Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Tallinn Manual 2.0


Tallinn Manual 2.0 –
On The International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations
By the NATO Cooperative Cyber Centre of Excellence
Cambridge University Press – £49.99

Given the high-octane shenanigans currently taking place amid the Washington corridors of prime narcissistic persuasion – at the vanguard of which stands the vile, most bigoted and unpleasant leader the supposed Free World has ever known – surely it can only be considered a good thing that we have an open book such as this.

A publication which delves into the cyber operati of disingenuous fakedom.

Vladimir Putin’s laire if you will; aided and wholeheartedly abetted by such unsavoury characters as Donald of the Trump, Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller, Jeff Sessions and dare one come totally clean, the UK’s very own elderly Hitler Youth in disguise, Nigel Farage and Michael Gove.

That’s right folks, the cryptic consortium of Lies Are Us.

Not there so much for the choosing, but rather, the total perversion of (their own miscalculated) justice. All the more reason that Tallinn Manual 2.0 – On The International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations needs to be roundly and justifiably applauded. As not only does it expand upon the highly influential first edition by extending its coverage of the international law governing cyber warfare to peacetime legal regimes, it is also the product of a four-year follow-on project by a new group of 19 renowned international law experts.

In addressing such topics as sovereignty, State responsibility, human rights, and the law of air, space, and the sea. Tallinn Manual 2.0 identifies 154 ‘black letter’ rules governing cyber operations and provides extensive commentary on each rule. In so doing, it further represent the views of experts in their personal capacity by way of benefiting from the unofficial input of many States and over 50 peer reviewers.

Part I, ‘General International law and cyberspace,’ Part II, ‘Specialised regimes of international law and cyberspace,’ Part III, ‘International peace and security and cyber activities’ and Part IV, ‘The law of cyber armed conflict,’ these 562 pages (excluding International Group of Experts and Participants, a Foreword by the President of the Republic of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, a further Foreword by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, Bert Koenders, Short Form Citations, Table of Concordance and a Glossary) are, if nothing else, an eye opener of epic, cyber-global proportion(s).

A mere tip of the iceberg of which is conveyed by Professor Michael N. Schmitt in the Introduction: ”The Tallinn Manual’s focus was on cyber operations involving the use of force and those that occur in the context of armed conflict. Although such cyber operations will typically be more worrisome from a national security perspective than those that occur in peacetime, States have to deal with cyber issues that lie below the use of force threshold on a daily basis. There,in 2013, the NATO CCD COE launched a follow-on initiative t expand the Manual’s scope to include the public international law governing cyber operations during peacetime. To do so, it convened a new International Group of Experts consisting of scholars and practitioners with expertise in the legal regimes implicated by peace-time cyber activities.”

From such chapters as ‘Sovereignty,’ ‘Due diligence,”Jurisdiction,’ ‘Obligations of States for internationally wrongful acts,’ ‘Diplomatic and consular law,’ ‘International telecommunications law,’ ‘The law of armed conflict generally,’ ‘Conduct of hostilities,’ ‘Perfidy and improper use,’ ‘Certain persons, objects, and activities,’ ‘Occupation’ and ‘Neutrality,’ these nineteen chapters diligently deliver on some sort of unspoken promise: ”The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs generously convened States in the Hague Process and has agreed to further support dissemination of the Tallinn Manual 2.0 following its publication. This contribution by the Dutch government helped ensure the Manual is grounded in State understandings of the law and that it addresses the practical challenges States face on a daily basis.”

Undeniably grotesque as the sad thing is, especially in this day and age of the Trump, scholarly thought and consideration by experts would appear to account for nada. That’s not to say this book is without value or without merit (nothing could be further from the truth), but it’s most certainly something worth bearing in mind as we witness humanity slowly self-implode.

David Marx

Jack London On Adventure


Jack London On Adventure –
Words Of Wisdom From An Expert Adventurer
Skyhorse Publishing – $12.99

The thought of work was repulsive. I didn’t care if I never settled down. Learning a trade could go hang. It was a whole let better to royster and frolic over the world in the way I had previously done. So I headed out on the adventure path again.

