Tag Archives: philosophy

The Tigger’s 2015 in review: stats and more

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 55 trips to carry that many people.

Now at the start of the year I made some a series of reasons why people should read this blog so that I could gain 1000 followers. I now have 385 that read this blog directly; 29 read through Tumblr; and 985 see my book reviews through my FaceBook page – https://www.facebook.com/elayne.coakes which does have other stuff on it too.

So what I said was:

  1. I don’t blog a lot about my health and moan about my family or the state of the union or be vehement about my politics or… I blog about a variety of subject matters that interest me and hopefully you, some of which, especially as the majority of my followers are from the US, may be unfamiliar to you;
  2. I write good grammatical English (UK spelling), properly punctuated, and I know how to use the apostrophe. I don’t usually write in stream of consciousness mode but nice precise paragraphs.
  3. I write about a good variety of subjects so you are very likely to find something to interest you in them  – from flowers and gardens, to crafts, to travel, to – in particular – books. Illustrated by my husband’s excellent photographs. As a European I get to a lot of countries you may wish to visit in Europe, but also have been to many more exotic locations such as China and India and these are  described here. More still to come on past adventures, but this year I shall be flying out to Boston and New York and cruising back on the Queen Mary 2; and also Ireland later in the summer for sure. [Sorry, 2015 has been dominated by books but still I did cover other items, and shall try to do better in 2016]
  4. I read a lot of books and write informative and well researched reviews that don’t give the plot away and are not summaries. There is no plot synopsis but a comment that will be relevant to the subject matter and will inform. [2015:This is absolutely still true and will continue to be so]
  5. If I can get over 1000 followers, I will be authorised by more publishers on the NetGalley site which means I will get to read yet more books that are just being published, and more books by new authors you may not yet have heard of. I shall endeavour to keep up the interviews with them that I have recently started. [2015:I now have at least one author interview a month, sometimes more, and I am recognised by several publishers as shown by my widgets including being in the Brash Priority Reveiwer’s Circle]

 Here are details of 2014’s activity to compare to this year’s:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

The busiest day of the year was January 21st with 75 views. The most popular post that day was Feminism? Vegetarianism? Linked or not?. In 2014, there were 60 new posts.

Click here to see the complete report. for 2015.

And do please comment and come and read more posts!

Advertisements

Feminist? Humanist? Means to an End?

Just recently, having watched Suffragettes the movie, and been reminded about how long it has taken for so many women to achieve human rights, I was again reminded by an email that starting in November, women worked the rest of the year for nothing. Equal pay has still not been achieved for so many women.

I am also now a member of a Refugee Action Group raising funds and awareness of the plight of refugees both here and abroad and one of the issues we see again here is the plight of many women who are now refugees fleeing from oppression, rape and war.

I also note that rape is not a permitted reason for the Northern Irish woman to ask for an abortion and that this has just been ruled as a breach of their Human  Rights.

So I decided to take myself off to a lecture hosted by the British Humanist Society on Feminism and Humanism at UCL. This was the Bentham Lecture for 2015 and was given by Professor Rae Langton of Cambridge.

Some readers may not be aware of what the British Humanist Society stands for let alone who Bentham was as you may only have come across him if you learnt about British social and political history, so I’ll give some brief introductions to them before going on to talk about the lecture as this helps set the scene.

The British Humanist Society is a charity that works on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical lives on the basis of reason and humanity. They promote Humanism, a secular state, and equal treatment of everyone regardless of religion or belief.

Now, despite what they say, you can also be a humanist if you are religious as the key to being a humanist is that you judge for yourself what is right and what is wrong based on reason and respect for others. You use empathy and compassion to try and improve the world for all.

I will come back to this meaning later as it was a core element in Prof Langton’s speech.

Bentham was a very interesting man. He was a philosopher who lived in the late 18th and early 19th century. He was a child prodigy being able to read a history of Britain as a toddler and started learning Latin at 3 years. He went to Oxford at the tender age of 12. He is mainly known for his doctrine which was intended to guide the law, practice and belief – the greatest happiness of the greatest number.

