Friday, 28 January 2011

The pleasure of reading

There are people who never read. By never reading I mean never reading a book for pleasure. It simply does not occur to them. They might read a daily newspaper, the television weekly but a book? Never.

As far as I could find out through observation of others, never reading a book implies a certain lack of curiosity. Reading a book - nearly any one - makes you enter the life of someone else. I have always thought that reading can b e a kind of fast lane to the experiences of others and that might come handy one day.

As to me, well I have been reading nearly all my life. By nearly I mean since I learned reading, about one year before entering school. When I was about five years old my grandma read those Till Eulenspiegel stories to me. This guy who lived in the Middle Ages was a kind of impudent trickster and I could not hear enough. Thus when my grandma stopped I was so impatient to know what will happen next that I managed to learn it without any outside help.

Here, have a look at this photo. This is Till Eulenspiegel's stature in his birth town. I owe him something.

Not long ago I read in Smorgy's blog a very exhausting list of his readings. And in the comments he gives even the ten books he likes most. So I just imitate him and give a list of my favourite ten. Here is it, I tried to do my best. Number 1 does not mean this is my absolute best, I only start at one.

1. Peter Weiss - Fluchtpunkt
2. Arno Schmidt - Kaff auch Mare Crisium
3. Bertold Brecht - his collected poems
4. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - his collected poems
5. J.D. Salinger - The Catcher in The Rye
6. W.H. Davies - The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp
7. Raymond Queneau - Le Dimanche de la Vie
8. Michael Crichton - Timeline
9. P.G. Wodehouse - Psmith/Jeeves stories
10. Egon Fridell - Kulturgeschichte der Neuzeit
11. Mika Waltari - Sinuhe the Egyptian
12. Ernst Vollbehr - Bunte leuchtende Welt

Well, those ten became twelf. I am unable to delete two books from that list.

Some are well known but others , like No 1, 2 and 10 are somehow lost, forgotten but to a very small number of readers. Some more years to go and nobody will remember.

And something should be mentioned, too. It is very difficult to find a factual description of a book. I mean a review that tells you what is going on inside. Instead of this the reviewer talks and talks but I am not wiser at the end. One of the rare exceptions to this is the blogger I Me My . But maybe this is so because this person is not a professional book reviewer.

Works of art are subject to aging like people. The fastest to age are movies. But books age, too. There are those famous writers of the 19th century, monuments of literature, but I can't help it they seem lengthy and boring to me. Most of them. Long descriptions of situations and surroundings, I am not so very much interested in. So it could well be that each century or each time has its own literature or let's say interesting and thrilling books.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Busy with other people's affairs

Imagined conversation: "..........and when you talk to the Chinese Prime Minister, don't forget to mention the Human Rights situation in his country".

To tell the truth, I hate this. Why not talk about the human rights situation right at home? There is certainly a lot to do!

These two YT's are not really unforgettable or outstanding; they just illustrate a bit this subject.

These days, it's those "presidential" elections in Ivory Coast (somewhere in Africa). Having finished these elections they landed with two presidents ready to cash in, one who did win but could not get in and one who got in but did not win. Now, in dozens of countries worldwide, they are being told what to do. "Be democratic", everybody is clamoring, respect this, respect that. Armies are made ready for a peaceful intervention, the UN votes something, etc, etc, etc. Why not leaving these countries alone and why not refrain from fostering on them our democratic procedures ?

Dear reader, if you managed to read down to this line, this is something you might appreciate:

Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve (Bernard Shaw)

And here another one from Winston Churchill:
The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter .

The spirit of democracy is not a mechanical thing to be adjusted by abolition of forms. It requires a change of heart.
Mahatma Gandhi

I like especially the last one. So true.

Democracy is one of the few products that are absolutely homegrown, cannot be exported and should not be imported. Otherwise, we'll see those lousy copies like in Afghanistan, Irak, Kossovo and elsewhere.

However, we should try to improve our own democratic procedures. That would be a big job and would keep us busy for dozens of years. Especially our politicians - many of them - need some tuition and some improvements, not to speak of our institutions. Useless to go into details, every country has its own shortcomings.............

When a country is subject to a catastrophic event, like an earth quake, tsunami or heavy floodings we should help and everybody is honoured by doing so. Nevertheless, there are questions that come to my mind.

Take the case of Haiti: last years' quake killed about 250.000 people and flattened their capital Port-au-Prince. Now about one year has passed and I hear they have managed to clean about 5 (five) percent of the rubble. On television I see some of our gallant helpers from Europe or North America (the ever expanding NGO's) working with a shovel to help shifting the rubble from A to B.
Why can't the Haitians clear the rubble away themselves?
Yesterday I saw on the telly Haitian women complain of rape gangs operating inside those tent cities. And the Haitian police force? And the other people, living near-by?
Some months ago they had a cholera epidemy starting and Haitians got busy accusing rescue workers sent by the United Nations to be responsible by means of witchcraft. Some UN soldiers even got killed.

A few months ago, we graced the Haitians with one more election, financed by other countries through the United Nations. They elected a musician as president but it seems not everybody there is ready to dance according to his tune. So they are fighting in the rubble streets, do a little killing among themselves because not everybody is happy with the counting of the votes. Some ballots disappeared, others were counted twice.

Considering all this, my idea is that help - meaning our money - should go where the concerned nations are ready to work themselves towards the same goal and show it! That's not a new idea, the dicton "help yourself and God will help you" was not coined yesterday.

So let's stop giving lessons to other nations and to far away peoples. They don't like it as we don't appreciate to be told what to do. I remember the uproar when at the height of the second oil crisis, the OPEC boss and king of Saudi-Arabia told a reporter "if you feel cold at home because you have no heating, just put on a warmer sweater".