                                                                        ‘The Artist As Adventurer’

Obviously written during an era when adventure was a complete and all circumnavigating way of life, one which was undeniably, deeply instilled within the fibre of ones’ being – rather than subscribed to by those who merely dabble in misadventure over the weekend – the writer Jack London certainly lived the life.

A life of his own design that is; which, regardless of how you care to look at it, was in and of itself, commendable.

Indeed, throughout his unfortunately brief life, he remained a free spirit of which Jack London On Adventure – Words Of Wisdom From An Expert Adventurer is something of a literary window, as the above opening segment wonderfully illustrates.

As opposed to being a mere linear overview of London’s entire works, this handsome little book is devised in such a way that it more dabbles and regales upon certain eras of London’s literary prowess: ”This gave them the seeming of ghostly masques, undertakers in a spectral world at the funeral of some ghost. But under it all they were men, penetrating the land of desolation and mockery and silence, puny adventurers bent on colossal adventure, pitting themselves against the might of a world as remote and alien and pulseless as the abysses of space.”

I have recently been asked to write the Foreword for a terrific new book on London entitled The Iron-Heeled Century: Rereading Jack London by the author, Anthony James; and amid my investigation(s), this is a fine and altogether brazen read – rather like the subject himself.

One which sheds oodles of light on an oft misunderstood, underrated writer (of whom George Orwell, among others, was a renowned fan).

David Marx

Democracy’s Infrastructure


Democracy’s Infrastructure –
Techno-Politics & Protest after Apartheid
By Anita Von Schnitzler
Princeton University Press – £22.95

By the standards of students of the liberal principles, the southern African plural urban society is in need of a great deal of reform before it could be expected to function well.

                                                                                       J.A. Lombard 1978

Surely this is a most profound understatement of the most profound order?

In 1978, Nelson Mandela was still incarcerated on Robben Island. It was also his sixtieth birthday, which the then British Prime Minister, James Callaghan, acknowledged, by sending him formal greetings from the House of Commons. I should imagine Mandela was beside himself with joy; especially as South African society was, if nothing else, still fundamentally out of control and seemingly beyond repair.

Fast forward to today, and we find ourselves amid a society, still teetering on the brink of breakdown, although said breakdown is supposedly reflective of South African society itself.

As much is coherently brought to bear throughout Democracy’s Infrastructure – Techno-Politics & Protest after Apartheid, by the anthropologist, Anita von Schnitzler. A savvy account of an overtly troubled nation, written from the premise of dare I actually write: that of a semi-apolitical perspective; namely that of the country’s water rights and the introduction of the all governing (it would seem) water meter.

A technological product or policing breakthrough or however you’d like to describe it, which, as von Schnitzler explains, is more clinically Orwellian, than many might initially imagine: ”A prepaid meter is a device, which, apart from measuring networked services such as electricity, gas, or water, automatically disconnects users in cases of nonpayment. In order to access services, users have to purchase and load up credit tokens in advance, either by entering a numerical code or by using a magnetic key or card. Failure to do so results in immediate ”self-disconnection.” While the meter is one of many increasingly sophisticated infrastructure technologies that mediate access to flows of goods, information, and money in many places of the world today, it is also a distinctly South African thing […]. Living prepaid mirrors life in a moment in which income has become precarious, where reliance on a regular monthly wage is the exception rather than the norm. Here, payment for basic services is no longer shaped by the cyclical temporality of regularly recurring monthly salaries and bills; instead, income as well as payment is often incremental and ad hoc.”

By it’s very nature then, living ‘prepaid’ has essentially been introduced and designated to ultimately fail.

