jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Noam Chomsky "The Essential Chomsky" (The New Press)

"The Essential Chomsky" is a collection of 25 pieces of writing from Noam Chomsky which covers a critical review of "Verbal Behaviour" by B. F. Skinner published in 1959 in the journal "Language" to Chomsky's afterword from "Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy" from 2006. Chomsky is best known in two areas, one being his career as a linguist, and the other for his outspoken liberal views in which he holds the United States and the West to the same standard which others hold the rest of the world, and there are examples of both contained in this collection.

Chomsky's skillful dissecting of Skinner's work clearly demonstrates the way Chomsky's mind works as well as the thoroughness with which he examines every subject. It also is a good choice because one avoids any political bias when reading it. With his political pieces, of course such emotional attachments to one's position exist, and so it would be much more difficult to set a baseline with one of those pieces.

When looking at the political pieces, Chomsky uses the same logic and thorough examination tactics that he used in his review, and that he also brings to the other writings on linguistics, with varying levels of effectiveness. For example, his brief look at the war crimes committed by the Allies in World War II fails to work for me in some of key areas: he seems to ignore the fact that there are issues with almost all tactics used in war, and the inherent immorality of war; he fails to deal with the reality that
Germany and Japan were both trying to develop nuclear weapons and so there was a need to end the war before they were successful; he fails to deal with the reality that Japan was teaching their "civilians" to fight against the invaders, which then calls into question whether or not they would be considered "civilians" or "enemy combatants".

That being said, I believe he is right to discuss these issues, because tactics like firebombing, and using nuclear weapons should never go unquestioned, and while one may be able to justify some events, other events may be questionable. Dresden in particular is one event which has caused great debate over the years, and undoubtedly still will for some time to come.

Chomsky's more thorough look at Vietnam and events since then is far more devastating to the perception of the U.S. and the West than the discussion of World War II. Chomsky meticulously looks at the statements made by our leaders as to why we were involved in these conflicts, and systematically eliminates those which can be shown to be false, leaving behind a rather unappealing reality of what has motivated the U.S. government over the years. Of course, one has to read these sections carefully as well, but here Chomsky offers alternative behaviors which may have had a significant impact on the situation in the world today.

The linguistic sections are also quite good, but many of them are fairly advanced and in some cases require re-reading to fully comprehend the discussion. "Language and the Brain", for example, is a wonderful look at what is perhaps the most amazing function of the brain, i.e. the capacity to take a grammar and to utilize it unlimited ways to communicate with others. Even if you don't like Chomsky's very liberal views on politics, it is articles like this that make reading this book worthwhile.

Whether you are interested in his works on Linguistics, or those of a political nature, Chomsky is fairly consistent in providing a dispassionate discussion of the subject. Of course, his political views might irritate or even infuriate the reader at times, but he never relies on personal attacks or other cheap tactics and instead he stays focused on the subject under discussion. I have always enjoyed reading Chomsky, because he often challenges my views, and forces me to rethink my positions to make sure they have a solid rational foundation and are not built on emotion or personal biases.

This is a very good book, but of course as it provides a little bit on a large variety of subjects, it doesn't have the depth on any particular subject. Still, it does give the reader an indication of where to go for more with regards to the pieces provided, and then also includes a good bibliography of Chomsky's works.

jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Tracy Chevalier "At the Edge of the Orchard" (Penguin)

Not a great fan of historical novels but this is a good book and an easy fast read. Good historical fiction in general should be of fictional people doing real things in real places, with a few real people thrown into the mix in my pinion. This novel nails it in that sense.

Robert Goodenough is brought up, at least to age 9, in the Black Swamp area of Ohio. His family, from Connecticut, is trying to make a go of homesteading there in the 1830s. The need for 50 fruit trees to prove the claim is his father's biggest concern, as he loves the Golden Pippins his family originally brought from England.

At age 9 Robert unexpectedly strikes out on his own. He moves around, regularly changing jobs, and he finally ends up in California. There he meets William Lobb, and becomes a tree collector, shipping trees and seeds to England. William Lobb was real, tree and seed collecting was really a thing, the sequoia dance floor and bowling alley trees are now part of Calaveras Big Trees State Park, and the Black Swamp really was not a great place to homestead.

Not as good as "The Girl with The Pearl Earring" but one that will satisfy.
jazzy_dave: (Default)
For today the music i have selected ,and still on a Brasilia theme is the debit album by Dom Um Romao which i found in a charity shop in Gillingham. for just 50 pence - and what a great album it is.

