What is it?
The idea of the project is to put together a capsule of books that you would recommend to others, or perhaps give a gifts. I like the notion of capsule – a delivery mechanism for booky goodness. But yes, its just a list of books.
What kind of books go in my capsule?
You should choose books that have been formative – books that have shaped you - the way you see the world, the way you think, the way tyou behave, your ethics – that kind of think.
How many books should I choose?
I have limited my list to 10 fiction books and 10 non-fiction books. You have choose as many as you like.
Ok, I have list, now what?
Please share it with me. Put it in the comments or email it to me.
What is your plan?
Not sure. At the moment, I will just compile the lists and see what kind of capsule pops up. Maybe a voting later? Who knows. At the moment I am just curious to see what turns up.
Why should i do it? I am very busy.
Because its fun. I love books and it was very interesting to put the list together. It was also insightful into what I consider formative and what that says about me.
At the moment, I generally avoid giving money to crowd-funding projects as most of them are, to my mind, akin to begging - such as, ‘give me money to study so that I can save the world ‘, ‘give me money as I need to go to exotic places to take pictures’, and, my favourite, ‘I have been working so hard that you should fund my holiday’.
However, I am coming across more projects recently where I feel that 1. the projects are worth doing, 2. the reciprocity is equitable to the amounts, and 3. its from people I know. Which brings me to this - how does one gauge one’s commitment to a friend’s project? Well, I have been thinking of this over the last few months as a variety of friends are beginning to use crowd funding to raise money for various projects and here is my thinking.
Factors to consider for crowd funding friends projects;
- number of mutual connections – do you have many friends you have in common?
- no.of connections per week – how often do you speak, text or meet each other?
- viability of friendship in foreseeable future – how likely is this friendship will last?
- future favour debt – how likely is it that you can call in favours in the future?
- current salary level – how much you earn compared to your mutual connections?
- risk of precedence – what are the chances that this commitment will be one that others will compare to next time?
Then answer the questions using LOW, MEDIUM and HIGH.
Calculate your score where LOW = 1, MEDIUM = 2 and HIGH = 3
If you score 9 or less, then go for the lower end of options. If you score between 10 – 14, then go for the middle range of options. If you score above 15, then you have to go the higher end options.
I am going to be using this to assess the next few projects from my friends that come past me. Lets see if this works.
While this book was published in 2007, it is still a relevant and informative text. In this book, Studwell looks at the economic development of the countries in South East Asia as well as Hong Kong from post-independence to the early 2000s.
He writes in the introduction “this is a book about a small group of very rich men”, and as such this book looks at the power and influence of a small group of billionaires who have come to dominate the economics and often the politics of the countries in South East Asia and Hong Kong. The author uses these billionaires-godfathers-as “a convenient vehicle for examining broader economic and political issues”. The term godfathers is, as the author says, “more than a little tongue in cheek” and reflective of the mythology of race, culture, entrepreneurialism, and as such. He uses it to deconstruct the mythology around race, culture, and the “entire grounding of economic progress in the region since the end of colonialism”. It is important to be deconstruct this mythology around the godfathers as the godfathers are not the icons of these dynamic economies, they do not shape these economies but rather are reflective of them. The hand in glove nature of economic’s and politics means that, in the long run, the incentive its consolidation and protection, and this fundamentally undermines insert the potential development of the country.
What I really liked about this book was how it begins by looking at the chauvinistic claims of many other writers on similar topics who would ascribe positive business and economic traits onto the Chinese businessman. Studwell examines that claim in significant detail and is quite successful, in my opinion, in debunking it. He later picked this up again when looking at claims put forward in the Asian values debate as well as economic policies justifying privileging one race over another. Too many books written for the businessmen audience looking to work in Asia tend to use convenient stereotypes to push forward those debunked chauvinistic attitudes. As Studewell says, these “race-based interpretations have long formed the bedrock of analysis of South East Asian”. To accept without concern such deterministic forms of analysis means that one cannot see the forest for the trees.
For me, this is problematic attitude seems to be a perverse continuation of notion “white man’s burden”. In many postcolonial Southeast Asian Nations, the ruling class that replaced the colonial powers, were themselves more often than not elites that had been educated by and even groomed by the exiting powers. As such, while the masters had been replaced, the structures that they had left behind which embodied a paternalistic and exploitative system were not. Instead new masters offer more familiar colour were installed, and, as they say, same same but different.
