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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-02-13 11:06
Tintin's Final Adventure
Tintin and Alph-Art - Hergé

The version of this album that I read was the unauthorised completed version. I do offer my sincere apologies to the Herge estate, but I really could not read the published sketch version simply because it was clearly uncompleted. Herge began writing this in 1980 (his original idea of setting the final comic in an airport departure lounge was thankfully scrapped) but he unfortunately died before he could complete it. From reading what he originally wrote it is clear that there was a substantial amount of work needed to be done, particularly since parts of the completed version required substantial editing (for instance where did Tintin meet the informant?).


It appears that this was intended to be Tintin's final horah, and Herge had moved slightly in a new direction. In a way it is similar to Tintin and the Picaros, where Herge was attempting to wind up some of the unfinished plots, and also having a parade of all the characters (with the exception of Alcazar) through the story. This comic is also set in the world of Modern Art, something that I understand Herge was becoming ever more attracted to later in his life. It may be suggested that he was moving towards a post-modern viewpoint, but it appears that this is something that Herge rejected. While some of his comics are clearly modernist, and absurdist (such as The Castafiore Emerald) he was not a post-modernist author.


I will only deal with the completed parts here rather than look at the sections that other authors have written, particularly since it is glaringly obvious where somebody else has stepped in to complete the story. Herge and his estate made it clear that Tintin was not to continue after Herge's death. This, I believe, is a good thing, particularly since Tintin is Herge's creation, and Herge is really the only person who is able to get into the mind of Tintin and his companions.


Another change here is that Herge introduces a young, single, attractive female into the comic. While female characters have appeared (and Castafiore with regularity) in many cases they are thin on the ground and usually married (though the landlady also make appearances early on in the adventures). However, here we have a potential love interest for Tintin, which once again is moving away from Herge's norm. There is even a hint that both Tintin and the Captain may be attracted to her (as can be seen where the Captain takes her umbrella), however it is unclear where Herge was intending on taking this (and whether he was intending on actually making her a love interest). I did appreciate it that the completed comic did take it in that direction, however this was added after Herge's death.


One final thing that I discovered about unauthorised Tintin comics. There is one floating around (and available) called Tintin in Thailand. I have not read it (and have no intention of doing so) however I understand that this particular comic is actually quite obscene. The story is that this comic was going to be released as a 'recently discovered Herge manuscript' and was to be sold on the black market. However the police mounted a sting operation, arrested around 6 people involved in the production of the comic, and seized about 1000 copies of it. It appears that Herge's insistence that no Tintin be released after his death is taken very seriously in Belgium, particularly since copyright breeches generally do not attract sting operations. However I suspect also that there was more than just copyright issues with regards to this unauthorised comic (though I have since found it on the internet).


It also appears that Tintin fans also take this request very seriously, particularly since the Cult of Tintin aka Tintinologist, refuses to accept any fan based stories on their site, and other than a completed Tintin and Alpha-Art, and a number of speculative covers for other Tintin adventures, there is pretty much no other unauthorised comics available (with the exception of Tintin in Thailand, which, from what I understand, is an absolute travesty).

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/285672480
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review 2016-12-31 07:42
Colonisation from the Colonised
Things Fall Apart (African Writers Series: Expanded Edition with Notes) - Chinua Achebe,Simon Gikandi,Don C. Ohadike

Look, I am going to give this book a good rating, not because I actually enjoyed it or was drawn into it, but more because it gives us an insight into the colonial world from the eyes of the people being colonised. This book is set in Nigeria, and is written by a native Nigerian in English (which by the way is his second tongue, though he is also a professor at Brown University). However, one sort of wonders if this example of post-colonial literature is designed to criticise the colonists or the world that is being colonised.



There is a concept, I believe first coined by Rudyard Kipling, called 'White Man's burden'. This is the idea that the European civilisation has been given the job of taking their civilisation out to the world and raising the non-European races out of barbarity. However, one sort of questions whether this burden, as it is coined, was really the intention of the colonisers, or simply propaganda that was spoken by the imperial overlords. I am inclined to lean towards the second interpretation.



The reason that I say this is because if we take one case study, that of the Australian aboriginals, we see that white man's burden never actually lifted them out of poverty, and it was not for lack of trying. In fact, the attempts to civilise the aboriginals had almost the opposite effect than was intended. Granted, there is a very small group of aboriginals in our society that have successfully integrated into our culture, but there are still many that haven't. While it is possible to wonder around an Australian city and not actually see aboriginal tribes camping in the city parks, I assure that they are there (and I caution anybody against approaching them 'just to have a look').



