Category Archives: Miscellaneous

The Other Paris

16849.books.origjpg

The Other Paris – An Illustrated Journey Through
A City’s Poor and Bohemian Past
By Luc Sante
Faber & Faber – £16.99

”Before Haussmann’s reconfiguration of the centre, the neighbourhoods were tightly interwoven; afterward they were more separated, but the classes still met on common ground: on the squares and boulevards. It was said that when cafes began to feature open terraces, the poor discovered what and how to eat from passing by and observing the diners as they ate. And the rich always had the opportunity to absorb the culture of the poor from their markets and entertainments. For that matter, the practice of mixite flourished for at least a century: a house of six or seven stories would feature a shop on the ground floor; the shopkeepers’s dwelling on the mezzanine level; a bourgeois family upstairs from the mezzanine, on the, the ‘noble floor’ then each succeeding story would house people of progressively lesser income. People trudged up as few flights of stairs as they could afford, and as a result, every such house was itself a microcosm of society as a whole.”

When one thinks of Paris, for some idiosyncratically odd and perhaps romantic reason, they invariably conjure up many of the images described and photographed throughout this altogether wonderful book.

To be sure, The Other Paris – An Illustrated Journey Through A City’s Poor and Bohemian Past by Luc Sante is somewhat mesmerising in that it immediately transports the reader unto a place we all – for some reason or other – already know so well. The hustle and bustle, the oft referenced ‘seductive couture and intellectual hauteur’ that makes Paris so intrinsically alluring.

Indeed it’s all here; these 271 pages (excluding Carte de Paris, Notes, Acknowledgements and Index) vividly convey a city for all its captivating worth: ”What an awakening, silent but alive, happens when this city – its streets, houses, sidewalks, lamposts, trees, urinals – is no longer covered like a skin, like a crust, by that grublike swarm of humans rushing to the job machine, but at night comes back to life, swims back to the surface, washes off it s filth, stands back on its feet, scratches itself, sings to break the silence, makes light to rend the darkness. It stretches, relaxes, spreads itself out before me, the solitary walker, the unknown strider, stranding me among its scattered limbs, a vast labyrinth in which I rapturously lose myself, turning every corner, leaving every boulevard at the first left, catching up with the stream once again or passing it by, hopping on one foot, whistling with a but in the corner of my mouth.”

Inundated with a cornucopia of black and white photographs, drawings and reprints of posters (of a long but not necessarily forgotten era), these twelve chapters are as vivid as they are entertaining as they are at times, highly educational.

As The London Review of Books’ Jeremy Harding has since written: ”A poetic guide to the city’s underworld across six centuries, a threepenny opera with a milling crowd of beggars, gangsters, whores and constables, attended by artists, insurrectionaries and intellectuals.”

In and of itself, quite a wide (and unforgiving) gambit; rather like the stunning city of Paris itself.

David Marx

Only Love Remains

9781905570775

Only Love Remains – Lessons from the Dying on the Meaning of Life
By Attilio Stajano
Clairview Books – £14.99

Palliative care is the new face of medicine; it incorporates scientific and technological progress while acknowledging interpersonal relationships and the integrity of the person in his or her various dimensions; physiological, mental, emotional and spiritual. It is a new form of medical care that goes beyond the concept of the hospital business model, in which machines are run to correspond to a balance sheet, and where quality is synonymous with productivity rather than humanity.

Hmm, ”where quality is synonymous with productivity rather than humanity;” an honest account of Britain’s current health system, not to mention an unfortunate symptom of the times (which have most certainly been a changin’).

Were one to ask the vile likes of UKIP’s Nigel Farrage, he’d undoubtedly blame the situation on immigration (like he does everything else, including that of his own preposterous personality). While that other wretch of his smugness personified, George Osborne (currently earning a gazillion pounds a week for merely showing up once a week), would invariably blame it on the country’s severe lack of checks and balances – of which he so clearly knows so much about.

That said, Only Love Remains sounds like the song title of a David Gray song, whilst the book’s subject matter isn’t exactly a hundred miles removed either. Reason being, just like a lot of the Stoke singer-songwriter’s actual work, a great deal of what’s written herein is indeed gentle, reflective and approached with a great deal of conviction.

In fact, Only Love Remains – Lessons from the Dying on the Meaning of Life: Euthanasia or Palliative Care?, is, like the secondary title suggests, a most compelling narrative that fundamentally traverses the threshold of choice: ”If we see the terminally-ill as an inconvenience […], we forego the possibility of finding unexpected resources in ourselves: a tenderness, a touch, a readiness to assist that we did not know we were capable of.