Dom Um Romão - Dom Um Romão

"Dom Um Romão" (1990), compiles two previous albums by Muse - "Dom Um Romão" (1974) and "Spirit of the Times" (1975). This record was latter re-issued by Vogue (Samba de Rua, 1990), 32 Jazz ("The Complete Muse Recordings", 1999) and Savoy ("Complete Muse Sessions", 2010).

Dom Um Romão (1974)
00:00:00 Dom's Tune
00:08:43 Cinnamon Flower (Cravo e Canela)
00:13:45 Family Talk
00:19:31 Ponteio
00:25:40 Baun-Blek-Blu
00:30:23 Adeus Maria Fulô

Spirit of The Times (1975)
00:38:30 Shake (Ginga Gingou)
00:41:27 Wait on The Corner
00:47:38 Lamento Negro
00:51:32 Highway
00:55:53 The Angels
00:59:53 The Salvation Army
01:03:52 Kitchen (Cosinha)

My CD copy is a European edition.


On the French Vogue label it  is called "Samba de Rua" Same tracks but different cover.
Between 1971 to 1974, he was a member of Weather Report.

Great find though!
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Stefan Zweig "Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman" (Pushkin Press)

This story within a story begins at a guesthouse on the French Riviera, where a scandal has just erupted: two of the guests, a seemingly respectable wife and mother and an attractive young stranger have fled together after speaking together for just a few hours.

There is a raging debate among the guests about the morality of the situation. Should the woman be seen as a pariah, or were her motives of the heart pardonable? In this early 20th century setting, most of the guests believe the woman has committed an unspeakable act, but the narrator, a single man, doesn't think so. Mrs C, a respectable, white-haired English woman in her 60's, after a brief exchange with him, decides she must come clean about her past and proceeds to tell him a story from her younger days, when, within a 24-hour period she let her carefully constructed world of proper widowhood fall to pieces for stranger with a death wish. She had met the stranger in question at a casino, where she spent the evening observing the hands of the players and was taken in by his in particular—the most expressive she'd ever seen. Fascinated, she watches the stranger lose a huge sum of money, then, when he gives every sign that he has decided to do away with himself, she comes to his rescue and falls into a vortex of passion for which her life as a proper English lady had not prepared her: "Perhaps only those who are strangers to passion know such sudden outbursts of emotion in their few passionate moments ... whole years fall from one's own breast with the fury of powers left unused." But can one really expect true love and dedication from an addict?

A succinct very short novel (around 100 pages) by Zweig filled to the brim with timeless human drama. Strongly recommended.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)

Ernesto Che Guevara "Bolivian Diary" (Pimlico)

This diary is both an important historical document and an insight into the mind of a twentieth century icon. After his failure in the Congo, Major Ernesto Guevara was determined to succeed in his native South America. He was doomed to failure from the start. His diary shows the terrible hardships endured by him and his revolutionaries. From illness and starvation, to the deaths of comrades and friends, Che's diary documents it all. A mixture of the emotional and the ordinary. Che Guevara was assassinated by the CIA backed Bolivian army; but his death was only the beginning of the legend.

A fascinating read for any budding revolutionary.

jazzy_dave: (bookish)
J.R.R Tolkein "The Monsters and the Critics:And Other Essays" (Harper Collins)

These lecture essays by Tolkien are thought-provoking and of the seven essays i found the ones on Beowulf the most fascinating,although the one on fairy stories is equally very informative.

Of Beowulf, it includes his very famous one, from which the title of this volume derives, and the one he wrote as an introduction to Clark Hall's translation. The first one is, of course, one of the first points of call for anyone studying Beowulf, and rightfully so. The volume also contains an essay on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, his famous essay 'On Fairy Stories', an essay on 'English and Welsh', an essay about the invention of languages, and his valedictory address, given when he left Oxford. All of them are well worth reading. They're not dry at all, but warm and passionate as Tolkien was warm and passionate, and of course, intelligent.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Geogres Perec "Life :A User's Manual" (Vintage)

This took me over a three month period wading through this six hundred page novel, but it was one where each chapter could stand alone as a vignette or slice of time.

The book imagines what it would be like if we could take the front wall off a Paris apartment building (No.11 in the fictitious Rue Simon-Crubellier) and look simultaneously into each of its rooms to see what people are doing. Each of the 99 chapters presents a snapshot of a room, describing it and the objects and people that happen to be in it at a little before eight in the evening on the 23rd of June 1975. In most chapters Perec takes one or more objects or people associated with the room, and tells us a story about them.