What we see in this book though is a view from inside the culture that is being colonised, and like the aboriginals, it does not work. However, the book is divided into two parts, the first part involves the social collapse of the indigenous culture from within due to its own contradictions, and the second part involves the destruction of the lifestyle and the culture as the imperialists (in the form of missionaries) force their gospel of European Economic prosperity upon them.



In many ways we like to criticise the imperialists for destroying the natural cultures of the indigenous people, however sometimes it is necessary. There are many aspects of our culture that we take fore-granted, and there are many aspects which are truly barbaric that we simply want to step back and say, 'but that is their culture'. Take the aboriginal act of spearing somebody through the leg for punishment. What is it supposed to do other than cripple the person. Is it supposed to be a deterrent? Well, like most deterrents, it does not work. The death penalty is a deterrent against drug smuggling in Singapore and Bali, but it does not seem to stop people smuggling drugs, or killing people in the United States. What about cutting off the right hand of a thief in some cultures (the right hand being the hand you eat with and the left hand being the hand you wipe your butt with), is that a deterrent, or simply a punishment that literally prevents the person from ever being able to integrate back into society again. We all make mistakes, and one of the good things about our society is that punishment does actually allow people to return and become productive members of society (as has happened with myself).



Then there are the missionaries, not that I actually have anything against missionaries. Many have suggested though that missionaries are the first wave of colonisation. This means that when the missionaries arrive you can be sure that the merchants, then the army, and finally the colonisers, are close behind. However, I am doubtful that many missionaries, both then and now, ever considered themselves to be the first of a wave of colonists. There are many historical missionaries that actually went out to do what they believe (and I believe) is a good thing. I do not believe it is wrong to offer somebody an alternative to their religion, especially if their religion keeps them living in fear and oppression. However, it is clear, historically, that more scrupulous people have used missionaries as the vanguard for colonial efforts, and when the missionaries were expelled from China, I guess that was one of the reasons for doing so.


The title of the novel is about the destruction of the traditional life of the village. To us it is about change, where as to them it is their world that they have lived in for thousands of years being destroyed. Colonialism was always going to happen, and I do not believe that we should not give tribal people the opportunity to experience a new way of life, however I do not believe that we have the right to roll out a monoculture across the world. One thing us Europeans, especially us Christian Europeans, forget is that Christianity was never meant to create a monoculture, but rather it is our stubbornness, and refusal to look outside the narrow box that we surround our lives with our own misguided sense of what is right and what is wrong.


Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/318431016
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review 2016-11-16 04:47
Sorry for the Inconvenience
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish - Douglas Adams

When I first read this book I loved it namely because I happened to be a hopeless romantic and our protagonist, Arthur Dent, finally gets a girlfriend. Well, finally is probably not the best way to describe it because Adams does raise the possibility that Arthur may have had a relationship with Trillian (and when the question is metaphorically asked the reply is basically 'none of your business'), and also suggests that there is a rather long gap between books two and three where we end with Arthur together with a Gulgafringan and then beginning again years later with Arthur by himself in a cave (having discovered that all the Gulgafringans has died off, just because).



Anyway, more time has passed since the end of book three and the beginning of book four and we once again meet up with Arthur, who happens to be standing in the rain at the side of the road on a planet that looks remarkably like Earth, and in fact happens to be Earth. Okay, there are a couple of minor differences, though I would hardly call not having been blown up by the Vogon Constructor Fleet as being a minor difference (though Arthur's house still standing, in the grand scheme of things, is). However there is also the fact that the dolphins have still vanished, and everybody happens to have a fish bowl with the inscription 'so long and thanks for all the fish' upon it.



The thing about this particular book is that it is more of a romance than the other books in the series, which sort of gives it a different feel. The other thing is that for a bulk of the book the story is set not only on Earth, but both Arthur and Ford are going their separate ways – it isn't until we get close to the end that the two once again come together, but it is only for a short while as Arthur and his girlfriend (Fenchurch, so called because she was conceived in the ticket line at Fenchurch Street station, though my only experience of Fenchurch Street station is having a meal at a pub underneath it) head off to try and find God's final message to humanity (or the Universe to be precise).



It also goes back into the old style where there is little to no plot and the main characters just seem to stumble around trying to work out what is going on, only to discover that the answer that they were looking for, in this case God's final message, is a piece of absurdity. Actually, there is sort of a plot, but not in the same sense that Life, The Universe, and Everything had a plot. Rather it involves the main characters continuing their search for meaning, and when they finally discover this meaning, as I mentioned, and as is the case in the other books, the answer that they were looking for turns out to be absurd. In a way it even seems as if God's message to the world is not so much an answer to the reason why we are here, namely because there doesn't seem to be any real reason at all, at least in Adam's mind.