As such, I think it is advised not to get too carried away by the ebullient narratives of postcolonial rule. And perhaps arguably, these new elites had greater had a greater thirst.
The author is quite clear about the motivation of his studies; his premise is that “systems are far more important than people in determining which societies climbed the slippery slope to prosperity”. He believes that the development of more efficient political and social institutions is the key to the economic development of the region-to see a more equitable distribution of wealth. He likens this to post 1930s America. To this mind, the choice is between an endless circle of booms and busts or a policy path to developed nation status.
The book begins by examining the development of the economic landscape through to historical forces – colonisation and migration. He argues that the role and status of the migrant plays a role in the economic place. This has a significant influence on how the migrant who is largely disenfranchised and lacking in political status engages with the political elites. This is not the story unique to South East Asia. We see similar stories playing out in Europe and North America. He makes an interesting point about revenue farming and rent seeking, given the flood of migrants providing cheap labour. The author then looks at these developments using case studies from most of the countries in South East Asia. The book is full of illustrative anecdotes featuring godfathers and the politicians of that time. At one level, the godfathers are apolitical – politics being more of an insurance against any disruption to the businesses of godfathers.At another level, godfathers are intimately involved in the lives of their political protectors: going on holidays with them, providing them with council, and other such highly to intimate interactions.
The book makes a lot of interesting points and has even more interesting anecdotes. They make for very interesting insights into how not only godfathers work but also the interrelationship and interdependence between the politicians and the godfathers. One of the more interesting issues that the author examines is how the godfathers venerate cash and property, and the various schemes and shenanigans that they engage in to obtain more. The complexity of the business dealings, the use of the stock exchange, licensing regimes, government options, and the such are unpacked and connected by the author in a very readable and engaging manner.
I was particularly curious around his claim that the Asian crisis of 97 had not largely had a detrimental impact on the godfathers. Given what has happened in the last few years in the global economy, I was wondering if there would have been any insights from 97 they could have informed what happened in the most recent economic crisis. I found that the story unravelled by the author strongly resonated forwards to our current crisis. It is curious that while we understand and acknowledge that the past echoes into our future, we don’t seem to do very much to anticipate what is coming. And to that end, I thought the book was very useful.
One of the more important roles that this book plays is in disabusing the mythology around the godfathers – the perception of their economic genius and unparalleled business acumen. There is a tendency to beatify these godfathers and inscribe into them our aspirational wants of ourselves. As the region moves into a new economic cycle, the choice between the endless cycle of boom and bust or steady development is vital. In the knowledge economy, where the traditional business models themselves are destabilised, how do we create an economic and political environment to nurture the new businesses? The miasma of the godfathers could end up having a negative impact on new and developing businesses and curtailing the development of the economy. Key to this is also if they is the require political will and desire to allow this to happen.
Notes: in this book, Asia refers to the original members of ASEAN. The more recent members are only mentioned in passing. Singapore and Hong Kong are dealt with in a distinctly different manner to the other countries. I believe this is reasonable and correct.
I am currently vaguely obsessed with disco music. To my mind, there are only two cheerful genres of music, reggae and disco. I have always been a fan of reggae music. While the music itself is very cheerful, or at least seems to be, the lyrics of reggae music can be aggressive, unhappy or even depressing. However, I have always thought that disco music is all around cheerful. Even its lyrics are mostly inane, and just a bunch of fun.
Anyways for the last few weeks, I have had on heavy rotation on my music lists a selection of disco music from the 70s. From the Bee Gees to Donna Summer to Boney M to The Jacksons, the funky bass, the floating rhythms, and the groovy vocals all combine to make for an all-around cheery vibe.
So the other day I was driving, when Copacabana jumped out from my disco shuffle mix. I was cheerfully singing along, when suddenly struck me that the lyrics were less than cheerful. It’s a really dark song. The song starts off with a story about young love. There are Lola and Tony, one was a star and the other who tends bar, who are young and had each other-who could ask for more? So far so good.
All of a sudden the bejewelled Rico turns up. Something happens between Lola and Rico-something unpleasant-and Tony gets involved. There were punches and chairs thrown, a single gunshot was heard. Someone was shot. But that’s how it is at the Copacabana where music and passion was always the fashion.