This approach takes a bit of getting used to. For a start, no time passes between the first and the last chapter. We jump arbitrarily from one room to another, according to a rule Perec has imposed on himself, but we could equally-well read the chapters in any order. Perec provides an index, diagram, chronology and table of contents that would allow the reader to map out any desired course through the book.

The stories are sometimes about major characters - the people who live in the building - but sometimes about apparently irrelevant things (the story illustrated by a painting hanging in the room; the plot of a novel; the text of a pamphlet...). Sometimes there is no story at all, just a collection of lists. We get five straight pages out of a hardware catalogue at one point; at another an itemised list of the food in the Altamonts' cellar. This is a wonderful book for someone like me, whose knowledge of French has its limitations: Perec draws vocabulary from every conceivable realm of life. We get detective stories and medieval romance; escapes from the harem and Kafkaesque struggles against bureaucracy; cooking recipes and bicycle racing...

Set against all this apparent randomness there are various unifying themes that run through the book. Puzzles (especially jigsaws) are particularly important: Perec is clearly fascinated by the way that they bring together concepts of order and randomness. Puzzles feature heavily in the story of the eccentric Bartlebooth, who has links to a number of the other residents and provides the book with the nearest thing it has toa conventional plot line. Recursion is another big theme - over and over again we find stories within a story, books within a book, or pictures within a picture.

This is a remarkable book, entertaining and very accessible despite its experimental nature and highly-constrained formal structure. It's quite fun to have some idea how Perec's "novel-writing machine" worked, but you certainly don't need to: the text is enough to keep you absorbed without any scaffolding.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Sue Woolfe "Leaning Towards Infinity" (The Women's Press)

This is a novel which takes on the topic of maths and mathematician. It is a wonderful and at times challenging novel of mothers, mother guilt, mothering, mathematics, obsession, thwarted genius, the indifference and chauvinism of conservative academia, the earnest hopes, and at times sexual envy of the overlooked daughter seeking her mother's approval. In essence ,a demanding, but very rewarding exploration of the destructiveness of unrecognised genius, through the lives of three generations of women. The mother is on the verge of discovering a new form of mathematics, but is driven mad by social isolation and betrayal. The narrator, her daughter, attempts to piece together her work. I was transfixed.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
John Banville "Ancient Light" (Penguin)

The story is narrated by an elderly man who reflects back on his affair, as a teenager, with his best friend’s mother, and the far-reaching impact of this on his life. In the present day, Alex, a retired stage actor, has been asked to star in a movie. The novel moves between his recollections of the affair, and the present-day and his return to acting, with some interesting links between past and present.

It’s difficult to classify this novel; it’s not really a romance, or a mystery, or a drama; it’s somewhat slow going at first, and it’s neither plot-driven nor character-driven. Rather, it’s a subtle, beautifully written meditation on time and memory, and how the two interact.

There was something so human, flawed, and vulnerable about the narrator, that I developed a growing attachment to him that almost snuck up on me. Though a self-admitted unreliable narrator, the emotions in his story are real and deep, even if the facts aren’t always accurate. I found I missed him when the novel ended, as one would miss an old friend.

This is the first novel of John Banville’s that I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be the last if i come across him in the thrift stores and charity shops. His writing flows so lyrically, I believe he could describe paint drying and it would be fascinating. This was an unexpected gem that was well worth the slow start, and I look forward to reading much more of Banville’s work.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)

Kingsley Amis "One Fat Englishman" (Penguin)

This was quite unputadownable - read this fun little novella in just three sittings.

Roger Micheldene, an English publisher, is on the loose in the U.S. He spends an October week shuttling between New York and Budweiser College in Pennsylvania. This exercises all his British appetites...snobbery, gluttony, anger, sloth and lust.

But Amis roasts Americans as well and serves us familiar dishes, though in a piquant sauce: the precocious undergraduate author of a far-out novel, an earnest young priest, and an alcoholic literary agents nymphomaniacal wife.

They are all presented with glee and gusto and the keenest wit, but it is Roger Micheldene--at once a prototype of the insufferable Englishman and an individual with sufficient humour to win our sneaking sympathy--who dominates a supremely entertaining comedy of bad manners.

jazzy_dave: (bookish)
These are the books i found yesterday - the first three being only ten pence each and all hardbacks. I must  add - and what amazing bargains they are.