This was very much a utilitarian view of the world and humans – individually we are a means to an end. Also we are motivated by a desire for happiness and to avoid pain. Fundamentally we are only concerned with our own well-being – the community is a fictitious body merely the sum of the interests of the several members who compose it.

He was part of a group of philosophers who agreed that many of the social problems of the time were a result of an antiquated legal system and control of land and capital by inheritance and thus the landed gentry.

Professor Rae Langton has been called the 4th most influential women thinker in the world and was listed in Prospect magazine as the 18th most important thinker –  note the difference in numbers here between women and men… which of course is why the lecture was so important. She is considered such an important academic that she has a Wikipedia page.

Most of her work is concerned with speech and pornography etc and she has studied and written extensively about Kant. So I am going to make a short diversion here to also discuss Kant as without Kant her lecture on feminism and humanism could not be understood.

Immanuel Kant is an important philosopher with regard to Humanism. Kant lived in the mid to late 18th century and it is said that he lived a very boring life! He never left his home town and was extremely regular in his behaviour – such that his neighbours literally could set their clocks by him. From Kant we can draw a statement that Humanism is an end in itself and not a means to an end.

Prof Langton took this and other Kantian writings about how we can choose our behaviour and know its causation to mean that we are born with choices, we always have options. There is a wrongness in treating humans as things with no choice. If humans are things then we can oppress them – we can impose a role upon them externally to themselves. Thus we see the role of women being imposed upon them by men or by people being classified as slaves with no rights to their own-selves – they are objects.

The issue is that at times, as philosophers such as Simone de Beauvoir say, women may willingly conspire with this role as is easy to live with no choice and to have one’s behaviour and even thoughts dictated to one.

In the lecture it was agreed that one is not born a woman but becomes a woman through behaviour and belief. But if a woman is a thing, an object, one cannot have an authentic relationship with her – the ‘other’ remains alone in this relationship. The ‘other’ is the only human that counts in this relationship. Their will predominates.

Martha Nussman, another female philosopher with a Wikipedia page and to be found discussed in Prospect magazine has come out with 7 features which identify objectivism:

  1. instrumentality: the treatment of a person as a tool for the objectifier’s purposes;
  2. denial of autonomy: the treatment of a person as lacking in autonomy and self-determination;
  3. inertness: the treatment of a person as lacking in agency, and perhaps also in activity;
  4. fungibility: the treatment of a person as interchangeable with other objects;
  5. violability: the treatment of a person as lacking in boundary-integrity;
  6. ownership: the treatment of a person as something that is owned by another (can be bought or sold);
  7. denial of subjectivity: the treatment of a person as something whose experiences and feelings (if any) need not be taken into account.

Rae Langton added three more features to Nussbaum’s list:

  1. reduction to body: the treatment of a person as identified with their body, or body parts;
  2. reduction to appearance: the treatment of a person primarily in terms of how they look, or how they appear to the senses;
  3. silencing: the treatment of a person as if they are silent, lacking the capacity to speak.

Do you recognise any of these features in the treatment of women? Do you believe that objectification is always bad? How does it link to Feminism? Or Humanism? Or religion for that matter?

All these and more are questions we women of today should be considering. Just what in our familial socialisation makes us a woman? If we are not born one? Is it right and correct that we should be taught a different set of rules according to our gender? And just how do  we know what that gender is? What about transgender people? How would we know whether they are women or men? And remembering that gender is not so black and white but many shades of grey, are we or they, objects or means to end, or ends in themselves?

So look at the TV programme by Tyger Drew-Honey and think on these concepts of gender and wonder again, just what does being a woman mean?

 

 

 

Play ball with me

Hail Storme

by W.I. Ripley

A NetGalley Review

The characters just rip up a storm in this book – literally and figuratively – all puns intended..