In a way I guess this is where our secular society is heading, even though many people in the Western realms still seem to consider themselves connected to some form of religion. Mind you, when you head out of the cities you do tend to discover a much more religious, and conservative, culture, but that has a lot to do with the country being very conservative, and new ideas filter in much more slowly (if ever). In a way, with their religious outlook, people in the country still seem to have a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging, and a sense of identity. However, once you head into the cities, and into the realms of the intellectuals, this traditional purpose and reasoning suddenly seems to get thrown out the door. In a way it is this rejection of religion that leads to these rather absurd views of the universe, and meaningless understanding of life.



However, we aren't necessarily the first, or only, people in the history of the world because many other civilisations, particularly those who eventually freed themselves of the tyranny of a king, because in a such a system the purpose and meaning of life is to serve the king, but then one wonders whether the king, who seems to exist in this world to be served, would eventually suffer an existentialist crisis. I'm not sure, particularly is the king never really gave it that much thought – it is only the intellectuals that would start thinking along those lines since most of the kings would probably just be incredibly self-absorbed.


As for this book, well it is much shorter, and a lot different, than the other entries in this series, and while I may have gushed over Arthur's romance when I was younger, these days it is a lot different as I am somewhat (or a lot) over that hopeless romantic streak that I used to have. As for the story, it is okay, and the message is interesting, but in the end the first two were much, much better (and this one was quite a lot less funnier as well). Oh, and the fact that Arthur, and to an extent Fenchurch, can fly really doesn't appeal to me all that much.


Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1809590267
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review 2016-10-25 12:27
It's all just a game of cricket
Life, the Universe and Everything - Douglas Adams

I'm going to have to be honest here and admit that I really wasn't all that impressed with this book. In fact the story was originally meant to be a six part Doctor Who series which was rejected by the producers, and I can see why – it just really didn't seem to be what I would expect from Doctor Who. Okay, the Doctor can be pretty tongue in cheek at times, and while there are suggestions that some Earth practices have extra-terrestrial origins, the who idea of cricket being a reflection of a huge intergalatic war really doesn't seem to fit well with the genre. I guess that having been rejected as a Doctor Who serial, being redrafted and made the third part of the Hitchhiker's Guide series sort of makes the story feel a little forced. Moreso it has a plot, and the one thing about absurdist literature is that it isn't really supposed to have a plot. Sure, the first book dealt with the search for the answer to the ultimate question, and the second dealt with the search for the true ruler of the galaxy, however they sort of sat in the background, and even then there was no real conclusion in the same way that Waiting for Godot really didn't have a conclusion.


The difference with this book is that the plot is front and centre. Arthur and Ford are trapped in prehistoric Earth however after parting ways for four years (and having some random person appear and insult him), they meet up again and discover a temporal anomaly in the form of a couch. So, what does one do when they see a couch in a place where it really shouldn't belong – well they sit on it. Anyway, the couch then proceeds to take them to Lord's at a time when the Australian Cricket Team simply cannot beat the English (and once again lose). All of the sudden these robots appear, hit bombs (that look like cricket balls) all over the place with bats that look like cricket bats, steal the ashes, and disappear. As it turns out the ashes aren't supposed to represent the 'death of English cricket' (well, they do, but that was only a representation) but rather are a piece of a key that is supposed to open the 'Wikit Gate' beyond which is imprisoned the world of 'Krikit'.


What is then revealed is that eons ago the world of Krikit was isolated due to a dust cloud, however one day a spaceship crashed, and after examining the spaceship, and realising that things existed beyond the sky, the inhabitants of Krikit decided to go and have a look, and it turned out that they didn't really like what they saw there. So, they proceeded to declare war on the entire universe. After a long and protracted period of hostilities the people of Krikit eventually lost (should I call them Krikitters? I'm not really sure) and they, and their world, were imprisoned in a field of slow time. However, a single spaceship full of robots managed to escape and proceeded to travel the galaxy and reassembling the key that would open the Wikit Gate. Ironically, parts of the key also included Marven's leg, a part of the infinite improbability drive, and the part of a trophy which represented the most gratuitous use of the world 'fuck' in a serious drama (though apparently when the book was released, this section of censored, so the world Belgium was used instead, which I have to admit is probably somewhat more clever that the other word that is used).


