of self-organized tea plantations and fisheries in India, autonomous institutes in Korea, whole insurgent communities in Chiapas or Bolivia, associations of landless peasants, urban squatters, neighborhood alliances, that spring up pretty much anywhere that where state power and global capital seem to temporarily looking the other way. They might have almost no ideological unity and many are not even aware of the other’s existence, but all are marked by a common desire to break with the logic of capital. And in many places, they are beginning to combine. “Economies of solidarity” exist on every continent, in at least eighty different countries. We are at the point where we can begin to perceive the outlines of how these can knit together on a global level, creating new forms of planetary commons to create a genuine insurgent civilization."

Read the full essay online:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

LinkMickey Mouse - 80 Today

An interesting interview on this morning's Today programme, on Radio 4, in which Brian Sibley, "the author of the Disney Studio Story and Mickey Mouse: His Life and Times, explains the enduring appeal of Walt Disney's most famous creation":

Listen again if you missed it (only available for one week after broadcast):

For a different perspective here's some online extracts from Ariel Dorfman's classic How to Read Donald Duck:

[select "essays" from the links at the top of the page]

and if you have time on your hands to read comics, here is the full online version of The Adventures of TinTin: Breaking Free:

Friday, November 14, 2008

"...a strong literary style bears the same relation to everyday conversation that Matisse bears to the demands of home decoration."

Andrew O'Hagan writes in the new issue of the London Review of Books, about the experience of listening to the voices of famous writers, now long dead, but newly revealed by the British Library:

New CDs available from the British Library: The Spoken Word: British Writers and The Spoken Word: American Writers.

British Library Sound Archives
(n.b. not available between evening of 16 November and afternoon of 17 November)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why I Copyfight

Cory Doctorow, author of Over-Clocked; Futuristic Tales; Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town; and the recently published, Little Brother, writes about copyright issues, for Locus Magazine:

"Culture's imperative is to share information: culture is shared information. Science fiction readers know this: the guy across from you on the subway with a gaudy SF novel in his hands is part of your group. You two have almost certainly read some of the same books, you've got some shared cultural referents, some things to talk about."

Monday, November 10, 2008


A blog to keep you up to date with the campaign to "stop ID cards and the database state" from the No2ID campaign:

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Hoyle Day

Anyone in Cambridge on Saturday (8th November) should take advantage of "Hoyle Day" to visit a one-day exhibition on the life and work of science-ficiton writer and astronomer, Fred Hoyle. His best known books were The Black Cloud, and A for Andromeda. As a bonus, St John's College, which is hosting the exhibition is also providing guided tours around the College's 17th Century Library. There will also be a talk by Dr Carolin Crawford, Institute of Astronomy, about the life and work of Fred Hoyle.

full details from The Cambridge Network.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Studs Terkel

A pioneer in the use of oral history, Studs Terkel was one of the first historians to provide a voice for the life and experiences of ordinary working Americans.
Here's a short piece about Studs on the BBC website, which includes a short video clip made earlier this year:

There is also a stimulating interview with Studs carried out when he was 91, full of rambling anecdotes, those teasing stories that give oral history its charm, on Youtube:

Some of Studs' own work - the interviews he carried out - can be found on this collection of "Conversations with America":