This is the first book in the Storme series and as such introduces you to the characters of Wyatt Storme and here, his mysterious buddy Chick, who claims to be just a skip tracer but turns out to be something more, and really has such useful skills I hope he stays for the rest of the series.

As the first novel in a series it is set not that long after the Vietnam War or Second Indochina War, 1954–1973 (or what did the US call it? They certainly didn’t admit that their soldiers were at war – just supporting or advising?). In any event it left significant numbers of Vets as they began to be called traumatised and with PTSD – often unrecognised – which left them liable to nightmares and flashbacks that hindered their ability to maintain a successful life outside the military after returning home. This fact is still not always admitted.

Over 20 years, more than 58,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam and more than 150,000 were wounded. Yet the US were not the only troops fighting – we hear little about the Australians, the New Zealanders and the South Koreans who also fought.

Public opinion was initially in favour of the intervention and thus the majority of those fighting volunteered rather than were drafted and this included those in minority races as well as white Americans.

Here are some facts – not too many though:

  • 9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty during the official Vietnam era from August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975.
  • 2,709,918 Americans served in uniform in Vietnam.
  • Vietnam Veterans represented 9.7% of their generation.
  • 8,148 soldiers were killed in Vietnam.
    • 75,000 were severely disabled.
    • 23,214 were 100% disabled.
    • 5,283 lost limbs.
    • 1,081 sustained multiple amputations.
    • Of those killed, 61% were younger than 21.
    • 11,465 of those killed were younger than 20 years old.
    • Of those killed, 17,539 were married.
    • Average age of men killed: 23.1 years.
    • Five men killed in Vietnam were only 16 years old.
    • The oldest man killed was 62 years old.
    • As of January 15, 2004, there are 1,875 Americans still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

So Wyatt Storme came back from the war and made a career in American Football which seems to be a very rough sport indeed from the tactics her learnt to subdue opponents. but the violence on the field became too comfortable and led to a lifestyle that is all too common amongst the rich and famous. Eventually however, he realises that his football tactics are emulating his fighting in the Vietnam War tactics far too freely and gives up his career – with the usual footballer injuries of course.

He is still full of testosterone and chivalry it seems and can’t let a wrong go un-righted and so gets involved where others would not in a local dispute that ends up with people dying. “People talk about what they want and who they are: few are concerned with duty and responsibility – the things we must do to be what we are.”

I did enjoy this book and read it very quickly – within 24 hours as the style is easy and uncomplicated and you did want to find out just what was going on and who was involved and who was the goody and who the baddy – and this seemed to change as you read on.

I did bookmark the stuff about male clothes in this book as there seemed to be a fascination with what people wore: oxblood loafers came up several times – which seems to be a shade of red that is popular; not sure why Haggar slacks/pants are mentioned as they are a style of trouser that is very casual and rather baggy but add in the oxford cloth shirt and you have a preppy style that is very popular in the US. Florsheim shoes are also still available and again a very classic look.

London Fog raincoats – or trench coats are not sold in the UK but seem again to be a very traditional style. It is interesting that although this book was first published in 1993, the clothing ranges are still current – in the US, I doubt if they would be in the UK. Now I just was fascinated by Gglen plaidlen Plaid and so found myself a photo of it:

Not forgetting that the Rep or Repp tie is again a preppy essential – the diagonal striped tie.rep tie

 

Denbots rock

A Netgalley Review

Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

By

Becky Chambers

Denbots rock… I bet you never need to go to the dentist – no toothaches, no fillings, no abscesses.. just white shiny teeth – and you wouldn’t have to ‘bribe’ kids to clean their teeth with toothbrushes that flash coloured lights or the little timers I’ve just bought my grand-children.

I found this to be a really imaginative piece of  sci-fi with some great Aliens. Not just their names but also time was spent imaging on what they looked like, what their different characters might be, their attitudes, cultures and food.

I especially liked the not-lizard Sissix  (Aandrisk) with her complicated  sex and family life; Dr Chef (Grum) who combined cooking with medicine using food as medication from sweetness for comfort to herbal concoctions for hang-overs, sadness and general health. The Grum have different sexes at different times of their life too and he was currently male having passed through his female and motherhood period.