Look, as I have already mentioned, I wasn't particularly enamoured with this story, and I still have two more to go. I do remember liking the next one, but until I have read it I won't say anymore (though most people sort of write that one off as a load of rubbish). As for this book I don't want to write it completely off because there are some really good scenes, and jokes, in it, but it doesn't really have the panache that the previous books had. For instance, the whole discussion of flying being throwing yourself at the ground, and missing, was actually quite stupid. Okay, it did have a purpose in the book, but the Hitchhiker's Guide entry just simply didn't seem to be as clever as the entries in the first (and second) book. I guess that is the problem with a lot of books where they start off as a single book and quickly morph into a never-ending series (though Terry Pratchett seemed to have been able to solve that problem with his Discworld series).


Anyway, let us consider the title of the book, which is relates back to the original concept of the series, and in a way comes around to the question at the end of this book – what is life all about. The thing is that the answer to this question seems to be forever out of reach, or simply unobtainable through normal means (such as asking a computer, but then again how is a computer going to be able to answer such a question, particularly when the computer is limited by its creator). Okay, some people believe that they have the answer, which is what religion is all about. Actually, that is the prime definition of a religion, namely that it provides the answer to the questions of 'where did we come from, what are we doing here, and where are we going?'. Sure, most religions boil down to God, God, and God, but not all of them. Dare I say that scientific materialism answers those three questions: dust, whatever we want it to be, and dust. However I suspect that this whole scientific materialistic view of the universe is what created absurdism in the first place because despite providing the answers to these questions the answers weren't satisfactory.


Sure, the answers that end with God can be considered satisfactory answers, yet for some reason we insist on killing each other over the exact interpretation of what 'God' actually means. Okay, it technically means, as Bill and Ted put so well, 'be excellent to each other and party on dudes' yet this simple thing seems to be beyond us. Sure, there are some (such as myself) that imply that being excellent to each other also involves being excellent to God, but that sort of comes hand in hand. The baffling thing is that despite the fact that we agree that being excellent to each other is a really good idea we seem to not actually want to do it where we are concerned. In fact Adams even touches on that point namely because anybody who comes along and suggests that being excellent to each other would probably solve all of our problems ends up getting killed.


The problem is that our interpretation of being excellent to each other pretty much involves letting me do what I want to do and anybody who stops me from doing what I want to do is not being excellent to me. So, when we do things that are technically not being excellent to each other (such as polluting the world because, well, we want to live our hyperdisposable lifestyle) and people pull us up on it then we get upset and claim that being excellent to each other is not actually as great as it is cracked up to be and we might as well look for another solution to the ultimate question that doesn't involve me giving up all the really cool things that I have. Okay, I'm sure I could participate in this challenge that one of the social justice organisations is suggesting– namely living on one power socket, but I would cheat by having lots of powerboards and lots of extension cords so that my life isn't actually impacted all that much (or I could just live off my laptop as opposed to desktop and computer in the lounge room, but that is beside the point). Actually, come to think of it, there is a computer in the lounge room that I don't use – I think I should format the hardrive and turn that into my video machine as opposed to using my laptop, but I think I have drifted so far off topic that I might bring my story to an end now.


Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1788452022
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review 2016-07-20 11:46
It's All About Money
The Year of Dreaming Dangerously - Slavoj Žižek

Well, here we have another Zizek book that has so much packed into the 135 pages that it is almost impossible to be able to talk about everything that he says. He seems to have this ability to use English so well that he is able to touch on a huge number of subjects in a really short space – he certainly doesn't waffle, and he uses words really sparingly. The other thing that I love about his books is how he pulls philosophical meaning out of pop-culture, his take of Kung Fu Panda (which I gather is one of his favourite movies – I can just picture him rolling around in laughter while watching the film – I've only seen it once) being his most well known. In this book he spends a lot of time looking at the television series The Wired (which I haven't heard of) and he also talks about 300 and Ralph Finnies Coriolanus.


Anyway, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously can be boiled down to an exposition of the protests in Tahir Square in Egypt, which is more commonly known as <i>The Arab Spring</i> and the Occupy Wall Street movement, both of which appears to have fizzled – with the Arab Spring turning into what appears to be a never-ending civil war in Syria, an Islamist government in Egypt (which has since been overthrown to be replaced with a military dictatorship), and the Occupy Wall Street movement simply morphing into 'business as usual' in the advanced democracies (with the exception of a few Facebook pages and websites).


Mind you, he does point out a few interesting things, particularly the nature of modern democracy. In reality democracy is simply us going to the polling station every few years to vote for either the centre-left party or the centre-right party. Actually, that isn't even the case anymore because it seems to be the centre-right party and the extreme fundamentalist Christian and economic party. Somebody even suggested on my Facebook feed today that the Democrats are now the GOP while the Republicans are basically little more than WTF (though since he is a Christian minister he didn't phrase it in the way that I have).