Forward 30 years, Lola the show goes still there but days no more show. Now it’s a disco. But drunk Lola sits there lamenting the youth and a lost Tony. And the song tells us with the refrain-”don’t fall in love”.
For discuss song, this is fairly dark material. Most of the other disco songs seem to have a fairly cheery and possibly even banal subject matter. Even the song with the dramatic title of “last night a DJ saved my life” ends with trouble going away, down the drain. I am sure there are other disco songs perhaps as dramatically dark as Copacabana, but Barry Manilow’ vocal style and delivery is light and effusive while the rest of the music flits cheerfully along. It’s the lyrics they create the discordant vibe.
I am off to find other dark and discordant disco songs.
Glen Greenwald recently wrote about the rejection of Bradley Manning as a Grand Marshall at the San Francisco gay pride parade.
To summarise, Manning was rejected as a Grand Marshall as he had, according to the organisers fo the leadership of San Francisco Pride parade, put the men and women of the US armed forces in harms way. Furthermore, that not even a hint of support for him will be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride. The article lays out the entire sage.
What I find fascinating is how the increasing enmeshment of the state and corporations deals with dissent – it does so in a market-based approach. Greenwald writes about this very great clarity.
I noted that this development (shift in public opinion on gay equality) is less significant than it seems because the cause of gay equality poses no real threat to elite factions or to how political and economic power in the US are distributed. If anything, it bolsters those power structures because it completely and harmlessly assimilates a previously excluded group into existing institutions and thus incentivizes them to accommodate those institutions and adopt their mindset.
He goes on to write about it with great venom. It a long quote but it does explain that co-option is at some level just a rational economic response to dissent. Sprinkle in some game theory and the outlook is not bright.
Even the SF Gay Pride Parade is now owned by and beholden to the nation’s largest corporations, subject to their dictates. Those who run the event are functionaries of, loyalists to, the nation’s most powerful political officials. That’s how this parade was so seamlessly transformed from orthodoxy-challenging, individualistic and creative cultural icon into yet another pile of obedient apparatchiks that spout banal slogans doled out by the state while viciously scorning those who challenge them. Yes, there will undoubtedly still be exotically-dressed drag queens, lesbian motorcycle clubs, and groups proudly defined by their unusual sexual proclivities participating in the parade, but they’ll be marching under a Bank of America banner and behind flag-waving fans of the National Security State, the US President, and the political party that dominates American politics and its political and military institutions. Yet another edgy, interesting, creative, independent event has been degraded and neutered into a meek and subservient ritual that must pay homage to the nation’s most powerful entities and at all costs avoid offending them in any way.
In April’s issue of The Monthly, there is a great article by Waleed Aly on what is going on in the Australian political scene with regards to the replacing elected leaders thanks to party politics. He writes particularly well about the role of the ever compressed news cycle and its impossibility of nuance. I have only picked out a few paragraphs of his article but the whole piece is worth reading.
The new media landscape clearly has much to answer for here. Crisis is swift because news and commentary are swift and judgement is instant. Then it’s shared, constantly, and mostly with those who agree. Viewpoints become amplified rather than nuanced. So we forestall cool, reflective debate, and wind up with a public conversation that has almost no ability to persuade. Everyone’s in a war, everyone has a gun, and we’d much rather go on firing than sit through dull peace negotiations.
Political discussion has become a militarised zone. Perhaps that’s why parties are increasingly reaching for the nuclear option. As the debate gets faster and therefore shallower, our politics must become more presidential because image and personality are the only effective weapons left. This is particularly true given the collapse of serious ideological difference between the major parties. Every political problem therefore becomes a leadership problem. When you’re confronted with political disaster, there’s only one thing to do: get new leadership.
In this talk, Rawsthorn looks at the role of design in social change. She looks at how design has been used to solve social problems. From the visualisation of poverty in London and the spatiality of slave ships, to the role of designers in designing solutions to aged care.
She talks about the skills and knowledge that designers bring to social problems.