Then there was the  AI Lovey – in joke here – named after Ada Lovelace – geeks would be aware of course of her.ada

Ada was a Mathematician, and considered to be the first Computer Programmer living 1815–1852. Yes, a woman wrote the first computer program! She was the daughter of Lord Byron of infamy, and her father was actually married to her mother and so she was legitimate. And very well educated. She was taught the sciences in order, according to her mother, to prevent her becoming like her father… She became a friend of Charles Babbage (Difference Engine as seen in the Science Museum) and her work on the programming of this machine was actually published in 1843 but she ‘cheated’ but only giving her initials and thus the journal was unaware she was female.320px-Babbage_Difference_Engine

 

 

 

 

 

Babbage’s Difference Engine [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Difference_engine#/media/File:Babbage_Difference_Engine.jpg] was a calculator but one that was never ever finished (until built by the Science Museum) because Babbage had thought of a better engine yet – the Analytical Engine, which could be considered a general purpose computer. This Engine was to use punch cards as per the weaving Jacquard loom. And could undertake 3 different types of actions. It was a brilliant concept and the first ‘real’ computers actually used punch cards as I well remember from university days – does this date me? Probably but I was taught programming using these cards and I had a summer job translating accounts onto punch cards too…

Back to the book. The Geeks who were of course the Techies and their craziness is well known to those of us who have worked in computing – geeks tend to be very individualistic and dressed with little regard to fashion, weather or even cleanliness – to see them in a suit is a rare bird indeed.

The Aeluons were lovely too and the idea of not having voice boxes is a natural extension of sign language and skin adaptations and their rainbow colouring was universally acknowledged as being beautiful.

I thought the Gaian cult too was interesting that all the souls were tied to Earth and that they had become survivalists as I am not sure that is what Gaia is really about – Gaia after all is the planet itself and all that it is – a living system which I guess is where the souls being tied comes in, but Gaia is really a self-regulating system – which could include the death of all humans if it means the life of the planet.

I compared this to the enhanced humanity cult where they bred children in gestation chambers based on what they anticipated the adult requirement for them would be in terms of traits ad capabilities. Such a cold idea.. but then we have seen the idea of breeding for genetic traits coming up time and again in our human history and even now, we hear about people using artificial insemination so that they ensure  the right sex of the child.

And the one thing I really want to take away from this book are the Denbots. They rock!

 

5 stars for originality and good style, I wanted to find out how it all ended and just kept on reading…

In Defence of Uncomfortable Subject Matter

 

 in [Genre] Fiction

Is it ever justified to write about uncomfortable matter in fiction? Whether genre or not? –

Tom Hawking wrote a piece on   august 18, 2015 in http://flavorwire.com/ commenting on a New Stateman’s blog by  Liz Lutgendorff, who has read, she claims every book on a tp 100 of sci-fi list and finds them shockingly full of pervasive sexism. She especially considers rape scenes as being a bad example of this sexism. However, she does not consider, it would seem the necessity to write about very uncomfortable matter in order to being to the readers’ notice the very existence of these happenings and their outcomes.

I am not sure that genre fiction is particularly bad at this, and have read the Thomas Covenant novels she cites and enjoyed them. I was especially impressed that it highlighted the issues of leprosy which is far more of a subject matter that we do not like to think about as it makes us very uncomfortable indeed. Are response has generally been to hide sufferers away from our sight.

I think that it is indeed literature’s role to look at these subjects that make us uncomfortable and even to demonstrate what sexism looks like and indeed rape, incest, or mothers suffering from post-partum depression killing babies or thinking about it. I think we do need to look at these very difficult incidents and occurrences from both the sides – we need to try and understand why they happen as well as the outcomes and his will enable to us understand better how to prevent them and how to help any who have been impacted by these events.