Leonardo da Vinci Kenneth Clark Folio Society 2005



The monastery and Da Vinci books are from the Folio Society and normally are not cheap. More expensive than usual hardbacks.

I also found the following CD's for a quid each -

Broken Social Scene - You Forget It In People (Vertigo)
The Bera Band - The Three EP's (Regal Recordings)
Biffy Clyro - Only Revolutions (14th Floor CD + DVD)
Jaga Jazzist - A Living Room Hush (Smalltown Supersound)

The latter one was the best find of the day music wise.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Despite the topsy turvy weather the other day i ended up with a good haul of books -

jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Helen Ellis "American Housewife" (Scribner)

This collection of 12 short stories is chock-full of quirky, creepy, clever women. I can't imagine someone not seeing themselves in at least one of these characters. I read several stories multiple times and plan on reading a few of my favourites again.I think the shortest stories are my favourites -- they pack a big punch in just a couple of pages (especially "Southern Lady Code", "What I Do All Day", and "Take It From Cats").

Some of these stories verge on the absurd and surreal, even through all the exaggerated scenarios, there is also an undeniable truth: I have experienced grocery aisle rage,- and “Hmmm” is most certainly Southern Lady Code for: I don’t agree with you but am polite enough not to rub your nose in your ignorance.

If you like wacky ,funny,and strange stories and if you are interested in the inner lives of women, I highly recommend this book.

jazzy_dave: (Default)
Simon Winchester "A Map That Changed the World: The Tale of William Smith and the Birth of a Science" (Penguin)

Here is a book that whilst its subject is science it covers a far wider ground than i had anticipated before reading it.
It's one of those classic 18th century tales where there's science, religion, class, prejudice money and, out of the mess and shambles comes something that is really mind blowing. William Smith produced the first geological survey of the UK. All by himself. And a small version is reproduced on the inside front cover and it's a real thing of beauty.

It's set during that great upheaval in science, when Britain finally moved from being a medieval belief led society to one that valued science, facts, precision, deduction and started wanting to ask questions of the natural world. this is one example. It was driven by his being involved in the coal mining industry, then in the routing and digging of a canal through Somerset. What he'd seen by the vertical descent into the ground of the mines was reinforced by what he'd seen in the cut made across miles of Somerset - the rocks beneath our feet are different, but predictably different in different places.

It's got it's fair share of trials and tribulations, and the class system comes in for a fair old (and entirely justified) bashing, but Smith doesn't always seem to be the most astute of individuals. Even so, it's nice to see that he did finally get the recognition he deserved in his lifetime - even if he seems to have been largely forgotten since. Simon Winchester does write a good story, as well as managing to get some facts to stick in your brain at the same time. I thought this was a good read.


Jul. 14th, 2017 05:56 pm
jazzy_dave: (black jazz)
It was a wonderful relaxing day ending up in a meet with Phil at our local Spoons pub last night. Today i am back tn the fray again.Having done two visits already,one in Hempstead Valley and a pub food and drink visit in Maidstone , soon i shall be heading off to Canterbury via Faversham.

I have received for payments from companies i work for as well.So i have ordered this box set (on Amazon) of all of Ornette Coleman's Atlantic Recordings.

Beauty is a Rare Thing: The Complete Atlantic Recordings

Ornette is mentioned in the Wire Primers book ,and this set is highly recommended and only £26! This is one of the six discs on the set - which can be purchased individually, Free Jazz LP.

Ornette Coleman ~ Free Jazz

jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Annie Darling "The Little Bookshop Of Lonely Hearts"  (Harper Collins)

This is one of those books my brother gave me in one of his clearance endeavours. He can do that again. Also, this is not the type of book i would  normally  not read,,as romance novels per se are not my forte,  despite it being about a bookshop called Bookends. Anyway, i took the plunge and emerged pleasantly surprised.

I have to be honest though, in the beginning I wasn't sure if I liked either Posy or Sebastian, she definitely didn't sound like the kind of person who should be left in charge of a bookshop never mind be bequeathed one and then be expected to make it flourish. And right from the very beginning I got the impression that Sebastian is supposed to be her love interest, but he was so rude that I honestly didn't think I could read this book if he was her love interest. Thankfully, as the story progressed we see a slightly softer side to Sebastian, he offers to help Posy and to begin with we don't understand the reasoning behind it but it all becomes clear.

I loved the banter back and fro between Posy and Sebastian, as well as all the other quirky characters such as Nina and Verity.