And to fail in such a way as to both condone and promote an everyday existence which is undeniably stressful – to say the least.
Or is it?: ”While the threat of cutoff is what makes many residents object to prepaid meters, it is paradoxically also this ability to prevent debts from accumulating that often makes them attractive. Prepaid meters, in this sense, are technologies of precarity that reflect the multiple dilemmas and vicissitudes of life after the ”end of the salary” (Mbembe and Roitman 1996). Thus, they provide a window onto larger shifts in experiences of time, consumption, and life after formal employment.”

As the second part of the book’s title suggests (Techno-Politics & Protest after Apartheid), these six chapters traverse much of what is enabling South Africa to move forward, whilst simultaneously dissecting that which is quintessentially holding it back.

David Marx

The Treasures of William Shakespeare


The Treasures of William Shakespeare –
The Life, The Works, The Performances
By Catherine M S Alexander
Andre Deutsch – £24.00

That William Shakespeare was English, is becoming increasingly hard to believe and come to terms with, especially now that Britain has evolved unto a place of nothing other than opium induced, moronic stupidity and shame. The likes of which will be nigh impossible to ever absolve.

But hey, Shakespeare was English, and other than attending a multitude of his plays at the RSC in Stratford or The Globe in London, how better to partake in and celebrate his four-hundred-year legacy, than with a brief overview of his vast, and I do mean vast, body work.

The reason I use the words ‘brief overview,’ is for the very reason that his work(s) are colossal and influential and potentially life-changing in almost every fathomable way imaginable – so far as drama, theatre, and the entire English language is concerned. Hence, The Treasures of William Shakespeare accounting for something of a superlative, yet sneak preview of said drama, theatre and the English language.

For how could it possibly be anything other?

As Catherine M. S. Alexander writes in this book’s Introduction: ”Shakespeare has inspired artists as diverse as William Blake and Pablo Picasso and influenced the fiction of Jane Austen, Anton Chekhov, Charles Dickens, Henrik Ibsen, Wole Soyinke and Oscar Wilde among many other great figures. Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx wrote about Shakespeare and Winston Churchill quoted him.”

In itself, such wide-ranging influence is almost hard to comprehend, but it ought nevertheless, navigate the reader of these sixty-one, high-quality/glossy pages (excluding Further Reading and Index) unto a tiny chasm of understanding and appreciation of the Bard’s colossus. For as Alexander continues: ”[…] for most people with an interest in Shakespeare, ”the play’s the thing […] and much of this book is concerned with performance. It draws extensively on the work of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the unique group of actors, directors and practitioners, whose high-quality productions, education and outreach activity aim to ”keep modern audiences in touch with Shakespeare as our contemporary.””

So along with a 53-minute CD of classic excerpts taken from The Complete Arkangel Shakespeare, also included herein are twenty removable facsimile documents which include: King James I’s patent giving Shakespeare and his fellow actors the right to perform plays throughout the country, his Will, an extract from the First Folio of 1623 and finally, an extract from the prompt book for a production of Twelfth Night in 1965, directed by Sir John Gielgud.

Suffice to say, this collection isn’t an in-depth analyses of The Bard’s work, as again, the authoress makes clear: ”Academics have subjected the works to a remarkable variety of theoretical readings: new and old historicism, feminism, Marxism, formalism, structuralism, psychoanalysis, cultural materialism and so on. The Treasures of William Shakespeare: The Life, The Works, The Performances is less concerned with the ”why” of the Shakespeare phenomenon or an analysis of its causes and effects than with providing an illustrated and documented chronological record of his life and work […].”

From ‘The Elizabethan Age’ to ‘Elizabethan Stratford,’ from Shakespeare in Stratford’ to ‘Shakespeare’s London,’ from the aforementioned ”The Play’s the Thing” to ‘The Comedies,’ The History Plays,’ and the ‘Tragedies – Ill-Fated Heroes,’ this lavishly presented book is the perfect introduction of William Shakespeare to that of a younger and (perhaps unbeknown) audience.