I don’t think that just because we feel things like sexism are wrong that we should prevent them being written about and I do personally feel that some feminists go too far with this – art must imitate life and also expand on life and imagine this life under many and different situations. Artists have imaginations for the rest of us and just reading soft or cosy matter that does not stretch the mind – happy books are a drug that it is nice to have at times, but our emotions are far more involved in darker and more desperate stories. The ones that make us cry!

So let’s cheer for those who write about the subjects that we wish weren’t there and read their books and blog about them and share our thoughts with others. We need this writing as much as we need chick literature and happy historical romances!

The Widow’s Son and Thomas Shavner

Interview with author Thomas Shavner

Why I chose this particular topic to write about?BibleCorrected

A few years ago an attorney came into my bookshop to see if I was interested in purchasing a first edition Mormon bible with an inscription dated 1844 (the year of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom) from Sidney Rigdon, an early and controversial elder of the Church.

 It was the Palmyra edition printed by E.B. Grandin “for the author” and therefore extremely rare.  The latter phrase was important in identifying it as a true first, because later editions attributed the author to be Mormon himself, not Joseph Smith, Jr.  According to Smith biographer, Fawn M. Brodie, one of the original founders pledged to revenge the prophet’s death by killing Thomas Ford, the then Governor of Illinois and his descendents “to the fourth generation.” I expanded the curse to include the sixth generation in order to bring it to the present.

Mormonism has enough interesting and quirky tenets to fill a myriad novels beginning with A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle.  I live in Jackson County, Missouri, declared by Mormon founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., to be the original Garden of Eden.   It’s also where he was jailed for his beliefs and forced to flee.  About 70 miles north of Kansas City is a river valley where he claimed Adam and Eve fled after their fall from grace. The place is called Adam-ondi-Ahman and it’s where Smith decreed that the righteous would gather to greet the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  Lots of interesting material and settings.

Modern Mormons tend to shy away from the old unusual prophesies, focusing on core doctrines and what is common between their interpretation of faith and modern Christianity—they think of Zion more metaphorically, as a state of spiritual being.  That’s not to say they discount the old Mormon sites.  Places in western Missouri such as Independence, Far West and Adam-ondi-Ahman carry great significance as reminders of the suffering and fortitude of that first generation of Saints.  Nonetheless, there are still those who follow the old tenets and even some who believe in ‘blood atonement’—where some sins are so heinous that they can only be atoned by having the perpetrator’s blood spilled upon the ground as a sacrifice. 

How long do you think about a topic before writing about it?  Do you have a set of notes where you write down topics before making a decision?

Not long.  For the Michael Bevan series I simply wrote about something I knew a lot about after fifteen years in the used and rare book trade.  I’d just closed the business and had time on my hands.  There was no outline, no real idea of a plot.  I just started writing to entertain and surprise myself.  This is not to say I hadn’t spent years honing my writing skills, going to writers conferences, and submitting old manuscripts to agents.

I generally don’t consciously try to come up with a topic.  When I was recently asked by my editor what I wanted to do next in a series, what I came up with wasn’t very good.  I was straining to please her and not myself.  I decided to let it rest for a while and spent the spring revising an old manuscript in a different genre that I’d worked on years earlier.  Then one day an idea for a new mystery series materialized when I met a police officer in my neighborhood who spoke with a French accent.  He came over from Marseilles to help his brother start a restaurant in a little river town and eventually became a cop. Instead of donuts, he eats croissants.

As for notes, I jot down ideas and catchy overheard phrases in a three-ring binder.  I have a topics folder stuffed with lots of newspaper and magazine articles that strike me as possible leads—if only I could remember where I put it.  

How long does it take to research a topic before your write?  And for this book?

I spend about 25 % of my time on research.  And that’s probably too much. Research, at least for me, is the easiest part (after editing).  I have a tendency when the creative well is dry to start looking up things.  It activates my left brain while putting the right (creative half) to sleep.  I find lots of interesting tidbits, most of which I don’t use, and it takes a day or two to get back to the hard work of telling a story. 