… designers have excellent instinctive communications skills help them to squirrel out information from people – design is also strong on lateral thinking – their communication skills also prove critical in raising fund – there’s a determination to apply design for the good of society – secondly interpret design in its broadest strategic sense as a process change management and a series of skills to be applied in different contexts – thirdly they have to entrepreneurial drive to do so and developing new ideas and the strength and chutzpah to realize them – and critically they also have access to digital technology – there are of course many more designers equally determined to to work for the good of society - now i’m not going to pretend remain in the design is a panacea for these problems far from it – it is a very powerful tool to tackle them provided it gets deployed intelligently and the more we know about design the greater our chances will be using its power wisely justice… (adapted from YouTube transcript
I have not blogged for a while now. That is what always happens. When I used to blog for fun, before I started as a lecturer – blogging was easy. I blogged about all kinds of generic gobbledegook. When I moved to terryjohal.com, it became about my public face. So the blogging became harder.
I love reading and writing – both activities that I take seriously. So I cannot shoot off a blog article without writing, reviewing and rewriting. Combine that with the blog as the public face, its gets harder and requires more time than I have.
But my blog is my sandbox.
In my current teaching, the students are working on an activity where they have to make a narrative map in 5 artefacts. Some of them are struggling with that and my exemplars, which I made, are not helping. Why? Cos I have made them too complex.
So I made one yesterday and posted it to the students. I think it works. Since I cannot draw, I did not even worry about posting it to them.
I always tell my students – get it done – focus on concept and ideas – fix it later. I am going to take my own advice on writing and blogging.
I have been thinking a lot of the role of the writer. In a recent post, I wrote of the idea of ‘writing posthumously’ – writing without fear. Christopher Hitchens’ book on Mother Theresa – The Missionary Position – is a example of that.
This video from Penn and Teller’ BullShit, is a summary of what Hitchens writes about.
Its very hard to tell the emperor that he has no clothes on, but it needs to be done. In my own journey studying the various histories, its struck me that placing trust in the dominant narratives is misguided. Nothing is ever as clear and simple as the dominant narrative. The subjugated histories are immeasurably important and need to be retrieved from the slag heap of the winners history. And that is what Hitchens does so well here.
In this interview with Free Inquiry Magazine*, when asked why he was picking on this saintly woman, Hitchens replies
Partly because that impression is so widespread. But also because the sheer fact that this is considered unquestionable is a sign of what we are up against, namely the problem of credulity. One of the most salient examples of people’s willingness to believe anything if it is garbed in the appearance of holiness is the uncritical acceptance of the idea of Mother Teresa as a saint by people who would normally be thinking – however lazily – in a secular or rational manner. In other words, in every sense it is an unexamined claim.
It’s unexamined journalistically – no one really takes a look at what she does. And it is unexamined as to why it should be she who is spotlighted as opposed to many very selfless people who devote their lives to the relief of suffering in what we used to call the “Third World.” Why is it never mentioned that her stated motive for the work is that of proselytization for religious fundamentalism, for the most extreme interpretation of Catholic doctrine? If you ask most people if they agree with the pope’s views on population, for example, they say they think they are rather extreme. Well here’s someone whose life’s work is the propagation of the most extreme version of that.
That’s the first motive. The second was a sort of journalistic curiosity as to why it was that no one had asked any serious questions about Mother Teresa’s theory or practice. Regarding her practice, I couldn’t help but notice that she had rallied to the side of the Duvalier family in Haiti, for instance, that she had taken money – over a million dollars – from Charles Keating, the Lincoln Savings and Loans swindler, even though it had been shown to her that the money was stolen; that she has been an ally of the most reactionary forces in India and in many other countries; that she has campaigned recently to prevent Ireland from ceasing to be the only country in Europe with a constitutional ban on divorce, that her interventions are always timed to assist the most conservative and obscurantist forces
I believe that above is a ideal for one to strive for – to question that which no one thinks to, or dares to.
* towards the end of the interview Hitchens talks about his attitude to religion – “‘I’m not neutral about religion, I’m hostile to it.”. Its worth reading for his views on religion and America.
I love word games and I love puns. Even the ones what make one groan. In his memoirs, Christopher Hitchens writes of the various word games that his friends and him used to play. So in tribute to him, I can going to play one myself. I have already been playing it with a very punny friend.
The game is simple. Pick a title of a book and substitute one word with a synonym such that book title just sounds silly. Here are some examples; To Kill A Mocking Fowl, Fauna Farm, The Grapes of Anger, The God of Tiny Objects or The Monotheist of Small Things, and Wuthering Loftiness.
Lets see how this works out.