David Marx

Annie Sloan Paints Everything


Annie Sloan Paints Everything
By Annie Sloan
Cico Books – £14.99

[…] I didn’t want it to be about all the weird and wonderful things people paint – skateboards, tubas, and even caravans! – nor just about all the multitude of surfaces that can be painted, such as fabrics, concrete, plastics, melamine, marble, and metal, as well as all the usual surfaces like wood. This is an important point, of course, and one that I certainly took into account […].

From Warehouse Rustic to Shibori Lampshades, from a Painted Chandelier to Printed Table Runners, Annie Sloan Paints Everything might well traverse everything (and a whole lot more besides) that we have come to expect from one of the world’s most respected experts in the field of decorative painting.

It’s the sort of book that is bound to inspire any free-thinking home-owner with a quantum leap of varying ideas and dare I say it, opportunistic mayhem. Each of it’s three chapters (‘Furniture and Lighting,’ ‘Fabric and Other Surfaces’ and Walls and Floors’) cover an exceedingly wide terrain of the home – as mentioned at the outset – all of which are augmented with a spectacular array of photographs.

In fact the photographs alone, will have you running for the brush in next to no time!

As Annie Sloan writes in the Introduction: ”In this book, I wanted to excite you and encourage you to paint everything. I wanted to show how my own range of paint, Chalk Paint, which I developed in 1990, has retained its classic identity and continued to evolve and develop with new techniques and treatments.”

Having already written rather extensively on the subject of paint, texture and design (her previous books include Quick and Easy Paint Transformations, Colour Recipes for Painted Furniture, Annie Sloan’s Room Recipes for Style and Colour and Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint Workbook among others), the authoress most certainly knows how to convey a grand idea, but more importantly, put it across.

For instance, on page 34, there is a wonderful colour photograph of a completed Waxed Bureau, on the opposite page of which she writes: ” Oak is a very distinctive wood that is characterized by a deep grain. It also has interesting irregular markings, depending on how it is cut. I particularly love oak when it’s very old, unvarnished, and natural because it is a lovely, soft, light gray in colour […]. This particular bureau is from the 1940s or so, and had been lightly varnished with a dark colour. The grain was still textural, but the wood was darker than I would have liked. I could have removed the varnish – a rather long and tedious job – but this would have made the whole piece lighter. So, instead, I opted for the easier method of applying white wax to lighten the varnish and bring out the grain of the wood. If I had taken the varnish off, the finished effect would have been a lot lighter and the grain probably more pronounced.

The trick is to allow the wax to harden for long enough that it hardens a little in the grain, but not for so long that the wax does not come off where you want it to.”

That every section comes replete with a drop box called ”You Will Need” (in the above instance: White wax, Small wax brush, Clean, dry, lint-free cloths, Clear wax, Annie Sloan Valeska stencil and a project pot of Graphite paint, to decorate the edge of the bureau’s desk – optional), reiterates the practicality of both Sloan’s work and approach.

So why not start the New Year with some terrific new ideas for the home; of which this most fabulous book is literally uber-jam-packed with.

David Marx

The Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy


The Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy
Edited by Johanna Sinisalo
Dedalus – £9.99

To generalise slightly, one could say that Finish literature is dominated by the tradition of realism. In Finland realism is widely seen as the correct way to write, whilst other genres are deviations from this norm – some would claim that these deviations do not represent ‘respectable’ literature. All too often one hears the Finnish reader shun works including elements of fantasy on the basis that such things are ‘not true.’ The overwhelming strength of the realist canon has made some readers forget the fact that even realistic literature is made up; that it is every bit as fictitious as the most unbridled fantasy literature.

Absolutely, one need only read a menagerie of British tabloid newspapers to surmise realism is indeed dominated by a veritable tsunami of fantasy induced reportage; the sort(s) of which is just as equally depressing as it is mightily dangerous.

Not to mention sanctimonious to the degree that fantasy has, throughout 2016, become the accepted norm.

So when Johanna Sinisalo writes: ”The overwhelming strength of the realist canon has made some readers forget the fact that even realistic literature is made up; that it is every bit as fictitious as the most unbridled fantasy literature,” she is most certainly – albeit unknowingly – pin-pointing a most acute, yet wretched state of current affairs amid world politics.