What resources do you use?  In general and for the last book that you wrote?

I consult rare book catalogues and classics on book selling and collectors likeThe Book Hunter by John Hill Burton, The Anatomy of Bibliomania by Holbrook Jackson, Fine Books Magazine and anything by Nicholas Basbanes, but rely mainly on what I’ve learned over the years in my shop and at book fairs around the country and the United Kingdom. 

For The Widow’s Son, I referred to passages from The Book of Mormon, the great biography of Joseph Smith, Jr., titled No Man Knows My Name by Fawn Brodie, One Nation Under Gods by Richard Abanes, Prophet of Death by Pete Earls, Far West Records, and a number of other books on Smith, and old Mormon sites in western Missouri.   And then there’s Google…

How helpful do you find authority figures such as the police when writing about them?  Is there a good way to approach them?

My character, Michael Bevan, knows the law, rare books, and how to handle himself in a fight.  He’s not a policeman and doesn’t try to be.  Josie Majansik was an FBI undercover agent, however.  I know an undercover policeman, as well as a beat cop, and a retired FBI agent.  Two of them I know from playing on the same rugby team. All three were willing to share some insights, but I haven’t taken advantage of the opportunity. I will for the next series that has a cop as protagonist.  Most cities have opportunities for citizens to ride on patrols.

How many times have you been rejected before your first novel was accepted?

Over the years, probably over 500 rejections for five different novel manuscripts; and that includes having had two fine New York agents pushing my work at one time or another.  I’d stopped submitting for a few years until I closed the bookstore and finished the manuscript of The Dirty Book Murder. Then, rather than do the email submission/rejection dance, I attended the annual ThrillerFest Conference in New York and pitched to twenty or more agents in the course of one pressure packed afternoon.  Fourteen asked to see the full manuscript and one ultimately agreed to represent me.  A year later my agent informed me that I had a three-book series deal with Penguin Random House.

Did you need to self-publish on e-books before your first novel was accepted or before this book was accepted?

I had published a short story on Smashwords, but never submitted a novel. After all those rejections, I needed the assurance of professionals that I had something of real value to offer. 

Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher?  If so, what benefits do you see that it might have for an aspiring novelist?

No.  Obviously, there are rare success stories.  However, I think most publishers still look down upon self-publishing efforts.  If you are going to do it, however, you need to approach it in a truly professional manner.  And that means spending money to have your finished manuscript professionally vetted and edited for grammar, style and plot.  That goes for cover art, too. Otherwise, you’re fooling yourself.   

Does writing provide sufficient income to live on?  And how long does it take for this to happen?

The writing trade is like any creative endeavor.  I’m sure there is bell curve out there showing winners and losers and those in the middle surviving on peanut butter. Writers write.  Keep your day job while proudly proclaiming you are an author.  Consider any money gained in the trade to be a bonus, even if it takes forty years. 

What is the funniest thing that happened to you on a book tour?

Due to a brain freeze I couldn’t remember the name of my main antagonist and how the book ended.  But that pales to what happened to an author I know who lectured a crowd for an hour unaware that his fly was open.

 

Mind Matters and Knitting and Hats

Voltaire says:

Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too.

I will respect  that not everybody needs to be perfect. Sometime just knitting is enough.

See Knitting Meditations

_Female_Magician

Also Erma Bombeck says:

I have a hat. It is graceful and feminine and gives me a certain dignity, as if I were attending a funeral or something…

So there are 5 reasons to knit a hat:

  1. They are a small project;
  2. A great deal of body heat is lost through the head;
  3. A great hat makes up for a bad hair day;
  4. They knit up very quickly;
  5. Even timid dressers will wear a hat.

streep.jpg

 

There’s a technicality to designing and wearing hats. A hat is balancing the proportions of your face; it’s like architecture or mathematics.

I have different hats; I’m a mother, I’m a woman, I’m a human being, I’m an artist and hopefully I’m an advocate. All of those plates are things I spin all the time.