But it is interesting watching how democracy works, especially these days. For instance Bernie Saunders went from nothing to a nationwide sensation before he lost to Hillary Clinton. However, before he conceded to Hillary he told his supporters that the fight wasn't over and that it was time for them to take action by not only joining the Democrats, but also running for seats in the local, state, and federal congresses, as well as for other electable positions. In fact the left-wing media has indicated that this is what needs to be done – if Saunders had won the nomination, and then the election, then he would have basically come out as, well, Obama. However, I then noticed that now that Saunders is out of the race the support has suddenly flooded over the Jill Stein of the Greens.


That actually tells me a lot about many of his supporters – they don't want change, they want a saviour, however Saunders isn't that saviour. The truth is that change won't come about from the top – it never does – Obama demonstrated that. Not only does he have to deal with Congress, as soon as one steps into the Oval Office there are a lot of pressures coming from a lot of quarters. Don't get me wrong, I think Obama has done a lot, and has made calls, such as normalising relationships with Cuba and Iran, that needed to be done. Sure, many people claim that he is as much of a warmonger as Bush was, and point to his drone campaign as an example (and the fact that he didn't close Guantamo down, as he had promised), however the fact that he made moves to normalise relations with Iran goes to show that he is actually more than just another president, but one who is actively seeking to extend the olive branch where it is possible to do so.


But Saunders is right – real change doesn't come after somebody becomes president, it comes when the president has support in Congress. Notice how the Democrats didn't come out to vote in the mid-terms, which resulted in the Republicans gaining control of both houses of congress. Real change doesn't come about by standing in a park in Wall Street chanting slogans – Egypt proved that: as soon as Mubarak was removed from power the Muslim Brotherhood was elected, and the president started running around claiming that he was Pharaoh. Change doesn't come from the top, but comes from those who are willing to put in the hard work to make that change a reality.


However there is another interesting thing about democracy – it only works when the right result comes from an election. When the European Constitution was voted down, they just went to another vote – okay, they don't like it, so let's do it again. We are seeing the same with Brexit – they weren't supposed to leave, but when they voted to do just that, all of the sudden the referendum was flawed, and they had to go and do it again (though a second Brexit vote is looking incredibly unlikely – and for those who are interested I have written a blog post on it). I remember a similar thing happening in Palestine. After Arafat's death the Palestinians went to an election and voted for Hamas – democracy had failed, the media screamed, because Hamas wasn't supposed to have been elected. But isn't that what democracy is actually all about, or does it only work when the powers that be get the results that they want (we are seeing the same coming from Labor supporters in Australia simply because Labor didn't win the election).


Sure, an extremist group is unlikely to elected, at least at this stage, in our advanced democracies, but that is because things are really not all that bad. Okay, the recent Australian election brought about a bunch of minor parties, but with the exception of Pauline Hanson (which is actually an Australian celebrity because of her extreme anti-immigrant views), all of the minor parties that were elected were basically moderates. However, when things get bad then the extremists suddenly start to gain in popularity. We saw that in Greece when the left wing Syriza party was elected in a landslide - notice how quickly they moved to the centre when they rejected the EU bailout and the country was on the verge of economic collapse – they pretty quickly learned how to play ball, and the people of Greece agreed to follow along behind them.


So, the question boils down to the idea of money – which is what I titled this post as. Sure, you might have issues of culture drifting around the fringes, such as gay marriage, however politics all comes down to one thing – how do we spend the money. A government isn't actually about governing the country – a liberal democracy is, in theory, a country where people are free to do and believe what they like, within reason of course. In the end it comes down to how money is spent, and how it is collected, and the sad thing is that this is all it is, whether you are communist or capitalist. The problem I see is that you need money to have access to the basic essentials of life (and that doesn't mean a two-story house, caviar every night, and three BMWs in the driveway), and if something doesn't generate money then it isn't seen as having any value. In fact everything that we do and produce needs to have some value, either in the short term, or the long term. In fact, the way we are living now the long term is just too far away, and we want everything yesterday. It doesn't matter whether we part with 10 cents, or ten thousand dollars, we all want to be treated the same – we paid you money therefore treat us with respect. For me, I wish we could do away with money and just focus on the arts and culture – our society is becoming ever more empty and meaningless as time moves on that I think it is time that brighten things up without having to resort to watching Kim Kardashian's life.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1699858194
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