Bookends is the kind of place that I would love to work! A small business, where you can make close friends in work colleagues, while doing a job you feel passionate about!

And for each and every sad moment within this story, there were happy moments. Happy moments that made you smile without thinking about it. And you cant really ask for more than that.

A good easy to read novel.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Jack Kerouac "Heaven and Other Poems" (Grey Fox Press)

The poems in this volume includes a series of his blues poems - San Francisco Blues; MacDougal Street Blues; Orizaba Blues; Orlando Blues - and a letter on his theory of jazz poetry. It includes two short autobiographies and a series of letters between Kerouac and a publisher.

The latter gives real insight into his writing: "I would like everybody in the world to tell his full life confession and tell it HIS OWN WAY" from a letter; or his essentials for modern prose which includes "telling the true story of the world in interior monologue" and " remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition".

A couple of interesting quotes from "Heaven":

"The Church? Earth's dogmatic mistakes have nothing to do with Heaven"

"For we all go back where we came from, God's Lit Brain, his transcendent Eye of Wisdom / And there's your bloody circle called samsara by the ignorant Buddhists, who will still be funny Masters up there, bless em."

A short book but well worth having if you are a Kerouac fan.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
A. Alvarez "Night: An Exploration of Night Life, Night Language, Sleep and Dreams" (Vintage)

Alvarez brings a kind of journalistic quality to a subject that he apparently devoted four years to bring to fruition in this book. He looks at it from a bunch of different angles. The book takes on - dreams and nightmares, the fear of the dark, night shift work, the history of lighting, night motif's in painting and literature, and soon.

As a critic he analyses and reflects on what artists have had to say on the subject. The book starts with the poem, Acquainted with the Night, by Robert Frost and ends with a quote from Krapp's Last Tape, by Samuel Beckett. Many pages have passages from writers such as Stevenson, Freud and Coleridge, with Alvarez using them to examine a subject like the connection between dreams and surrealism.

The photographs and paintings that Alvarez chose to accompany his text are particularly haunting. One in particular: an untitled photograph by Roger Parry shows a dark room with a dull beam of light streaming in through a half-opened door. The photograph was taken from inside the room and a few objects can be dimly seen: a daguerrotype propped upside-down against the dark wainscoting; a length of rope that might be fastened into a noose. Alvarez has this to say about the photograph: "I no longer remember how I populated the darkness, but I remember the fear itself, particularly of the darkness that shrouded the upper floor, where I slept."

I found this a fascinating book.He's serious but playful, has a casual sophistication, a curious and sceptical mind, and a direct writing style.

Well worth seeking out.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Julian Barnes "The Noise Of Time"  (Vintage)

Shostakovich and his struggles to maintain his artistic integrity in the face of the sometimes urgent, sometimes insinuating pressures of "Power" are brought to life beautifully in this short novel. As he gets older, Julian Barnes seems to need fewer and fewer words to get across what he needs to, and this novel is short but intense, and primarily about Fear.

In this telling, Shostakovich is primarily driven by fear and the seeming inevitability of being crushed by Stalin's apparatus of repression - always referred to as "Power". The lasting image from the book is of the scared composer, standing every night outside his apartment by lift, with a small suitcase, waiting for the secret police to arrive (so that they don't disturb his wife). And yet, they don't come for him, whereas they do come for many of his peers. The paranoia of being one who remains, seems almost worse than being arrested (but of course, not actually worse).

Shostakovich is not portrayed as a hero, not even as a courageous man, although he does his best to stand up to Stalin in a telephone call where the Man himself smoothly persuades (but what choice does he really have?) the composer to join a cultural delegation to London. Its both a brave, pathetic and utterly futile resistance. Is he compromised - undoubtedly yes, both personally and artistically. In my opinion Barnes lets him off a little easily here but his point is to show the gradual assimilation of the composer and is ultimate submission to "Power"
jazzy_dave: (Default)
Iain Banks "Stonemouth" (Abacus)

A long time ago i read his The Crow Road and before that The Wasp Factory. his is the first of his non science fiction books i have read for a considerable number of years. This one is a gritty drama played out in a small insular Scottish town, named Stonemouth. Stewart has come back to Stonemouth after five years away. The reason for his absence and the reason behind the local's reaction to his return are slowly divulged over the weekend. Through the use of flashbacks and Stewart's introspective thoughts of the events before his departure we gradually are drawn to the dramatic conclusion of the book. In other words,a highly recommended read.


jazzy_dave: (Default)

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