After all , where does fantasy end and realism truly begin?

That social media (fundamentally responsible for so much current, fantastical, social ire), is risible in the promotion of fraught fantasy and nigh hallucinatory hatred, should come as absolutely no surprise. Likewise, the degree to which The Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy will undoubtedly trigger thoughts and feelings that are diverse, challenging, reflective and on occasion, partially sinister.

Feelings, that at this particular time of year, we could perhaps well do with.

Where else for instance, would one stumble upon Juhani Peltonen’s gritty, Daliesque writing in such a story as ‘The Slave Breeder,’ during which he recounts: ”As time went by the cage filled with slaves, none of whom remotely resembled ordinary humans. ‘No matter,’ thought Werner. ‘A slave’s a slave’s a slave.’ As he whipped them he would comment wittily to himself on their appearance. Some of them were even missing essential body parts; their sensory organs had arbitrarily swapped places with each other; they all expressed themselves in terms of grim individual ailments (one warbled like a broken unmelodious flute another hissed like a stove); and one of them (whose most striking feature was a set of dead, sunken eyes) had a hand on the end of its leg; another had a pencil-thin tail metres long. Any attempt to classify their gender was pure guesswork. Werner split them at random into two groups and lashed them together, so that the number of slaves would not drop.”

Suffice to say, much of the writing amid these 337 pages enables the reader to travel unto another place. A place perhaps, not too dissimilar to that which our own psychological parameters will just about permit.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

As Matt Warman in The Daily Telegraph writes: ”Johanna Sinisalo defines her anthology’s terms broadly, and the result is intriguing and eye-opening. It’s a passage from the first Finnish novel, Seven Brothers by Aleksis Kivi, that sets the tone. Rooted in the myths and legends found in the Nordic sagas, it’s very alive to the modern world, too” (my italics).

Indeed, almost each of these terrific, twenty stories, resonate in such a way as to defy the ever-thinning line between much of today’s fact and fiction. For realist clarification, one need look no further than ones’ ever-widening TV screens.

David Marx

Introducing Buddha


Introducing Buddha – A Graphic Guide
By Jane Hope & Borin Van Loon
Icon Books – £4.99

To study the way of Buddha is to study oneself.
To study oneself is to forget oneself.
To forget oneself is to be enlightened by everything in the world.
To be enlightened by everything is to surrender one’s own body and mind.

Surely it is a good thing to remind oneself of Buddhist teachings from time to time, even if only to be reacquainted with occasional inner peace; for the inner sanctum of oneself – as mentioned above – is all too readily, all too often, forgotten about.

And for those who aren’t familiar with the Buddhist design, then might I recommend this delightful little book, Introducing Buddha – A Graphic Guide, which, according to The Times Educational Supplement, is: ”an exemplary introduction… persuasive and intelligently critical.”

Icon Books best-selling guides to Big Ideas, really are a most worthy investigation.

Why you may well ask?

Well not only are they snug and compact – the perfect companion for those tedious commutes – but they really enlighten the reader with what one needs to know nigh immediately: ”The early stories and teachings of the Buddha were not written down until several centuries after his death. They were not seen as the ”authorized version.” The Buddha encouraged his followers to put everything he said to the test, and therefore, through the ages, followers of the Buddha have trusted their own wisdom, rather than trying to interpret what might have been meant in old texts.”

Compared to that other mighty book that begins with the letter ‘B,’ isn’t this good practice and something a reassuring approach? Especially the words: ”trying to interpret what might have been meant in old texts.”

Augmented with countless graphics and drawings (hence the title), these 173 pages – excluding Further Reading, About the Author, About the Illustrator and Index – Introducing Buddha describes the life and teachings of the Buddha.

It also fundamentally shows that enlightenment is a matter of experiencing the truth individually, by way of inspiration being passed from teacher to student.

Or rather, giver and receiver, which is always rather special.

David Marx