Underlying this book is the momentous and very current debate over euthanasia. In a comprehensive appendix, the author reports on the provision of palliative care services and the laws governing euthanasia in European and English-speaking countries around the world, and the varying implications these have for the way we value and care for the dying.”

Concise and clearly written, these 193 pages are something of a sombre, although enlightening read on a subject we will all – sooner or later – need to confront.

David Marx

The Stone Cradle

9781905570836

The Stone Cradle – One Woman’s Search for the Truth beyond Everyday Reality
By Patrice Chaplin
Clairview – £13.99

Life is a gift from the few to the many, from those who know and have to those who do not know and have not.

                                                                                                  Amadeo Modigliani

Away from the ever-reaching tendrils of the past I got back to work in the neutral energy of London and my life was practical and structured and suited me. I phoned and asked Dr Arnau, if Girona was the lock, what then was the key? He told me to draw the circles overlapping the Cradle site and draw a line from Girona to Rennes with Canigou in the mid point as I had with The Portal: Rennes, Girona, two towers, two alterpieces. ‘You have already been told the journey is made up of circles. Work out and draw the lock then the key and send it to me.

                                                                                                   (chapter 36).

Anchored in the Catalan City of Girona, and in a somewhat similar spirit to that of her previous books The City of Secrets and The Portal, authoress and playwright, Patrice Chaplin, continues her elongated quest to fully embrace the so-called Hidden Society of said city. Something which has genuinely been preserved since antiquity and has captured the hearts and minds of such influential, illustrious figures as Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau, Otto Rahn and, would you believe, Howard Hughes no less.

Written in a friendly and almost conversational manner, the 235 pages of The Stone Cradle – One Woman’s Search for the Truth beyond Everyday Reality traverse the fascination with which Chaplin clearly holds Girona. A city she describes as: ”a portal, a gap in the planet’s atmosphere leading to other places and other times. A private society has held this secret for centuries. It’s power in the wrong hands would bring untold darkness”

Hmm, a most succinct description that may go some way into partially explaining the book’s Dramatis Personae which not only include the aforementioned Cocteau, Hughes and Dali, but an array of others – Charlemagne among them…

Didactic and different, overtly enthusiastic and quite possibly (a little) eccentric, The Stone Cradle is rather recondite to the point that it might not actually be for everyone.
But it does nevertheless, make one think.

David Marx

Behind The Scenes In The Vintage Years

9781785898525_small

Behind The Scenes In The Vintage Years
By Torrens (Arthur Bourne)
Matador – £24.99

Back in the 1920s, there were more motor cyclists than car drivers, records were being broken every month at the Brooklands race track in Surrey, roads were empty and motorbikes constantly broke down.

Behind The Scenes In The Vintage Years is a unique and rather fascinating record of an unrepeatable era in British motorcycling and engineering history. To be sure, it’s a decidedly friendly and inviting book, that’ll admittedly, primarily appeal to a certain elite: that of a most pronounced and similar persuasion to that of Torrens himself.

Its eighteen chapters traverse the history of what it was like to ride hundreds of miles round Britain on reliability trials, and how Arthur Bourne provided weekly guidance for thousands of youngsters on two wheels – young engineers such as Edward Turner and Phil Vincent.

He furthermore writes of Brooklands and TT races on the Isle of Man, along with his experience(s) of the Second World War, where he enabled the airborne forces at Arnhem to be equipped with ‘lightweight’ motorcycles that could be dropped by parachute or flown in by glider! So in all, this is something of a rather rambunctious story that needs to be told really; which, along with assorted black and white newspaper clippings and photographs, provides for an altogether delightful, although at times, enlightening read.

For instance, in the fifteenth chapter (‘Motor Cycles In War’), Bourne writes: ”But for the Nazis telling the Dutch distributors of D.K.W.s that either they got rid of their Jewish directors or they would have no more D.K.W.s., there would not have been one of the 12,000 and more British wartime ‘Flying Fleas.’ I would not have the letter from 3 Div, one of the two assault divisions on the Normandy Beaches, saying ”They (600 of them) are just the thing for the job,” there would have been no Fleas for controlling the landing of supplies on the Beaches. B.S.A.s would not have had their highly successful post-War B.S.A Bantan and there would not have been the gifts from Royal Enfield and James of reconditioned Fleas that enabled the RAC/ACU ‘Training Scheme for Learner Motor Cyclists to get going.”

Arthur Bourne, who used the pseudonym ‘Torrens’ for readers of the best-selling weekly The Motor Cycle, was most definitely in the thick of a garrulous game – of which these 308 pages are a mere glimpse.

David Marx

Tallinn Manual 2.0

9781316630372

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

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

sa

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.”

Hmm….
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